Rive's head vibrated with every beat of his music. His high-end headphones nearly enveloped his head, but the sound quality and range and volume were very definitely worth it. Or so he felt.
He had a shortage of friends, but he knew when people looked askance at him, judging and gossiping, but all Rive could see was their mouths moving. He smiled, losing himself in his own little world, and popped another stick of gum into his mouth as he glided out of the Greater Cave.
He paused the music pounding through his head long enough to pound on a particular trailer door, and traded the last of his cash for a little package of happy, and then proceeded out of the service areas to the public realms to earn some of that back.
Vidar has little in the way of governing laws, most of them intended to protect minors from getting in over their heads than to prevent adults from their own stupidity. Regardless what system, planet, or governance you came from, for Nanna and Vidar, the age of majority with sixteen.
At sixteen, you could access the adult clubs and parties, participate in the fleshpits and private rooms, bet freely, and take drugs to your heart's content. It was also nigh impossible to cheat the system, as every age-restricted access hallway was bounded by cameras and sensors designed to let adults through with a minimum of fuss and keep minors out.
"That may be the case, but I do know a way around the restrictions," Rive was bragging to a gullible tourist, whose boyfriend was just weeks shy of his sixteenth birthday.
"Oh, yes." She screamed money and was attractive to boot, though he was more turned on by class than appearance. "It's a special type of body stocking, expensive and hard to come by, but not quite illegal."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, the law is a few months behind on this one, and there hasn't been any media outbreak on it to warrant review. Our governing force hasn't discovered it yet, so they can't have written any laws against it. It's only a matter of time, though, so get while the going's good."
She had a twinkle in her eyes, one that would have concerned Rive more if he had a conscious, but his little bag of happy more than took care of that. "How much?"
"I'd have to look around. That's not the sort of thing I keep up on, being legal myself, and usually enough to satisfy my normal clientel. But I do know where to look."
"Do you have a rough idea?"
"Twenty-kay, each, maybe."
"That seems more than reasonable to own such--"
"Oh, no, I'm sorry. That would be a renter's fee. Like I said, these things are fresh off the printers, not many around. I couldn't even guess what it would be to own a pair."
"Wait, a pair?"
"Sorry, maybe I should elaborate. It's a specialized body-stocking, with sensors and pressure pads, built to react to whatever input is coming from its partner, and send the response back. They've been floating about the thinktanks for ages, but this is the first time someone's been able to synthesize one at a reasonable scale, without needing a sens-dep tank." He laughed. "Imagine trying to smuggle one of those babies in here!"
She laughed along with him, enjoying the jest and feeling like he was just the sort of person to hook her up, and not just for the boytoy currently on her arm. The corners of her mouth twitched up mischievously, and she could feel herself getting excited just thinking of the ramifications.
"Tern? It's Soria."
Tern sighed silently, relieved that it wasn't someone calling to complain. "What can I do for you?"
"I was checking in on my investments, and saw a spike that concerned me. Do you have some time to take a close look?"
"Absolutely. Just a moment, let me pull your files up."
Tern did more than keep the biggest book on Vidar, she also managed investment trading for those who permanently lived there. Of them, Soria was not only one of her biggest clients, but also one of the friendliest. Some people could get so terribly destructive when the market took a swing for the worse, and act as if she had something to do with it. Tern pulled up Soria's account and paged through her investments.
"Huh, now that is strange," Tern confessed. Sisyphus Medical stock was spiking unusually quickly, a behaviour that was more typical of tech companies and start-ups than long-term behemoths like heath and wellness corporations. "Let me take a dig around and see what I can come up with. I'll give you a call back."
"Thanks." Soria cut the call.
Ultra-low-gravity and no-gravity environments were a blessing to those unfortunate members of the populace who suffered from severe physical conditions that either hadn't been wholly bred or engineered out of the human genome, or simply were so expensive to cure that moving to a place like Vidar looked like pocket change.
Soria was one such person, and she self-diagnosed the environment of the Greater Cave to reduce strain on her joints to help deal with the pain. She earned her keep through tele-tutoring and instruction, helping those from all over the system with anything from homework to one-on-one instruction. She held teaching degrees in half-a-dozen different environments and knew her way around most majors as well as anyone without a degree.
Every few years, a new diploma would arrive in the mail as she accidentally completed a courseload for classes she took online in an effort to expand her knowledge and ability to teach others.
Big D scratched his head. Something wasn't measuring up. His shipping container should have arrived a few days ago, and the carrier said it had arrived on time. So where was it?
He stormed about as much as you can in low-gravity, and people scurried to get out of his way.
"Where's my package?"
"Mr Tunvert, we delivered it. I swear."
"Did you get a signature for it?"
"It was registered and insured. Signature required on delivery."
The postal boy turned a deep shade of red, flipped through his clipboard leaflets, confirming what he already knew. "No," he whispered, "I didn't get a signature."
"I can't hear you."
"I didn't get a signature," he repeated, voice shaking and barely louder.
"One more time," D growled.
"I didn't get a signature," he wailed, throwing the clipboard at D, hoping the distraction would be long enough to dive under his desk.
It wasn't. Big D slapped the projectile out of the way hard enough to dislodge and scatter the leaflets and receipts around the office in a maddening mess, and grabbed the front of the postal boy's tunic. "This is coming out of your hide."
"I'm sorry, D, please don't hurt me," he blubbered, breaking into tears. "I'll do anything, just don't hurt me."
Tunvert grinned, which frightened the boy all the more. This was better.
Antha drifted through the winding passages between trailers on her way to her own when she found the way obstructed. A team of boys were wrestling a large crate through the barely-wide-enough space, and a crowd had gathered to watch, making the traffic worse.
She tried to ask someone what was going on, but couldn't make herself heard over the ruckus.
I guess I'll just go another way.
Character: Antha Salvari | Diana Tunvert | Nameless tourist | Rive Wiventestle | Soria Bathorn | Tern Mevit
Series: Tales of Vidar
Location: Cups system | Vidar moon