Silverfish by Rone Shavers
114 pages – Clash Books
Machinist Clayton? Please sit back on the biobed while I calibrate it for your standard debriefing. There, that’s better. As financial planner for your unit, I am bound by law to remind you that pursuant to the Corporate Code of Civilized Nations, during the debriefing process your word is bond. Any derivation from the absolute truth constitutes fiduciary negligence and will result in liens being placed on all of your collateral assets and accounts, as well as more severe penalties. Now with that said, Clayton, you have information I need, and I have advice to give, so let’s trade. Tell me what happened.
Silverfish? You were dropped into primitives, how’d they get silverfish? Do you know how much they cost?
Don’t know, sir. The acquisition and deployment of silverfish is above my paygrade.
They’re currently at 2.6 million per; primitives don’t invest like that. Did you notice any Chinese or Eurozone units, any other major capital investors out there?
Investors? I don’t know, sir. I saw what I saw. One minute the Angel’s destroying every prim in sight and the next there was a wave of silverfish swarming everything. And I mean everything.
Then how did you survive?
Protocol zero, sir, standard machinist protocol zero. I ran the other way and stripped. I dropped all metal, plastic, and polymers. I’m almost organic, sir. All my implants are deep imbed, a machinist has got to be. I don’t have the liquid assets for anything else, but I’ve saved up a few options.
Wait, stop. Your word is a bond, Clayton, so let’s be honest with each other. An imbed is an imbed to a silverfish; they should have eaten you. The biobed is recording your autonomic functions, so if we follow up and determine you’ve been lying…
Sir, never sir. I need this job. But sir, you know what it’s like out there.
I’ve seen the pertinent viewfeeds; I know what it’s like. But today didn’t go according to plan. It’s not what we planned, Clayton. Doesn’t that mean something to you?
Sir, I’ve survived my fourth jump and I’ve got options. I’m thinking flight school.
Not after today you aren’t. With our Angel missing, you’re at risk of entering default. Corporate needs a satisfactory explanation of what happened. Where is our Angel, and just how did you survive?
Sir, I stripped naked. I took everything off! You ever seen a silverfish up close, sir? It’s all teeth. They burrow into people. Check the records, sir. Look!
Please lower your voice, Machinist Clayton. As this unit’s financial advisor, need I remind you that any interaction we may have, real, virtual, or digital, may be recorded for quality and insurance purposes? The use of inappropriate or hostile words, actions, and attitudes toward a unit’s financial planner is a Category 2 felony.
No, no sir. Thank you, sir. I survived because I stuck close to the Angel; sometimes in front, sometimes in back. I’m a machinist, so I’m supposed to stick near her anyway. I know her capacities and blast radius, and what a lot of combat associates don’t know is if you DNA-id with an Angel before you jump, you won’t get shot. That’s in the manual. An Angel won’t shoot you if you share the same mission. Most prims can’t get close enough to kill an Angel, and an Angel doesn’t do friendly fire, not unless it’s ordered to. That’s also in the manual, the field manual, and if you let the Angel do its job, then you got nothing to worry about, so long as you stick near. I’m the machinist; I’m not authorized to carry a lot of gear in the field. My gear is the Angel.
But you lost it, Clayton. Where is it?
I know sir—and I’m sure this one’s a she—but they had silverfish. They’d been fed and were already growing by the time they swarmed us, and they were looking for more. The silverfish probably ate her, sir.
And what about the primitives, they just let you live?
Yeah, well, no. No sir. The Angel is efficient, sir. Even before the swarm, there weren’t that many prims around, or at least none in any condition to catch me. I ran, sir. I ran naked all the way back to the safety zone. The ’fish were already there when I made it, but I had nothing they wanted so they just ignored me. That’s the truth, sir; I got a bonus for it before. If you check the record, my first jump…
I see it. You were pulled up with a hemp rope then, but today we had to vac-lift you out at considerable risk and expense. The two outcomes aren’t comparable. Clayton, I’m afraid the best I can offer you at this time is a stagnant position, one that will keep your financial situation as is, not accounting for standard pre- and after-tax expenses and the common suite of applicable paygrade deductions, of course, but two more jumps and your portfolio will no doubt rebound. And while you could exercise an option, in this volatile market, I’d caution against it. The outcomes would not be very good. Do you understand me, Machinist Clayton?
Good, then in my capacity as advisor, let’s go over your current scenario. I see you’ve applied to drone pilot school, using your first mission option. That’s an exciting—but risky and volatile—opportunity. The biofeedback on drones is tough to safely measure, but I commend your decision. For a paygrade such as yours, wetware is a very stable investment opportunity that yields a lot of long-term growth potential. However, my advice is that you don’t exercise those options just yet; they’re the only thing keeping your credit rating up, and the after-tax penalty would probably kill you. Seriously, it will kill you. I don’t make the decisions, but I know what they’d be. At your current social paygrade, you can’t afford an exemption waiver on biofeedback, and any instance of it will result in an unfortunate but swift termination due to misallocation of initial investment funds. Instead, I’d recommend you take two more jumps and then request a lateral move to diversify your rank and portfolio, then cash in all your options at once. Two more jumps to remove your emotional risk indicators and I’d say you’re in a much, much better fiscal position, understood?
Two more jumps, sir? But the max is seven. With two more I’ll be at six.
Yes, but think about the positive financial outlook. Any scenario of two or greater jumps and you’ll have graduated to the next tax bracket. It’s practically win-win.
Unless I die.
Well, you signed the harvest clause, right? If you die, your parts get harvested and redistributed. We’re all part of the great global economy, Clayton, and this gives you a sizeable amount of liquid assets to pass along to your children, should you choose to have them. After your tour is complete, feel free to look into signing up for an account at BreedersBank. The officers there are trained to assist you in helping to find a mate, pending application approval, of course.
Fine. Just two more jumps, then, right?
Then I’ll sign. Where do I sign?
Here, and here. And here, and initial here, thumbprint here. Glad to have you back on board, Clayton.
Glad to be back on board, sir. Any further duties required of me?
No. Any further statements you’d like to make?
No, not that I can…Well, yes, just one. Can I swap liabilities? Hurley wasn’t the best commander, you know.
Technically you could, but not unless you want his job. His position is available, would you like it? My offer is time sensitive, so I need to know now. Right now.
Two jumps, that’s it?
Then no. I think I’ll stick with the duties of my paygrade.
Very well then, I think we’re done here. Best of luck to you, Clayton, and it’s been a pleasure to serve with you.
Thank you, sir, and it’s been a pleasure to serve you.