Hey! Happy Monday! As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be trying a new posting schedule for a few weeks. If it works out well, I’ll probably stick with it. Basically, I’ll be posting one complete story, once a week on Mondays. The rest of the week, I plan to do a bit of blogging, mostly just talking about whatever fun thing I’m reading/listening to that day. As always, I appreciate any feedback you may have.
Also, since the stories are going up completed, I’ll also be simultaneously posting the PDF, in case you prefer reading them that way. Please share stories you enjoy! Here’s the PDF for this week’s story.
In a Steel Box
A loud snap cracked through the five-by-five meter, air-dropped outpost as Starbs let out a sharp yell and jerked the high speed connexion cable out of the socket on the back of his neck. Flinging the cable to the ground, he stood up and kicked the chair he’d been sitting on.
Startled by the noise, Airi jerked out of her slumber, thrashing at imagined monster bats fluttering around her face. She looked over at Starbs, who had picked up his chair and was in the middle of smashing it into pieces against the steel floor.
“Stupid! Horse! Fucking! Dog! Testicle! Licking! Piece! Of! Shit! ARG!”
Starbs threw the remains of the chair against the wall and plopped himself down with a dull thud. He pulled his knees up and buried his face in them, his body jerking with silent tears.
Airi watched him for a minute, occasionally opening and then closing her mouth. “So, um, it didn’t work?”
Starbs froze. After a few seconds, he sighed and looked up. “No, Airi, it did not work. At all. Not one bit. We’re good and officially fucked.”
“I thought I could do it. I really did. I mean…hey, I graduated at the top of my class. I have decades of experience. The goddamn President came to my daughter’s wedding and told her I was a ‘great man.’ The President! You know what a hard ass he is! Shit, he barely even acknowledged that special forces team that killed an entire regiment of Garblezorms with nothing but a few grenades and makeshift katanas!”
Airi snorted. “Well, shit, I could kill a regiment of Garblezorms with….” Airi stopped and blinked at him. “Wait, what did you say about your daughter getting married?”
“What? Oh…umm…it was last month…but–”
“Well, yes, I mean, it–”
“Okay, now, calm down–”
“Fuck you, calm down! How many goddamn years have I been watching your pansy, hacker ass?”
“Look, that’s not really–”
“HOW MANY FUCKING YEARS, YOU UNGRATEFUL HOLE-HEADED SACK OF CAT VOMIT?”
“Now, I know it SEEMS like a big deal, but, believe me, it wasn’t a big thing, and I think you’re really overreacting.”
Airi pulled a serrated knife out of the black leather sheath strapped to her thigh and made to get up. “How. Many. Years.”
Starbs swallowed and cleared his throat. “About 15 years.”
Airi wiggled the knife.
“Fine. 15 years, 2 months, and 30 days.”
“Exactly. Now, would you mind telling your partner of 15 years, 2 months and 30 days why you couldn’t invite her to your daughter’s wedding? A daughter, might I add, that your partner accompanied to her prom in order to hospitalize a few lazerball players who’d been giving her shit about her lisp?”
“It was kind of a…a…a quick thing. We threw it together and…I dunno…in the rush, you just, kinda, ummm…got left off the guest list?”
“Bullshit, you simpering little fuck. How the hell did you have enough time to invite the goddamn President but just FORGOT to tell me?”
“Just…I mean, can we not…”
“Come on! How in the name of Neptune’s fishy tits did you forget ME??”
“OKAY! I…well, my…my wife thinks you want to fuck me.”
Airi stared at Starbs for a few moments before bursting into laughter. Starbs fidgeted and stared at the floor.
Recovering from her laughing fit, Airi sat up straight and looked Starbs dead in the eyes. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Didn’t you tell her that I don’t ride flesh cock?”
“Of course I did, and she turned that into something about you being in love with me because of my extensive augments.”
Airi started laughing again. “EXTENSIVE augments? Hahahahaha! Shit, I have more augments in my anal cavity than you do in your whole body.”
Starbs gave her a look, letting his shoulders drop. “Yes, but yours aren’t visible, okay? How the hell would she know what’s up your sandy ass?”
“I still have no idea why you married that woman, but–”
“Hey. No, not cool.”
“What?” Airi squawked.
“You don’t get to sit there and judge my relationship with my wife when the last ‘relationship’ you had was with a Cuban robostitute you smuggled into the country inside a horse carcass.”
“Oh, that wasn’t a relationship. That was just sex. Plain and simple. Robostitutes don’t count, right?”
“So, what, then? Your last relationship was with that car accident guy who’d had his lower body replaced with that, uh, thing…”
“What? You mean the TreadMaster? He was cute!”
“He had a goddamn tank for legs.”
“And a giant gun, if you know what I mean,” Airi said with a wink.
Starbs groaned and shook his head. “I can’t believe we’re having this conversation now.”
“Well, if you had done your job right, we might have had another chance to have it. But, thanks to your incompetence, we’re both about be turned into flaming atoms, scattered across the atmosphere like fallout from a nuclear bomb.”
“Not LIKE fallout from a nuclear bomb.”
“Okay, fine, we will BE fallout from a nuclear bomb, our flaming atoms blasted around the world in a gorgeous white mushroom cloud. Sounds kind of pretty, you know? So, if we’re gonna have this conversation, we’re gonna have to have it now.”
Starbs made a face. “Why are you so okay with this? I mean, I thought your mantra was ‘Get out alive so you can come back later and kill everyone in their sleep with an electrified garrote.’”
“Well, of course it is, but when my idiot partner calls in a nuclear strike directly on my position and then fries the comm channel you need to request the extraction, there’s not much I can do about it, right?”
Starbs sighed and planted his face back in his knees.
“Yeah, that’s really gonna help,” Airi said, “Look, why don’t you try reconnecting the comm channel thing with the power thing or whatever it is you do when the…uh…shit doesn’t work.”
Starbs looked up at her. “Oh my god! Why didn’t I think of that! Let’s just turn it off and turn it back on! That always works in the movies!” He scrambled to his feet and started jabbing at buttons on his rig. “Is it working, Airi? Is it? Can we get a fucking signal?” he shouted.
Airi rolled her eyes and looked at a piece of dirt on the ground.
“Oh, hey, I know! Let’s turn the modem off and turn it back on! Oh, wait, nevermind, this is the 22nd century. We don’t use modems anymore. Durrrr.”
Airi slapped a gloved and on the ground. “Okay, I don’t know what I’m talking about! I’m sorry. Jesus goat-fucking Christ.”
“And why the hell not, partner of 15 years, 2 months, and 30 days? I mean, seriously, how can you spend THAT much time following me around and not even figure out how a comm channel works?”
“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Just open your eyes and pay attention to what’s going on around you! Are you stupid? I mean, even my 10 year old understands what I do better than you do! How dense are–”
“Gaaaaah!” Airi shouted as she pushed herself off the floor and jumped at Starbs.
“Oh fu–” Starbs was cut off as Airi slammed him against the wall, pulled her knife out and held it against his jugular vein.
“It’s my job to keep you from getting killed by genetically-modified monsters with acidic farts and detachable penis spears. It’s your job to hack their electronics defense field and call in nuclear strikes. Don’t expect me to have time to read Paramilitary Hacking for Dummies when you can’t even hit a parked car with an targeted rocket launcher from a hundred meters away.”
“That’s not what–”
Airi punched the steel wall, leaving a fist sized dent in it. “I am fucking sick of your taking me for granted. Do you have any clue how many times I have saved your head from being turned into nerd puree? I’m sorry I don’t understand your geek talk, but what the fuck does it matter anyway? It’s not enough that I keep your scrawny ass alive year after year? I have to sit around and give a shit about gigahertz and alien binary codes, too?”
After a moment of silence, Airi staring at Starbs face and Starbs staring at nothing, Airi let her partner drop to the ground and slid her knife back into place.
Starbs sighed and flapped his hands around for a few moments.
“That’s…that’s not what I’m saying. I just…”
“You just what? You wish your partner wasn’t such a moron?”
A pained look crossed Starbs face. “That’s not what I’m saying at all,” he whined.
“Then what? Man the up! Spit it out!”
“There! That! That’s what I’m talking about!”
Airi blinked and looked around as if she’d misplaced her glasses. “What?”
“I…okay, how many men do you know in the Hack Corps?”
Airi shrugged. “I dunno. I don’t spend a lot of time with you nerds. You’re always talking about jammers and frequencies and other shit that makes me wanna go do push-ups.”
“Okay, well, that’s…weird, but I’ll tell you. There aren’t any besides me. I’m the only one. Just me.”
“Pffft! Come on, that’s…” Airi paused and thought for a moment. “Oh. Hunh. Well, how many women do you know the Modified Defensive Unit?” She demanded.
“Just you. There aren’t any others. THAT’S my point!”
“So, how do you think it feels to have your comrades-in-arms constantly asking to see your vagina or calling you a pretty, pretty princess?”
“Oh, whatever,” Airi said as she struggled to stifle a smile. “You got to spend your basic training with a bunch of horny teenage girls who weren’t allowed out of their barracks for nine weeks. I bet your dick was rawer than a rare steak.”
Starbs didn’t smile. “It wasn’t, but that’s besides the point.”
Airi furrowed her eyebrows.
“Really? Jesus, you’re a bigger weenie than I thought.”
“No, that’s…look, I’m just saying, I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for either of us. I’m sure you have a hard time fitting in, just like I do, and I would be happy if you just…I dunno, TRIED to understand what I do. Have some appreciation.”
Airi shrugged. “Dude. I’m not your fucking wife. You want appreciation, go give her head. It’s not like I expect you to be all up on my labia just because I liquified a Garblezorm’s nutsack from 500 meters.”
Starbs gave her a puzzled look, sighed, and then nodded.
A loud rumbling permeated the steel walls, vibrating through their bodies. It was distant and close at the same time.
“What the fuck was that?” Airi demanded. “I thought you killed their rockets.”
“I did,” Starbs replied with a sigh. “That was probably the nuclear launcher moving into place.”
Airi cleared her throat. “Should we try establishing a connection again? Just, you know, for the fun of it?”
“I thought you were ready to die.”
“Don’t be stupid. No one is ever READY to die.”
Starbs arched an eyebrow at his partner. “I’m pretty sure that lots of people are–”
“Okay, whatever, I’m an asshole. Can we just try it again?”
“Yeah, I guess, but… Oh! Wait! We should have direct line of site with the launcher!”
Airi shrugged. “So?”
“So, we can communicate with it directly!”
“Isn’t it automated? What good does that do?”
“I can use it to bounce a signal to the extraction team!” Starbs beamed as he jumped off the floor and ran to his rig.
Not bothering to to plug in his connexion cable, he began typing. Airi hovered behind him, her eyes locked on the blinking cursor on the screen.
“It’s actually pretty simple, but I’m just not sure if we have enough time.”
Starbs wasted a moment glancing at her. “What the hell is so funny about that?”
“Just…do you have any idea how many of those slimy, green fucks I’ve killed just to let you drop a nuclear bomb on us? Damn, it’s days like this that I wonder why I didn’t become a dentist like my mom told me to.”
Starbs resisted the urge to respond and kept pounding at his keyboard. Sweat beaded on his forehead and dribbled off in fat, juicy drops.
Airi waited for a moment before walking around the perimeter of the room. She stopped by the one-way portal and glanced outside to check for Garblezorms. There was nothing out there. Not even a patrolbot. She switched to her telescopic vision, zooming in a hundred-fold to look at the Garblezorm headquarters—a massive, poorly-constructed, slab of black concrete that seemed to infest the horizon.
“Like a goddamned pimple,” she muttered, miming the popping of a zit.
“A-HA!” Starbs shouted and flung his fist in the air. “We have transmission!”
Airi paused mid-squeeze and swallowed the relief that suddenly sprung up her throat. She opened her mouth, closed it, took a deep breath, and then asked, “Okay, but do we have a response? I mean, we only have, what, five minutes until the nuclear launcher releases, right?”
Starbs glanced up at nothing, checking the countdown timer projected in his vision. “Uhh…4 minutes and 39 seconds.”
Airi scratched her head and made a low gurgling sound. “Well…”
Starbs held up a hand. “Yes? Base? This is Outpost 1. We are in desperate need of a lift. NOW. Yes? YES? You got our coordinates? Then fucking come!”
Starbs grinned like a kid on his birthday and ran to hug Airi. She pushed him off sneering at his display of affection and happiness.
“Seriously, dude, you’re gonna get your nasty hacker sweat all over me,” she growled, holding back something distinctly resembling tears of joy.
Thanks for reading and we’ll see you on Wednesday!