About The Laws of Space
The Laws of Space
Chapter 16 Begins:
Chapter 16: One Sadist to Another
Mr. Stepp was breathing hard—it was more like gasping. He had to contact the Administrator, had to tell him that he and his little network of spies had lost Alder Tate. Clement Pope had commissioned Stepp to keep a weather eye on Tate, no questions asked. The job paid well, and the Mech patrols stayed away from his business. It was a good deal.
Until last night.
Generally the girl was very reliable, but her news had brought the perfidious miser to an even darker state of mind. “Come here,” he barked, pointing at her. She was back, ready for new orders, ready to do anything to get her fix of the stuff. They would be alone a little while longer—work shifts had recently ended in City Five but Stepp didn’t open until after sunset. “Now girl.” He needed his fix too, had to have it before the dreaded call to Pope. Mr. Stepp had no idea why Alder Tate was so important, but he was. The Administrator didn’t have time to dabble in trivialities; clearly there was something of weight in the offing. His failure would not be looked on lightly.
She walked over with little steps, whining. “Do we have to?”
“You want credits?”
“You want your stuff?”
“Then shut up and stand there. You know the drill.” The frail junkie of fifteen stood before him, then placed her right thumb at attention over her left palm. She was shivering, but Stepp paid no attention. He just focused on her palm and readied himself. Before another plea could be made, he did it: an open-handed slap to her face. She buckled, but managed to deactivate the signal that would vaporize Mr. Stepp. The hits continued, some with closed fists. With every blow she pressed, shaking more with every strike.
“Are you withering on me, girl?” He was sweating and sneering, watching her spare, spent frame on the brink of collapse. “Don’t you wither on me!” The sick old man was in the midst of his high, entangled in the release. He fired another series of blows then abruptly stopped, pulling himself away out of sheer exhaustion. He would feel a modicum of remorse later, but that would be pushed aside. The addiction had been with him a long time—attempts at stopping had only served to make the habit a more pertinacious presence in his life. Nothing he sold could best the feeling of physically assaulting someone—another human accepting his punishment.
The girl was whimpering, hands covering unholy marks. She would have to wear a scarf over it for weeks, like the man she followed used to do. Stepp told her to be quiet and threw a bag of her favorite at her feet. “Come back tonight, if the Administrator hasn’t killed me by then.” The urchin pulled her frayed jacket collar up and went for the door, thinking less of present pains and more of coming euphoria.