A one-storey food center that hosted many small food stalls, the charming Alexandra Food Center hasn't changed much in my absence. The various stalls in the food center all had colorful signs with a few even adding a little extra flair with holographic designs. They were selling dishes you would find at any other food centers in Singapore, and while there was nothing truly special about the food center, it felt good to be back at my old hunting/eating ground. Looking around the food center, I decided to head to a laksa stall.
A strictly South-East Asian dish, laksa was a spicy noodle soup popular in South-east Asia. Technically a Peranakan cuisine, laksa was basically thick wheat noodles served in spicy soup. The soup was based either on rich and spicy curry coconut milk, or on sour asam. On top of that, the dish also came with chicken, prawn, fish, or cockles.
There were actually a few laksa stalls at Alexandra Food Center, including one that sold Katong laksa. Katong laksa is a variant of laksa that originated from the Katong area in Singapore. In Katong laksa, the noodles were cut up into smaller pieces so that the entire dish can be eaten with only a spoon. No chopsticks or fork required. The soup of Katong laska also had a thick texture as ground dried shrimp is added to it. It's a favorite among Singaporeans, but I personally prefer the traditional version of laksa. The idea of eating laksa with cut up noodles just wasn't for me.
I headed towards a stall that sold curry laksa and ordered a bowl. The cook was a matronly auntie who asked if I wanted cockles with the dish. I immediately said yes. After six months of hospital food, I wanted to be as unhealthy as I could. I sat down at a table and within a few minutes, a flying drone delivered the dish to me. I paid the drone using my cybernetics, and as the credits was deducted from my banking account, dug in.
I first took a spoonful of the curry and was impressed. Unlike fools in the West who mistaken curry chicken as curry; curry was the soup. A taste of the coconut-based curry soup in this dish, and I knew this laska would be good. It had the spicy taste that laska soup should have, without the spiciness being too overpowering. The main ingredients for the dish were the noodles and the soup, but the cook added a hefty amount of bean fish sticks, shrimp, and cockles. Maybe it was because I hadn't had laksa in a while, but I finished the bowl of laksa in less than ten minutes. I resolved to come back again. I was finishing the last of the soup when my broker called.
My phone was still at home, but I had synced my cybernetics to it long ago. There was a time when people couldn't walk out of the house within their handphones, but between cybernetics, waist computers, and wireless communicators, no one walked around with a handphone anymore. Why bother when you could answer the call with cybernetics that was already part of your body?
"Jaya, what's up?"
"Hey fatman, where are you?"
"I'm having lunch at Alexandra Food Center."
"Alexandra? Are you going to the workshop?"
"I've been there since morning. I'm going back to the workshop after lunch. You'll be happy to know I'm working on a new battlesuit. If all goes well, it should be ready for you in a few days."
"You are working already?"
"Yup. I want to get back into the groove as soon as possible."
"You're sure you are ready? I mean you were just discharged a few days ago. And you just got back to Singapore yesterday! It's okay to take a few days off."
"Now this is a surprise. Usually, you are the one pushing me to design more battlesuits for you to sell. That remind me; what is this about the manufacturing companies wanting to renegotiate the licensing deals? What is this nonsense about new competitors?"
"Just that. While you were out of commission, a few designer workshops decided to take up your idea of creating battlesuits using old technology. You started a trend my friend. You now got competition, so the manufacturing companies are looking to rework the agreement we had with them to deal with the competition."
As my broker, Jaya was the one in charge of finding buyers for my battlesuits. When I first started, I produced my battlesuits on my own. As I got more successful and more orders came in, I couldn't make the battlesuits fast enough to keep up with the demand. I had to outsource the manufacturing. Jaya had signed agreements with several manufacturing companies which had expressed interest in taking over the manufacturing of my battlesuits. I would license my designs to them, and they would make the battlesuits to sell my customers. As the designer of the battlesuits, I get a get a cut of every battlesuits that was sold by their factories. The agreements were signed while I was in Thailand, and the manufacturing companies were in such a hurry, Jaya managed to secure some sweet deals for The Fat Tinkerer.
The reason for this was a video.
Howard was acting as my bodyguard in Thailand when we were attacked, and he was operating one of my battlesuits, the Trackbot-P. The Trackbot-P was a modified Steambot, an ancient battlesuit that runs on Steam Technology. The Steambot was known to be strong, tough, and durable, and I added Clockwork tracks to improve it's maneuverability. I also added in extra weaponries to increase it's offensive power.
The SOFS had certified the battlesuit as a Grade Two battlesuit, but they were thinking of upgrading the battlesuit when two robbers using Trackot-P battlesuits killed a cop who was in a Grade Four battlesuit. Then came the attack in Thailand.
Howard was caught on camera holding off three enemies in superior battlesuits. Using superior speed and evasiveness, Howard ran circles around them till help from Oriental Earth Group arrived. The video quickly went viral, and the SOFS almost immediately upgraded the Trackbot-P to Grade Three. Together, the video and the upgrade pushed interest in my battlesuits through the roof. Manufacturing companies that were just interested in licensing my battlesuit now came banging at the door.