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The vessel’s bay doors slid open directly in front of Kat, and she had stepped off the ship even before the doors had finished opening. The sharp metallic odor of the pod was quickly replaced by a cloud of humid, stale air filled with aromas of fry cooks searing vegetables and boiling barleen in the massive vats behind merchant counters and market stalls. She paid no mind to the whirring network of pods and transport vessels criss-crossing in a network of human traffic spanning hundreds of vertical feet above her head as she made a beeline for her bar. Garago was always packed at any time of the day. Great for business, since all of the UNSF’s ships had established different sleep cycles to ensure they always had active personnel available, that meant it was always 5PM to someone on the surface.

Kat made good time traveling to the Garago Bar through the maze of congested market stalls in the borough. She made her way to the back of the bar, only stopping to check in with a few of the regulars, double checking that their drinks were being filled and their wallets emptied, having to raise her voice above the ambient din of the bar.

Passing through the storerooms, the muffled sound of the crowds on the other side of the bar’s exterior walls seeped through the shoddy concrete slabs that Kat had been meaning to replace in due time. Kat climbed up the spiral staircase two steps at a time and reached the expansive shipping canopy above Garago.

Kat scanned the small clusters of workers helping to guide pallets of supplies and equipment down into the kitchens and storerooms of the covered market stalls on the level below, looking for the hulking machento farmer, Broggs. She spotted the broad-shouldered businessman asking a few workers on their break a question, slightly hunched with confusion and doing hen’s best to keep up an unconvincing air of familiarity. Kat shouted to grab his attention and waved hen over. The two sat down near a pile of empty shipping crates, the din and racket of all the industrial movers bustling about the canopy overpowering the ambient noise of voices and crowds filtering up from the public spaces below. Kat pulled up her personal interface and navigated over to her notes about the supply agreement the two had reached. Broggs opened hen’s mouth, about to compliment Kat’s new tech when Kat dove right into the business of their meeting.

“So, we’ll keep the price the same, the product volume the same, the only thing that’s changing is that we have to come pick up your harvest ourselves? What gives? You guys are making a plenty wide profit margin, so it can’t just be to cut costs.”

“Well, you see,” Broggs began, “the Cappina family have been pressuring us out of the market, trying to shoehorn themselves into the food industry in Garago by targeting our shipping macrophages, and we can no longer reliably ship our product to the asteroid without risking our investments.”

Broggs confirmed Kat’s suspicions that something else was at play besides just cutting costs, but she waited to see if hen had any more to say. After a beat and a half, when Broggs had made it clear that hen wasn’t in a position to elaborate on exactly how this was Kat’s problem, Kat continued pressing him for an explanation.

“First of all” Kat chortled, “that’s not my problem, just hire a security team to cover your asses. Secondly, if you’re going to make us do all the work of shipping, which - by the way - we don’t have the equipment to do, you can’t expect us to pay the same price for it all.” Kat knew this game well enough, and was fully prepared to wear Broggs down to a more reasonable agreement, after all she had all day to work this deal out.

A few haggling remarks, half-hearted threats to invest in the Montegua farmstead instead of Broggs’ business and an agreement to give all of Broggs’ employees a discount at the Garago bar whenever they stopped by and a satisfactory deal had been struck.

Both parties pleasantly convinced that they had obtained the upper hand in the discussion, they parted ways. Rather than head back down to the bar and feel obligated to contribute to the bar even when she was off of her shift, Kat took a stroll across the canopies towards one of the domoring stalls to see if she could pick up any new decorations for the bar on the cheap.

She climbed down a staircase leading to the floor of the market level, and passed through a crowd of UNSF terminal jockeys all listening intently to one of their mates brag about how he had the clearance to hook up with a senior officer in one of the high security comms stations aboard one of their vessels.

Kat turned a corner down a familiar alleyway, and just as soon as her brain had registered that it was probably a bad sign that all the lights had been knocked out, she found her right cheek being ground into the cold grit that coated the floor of Garago, her world flipped on its side. A sickle flashed a quarter inch from her left cheek, kicking her heart into overdrive and Kat subconsciously noted the Cappina insignia clearly carved into the handle. Kat tasted the alarming, metallic flavor of blood and spat a healthy amount of it across the floor in front of her. She silently cursed her body’s natural reaction to make her eyes water and drew a deep sigh, trying to quell the shock of fear.

“Please, you’ve made some kind of mistake. Why don’t you tell me what you think you’re doing and I’ll-” Kat’s plea for a reasonable resolution was cut off by a thick, rancid rag pulling at the edges of her lips, trying to force its way into her mouth. She clamped her jaw down, struggled to her elbows and tucked her chin forward under her chest to force the assailant to lean forward to keep his grip on the gag. His balance upset, Kat bucked her hips up under him, vaulting the man head over heels further down the alleyway. Quickly back to her feet, Kat’s natural fight or flight response instantaneously decided on the former. She charged, tackling the man hard enough to send the sickle skittering down the alleyway and clamped his struggling arms underneath her knees. She pulled up her PI, took a picture of the man’s struggling grimace, and attached it to a message to the Cappina family warning them to “stop fucking with my suppliers” for good measure. Her work done, she let the man scramble away, and made her way back to the bar, resolving to send a crew out later that day to fix the lights in the alleyway to make sure she’d be the only one assaulted there.