Episode One: Liberty for All, Part three.
I coughed heavily at the thick smog that filled the streets, I'd gone to over four dozen worlds, and none were as dirty as Liberty was. Nonexistent industrial regulation did that to a planet...
"I regret not having installed tracheal filters when I has the chance..." I basically growled between two fits.
Andrei held my by the hand, tugging my tightly, seemingly not minding the bad air and the dust particles all around. "Oh, stop complaining, it's not that bad." He said, turning his head around, the zeta-epsilon markings on his face showing, under which a small string of numbers was written; 753.
"You don't have to drag me so hard you know, we've got plenty of time..."
"Life short. I want to make the most of it."
"Hey, don't say that!" I said, hopping forward to be closer. For humans, it was a harmless phrase, but bioroids averaged twenty five years of lifespan...
"Come on, let's get something to eat." He said, deflecting the conversation.
We walked a bit, several people staring at us, it wasn't common to see post-humans in these parts of the ghetto. We passed the door to a noodle shop, which was almost luxurious in a place where most people survived on protein paste.
We sat down at the massive counter which was made of cleverly textured plastics, giving an old and almost authentic look you'd see in movies about old earth Japan. The man at the counter had almond shaped eyes and a dark skin, like so many people around this rock.
The menu was rather simple, different variation of noodles, vegetables and textured proteins, with meat costing about half a month's worth of salary, few people could afford it.
The man quickly prepared the two bowls as he chatted with another that was in the back of the kitchen, speaking in mandarin.
"What are they saying?" Andrei asked, leaning over toward me.
"They're wondering if we're together." I said, whispering what the linguasoft in my brain sent me back. "They're also surprised to see and Aug and a bioroid."
The man set down our foot and we ate quickly. As much as real food was rare to see, artificial flavoring has gone a long way to making the stuff edible.
"You guys accept Unity dollars?" I asked, taking my wallet out. He thankfully nodded and I set down a bunch of colored plastic squares with a thin titanium sheet in the middle bearing the Unity government logo and the serial number. "Keep the change."
The return to the outside was brutal, but Andrei was determined to continue exploring town. The market wasn't too far from the Spaceport, it was more or less an open stretch of terrain where closet sized stalls were installed in a chaotic array with no thought for planning of any kind.
Andrei moved from one to the next, looking at the collection of stuff that could potentially attract tourist and more practical stuff.
"What do you think of that?" He asked, showing a miniature replica of City-Complex-One.
"No comment." I said with a smirk. "If you want it, buy it." He nodded. "How much is it?" I asked the burly, merchant.
"I don't sell to Pod-boys." He snarled, throwing out that insult toward 'roids.
"I'm not a Bioroids." I remarked.
"You're right, you're even worse, race traitor. Getting roboted up wasn't enough, you've got to fuck one of those things?" Hatred and disgust dripped from his words, venomously hitting me.
"The fuck did you just say, you--" Before I could continue, I felt, Andrei's hand pull me and drag me off.
We walked out and then stopped. Although he didn't show any outward signs of it, no muscle tension, or different inclination in his voice, I knew he was angry. Bioroids lack many of the response humans have, all kinds of hormones and chemicals always perfectly balanced, which made them far harder to read.
"He was insulting you, insulting us, why did you pull me away?"
"I don't want to ruin our day for just one imbecile, let's just forget about it, kay?" He said, muttering a few curses in his native Russian.
"Alright, alright." I gently slipped my hand into his and squeezed it tightly.
"Come on, we still have an hour. Let's find something to do."
The other merchants were thankfully not as rude although hushed whispers were common. Augs and 'roids had advantage when it came work, people saw us as privileged.
"Hey, look!" My husband said, pointing at a stall that was slightly backward from the rest of the market. It displayed a neon sign that declared it as 'Free psionics tests'
"Seriously?" I said. "What's next, wizardry classes?"
"Come on, it'll be fun." He said, punching me in the arm.
He came closer to stand and sat down in the chair.
"Welcome." The woman at the both said as she moved her deck of cards closer to the center of the table. "All you have to do it try to find what symbol I'm seeing."
He played the game for a few minutes, the woman turning the cards to see what she'd drawn.
"Three out of ten, Mr. That's bellow our standards." She declared.
"Satisfied?" I asked, him as he got up.
"Come on, try it!"
"No, I don't believe in woo."
"Just do it." She pouted.
"Fine, fine, fine!"
I sat down at the table and she lifted the first card, not bothering to shuffle the deck. I stared her in the eyes. "Star." She flipped the card, and showed I was right.
One by one, she picked card and I answered. "Square, Triangle, Square again, Circle, Star, Another star, Pentagon, Star and Pentagon."
The woman seemed impressed. "That's nine out of ten, Mr." He right hand moved slightly under the table and I got up.
"How did you--" Andrei began but stopped as two men in jackets came over to us.
"Liberty Security Force, we'd like to have a word with you, Mr. Wright." They said, knowing my name by the I.D broadcasted by my commlink.
"Under what ground?" I asked, remaining composed.
"What you just did, we can legally drag you in for questioning, so don't make it hard for all of us." The other man said, his hand remaining close to his jacket's pocket where a slight bulge was present.
I gently opened my coat and pulled out a badge. "Alexander Guo Wright, Navigator's guild class two, designation E17655 assigned to ICS Corvinus, by interplantery law, I'm invoking article 24 of the 32nd amendment of the New Helios Declaration of principles." They seemed a bit confused by that statement. "That's diplomatic immunity for Navigators and their mate, in case you don't know. You cannot legally detain, arrest or try me for any crimes, but you are allowed to escort me to my assigned vessel and kept under house arrest until I leave this planet."
That seemed to make them back off and I started walking away, putting my badge back in my pocket.
"YOu know that little speech by heart, don't you?" Andrei asked me.
"It saved my skin a few times." I admitted.
"Does it protect you from everything?"
"More or less, but any crime I commit is considered the responsibility of my commanding officer, unless I am disavowed or expelled from the guild. Come on, let's go home, I'm tired of this place already..."
"Say, how did you score that high on your test?"
"I just remembered the ten cards you drew and reconstructed partial images from reflections." I said with a smirk. "Cybernetic eyes and synaptic implants aren't just for show, you know."