Tasty Taavo yelled:
Pheromone ejectors on the cart wheezed and pumped out a blast.
Something must have been off with the mixture, or the ejectors were overheating again because Taavo’s guts heaved and he felt queasy rather than hungry.
Trade was bad.
The Hungry Eagle had opened outlets across the hive and they were sucking up customers and coins at an alarming rate. Worse, they were taking more and more of the Meat stocks from the refineries, pushing prices up and fringe traders out.
He swallowed acidic spit and cranked the ejectors off, cursing the Sprocket-Lover who’d done the work.
Swilling some hava-fizz he’d bought from himself earlier Taavo resumed hawking.
“Meat for you, Meat from me, buy three bowls, get a drink free!”
Scurrying on-workers ignored him as they rushed to their shift.
Exhausted and spent off-workers trudged over, a small queue formed and Taavo doled out the orders in paper cones and bowls, handing out steaming spiced Meat with hava-fizz cartons in exchange for grubby notes and tarnished coins.
The change-rush finished and Taavo waited a few minutes for stragglers before kicking off the breaks and moving the cart toward the Administratum spires.
Their shifts were an hour behind the factorum district and had more coin. Flipping the prices over to the more expensive side. Pausing on his way he turned his fraying frock coat inside out to show his flashy mid-hive respectable lining for the checkpoints.
Where to get fresh pheromones?
They weren’t cheap and the Refiners Guild took a heavy price.
Where to get Meat?
He smiled, slipping the guard his bribe.
Most of the morning’s take went on this bribe, but that was why Taava bothered with the factorums.
Sell last week’s Meat to ‘povvers and make bribe money the easy way!
He set up in the square, pondering his financial problems.
The shift changed and Taavo sold.
Steaming Caff, thick and black with the promise of a long day ahead, Crust and cones of Meat.
Trade was good. Down on what it should be by a long way, but good enough.
He wasn’t a data drone.
Taavo could smell money and violence on him.
Nice suit, bad fit.
Gun-bulge under the shoulder and the scabbard of a hangar peeking out of the frockcoat; he stood in line waiting and perusing the menu. He let a couple of people pass him, which was the big tip off.
He’s not hungry, he’s watching.
He came to the fore, asked for a Caff and a cone. Paid in new minted coin; heavy silver. Then he stood on the corner, apparently enjoying his breakfast, just slightly too close to be comfortable.
More datadrones were exiting the spire, a few came over for their orders, the rest drifted away, apparently intimidated by the blatant ganger. Taavo could see tats peeking over his collar.
He frowned, irritated.
Just by standing there the man was killing off his trade.
‘Friend?’ Muttered out the side of a grin.
‘Might ye move on? My custom…’ he gestured limply to the milling and clearly intimidated workers.
The ganger turned. He smiled and dropped a stack of heavy coins into the tray.
‘For your company, friend.’ And cranked out a frozen, dead eyed grin.
Taavo counted them, saw a week’s take, pocketed it and grinned back.
He’s not The Hungry Eagle.
They didn’t need to muscle the like of him out. Nor was it local gangs, the big man’s accent was clearly off world.
Taavo started up a prattling chunter to the offworlder. Getting a grunt or two and the odd nod or shake, as if they were friends of old.
Pay for company, get company.
The morning wore on and a few more drones came over, bought their meal and drifted home.
Taavo was in the middle of explaining his supply woes, the lack of Meat from the refinery and the drift of customers.
He was angling for another donation when the world exploded.
The ganger ripped out his pistol, something big and dangerous looking and in a moment reduced a pair of random strangers to stains.
More strangers poured into the square and suddenly the world was full of flying death and bodies and all Taavo could do was cower under his cart and hope to not die.
Cordite, carbon smoke, charred flesh and burnt ozone smell of heavy las volleys.
Taavo pulled down his cart’s parasol and covered his meagre takings.
Some lord of the offworld was stalking among the bodies, gold and velvet robes swishing and dragging through the blood. She was pointing at some ganger, shredded and charred. Troopers moved in, scooped the remains and carted them away. She pointed at a couple more, Taavo bobbed behind his chart, scooping up a dropped wrap and putting it back in the warming pan for tomorrow.
The Lord seemed satisfied with her harvest and turned to leave, troopers giving hard, scar-faced stares and threatening with steaming muzzles.
Taavo smiled his most ingratiating, rotten toothed grin and made as if to leave.
Distantly the rainhose sirens were starting.
Taavo looked around.
The off worlder had been blasted into a heap not far away at some point in the fight and lay unnoticed, unwanted.
The checkpoint guards, the hivers, the strangers and the gangers were dead or carted away and the square was empty.
Taavo edged closer to the crumpled body.
Young, no traces of obvious corruption. A few tats but no surgery.
Taavo wondered for a moment why he’d gone there? Where was home?
Then, while the world was hiding and looking elsewhere Taavo bundled the body into the cavity under his cart and scuttled away.
Fresh pheromones, that’s the key.
Tavo grinned as his stomach rumbled and people queued up suddenly hungry.
‘Tasty Taavo’s Tasty Treats! Caff and Crust and cones of Meat!’
The Meat was fresh.
And it was Tasty.
About the Author
Frederick is a longtime hobbyist and writer, actor, painter, decorator and sword… user? Writing is a passion and joy of his, along with the many other hobbies that he must ration time between.