Sam Roy Keating is known as Bugs. He’s an independent Panzerboy. He has his friends. His network. Born of Fixersec grunt days, and shared toil in the spirit of rebellion. He moves tech, drugs, circuit boards, monofilament, ferrocrete reactors, prototype miniature gyrojets, the newest exo-smartlink receptors, Doramphenildorphin, Paracaine, Blue Eighteen, Adrenaline all in the back of a Panzer across a country. Province. State at 320 kilometers per hour. Usually. The array of forces the ironically-named Unions arrayed against him in their Sec-Franchises was always immense and Sam had always found a way around it. Then one day he’d become too smart or maybe he'd always been a fool? How does Arkady afford it all? How is the supply this constant. This high grade? Sam fell down infinitely multiplying splines of rumor-- matrices of conspiracy. What if it was true? How do you undo that sort of damage? Where do you start looking? Sam did it in secret. Other Panzerboys, Jetjocks, Softbrokers, guys who liked his rep and wanted to be associated with Sam. With Bugs. People in the depths of the dome’s Park. Deep in Sujo street park in the back of the slimiest shack riddled with the most bio-organic scum, the most filth. The walls felt like they were coated in tar and semen and the place smelled like it too. He’d squirreled away in here, home of the dirtboys and girls home of your every joey, a foreign land. Came down here with all the stares and screams and unloading distant gangoon magazines. Just to learn that he’d just been a tool in a game more like checkers than chess. It wasn’t even clever. You pay Dirtsolos, big guys, major players on chyen and credit. Product for the lower, cold cash for the higher. But because you’re a megacorp, because your boss is sitting in a spotless room with oxygen so clean he could eat it-- he doesn’t care if the new supply fucks the already-paid dirtboys, doesn’t care about this always-shrinking domain. He sat in the filth outside the shack. He’d been afforded the plushest seat made out of black leather filled with trash. Seeing stars. He’d paid the very people who he’d encountered outside the walls. Probably paid for scarcity. Security. Lined Franchise pockets. Probably paid to play stocks. Probably cut down the very farmers he saw in the bowl, and in the corporate way. With a note and a smile. When was the last time he’d thought about stocks? “Damn,” he says. There is longing in the word. “Yeah,” says the Broker. “That’s it?” He looks up synthleather perforated with an unending pattern of corny chrome spikes, lenses that sparkle like the stars that you can’t see here. Guy laughs at him. Sam laughs at him. The broker knows. “Yeah. You going to see Arkady now?” Bugs looks at him with his old-young eyes. Eyes that were a lot younger only three minutes ago. “Got to, don’t I?” “You don’t -got- to do anything, chum. But I got his AV, waaay to New Catalonia.” Bugs blinks. “How much?” “You got the scan now? So free. Plus-- go a long way on a favor from Bugs.” He swaps the data. Screamsheet shit. Stuff Arkady did in the dome Sam never bothered figuring out because he lived in the border towns. Lived in a surplus ship. Lived in a PartiHotel. He left the Park, wormed his way out of Sujo street with a learned hustle. This time there were no glances-- he fit in perfectly. Just another repository of bitter disappointment among millions. The last job he did for Arkady was Union. Supposed to be. The shit was Union-grade. He took the Panzer out with extra ammo. More reactive armor shaped with a chemical compound even he hadn’t heard of. New turbines. Top-of-the-line prototypes that Arkady even backed him on. Repped him. Probably shouldn’t have. Sam cut a swath of destruction through the buyers and nearly killed himself, and the Panzer, in the process. When Arkady’s goons visited his safehouse it’d detonated with enough force to punch a hole in the dome. Sam had been long gone by then. Took the limping Panzer and sold the product offworld the second day he’d left orbit, enough for repair, for a bit of idleness. Enough to lay low. All his jobs were in fringe space now. News from Novo Sundai and the Union’s Franchises trickled in every once in awhile. Out in the periphery he even got to try a jet or two. None of the radar tech, all of the freedom. By the time he was ready to return, things had changed. Management in the largest Coops had alternated. Arkady was smalltime or dead. New players were on the block in his area and Ford had gone off the grid. But it would always be too hot. People in the Union, people in orbit, people in the ground-level Megacorps would keep his face on the grid, on the net, on a poster. Always. He was leaving Espinosa’s Canteen, Ford’s wife yelling at him on the holo when he’d heard his name in a constipated corner whisper. He’d stopped, swapped glances with the spot and pretended to forget his wallet, smiling. On the shuttle back he wondered how long it’d be before his personal mythos started mutating, last free Panzerboy of the Western Arches, evolving into something different altogether. Something sinister. Or vague. But how could it? Even if he’d gone missing. Even if he’d died the rep had nowhere to go. Like a smoke signal beat in a chimney. It could only end up back in his hometown. Back on the lips of stinking drunks and smiling junkies. Back on the minds of the Scoots and Deliverators, Helinauts and Jeepjockeys beating the wasteland sand and Franchise security at the same time. Bugs. Last free Panzerboy of the Western Arches.