I stumbled down the alley in the predawn feeling the burning of my broken ribs. I lean against the wall of the building beside me and rest for a moment, looking up at the skyline. Between all the buildings I could see the barriers that held the atmosphere in our section of the city. The thought of those barriers made me cringe; I looked down to my watch and realized I only had about six hours left to stop what was coming. But no one wanted to believe me, in about six hours one of the barriers is coming down; a mix of explosives and old, faulty construction. The insurrectionists are planning a new uprising. But no one wants to believe that war is starting again, it's been twenty years since the last one ended; the insurrectionists were pacified, the colonies were purged of revolutionary thinking and the Terran Expeditiary Conglomerate was still in control of everything in three star systems. But things didn't change out there, once you leave the core worlds, things get grim; people are starving, jobs are scares, resources expensive, and medical supplies are almost nonexistent. The corporations keep the people out there oppressed; they keep them producing a high amount of raw resources to be shipped to the core worlds and receive almost nothing. In return the core worlds look the other way and go on with a higher standard of living, living off of the broken people of the rim worlds.
I stagger away from the wall and continue down the alley, pretty much my only friend in this city lives at the end, and I'm hoping he can help me out, or at least let me rest. Eugene was a friend from the war, although we only met after it had ended. I was just a petty officer on a Navel carrier orbiting Titan, he was a Recon Sniper on the surface. My job was communications, his was killing, he sent status updates every day, I received and responded. About a year after the war ended I took my retirement from the navy and about the same time he was discharged from the marines as an extraneous expenditure. And not just him, close to three thousand GeneMods were released into the worlds on permanent inactive duty without pay. We ended up at the same spaceport on Mars maybe a month after we were both discharged, his genetically amplified hearing recognized my voice as I was getting my documents cleared. He introduced himself and that was that, we became pretty fast friends.
I got to the end of the alley and knocked on the huge metal freight door that stood before me. A moment later it swung open and Eugene was standing in front of me, looking up at me quizzical with his huge brown eyes, small, toothless mouth, and round, featureless face. One of the strangest things about him is that he has no nose, his face looks boneless and shapeless. His light blue skin is mostly hidden by a hooded cloak and his old military jumpsuit, probably the only thing he has that fits him as clothes are not normally made for GeneMods, especially ones as strange as Eugene.
"And what do I owe this unexpected rendezvous to?" He spoke in his normal electronic monotone, his voice is actually created by a small device that is implanted in his throat. Without teeth or a tongue he can't actually speak, but the device does it for him, linked to the neural pathways of his brain, the speech center goes down to the small voice box making him sound like a drive through Chinese restaurant. I keep expecting him to ask if I want a spring roll with that. His attention shifted down to where I clutched my right side. "You are wounded, come in, let me set the bones for you." He steps out of the way and leads me into his empty warehouse. There is almost nothing in here past a large very solid looking metal storage unit, a futon mattress and small computer sitting on a small desk. There is no chair with the desk, and even if there was I'm not sure Eugene was actually tall enough to use it properly.
"Have you ever set a rib before?" I asked, wincing at the pain and sitting on the futon.
"Many times during the war," he said while pulling some supplied out of the desk. "Although usually it was setting them into a position similar to your current situation." He turned back to me with a face that looked so innocent that I find it hard to believe he killed as many people as he says. "Now take off your shirt and let me see."
"You always just want to get me naked don't you? You know I'm not into other men right?" I said jokingly while taking my shirt off and cringing at the exertion of lifting my arms above my head.
"That was funny maybe the first couple dozen times. You need to try harder; you know I don't have any genitalia." He gingerly examined the ribs on my right side, looking at the bruising and the strange shapes in my side. "Breath out slowly please." I did so and as I did he pressed into my back and the left side of my chest at the same time, sliding the broken bones pretty close the where they were originally. I'm not too proud to say it, I screamed like a little girl having her fingernails ripped off. A concept I hope never to have to actually experience. He placed several hard pieces of plastic onto my side and wrapped a lot of bandage around my torso. He patted me on the shoulder and said, "You should have been a GeneMod like me, our bones don't break."
"I like being human, thanks."
He looked sad, a feat for not actually having any facial features, "I'm human too, if you prick my skin, do I not bleed?" he asked.
"No, your skin is two centimeters thick."
"My genes only differ from yours by about two point five percent."
"And a monkey by only about one point eight percent."
He made a harrumphing sound that was the closest thing to actually speaking; he blew air out of his mouth and shaped it past his thin, almost useless lips. "Luckily our species is accepting."
"Right," I said, "which is why you live in an abandoned warehouse and have no job."
"And so kind of my only friend to remind me every day that I am a lesser human."
Now I felt bad, "You know that's not what I meant, I'm sorry," I hesitated for a second, "I just hate the world we live in."
"Then join the Insurrection." He paused dramatically and looked thoughtful, "Oh wait, we killed them all."
"You know your jokes might be better if you used a different voice, maybe something with emotion in it."
"That defeats the purpose of most of my jokes." He walked around to the other side of the desk and I heard something open, he pulled out a jar of sour crème and an unlabeled jar of what I knew to be bacon grease. He opened the jar of grease and breathed into it, heating is quickly with his incredibly hot breath, he then stirred in some of the sour crème and started drinking it. "You want some?" He asked while drinking, something no one with a normal voice could ever do.
I shook my head, "No, and I can't understand how you drink that stuff. Or even where you get bacon fat, that stuff is expensive."
"It's delicious, which you would know if you tried it. And I have connections to get it."
"And how do you pay for it? You haven't had a job since you got out."
"I have connections for that too." He finished drinking it and threw the jar into a box next to the desk. "So, you want to tell me why you're here? I'm pretty certain that it's not my award winning culinary endeavors."
"I need help, no one will believe me." He nodded under his hood for me to continue. "The insurrectionists are back, they are planning to take down one of the outer barriers."
He looked at me and for the first time I think I saw actual shock on his face, then it changed to something more gleeful, which is actually rather chilling to see. "That would mean a new war. War is good; it means I have gainful employment again."
"It means billions of people would die when the atmosphere escaped."
"You're crazy, it would be more like a couple hundred million, billions is way too much."
I blinked at him, stunned, "You would let millions of civilians die for a way back into the marines?" I asked after a pause.
He made a sound I can only assume is a sigh and reached back into whatever is on the other side of the desk and pulled out a bottle of some brown liquid. "Have a drink with me." He pulled two chipped glasses out and poured a couple fingers into each.
I took the one he offered me and we raised them in honor and both took a mouthful. The liquor tasted horrible. It may have had a brown caramel colour but it was in no way bourbon, it tasted like rubbing alcohol mixed with a little dirt. "That is the worst thing I ever tasted." I said, setting the glass onto the desk.
"Really?" he asked, "I quite like it, I mixed about two tablespoons of bacon grease into this whole bottle of ever-clear."
Gods, one hundred percent alcohol mixed with bacon fat; I felt my stomach churn at the thought. I shook my head to clear it, "I need help to stop them."
"Okay, what proof do you have? What do we do?"
"Well, that's sort of the problem; I don't actually have any proof, or know who is involved, or which barrier they are targeting. But I do know that it will happen at noon."
He looked at me with his big eyes, analyzing what I just said. "You don't have a who, where, or what, only a when?"
I nodded, "Yeah, will you help me?"
He made his sighing sound again, "I must be crazy." And walked over to the large metal locker and punched a code into the front. It opened up and I could see what was inside. Somehow it looked like he had gotten hold of all of his gear from when he was deployed. There were several types of rifles, side arms, and other devices I don't know what are. He pulled out a box and started piecing on his field combat armour, "Tell me what you do know."
.... There is more of this story ...