Too Many People

Author’s Note: This story was written a very long time ago. It’s of note because it’s the first completed story I did in my cryopunk setting, which is the setting for a draft I’m working on, with the working title of New Moon.

“It’s true!”

“Come off it. A place as big-time as Sully’s has bad security? I can’t believe it’s real.” CampKiller scratched his ear absently, a leftover from the time a few weeks before when he’d had mites.

“Seriously! I overheard a guy who works there talking about it. He couldn’t believe they were so chintzy that they wouldn’t put in better security. He was totally plastered at M’s; watching the fights.” Motormaster was completely into his spiel, waving his arms and almost out of control with excitement. “It’s got to be the real deal, Camp.”

“No way. He was drunk. Who knows what else was running in his veins? Maybe he didn’t even work there, but wanted to. It’s a cushy place. All the big-wigs go there. The fusion suits taken off. Hell, they have real heat on in the building! That huge, glass-fronted building – all heated! You don’t have to wear extra layers or personal heaters! There’s no way they don’t have massive security there.”

“Camp. Come on. Aren’t you sick of soy cubes?”

“Of course. Who isn’t? But stealing meat from Sully’s? On the north end of Smalltown? That’s just suicide. We’ll be turfed for sure. I’m only thirteen, man. I got living to do.”

So it was that CampKiller and Motormaster found themselves shivering in the winds that screamed through the tintown that had sprung up on the outskirts of Smalltown, looking down the hill at the back door of Sully’s. Off to their right, to the north, was the dividing line between Smalltown and the extreme southern end of the Kingdom of Delphi. It was a mile-wide sheet of ice that didn’t let up until it hit the lower edge of The Needle: the winding route that managed to mostly make it from Old Jersey to Lord’s Harbor, down near the old capital. Camp thought to himself that this had better be worth it, since his thermal layer was doing a really crappy job. Motormaster, on the other hand, could only think about a nice, juicy steak. Motormaster scanned the back of the buildings.

“All right,” he said, “Hosedown said he’d be waiting for us next to the walk-in freezer, if we could get in.”

“Motor, you actually talked to the drunk guy who was spouting this crap?”

“It’s all good, Camp. All we have to do is get in the back door.”

“Man, you know this place has to be wired from here to Timbuktu.”

“Timbuk-what?”

“Never mind.”

“I don’t see any cameras.”

“They could look like the brick. They could be the size of a pin. They could be camouflaged as a rock in the yard. You can’t spot a camera, man.”

“I say there aren’t any. You ready, Camp?”

“No. But that hasn’t mattered yet, has it?”

“Let’s go.”

Motormaster took off down the hill, running with little care for ice patches, crunching noises, or the inevitable camera. CampKiller, on the other hand, picked his way down with care, trying to stay close to cover (of which there was precious little). Eventually, though, they both ended up next to the back door. By the time Camp got there, Motormaster was already swiping his crash card through the code pad on the wall next to the door.

“We’re so dead,” muttered CampKiller.

“Come on, man. Keep your spirits up. Think steak!” The door lock popped, and the door itself swung open just a bit. Motormaster grabbed it and yanked it open. “Rock on! Let’s get meat!”

Once inside, the door swung shut and latched with a small click.

“Which way?” asked CampKiller, putting his hands in front of him and connecting with the back of Motormaster’s jacket. He couldn’t even see the motion of his hands connecting with the white fabric, it was that dark.

“Beats me, man. I kinda thought it would be like right here. Or at least lit enough to get around.”

They started forward, the proverbial blind men in the dark. Every couple of shuffling minutes, Motormaster would smack into a wall, grope too hard into a sink, or stick his foot into something that made an awful noise. And both of them would wince, freeze in place, and hold his breath for as long as they could, before eventually moving on.

“I found a door,” said Motormaster.

“Well?”

“Um, I’m scared now, Camp. I gotta say it. I’m fuckin’ scared.”

“No shit, boy. Thanks for cluing me in. Like I wasn’t fuckin’ scared a half-hour ago? Well? Are you going to open it, or are we going to leave, like we probably should have ten minutes ago?”

Motormaster pulled on the handle. There was a muted clack, a sucking noise, and Motormaster felt the bolts slide free from their housings. A dim light came out, and there was a blast of air even colder than the outside stuff. At least this stuff didn’t smell like sewage, thought CampKiller.

“I think we found the freezer, Camp.”

A voice came from the darkness behind them. “So you have. You’re Motormaster?”

“Yeah. You Hosedown?”

The voice resolved into a tall figure dressed very similarly to the boys with their hands still on the freezer door. Hosedown nodded his ski-capped head.

“You’ll need to be careful in there. We don’t want too much to go missing. The higher-ups won’t like it and they’ll come looking.” He smiled. “But I’m glad to be of some service.”

Motormaster still hadn’t let go of the handle to the freezer, but CampKiller looked inside. Hanging on the left were several rows of meat sides, hooks protruding from the carcasses. He couldn’t see the other side, nor very far into the freezer.

“You carve your own cuts? I would have thought the farms did that for you.”

“Farms? There aren’t farms anymore. We get roadkill, hunters of various kinds…the bosses pay well for good meat, and they hire people who know how to carve as well as prepare. It’s an art now that meat is so scarce.”

Motormaster finally pulled the door open all the way. Light shocked their eyes for a few moments, but Motormaster just stood there, staring. Again it fell to CampKiller to notice the details; Motormaster was just drooling.

Camp saw rows fading into the distance. Rows upon rows of carcasses hanging from hooks and gently swinging in the flow of colder air out of the freezer. On the right side were bowls of ground meat, select cuts, and what looked like frozen blocks of fruits, vegetables, and breads of various types. Camp whistled.

“They’d really know if much went missing? With all of that?”

“They inventory it weekly,” said Hosedown.

“So how are you going to hide what we take?”

“I have some connections that might fix the books.”

There was a crunching noise, then the back room’s lights went on. After the second blast of vision-disruption faded, CampKiller saw two men wearing fusion suits and carrying what looked like well-kept automatic rifles. Their faces were covered with ski masks. Hosedown looked at his comrades. “Your training starts now,” he said, and waited.

CampKiller had time to draw breath, but not enough time to scream before the men raised their hunting rifles and shot him and Motormaster once, cleanly, through the head. The blood spattered into the freezer, coating the floor and gelling almost instantly. The bodies collapsed in place. Hosedown patted each man once on the shoulder and said, “Good shots. Not all of your hunting will be this easy, but it’s a good start. You’re good shots. You’re hired.”

One of them looked at Hosedown. “I didn’t realize you went for young meat, too.”

Hosedown laughed. “Where else would we get veal for the menu?”


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