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Justifiers: The Axon Affair
Michael J. Simmons
Micahel sat at the terminal in his quarters, looking at the monitor and sighing in frustration as he read the account balance on his buyout contract with the company UNITED Ind. Until he paid them off in full along with any interest or lost property and equipment he would belong to them body, mind and soul. “There has to be a better way for a sentient being to live.” He mused out loud. As always whenever he checked his account balance he tried to think of ways to increase his cash intake so he can pay down the balance faster. Most of the ways that he even knew of were illegal based on his contract with his parent company.
He got up from the wall terminal, the chair sliding automatically back into the wall clearing space now that it was not needed. He walked over to small lavatory; the space was big enough for a shower and fur dryer combo, a sink and a toilet. In the past they would have called this a three quarter bathroom. Turning on the sink, he splashed some water on his face to help clear the cobwebs from his mind. He stared into the mirror to see his own golden-green eyes staring back at him as he tried to think of way to pay off his debt.
Most Betas tried to come up with ways to buy down their debt to their affiliated companies so they could become free agents or free beings. Depending on one’s point of view of how they perceived corporate life. For Micahel he liked the fellowship and belonging that was a part of belonging to a corps, he just wanted to be a free being not dependent or beholden to the corps for his continued existence. Micahel used his hobbies/interest in Cryptology, Archeology and Linguistics to help supplement his income. But that was slow going and only paid off when he submitted work that helped the corporation.
The rest of his skills as a Scout to United Ind. As part of their Justifier units while useful and even called upon on missions to unclaimed planets or in use against other corporations was frowned upon in use against his parent company and law abiding individuals of the Terran Trade Alliance. Sighing, he went turned around and walked out of the bathroom and back into his small living quarters. Looking around the Spartan room, he sighed again in disgust. “I need to get out of here and not just for the night but permanently; but since that is not going to happen.”
Heading to the door he grabbed the lone coat from the closet and walked out, best to spend some time down at the Lunatic Fringe. May run into some company and see what turns up, though the thought did fill him with some hope it also depressed him in a way as it was still spending money in which he could buy out his contract with; the companies sure knew what they were doing when they set up the buyout program. It was a rare Beta who bought out his contract, some did and thrived. Those were rare; the others who had left their parent companies had done so illegally and were considered Rogues and Renegades. Betas who did that usually found themselves with a price on their heads. Not something Micahel wished to experience, “No Thanks, I want to be able to relax and not be looking over my shoulders every five seconds for a collection team or a bounty hunter looking to enrich their account.”
He continued his quiet musing as he took the tube from his complex to the local club, where he and other Betas hung out when not out on assignments for their company. The planet Talconis was a nice enough planet, Earth normal or close enough to not matter to the colonists which consisted of Humans, Augmented Humans and Betas alike. Since the invention of Transmatt humanity had left their home system of Sol, years ago and exploded out into the stars. Most exploration was done by Satellites, Probes and Drones and if a world was found sufficient enough for a company to invest into they would then send a team of Justifiers of which Micahel was a part of to justify or pacify the planet for colonization.
No one really knew who the word justify had become to be used for the initial effort to explore a world by hand or paw. It just was, to Micahel it was an event to get to go to a world that no other sentient being had set foot or paw upon and he was a first to do so. The tube came to a local stop where he got off and started to join with the throng as he walked towards the club. The night was cool but not uncomfortable; slinging his jacket over his shoulder he made his way through the crowds of other people. The smell of Humans both normal and augment filled his nostrils.
On one of the corners he saw a pack of Canids the majority of them of the Lupus type as they gathered and eyed anyone who walked the streets. He proceeded on, not desiring to attract the notice of the pack, he had no desire to get into a stare down match or tries to prove who was more Alpha. As he passed the street corner, “Hey Kitty!” he heard the gruff voice of one of the Dogs call to him. He walked on, until he felt a paw on his shoulder. Stopping himself from throwing the obnoxious mutt into the wall, he turned slowly to see that it was not one of the packs. But instead a friend of his a German Shepherd acquaintance who worked as a security officer for their team.
“Maxehme, you old dog” He smiled warmly! “What brings you down here?” Micahel asked?
“Probably the same thing as you, getting out of the pad for a while before I go stir crazy with being cooped up. Man I can use a mission something to get my blood pumping.” Replied the German shepherd, his tongue lolling out of his mouth in an infectious canine grin; “Yeah, I was going over my account to see what else I could do to buy out my costs. Decided to get out as the room was feeling too tight, claustrophobic, if you know what I mean.”
“Claustrophobic?” Asked his friend,
“Yeah, that… Max?” Micahel asked while looking around carefully, as one could never be sure of who was listening. “Have you ever thought about just running?”
“Running off!? Well there has been sometimes but not seriously.” Replied the Canine; “Anyway where would we go? The time and effort let alone the cost would not be worth it.” He spoke quietly with Micahel as they walked into the club. They walked in paying the cover charge with a simple swipe of their implant chips on their wrists. Making their way to the bar, the music loud and thumping its pulses ranging from the regular harmonics to subharmonic range.
Micahel allowed the music to wash over him, as he stood next to the bar. He indicated to the bartender for a drink, and was soon served with a tall beer. Taking a drink he and Max looked around the crowd. Nudging his side quietly Max pointed out to a pair of fem’s on the other side of the bar who were looking at them another canine and a feline. “Besides if we did run, how would we ever find companionship to help us through our long, lonely nights?” He said with a wink and nod as he got up and started to walk over to them. Micahel followed him thinking well it will be a good night.