Haraway at Twilight: Part 2

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The Costal Road
On Route to Harl's Delta

Namik tried to ease himself into a more comfortable position on the bus's hard synthetic bench, wincing at the heat and took another careful sip from the bottle of lukewarm flavoured water he was carrying. The bus's air conditioning barely seemed to work, and Namik had opened a window to at least get the cool breeze produced by the bus's speed. It wasn't helping much, Beta-Continent had decided once again to screw with him by providing one of its few sunny days while he was travelling, making this even more oppressive.

He'd read the Harl's Delta's broacher, which was barely more than a Wikipedia stub, and had just finished a technothriller he'd bought in Betasport before they'd left, Namik didn't like to talk much. His companion (and boss) Anna Kowalska had been equally taciturn, watching the surrounding terrain through thick, polarized glasses. They'd introduce themselves before they left, but barely spoken other than that. Namik thought he'd better get to know her eventually, given they'd likely be living and working together running the First World General Store in Harl's Delta.

It was too hot to read anymore, and Namik broke the silence. "You're from Poland?"

Anna turned and smiled "Yes, Warsaw in fact. And you?"

"Ankara." Namik followed her gaze, sighing slightly. They'd set out at midnight, and wouldn't arrive till late. The day was only going to get hotter.

"So why did you come here? To Haraway's World I mean?" Anna asked.

Namik paused slightly, though not long enough to let her feel anything was wrong. He'd expected the question. "I was a contractor for one of the companies. At the end I stayed here. You?"

"Well, I used to be crew on a tramp freighter before the wormhole's shut, we got stuck here, and I got laid off, the pay was good so I decided to stay." She sighed "The weather isn't this world's strong point but there's a lot of interesting things here."

Namik nodded "It'll get cooler when it rains again. Hopefully that will be soon, it rains a lot of Beta Continent." He smiled "I guess we're stuck here now, us and the locals."

Anna smiled "Well, we're setting up in a corporate town right? That should be ok." Namik nodded, it should be fine.

By the time they got to Harl's Delta, rain had begun to fall heavily, turning the area outside the bus to murk. At least the air was cooler now, even if the humidity was awful. A large chain link fence topped with barbed wire surrounded the town, atop an earthen berm. A rusted slide gate opened gingerly for the bus "Are most towns fenced like that?" Anna asked.

"Some are, there's some pretty dangerous wild life around here, it hasn't selected not to attack humans like it has on earth." Namik looked at the fence "though maybe this town used to be a garrison."

"Well I heard the old manager of the franchise was killed by a wild animal so I guess that's a pretty fair concern." Anna looked up at the town and shivered slightly, then frowned and looked away, before her smile returned. Namik frowned, then mentally shrugged as the bus slid into the town square. It was not the most appealing place Namik had ever seen certainly. The buildings were dirty and dilapidated for the most part, built of old style brick and wood, most of the shops were shuttered and few had lights on. "Let's go check out the store." Anna smiled as the pair got off the bus and stretched, working their muscles back into working order.

There seemed to be few people out too, and Namik didn't like the looks they gave the pair as they hurried towards the store. It looked like a new building made mostly of modern synthetic rather than brick. Frankly, apart from the great hall like building at one end of the square which seemed in good condition it was by far the nicest building here. Anna lead the way over to the building and pressed her thumb to the keypad, the door opening with a hiss. Inside the store looked fairly ordinary, the shelves packed with long life goods, basic tools, nails, and all manner of other stuff. "The delivery restock should have got here before we did, let's stow our bags and take inventory, lights." Anna seemed to have come alive now they'd got here and Namik followed her through the store "Looks like a couple of lights have gone." She moved to check the other electronics "And I think the freezer over here needs replacing... ick, and cleaning."

Namik pulled out his reader and thumbed over to the note pad function to list anything that needed replacement as they stepped into the loading dock, almost running into the back of Anne who had stopped, looking slightly appalled. The delivery pallet stood in the centre of the floor but the rest of the loading dock was in mess. The stripped down skeletons of two cleaning robots and what looked like an automated unloader stood on one side, along with a strew of boxes, a work bench, several broken hand tools and other bits.

"What... was he doing back here?" Anna looked at the chaos, mouth working for a moment. She looked over at Namik "I'm sorry, but we're going to have to unload and shelve this delivery by hand."

Namik nodded, uncomplaining "Let's check the rest of the place out first, the local shops should still be open, maybe we can buy enough supplies to fix everything up." He suggested.

Anna nodded, smiled then began to pick her way down towards the doors leading to the stairs up and down. After a moment of thought, she headed down into the basement, opened the door and winced slightly. "We're going to need a bunch of light bulbs, and shelving." Namik looked over at the basement, which seemed to have been completely trashed, two lights out and shelving bits everywhere.

"We'd better get some more food too, it looks like most of the supplies are strewn over the store here." Namik scribbled a note, then stepped aside so Anne could lead the way back upstairs. The second floor looked to be in better condition, at least all the lights were working, and the shutters closed. It smelt though, Namik made a face and moved over to open the shutters, hoping to allow more air to circulate, he frowned as the shutter resisted then realized that as well as the standard bolts there were several additional, primative home made ones fitted. Throwing them open he pushed the shutters wide, letting in more light and warm air "urgh, what is that?"

Anna stepped into the main room and groaned "Looks like the last owner didn't like to do washing up." There was the remains of several half eaten flat pack meals on the carpet, all looking half rotten. Namik winced and stepped past into the kitchen unit to look for a bin bag to throw the debris in. He found one, tossed the meals inside, frowned at the stain on the carpet and then stepped back into the hall where Anna was examine the bedroom doors "Strange. These doors won't open to my thumb print. It looks like they've got mechanical locks on too."

"Mechanical..." Namik frowned, he couldn't think why anyone would use a mechanical lock these days, especially given a modern smart lock pick or lock pick gun would rapidly open one "Maybe the guy had a security fetish, there were additional mechanical bolts on the shutters too." He shook his head. Obviously the old store manager had lost it "We should check the water for mercury, it might be the filters on the roof tank are clogged or something."

"Well, we're going to be sleeping on the floor if we can't get in there..." Anna sighed "Listen, you start on clearing this up and see if you can't find the keys or whatever. I'm going to check the store freezer's diagnostic and then go out into the town to shop for parts before everyone else shuts."

"Right." Namik nodded lifting the bin bag "I'll empty the bottom freezer as soon as I'm done clearing this up."

"Thanks." Anna smiled at him and retrieved an umbrella from her bag before heading down stairs then headed downstairs towards freezer, leaving Namik clearing out the upstairs and opening shutters. Namik paused for a moment in front of the window, looking out. He had a sudden strange feeling, a feeling he'd grown to trust over the years. He was being watched.

Anna checked the freezer out, plugging in her slate and bringing up the diagnostic. As she'd suspected, it wasn't a particularly complex problem, it looked like some wires had shorted. One circuit would need to be pulled and then replaced. She saved the diagnostic then put her slate away, then stepped out into the rain.