Coffee and Credits
by Raymond Towers
forum: Coffee and Credits
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Coffee and Credits


           April 22, 2155, Los Angeles- Times didn’t used to be this bad, I thought, mixing my black coffee with one of the shop’s reusable stirs. A little excitement went a long way nowadays, and if things went according to plan today, I would be collecting generously on one of humanity’s darker pleasures, gambling. I’d taken great measures to ensure that things would go my way, such as getting up at midday, which for me was uncustomarily early. By doing this, I was certain to capture virtually all of the attention on the Bettor’s Network, since sports events and casino betting didn’t start until early evening. Even my wardrobe was carefully selected, as I was wearing quite possibly the tightest business suit I owned, a dark teal two-piece which nicely accented my hips.

           If I’d taken a seat anywhere else in the coffee joint, I was certain that every man in the place, or the straight ones anyway, would meander in my direction sooner or later with those lame pick-up lines ready to launch. Normally, I didn’t mind the attention, but since I would be holding court in a few minutes, I did not want any distractions. That is why I’d taken a table next to the Wall.

           Everybody was afraid of the Wall. A full twelve inches thick, and composed of weather resistant and durable polymer, the Wall kept the city’s residents safe from the Outside. In case you didn’t know, Outside is the last place you want to be.

           Even as my hand began to reach up to the control panel on the Wall, I heard a couple of chairs sliding away from nearby tables, as customer’s unable to stomach the Outside left the shop. The adjuster switch controlled the density of the smoke tint on the ten foot by ten foot window next to my table, and currently it was on its darkest setting, preventing me from seeing past it. Pressing the switch for a couple of seconds resulted in the window clearing by a few degrees, as well as in more hurried footsteps and nervous coughs. Looking around the coffee shop, I noted only two people remaining; the shop manager, who had no choice but to stay, openly gawked in my direction, and sitting a few tables away, Lucky Jake, a rep from one of the top three betting agencies, casually leafed through the financial section of the local rag.

           After checking the time on my digital phone, I turned back towards the window, and continued pressing the adjuster switch until had a clear view of the Outside.

           Like Oppenheimer’s bomb, the Wall began as a good idea. It was constructed  to counter the region’s worsening weather patterns, most notably the droughts and sandstorms that frequently ravaged the city. With living space and Outside views at a premium, engineers designed the adjustable shading system, thus allowing the city’s more privileged the luxury of looking Outside whenever they wanted. (Residents of the inner neighborhoods, you might recall, have only the city’s vast common ceilings to give them a view of the sky, and no windows at all in their actual dwellings.)

           What the builders of the Wall could not have foreseen is that the droughts would become so severe. Entire farming villages on the Outside were devastated as crops died out, and the villagers were forced to migrate to just outside the Wall and beg for food, or perish. As the droughts continued, more villagers arrived, and although the city did what it could, they could not hope to feed the enormous number of hungry mouths, and reluctantly, the entry points to the city were closed. The masses Outside rebelled violently, resulting in the gates being fortified and guarded, and under constant vigilance.

           Having no other option, the starving turned on one another. Bands of marauders preyed on the weak, stealing what little scraps of food were left, as well as organizing mass efforts to breach the Wall. Someone looking Outside the Wall would be witness to countless murders, rapes, acts of cannibalism, and pretty much the worst that humanity had to offer. Darwinism at its most savage stage, I thought, and since I couldn’t do much about the situation, I would at least try to capitalize on it.

           It was quiet today, I noticed, looking down from my perch in the coffee shop, a full four floors up. Weary Outsiders, wearing soiled and stained long garments, muddled along beside their makeshift tents, is if they really had a purpose. It was quiet now, I surmised, but it wasn’t going to stay that way for long.

           The alarm on my phone uttered a single beep, and at that same moment, two visitiors arrived beside my table. “Hey, pretty lady.” Ken Herald, one of the cuter betting agents, took a seat across from me.

           “You’re looking sexy, as usual.”

           “Hi, Ken.” I smiled seductively. “Nice to see you again.”

           The second arrival, the stuffier and stouter Stone Rivers, also took a seat. “Well, I see you’ve got me, as well as one of my competitors, out of bed early today.” He said indignantly. “Would you mind explaining what the hell for?”

           With a twinkle in his eye, Ken added. “Yeah, lady, exactly what are you up to?”

           From the corner of my eye, I observed Lucky Jake fold up his newspaper, and drag his chair across the aisle towards our table. “Mind if I join the party?” He announced.

           “Hey there, Jake.” Ken greeted, then turned back to address me. “It looks like you’ve got representation from the three biggest betting agencies in town. I am most intrigued.”

           “Four’s a crowd, if you ask me.” Stone Rivers scoffed at the last arrival.

           “Well, nobody asked you.” Lucky Jake returned.

           Ken watched the exchange with some amusement. “I think you’d better give us a bone here, before these two come to blows.”

           “I’d bet on Jake in three rounds.” I kidded.

           “You know, so would I.” Ken agreed.

           “Fuck the both of you.” Stone Rivers snapped. “Now, do we have something to talk about here, or do I walk? I’ve got business to attend to.”

           Coyly, I placed my elbows on the tabletop, and cradled my chin in my palms. “You walk, you lose.”

           Stone held his arms out questioningly. “Out with it, then.”

           “I’ve got a proposition for you.” I started, dropping my arms to my sides, and giving the trio my best poker face. “Its a good one, unlikely to be repeated, and its going to cost you. I want ten percent of all credits collected.”

           “Bullshit!” Stone cried out.

           “Are you insane?” Lucky Jake asked.

           “Wait a minute here.” Ken calmed the others. “This lady’s come through for me in the past, so maybe we should hear her--”

           “Horizontally, maybe.” Stone cut in, shaking his head.

           “I wouldn’t talk.” Lucky Jake smirked. “I’ve seen your wife.”

           Stone glared back.

           “Well?” Ken asked. “What’s the deal?”

           “First, we agree to terms.” I insisted. “On video.”

           “But ten percent?” Ken whined, an action I thought him incapable of. “That’s promoter’s rate! And we haven’t even heard what you’ll be providing yet.”

           “Okay.” I sighed. “I can get a squad of sentries Outside.”

           “What?” Ken was stunned.

           “Double bullshit!” Stone shook his head again.

           Lucky Jake, predictably, sat speechless.

           “You’re kidding, right?” Ken asked, leaning forward in his chair to study my face. “You’re not kidding?”


           “Why would a squad risk life and limb for you?” Stone asked. “What’re you banging the whole bunch?”

           “No, just one.”

           “Which one?” Ken asked.

           “Sentry Captain Reynolds.”

           “And he gave you permission to send a squad Outside?” Stone cut in. “Bullshit!”

           “Why would he do that?” Ken asked.

           “I asked him, very nicely, if he could help me get an errand boy.” I admitted. “From the Outside.”

           Stone eyed me coldly. “So Captain Reynolds gave you permission to bypass paperwork and proper procedure, and to ignore the hundreds of available boys from the inner city. And all because you just asked him to?”

           “I asked him like this.” Briefly, I pulled my coat and revealling blouse aside, exposing a good portion of my full breasts. “It did the trick.”

           “Hell, I’d give her permission.” Ken smiled.

           “Me, too.” Jake piped in.

           Stone glanced at his two rivals, then, looking unconvinced, turned back to me.

           “The paperwork was rushed through.” I explained. “I even went down to the city offices to browse through a book of candidates, but alas, I didn’t find the right one for me. So, Captain Reynolds told me that if I saw a boy I liked Outside, I should give him a call and he’d send a squad out to retrieve him.”

           “Prove it.” Stone demanded.

           From my pocket, I brought out a video recorder. After clicking on the playback button, Captain Reynold’s voice came through loud and clear. “--hereby authorize a squad to retrieve this target from the Outside, as a special favor to--”

           “When will the squad go out?” Ken asked.

           “As soon as I locate the right boy, and give the good captain a call.”

           Ken sat back, placing his hands behind his head and exhaling. “Whew! That would be exciting to see!”

           “That is what I’m counting on.” I said.

           Lucky Jake stood up, and stepped over to the window. “Those men’ll be butchered by the Outsiders. I would hate to be in their shoes.”

           “And you can call Reynolds anytime?” Ken asked.

           I nodded.

           “My agency will give you six percent.” Ken 

           “Ten percent.” I countered. “This is at great personal risk.”

           “Seven percent.” Ken bartered.

           “Ten.” I repeated.

           “Eight.” Ken offered. “And that includes the services of our agency’s lawyers, if any charges are brought against you.”

           That sounded good, I thought. “Deal.” I glanced to the man beside him. “Stone, what about you?”

           Stone stood up. “I’ll have to call it in.” He said, impatiently pulling his phone from his pocket.


           “I’m intrigued.” Lucky Jake replied, still staring out of the large window. “A handful of armed guards against a thousand unarmed starving peasants. I’d wager half of those men won’t make it back into the city.” He paused briefly. “You know, there are reports that some of the marauders have disguised themselves as peasants, and that they’re out there just waiting for an opportunity to get into the city.”

           “How badly do you want to find out?” I asked him.

           Jake stared at me for a few seconds. “If this goes through to completion, I’ll match Ken’s offer of eight percent, otherwise only four.”

           “On video.” I reminded them, and a few minutes later, I had recorded agreements from both agents on my little recorder.

           “Let’s not wait for Stone,” Ken decided, pulling out his own phone. “Let’s gets things rolling right away. Jake, can we pool our resources as far as video feeds?”

           “Sure.” Jake agreed. “Just let me know where your people will be stationed.”

           “Will do.” Ken replied. “I’ll post the event on the Network.”

           “As a joint venture?” Jake asked. “No exclusive rights?”

           “Of course.” Ken answered, then spoke loudly into the phone for the benefit of the group. “Zachs? Its Ken. Yeah, hey, I’ve got a post. I’ve just been told, through an anonymous tip, that a group of sentries will exit the south gate shortly, and attempt to retrieve an Outsider. Yeah, I know, now listen carefully. I want video feeds with zoom lenses to cover the west side of the south gate. We are working in conjunction with the Long Odds Betting Agency, who will set up video feeds on the east side of the south gate, and will share video with us.” He paused long enough for Jake to give him the thumbs up.

           “Eight percent of all monies collected will be set aside as a finder’s fee, to be paid out by myself to the anonymous tipper.” A pause. “Hey, Jake! When do you want to start the action?”

           Jake was now on the phone as well, covering the mouthpiece to answer. “How about one hour? That should give us enough time to rouse up the bettors.”

           Ken nodded, and the two men continued with their conversations.

           “Hey, what about me?” Stone walked back towards the group, his phone still active.

           “What about you?” Jake called out. “You just missed out on everything, like you always do, you loser.”

           Ignoring him, Stone addressed me. “My agency will give you six percent.”

           “If she agrees to that, you’re not posting until half an hour before showtime!” Ken insisted.

           “Half an hour?” Stone squawked. “By then, there won’t be any heavy bettors left!”

           “That’s your fault for being so stingy!” Jake berated.

           “Miss?” Stone turned to me.

           “Oh, now its ‘Miss’?” Ken defended me. “A little while ago, she was banging the whole squad, remember?”

           Stone glowered at Ken. “A figure of speech, nothing meant by it.” He said to me. “Now, are we in?”

           “Okay.” I said. “But only under two conditions. One, you post twenty minutes after the others, and two, I get to use your phone to call Reynolds.”

           “What? So they can trace the call back to me?” Stone balked. “No way, toots!”

           “Then, thank you for your time.” I said boldly. “And get the fuck out of here.”

           Stone spoke into his phone. “Ya hear that? She tells me to get the fuck out of here.” He listened for a few seconds, then upped his offer. “Okay, I can give you seven percent, but I want fifteen minutes from now to post.”

           “Twenty minutes.” I countered. “And I still get to use your phone.”

           After a few more seconds of phone wrangling, Stone said. “Deal! Now lets get this on video so our people can get moving. And what about the video feeds?”

           “For that,” I motioned to the others. ” You have to talk to them.”

           Stone let out a long groan, and began haggling anew.

           I glanced at the clock on my phone. “Once I make the call, it might take a good fifteen or twenty minutes before the squad exits the gate, so we might not see anything right away.”

           “No problem there.” Ken spoke up. “We’ve got a hacker than can splice into the city’s camera system and reroute their feeds to our own monitors. We can get corridor surveillance, the bigger cameras just inside the gates, and heck, we can probably even hack into the locker area cameras, and watch these guys suit up.”

           “Sounds good to me.” I said in a naughty tone.

           “My agency will gladly split any hacker fee with yours.” Lucky Jake offered. “If we have that same instant access to those feeds.”

           “What about me?” Stone Rivers asked.

           “You’re getting absolutely dick.” Jake retorted. “If you’re lucky, we’ll let you have the footage once the sentries step outside.”

           “And that’s if you’re lucky.” Ken agreed.

           Stone complained about the arrangement for the next half hour, but his protests were, for the most part, ignored.

           “Then all that remains,” Jake addressed me. “Is for you to choose your future errand boy.”

           I answered graciously. “Since it’s your show, you two do the honors.”

           “What if they manage to get the kid in?” Ken asked.

           “Oh, I suppose I’ll keep him for a while.” I surmised. “But sooner or later, I’ll find something wrong with him, and start looking for another one.”

           “It’s all about the credits.” Ken nodded knowingly. “A lady after my own tastes.”

           Lucky Jake returned to the window. “My suggestion is to find a subject maybe some two hundred yards out. That way, the cameras can easily zoom in on him, but he won’t be too far for the naked eye.”

           Ken soon joined him, and a short while later, we’d found our kid.

           “Your phone, please?” I asked Stone Rivers, who reluctantly handed it over.

           “You’d better not say the call was made under duress, if somebody starts asking you later.” He warned.

           “If it comes to that, we’ll let the court decide where the fault lies.” I answered.

           If I was taking a fall, I wouldn’t be taking it by myself, I thought as I punched in Captain Reynolds’ work number. After a few minutes of obligatory flirting, I brought up our previous conversation, and revealled that I’d found a worthy candidate. Not surprisingly, the captain was hesitant about being called to make good on his promise, and sending his men out to the wolves. For a moment, I feared he would refuse, but in the end, he complied after I’d promised him three things, sex, sex, and more sex.

           The event was now being broadcast on the Better’s Network Channel, and Ken managed to convince the coffee shop manager to set the Holo-vison on the appropriate station, as well as to allow us to open up the entire row of windows facing the south gate. The odds were a thousand to one that the group of sentries would make it back to the gate with their bounty, five hundred to one that they’d all make it back alive. As the sentries were shown arriving and suiting up in the city lockers, their bios and specialties were being broadcast on the Network, further agitating the minds and billfolds of the bettors, and further increasing the contributions to my purse. (A minor altercation occured when the skittish guards saw themselves on the Holo-Screen, resulting in the Bettor’s Network agents quickly scrambling to communicate with the now panicky Captain Reynolds. After being promised two years worth of his salary, however, the captain proved to be much more cooperative.)

           After ordering another round of hot drinks and pastries, we took our seats, then waited a handful of minutes for the south gate to slide open, and then, when the sentries took their first few cautious steps amongst the rabble, in unison we leaned forward and watched the main event begin.



copyright 2003 Raymond Towers.

Raymond Towers