Yew collapsed into the seat across from Pixie and leaned his crutches against the bench. Pixie logged off the LifeLines forum and pulled her Ubiq ‘specs up and off.
“Hey man. Where's Oak?”
Yew waved vaguely at the line on the opposite wall, in front of the food bar. “Cutting in line to stand with Sarge. Told me he'd grab enough for both of us.”
“How's the ankle?”
“Mostly good; Oak and the doc are being worry-warts. It'll be fine in a couple days.”
Spike dropped into the seat Pixie’d been saving for Sarge; Pixie shied away from the sudden intrusion and Yew growled. “When you and Sarge gonna ditch these outside losers and–”
Yew whacked Spike on his crown with a crutch; Pixie involuntarily snorted.
“No wonder they don't want you watching their backs in the field,” Yew sneered at Spike. “Don't even notice a crutch coming at you from three feet away.”
Sarge slid two tray in front of Pixie from her left, then grabbed Spike by the back of his shirt and lifted him out of the seat. The entire cafeteria looked over at Spike’s yelp. Sarge simply dropped Spike in the aisle way behind their benches and sat down next to Pixie. Oak joined their quartet as Pixie slid a tray over to Sarge.
“You alright?” Sarge murmured to Pixie as Spike scuttled off and conversation around them resumed.
Pixie rocked a hand back and forth in a ‘so-so’ gesture. “He's getting pissier. And more aggressive.”
“We should talk to his boss after lunch,” Oak said.
“I did last week, before we headed out,” Pixie shot back. “He did nothing.”
“All of us, I meant. We're the only Takers in the enclave, we've got some political power,” Oak said.
Yew turned to Sarge. “He racist as well as sexist?”
“Yep,” Sarge mumbled around a bite of sandwich.
“Probably not to fond of foreigners either then.” Yew leaned into the traces of his Yorkshire accent. “Congrats Oak, you're playing spokesperson today.”
“Hurray… We actually going to talk about finding our next job today or not?”
“I've got two leads.” Pixie swallowed her bite of sandwich. “The council’s looking for escorts for the first batch of folks heading over to that prison we cleared out, although I think that one’ll keep. Rumor is they’re still pulling together some materiel and figuring out personnel.”
“And we’d probably end up playing Fencemen for a while,” Sarge added.
Everyone turned to look at him.
Sarge shrugged. “I’d add it to the contract. Keeping us on the new fence for a while frees up folks for carpentry duty. Or setting up the agriculture.”
“Sounds like a good job for the winter,” Yew said. “Escort them over at the end of fall, after all the harvests are in. Winter’ll be cold, but the casualties’ll be slower. Plus how else would everything be ready for crops in the spring.”
“I’ll try to sell the council on those points if they argue now or never. The second possibility is something Janice dug up–”
Oak looked up from his congealing pasta. “Janice the freaky proto-Black Math kid?”
“Yep, her. We’d owe her two bounty for throwing the lead our way, but it looks like our kind of job. A recession group, the Sisters of Quiet Mercy–”
“Does that sound like an assassin cult to anyone else,” Yew yelped. “Because that sounds like an assassins’ cult to me!”
“Reviews on LifeLines and their website–”
“Because we can trust that…”
“They at least match, Yew. Will you let me finish for Christ’s sake?”
Yew dropped his eyes and poked at his tray of food.
Another moment and Pixie continued “Their website claims they’re an order of nuns who’ve devoted themselves to laying to rest quote unfortunate souls end quote. The only jobs other Takers have mentioned doing for them are closure jobs for not great, but not terrible pay, with a side order of tragedy data trading. My best guess from digging around is that this is a form of ‘administering to the poor’ for them; they fundraise across the economic spectrum and do data brokerage to stay afloat.”
“What’s Janice say,” Sarge mumble around his food, then swallowed and continued “the job is?”
“Closure outside of Lyon. No further info.”
“That’s the opposite direction of the new place, so no doubling up, even if we wanted to,” Oak said.
“What was the population density like out there?” Yew asked.
Pixie pulled down her ‘specs and fiddle with the interface for a couple minutes. “About a thousand, thousand and a half inside Lyon per square mile, less than a hundred in the suburbs out.”
“Sounds worth risking,” Sarge said, catching Oak and Yew’s eye. Oak nodded; Yew looked rebellious, then shrugged and nodded.
“Alright, I’ll tell Janice,” Pixie said. “Sarge, talk to Jinks on the forums, their crew are the last folks to leave the Sisters a review. See if they won’t give you some tips. Oak, Johnson over in the council office should have some local maps of Lyon.”
“Borrow your ‘specs to take photos?”
“Sure. Yew, poke around, see if anyone else is looking to take this one.”
“You’re the boss.” Yew wiped his mouth, grabbed his crutches. “Everyone done?”
“Yep.” Sarge grabbed Pixie’s tray and stood up. “Time to track down Ezra.”
“Why don’t we go right over his head to…” Yew leaned forward on his crutches and followed Oak towards the cafeteria entrance. “What’s the pit crew boss’s name?”
“Low Key, but he’s not in charge of the gate Fencemen,” Sarge said. “It’s got to be Ezra.”
“Hurray, arguing with bureaucracy,” Oak whined. “Remind me why it’s gotta be me again?”