SECTOR G43, DELTA OUTPOST
This, she thought to herself, was becoming a problem.
Look for no trouble and you won’t find it here, was her policy, and it had served her and her customers well for a long time. Besides the occasional troublemaker looking to prove something, there was little out here in the way of fighting. God knew how even the most gung-ho and bloodthirsty of mercs tired of conflict from time to time, and her establishment was meant to be a place away from all of that.
There had been some unrest, lately, when a foreign peacekeeping unit decided to hunker down in their small port town. Ostensibly, they’d only been passing through, but as the days stretched on with no signs of their leaving, their week-long stay at the inn north of the city center said otherwise—they were here on the hunt. But nobody knew what they were hunting, so everyone who had a working brain (or brain-adjacent) between their ears had been on edge (well, more than usual, that is); a low-level thrum of tension colored every conversation, hands never straying far from concealed weaponry.
On this particular day, she discovered an unpleasant gift: trouble had arrived at her doorstep. As always, the troubles of men had inevitably spilled over like slow-moving molasses oozing city streets, leaving not even this sector unsullied, a shadow darkening the brow of an otherwise unremarkable and sunny afternoon.
This particular problem took the shape of a factory-standard sim slumped against the tavern’s disposal bin, near the back entrance. It was alive—for a given definition of the word—but with no signs of consciousness—also for a given definition of the word—returning anytime soon, battered as it was. This particular problem’s markings suggested prison break, or illegal indentureship, or one of many other nasty insinuations. She’d bet a lot of money that the peacekeepers were looking for this particular problem, and that spelled trouble for her.
As if just to prove her right, her portable comm unit crackled, and the tinny voices of the peacekeepers filtered through: they were on the move. And as if just to prove her wrong, the sim also chose this moment to stir, something that should have been nigh impossible for a sim this damaged. Even if it blocked all sensory input, self-preservation protocols should have shunted its systems into recovery shutdown. Nevertheless, it was definitely awake now, and dully staring at her, though it made no attempt to prop itself up or speak. Probably couldn’t, anyway, given its limbs and the lack thereof. And the concerningly dented cranial casing. It blinked at her.
“Oh, bother,” she said, and holstered her gun. If she handed them over to the peacekeepers, there was a good chance they’d implicate her anyway, and that would mean a definite end to the fragile peace she’d carved out for herself out here. There wasn’t a real decision to be made. She was not in the habit of picking up strays, she told herself firmly as she hauled them up. Her bleeding heart wouldn’t let her do anything less, and the annoying thing she picked up called morals would nag her about it to no end. In an unwelcome wash of déjà vu, she dragged the thing in behind her, kicked closed the back door, and set it on a stool in the storage room. It blinked at her again, and remained mum. Right. She’ll just keep the sim out of the way until the danger’s passed, and then send them on their merry way, somewhere preferably far from this sector.
(In the back of her mind, a soundless voice laughed at her.)