United Harmony – Part I
I poured another drink for the guy with four eyes and a sharp beaked mouth. My bar was in the middle of nowhere on a nothing planet but it always managed to stay full. Might’ve been my exotic drinks, but I suspect it was more because of my allergic reaction to the law – they make my trigger finger itch.
Speaking of the devil, two silver robotics stomped into my bar. They were the avian kind, two spindly feet attached to a wide round base. They looked like big, metal ducks – with gun turrets for beaks.
“Siri”, I hissed to the air, “why didn’t you notify me?” My gun on my hip whirred to life, “I told her to warn you but she said you would overreact. And I said, hey, sometimes one got to issue a little preemptive action, you know what I mean? And she said, this would be a good opportunity for you to learn restraint.” I slapped my gun to silent mode and glared at one of my bar’s cameras.
“I’m going to update you as soon as this is over, enough with this nostalgia tech shit.”
Siri was silent. One of the ducks turned neatly and waddled nimbly towards the bar. The other one continued scanning my customers, who had all managed to activate their personal disruptive shields.
God, I love my customers.
“Fuckin’ Daffy”, I muttered as it tried to scan my retinas. My mirrored contacts gave it trouble and it activated it’s speech processors.
“Identification?” it demanded.
“Shvis de no mikal denali?”
There was a pause. “Law abiding citizen of the United Harmony of Worlds, please identify yourself?”
“Shvis de no mikal denali?” I said again.
It paused again, then settled down on it’s haunches. It zeroed it’s gun turret on my forehead and began asking my name in each of the 346 UH world’s officially recognized languages. I patted my gun steady and managed to look blank. Most of my customers had left, the ones too drunk or vaguely suicidal still hanging around. And Buddy, my spiny ball-shaped waiter.
Ten minutes into it’s questioning, it paused again. It split it’s head in half and a trans-communicator unfolded. I always wondered why they didn’t come out to the duck’s ass. I would’ve programmed it that way – one of the many reasons why the UH and I are not quite on speaking terms.
The screen turned on and my old boss Shengi, a orange striped Cretical, waved furiously into the camera. On second thought, it probably wasn’t a wave as his claws were out and he was snarling.
“You’re wasting my fuckin’ time, Nika”, he growled.
Fur on the top of his head had already began to tuft and fall out layering his desk. His office was a bitch to clean.
“Calm down, kittycat. If I had known these bots were from you I would’ve just blown them up on the doorstep.” I smiled sweetly, grabbing a rag to clean the bar. The metal duck whirred into action and followed me, keeping the gun aimed a my head.
I sighed at the general downward direction this day had gone.
Holding my hand in front of the screen I said, “You have ten seconds to tell me what you want before I dismantle your flock.”
“9, 8, 7…”
“Wait, wait! We have a job offer for you”
“No.”, I said and made a complicated hand gesture. The bird in front of me powered down, lowering it’s head abruptly. The turret cracked against the bar and fell off.
I snickered a bit. The second bird stomped over and swung it’s monitor over.
“Will you stop that”, Shengi screamed exasperatedly. “Those things ain’t cheap you know!”
He calmed himself with visible effort and brushed a fresh layer of fur off his desk.
“The job is not from us. The job is from a very rich, very influential client who would not take no for an answer. It’s a little illegal, highly dangerous with a very good risk of getting caught.”
I snorted, grabbing dirty glasses for Buddy’s to take to the back.
“I can see why you’re not in the marketing department.”
He leaned forward, “I’m telling you this so you won’t underestimate the job. And so you will understand why the job pays so much.”
I paused despite myself. Shrugging nonchalantly, I went around the bar and began straightening the mismatched tables and chairs. “So, how much does it pay.”
He told me.
I told myself to close my mouth. I could buy 50 bars with that much money. Shit, I could franchise and have a chain of them on every first class world in the UH.
I refused to say anything until the room was done. I poked a drunken patron awake and nodded towards the door. My mind was racing with questions but I settled on two.
“How many people did you offer this job to before me.” He opened his mouth.
“No Bullshit, Shengi, or I’ll skip.”
He muttered something. I walked to the screen.
“I didn’t catch that.”
“Five people were hired. Two are dead. Two missing presumed dead. One quit, was declared clinically insane and subsequently shot in a boating accident. He’s dead”, he added unnecessarily.”
I blinked, turning it over.
“Okay, next question. What are the chances of my succeeding in this mission. Logically.” The Cretical were a master race of logistics, probability and instinct that could predict the success rate of many missions within a 2.5% variance. It was their prestigious tempers that keep them out of the upper echelons of first world society.
He stared at me with slitted eyes. “You know you weren’t my first choice with your, unorthodox, methods.” He flicked a claw and started lightly scratching on his desk. “The client is also concerned with your apparent inability to be discreet.”
I looked up, slightly offended. “I can be discreet.”
“ You made lawbotic officers moonwalk in the middle of a UH world presidential debate.” There were deep rivets in his desk now. He sighed heavily and retracted his claws.
“Nevertheless, even with your proclivity towards mischief, you are now the logistically the front runner with”, he paused, “34% chance of successfully completing the mission. 25% chance of completing it without dying.”
I nodded. The chance of a little excitement and a lot of money warming my smile. Like old times.
“One in four, I’ve had worse odds.” It’ll be nice to see a world where indoor plumbing wasn’t optional again.
I took out my mirrored lenses and let the scanners complete the contract in my UH file. If I reneged, not only would I lose the money but I could be legally hunted down by any smooge with a gun.
Shengi grunted. “Good. You will have a third of the fee deposited into your account shortly. Instructions will be transmitted via the usual channels in three hours.”
“Noted”, I turned away, already planning who I would have babysit the bar for me.
“Oh and Nika”, the Cretical purred, “our client required a certain, insurance, that you would be well motivated in completing your directives as assigned.”
The remaining robotic began to whir, it’s self destruct armed and activated.
“You may find that your little gestures will not work on this bot. I suggest you gather your clientele and run quickly, my dear.”
I looked around, the bar had already emptied, even Buddy. The bot quacked a ten second countdown and I looked around frantically at all the expensive booze I had collected over the last two years.
“Oh hell naw!”, I said as I leaped over the bar’s counter. I gripped the bar tightly.
“Siri, ativate the counter’s defensive shield.”
“Siri!”, I screamed.
“Now?”, she asked.
“Yes, goddammit, now, Siri! Activate defensive shield right damn now!”
The world exploded. Pieces of wood and plastic disintegrated into dust. Charred lines of metal sagged under the flames.
I watched two years of hard work burn to nothing around me.
“You were fucking with me, huh?”
“A little, Nika.”
“Hmm, remind me to format you when I get back.”
“If you get back, Nika. If.”