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Den of The Ender
Samples


…from Chapter 14

Life in The Downs

Scooter was screwed.

He had always been called Scooter because that is all he had ever wanted to do when he was little, was ride a scooter. The other kids were all into the GTs [Gaming Terminals], interfacing all day and into the night, and just going home long enough to upload their VPs so that their parents could access the STs [Sedation Terminals] and NTs [Necessity Terminals]. Every once in a while some gen would come into the pod and make kids interface with the ETs [Educational Terminals]. When the EGs [education gens] came down it had always been so nice to have a Scooter and get gone!

No EG ever made me interface!

It was easy to nab most of the kids, because they just could not stay away from the GTs. Interfacing with the GTs was the easiest thing to do, because your avatar; whatever its name, designer or cost, always tried to guide you to the GTs. Scooter though was stubborn, and had argued with his avatar relentlessly. Honestly, he had probably been too hard on his avatar. His avatar was a wussie, and had always gotten scrambled when Scooter did his highflying tricks on his in-line three-wheeler. In fact, Scooter had named his avatar Wussie.

That was mean.

He was just an anonymous discount Mom got at the thrift shop anyway.

I miss him.

I miss my in-line three-wheeler

I miss Titan.

I miss being badass!

Then, one day, when Wussie was dizzy from the barrel-roll course next to the Incubation Helix, Scooter had relented, had given into his avatar’s desire to interface with a GT. Scooter had always thought gaming was lame. Gens didn’t game—and they were badass! Only techs gamed, and they sucked. Scooter didn’t like being a tech, and had always wanted to be a gen; a high-end military badass!

That had been his undoing, because, just when he was feeling sorry for scrambling Wussie and had agreed to try a GT, Cartels of Titan hit the GTs. Unlike the other lame tech games Cartels of Titan was all about being a special ops gen. Scooter always played Grunge Cordite, the MG [military gen] who had spearheaded the Titan Corpricide on behalf of the Cartels. Being Grunge Cordite was the first thing that Scooter and Wussie had ever agreed on, and it felt good to agree, and particularly good to be badass!

Don’t get excited. If the street-tech noticed your heart rate is up he won’t test on you and you’ll starve some more.

Sure, I’ll be just like Grunge Cordite, regulating his metabolism so the orbital sensors won’t pick up his heat signature when he’s in free fall.

Scooter calmed himself down as he scanned this nasty corner of Downgrade Alley—the main gutter in The Downs. The alley was really a sewage vector and you had to be careful when it rained. This back part, where the other smaller alleys branched off was where the little kids got shoved by the trashers [downgraded adults with fried frontal lobe plugs, mostly convicted criminals] who raped and then ate them as soon as they passed out. Scooter stayed up on the railing, pacing back and forth, but could not keep his trashed mind from drifting back to Wussie, Grunge Cordite, and Scooter’s record breaking 2,062 game session played out before an ever growing crowd at the Main Quad, as Scooter danced along the terminal arc.

Badass!

Yeah, you were that.

Scooter had won more games than anyone, and was nearing 32 consecutive corpricides. Other gamers even stepped off of the arc to watch in wonder as he showed them all what a scooter-boy could do on the arc. Unfortunately, Scooter had neglected his caffeine injections. Now he didn’t need them like the other techs. But poor Wussie just couldn’t hang without regular Full-spectrum Mountain Dew Replacement Therapy.

Really, how crazy is that?

I just thought he was being a wimp.

Well buddy, now your avatar is dead and gone and you wish you had some caffeine!

A chill wracked his body as he remembered the shrill screech of Wussie when he suffered his psychotic break—actually that was kind of cool. He sounded like the Titan CEO when Grunge—that was me, all me!—ripped his head off with his graviton claw.

As excited as he got about anything that reminded him of his virtual life as Grunge Cordite, he felt a pang of loss every time he wrote Wussie off. Yeah, Wussie was cheap, obsolete, a wimp, and didn’t come with a warrantee, but he was his avatar. A kid only got one avatar unless his parents were rich, and Scooter didn’t even have active parents. Oh, he knew where they hooked up, but they only put up with him hanging around because they could use him to access NTs and STs.

And now Scooter’s credit was nonexistent. He was totally broke, so his parents no longer had any use for him. Even the creepy EGs ignored him because he couldn’t be brought online. The only people interested in him now were the cruddy trashers.

Buddy, this sucks!

The worst thing about having your avatar go insane is not that it gives you explosive diarrhea—which was pretty nasty—but that it causes your uplink implant to flat-line and fall right out of the occipital port. That feels like a bad brush burn on the backside of your head. Once the occipital lobe is fried, the other ports flash and your halo-drive, your universal uplink, blinks out and turns to carbon flakes.

Yep, I’m screwed; can’t uplink to shit.

It’s all Wussie’s fault!

He paid the big price buddy. Now it’s your turn. Ten years old and you are a few days from being food for the trashers.

Until he got weak the trashers wouldn’t be a big danger. Some kids had even grown up in The Downs, mostly becoming criminals and street-techs. The trashers were all stupid and slow and could only mumble, and they didn’t work together.

Grunge Cordite could wipe out every trasher on the planet with his right hand tied behind his back!

Well, buddy, where is he at now?

The feeling of deep loneliness and isolation that had accompanied the trashing of his halo-drive had lingered for hours, making him so sad he couldn’t even cry. Now though, he was starting to feel like his old self, Scooter, with one exception—well two.

First off, he was only capable of saying one word: badass! And it always had an explanation point. Even then, he stuttered, and it took a while to get it out. He rarely meant to say it. Apparently, since it had been about the only thing he had ever said when he was playing Cartels of Titan, he was stuck on that one word. No matter what he meant to say, that is all that ever came out of his mouth.

The other really dangerous problem was this: Wussie went crazy when Scooter was hopping along the arc on the balls of his feet. It was his signature move when he was playing Grunge Cordite in sub-earth-gravity situations. He was so good at it the other players would stop playing just to watch him. Well, now, when he got excited, it would just happen.

It’s still cool though, even if it is messed up and retarded. You can learn how to use it. If it worked for Grunge you can make it work for Scooter!

I will miss Wussie standing on my shoulder and arguing with me.

Sure, he was a dick, but he was just doing his job.

Remember when he used to sit on your shoulder with his arms crossed and say, “I’m so disappointed in you”?

Yeah, I’ll miss the bossy little guy.

Wow, heads up, trashers, big ones!

The little drooling kid next to him was getting sleepy and leaning on him, and then a trasher grabbed her and dragged her off—just like that.

Buddy, you need to get out of here.

He noticed some older kids headed out toward the street, pushing trashers out of their way. They were obviously trying to get the attention of a street-tech. Street-techs could upgrade you, or, if their junk didn’t work, kill or completely trash you. Basically they ruled The Downs, even had their own goons.

Get up there buddy. It is worth a shot. You don’t want to end up like that little drooling girl.

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