Nathan coughed, choking. He stumbled mentally as well, in the absence of the quick-thought and decisive actions to which he was accustomed. Shin merely stood, waiting, watching; prepared to do so until Nathan answered to his satisfaction.
“Well, I …” Nathan began; stopped. “How…?” was another attempt. “Shin, I …?” He met his friend’s expectant gaze and abandoned most of his excuses. Beyond Shin, he saw the functional food station. He considered the stolen sensory modules and recalled many wise, subtle looks Shin had cast his way during past conversations. How could I have been so stupid?
Shin’s half-smile pulled at his serious expression as if he could read Nathan’s thoughts, and fully agreed with them.
“You saw the skin?” Nathan asked after the half-moment’s silence.
“What about the comm-?”
“One on your bed got a note when I was stepping past your lazy, tart-eating corps.”
Shin’s smile grew more pleased than humored. “No amount of theatrics study can replace good, old-fashioned observation.” Folding his arms, he repeated, “So, why, Nathaniel?”
Nathan’s brain came out of its reverie in a snap, quickly making up for its earlier behavior. He cast about, dithered, shrugged, and then admitted, “Nothing much. I tried for a job.” Feigning some embarrassment, he added, “It was at Carapace.”
Shin’s eyes widened and his mouth nearly dropped open. “Oh.”
“Yeah,” Nathan continued. “Trying to rise up a little is all.”
Shin was quiet for half a moment, no doubt recalling Nathan’s anxiety en route to the job precycle. “And the extra comm?” he asked.
“Aren’t we fresh early on?!” Nathan teased. He paused, folding his arms, pretending consideration of the matter. After a jiff, he breathed in, then sighed loudly. “Nothing big, really. I worried about the work files on the old one.”
“Oh.” Shin turned this information over in his mind. “So…” he paused. “You were avoiding the stench of Ware Tech association.”
Carefully, Nathan nodded.
“Ha!” his friend said. “And I thought you were turning into a crime lord or something!”
“What?!” Nathan was truly surprised by this assumption, and showed it.
Shin chuckled a bit more, then trailed off to another awkward silence. He looked at his impressive display of illegal electronics. “Damn.”
“Well…” Shin rubbed the back of his head. “Now what am I gonna do with them?”
Continued from Skinwalkers, XXIX.
Read to Skinwalkers, XXXI.
Feeling lost? Go back to the very beginning with Skinwalkers, I.