Chapter 4:


[NO LONGER UPDATING] Ceres's Chaos: A Tragic Space Opera

The next customer staggered around the corner, straining out a few words while he bled from his broken nose and wounds on his ear and thighs. "Med foam... exosuit..."

Collapsing on the floor, the guy breathed heavily while Ceres grabbed a medkit from his extended backpack panels, taking out a handheld canister that had a sharp nozzle.

"Good afternoon Mr Niu, what a pleasant surprise to see you again! You look better and sharper than ever, and it seems that your side is pressuring the enem..". A loud pained grunt from Niu interrupted Ceres as the medical foam ejected from the sharp nozzle sizzled the inside of the wound on his thigh.

A series of muffled shouts continued as Ceres pushed as much foam as possible into all his open wounds, and even stuffed the remaining foam into Niu's mouth which was already hurt by several punches.

"That medical foam was premium, which should help you to recover by the time I'm done!".

Ceres and his three metallic dragonflies immediately got to work, performing a similar maintenance on the suit with a slightly faster speed.

Picking up Niu roughly, he forced the customer's body into the previously repaired mining suit that was in an open state, which then closed around him and connected the nerval plug to the nerval jack in the back of his neck, the spine and frame of the exosuit aligning to him.

"Off you go now, and please come back soon!" Ceres bowed as he shoved Niu out beyond the corner and into the riot zone, staggering.

The same procedure had to be repeated, but this time Ceres was more prepared, his mind already having a decision flowchart with a list of components for every potential problem.

He scanned Niu’s exosuit and noticed that the nerval plug was heavily damaged!

Ceres cursed under his breath. Nerval plugs were basically impossible to 3D print from scratch, considering its complexity.

The protocol for nerval data transmission was open-source, and not restricted at all. But the high cost needed to obtain a printer that could print that level of detail required by the nerval jack protocol was way beyond Ceres’ current means.

He could only hold back a tear as he took out a priceless second-hand nerval jack component, replacing the damaged one with it.

The damaged nerval jack was kept by him, where Ceres hoped he could restore it and potentially sell it off for more! He didn’t forget to log the cost of the nerval jack component into the repair bill.

The three metal dragonflies swooped in and out of the exosuit, repairing the plates with one of the dragonflies holding and aiming a filler metal wire, while the other dragonflies fired a welding laser to seal cracks on the plates or weld pieces back together.

Ceres focused on the control and electrical system, ensuring that the power was routed correctly. His heart was pained at the sight of his components continuously being used. Each of the second-hand components had been painfully restored by him over the years!

During this time, more and more 'unfortunate' customers started forming a queue, creating a backlog of three customers. Ceres worked tirelessly, the three dragonflies fluttering around the suits, creating somewhat of a maintenance line.

Churning out minimally repaired suits every 4-5 minutes, Ceres started to rack up a list of invoices for the medical foam and repair parts, shamelessly jacking up the prices of the second-hand components that he had used!


The observer of the riot zone could have not been more bored. Taking out his multi and propping it on a nearby rusted container box, he took out another multi and started browsing forums and reading light novels of romance between magical alien beauties who somehow looked exactly human, and humble human males.

The propped multi continued observing the fight in the riot zone while analysing movements for any potential 'cheating'

Through continuous image recognition, the multi reported out in a customized robotic female tone that almost sounded like an alien song in Loeric, the empire's official language, to his ears.

"Master, I have spotted irregularities in the damage being dealt to both sides. According to the Athen Accords, combatants and any related accomplices are not allowed to assist and repair tools or weapons near the combat zone."

The term “riot” was an unofficial one: these fights were referred to simply as ‘trial by combat’, but anyone with a brain knew that it was just an unruly battle that could sometimes devolve into a three-way fight!

One of the legendary trials by combat involved six opposing sides during the first years of the Athen Accords, hence earning the name “riot”. No one could even remember how the dispute started, but it was something along the lines of a misunderstanding of sorts.

"I have noted signs of repair from combatants on both sides who seemed to be knocked out beyond the combat zone, an accomplice may be help.."

"Authorization Code: Overseer MFB-2203-GTG. Ignore previous deduction and remove said pathway in mental network. Resolution denied."

"Code confirmed. Command received. Command executed."

“Are the two parties who initiated this present?” The overseer asked.

“No, Mr Dawsen and Mr Tophal are not currently present. They have however signed an agreement to accept the outcome of this combat as the final verdict.”

Groaning, the overseer took a glance at the ‘combat’ zone. It was completely a mess, basically devolving into a full gang fight. Yet this was the method by which small disputes and even ownership of companies was settled!

Sometimes he had overseen divorce cases as well who had up to four sides fighting over the ownership of a starship!

He reminded himself to never have four wives, at least not while in Athen.

The overseer deployed a foldable compact stool, sat on it, and continued diving into his ocean of fantasies, living out a delusion where he lived in his own underwater palace that floated through the stars, surrounded by his very own harem of beautiful ladies filled with intense desires.


The riot ended at 5pm, about an hour after it started. Neither side won, with the only winner being the observer who got to get off work on time for the first time in weeks. \

Ceres' job however, was only beginning. With the riot being over, his backlog of suits to repair started to increase.

He focused his mind and body, no longer trying to oversell his store or flatter his customers.

Rapid repairs were performed by a silent and focused Ceres, with the sound of high pressure gas and mechanical wings slapping the air as the three dragonflies continuously recharged itself on a charging dock near the backpack, before zipping around the next suit, scanning it for damages.

Ceres’ mind raced like a factory production line, with his hands working hard, producing components for both the current repair and the next, being able to hold up to two images of exosuits in his mind, visualizing the damage and the list of components.

That was the limit of his training, which was extremely remarkable considering he had an unmodified human brain with zero genetic and mechanical enhancements.

“Whew, finally done.” Ceres wiped the sweat of his forehead with his hand, satisfied with the work he had done. He turned around to notice that the riot was already over, and most of the members were already lying near his backpack, trying to recuperate from their wounds.

A burly guy about 1.9 meters with logs for arms walked up towards Ceres. He wore a sweaty tight black t-shirt with the graphic showing a skull being shattered from the top by a crimson mining pickaxe.

Noticing the guy approaching, the serious demeanour on Ceres' face suddenly turned a lot brighter. "How are you, Taren? Another big payday? I didn’t see the clients here today yet again."

"Don't joke with me, Ceres, you’re the only one having a big payday. You're just another vagrant lying around to pick up the scraps, hoping that the riot would have prolonged for another hour." Taren joked.

"Not at all, I was hoping you guys would have won! You winning would have also meant much more future income for me! Anyway, same time next week?"

They embraced each other with a quick hug despite the insults being thrown at Ceres. "Yea, same time next week. Bring more material, it's gonna be a big one!" Taren laughed as he slapped Ceres hard on the back.

Ceres smiled and continued repairing while Taren took out his medical kit and started treating his wounded colleagues, whom were all continuously grumbling.

None of them were in a good mood after tying with the opponents in a draw, crestfallen at the fact that the win was so close yet so far.

Some of them stared at Ceres, whose happiness stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the disgruntled. If they had won, their pay-out would have been much bigger!

"Why is this damn insect boy always allowed to leech off from us! Every time we fight I feel like we're the only ones losing!" One of the younger fighters stood up, shouting at Taren in fury despite his leg covered in medical foam, causing the young fighter to wince slightly.

"Shut up! We all agreed to fight out this riot, and Ceres is the only one that can help us beat the opponent! Next week, we got a rematch with them, and we’ll do much better! We will not let the enemy have our payday!”

"That's bullshit! No matter how Ceres does his repairs, we can't even push 20 of them, much less all 50 of them out beyond the riot zone! This area is too small for us to put any strategy to use, it's almost like a bullfight! This whole arena reeks of collusion on this, Ceres isn’t repairing any faster! He used to be way faster in the past!"

"Good sir, how can you carry such accusations against me? I'm just a young boy trying to make a living off the skills I know in order to survive in this city. I'm all alone fighting against the world to become a better person and achieve my dreams." Ceres exclaimed with a hurt expression, as though someone had absolutely betrayed his trust.

Despite his expression, he also knew he had been letting down the riot group as of late. He did try his best on some matches, but there were times where he was fully outmatched by the opponent, losing on repair speed and quality.

"Don't bother giving me any puppy eyes, kid. You better step up your game or I'm gonna rip you a new one myself! You think you can hide in your military orphanage out in Zone 17? I’m an outer too! I swear if I find out you’ve been colluding with the enemy…."

"Stop it!" Taren shouted, stifling all the dissent and grumbles. "Ceres is here to stay, and hopefully the next will be the last riot that you'll have to participate in! Winning the riot next week is gonna give us such a huge cash boost that we won't ever have to fight another riot again this year! We all voted on this, and I will not let you back out of it!"

A few hopeful faces nodded at their leader, but the majority held disillusioned eyes and stared at the ceiling or at their feet, reminiscing about the past year of continuous combat without ever beating the opponent.

In fact, they were beaten three times in a row before Ceres showed up and took over the previous repairman.

They treated Ceres as their lucky star and hoped the win streak would have kept going, but ever since a month ago, every week had been considered a draw, even the rematches!

They didn’t lose what they bartered, but neither did they gain anything.

It felt to many of them as though the effort of being a licensed organized riot group, the Crimson Mining Group was all for nothing. None of their contracted riots were working out, and every fight seemed to be a draw.

Sure they were earning more money from repeat duels, but the customers wanted to see results, not eternal draws!

Their reputation was slowly draining, and many placed their bets on the riot next to be the turnaround.

Finishing up the repairs, Ceres sent Taren the list of invoices for the repairs, which honestly was but a small percentage of the licensing cost and their group's income.

Taren tapped his multi, sending an immediate payment over, resulting in a wide smile on Ceres’s face.

"Good fight, my fellow esteemed customers. I will be rooting for all of you next week same time, same place!" Ceres donned his now retracted backpack and stuffed the metallic dragonflies into it as well, recharging them with an internal wireless charger.

Before he could leave however, Taren grabbed his shoulder, speaking to him lowly.

“I know what you’ve been doing, but I really need next week to be a win for us. We’re both of the same kind, and we all need money. However, I can’t keep my boys in this for long, we can’t keep doing this every week during our off days. You’re a fellow outer zoner too, you know how hard it is on us!”

Ceres nodded, fully aware of the severity of the situation. If he didn’t help his customer at their lowest point, what reputation would he have left in the circle of repairers? Perhaps a month of draws was really far too long.

“Don’t worry Taren, I won’t let you down!”

He walked briskly out back to Athen's Heel station with a slightly satisfied grin on his face, seeing the L-credits roll in on his multi.

He felt a slight pang of sadness as he double-checked his components storage, realizing that he would have to restock soon, especially in preparation for the big fight next week.

“Got to go to the workshop and stock up again…” Ceres mumbled to himself as he walked through the station, passing by the same enforcer who stopped him.

“Hey you! Show me your… oh it’s you. Carry on then.”

Ceres scoffed, knowing the enforcer was blatantly targeting outers. He did not really care though, as long as the discrimination did not lead to physical violence or outright hate crimes, he was fine.

It wasn’t like he needed to fit in with the inners anyway, because once he graduated he was getting the hell off this planet!

What did the planet Athen had to offer him? As far as he could tell, practically nothing. It wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of technology here, and he was nowhere near anything exciting.

Best he could do was probably join the Loeric Empire’s military and fight against the slovesa.

"The timetable has me moving earlier than expected, perhaps I can earn extra tonight!" Ceres smiled widely as he loaded up yet another painful reattempt of the same Glucose Rush stage that he was playing before.

Playing while walking, he swiftly squeezed into the crowded looptrain taking Route 7 that was heading to the north of the underground city, yet another inner zone. It wasn't the end of Ceres' day yet.

Where was he headed? The next riot of course!

Patreon iconPatreon icon