[OFFICIAL FICTION] Chapter 1: Simple Britain

Six Months Earlier…

“Here’s the situation.”

His conversations almost always started there. It gave him time to weave the lie in his mind.

He couldn’t exactly remember when the lying started. Or why. Did it matter? It was a formula. It worked. His brothers always bailed him out. Always had. Always would. Every financial shortfall. Every employment fiasco. Every run-in with law enforcement. Nothing stuck. Nothing kept him down, because Anton and Reg cleaned up his messes.

That time he drove mother’s hovercar through the front door of a Manhattan delicatessen while VR hacking with his hands and steering with his feet? Wiped from the police records thanks to Reginald’s close relationship with the New York attorney general.

His smuggling mishap, when he tried to bring a dribgib feather ceremonial headdress back to Earth from Demaria despite a health and safety moratorium? Overlooked because the Consortium customs chief owed his mother a history of favors.

Or what about his numerous “forgotten” tax filings, which led to liens on his house and forced him into a rental situation? Anton covered the debts and the penalties. When he couldn’t entirely scrub Simple’s abysmal credit rating, he could at least co-sign the rental agreement at the arcology.

“What now?” asked Anton Britain, the oldest of the siblings. Simple had him on voice-only for the transcontinental call.

The truth: Simple couldn’t pay his monthly rent in the Seattle arcology because he’d spent the last of his recent earnings on a digital pattern for a rare poseable 18-inch Demarian opera performance statue that he could 3D print. He wanted to add the Greatmane Wildhowler figurine to the showcase shelf on the north wall of his apartment, in what little gap he could find between Yellowruff Stridefinder and Treetop Grassfur.

What he told Anton: “My friend’s in jail. It’s a ridiculous loitering charge. He doesn’t have anybody else who can bail him out.” Make it about someone else, Simple reasoned. Sound like you’re just trying to help and you’re a hero.

“How much does your…friend…need?”

“Seven hundred credits,” Simple said. Then he remembered the late penalty imposed on the rent, amplified by the fact this had happened twice before. “Wait, wait. One thousand credits.”

Silence from Anton for a few moments, then: “What’s your friend’s name?”

Simple frowned and rolled his eyes. Such a blunder. He shouldn’t have misstepped with the amount. It turned into a red flag. Time to shift strategies. Time to sew chaos and confusion, throwing Anton on the defensive.

“I’m not making this up, Anton! It’s life or death!” Simple shouted into the transmitter. “I lent him money. If he doesn’t get out of jail, he can’t pay me back. If he doesn’t pay me back, I’ll be late with my rent again. They’ll kick me out! I’ll be homeless! You don’t want me to be homeless, do you?!”

Again, silence: “Might be a good learning experience for you.”

“I’m your little brother! Help me!”

He waited, wondering if he would ever hear a response again. What if this was the time Anton finally decided enough was enough? What if he didn’t want to help his youngest brother?

“Come to mother’s house tonight,” Anton said at last. “We’ll talk about it.”

“It can’t wait,” Simple assured him. “He won’t survive long in the lockup! He’s got a delicate disposition.”

“Fine,” his brother sighed. “I’ll wire the money. Deal with your friend. Then I’ll send Llewyn with the shuttle to bring you to mother’s. We need to talk.”

His wrist PDA chimed with a holographic notification, signaling the fresh deposit in his checking account: One thousand credits. He switched off the transmitter. No goodbye. No thanks.

He had what he wanted.

Continued in Chapter 2: Sam Diego

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