The office was dark, smelled of an animal cage needing cleaning. Oldman sat in his large EV-chair. His considerable bulk blotting out the large oval window in front of him. He watched as debris from the latest mesosphere battle streaked by the platform, cutting through what was left of Earth’s atmosphere, flaming out and into the oblivion below. Umber clouds obscured most of the surface, but Earth’s visible areas glowed orange and brown from the raging fires.
Chet Hunter stood in the doorway behind him and cleared his throat. The air inside was barely breathable, the oxygen set too low, the stink tangible. The android guard turned toward him, its eyes lit-up yellow as it scanned him for weapons. Yellow beams of beta particles lit him as he smiled and nodded, as if the contraption cared about such pleasantries.
“There goes what was left of Stellar Nine Space Station. The Chinese are cooked, too.”
“Stellar Nine. Shame. I saw her launched. She was a beauty.”
“Well, not anymore, eh? Earth is done, now. Platforms, like this one, is all that’s left for us…survivors.”
“There’s always Alpha Centauri. But you hate worm holes.”
“Yes. Too unpredictable. I don’t want to end up on a farm in Musca.”
“I’d pay to see that. You riding a six legged trog.”
“We’re through here. The Velations are too powerful, their technology too great. They’ve won the battle already. Earth is toast.” Oldman turned and sneered at Hunter. “The 21 day war, they’ll call it.” He eyed Hunter up and down, scanned him with his auto fan-laser. “What have you got for me?”
Hunter held out his hand, revealing a tiny heart shaped silver locket and chain. He let it dangle for a few seconds, then took a few slow steps forward and placed it on the desk.
Oldman the Junker hummed, took out his magnifier and gave it a scan. “Hah. Silver. Small. This is all you have after two weeks of spending my money, using my best EV Gig?”
“This and the pile of battle junk on the dock.”
Oldman pointed to an air screen scanning the weighed cargo. “Yes, more or less three tons, I see.” He poked at the locket with a metal pointer. “Anything inside? It scans hollow.”
“When you found it, I mean. Perhaps there was something…huh?”
“Arrrg. Worth maybe a few ounces of oatmeal.” He tossed it over his shoulder onto a pile junk electronics. “All this fighting, all this lovely debris for you to gather. Why are you wasting my time? I should have sent an android seeker for all the good you’ve done me.”
The android laughed, its yellow eyes flashing in rhythm to the metallic sounding guffaws.
Hunter gritted his teeth, felt his hand tighten on the grip of his obliterator, but held his place. “I searched her cell thoroughly. Besides, you said anything she had. I can’t be held accountable for taste.”
Oldman leaned toward Hunter, his face an intense grimace. “She had what I was looking for ten hours ago, you pirate.” He turned to his android. “Search him.”
“He already did that.”
The android lit him up again.
“Besides, if I had anything to hide you think I’d bring it in here?” He turned to the android. “You better have that setting on low or I’ll melt your joints.”
The beam shut down. The android turned to Oldman. “He’s-b c,clean, bloss.”
“Nice voice-box there, Sluggo. You do poetry readings?”
“Now manually search him.”
The android stepped closer to Hunter, a low grrrr emanating from its voice box.
“Woof woof, Sluggo.”
The android fingers were Teflon slick, but were clumsy as they fumbled around Hunter’s body. It made him smile, knowing this goofy android couldn’t detect a rocket in his pocket, let alone a small ribbon of ancient micro film in his collar.
Sluggo squared up and took a few steps back. “No-ting t-to reput, B-Boss.”
Hunter smirked. “I know a guy can fix that voice module”
Oldman waved his arm dismissively. “It’s a stock program. Listen, I want you to go back out into the thick of things. Bring me that girl. What she holds is very valuable. It could mean everything.”
Hunter turned to go. “The girl. Right.”
“And Hunter.” Hunter stopped and turned to Oldman. “If I find you’ve been cheating me, hiding something…the girl, perhaps…” Oldman glared at Hunter.
“Me? Cheat a master criminal like you? Come on….I’m an open book.”
(To be continued…)
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