The Beez Kneez
Haru Ono is watering the vegetables in her garden in the autocar scrapyard when Omar comes through the gate and into her dusty yard. There is a bloodied napkin stuffed up one of his nostrils, and the front of his shirt is stained with splotches of red. Haru clenches her jaw, her irritation meter going from zero to sixty in the space of time that it takes for Omar to cross the dozen feet from gate to garden.
“What did you do this time?” she asks. She doesn’t stop watering her tomatoes. “Try to steal the datachips from the wrong autocar?”
He sits heavily onto one of the plastic lawn chairs positioned in the shade of a mound of stacked rusted autocar frames. “Better than that,” he says. He reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a small glass vial, which he holds up. “Bees.”
Haru rolls her eyes. “Big deal,” she says. “I can get a dozen beez from the botshop for ten creds. Not worth getting beaten over.”
Omar gives the vial a little shake. “Not beez,” he says. “Bees.”
There’s a little voice in the back of her mind that is telling Haru to just walk across the dusty yard of her plot of land, here in the middle of VeeVee Scrap and Refab, in the heart of Visitacion Valley, in the center of BoomBoom Corp’s Two Francisco Industrial Sector, and to open the doors to her hobbit home beneath the hill of skeleton autocar frames, disintegrating tires, shattered plass windscreens, and ragged fleather seats, and to go pour herself a glass of kelp brandy and keep out of whatever trouble Omar has stirred up. Her little voice is usually spot on where Omar is concerned.
Of course, she’s not going to listen to her little voice.
Haru puts her watering can on the dirt and comes to where Omar is sitting. She takes the vial from him and raises it to her face for a closer look. There are three of them in the vial, all yellow and black stripes and plump little rumps. “This is flapjack,” she says. She rotates the vial, then rotates it again.
“It’s not flapjack,” Omar says. “It’s bees.”
“Bees are extinct.” She shakes the vial just a little, and the things inside bump angrily against one another. “These have to be beez.” She reaches into her jacket pocket and takes out her loupe, holds it up to her eye, and squints at the whatever-they-are through it.
Omar pulls the bloodied napkin out of his nostril and touches the back of his hand gingerly to his nose. “They aren’t beez. Guy wouldn’t have hit me so hard if they were beez.”
“Put that in your pocket,” Haru orders, seeing that Omar is about to drop his dirty napkin onto the ground. “Don’t put your trash in my yard.” She puts her attention back on the vial, and tilts it up towards the sun, trying to improve the light. “I can’t find the serial numbers. Irritating.”
“They don’t have serial numbers,” Omar says. “They’re not beez.”
Haru returns her loupe to her pocket. “I have to open this,” she says.
Omar leaps up from the chair and waves his hands at her. “Don’t open it! The bees will get away!” He tries to take the vial from her, but she pulls it back.
“Okay, okay,” she says. “Calm down.”
“They’re worth a fortune,” he says. “Seriously, Haru. Live bees. I can name my price.”
She peers back at the beez. Or bees. Whichever. “Where did you get these?”
Omar touches the tip of his sore nose with his middle finger. “Well, you know. Around.”
“Cut the flapjack, jack,” she says. “You wouldn’t have brought them here if you didn’t need something from me, and I’m not going to do it unless you spill it. I might not even do it then. But you’re still going to tell me.”
“Fine,” Omar says. “But let’s go inside where we can talk.”
Haru sighs, but she understands. She’s got an isolation bubble wired up inside her house, and it’s the only place in the scrapyard that she can talk business and feel secure. Still holding the beez (or bees) (whichever), she walks to her home’s front door, which is the rear cargo bay of a scrapped autovan. She pulls open one of the doors, and waves Omar inside, then follows him and shuts the door behind them. She leads the way, going through the van’s body, up to the front. There, the entire face of the van has been removed, and the body connects to the rear of an autotruck trailer, which makes up the long front hallway of her house. Lights are strung from the ceiling, and shelves of books and bobbles line the walls. A series of Persian rugs cover the floor, a fortunate find in the back of a box autotruck that was headed for the refabber a year ago. That’s when she’d instituted her no-shoes policy. She is determined to make those carpets last.
“Take off your boots,” she tells him. She kicks hers off and nudges them with her foot against the wall of the trailer. “I like to keep my carpet clean.”
At the end of the carpeted trailer is the central hub of her house, the prefabricated shell of a CentiBurger restaurant, never actually used by the Corp. There are fourteen homes in her scrapyard neighborhood that have CentiBurgers as their living areas, and nobody has a good reason why they were dumped in the yard instead of refabbed. Bureaucratic flapjacking, probably, like all good BoomBoom muck-ups.
Haru leads Omar to the side of her prefab where the corporate orderbot would have been set up, if the CentiBurger had ever been released into the world. Here, she’s put a kitchen table and a set of chairs. She and Omar both sit on one side of the table, and Haru powers up the isolation unit beside it. A faint hum is the only indication that it’s on, but Haru is comfortable that it’s doing its job, and blocking any potential outside devices from monitoring their conversation.
There’s a large magnifier with a light around its camera eye attached to the table on a swing arm, and Haru grabs it and pulls it in front of her. She flicks on the light, and slides the vial beneath it. On the magnifier’s screen, she takes another look at the bees (or beez) (whatever).
“I need to find Sterling,” Omar says. His foot taps quickly against the carpet on the floor. “I know you know where he is.”
Haru peers at him over the magnifier. “I don’t talk to Sterling anymore. Why do you want him?”
“Sterl knows a guy in genetics.”
“I know a guy in genetics. Everybody knows a guy in genetics.”
Omar leans forward. “Sterl knows the guy in genetics. He could take these bees off my hands. Really make it worth it to me.”
Haru looks again for serial numbers, or a hint of a seam along the abdomen, or a bit of exposed glass around the optic shell, but there’s nothing there to be found. Of course there flapjacking isn’t. She sighs, irritated, and pushes the magnifier away from the table.
“Well?” Omar prompts.
“Well,” she grumbles. “Now I guess I have to find Sterling, don’t I?”