Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tales of Vidar: Payout

Originally written for the MindGames universe on DreamCollectivelier
--

"Look, I'm sorry, but there's no payout on this one."

"What do you mean, no payout?"

Tern had rehearsed this all in her head, but things too often didn't go to plan when talking to people. Computers and numbers were so much easier to work with. "An independent candidate won the election. Odds were negligible, she didn't even make it into my book."

"If somebody had asked, what would you have offered?"

"Maybe two hundred to one."

"Two hun-- that would have..."

"Yes, that would have squared your bid."

"Look, just give me my refund and we'll call it square."

"No. You gave your print, you knew the risks. OPB doesn't give refunds and neither do I."

"Then I'll take it from you."

"No, you won't. I'm neutral; always have been, always will be. I don't bet against my own book. You'll have to fight everyone who backs my book, everyone who has won a cent off me. That's a long list and there's some people who are a lot more scary than you are. They accept my book and don't get refunds; you get the same deal."

"But--"

"No." Tern hung up the line. Her voice was steady and her mind was clear, but her hands were shaking. Sometimes she hated this business, but every word she said was true.

--

"Why don't you just take it out of the box?"

"Sure, Fleetli, they could do that, but then it would be an open secret of what was in it, and clearly it's something important or valuable."

"How do you know?"

Vilea huffed and rolled her eyes, not needing a hand to help her follow the chain of logic: low-grav, lots of burly guys, large box missing identifying labels. "It couldn't be more obvious.'

"Oh." Fleetli shrugged, still not getting it, but not caring enough to press the point.

--

Rive was late, and he hated being late. Those idiots tried to take his package straight through the mess of the Greater Cave, and it had gotten stuck. The best method for getting it unstuck was taking his delivery out of the package, but then everybody would know what it was and would want a piece of his pie.

Well, that is, if they didn't want the finder's fee for returning it to it's rightful owner. If they ever found out, he was a dead man. It was a hot item, and that spoiled tourist was promising to make him rich.

--

"Hello?"

"Soria, it's Tern."

"What have you found?"

"Sisyphus's R&D department is selling something I haven't found on the black market that's doing really well for reasons I don't really want to know. I'm sorry, but that's all I've got, and it took pulling a lot of strings to get that much."

"That's alright, you've done more than enough. How much of my portfolio is on them?"

"About a third."

"Sell some of it off. If they're dealing something under the table, I don't want to be there when they fall."

"Smart move. There's a new start-up doing some remarkable things with 3-D printers selling way low right now that's selling voting interest in."

"How do you feel about it?"

"Good enough to pick up a couple percent of their stock on my own."

"Did you?"

"I did."

"That's enough recommendation for me. If I sold all except for, say one hundred shares of Sisyphus and bought into this new start-up, how much would I be looking at?"

Tern whistled. "Just a moment, let me run the numbers." The line was silent for a few minutes. "Ten percent controlling interest."

"Do it."

The line was quiet for a few seconds more, and then "It's done. You now have a ten percent voting interest in Fifth-Dimensional Thinking, Inc, ten percent of their shares, and an honorary position on their board of directors. You're also down to a mere one hundred shared of Sisyphus Medical which is less than five percent of your portfolio.'

"Thanks, Tern."

"You're most welcome."

--

There was a waiting list. Why was there always a bloody waiting list? D was going to have to wait in line to get another one, and they were keeping his deposit. His only recourse was filing a complaint with United Shipping, and it was hard enough just talking to a real person these days... It was like finidng a needle in a needlestack.

He called in the insurance claim and gave it up as a lost cause.

--
Characters: Diana Tunvert | Fleetli Yanke | Nameless tourist | Rive Wiventestle | Soria Bathorn | Tern Mevit | Vilea Rattang
Series: Tales of Vidar
Location: Cups system | Vidar moon

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tales of Vidar: Touring

Originally written for the MindGames universe on DreamCollectivelier
--

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.

"Really?"

"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.

--

"Hello?"

"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?"

"Excuse me?"

"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

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Tales of Vidar: Coming Home

Originally written for the MindGames universe on DreamCollectivelier
--

Behind the maze of air locks and service doors, hidden and unmentioned to the visiting tourists, lay the realms reserved for permanent residents of Nanna. These catacombs, ratways, and mineshafts, though predominantly frequented by the teenaged youth, were open to all who knew how to find them.

The Greater Cave was the busiest of the hollows on Vidar, and it held a maze of its own. A mess of shipping-carrier-like trailers daisy-chained onto each other, providing an ad-hoc network of water, sewage, electricity, and net access, occupied the space with room for growth. There were few rules in the Greater Cave, all of them mutually agreed upon and punishable by the wrath of your neighbors, and they were: no blocking access to the network, no trespassing on your neighbor's spaces unless invited, one trailer per person, and if you have a party, everybody is invited.

With a few friends and a couple of spare hours, anybody can add a new trailer to the Greater Cave, and the maze regularly grows. Only those who very nearly live on Vidar, spending most of their free moments there, can consistently find their way around. However, with the lack of malls and shopping centers on Nanna, that applies to all youth on Nanna looking for somewhere to hang out.

--

Midi didn't just spend most of her time on Vidar, she literally lived there. An orphan at  an early age, and Nanna with minimal housing and poor conditions for the abandoned young, it was the best option for those who could handle it, and Midi felt better on her own.

She had her trailer, though less equipped with computers than most of her neighbors, it had enough to ensure she could survive comfortably without relying on the welfare of others or a foster family.

Midi shuddered at the thought, bad memories starting to well up. They assured her that there were none of the horror stories about foster families like floating around Three, but it was a lie. The system was flawed, and I was lucky to have this to escape to. She shoved the well of pain shut again, and resumed her studying.

--

The entertainment on Vidar for locals wasn't merely limited to the Greater Cave.

Within the maze of warrens lay a broad selection of entertainment selections, from low-gravity adaptations of one-gee sports, to age-restricted intimate past-times. Some of the age-restricted areas were open flesh pits, visitor be warned, and some were private rooms. They say you haven't really had sex until you've had it in zero-gee.

Duplicate options lay open for the public and tourists, and even some of these are frequented by Nannans for a variety of reasons, including seeking new competition or easier competition, as well as making money off of tourists for playing guide or partner.

--

Tern's trailer was lined with computer screen crammed together. Some were scavenged, older LED displays, one was a mirror HUD, and the rest were newer fabric displays. They were oriented in every which way with most of them running dynamic feeds of the political governments in the known universe. She wore a spandex body stocking and chorded gloves that fed wirelessly into her computing system.

She hummed tunelessly to herself, while paging through stock notes coming in live (minus the transmission delay) from Omr. The numbers were flowing through expected fluctuations, and she tagged a few promising ventures for future review. There was a tap on her door, and she toggled control over to her local betting book screen, the only display that was duplicated, with one inside and one outside her trailer.

She eased herself over to the door, and slid it open, admitted a face she didn't know. "What's your poison?"

"What's the book for the Prime Minister election on Three?"

"Which one?"

He paused, ignorant of the fact that there were four of them currently running, and another half-dozen in the coming months. "Uhh... the one with Joh Aldams."

"Oh. Sure, just a moment." Tern turned her head to face the display, though it was currently upside-down in relation to her body's orientation, and scrolled through the list. "Two to three for Joh, one to six for Sil, and one to six for Mal. No minimums. What's your bid?"

"Can I get two hundred on Mal?"

"Two hundred down on Mal pays out twelve hundred if he wins. You sure?"

He swallowed heavily, his adams apple sticking out like a sore thumb, and hesitated a moment before nodding.

"Put your thumbprint on the sensor." She gestured to the fingerprint detector hanging beside the door jam. A quick keystroke as he did verified his funds and transferred the appropriate amount to her holding account. "Payout next week. Good luck."

"Thanks."

She shut the door and went back to work.

--
Character: Midi Krisedjinn | Tern Mevit
Series: Tales of Vidar
Location: Cups system | Vidar moon | Greater Cave || Swords system | Omr planet