“Red wire… Blue… No, green wire…”
The rain padded against the heavy glass in hard sheets, lightning cracking against the sky, the dark room lighting up, the figure illuminated for a split second. The guard walking past didn’t notice, too busy talking into his earpiece, the rain trying to soak through their heavy coat.
The gum the figure was chewing was carefully wrapped around the wires, a clock popping up on a nearby computer. They hopped up, making their way to the turned on screen. They dragged a finger across the clock, the 00:00 turning into 10:45. Their own headset turned on, music playing loudly into their ear. They nodded their head, moving the clock out the way. They dove through their work bag, pulling out a USB… and a floppy disk drive. Putting the USB into the back of the drive and the computer, they pulled out a floppy disk, OL RELIABLE written on the front in permanent marker. When the disk was inserted into the drive, the screen went blue, yellow and white numbers and letters scrawling across the screen in rapid succession. The floppy drive started to whiz and whirr, the computer itself barely making a noise.
The clock hit 00:37 when the floppy disk ejected itself. When the figure put their gear back in their bag, the door opened, a flashlight shining in their face. Old scars and newer bruises were scattered on their dark-skinned face, one grey eye squinting at the light, the other hidden by a metal eyepatch that was screwed into their skull.
They quickly stood up, hands up, one holding the bag in a fist, securing a hidden device behind their fingers. The person holding the flashlight pulled out their pistol aiming it at their head.
“Identify yourself!” they called out. The figure smiled.
They pushed a button on the device, the floor below them crumbling apart, their body following through.
The one holding the flashlight dropped their gun and radioed for backup, shining the light down the hole.
They had landed in the garage, landing on their ankle wrong.
“Fucking SHIT,” they hissed. “Can’t never just fucking… LAND the shit and be fucking witty, noooooo. Gotta damn near sprain my whole asshole for one joke,” the grumbled, limping towards their ride, an all black motorbike. They slung their bag over their shoulder, taking off right as the elevator opened for 3-5 guards.
The motorbike was quiet, almost sounding like a fly buzzing near your ear as it zipped in and out of late-night traffic toward the docking station to get the fuck out of here.
The lane for the docking station went back for 5 miles, people leaving this particular planet for the warmer one across the solar system. It was about to be winter and the people who were not from there would outright freeze to death after 3 weeks.
Their headset kept playing music, as they slowly walked their motorbike down the walking path with other folk who took public transportation or their own motorbikes to get here. They played with their handheld computer, thumb scrolling through recent files.
“There you are.”
The file they clicked came up as a music file. Through their headphones, they listened to hidden voices behind heavy beats, leaking old and new military secrets. It went on for about 20 minutes, the climax causing them to jump at the sound of gunfire. They looked around, the other people walking around them looking as if nothing happened. They turned off the file, their regular music starting again.
The walk to their ship lulled on for another 10 minutes before they were able to enter the lift to the 5th floor. As the rounded the corner, they noticed men in riot gear harassing one of the workers around the entrance dock to their ship. Part of them wanted to leave and come back in an hour. The loudest part hopped on the motorbike and took off toward the scuffle, pulling out an extendable billy club.
“HEY!” they called out
“WHAT?!” one of them yelled, turning around.
“OH!” was the reply when the club hit them in the jaw.
The men chased after the bike, keeping up with it. The rider led the chase around the floor, digging into their pocket, pressing a button. Their ship hissed and detached from the docking bay, pulling away from the building. The rider looked behind them, one of the men practically on top of them. As the ship turned toward the building, it opened its front hatch. As the rider got close to the window that separated them from their ship, they hopped onto the seat. The man, however, grabbed the back of the bike, causing the rider to fall forward and onto the floor, sliding into the window.
“MotherFUCKER,” they yelled out in pain and embarrassment. The man bounded toward them. The rider covered their face with their arms. Their ship sent a hail of bullets into the window, the man jerking around, the other pedestrians screaming in horror and fright. When the bullets stopped, the rider quickly got up and jumped into the ship, the hatch slamming shut. The pilot took off into the sky, ignoring the emergency lights chasing after them. The zipped through the traffic of other ships, freights, frigates, commercials liners before breaking through the atmosphere.
There was a heavy sigh, flicks of switches and a grunt before the ship coasted out of the pull of the planet.
“Play today’s file,” the pilot said, getting up from their seat and taking a step to their desk.
A screen appeared, showing the inside of a warehouse. Empty tubes were shown for 30 seconds before 3 showed identical people floating in them.
“Yes and they’re ready to go.”
The two voices droned on and on in the background as the one controlling the video walked a bit closer to the tubes.
“Don’t wander too close,” one the voices said.
The person stopped walking, the three bodies still not close enough to the camera to show faces.
The pilot paused the video, staring at the bodies of the three. Something seemed too familiar about the way they looked.
“Should I send them out after the programs have been uploaded?”
“Yes, but… Let’s take care of a loose end first.”
The one with the camera turned around, a gun, and subsequently a bullet, in their face.
The pilot watched, their skin gathering goosebumps when they saw the harsh face of someone who they thought was long dead, long forgotten.
But maybe that was just for their own death and not their squad leader.
“You’re a week late!” A voice cried out over the radio. The pilot groaned, rolling over and pulling their pillow over their head.
“Where were you!?”
The pilot whined, pulling the covers over their head.
The loud hum of a larger ship engulfed the pilot’s, shaking the cheap metal plates.
“Oh, come the fuck OOOOOON,” the pilot screamed, tossing the pillow and cover off them and floundering off the bed.
“I WORK–” Was the scream they made as the stormed onto the bigger ship. “I WORK FOR THREE WEEKS STRAIGHT AND I CAN’T EVEN SLEEP?”
A woman with goddess locs, purple eyes and dark brown skin hovered into the loading area, staring up at the fuming pilot.
“Mack, we are–”
The pilot, Mack, raised their eyebrows at the woman in the hoverseat.
“Don’t you ‘we’re behind schedule, Mack’ me! I had to tail that weak ass signal for our contact, who DIED, by the way, haha! And then, I had the fucking military on me?! And you want to talk about behind schedule, Zahari?!”
Zahari watched the fire in Mack’s eyes burn, almost matching the color of the braided fro on Mack’s head.
“…Apologies,” Zahari said, staring at Mack. The fire died slightly in their eyes. “But uh… At least we don’t have to pay them anymore?”
Mack started to laugh.
“Yeah, that’ll… That’ll save us the, what… Ten grand a week, that we don’t have…”
“Yet,” Zahari said, zipping back to the main part of the ship, Mack walking slowly behind.
“Is Rihal doing okay?” Mack asked, sticking their hands in their jacket pockets.
“Rihal sent a message just this morning. She said she can’t wait to see you in your dress.”
Zahari spun around in her hoverseat, an innocent but somehow evil smile playing across her face.
“Oh, you don’t know? You’re meeting someone next week at a military ball.”
Mack blinked, something clicking in their brain. The snuff film just flashed back in their mind, their own squad leader whoever the fuck the other person were talking about a dance. Mack thought it was a euphemism. It was still early in the plan, fuckery could still happen.
“A dance… I don’t even know what I’m going to wear,” Mack mumbled, looking out the window, into the many stars of empty space.
“Rihal said that the theme was blood money,” Zahari said, shrugging.
The venue of the dance was three solar systems away. Mack and Zahari arrived fashionably late. The ship sat in the planets orbit, Mack crying out in pain as Zahari tugged on the back of Mack’s dress.
“Not so tight, I need to be able to walk!”
Zahari tossed Mack a silk black cape. Mack clasped it to the straps on their bright maroon dress. Their afro was now pressed to a silky smooth texture that went down to their knees, their ears red from the automated hot combs. Their face glowed in gold makeup, lips dripping with honey and red lipstick, ears adorned with rubies. The process of getting their hair down took 3 days alone and the military ball was 12 hours away. Mack still needed to get checked in as Mx. Lavingad, the recently widowed partner of Mr. Lavingad who owned two “organically grown” planets with room for another.
“You clean up really nice,” Zahari said, hovering around Mack.
“I’m really uncomfortable. I’m glad Rihal at least gave me pants to put on underneath. I want a sweatshirt, man…”
Zahari laughed and handed Mack another earring.
“Adjust it often. Rihal should be inside networking. I’ll be up here. Squeeze it to let me know to send a ride.” Zahari waved as Mack got into the spacecraft that took them to the venue.
The convention center was on the edge of downtown, however, blocks surrounding the convention center were sectioned off.
“Must be expecting trouble or something,” Mack mumbled to no one. The spacecraft pulled into the docking station, two people rushing toward it.
“Hello, welcome to General Yurida’s Ball! Your name is?”
“Mx. Lavingad,” Mack replied, fixing their face to look like a saddened, young debutant to an old, dead, made up man.
“Ah, my apologies,” someone’s obvious assistant said, their bodyguard watching Mack underneath their sunglasses.
Mack reached up to adjust their hair and earring. Zahari watched their computer screen light up with a crystal clear feed.
“Thank you,” she said into her own earpiece, moving between the screen and 5 smaller ones. “Okay, I’m in but I’m getting some strange interference. I’m gonna try to clean it up. Have fun mingling!”
Mack and the assistant continued to chat, their eyes catching a glance at the bodyguard.
“Can you freeze that?” a gruff voice said behind one of the security team working the cameras.
The team member nodded, freezing the video to Mack giving off a toothy smile to the assistant, but their eyes cold and cunning to the security guard who was recording the instance.
“Interesting. I heard the rumors they had been poking their nose in places they didn’t belong. I didn’t think they would actually show up… Yes, very… Very interesting. I guess showing off our new soldiers to our investors tonight instead. Have Mallory call a meeting with the investors and senators for a cocktail. I think it’s time we got this show on the road, yes?”