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44 - Seeking the living

After a good meal, a walk about the station, and a chat with some of my customers in the ruins, it was time to gather my ration bags for another trip. Also, I had been collecting rations through friends and market vendors, so I would be ready for another grueling training session at Gadani.
I even took up an old friend's offer to stand guard for me while I work out.
I had another mission, too. TAU syndicate was gathering to discuss preparations to welcome the new stream of immigrants to the area, to help them get settled, teach them skills, provide them essential tools and remind them that we also started out new here.
Most seem to appreciate that, although some are just hardened and unsociable.
We were also looking at how to respond to the changes we are seeing as engineers and explorers develop a better understanding of how our universe works.
The only true constant is change.
With the grudging help of the shuttle staff (I think some of them may have fought over who had to assist me), I survived that awful trip to and through the biggest behemoth stations ever known to man, hoping that they would not fall apart or even implode, at least until I had safely passed through to the other side. The attendants brought me extra bags when I had exhausted my supply.
They had come prepared.
Like them, I wanted to leave the area as quickly as possible, so I jumped on a shuttle to Moissan rather than wait for the one to Gadani. The mushroom soup there would be a welcome distraction, once I had settled from the journey, but after seeing how lively Nouveau Limoges seems to be and how bland and merely functional Moissan is, I was saddened.
I may have noticed before how somber and reserved the people here are, but this time it really hit me. Maybe a few vendors but no vibrant market places, no cafes, no bustling eateries, no hoardes of musicians "playing to beat the band," . . . just a single, grungy, prurient-centered dance mill grinding away above the clunky, junky sounds of machinery, the footsteps of its attendants, the blaring voice of their supervisors over the speaker systems, and the distant sound of ships at port, mostly departing . . .
Everywhere you look, there is mold and fungus, and some areas just smell like something there is rotting and has been for a very long time.
The only really enthusiastic person I met was this fellow I tried to avoid at Cafe Nouveau. He is always going on about how the stations need to rise up and cast off their "occupation" by the Gaule Protectorate.
I finally turned to him and said "Look, buddy, I willingly pay for permission to be here, and I go through their process to do that. You get to be here for free, and you just need to shut up, buckle down and go earn a living."
Several passers-by, seemingly uninterested, simply raised their eyebrows in a glance at me, cast an angry stare at him and went their ways.
In the ruins, people are a bit friendlier, at least until they discover you aren't their new hired hand. There is actually industry there. Residents are working at reclaiming this sector to grow their most profitable products . . . mold, fungus and rot.
If you look hungry, they seem horrified and are eager to help you to where you can get something to eat, even if the selection is somewhat limited.
I saw something here I have never seen anywhere else that I can remember . . . obesity. Everyone looks well-fed, but some are just fat. They can't seem to find clothes that actually fit them, so they stretch them and pretend.
There are no fashion slaves here, but perhaps slaves of a different type.
Everywhere you look, people are wearing respirators or enclosed worksuits, eager to avoid breathing the air. Those who are not frequently stop to cough. I took a cue from that and kept my headgear on.
No tables were occupied when I arrived at the lounge. Nobody there. I had to step back into the kitchen to find anyone at all, and at first, they thought I might be the new help. It seems their last worker "found liberty."
I'm still wondering what they meant by that.
My efforts were rewarded with a generous helping of mushroom soup, which was worth the wait and the trouble, but it seemed a bit empty with nobody there (NOBODY) to share it with.
All the side jobs seem to be dealing with death and dying. I told them I'd pass, and they directed me to sick bay. Strange people. None so strange, though, as Fun Gus.
While wandering into the ruins again, I saw another iteration of El Bandito Peteo, clearly one of the many clones of the original scoundrel. It looked like he was intent on pilfering the produce of some hard-working farmer.
I took a bitter aim and blasted El Peteo without warning.
Everyone dove for cover as his return-fire pelted the walls with stray shotgun pellets. Untouched, unmoved except by anger, unconcerned at the farmers' calls for security, I pointed my trusty field hand, secured his passage to sick bay and lightened his ill-gotten load.
Deep down, I began to wonder who was more of the thug and thief as I headed out to the port for the shuttle to Gadani.
I stepped off the ship to meet my friend, Ser Dotsent, and off to the gym we went. I literally grabbed the first trainer I saw by the arm and dragged him along with me. His protestation ended when he saw the bonds transferred to his account.
Several members of TAU syndicate had also arrived, bringing rations to sell. I bought them, mostly on credit, which may be unwise on my part, and began my session of training.
If I had been hoping for trouble, I would have been disappointed. Nothing happened. I safely finished the training I had come for, saw a nearly 50% increase in my gym rating, and even used my remaining time and energy to earn the money for payments to my creditors.
Even after such a busy day, I still arrived for the meeting, and we discussed some of the hows and whys of the changing times. It had been a productive endeavor, and I was not yet through.
After a brief nap, I was on the shuttle back to Moissan, marvelling at not having seen any trouble or troublemakers throughout an entire visit to Gadani. Once I got back, I headed straight for the sewers, where, of course, I found all the usual suspects. plotting and scheming.
I crashed their party.
They were upset.
I didn't care.
I sent them all to sick bay and set up their appointments with the guards afterward, and I walked away with a few bruises, a fistful of credits, some stims and a flashing alert that more bonds had been deposited to my account.
I had no sooner emerged from the stench-ridden sewers than I found another one attempting to accost a young couple. I dealt with him as they fled. No point looking them up.
I am tired now. I think I will take a nap . . . with my headgear on. This fungus scares me.