The Wake-Up Call
Chapter 41: Trade
A twisted piece of once shiny alloy crudely fashioned into a knife came down towards Hetch's arm and impaled it into the edge of the broken walkway fixing it firmly in place. The figure leaned forward to cast his dead eyes like two unfeeling microscopes into Hetch's bloodshot eyeballs. The fake wolf cries grew closer. Try as he might the fear was evident in his frantic breathing and max-ed out heart rate. There was a cold shiver that looped through his spine. Hetch gritted his teeth and prepared for the final blow that would either kill him outright or send him backwards down into the inky black chasm to his death.
Hetch closed his eyes, lowered his head and hoped the final blow would be quick.
He felt a heavy thud on his impaled arm. The small deadly attacker was now motionless with a small red patch growing through his torn clothing. Behind him a small gang approached and surveyed the scene before them, scanning the trapped Hetch, fresh corpse and hazardous materials around them.
"Relax. Its your lucky day punk." One said taking a number of small pipes from his long coat, screwed them together and adding a sharp hook to the end.
Hetch turned his head left and right but all he saw were glimpses of something metal being thrown in his direct. The hook hit the small corpse and he realised they were fishing for bodies. "Swipe freaks!" muttered Hetch.
He watched until the hook dug deep enough into the corpse for it to be carefully pulled back across the gap and into the grasp of the waiting gang.
"How many does this make?"
"Twelve. Two suicides, a transport victim, three bystanders and six of these little freaks."
A heavy looking gang member raised his gun towards Hetch, "one more?"
"You fucking crazy?" yelled the main leader, "we got enough to carry back. You want to be unlucky thirteen?"
The other lowered his gun, tied some rope around the ankles of the corpse and flung the dead body across his shoulder like a bag.
"See. Your lucky day punk" laughed the leader at Hetch before making his way back to the rest of the gang who were scavenging for anything valuable. Hetch exhaled, examined his impaled artificial arm and tried to laugh "yeah, a real lucky son of a bitch!"
"HEY!" screamed Hetch "you want more?"
The leader slowed down.
"Get me out of this and I'll show you some prime goods"
"We got all we need for today. Should get a 'few' credits from the research labs, isn't that right boys?" the leader said laughing with his gang.
"What about troops kitted out with lots of nice hardware? Something better than those crap crossbows you got."
Hetch listened to the sound of approaching footsteps.
"I knew you were business men deep down," joked Hetch.
"And all we do in return is get you off that meat hook?"
"Yeah. What you got to lose?"
"I say we finish him" interrupted another gang member.
"How do you expect us to carry all this imaginary cargo?"
"All I need is a lift to a research lab. Show me to any cargo pod truck and I'll will even teach you how to crack the ident."
The leader nodded his head to his gang.
"What makes you think we need any help?"
"Scavenging down here you are lucky to make a few hundred credits in a month. So what did you find today? Rusty alloy? A few used chemical canisters?"
Two of the gang members jumped over the gap, tore the spike from Hetch's arm and dragged him up.
Hetch faced the leader across the gap, "Now, do you want to earn some real credits?"
All of his senses were screaming at him not to try and make a deal. Swipe freaks are notoriously dangerous and always ready to trade in other people's body a part, even snatching a random victim off the street wasn't beyond what they could do. The only hard fact in life was credit. Respect, fear, loyalty to gangs and all the other tribal influences were nothing when compared against, cold, hard money. It was a universal rule. Everyone wanted it and was willing to do almost anything to get it. From business tycoons down to the lowest of the low, credits controlled people. Hetch hoped this fact combined with his skills and luck would last long enough to find a quiet exit when the gang wasn't looking. Time it wrong and they would sell him too.
That was the plan, to give them enough of an incentive to let him live. If he had stuck around Mewco more maybe he would have learnt how to manipulate people into buying almost anything, or selling their own kin for a few hundred credits. It was a strange view of his current situation, to respect a creep like Mewco for how he used people, but Hetch was realistic, survival by any means was the driving force, everything else was pure bullshit.
The swipe freaks were happy at the moment for their haul of fresh corpse, all carrying the promise of diverse DNA, a random mutation which protects the owner against some pollution or simply new transplantable body parts for some customer willing to pay. They couldn't sell to 'mizers' they were in a class of their own with state of the art bio-engineered implants and military grade equipment. Lower down the social ladder were those with enough credits to burn on improvements or replacement parts. Lungs were always a good seller. The polluted environments helped to maintain a steady supply of customers. Then there were the 'modders' who simply wanted a unique body shape, implanted double muscles, secondary sense enhancers or to transform themselves into some unique part man - part creature chimera being with extra limbs, using human bones as body piecing or reshaped their own skeleton to be more efficient. A better society may have outlawed their medical practices, except for the fact that most industrial regions employed these 'modders' to carry out some high-risk occupations. Profit. That age-old motivation factor that drives man mad with rage and corrupts the innocent was the global law of this nightmarish concrete zoo of scavengers and prey.
"You had better be right," threatened the gang leader stared back at Hetch.
Hetch was pulled along by two of the gang members who collected the rest of the concealed bodies and forced him to carry one on his shoulder. With each hazardous step Hetch reminded himself of what could happen if things turn out bad. It would not be just another arm he could lose.
To be continued...