Scene V: The Red Deal

They need to be athletic, both to convince them onto the field, and to ensure that they are worth the risk for the client.

The Junkyard, a small-to-medium pawn (and found item) shop on the outskirts of Cell 5, had opened early this morning. Its bleary eyed host, his face contorted into the grimace of retail work, was broadcasting the sale of the year onto all channels and venues. Most items were discounted in some way, and the savings only got higher as You spent more money. And it was all straight from the promising mouth of Isaac.

Isaac greeted each customer with grace and charisma which seemed out of place for a man of his distinctly neglectful airs: Shaking hands, approaching customers, suggesting items and deals… it was enough to have scared off any and all regulars he might regularly regale.

It was also enough to bring in many new people.

“Yes, mum, it is indeed on sale. And, if You’ll just consent to a quick bio-scan, we might be able to accommodate You even more!” Isaac’s voice tried its best to telegraph his plastered on smile, with a variable degree of success… and a constantly high degree of urgency. “We are giving out a special discount, on behalf of Stuttgart itself, to carriers of each blood type.” He paused, hesitantly scanning her face with his eyes. “…With, ah, the hopes that You will donate blood in the future, especially if You are a type O!”

He said the last words with another, deeper smile that claimed his eyes as well. “Do I have Your permission to unlock more deals, mum? Or can I help You with anything else?” The lady he was talking to, of course, acquiesced to the scan. A type O, indeed… Just as Isaac had thought.

They need to have Type B blood. The battery won’t work as well with any other kind.

“Very good, very good, mum! You’re a type O! I can offer You a discount on anything in the store with a white label today: Good for another 10% off of that old teapot, too!” The door beeped at the entrance of another client. With suddenly new-found disinterest, Isaac said to the teapot in the woman’s hands, “Take Your time, of course. Terminal’s upfront when You are ready.”

He left without another word to the woman, and made his way to the door. An older man, dressed in a near-ancient tweed jacket and slacks, had brought his granddaughter to the store. They waved down Isaac, and asked about the specials today.

“Well, sir, everything in the store is at least 10% off- most even more than that!” Isaac rattled quickly through the song and dance about blood type scales, and was allowed to scan them both: The elder statesman was an A type, and the child of tomorrow a bouncing B. “You’ll want to stick to the red and blue labels then, sir. Those are all ten percent cheaper for You too.” He leaned in slightly, making especially sure the granddaughter could hear. “Toys are, of course, all red tags- in the back.” The young girl smiled.

They need to be in their mid-twenties. Too young, and they will blow out the battery. Too old, and they won’t fill it up.

He then pulled back a bit, meeting the man’s eyes squarely. “And we have a special family discount, which goes up with each blood relatives who visit the store today. If, say, Your son or daughter were to visit us later… Well, I’d daresay that anything You’ve bought will entitle You to an instant credit from us as soon as they check in!” As he finished, he clapped his hands a bit too loudly for the size of the store. “So, make sure to tell Your son or daughter to stop by!”

“Oh… I wish I could, young man. They both passed away a few years ago, victims of the state.” He sighed, looking at his charge. “She’s all I’ve got left, I’m afraid. You said there were toys in the back”

But, as he said this, Isaac was already inching away. “Yes, sir. Can’t miss it: The sign with the big red letters. Terminal’s up front.” He was heading back up to the desk, his back to the two formerly interesting customers. He’d barely reached his desk when he felt the telltale vibration of an incoming call.

“Hullo there, and welcome to the Junkyard, where our junk can become Your treasure.” Isaac said, saccharine-infused voice speaking into his right hand. “How might we help You today?”

The man’s voice came out of a device on his ear, barely audible to anyone else. He was asking about sale restrictions… specifically, sales to those on probation.

“Here at the Junkyard, we don’t care about Your past. We concern ourselves more with presents for Your future!” Isaac said with a well rehearsed laugh trailing behind. “That said, we are actually running a special sale now, for those who’ve rehabilitated themselves in some way. Our parents at Stuttgart thought it might encourage good behavior… or something.” He finished lamely, the veneer of truth he’d been applying to the idea fraying slightly at its seams.

They need to have a dirty record, so that when they’re found and reported there won’t be many questions.

He mended that fraying honesty, and quickly, by following up. “So, all we’d need is a quick scan to see Your record, and You could save up to 25%!” He smiled triumphantly at his hand, pride in his voice. “Whaddaya say? Should we expect You today?”

The man said he could stop by next week, when he was out. He’d not heard of a sale until now; would it still apply then?

“Ah, no, sorry. Only this week. Do call again.” Isaac said, quickly ending the call.

He sighed, looking exhaustedly around his over-full store. So many people… and none of them will fit the bill. He thought, twiddling his fingers. All of this work, and nothing yet. His fingers danced over the ring on his right pinky finger, and up popped a small square of text in front of his eyes. He rubbed the ring, moving the order he’d received from the machine-man last night down.

There were all of the various requirements. The ones he’d grown used to seeing over the last few years. But one stuck out to him, the last one on the list. It caught his eye at the bottom of the file: It was hand written, an oddity used only to try to evade an Auto-trace nowadays (especially in a digital file). But more than that, the implications it put forth made even Isaac cringe.

Another tell-tale beep came from the front door. Isaac shook his head, and the feeling of dread it held, clearing both before standing to approach the new-found customer. He was halfway to the door when he saw who it was… and stopped dead in his tracks.

Two bright blue and brass uniformed figures stood at the front of the shop, in the very same place he’d seen a machine-man stand not 24 hours ago, and were looking around the shop. They were searching the shop for something, their eyes covered by dark glasses through which only the bright green glow of info text scrolling by their eyes might be seen.

Worse for Isaac, their heads were already blinking: Everything they heard or saw was being recorded, just so You were aware.

Their heads snapped up after a second, turning to look at Isaac.

The man spoke. “Officer Carl Young, sir. I see Your name is Isaac Bynder, the purveyor of this… Junkyard.” He made a sweeping gesture with his hands. “Do we have permission to continue our scans?” He spoke with a suspicion that rang through like the bitterness in over-brewed tea: Present, sharp, but missable if You are purposefully trying not to taste it. Isaac, however, was expecting it.

“Of course, Officer. Is something wrong? I’m pretty sure I have all of my permits in order…” Isaac said. It was a lie, one he was used to telling: Of course his permits were in order, or the comps which ran the store would have locked him and everyone else out until he’d fixed it. But, when confronted with the unknown, it is sometimes best to act ignorant. “Should I call those up for You two?”

The woman stepped forward. “No, that won’t be necessary. We’ll have some questions for You in a few moments… in Your office.” She spoke expectantly. The message was clear.

“Ah, well… Alright. Should I close the shop? We’re running a sale; customers may get… confused… if You know what I mean.” Isaac said, putting on a mask of worry.

“Not a problem, sir. We’ve set up a perimeter outside.” Carl said. “If anyone tries to steal anything, they’ll set off Your security system, and we will take them in.” He smiled. “After all, all of Your permits are in order, right?”

“O- of course, sir. How silly of me.” Isaac said through gritted teeth. He turned around, and made his way to the back room. He stood absolutely still until the door was securely shut behind him. It ground itself shut slowly as always, finishing with a loud clunk.

Safely out of the sight of the officers, his once impeccable posture melted into one of worry and fear. Why are they here? What do they know that I don’t? Did my contract fall through after all? He called back up the contract listing, quickly checking to see the ACTIVE sign in the upper right corner. It was there, bright and bold.

What, then? Isaac went through his mind, flipping through memories like the cards of the Rolodexes seen in old movies. They’re interested in the store… Pleasant towards me… Not violent, no guns out… Recording everything…

He looked around his office, and saw the smashed glass from last night’s visit. Did someone hear the gun shot? No, took too long to get here… Still, he began to pick up the shards of glass scattered across the floor, out of nervous habit. As he finished, he heard his door beeping: The officers were ready to come in..

“One second!” He said, dumping the shards in the compacter in the corner… which he did not turn on. Don’t want to look suspicious. He neatly shuffled across the room, laying his hand on the big red button to let them in. “Sorry about that; throwing out the bottles from last night.”

“That’s actually what we wanted to talk about, Isaac.” Carl said. The other, shorter, officer, began surveying the room as Carl continued to speak. “Last night, a machine-man tried to steal something from a young woman in a club near here… Faren 451.” Carl was studying Isaac’s face as he spoke, looking for any reaction at all.

Isaac stoically ensured he’d see nothing at all.

Carl continued. “We’ve since dissected the comps that controlled… and ended up killing… Olmar Astek.” Isaac’s eyes flitted quickly to the other officer, who was slowly moving around the room. “The address of this shop, the Junkyard, was present in his databanks…” Isaac snapped back to Carl as he heard this, his frown deepening every so slightly. “We were just wondering if You’d had any run ins with a machine-man lately that… You’d failed to report, perhaps?”

Bait. And good bait, too. Isaac thought, his hand brushing his cheek in mock thought. “Well, mate, I can’t recall anything since the last time… I’m sure You have that report, yeah? Th-“ He’d turned around to face the computers on the left wall of the room, and something seemed out of place in his peripherals. “The one where I almost died?”

Isaac stepped up to the console, and looked over to see what had distracted him, there. Oh my gods… Really? He made extra sure that that thought did not show up on his face, turning instead to the terminal which came to life beneath his hands.

He had to distract him from the bullet hole in the far wall, just over his bed… and had to do it now. Time to show the sheep my woolen coat.

“I was here all night, minding the store and having a toddy…” He glanced at them both. “Or three. But here, let me send You the tapes from last night.” The ones re-cut this morning, of a quiet night where he’d restocked the shelves and passed out on the floor for a bit. That ‘backdoor’ security program was a great purchase… One thing I don’t regret from this whole business, at least…

“I’ll just need both of You to check in here… You know how it is with these security progs: No one can touch the records, once they’ve been made.” Isaac said with a meek smile, gesturing to the console. “Any other questions, while they transfer?”

“I have one, Isaac.” Said the female officer, now over by his bed, staring at the wall with the bullet hole in it. Isaac felt his heart leap up his throat with the speed of too much drink and not enough food. She bent over on to his bed, refraining from finishing her thought for that crucial, dramatic second.

Isaac swallowed his heart back to wear it should be. His voice cracked. “Yes, mum?”

She held up an empty vodka bottle, the one that he’d slept with last night. “Are You working while intoxicated? That is a citable offense, You know…” She walked over to him. “Mind if I check Your blood?”

The gust of wind which escaped from his chest could have shaken shingles from his rooftop. “Not at all, mum. Must have missed that from last night…” He gave her another meek smile as he said, “I, uh, kinda had too much, I think.”

She waved her hand over him as she fussed with the bracelet on her wrist. Once… Twice… Three times, and then a box popped up in front of her.

“Alright, You are clean.” She handed him the bottle. “Sorry about that… Protocol.” She made her way over to Carl, who was keying himself into the console.

“Protocol is important… But so is focus, Tara.” Carl said quietly. “He didn’t seem drunk to me. And it is his bed.” He finished typing, and gestured for her to do the same.

“It’s no problem, really, officer.” Isaac said, trying to position himself to best block his bed from their sight. “I don’t want to cause any trouble… Especially not when there is a machiner on the loose!” He let some of the horror from last night show on his face then, and fell silent.

Tara finished typing, and the officers exchanged a short glance. They both turned to Isaac.

“That’ll be all for now, sir.” Carl said. “If we need anything else, we’ll be back.”

“Yes sir.” Isaac said, shepherding them to the door. He stopped for a second. “Oh, one thing, if it isn’t too much trouble…”

“What is it?”

Isaac looked as pathetic as he could. “If You know anyone who might be interested in some sports equipment… especially ladies’ Cyberball gear… could You send them my way?” He continued a bit too quickly. “Business hasn’t been the best, lately… and You both get around more than I do. All of this gear is just sitting here. Please?”

They both sighed as he finished, and Tara shook her head. “We’ll be sure to send them Your way, Isaac. Have a nice day.” Carl said, hitting the button to the door himself. Isaac did not follow them out, slumping to the ground only once the door had come to a complete shut again. Somehow, I made it through.

He walked over to the bed, and fingered the bullet hole in his wall. How did I miss this? Was I in such a rush this morning? Isaac scolded himself. Or… wait, I remember. I was reading the order in bed. Distracted me, it must have…

That was when the full weight of what he’d said to them sunk in. Yeah, Isaac, good job. NO ONE the cops know has a spotless record, right? Just a big old den of thieves… Idiot. The other points, though, might actually be a good fit… And then, that last one, too… the hardest one to fulfill, especially while keeping his distance. He opened the file one last time (checking the ACTIVE sign once again, for his own nerves), and scrolled to the bottom. The words were still there, plain as day, written in some rich low life’s scrawled penmanship:

Finally, an odd request… But I am paying so much, I insist: I want a woman. And not just any woman… someone with something to lose. Something which I can take from them, as I take their life.