Rocky and I flashed around the corner and immediately saw the old Church in front.
The Church was no different from any other dilapidated building in the slums. The dusty appearance of the church was akin to a lung that was close to succumbing to cancer from too many cigars.
If anything special could be gleaned from the building, it was the fact that it used to be a Christian church in the past.
‘Repurposing’ was what Flaw called it, but everyone else called it ‘cheap’.
The church roof was asbestos with dark patches covering the holes that would allow rain to leak inside.
Every time a new hole opened in the roof, the congregation would thank Zacar-I for the rain. Well, at least until the asbestos-mixed-rain began to burn their skins.
Safe to say, the church was the place you’d go to for a baptism and last-rights on the same day. Luckily, it rarely rained in the slums, so deaths were at a minimum… this month at least.
The windows of the church were cracked and painted over to hide the pictures of Jesus carved into the glass.
Even the words engraved on the wall outside the church had been destroyed.
The wall once said ‘Church of God’, but Flaw simply painted over the word ‘God’ with ‘Zacar-I’ and everyone forgot about the matter.
However, despite the church’s outward appearance, Rocky and I were familiar enough with Flaw to know that he left it that way on purpose.
The church held the perfect balance to welcome people inside, but it was also unpleasant enough that people didn’t want to stay for long.
After all, Churches were supposed to act as a safe place for those having a hard time in the slums, but Flaw couldn’t allow hoarders so he made staying in the church for prolonged periods of time an unpleasant experience.
A couple of years ago, before Rocky and I joined scavenging, we would get into fights with the older kids, and seek out the church for protection. Flaw was a man that could talk anyone into submission.
People often compared Flaw’s money-making skills to The king of Money himself - Dr. Toozy.
Rocky and I strutted forward to the entrance of the church with small smirks of confidence edged onto our faces.
Of course, it was a façade but we needed to be on our top game for the upcoming negotiation or at least appear to be on our top game.
However, I paused before we even got to the steps.
My eye zeroed in on the car parked at the front of the church, and I instantly felt the need to bash my head against a rock.
The car floated in the air as it pulsed with blue cyberlines that denoted its Quartified powered engine.
Rocky was surprised at the change of my expression because he didn’t notice anything he hadn’t seen a hundred times before.
“Was is it?” Rocky asked, also pausing his steps to look at the car.
“That’s a MagLev car,” I stated a bit sorrowfully.
Flaw was a calculative man, so I knew we could not un-see what he intended for us to see in the first place.
Rocky shrugged “Everyone knows that Flaw has the only floating car in the slums,”
“Yeah, but look at where it is parked,” I stuttered, hoping that Rocky would pick up on what I was saying.
If I personally spoke about my observation, I would be forced to acknowledge the painful truth.
Rocky suddenly swallowed his saliva as his forehead began to sweat profusely.
“It’s not in the same spot, so this car moves,” Rocky said aghast as if a moving car was something amazing…
And it truly was.
Everyone knew that Flaw had the only MagLev car in the slums, but the car never moved from its spot because it didn’t work.
Flaw’s car was a statement of sorts… and now it was a ‘moving’ statement.
The car in front of Rocky and I pulsed up and down as it hovered a couple feet above the ground. This led me to the only available conclusion.
“Flaw paid for someone to fix the car, and the components were probably expensive,” I said, hinting at my hand so Rocky got the message.
The only thing worse than a normal Flaw was a broke Flaw who would ask for ‘donations’ every five minutes during the sermon.
I grabbed Rocky’s hand and peered at the number embedded in his palm. Rocky’s barely had 25 cyber-coins remaining, while my own palm had about 50 cyber-coins.
This amount could be considered decent in the slums, but I knew it would not be enough.
Holding my breath, I directed my eyes to the edges of the church. My eyes peered just inside the doors that hung loosely like someone who had given up on life…
And there I saw it…
Something every slum-dweller dreaded.
Following my gaze, Rocky also saw it – two silver poles at both ends of the doors granting entry into the church.
The doors were a depressing brown, but the silver poles next to the door were even more depressing. It gave me a sense of hopelessness.
“Resistivity Poles,” I murmured in a heartbroken voice.
“Broke Scanners,” Rocky whispered, with a face that seemed to be on the verge of tears.
Ever since all currency was converted to cyber-coins embedded into the palm of your hands, The Corporations created a new way to distinguish the privileged from those less fortunate.
Usually, the simplest method would be to look at the color of someone’s palm. The color of someone’s palms denoted a vague impression of their status.
Red meant you were a broke mother*cker, green meant a decent amount of funds, bronze meant you were borderline rich, silver meant you were actually rich.
Gold meant you were in the hundreds of millions category, and crystalline meant that you were Royalty or a Corporation’s favorite son.
Of course, there were further distinctions within the shades of these colors, but all the shades looked the same to me.
The colors could also be hidden for those humbler amongst the privileged.
Unless the building you were about to enter had Resistivity poles in the front. Resistivity poles ensured that someone below a certain cyber-coin threshold could not enter a designated building.
Basically, as Rocky called it, Resistivity Poles scanned for broke people and threw them away, hence the name ‘Broke Scanners’.
Flaw had to ensure that everyone who entered the church would be able to make the minimum ‘donations’ worthy of the Lord’s favor.
I had little doubt that the Resistivity Poles would bounce away anyone with less than 70 cyber-coins.
Why 70 Cyber-coins?
Well, Flaw had the tendency to always talk about his childhood experiences with his mother, and his mother died when she turned 70, so it was a lucky number of sorts for Flaw.
“What do we do?” Rocky asked, already thinking we wouldn’t be able to sell the Quartz-Crystal today.
Of course, the best place to sell the Quartz-Crystal without being caught would be the church that praises Quartz-energy.
However, judging from everything I had seen so far, I was pretty sure that we’d be walking out of the church later owing Flaw money instead of making it.
Alas, we had little choice since Quartz-Crystals were hot potatoes.
Observing the resistivity poles for a while, I noticed it was the same poles Flaw would always use. That made the problem easily solvable.
I grabbed both of Rocky’s hands in my own.
“Think about transferring your money to me, and I’ll do the same,” I stated, and Rocky nodded since he knew I’d already come up with a plan.
To transfer cyber-coins between two or more individuals was relatively easy, all you had to do was hold hands or use a special console, and then think ‘transfer or receive’.
Of course, the money transferred or received had to be willingly given or wanted. This was the measure implemented to stop stealing.
The moment Rocky and I held hands, I dashed forward up the stairs, pulling along the startled Rocky. I would have preferred to warn him but I needed us both to have a clear mind when passing the barrier.
Suddenly, the resistivity poles at the corners of the church’s door lit up but did nothing to impede our entrance into the church.
I could feel my body becoming slightly heavier at the brief instant the barrier was beginning to materialize. Luckily, I knew the secret to Flaw’s less-than-functional Resistivity Poles.
Failing to pass Resistivity Poles would have resulted in backlash akin to the hit of a steel rod in the gut.
Seeing Rocky looking at me in a questioning manner, I enlightened him a bit about the birds and the bees of technology.
“Flaw is cheap, so he bought half-baked poles… the ones in the city checks each person individually, but these cheap ones can’t distinguish individuals, just currency.
With our hands joined, we became one object, and our money was automatically added together,” I stated, while Rocky just nodded interestingly even though I knew he didn’t understand anything I was saying.
It wasn’t until I heaved a sigh of relief did I notice that we had entered the church while Flaw was still preaching.
Everyone sitting on the chairs eyed me and Rocky expressionlessly.
“Omari and Rocky, my two big sons!” A booming voice came from the slightly raised pedestal at the front.
Unable to stomach such disrespect, Rocky hissed in a low voice that was not mean to be heard “Fuck your mom Flaw!”
Sadly, Flaw was a man that could hear exceptionally well. Some people even say that he had the ability to hear the whispering of all currencies.
When I saw Flaw’s ear twitch in our direction, I knew exactly what story he would tell the next moment.
Note, Flaw’s stories were expensive but it was too late to close my ears.
“Let me tell you about my mother…” Flaw stated as the sermon resumed.