Cause Monday means Magnum:
Jez waited down the hall from Thrax’s quarters quietly, standing in the service alcove, in the shadows. She liked the dark. In her hand she held a candy. It had been expensive to have the little pill programmed. Unpalatable favours had been given. But Job was the only one with the requisite skill. She checked the miniature detonator in her other hand. The readouts blinked. Fully operational.
There was a soft swish and her target stepped out of the domicile unit into the hall, carrying a recycling bucket.
“Hey, kid,” Jez snapped.
Sally stopped and looked at her warily.
“You Sally?” asked Jez, languidly slinking over. She knew she looked resplendent in her outfit; the girl was clearly impressed.
“Yeah, who are you?”
“Andromeda. Thrax wanted me to bring you this. Don’t know why. Some story candy. He forgot earlier,” she said indifferently, looking at the wall and ceiling, as if Sally didn’t matter. Jez didn’t want to seem eager, like she was handing over a poison apple or some shit. Play it cool, she thought. She was above anxiety. Didn’t know how it even entered her head; she wasn’t programmed for it. “Here.”
Sally looked at the glistening taupe candy and held out her hand. Jez plopped it into her upright palm. It was cool to the touch; on contact she got a flurry of images in her head of a princess and a handsome pirate in distress. A romance!
She sniffed it, inhaling the scent of strawberries and indescribable, genetically engineered fruits.
“Thanks,” she said.
Jez held her breath. Just swallow the thing, you vile little child, she thought. ”Give it a chance, kid. It’s the next big thing.”
Sally popped the treat in her mouth and skipped off down the hall.
“Ace in the hole,” whispered Jez, out of ear shot. Time to get up top, join the tema, and put the rest of her plan into operation.
Large, polished metal doors reflected the gently rolling cola Ad Clouds far above. With a soft hum, they began to slide away into the surrounding rock while Thrax watched glumly. A platform rose up bearing a regal, stretched white limousine.
Lashed to the top were boxes, bed rolls, supplies.
At the back was a sleek, compact turret mounting quad 20mm plasma bolt Bofors guns. Next best thing to an onboard Aegis-D for Disintegrator system.
Thrax grimaced from behind his stylish, polarized recorder sunglasses. He was dressed in his Sunday best for the mission, a white disco leisure suit so bright it could blind the enemy. He wanted to look sharp when he kicked ass. “We’re going in that?”
“What?” chuckled Sang, the elderly mechanic, stepping up beside him. Sang’s crinkled, craggy face wore an amused expression that rarely left it. “Goes with your suit. You wanna walk?”
“No, but seriously? Why aren’t we taking the tank? I mean, it’s a friggin’ tank.”
“Ah, ye of little faith. Me and your uncle used to take this limo south, selling drex boxes to the ant farms for chem pots,” said Sang. He held up his hands defensively, “That old Abrams-39 is a piece of junk. Ablative plates: ha! Panzerjocks are pansies, anway; I’m a car cowboy, kiddo. Deadly, and way, way, faster. Made a lot of mods. Pay attention, I’m not gonna repeat myself, and there’ll be a test later.”
Thrax, fuming inwardly at Buchanan and Ghatz, latched on to the name. He felt bitchy. Wanted something to punch. “The Lux Chariot?” he said with distaste.
“Ding! Yeah, kid. One point.” Sang walked around the vehicle, his pride and joy, pointing out features. “Twin maser cannons embedded beneath front headlights. Ten mini-HK missiles in an engine mounted rack. Got it? Smoke generators in back. Liquid filled tires. Anti-grav generators. This baby can skim the earth at twenty feet, like a gentle, sensuous caress. Loses bit of stability higher. Don’t want to hear it,” he warned, holding up a finger, before continuing. “Wet bar. Lead shielded CleanFuse-58 Reactor. Programmed nanoputty seats with two dozen configurations. Soft. Hard. Fold up into the size of a pocket book for more space. Kitchenette with a microreplobox, natch. Thousand item menu. Including my own personal favourite, the banana split. I’ve upgraded that with my mom’s recipe, Founders rest her soul. Exterior port for organic matter, chemical top ups. Naturally, nutrient injectors for organic material recycled form the septic tanks.”
“No, kiddo, that’s practical. This mission could be a long one.” Sang pounded the hood. “Top it off with a self-cleaning, self-repairing shell, coated with a polymer composite of polyurethane and polyvinyl chloride with ultrafine powders to absorb and scatter radiation. Makon Inc’s best. This is the ultimate driving machine.”
Sang grinned and folded his arms over his barrel like chest. “So? What do you think now, kid?”
“Think I’d rather walk.”
“Holy shit! That is so cool!” exclaimed a voice behind them.
Kal raced up to the car in awe. “Oh, yeah! Yeah, baby! This is one sweet ride, Sang! Way to travel in style. Look at that hull. Fusion powered, I’m betting. This what we’re taking?”
Thrax shifted about. “‘We’? I thought the council forbid you to go,” he asked, annoyed. He didn’t want anyone near him. Especially not his friend.
Kal shrugged and shoved Thrax his backpack. “Yeah. They obviously don’t understand the unquantifiable advantages my indubitable brilliance will bring to the mission.The hazard of working with lesser beings. Screw’em. Snuck out. Got my vibrating toothbrush. Does that sound dirty? Sorry. Sexual deviant. Bygones.”
“Yeah, yeah. How’d you get out?” Thrax demanded, grinning now. He looked back at The Pit entrance. Two android guards stood there, eyes vigilant, weapons at the ready. The whole place was under surveillance.
There was no other way out. Typical Kal. Always something up his sleeve. “Magic.”
Kal ignored him and ran his hands over the surface of the Lux Chariot, lined his eye up along the curve, and smiled with glee. “This is The Founders personal car, isn’t it? The Lux?”
Sang grinned. “Damn straight. The one and only. Now this man has taste, Thrax.”
“Can I drive?”
Sang grinned wider. “Hell no.”
“Never say never, my friend. Exchange? I’ve got some great iDreams. Ones you’ll never, ever forget. Narratives with sex, drugs, rock and roll.”
Sang waved him off. “Only one man drives my baby: me.”
“How about a software upgrade? X-Ray vision? Or blood flow enhancements to you-know-what? Vibration and conscious control.”
“Riight. Upgrade. From you? Like you did with poor ol’ Uwe?” Sang laughed. “Don’t think so.”
Thrax gave him a quizzical look. Uwe was one of the three gigantoid hums, eight feet tall, physically powerful but of limited mental ability.
“Your friend here added a subroutine with the upgrade that made Uwe run around The Pit in a banana costume singing, ‘I am a banana!’ and doing this weird dance.”
Kal grinned. “What? It was an experiment in information warfare that will help preserve the colony against myriad potential attack vectors. Besides. It was funny! C’mon! ‘I’m a banana!’” He shook his booty and alternated thrusting his fists in the air.
“What did Uwe do?”
“Got him to deactivate it. Ripped Kal’s arm off.” “Bullshit.”
“No, true,” said Kal quietly. He stopped dancing about. Touched his left arm. “Seemed a little extreme. He could just have asked. Hurt like hell. Even re-growing it hurt. You ever have a major limb reknit?”
“When was this?” Thrax didn’t like shit going down that he wasn’t aware of. How had he missed this? It sounded freaking hilarious.
“Couple months ago. You were out hunting that werewolf circus.”
“Yeeeeah.” Thrax smiled at the memory. They’d been good, challenging prey. He’d shot two through the head with a silver bullet from his antique .357 magnum. They’d lined up perfectly. He’d caught it on his sunglass recorder and played it back at least fifty times since. It was one for the ages.
“Who’s on team?” asked Kal.
Thrax looked at the horizon and rubbed his nose. “Dickhead left it up to Jez.” Irritation at being sidelined couldn’t be contained. It was his squad. He should have had some say. He certainly should have been able to choose his own sarge. Ghatz was pulling rank, hard. The prick. Thrax always thought Ghatz was a sniveling little twerp, but he was the darling of the Guardians, of that fat Senator, and well embedded in the Pit’s power structure. What was Thrax? A peon, a bit of cannon fodder, a foot soldier good with a gun. A tool for the powers that be to use and discard, along with his family. It grated.
For the sake of his mom and little sister, he played along. There was no choice. No gain in making an issue of it. For now. But there would be a time, later, when accounts would be settled. Thrax would see Ghatz got what was coming to him. Nobody got away with threatening his family.
Sang pointed. “Here they come.”
The base doors opened and out walked the most beautiful, bodacious, buff and oiled team of combat sexbots ever seen. They strutted forward with all the confidence a thousand thousand programmers could imbue; so breathtaking was their march out of the personnel elevator, it seemed to Thrax they were walking in slow motion.
Jez led, a plasma bolt gatling gun slung over her shoulder, a black leather trench coat over her usual nothings. Behind came Candy, Jasmine, Thumper, Kitty, Blossom, Sable the sexy librarian, and finally Andromeda, who wore resplendent form fitting armour that evoked memories of the ancient and long dead Amazons.
“Aren’t we ready yet? Cripes. Let’s get this mission over with,” said Kitty, slinging her ruck sack on the ground and striking an annoyed, impatient pose. She looked over Jasmine and smirked. “Nice outfit, girl. Got that Asian submissive thang going on. I can see why it’s appealing. To weak men, that is. I prefer real ones.”
Jasmine rolled her big eyes skyward and tossed a mint into her mouth. “Whatever, fat thighs.”
“More cushion for the pushin’,” Kitty winked and smacked her gum extra loud. “Let’s go, people. Where the hell is Ghatz?”
Jasmine nodded at the exit. “Here he comes. With Herc.”
The bronzed and shirtless Hercules V, muscles rippling and long hair blowing in the wind, followed Ghatz out.
Thrax sniggered. Ghtaz’s tux was so cliché. Elvis never wore them, and that dude had class and the love of the ladies. Ghatz also walked like he had a rod up his ass.
Thrax noticed the Hercules V glaring death at him, and winked at him. So Ghatz was bringing a bodyguard along. Nice, thought Thrax. Doesn’t trust us. His own team. Good. Thrax could use that against him.
He did a quick tally. With Sang, Kal, and Thrax, that made a total of thirteen. If they got to Mindy, the technowitch, they’d hit fourteen.
Full ship. Tight fit.
Shouldn’t be a problem. There would be... openings.
Ghatz stopped and glared at Kal. “Programmer Kal? What the hell are you doing here?”
“Last minute reassignment,” replied Kal cheerily. “Science officer. Technology specialist and management consultant. Check your feed.”
Ghatz paused while Kal’s forged details flowed into his neural relay. Thrax held his breath.
“Damnit,” Ghatz swore under his breath. Cleared phlegm from his throat and faced Kal. “Fine. Don’t know how you managed that, but fine. I’ll not put lipstick on a pig. Just stay out of my way, understand? Keep out of combat. Leave that to us.”
“Jawohl, mein Führer!” snapped back Kal, standing at attention, with faux reverence.
“Jez,” Ghatz called. “Assign one of your team to keep an eye on our walking target. Seems we have a civilian joining us.”
Jez nodded. “Jasmine, his ass is yours.” Jasmine slumped dejectedly. “Buzz killer.” “I’ll do it,” piped up Sable.
“I said Jasmine.”
Thrax noticed Andromeda was a little deflated as well. She’d been knocked back in rank and Jez promoted over her without explanation. There was nothing Thrax could do about it. Ghatz was putting his imprint on the squad. Or something more.
Sang popped open the doors with a remote. “Okay. Load up, kids! We leave in five.”
“Shotgun!” shouted Kitty, skittering towards the limo in six inch combat heel boots. Jez stuck out a leg in her path and sent her sprawling.
“Front seat goes to Ghatz and team sarge. In other words, me,” Jez asserted haughtily, stepping over Jasmine’s prone body.
Ghatz started towards the limo, but stopped, caught by the glow of Thrax’s luminous disco suit. Squinted and shielded his eyes, then laughed. “I hope that ridiculous outfit,” he sneered, “is self-cleaning.”
Jez laughed out loud, a little too eagerly, her ingratiating intent showing like a bare butt. Yeah, laugh it up, you two, thought Thrax. He gritted his teeth.
Karma’s coming. Like a freight train with laser guns and atomic weapons and fire breathing dragons. That made no sense at all, but Thrax didn’t care: he was going to kick Ghatz’s privileged pink ass.
Ghatz paused, mid-step, then leaned back toward Thrax. “Oh, yes,” he said softly, edging close, invading Thrax’s personal space, breathing on him. Their eyes locked. “Anything happens to me, your family gets it. M’kay?”
Dick, thought Thrax, not unjustifiably.