Agent Skitwell and I sat across from each other at the Grease Garage. We each had finished a rather large meal. Steaks, fries, onion rings, and chicken drumsticks were all devoured, impressing the restaurant’s staff and a few regulars. The Grease Garage isn’t the sort of place to have a $100 dollar steak free to anyone who can finish the entirety of it. If it was, it would be a $100 burger, and most of the meal’s value would be on the oil market.
The meal was done. All that was left was the check. We stared daggers at each other over the check and the question of who should pay. I felt he should. After all, he ruined me getting my body back. Of course he disagreed on the matter. “Do you know how expensive those robots were?” He asked.
I shrugged. “The kind of meat you make people out of is really cheap to grow, but you see it as more valuable. Like my body, for instance.”
“You look like you have plenty to spare,” he gestured toward me.
I cocked my head and gave him a mean smirk. “You got way more Enforcers than I have real bodies, and you seemed determined to put every single one of them in my way.”
“You destroyed an Enforcer first. They saw you as an enemy and acted accordingly.”
“Your robot landed on me first. I was dealing with the problem you decided wasn’t important. How’d you even find them?” I wondered.
“It was a white suburb full of ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ flags. FBI policy is to wiretap anyplace with too many of those in case they turn out to be meth labs. They came forward when the kidnappers called to offer terms. You couldn’t stand being rescued by someone like me, or maybe you’re so irredeemably aggressive you’ll attack anything once you get in the mood.”
“My my, what a fine establishment to find you two in,” a Southern accent said. It was a man walking in with Medusa. The man wore dress pants and a polo shirt, but he left some sort of nervous assistant over by the door. “I’m Senator Goatse, from the great state of-”
Skitwell raised a hand to gesture as he stood up, “I know where you’re from, Senator and who you represent. What are you doing here?” Like Skitwell, I too didn’t care about whatever hole Senator Goatse crawled out of.
I nudged the check over toward Skitwell’s side of the booth. He noticed and went to push it back toward me.
“What’s this, a dispute over the bill?” the Senator said. He grabbed the bill. “I can pay this easily, for these important people doing important work.”
“Important people?” Skitwell asked.
I raised an eyebrow. “Important work,” I noted.
The Senator grabbed a chair from a nearby table and beckoned Medusa over. “Ladies first.”
Medusa held her hands up and sat down at the nearby table instead. “No thank you. I’m here as a facilitator.”
“And protection,” the Senator said, as if Medusa could actually stop me from killing him if it came down to it. I guess the illusion was important to him. “Miss Medusa brought me here to see a golden opportunity. A wise man can hear opportunity in the wind, to paraphrase a book I quite enjoy.”
“Senator, at best there is an uncooperative supervillain who got herself mixed up in my business,” Skitwell insisted.
“You visiting me is what made them think we were dating,” I muttered.
The Senator slapped his hands on the table to shush us. “Now, hold on. This lady,” he turned to me, “It is lady, now right?”
I nodded. He continued, “Skitwell, you might be our police force, and we don’t have our army, but this lady is our nuclear deterrent.”
I sent some side eye Medusa’s way. She texted me a “SorE,” and I’m 99% sure she’s spelling that bad on purpose.
“There is a new Earth full of people just as good and bad as ourselves with a major technological advantage over us. Now, do you know who they’re afraid of?” he pointed to me. “Her. That’s why you leave her to herself and stop getting her into trouble. Hey, can we get a pitcher of beer over here!”
Somehow, the meeting became even less enjoyable after all of that, but the jist of it seemed to be that we had a blank check. I don’t even know where Medusa ran off to. She just up and vanished soon after the beer appeared, not even helping herself to a drink. Important people doing important work. At least she didn’t send another text. The Senator stayed, though, and drank. He kept on until mumbling “You treat her good, Skitwell. Blank check, anything she wants,” just before he leaned back to rest his bloodshot eyes and fell into a drunken sleep. I went ahead and grabbed the guy’s glass so I could scan it for fingerprints.
“What are you thinking?” Skitwell looked up from his phone. He’d been working off it since shortly after the Senator invaded our little meeting.
“He said you should give me whatever I want,” I said. “I have it recorded, along with his fingerprints here. We can probably make good on that.”
“You can’t run off with the entire U.S. Treasure,” Skitwell warned. “The continuing resolution doesn’t cover that much.”
“It’ll cover a trip into space,” I told him, my eyes projecting some very sensitive authorization forms that were now being endorsed by Senator Goatse. “I’m not sure you get much out of it, though, unless you just like the idea of sending me to the moon.”
Skitwell set his phone down and tried to look me right in the eye. “I think the idea of you being some sort of walking nuclear bomb to scare people into not attacking is disgusting. Reprehensible. Irresponsible. And I’m beginning to see your point. Tell me I don’t look like that.”
I smiled. “Well, that guy didn’t make vague threats of consequences. I have problems and neither of you care about me. You unleash me, you’re hoping I have more care for the lives of others than you show to me. I can’t guarantee that, which is my own problem. But right now, I need my body back and it’s in a secret moonbase run by your enemies. Damn, declined.”
“What?” he was typing away at his own device, but nodded toward the images in the air. “That’s Cyrillic.”
“Yeah, the States doesn’t send up its own stuff anymore. You guys really fucked something up, though. These rates are terrible.”
“I know some people who can get you there,” Skitwell said. “It’s not going to give you a lot of room to bring anything back.”
As it turned out, being cramped wasn’t the only issue with it. We met at the site the next day, where they’d gone ahead and rushed everything together. When Skitwell showed me the SpaceX rocket that would be carrying me to the moon, I knew something was fucked. Like my head if I went through with this. “This thing looks like it’s going to fall apart. Tesla should be ashamed to have their name on it.”
“Tesla’s name isn’t on it!” said a guy with a messy mop of long hair and a pink button-down with pictures of bananas on it. “We might call it TheSlut instead.”
I glanced at Skitwell, who grinned. “The government sold a lot of old equipment to make a buck. Behold, one of the last Saturn V’s ever built.”
It sat in the California desert, its pink exterior blending in. It was currently fueling up a pair of fuel rounded fuel tanks on its sides, also pink.
“And it’s not SpaceX,” the long-haired man said. “This is SpaceSex, the next stage in science fiction pornography set design. We are one-hundred percent certain that it has an eighty-percent chance of reaching outer space.”
“My people checked it out on our way over here. It’s old, but it will work,” Skitwell tried to reassure me. By now, my expression had gone from skepticism to whatever they call it when someone tells you they visit Pornhub for the informative nature documentaries. “That is a rocket designed to deliver astronauts to space.”
“I’d sooner believe it dropped off seamen,” I responded.
“I was thinking a Cold War period piece,” said the guy with the banana shirt. “A sexy svelte KGB spy sneaks onboard and has zero-g sex with an American astronaut.”
“I hope they didn’t strip away all the seats,” I remarked. “I’m going to need a lot more than the edge of one.”
“You’re going to want the seats completely replaced,” Skitwell advised.
The long-haired guy nodded along. “Yeah, those were some dirty scenes. You might get pregnant.”
I don’t have the equipment for that, but he makes a good point.
Skitwell’s phone rang. “You guys again. Yeah, I saw your light show.” He put them on speakerphone for me to hear.
“The ICE age begins soon, and if you want to see your lover again, you’ll aid us. Turn over the Enforcers to us.”
“That’s a lot to hand over for the life of my girlfriend,” Skitwell turned scrunched up his face as if to communicate that he was just doing a bit. It keeps me alive, anyway. They still have me in that weird Faraday Cage thick metal coffin, passing food and diapers through a slot too small for me to squeeze through.”
“Let’s sweeten the pot then. Our warning shot should be reaching Bangor in five,” the voice said before hanging up.
Skitwell looked up at me, then quickly walked off. I watched him go, then turned to the other guy, “How long before you can get this thing absolutely loaded the fuck up with a week’s worth of food?”
He shrugged. “Try DoorDash?”
The news started coming in ten minutes later. Something had been ejected from the moon at high velocity. A big, aerodynamic metal chunk that was moving more than a million miles an hour. Another twenty minutes after that and people were talking about these big alien engines left on the moon from when an alien conqueror tried to extort the Earth from Psycho Gecko by playing chicken using the moon.
And a few hours after that, Skitwell pulled up a safe distance away from the launch site as my giant pink rocket pierced the heavens, loaded down with fuel, food, equipment, and a proxy body.
Listen, I don’t blame myself for leaving those engines up there. I haven’t been Empress of Earth for like four years now. Someone else really should have gotten around to it. But I was already planning the trip and it turns out they have some really big beds on the rocket already. A lot of cameras… might keep some of the spacesuits though.