Welcome back to the rest of the story.
If you're just joining us for the first time, Part one of The FarOut World was posted August 25th and you can read it HERE
This short story is a follow up to another short story titled The FarOut Mall. Humans now live in Off Earth Living Pods but they still need to shop. Originally published on the Scribbler, it is now available in my collection of short stories - A Box of Memories.
The FarOut World Part 2.
“I’m getting the bot-credits for the water and as soon as the truck’s empty, I’m leaving. If I have to walk through those revolving doors to the purser’s office, I’m not going in this hellhole without my weapons. So you have two choices. Either go get the payment and bring it to me, or try taking the weapons from me. Your call.
The patrolmen look at each other. They’re not usually challenged, and when they are, they make quick work of the opponent. They step closer, side by side, a formidable wall. Bay-grunts pause in their work to watch, grinning at the commotion. Eye Patch grits his teeth.
“We’re not errand boys, so we’ll take you up on option two. You’ve got five seconds before…
Geo doesn’t give the leader time to finish his threat. He drives the point of his middle finger into the good eye with enough force to pop it out of the socket. A thin knife, concealed under the sleeve of his armor, extends with the flick of the wrist and penetrates the brain through the now empty eye socket. In the same instant, he draws his right sidearm and, triggering the firing mechanism, slices the arm off patrolman No. 2 just above the elbow. Eye Patch drops to the bay floor, dead before he makes contact. No. 2 is howling in pain and tries to activate the wrist-paralyzer on his left hand when Geo gives him his full attention. With unmatched precision, he slices away the weapon, taking a layer of skin with it, drop kicks the big man with enough force to propel him against the revolving doors, which shatter from the impact, and the man falls to the floor, unconscious. Geo walks casually to the fallen man, places his weapon against his forehead and pulls the trigger.
Except for the hum of the huge pumps, everything is silent. Geo looks around for any other menaces before he holsters his weapon. The bay-grunts don’t meet his eyes as they return to their tasks. It’s not the first time they’ve seen death in these bays, but it’s the first time anyone’s beaten these two. Geo steps over the dead body and through the shattered glass doors on his way to the purser’s office, which is two down on the left. He ignores the Do Not Disturb sign on the prompter and walks in. The purser is a fat man, bald and sweaty, with perspiration forming droplets on his brow. He looks up at the intruder, intending to scold, when he sees Geo looming over his desk. He is startled by the fact that someone has gotten this far with weapons. He knows without a doubt that Morgan and Delvecchio – the patrolmen – are either incapacitated or… dead.
He’s scared. No one makes it past them.
“What… what do you want?”
“H2O from Earth is being downloaded as we speak. You owe me 48,000 bot-credits.”
“I… I don’t have that much here.”
“Why not? You knew I was coming today.”
“I wasn’t expecting you this early. I’ll need a few minutes. Can you wait here?
“No. I’ll go with you. Now let’s hurry. I’ve got other loads to deliver and my safety window is rapidly closing.
Perspiration blooms under the armpits of Fat Man as he gets up from his desk.
“Okay… okay, then follow me.”
Thirty-two minutes after arrival, Geo maneuvers through the debris field and enters the safe zone. Returning to home base, LP2429, he will fill up and make a delivery to LP2599. He hasn’t been there since before Gracia Moeller, the owner of Alexander’s Fine Jewelry’s flagship store was charged with the murder of one of her clients. The charges were dropped when it came to light that she had been informed the weapon she had used was not loaded.
Following a power outage and virkon-eptile feasting, Gracia had installed pulse pistols to protect herself as well as her staff and patrons from the monsters. In an act of frustration with an abusive customer and believing the pistol was not charged, she pointed it at the woman in anger. That customer became dust.
Geo now wants to meet Gracia.
InterCosmic Manor 2599 is an enormous golden octagon orbiting the Earth at twenty-six thousand miles per hour in low earth orbit, six hundred and three miles above the Earth’s surface, moving west to east. It circles the globe every 57 seconds. Approaching it at slightly higher speed, Geo sights it visually, about to enter darkness over the Pacific Ocean. It glistens in the dying light like a radiant citrine. Within a hundred miles, he matches the speed of the giant satellite. Coaxing the ship into place, he prepares to dock on the lower level. Giant arms reach out to clamp onto Potizo’s outer docking frames. Once secure, Geo locks down the ship. Preparing himself for a visit to the Mall area, he dons a clean shirt from the locker along with his black and chrome spacesuit and matching helmet. He knows women stare lustfully at him when he wears it. A dab of his favorite cologne and he’s off.
Leaving his jetpack in storage, he informs the loadmaster he’ll return shortly then transports to the 16-A Octagonal. The doors open facing a food court. The aroma of heavy spices used in roasting moon chicken is wafting into the hallway. His stomach growls, reminding him he needs to eat. Alexander’s Fine Jewelry is at the front and on the right. The food court is busy with shoppers relaxing and dining; people are browsing in the hallways, many with shopping bags full. The murmur of the different voices hums over it all.
He takes in the hovering droids
over his head, whose only purpose is to kill virkon-eptiles. The abandoned InterCosmic PRT (prison/rehab/termination) 2344 houses the majority of beasts still living. Some escape. Bounty hunters probe the LPs for any that may be hiding.
The jewelry store has only two patrons. A young man is serving one of them and a middle-aged lady is serving another. He notices the lady’s fine business suit, the latest fashion from Stile designers. Her short hair is in the latest bob; gems hang from her small ears. She has her back to him when Geo enters the store but looks toward him when she hears the bell over the door. Both stop in their tracks and stare at each other; the attraction is immediate.
She holds up a finger, asking him to wait one moment, and assists her client in making a purchase. Geo can’t take his eyes off her and hopes this is the owner he’s heard so much about. She approaches him with a genuine smile that softens the fine lines around her eyes. Extending a hand she introduces herself.
“Hello space jockey. Welcome to Alexanders. I’m Gracia.
He takes her hand and looks down at her;
she’s a foot shorter than him. He stares at the twinkle of mischief he sees in her eyes.
“Name’s Geo. Happy to meet you, Gracia. Are you the owner?”
“Yes, I am. What brings you into our store today?
“You do, actually.”
Dropping his hand, she blushes at his directness.
“Yes, I wanted to meet the lady who vaporized her guest.
The rouge in her cheeks is replaced by a frown and beetled brow. He didn’t mean to be so blunt and can see she’s offended. He points at the pulse pistol in the fashionable holster on her hip.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t
mean to upset you, but I admire your gusto. Of course, everyone was talking about it, and it was an accident, but there are not many women comfortable using pulse pistols. And only the most trusted applicants get permits.”
She stands back from Geo and leans against one of the counters.
“It was an accident, a deadly one. As you likely know, the pistols are to protect us and our patrons from the deadly eptiles, but I really don’t want to talk about it.
“I understand. Bet no one messes with you. Have you had to use it since?”
This causes the weakest of smiles; she is overwhelmed by the big man’s sexual allure and softens her stance.
“Well, not on any customers, thank goodness. I’ve been practicing with the safety and have it down to a microsecond thumb flip, so it’s safe to shop here now.
He likes the way she laughs. She likes the cologne he wears.
“Did you really come here just for that, Geo? Or do you need to pick up something for your wife… or girlfriend perhaps?
He’s about to comment when the overhead lights flicker. Every main door on every floor slams shut. People hustle for cover, crowding near the stationary defbots that have their own emergency power source. Gracia does as she’s been trained. There’s only one patron, her two staff and Geo. She rushes everyone to the main counter. The lights do an off-and-on dance for ten or fifteen seconds before everything goes dark. Gracia draws her pistol. Everyone listens. Eptiles travel at great speed, their hardened scales clattering on the overhead pipes. Several are on the move. Bursting through grills, they spill into different locations in the Octagonal.
Two slither into the food court. In the dark, you can smell them – a scent that can only be described as rot. The worm-like beings have two short legs in the front, three toes with talons, the posterior moves with leather-like scales. A mouth slit is on the underbody, lined with crunching bones. The defbots are programmed to recognize the eptiles by smell, sound or sight. Detection is immediate. Pulses from a droid’s cannon cut the first one in half, the front clawing to escape before secondary pulses blast it to ashes. The second one receives a direct burst under its antennae that vaporizes the front half of its six-foot length. The unmoving rear section gets zapped also, and nothing of the beast remains.
The other one is perched on an overhead mirror in Alexander’s Fine Jewelry. They hear it enter after something falls to the floor. Gracia urges them to stay quiet and behind her. Geo stands at her side. The monster is young, only four feet long, hunting by instinct. It senses its prey below and is about to leap when the lights come back on. Like its kin, it is tormented by bright lights and scrambles for the opening that it came through. Gracia is fast with her pulse pistol and releases several bursts from her weapon. The first pulse of pure energy obliterates the eptile, the second, third and fourth pulse reflect off the mirror. One takes out a large section of the front door, another obliterates the counter with moon crystals, and the third vaporizes Geo. Gracia stare at the pile of ash at her feet and clamps a hand to her mouth.
Thank you for visiting the Scribbler today. I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
If you would like to read more of my short stories, I'd invite you to pick up a copy of
A Box of Memories.
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