Archive for eviction

Selecting Faces Chapter 12: Roddy

Kinch - landlord character from Selecting Faces

art by Erin Cardwell

“Open the door!”

“Can’t you just wait until my sister gets home?” Tix‘s voice echoed through the hollow metal.

“Your rent was past due two months ago. The eviction notice gave you six weeks. And that’s more than you deserve.” Roddy’s ears were hot with rage. Kasi and Tix had been inconsistent on their payments, but they hadn’t been horrible tenants.

This incident with Yazen, however, was unforgivable. Such violence could not be allowed in his air.

“Please, Mr. Nolter, at least let her get home so we can pack.”

“You are to open this door and get out of my building. Now!”

He heard Tix gasp and begin to sob.

All bullies are cowards at heart, Roddy thought as he turned and strode away. He went down the stairwell to the first floor and knocked on the door under the stairs.

It cracked open, revealing a man in burgundy pants over his exoskin and graying eyebrows inside his helmet.

“Come in, come in.” Qaper moved spryly in spite of his hunched posture, welcoming him in. “What can I do for you?” he said.

“We’re going to need the ram.”

Qaper’s eyes lost a little of their glow at that. “This is the worst part of my job.” He sighed and walked away, still muttering. “Taking clogs out of toilets, I don’t mind, but taking people out of their homes…” He disappeared into a back room and began to rummage around.

Roddy sauntered over to a doorway and popped his head in. Willow — a girl of perhaps fifteen — was sitting up in her bed, wearing a pink blouse and a black skirt. She had no exoskin on.

Roddy had been embarrassed the first time he’d checked in on her after she and her grandfather moved in. It was strangely intimate to see anyone outside of one’s family without their exoskin. But it had been almost two years since they moved in.

She was paralyzed from the waist down and Qaper couldn’t afford to trade in her standard-issue exoskin for the fancy motorized kind. So she seldom took the effort of getting into her exoskin unless Qaper needed to carry her somewhere.

“How’s my favorite tenant?” he asked.

Willow looked up from the tablet sitting on her lap.

“I’m doing great, Uncle Roddy. I’m learning about geology!” She flipped her tablet around to show him what she was watching. There was an animation of how the moon formed, distributing different kinds of rock in different areas of the crust. “I’m thinking about going into mining when I finish school.”

“You don’t want to be a peacekeeper anymore?”

“I don’t know…” She looked down at the tablet thoughtfully. “This is just so fascinating.”

“Whatever you choose, you’ll be great at it.”

“Here it is!” Qaper called, his voice still muffled from being in the back room.

“See you later, Willow,” he waved to her.

She waved back, her wide eyes locked on the screen.

Qaper shuffled out of the room, looking more slumped than usual. “I suppose this means my pay check will be pushed back.” His eyes stayed on the floor.

“I’m afraid so.” Two weeks ago, Roddy had taken some of the money for Qaper’s paycheck out of the landlord’s wage he recieved from the Division of Housing. And since then a couple of rooms had gone vacant, making his books even more unbalanced.

Qaper motioned Roddy toward the door. “Lead the way.”

When they got back up to Tix and Kasi’s, Roddy pounded on the door.

“If I have to break down this door, I’m going to charge you for the repairs!”

He heard Tix sob again on the other side.

Roddy’s ears burned hot again. “Have it your way,” he said through gritted teeth. He motioned for Qaper to approach the door. When he was in place, Roddy hefted the other side of the ram and counted.

“One, two, three!”

They slammed the ram against the door, just next to the handle. It dented, but did not budge. It typically took them five or six strokes to get it open. They hit the door again.

Up and down the stairwell echoed the sound of doors opening as people came to see what the commotion was about. Heads peeked over the tops of railings, but their expressions were passive.

“One, two –“

The door swung inward suddenly.

Roddy and Qaper took a startled step backward.

Tix stood in the doorway, a smile covering his tear-soaked face. “We have the money.”

“What?”

“Kasi’s got a table that’s spending a fortune. She only had enough time to tell me. She had to get back to serve them.”

“So transfer the money.”

“She doesn’t have it yet. She won’t get the tip until they leave.”

Roddy crossed his arms. “Then how do I know you’re not lying, just to buy time?”

“I…”

Qaper looked at him pleadingly. If it was the truth, then he could afford Qaper’s pay. But Tix had attacked Yazen. How would he explain it to Rhene, or to any of the other tenants, if he didn’t throw them out? Word would get around.

He looked sternly at Tix. The over-sized boy wore threadbare shorts over his exoskin, and his eyes were still puffy from crying.

“Out.” He pointed in the direction of the stairs leading down.

Tix stared in disbelief for a few moments, then hung his head. He glanced behind him to grab the handle of the Gyro-tote and pulled it from the room. Qaper and Roddy moved onto the next staircase up to make way for him.

When the sphere-shaped Gyro-tote got to the edge of the stairs, Tix turned, hefting it too easily for a boy his age. Then he carried it down to the bottom of the stairs and set it down. He pulled the glass of his helmet down over his face, locking it in place. He pulled the Gyro-tote into the airlock.

The was a pause.

Suddenly he rushed back out of the airlock, looking excitedly up at Roddy. “She’s got the money!”

Roddy narrowed his eyes at him. “Prove it.”

“How much do you need?”

“They owe 97.44 dunnets,” RN, his pax, quietly informed him. “Including this month’s rent, payment should total 251.44.”

Roddy snorted. There was no way she could make that much in one shift.

“Two hundred and fifty.”

Tix looked down, speaking quietly to his pax.

Roddy turned away from the railing. Good riddance.

“Payment received,” RN said.

“What?” Roddy spun putting his hands on the banister.

“180 dunnets received from Tix.”

Roddy’s ears flushed again. “Keep what’s late, but reject this month’s payment.”

“Are you sure?” RN asked.

“Yes I’m sure!” He walked back over to the railing and looked down. “Reject payment!”

“What? Why?” Tix called up at him.

“I want you gone, you hear me? After what you did today, I had better not see you in here again, or so help me–“

“It wasn’t him!”

Roddy jerked his head up to see Yazen up on the next landing.

“It wasn’t him, okay?”

Roddy looked at him suspiciously. Why would he do this?

But if Yazen was willing to lie for Tix in front of the crowd that had gathered to watch the eviction, at least Roddy would have plausible deniability, in case Tix ever acted out again. And this way he wouldn’t be letting Qaper and Willow down.

“Fine. You can stay.”


Read the next chapter: Procyon


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Selecting Faces Chapter 8: Kasi

Kasi - server character from Selecting Faces

art by Erin Cardwell

 

Today could not have been a worse day. Kasi had woken up with one of the worst hangovers of her life, had lost a grum that she should have won, and lost it so badly that she didn’t get paid. Fighting that injustice had made her late to her shift at Orion’s Bistro, so she’d been relegated to serve the worst tables in the restaurant. Not to mention the fact that she was still a little soggy from getting splashed in the grum — which wouldn’t have been a problem if she’d placed even a little higher.

And to top it all off, she had the worst customer occupying the best table in her measly bunch.

He was about thirty, tall, a little overweight, with nervous, shifting eyes. He was decked out in formal attire: white tie, black shirt, and white pants obscured virtually all of his exoskin.

Kasi’s section of the restaurant was meant for the truly ostentatious — set up on a balcony — which is why it had only three small tables. But unless one of the Alphas or Betas came in, it was unlikely that she would make tips enough to justify the inordinate service she was expected to render her customers. Instead, most of the time her customers were pairs of middle-class saps who were coming to a restaurant like this for a special occasion, sitting in the fancy section, and then proceeding to try and spend as little as possible because they couldn’t really afford to come here in the first place. This was the story with one of her tables. Another of her tables was sitting empty at Gabra’s insistence, in case someone truly important strolled in, expecting to be seated at once.

And the third was occupied by the man in the white tie. He hadn’t ordered anything but a glass of water, which he kept picking up and setting down, over and over, and alternately glancing behind him, over the edge of the balcony at the entrance of the restaurant.

Kasi dropped off a check to the other diners — not that they’d requested the check, but they’d certainly been here long enough, especially since they’d turned down multiple offers for more dessert or another round of drinks — and approached the man in the white tie as he picked up his water and set it back down without drinking.

“Can I get you anything?” Kasi asked.

“No, not until my girlfriend gets here,” he replied without looking at her. His eyes darted from the entrance, to his water glass, which he picked up and set down again.

“You could move to the other side of the table, you know.”

“I don’t want it to look like I’m waiting for her.”

Kasi grabbed the lip of the table to keep from slapping him.

He started to babble nervously. “If it looks like I’m waiting for her, then she’ll think that I disapprove of her and she’ll be upset and then I’ll be upset for upsetting her, and then the moment won’t be right and –” Kasi walked away even though he was still talking.

She went past a flight of stairs leading down to the main dining room, and turned a corner, disappearing into her station. It had a checkout stand, stacks of menus, bins of supplies, and a pneumatic dumbwaiter to lift prepared dishes up from the kitchen. Almost immediately Gabra appeared behind her.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Gabra asked.

“Ugh!” Kasi let out involuntarily.

“I saw you walk away from that customer while he was talking.” She stepped around the corner to get a view of him. “And now he’s crying!”

“That’s not my fault! He’s all worked up because his girlfriend is running late.”

“And you want his girlfriend to arrive to find him crying? I’m sure that will be really great for both of their appetites.”

Kasi shifted her weight to the side and gave Gabra an exasperated look, who returned to her an insistent stare.

“Fine.” Kasi brushed past her and strode over.

The man in the white tie had buried his face in his hands.

“I’m sure she’s just running late because of the shuttle. I heard the new colonists were arriving around this time today.”

“You think so?” he asked, looking up. His eyes were all puffy and red. He sniffed, sucking wet snot back into his nose.

“I do.” She turned to walk away, then she caught Gabra’s eye. She was hovering near the top of the stairs, watching her. Kasi turned back to the pitiful man. “Blow your nose on the napkin. I’ll get you a new one.”

He took the napkin off his appetizer plate, unfolded it, and emptied his sinuses into it. He held it out to her.

She stared at it for a few seconds, wishing profusely to scoff and stroll away, but she couldn’t. Not with Gabra watching her. She took it, holding it away from her with two fingers.

Gabra remained by the top of the stairs as Kasi brushed by her and went to her station. She dropped the dirty napkin in her bus bin, and then grabbed a replacement.

Gabra nodded her approval and descended the stairs again as Kasi dropped off the napkin to the man in the white tie. He gave her a weak smile, then picked up his water and set it back down. He glanced over his shoulder and his red eyes lit up. Standing, he waved at the entrance of the restaurant.

“Finally,” Kasi muttered, moving over to the now-vacant table where her other customers had left their check and gone. Maybe she could still make enough.

She picked up the check and dropped it into her apron. “Give me some good news, KM.”

“Seven dunnets on a seventy-two dunnet bill. Nine point seven percent.”

“Of course,” she sighed. She grabbed a pair of menus from her station and returned to where the girlfriend was just sitting down. He’d had Kasi wait to bring the menus until she got here.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” the girlfriend said.

“What happened?”

Kasi went ahead and placed the menus on the table, since they weren’t paying any attention to her. She was about to walk away when she saw Gabra down on the floor of the dining room glance up at her. These were the premium tables, and she’d be remissed if she walked away when there were no other tables to go serve, no other duties to perform.

“It’s a long story,” she replied, waving a hand. “And I’m hungry.”

Kasi opened her mouth to run through today’s specials, but the man interrupted her.

“I was really worried about you.”

“There was no reason to be.”

“So what happened?”

She sighed. “I was dragged downtown by an overzealous stripe.”

“What? Why?”

“Well, the streets were super crowded, and I was running late, and I didn’t want to keep you waiting, so I thought I could get here faster if I took the rooftops.”

“You were swifting.”

“I wasn’t doing it dangerously.”

“We talked about this,” he said. “It’s always dangerous. If not for your health, then for your reputation.”

“No one is going to blame me for hurrying to a date with you.”

Kasi interrupted them. “Can I get you started with anything to drink?”

“A Gin Centauri for me,” said the girlfriend.

“And anything for you?”

“But why were you running late in the first place?”

“I just lost track of time.”

“You were gambling, weren’t you?”

“Handicapping,” she corrected. “I haven’t gambled since we talked about how a mom shouldn’t gamble.” She turned to Kasi. “I’m sorry about your luck today, by the way.”

Kasi’s cheeks flushed as she recognized the woman she was waiting on. Dema. She had been an renown punter, and no one knew for certain why she’d quit gambling. There were rumors, of course. That bitter punters who she’d beaten had hired some thugs to teach her a lesson. Kasi and many of the other grummers didn’t take stock in that story: everyone knew Dema had nerves like nanotubes.

Yet here was the answer, and it was far more mundane than any of the rumors.

“A mom shouldn’t be swifting either,” he said quietly.

“You do realize that Dema is one of the best punters there’s ever been. She has a gift, and you’re making her waste it.”

“For the love of the alphas, can you give us some space!” he said, rising from the table.

With pleasure, Kasi thought as she ducked out of the conversation.

As soon as she left the table, KM automatically relayed the drink order to the computer. Within a minute, the pneumatic dumbwaiter rose up and opened, bearing the Gin Centauri. Dema and the man in the white tie were still bickering — rather loudly — but Gabra’s policy was clear: when food or drink arrived on the dumbwaiter, it was to be on the table in thirty seconds, unless it would mean interrupting service to the customer she was with.

As Kasi walked back out to the table, she saw a couple come in. The badge on the woman’s sleeve marked her as a beta. The host gestured toward the balcony. They looked up, saw the fighting couple, and shook their heads. They pointed to a table on the lower floor. Kasi sighed. She set the drink in front of Dema without a word, then stalked back to her station.

When she got back there, out of sight, she slid the glass of her helmet down over her face. “KM, mute outgoing for a minute will you.”

The noise of the restaurant — including that of the worst customers she’d ever had — faded to a low rumble.

“Remember, you’re in an atmospheric building, so –“

“You couldn’t do this somewhere else?” she growled, not to KM. “I mean really, you’re here for a half hour ordering absolutely nothing, just taking up space, and then even when your girlfriend does get here, you don’t even bother to order a drink before you start bickering like you’re already married. And not only that, but you’re driving the other customers away, the only chance I have of making some decent tips. And of course you would. Of course you would. Because the whole burning solar system is conspiring against me today!”

Kasi breathed for a few seconds. Very faintly, she could still hear the voices of her fruitless patrons. She closed her eyes, leaning heavily on the checkout stand, hanging her head.

“Could you send a message to Tix?”

“Go ahead,” KM replied.

“We’re not going to have enough to keep Roddy from throwing us out. Pack up the Gyro-tote with some blankets, and all of the food. Fill up our water bottles and put them in there, too. If there’s any more room, pack up anything you think we can sell. Wait for me in the stairwell. I’ll be home at 1700.”

A lump formed in her throat and she did her best to swallow it back down.

“Is that the end of the message?” KM asked.

“Tell him not to be scared… That’s everything,”

“Message sent.”

Kasi took a deep breath and turned back toward the dining room.

Gabra was standing right behind her.

She said something, but it was muffled. “Glass up,” she said, motioning.

Kasi hurriedly unlocked the glass and slid it back from her face. “Sorry I –“

“Go.” Gabra gestured back toward the dining room.

Kasi brushed past her.

The bickering couple was gone.

No. They weren’t gone. That was still Dema, but she was smiling now, and holding hands with the man across from her, who had taken off his white tie.

She strolled up to the table. “Can I get you something to drink?” she asked hopefully.

“Get us a bottle of bubbly!” he said.

“We’re engaged,” Dema explained. “What will you have to eat, dear?” she asked her new fiancee. “Anything you want; it’s my treat. Let’s dip into the gambling fortunes I’ll make tomorrow,” she said, giving Kasi a wink.


Read the next chapter: Arich


Selecting Faces Table of Contents

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