Dust: Chapter 21 Part 2

Seeing as I’ve got time, it’s probably best I fill you in on what the go is with the island.

Fortunately ‘Rapture’ is not the name of the whole island. Just the swanky part. They called the whole thing ‘Bō shì fēiyuè‘ which means ‘City on the waves.’

Even by my old country boy standards ‘city’ was pushing it. Less than 50,000 people lived here, but the population could balloon up to 150,000 during the tourist season.

Which we were in the middle of.

Sitting slap bang in the middle of the Spratly Islands meant it was technically within the sea borders of China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. So not only could no-one agree whose job it was to police the area, but if anyone did it would be seen as an act of aggression by the others. And then Bō shì fēiyuè would likely cry to the strongest of the other nations for aid, which would be taken as legitimacy of that nation’s claim on the city and they’d run to the U.N., dragging the Russians, the UK and anyone else who happened to have free time on their hands into the mess.

China certainly had the power to steamroll their way through the entire archipelago before anyone at the UN would know what was happening. But right now they had far too much on their plate heavy-handedly putting down any hints of insurrection within their land borders. So Sinologic could never hope to mount a large operation or deploy their best resources to the area, for fear the secret police would start being heavy-handed with them.

The island itself was not originally part of the archipelago. Originally it had been an oil rig, Taiwan’s failed attempt to squeeze some resources out of the area. Diplomatic talks shut the rig down before it was complete and it floated there for almost a decade.

Then a few enterprising young billionaires wanted to copy the old SeaStead project to build their own artificial islands so they could establish micro-nations in international waters (or at least, waters outside of Chinese control). This was also why Rapture looks like an archology and an ocean liner had a wild night out and both of them forgot protection. The Chinese government responded by freezing the billionaires’ assets until they disowned the property. Their rivals took full advantage of this until the Triads bought it and towed it out to the Spratlies. If you’ve got an ill will towards the communists Bō shì fēiyuè is your first point of call in or out of China.

Since then garbage barges, old cargo cruisers and ramshackle structures built out of wood pallets have all been lashed to the original structure and become neighbourhoods.

The society that lived here disappointed not a single one of the small-minded, middle-class expectations the previous paragraphs put in your prejudiced little heads. Everywhere you looked you saw hippies, addicts, triads, islander tribals, smugglers, mercenaries & ‘business entrepreneurs’ (but only if you believe the faded billboards all over Rapture). Not a single nuclear family with a white-picket fence, a cat, a dog and 2.3 kids anywhere.

I wasn’t thinking of retiring here but buying stock sure looked like a good idea.

Kitty sent me a private chat request. I opened it up.

[Hey Kitty? How’s everything on your end?]

[Quiet.] Kitty growled. [Annoyingly quiet. Has he really told them he’s going to be late?]

[That’s what they’re saying. How are the others holding up?]

[Grimwald the Grey and Baalborg are chatting with them, but a couple of the young ones are getting shifty feet. They don’t like being around this much IC. Unless they’re causing mischief.]

[They’re aware of the payoff for this right? They stay on task for a few hours longer and they’ll be in Cheetos and mountain dew for life.]

[They know that. But I don’t think they appreciate it.] Kitty said. [They are just teenagers.]

[That explains that.]

[Getting in as easily as we did hasn’t helped. The Bank of Fuzhou is supposed to be Sinologic Technologies’ tamed bank, walking in with a set of pilfered access code kinda sucked the fun out of it.]

[Do what you need to. Keep them focused.]

[I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve for keeping teenage boys in line. If they get too uppity before Sinotech starts the transfer I’ll just flash them my boobs.]

[Lucky bastards!] I grinned. [Oh I’m sorry, did I saw that out loud.]

[Ha!] Kitty said. [You’d have to be extra good if you want some of this.]

[So much for that dream.]

[Don’t worry, you never actually had a chance. I was too busy gushing over Tachi.]

I sighed. [Story of my life really.]

[Shit. Really?] Kitty exclaimed. [The whole time he was pinning for you he was also keeping all the girls for himself?]

[Um… Fucking ow? And he wasn’t pinning for me, the Japanese are more openly affectionate with their same-sex friends.]

Kitty didn’t have a smart-arsed answer for that. She was too busy doing this:[Ahhhahahahahahaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha HA HAAA HAAAAAAA… You’re gorgeous.]

Kitty and I finished our conversation sometime after that. Leaving me to enjoy the view of Sinologic’s tech-boys shifting uncomfortably in the tropical heat.

Then after around an hour and a half had passed, something weird began to happen. Stall owners started packing up their wares and carting them away, but the number of punters milling around actually got larger. Crowds had to be moved aside so the salespeople could get their stuff out.

It wasn’t just the merchandise either. They were actually taking down their stalls and carting them away as well. I summoned my AR clock, it was barely 19:30.

Take it from someone who’s operated in the Asian business theatre for the better part of a decade. That does not happen. From Singapore to Hong Kong to Tokyo, major commercial centres in this part of the world rock and roll all night and party every day.

The Sinologic guys started getting edgy as well. The operators closed ranks around the technicians.

Then the vendor I was sitting near started packing up the tables and chairs around me.

[I’m being forced to move.] I let Joni know. [I’m going to try and blend in with the crowd.]

[All right.] Joni replied. [Just keep your eyes on Sinotech’s boys.]

[What’s everybody gettin’ ready for?] Rembrandt asked.

[Looks like the brain box is pulling something.] Joni said. [Everybody stay on your toes.]

Then when the last vendor walked out of the room all of the lights went out.

[What the…?]

[All callsigns report in.]

[Fuck.]

[Dust here.]

[Rembrandt.]

[Edger.]

[Slice.]

Then a loud voice boomed over a set of old speakers I vaguely remembered seeing hooked up on the pillars around the mall. In crude engrish the voice asked. “Does evy bodi no what time it iiiiissss?”

A thousand glow sticks were pulled out of pockets and waved in the air. The crowd all around us yelled something back at the top of their lungs.

Thaaaa’s right! Isss Raaaave O’clock.”

[The… Fuck…] I said.
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