I turned with everyone and saw the horizon. The sun was setting and by unsaid consensus, everyone silently watched as the red glow of the setting sun address us all. The moment the sun went over the horizon, the music in the lounge changed to soft jazz. Mehmet Murat Iidan once wrote that sunset is the opening music of the night. The captain of The Favorable Sky took that quote literally. The lounge came back to life as the guests once again began mingling. I got back to the food. I was on my third plate when a man interrupted me.
"Tobias Wong, right?"
I glanced at him and saw a thin-looking man with a smile that could only be considered slimy. The left side of his face has been replaced with cybernetics but instead of using the standard steel, he used some sort of copper alloy. I gave the man a big smile.
"William!" Food forgotten, I stood up and shook the man's hand. "I didn't know you were here! How have you been?"
"As well as can be expected. I'm still surviving. Not like you. You seem to have done very well for yourself since you left my employment."
William Huang was my former boss. He was the man who taught me the ins and outs of the mechanical trade, and the closest thing I ever had for a mentor. Despite being a no-good thieving son of a gun, he was someone who I had great respect for. I left his employment when I got my inheritance and hadn't met him since.
"You are not still sore about that, are you?" I asked. "I got a better opportunity and took it. Nothing wrong about that."
"No, there isn't," William agreed. "I would have liked to have more than a day's notice though."
"Be glad I gave you that. I could have just stop showing up for work."
William scoffed. "Not if you know what's good for you. At least all those magazines you read were finally good for something."
"Yes. I will be the first to admit you have some talent Toby. I wouldn't have trained you if you didn't, but a designer of battlesuits? I did not see that coming."
"I'm a fat man with big surprises." We laughed at that. It was nice to see William again. The old man had taken care of me when I was just drifting along, but I know the man. He doesn't do social calls.
"So why are you here?"
"Jaya invited all his-"
"No, I mean why are you are here in front of me. What do you want?"
"Now that's just rude. Can't a man just come see a former student of his? Maybe do a little networking on the side and-"
"I know you, old man. You don't approach people at dinner to network." We both sat down at the table, and I had to ask. "What do you want from me? Tell me, I might even agree to it."
William gave me a once over before a big grin appeared on his face. "I must say Jaya was right. You have changed. Being your own boss seem to agree with you."
"I like to think I had a good teacher."
"True." William shamelessly took the compliment. "Though you don't seem to remember what I taught you about not making waves."
"Can't be helped. My company is the only battlesuit design company in Singapore. Hell, I may be the only battlesuit designer in Singapore. That's going to caused waves no matter what I do."
"Then make smaller ones." William warned. "The Cancer Rats are looking into you."
My natural eye widened in surprise, and William nodded in acknowledgement. This was a surprise.
"What are they looking at me for?"
"Maybe because you were a former member of the gang?"
"No, I wasn't!"
"That's the word on the street. From what I heard; they are telling people you were a former gang member who quitted. Now that you are having some success, the elders are looking into ways to get you back into the Rats."
I shook my head in disbelief. "That's nonsense! I was never a member of the Rats."
"Then why are they saying so? The gangs don't just suddenly decide to claim you were a former member without reason Toby."
"I was never one of them."
"That's not what they say. Were you part of any gang? Maybe some small gang that was a branch of the Cancer Rats."
I couldn't help but laugh at that. "No chance. I used to be a member of the Street Jacks, but they were never part of the Cancer Rats."
William looked at me in surprise. "I didn't know you were part of the underworld. The Street Jacks? I had never heard of them."
"I'm not surprised. We were small, and the gang had been gone for some time."
"I smell some history here. Tell me what happened, maybe I can help."
I paused for a moment, thinking over my options. The Cancer Rats was one of the biggest criminal gang in the SEAL, and although Singapore was a country with strict laws and tough enforcements, I know the reach of the Rats. I also know that William had some contacts in the local underworld. I decided to trust him.
"I joined the gang after secondary school. The Street Jacks was a local gang, but I wasn't with them for very long. A few months after I joined, they got into a dispute with the Cancer Rats. I don't know what it was about, but fights began. In my very first fight, I got injured. A gas tank exploded, and I lost my eye and arm. The Street Jacks pretended I didn't exist. They never paid any compensations for my injuries, and my mother had to sell the house to replace my missing limbs with cybernetics. That was my history with the gangs. Short, painful, and best to be forgotten."
Stunned, William sat there in silence for a moment before asking. "The house you are living in along Grange Road isn't yours?"
"My mother used to have two properties. She had to sell one of them to pay for my cybernetics."
"Wow. I never knew you were some second-generation rich kid. You had some history."
"Not such of one. To cut the story short, the Street Jacks were destroyed while I was still in the hospital. My mother was the only one who visited while I was recovering, and I never touch the gangs again after that."
"So, you were never part of the Cancer Rats?"
"Nope, and I have the cybernetic body parts to prove that. The Rats were the ones who made me a cyborg."
"Were the Jacks absorbed by the Rats? No, that doesn't make sense either. Even if that was the case, you were more like an enemy than a member to them. They are now telling everyone you were a member."
"Well, I'm not! Why are they looking at me anyway?"
"Oh, that's easy." William said. "Your battlesuits!"
I facepalmed. "That heist in Abu Dubai."
William nodded. "And that fight in Thailand. And the good reviews your battlesuits are having. And how cheap and easy they are to maintain. Your battlesuits are not top of the line products, but they are value for money. It's no surprise gangs are looking into ways to get their hands on them."
"Then they can buy them like normal people. What do they think? I would give them a discount to stop them from spreading baseless rumors about me?"
"Maybe. Is it working?"
"Of course not!" I scoffed. "I may even charge them extra for spreading these baseless rumors!"
William looked at me as if I was crazy. Maybe I was, but I didn't care. Before either of us could continue, the stage lit up. Everyone's eyes turned to it. The game was about to start, and the commentators began talking up the teams and players. A holographic image of Josiah Weatherman appeared. The captain of the North American team was widely considered the best gravity ball player in the solar system, and the reason why the Americans were considered the favorite for the finals. I heard a quiet warning from William.
"Be careful, Toby. The Rats aren't to be messed with."