Noa’s life revolved around scavenging for valuables left behind when global warming melted the ice caps and flooded Seattle. Her little nest in the Web was all she had other than her flipper and the precious cybernetic mods her Ma had gotten her. It was a hard life but all that Noa knew.
One day, a month or so after a drift-ship nearly ran into the Web’s support struts, Noa explored somewhere new. What she found threatened to either end her life or transform it forever. Unfortunately, the only person she could call on for help was War Tooth, military outcast cyborg orca from the local pod. Without his assistance Noa’s one chance at a better life might drift away before she had a chance to catch it.
Scavenger is an exciting cyberpunk story of survival, hope and the bonds that can form at the margins of society.
By Meyari McFarland
Noa licked her lips before peeking out of her nest’s door. Her mouth was sour with nerves but nothing, no one, looked back. She looked up towards the Web stretched overhead, to each side at the empty cables covered with sea spray and then scanned down towards the ocean below.
The anchors of the Web looked clear as far as she could see. Every cable stretched up towards the gray, cloud-filled sky, though most of the sky was hidden by the dark masses of plants growing at the higher levels of the Web. Here, where her nest hung from a major support beam, it was as dark as dusk unless she looked out towards the emptiness of the open ocean beyond the Web.
Water dripped from above down into the slowly moving sea below. At her level nothing grew but barnacles and algae. And Noa. She lived here. Not much else could live here, but she survived. Even in the water there didn’t seem to be anything. Yeah, she could see fish and clams, oysters filtering the water as it flowed past them. But no orca with their cyborg arms or sharks with their flat-dead eyes. That rock might be one of the giant octopus that lived in the drowned city below but it might not.
Noa couldn’t tell for sure.
Her eye mods weren’t good enough for that. The gills were good, solid, best anyone could get outside of the military. Not the eyes. They were just enough to keep her eyes from freezing in the ice-cold water, just enough to let her see in the darkness of the deep where her work took her every day.
Work. That was a joke. Noa didn’t work. She scavenged, picked over the drowned buildings of what used to be Seattle for any scrap that might bring her some food or synth to make her nest stronger, dryer, safer. Ma had gotten her the gills, back when Noa was tiny, barely hip-high to her mother’s side. But then the Web had collapsed and they’d lost Noa’s Pa, her brothers so big and strong. Lost Ma not that long after that, to decompression sickness and nitrogen in the blood.
Ma’s gills hadn’t been good ones.
A quick check of her system showed no one else around. Granted, Noa didn’t know enough to tell if someone was watching shielded. But the coast looked clear. Nobody lived this low to the water if they could help it, much less so close to the edge of the Web where the wind and water lashed at your nest. Her nest was washed with waves every time a storm blew through.
“Find something good today,” Noa whispered as she pulled her warm suit hood up, slipped her grip-gloves on. “Get some good synth. Fix the leak. Maybe catch a fish t’eat.”
Something to eat would be good. Noa couldn’t remember the last time she’d had more than scraps to eat. Back before the storm, the one that brought the drift-ship in. And wasn’t that lovely? Even more people to scramble for what little existed under and in the web. Funny how strangers swept across the sea got more kindness than kids who’d been born here.
Noa pushed her bitterness away. No point in dwelling on that rot when she dove. It’d just distract her and that’s how sharks got you. Her flipper, precious high-tech flipper that her next oldest brother had bought from shore before the Web fell, slipped around Noa’s ankles. The straps were finally tight enough. At first she’d had to pad the toes so that the flipper wouldn’t fall off. Not anymore. She’d grown enough in ten years to be woman-high, though Noa would always be short and scrawny compared to the people who lived high on the web where the good food grew.
Only after her nest door was sealed tight against the rain and intruders did Noa dive into the water below. It was only a dozen feet or so but hitting the water always made her flinch from the impact. People said hitting water was like hitting steel. Noa knew better but it still hurt to punch through the surface tension into the world below.
*Didn’t expect to see you,* War Tooth said.
Noa screamed the last of the air out of her lungs as War Tooth swam up underneath her. His mouth gaped open in silent amusement, tail jerking with the force of his laughter. She glared, not that War Tooth knew where her eyes were. He always looked at the light patches on her warm-suit’s shoulder, not her face.
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