Everything Counts

Wrote a Sci-Fi story for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. The prompt was inspired by the Clean Reader debacle, so there’s profanity, some bigotry, mentions of drugs, rock-n-roll, and a murder.

One of those things is a lie. Care to guess which one?


And Landre pounced on him like a raehti on a fresh dewlen’s liver …

No. Just no. Do humans even know about raehtis? It being the species that inhabited only Wendella, his home planet, Gert sincerely doubted that. And anyway, do humans pounce? He scratched his mandible, thinking. Reina take it all, it was giving him a headache.

Finor’s hide changed its color to bright red, a clear sign of arousal …

At the next cubi-slot D’nol took a sip from a hold-bottle, his noisy slurping making the second pair of Gert’s eyelids twitch.

“Would you stop that?”

“What, can’t get it up for the mud dwellers?” chirped D’nol. The universal translator didn’t pick up on the tone, but it wasn’t hard to imagine the sneer in his voice.

Gert grinned, showing double rows of razor sharp teeth, and slowly drummed his claws on the gleaming surface of the terminal.

D’nol hastily scooted backwards, all eight of his bulbous eyes blinking simultaneously, and pretended to find something extremely fascinating in his screensaver. He also put the hold-bottle away.

Satisfied, Gert sighed. Fucking insectoids. Cowards, the whole lot of them.

Her pink tongue slipped between …

Where could it go, really, given that all deltaini’s secretions are poisonous for humans? Argh! He was too close to banging his head against the terminal. The only thing that stopped him was the price he’d be forced to pay for replacement.

Even knowing R’gok for all of four weeks, Gert was sure as fuck the bastard would charge for a high-end tech and then foist some used sandorian junk on him instead. After all, there was a reason Gert named him the embodiment of all shitty bosses across the universe after only two days on the job.

Finor raked his claws over her delicate skin, making her arch in pleasure …

He could practically feel his brain cells slowly dying in agony. Some of them committed suicide. With a growl, he smashed the off button; the holopad winked off. Gert considered getting something to drink. A cup of Clee would be good right about now. His pad pinged with incoming message.

‘Meet me at the docks,’ it said. The number wasn’t in his address book. Interesting. Not a problem, though. A click opened a file, a three-dimensional mug shot hovered over it. Huh, that could be interesting.

“I need a break,” he said to no one in particular. Not that anyone really cared. You do the job before the deadline; when, where or how? Nobody gives a fuck. That was the only positive side to the whole damned business.

If anyone ever asked — and so far no one did — Gert would say that he hates his current job more than khits hate their offsprings. That was really saying something, seeing as the fuckers routinely ate half of their brood. And this was supposed to be his big break.

When Martel, his M-Force buddy, called him, saying he’s got a ‘sweet deal you’d be dumb to pass up,’ he thought the black days were finally over. Instead, when Gert got to Vemerta on his last credits, he was saddled with a blasted xeno-column. Him. Writing interspecies fucking. Sometimes he said it aloud, just for giggles. Yeah, that wasn’t funny the first time around. He hated cross-breeders.

Twenty years in the M-Force, seventeen of which he spent shooting and blowing up anything not mettlanian, another five in the S-Division, and he was the best fucking infiltrator they’ve ever had. Then a small insignificant planet that developed warp-tech less than a decade prior joined in on the action, and suddenly all shit hit the fan.

The Governor hadn’t expected humanity to be the force that could unite five most technologically advanced species. Turned out, he fucking well should have. In about two standard years the newly forged alliance cut off his dick, beat him with it, then forced it bit by bit down his throat, along with the peace treaties, thus ending The Mettlan Empire’s march of imposing superiority for good. The war ended; Gert and the rest of five billion soldiers were kicked to the curb.

Then an army of freaks with humans in the lead took xeno-love up on their banners and marched on the extranet, preaching joys of acceptance. All they really did was popularize that kinky shit across the ‘verse and give it undeserved attention. Fast forward ten years, and it became so spread out that every shitty yellow rag had to offer a plethora of options for any sick bastard’s idea of a cheap thrill, or risk being outta business quicker than a whore out of a cop’s sight.

Hence Gert’s new occupation. With his experience, he could wax poetic on dissection of… any species, really. He didn’t know shit about mechanics of their procreation, nor did he ever wanted to find out. At least, he thought, it wasn’t permanent. When he came for the interview, R’gok the Asshole promised to throw a bone his way — a juicy one, no less — in the form of the weaponry column. Testing and reviewing new toys, and getting paid for it? Count him in, no question. Any day now, K’seo will go into hibernation, and Gert will be rid of that fucking xeno dewlenshit.

Going to the turbolifts, he punched in a code for the docks and waited for his turn. This will never get old, he mused, riding a turbolift with a bunch of fuckers that inevitably attempt to either mug, grope, or just breathe down your neck, or — more often — some combination of these. Let them try, he decided, he could do with some entertainment.

The station itself was a shit-hole so deep, you’d need binoculars just to see the light. He hadn’t expected it to be that bad. Of course, Gert heard rumors that started circulating a couple of years ago that its new motto, “seek and you will find” — courtesy of humans, no less —  was true to an ‘e’. Still, reality managed to surpass all expectations, no matter how disillusioned with life a person deemed himself.

Weapons, drugs, whores of any species, gender and age, a personal slave, or even a bio-plague? Enough credits on your chip, a word into the right ear, and you can get your merchandise at the docks, no questions asked. Obviously, there’s always a chance of unexpectedly turning up on the other side of someone else’s deal, or, if your luck’s flashing you its ugly ass for real, on someone’s dinner plate, but that’s a risk most are willing to take.

The bottom line? Nowadays Vemerta attracts perverts and cutthroats of the worst kind like a rotten meat flies, and they all congregate at the docks, making it the most dangerous place of the station. Good thing Gert was a natural predator.

He stood by the window overseeing the shuttles when the shadows to his left shifted.

“Kasit.” Gert acknowledged the appeared figure with a nod. “What do you need this time?”

“No hello?” Kasit’s forked tongue sensed the air. “Ah, I see your time off Vemerta didn’t dampen your cheery disposition.” She laughed at her own words. “It’s not something I need. On the contrary, it’s something you will want to hear.” A sly smile didn’t make her any cuter.

Silently, Gert turned to face her. The sight that greeted him was a lot worse than he remembered. Kasit never was the prettiest gal at the ball, but snorting Crystal Dust up all four nostrils certainly didn’t do her any favors. Scales dull and cracking, she looked well on the way to mummification. At the rate she was going, she should kiss goodbye to her liver and put a coffin on the wish list for her first century celebration.

“How did you know I was back?”

“Please,” she scoffed, “I deal information, among other things. It’s how I know you’re crashing on Martel’s couch. I must say, I really didn’t expect that. Finally got off your high varrel?”

He gritted his teeth at the reminder. Time since the war changed a lot, people changed along with it. More than his current job — more than a lot of things — Gert hated drugs and everything associated with them. If he had any other choice, he’d be out of Martel’s flat in a heartsbeat. Thing was, until his first pay, he didn’t have enough credits even for a room in the slums.

“The silent treatment, always with the classics.” She nodded, mock serious. “Alright, be that way. There is a fight going down in” — she glanced at her wrist-band, it flashed the time — “an hour. I happen to know who would be profitable to bet on.”

“And what do you want for it?”

“Can’t a girl help her ex-commanding officer out of the goodness of her hearts?” Her coy smile was as fake as her full lips. At his sceptical expression, she relented, “Alright. I know you are broke. If you accept the info, I don’t owe you anything. We will be even.” Suddenly serious, she said, “Do we have a deal?”

In the army he knew her to be reliable if not always trustworthy. Now? He wasn’t so sure. In his experience, junkies often had a nasty habit of selling you out for the next hit. On the other hand, Gert couldn’t think of anyone whose tail he stepped on in the short time he was back at the station, so.

“Deal.”

She clapped, once. “Great! It’s in the warehouse at level five, you know that one. Bookie’s a mud monkey called Rudy, he has a tattoo on left cheek. Go meet with him or ping him with the transfer request, I don’t care. You know the drill, it hasn’t changed in your absence. Eighteen is your lucky number.”

Gert squinted at her with his bionic eye (government-issued, not that knock off stuff you can buy a credit a dozen at any scion stall), thinking. “What are the odds?”

“Sixteen to one. But you are interested in the accuracy, I take it.” Her stats were fine, heartsbeat steady. “Ninety-nine says it will win.” She shrugged. “There’s always a risk of some unexpected interference. You should be fine, but just the same, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

He nodded. “I won’t.”

“Then, I guess I’ll see you around.”

He hummed noncommittally, then watched her slink back into the shadows and disappear from sight. It’s a damn shame she started using, he mused, she was a damn good infiltrator, before. Still, if her information pans out, it will solve his financial troubles.

Not in the mood for a pit fight, Gert opted for the direct transfer, scraping his bank account of emergency credits until it was squeaky clean. Hopefully, soon it won’t look so sad.

Three hours later found him reconsidering his earlier resolution not to bang his head on the terminal. It figures, with the shitty luck he was having lately, that his surefire bet would fall into that one percent category. He tried to calm down, taking deep, long breaths.

“It’s not so bad,” he said to himself. “Salary is next week.” Until then, Gert decided, he will have to squash his pride even further and ask Martel for a loan. The fucker owes him for luring him back to Vemerta, anyway.

Then the holo-vid came in.

“A raid, conducted by the Police on an anonymous tip,” said a pretty sandor reporter, “uncovered a massive drug stash in the apartment of a seemingly law-abiding citizen.” In the background, Martel was led away in handcuffs. “It is unheard of for this respectful neighborhood to host such dangerous criminal elements…”

Gert tuned her out. Shit, this was really bad. All his meager possessions were in that flat, and now he couldn’t retrieve it without making a blip on the cop’s radar. He needed a solution, and  fast. Turning in his chair, he notice that K’seo’s place was empty. Maybe not all was lost. He could sleep at the office for a few days…

Resolutely, he made his way to R’gok’s office and nearly collided with D’nol at the door. The overgrown mantis chirped something uncomplimentary, jumping aside, and Gert absentmindedly growled back.

“If you are here about the deadline, the answer is no,” said the Asshole himself as soon as the door swished closed. “Finish the article till midnight, or I’m docking your pay.”

Ignoring it for now, Gert said, “I’m here about the weaponry column.”

“What about it?” R’gok rotated his long neck, reminding Gert of a snake he saw in a documentary vid not too long ago. “You can go congratulate D’nol on his new appointment.”

“But you promised this position to me,” Gert said flatly.

“Did I? Hmm. And then I changed my mind.” The Asshole reclined back in his chair, folding short arms across enormous belly. “Now shoo, or you’re fired.” His attention went back to his terminal, bored and disinterested in anything Gert had to say.

Fed up with the day he was having, Gert’s patience snapped. “You know what? Fuck this shit! I’m quitting.”

R’gok snorted. “I knew that sick fuck Martel would set me up with a quitter! He even said you can be unpredictable at times. Well, no matter now, he’s going down, big time. I’m not surprised someone ratted him out.” He sneered. “Don’t let the door catch your tail. And don’t expect to see the money, either. I’m not paying you squat, you scaly shit. Good luck with cocksucking at the docks.”

Jumping over the desk, Gert twisted his neck, breaking several vertebrae in one precise motion. “Strange how he didn’t mention I’m a trained killer with a really short fuse.”

Calmly rummaging around, he found a credit chip and pocketed it to cash later. If he hurry, Gert will be able to catch the next shuttle to Delta Vega before anyone discovers the corpse.

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