Sy goes shopping

For the average person living within the perimeter walls of Oracle, taking a stroll through the narrow, winding streets of the slums was akin to a nightmare, with the constant hustle and bustle of people, varied levels of grime and aggression and legality among them. So easy to get lost in this ramshackle maze when all you wanted to focus on was not getting stabbed and robbed. Syiandra was once like that as well, but adulthood had barely glanced in her direction when she came here with nothing to eke out a new living for herself. Things were much different now.

She walked confidently down the street, a dark-skinned young woman with a big bushel of dreads mounted atop her head, interwoven with bits of electronics and cables. Soon, she hoped, she could add one more piece to her collection. Her skinny frame swam in the colorless tank-top that hung off her shoulders, her large cargo pants with their endless pockets only stayed fastened to her hips by the grace of a sizeable belt. She was still wearing the steel-toed boots from work earlier in the day. She hadn't had time to shower yet, and anyone who'd get close would smell grime and sweat and the acrid smell of burned metal on her. But this was the slums. Everybody stank.

She turned into an alleyway, weaving between two bums sitting on the ground around the corner. One reached to grab her ass as she passed, but Sy spun round and kicked his hand away. "Too slow, ya hobo skank," she snapped.

"F-fuck you, Sy," the hobo stuttered, rubbing his painful wrist. His black-and-grey hair that seemed to sprout from everywhere made it impossible to determine his age. The cracked and bleeding voice could be age or drugs or both.

Sy snorted. "Get rich 'n clean, 'n we'll talk," she retorted. "Til then ya'll need ta fuck yourself instead." She ducked through a low doorway and went out of sight. The hobo muttered "Frigid bitch" and prepped a small vial for his next high.

The shop Sy had ducked into was covered from wall to wall, including the ceiling, with electronic components. Circuitry glistened in plastic wrapping, cables dangled like so many rolled-up snakes. One corner seemed to be covered in small square black beetles, but closer inspection revealed a stash of computer chips instead, most of them processors of some sort. The shop was tiny, not more than 8 square feet, but it had an amount of wares for sale most shops four times the size would be jealous of. There was no one behind the counter though.

"Bri?! Where y'at?!" she called out to the back. "C'mon, sunofabitch, ya got a customer!"

"Hang on, you harpy," a heavy, sonorous voice came from out back. A fat black man in his 40s came trudging from a door that barely accommodated him. "Can a man eat his dinner in peace?"

Sy sniffed. "Bri, ya gon' eat much more y'ain't gonna fit in y'own shop. What'cha cookin' back there anyway?"

Brian smirked. "My ma made me roti," he replied. "Good food. Real traditional, you dig."

"You take care of that woman now, Bri," Sy said seriously. "Ya mum is an angel. And take care o'ya customers as well now! I pre-paid that B52-XZ chip, now I know ya got it in yesterday. So gimme!"

Without a word, Brian reached under the counter and pulled out a small cardboard box. He took a tiny chip from its contents, put it in a paper envelope the size of an ear, and put it in the counter. Clearing the small box away he said: "What've you got planned with something like that, Sy?"

"Nunya biz," Sy said, taking the envelope, dropping the tiny chip in her palm and holding it up to the light. "Ya biz is sellin' it. And ya did." Suddenly she dropped the chip back into the envelope and shoved it crudely into her pants. "Aight I'm off. Shit ta do."

"Alright. I'll go finish my meal," Brian said. "Later, Sy."

"Say hi to ya mum for me," she replied as she ducked out the shop and went back through the alleyway. The bum was knocked out cold, the empty vial still in his hand. She barely noticed as she stepped over him, as she was distracted by an OSEC officer stepping into Sam's across the street. She made a mental note to make sure Sam's wasn't compromised. Sevo putting OSEC on her didn't seem likely after almost a decade, but couldn't be too careful.

Instead of heading into Sam's, she turned right towards home. Another day tomorrow to do her weekly Click exchange. Right now, she could not wait to put that new chip to the test.

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