Undercity Brotherhood


People always talk talk talk, like he wanted to be a stim pusher all his life. But that’s just stupid. He doesn’t want to be anything, there’s just a whole lotta levels in the city he hates. So he sells stims to kids and old ladies, and he just swallows the little naggy feeling that eats at his guts.

Domai is third gen clonestock, so he doesn’t have any high ideas about who he is or where he comes from. When he sells to Talents, they give him this stare like he’s got an extra set of eyes, or four arms (either of which he might have ended up with, and they’d realize how perfect his genotyping really is if they take a holiday to the boreholes, see what happens when workstock are given gifts). He’s a nobody, but more or less human. That’s something downcity.

Downcity where people get less like people and more like machines the deeper you get, into the hives and warrens where overseers refuse to tread themselves. Men bred like animals, or animals bred to speak and stand – what is the difference this far under the crust?

In the deep places he doesn’t sell, since money doesn’t exist past the Belt. Instead, he brings a bit of husk meat and water, offers it to the most pitiful soul he can find, and humps it back out of hell as fast as his legs will carry him. He bleeds the rich, and down here a drop of pure blood goes a long way.

Then back upcity; all the way up until you can see the stars past the wall. Where he gets a glimpse of the woman he loves working the Dome. She can’t feel it herself – she explained it once, how it was bred out of her stock, how she feels longing but never love. She doesn’t miss it, she says, since she never knew it. Domai offers her a hit of pure stim, straight from the hive distilleries, and she gets all funny, giddy, stupid, maybe lustful. But love is only one way between them. He tries to swallow this too, but in the middle of the night it just fills him up.

One day, she’s not there anymore. Someone like her has taken her place. It looks like her. Smells like her. But remembers nothing. Feels even less. Fourth gen maybe, or a staple wiped her brain like a bad holo. Just a shell.

And this time when he leaves the Dome, he goes straight down into the bowels of the city, and he sees his own face on half a dozen beasts of burden in the Forge. He doesn’t offer them meat, or water, but he gives them his labor. They cannot feel pain, or love. Nor dreams. Nor envy.