Monday, March 20, 2017

Chapter 3

Several weeks after Kilgor shed the gel of the Womb an email arrived in his Temporal Lobe Inbox, the virtual mailbox in his HeadKase system. He mentally clicked it open, gave it a read, and clicked on the link and found himself in cyberspace.
He stood in front of a white door set in a pitch black canvass.
“Please, come on in, Kilgor,” a voice invited.
Kilgor pursed his lips and furrowed his thick brows.  
“Oh, sorry, you have to twist the doorknob. I’m still a bit old fashioned, decorating my block of cyberspace with vintage pre-Shift oddities.”
Kilgor twisted the funny-looking device. 
Inside, four light grey walls trapped a window with a view of four yard gnomes standing on a green lawn, a few pictures on the wall he did not recognize, and a tall plant with only two green leaves, quite wide, and a large mouth shaped like a clam. An oak desk occupied the middle of the room and a young man sat in a chair behind it. 
“I’m Vincent Gorrack, Kilgor. I work for Gorph Incorporated.” The man stood up, held out his hand.
Kilgor shook it.
“Now,” Gorrack sat back down, smoothed his white shirt worn under a business suit, and swiped the screen of a Recog tablet with one digit, “since you are aging well with our Rapid Aging program, making you equal to a thirteen year old human already in less than three weeks, you’re ready to further your studies. The program will only add age to you until you are twenty-one, then your body should continue to grow at a normal rate.” 
He grinned and reached into his right pocket.
“Can I interest you in a Life Savor?”
Kilgor cocked his head.
“It’s a vintage candy I persuaded Mr. Gorph to reproduce. It’s quite refreshing.” He beamed. “Here.”
Kilgor tore open the clear plastic and slipped it between his lips. 
Gorrack didn’t lie about the refreshing part.
“I also have Jolt coffee brewing over there,” Gorrack hooked a thumb in the corner of the room, “if you’d like a cup.” 
Kilgor took Gorrack up on the offer and poured a cup. Jolt had already became an instant love for him.   
“Please, sit down,” Gorrack gestured with an open palm. On the corner of his desk was an animated snow globe. Laughter played at the lips of a small girl in a dress while a small robot rattled after her. They ran in circles. “Today were gonna download some files into that noggin of yours. Don’t worry, just sit there, and you won’t feel a thing, kiddo. I’m plugging you into the virtual connecting the signal to your HeadKase; so, buckle up.”
Kilgor looked at his lap and the sides of the chair.
Gorrack chuckled. “It’s just an expression, Kilgor, meaning to get ready.”
“Oh,” Kilgor replied.
Gorrack’s finger hovered over the Recog.
“Ready?”
Kilgor nodded.
“And here we go…” Gorrack’s beaming face and body burst into atoms and melted away, snatching away the room, until transforming onto a deserted plain. A small breeze ruffled Kilgor’s hair and a sun hid itself behind the clouds.  
He felt a tap on the top of his head and had the sudden urge to do wu-jea (woo-gee-ah), a martial art form taught to a ninja clan called the Darkens. His nostrils flared. He started off on one foot forward, one foot back, and chopped the air with one claw, chopped the air with his other, then flipped upside down, landed on the ground in a squat, swept one leg around, spinning as of on an axis, leapt into the air, kicked, and landed on the ground, hands steepled, head up. 
With a sudden move he clawed the air, spun around, kicked sideways, kicked a roundhouse, leaped in the air once more, flipped end over end, and landed in the same position as before. 
He blinked and was surrounded by a ninja clan.
They attacked, one after the other.
Kilgor fended each one off, sending them tumbling.
Sometimes only using one strike of his hand.
Sometimes only using a sidekick.
Another tap on his head developed his skill as a gunslinger. The scenery morphed into a dirt street with shops flanked on both sides, including a corral, a blacksmith, and a saloon.
A figure in a black leather vest, a long sleeve white button up shirt, a black scarf tied around the neck, a black hat and wearing boots with spurs faced Kilgor standing twenty paces away. 
Long, calloused fingers hovered over the grip of a large pistol. 
Kilgor caught the twitch of the man’s eye and knew he was going for the gun. Kilgor drew his own and fired. The figure’s body crashed the dirt, causing a cloud of dirt to puff around the gunfighter. 
Kilgor spun his gun around one long finger and slipped it back in his holster.
A third tap on top of the skull delivered Kilgor into a small room where he kneeled and peeked a green eye through the scope on a rifle atop a tripod.
The target walked out of a hotel across the street.
And Kilgor’s shot split his skull in two.
Brain matter splattered the woman on his arm and one of the two body guards.
Before the guard saw Kilgor, he ducked out of view and ran out of the door to the room.
He descended the stairs by the twos. By the time he reached the third floor the victim’s body guard met him in the hallway, his semi-automatic out, already spraying bullets, chewing into the plaster walls as Kilgor slipped into a room.
The only escape was a window.
Kilgor burst through the glass and landed on a fire escape and climbed down the steel ladder.
The body guard’s thick neck stuck out of the shattered window, then climbed out.
Kilgor launched himself into an alley and rocketed off.
Bullets scrambled after him.
He took a corner too fast and slipped on wet pavement and crashed into a couple holding hands.
He helped the couple stand but their bodies jerked and flailed, their expressions sagging as they fell forward on Kilgor. 
The woman’s skull blew apart, somehow preventing Kilgor’s eye from eating a bullet. 
While the guard’s semi-automatic barked again Kilgor had no other way of defending himself but to use the woman’s corpse for a shield.
Her flesh ripped apart in stages. Skin, blood, bone fragments, a severed hand.
This gave Kilgor enough time to defend.
He launched the body at the guard and dropped on his side, pulled a handgun from his ankle holster, fired once.
And once only.
The bullet found its mark, stabbing the heart of his pursuer.
And
Kilgor blinked.
He was back in the room sitting across from Gorrack.
The gnomes had changed their positions on the lawn. 
“Well done, Kilgor. Those were simple simulations. They are beginner stages and will become harder the more you do them. I’ve downloaded the program and filed it on your HK desktop—I mean facetop, sorry—called Gorrack’s Training. You are required to practice each and every day. Each one is in segments. Each simulation will vary from the last and will require practice and skill no matter how many times you beat the computer. Because it’ll throw you curve balls. It’ll throw you grenades. It’ll throw you heat seeking nuclear missiles. Each time it’ll challenge you. 
“Practice makes perfect, Kilgor. When we think you are ready, you will begin your new job. You will continue to improve, kiddo, I assure you that.”  

#

The first little girl in her blue dress launched herself in the air and dug her claws in Kilgor’s face and tried ripping it off. 
She opened her mouth to take a bite out of Kilgor’s face and he peeled the girl off by grabbing her blonde hair and launching the kid into the nearest wall. 
The kid rose on all fours, hissed. 
Five circled him, lips pulled away, showing their ivory choppers, and shaping their hands into claws. They took turns in another chant:
“Eenie…”
“….Meenie.”
“Miney….”
“….Mo.”
“Catch…”
“….A”
“Goblin….”
“…..Badger.”
“By….”
“…..The.”
“Toe….”
“…..If he.”
“Hollars…”
“….Don’t.”
“Let….”
“….Him.”
“Go…”
“….Make.”
“Him….”
“….Pay.”
“Because…”
“….We”
“Wish….”
“….To.”
“See…”
“…..Him”
“BLEED!!”
Another girl launched herself at the goblin badger. He fought her off by grabbing her  face and throwing her small body against the wall. The next one blindsided him and dug her claws into his side and chomped down with her ivories.
Kilgor winced at the pain, grabbed the girl around the throat using one claw, and squeezed. She gasped and hissed and thrashed and tried to peel Kilgor’s long fingers off until her expression deadened.  
Kilgor dropped her body and it slumped to the floor. 
The next child clone climbed on his back and wrapped her arm around his throat.
Kilgor gagged.
She ground her feet in his back for leverage while pulling his head backward, giggling.  
Kilgor lost his balance and crashed the floor face down.
The girl used her feet again, assisting her hands in the attempt to try and snap his spine. 
Kilgor folded his body, flipped over on his back, making the girl’s body shift and used the back of his dark-skinned head to smash the girl’s nose. Twice.
Dazed, but not giving up, she looped three fingers in his mouth and tried stretching his lips. She hissed, spraying bone and black blood.
Kilgor planted one clawed palm on the floor, used his other to reach back and grab the girl and throw her to the side.
Words bubbled in her mouth full of blood: “No fair! You’re cheating! Not supposed to fight back!”
She cackled.
And attacked again.
This time climbing Kilgor’s six-foot-five stocky frame like a spider and yanked a hand full of hair out of his head. She used her other hand to scrape fingernails across his face.
Three times.
Then a fourth.
Kilgor pulled the girl off, backslapped the demonic child over Maximus’ desk. The girl slipped head-first over and slammed the floor.
Something crackled within her skin.
A clamp grasped Kilgor’s ankle.
He looked down to see the girl who he thought he thought was dead gazing up at him with one eyeball half rolled inside the head, half out, and half a grin stretched, showing her serrated teeth. She failed trying to shift her broken neck, a fail at stretching the flesh, to focus her good eye better.
“You…don’t…play…fair!”
Kilgor punched the face and kicked the body off.
Two clones attacked at once, railroading him as if they were skin-covered trains, taking out his legs. Once flat on his back, they straddled him, one pressed down on his throat, the other across his waist.  A small fists began punching him in the face while the other clasped fingers around his throat.
Kilgor thrashed. He flailed his limbs and defended himself, slapping the one away, until a sting sliced at his gut.
The one straddled on his waist had grown long claws.
The child giggled.
The girl made another swipe with her sharp claws, cleaving away a sliver of Kilgor’s dark suit, finding the unprotected dark skin beneath.  
Kilgor arched his spine, pulled his legs toward his face, brought the child’s face close. The small mouth snapped repetitively like a rabid dog. Saliva sprayed Kilgor’s chest. He crossed his ankles in a scissor-like fashion, trapping the small cranium, and leaned forward. Squat over the face, he stomped on it.
Over.
And over.
Until feeling his boot smash through the skull.
The body still alive, flailed, reaching a claw to make a Kilgor purchase, only able to scrape the floor with its fingernails.
 Kilgor took a leap in the air, smashed the chest.
The body did not move.
Kilgor backed up, looked at the room. Blood and small broken bodies.
He rubbed a claw over his face, felt wetness. He bled from the girl clawing his face. His gut didn’t look bad, only a long scrape.
“Nimbus. Have you tracked Maximus yet?”
Yes, sir. Maximus Slader has slipped into the Zaphnurr Phase. Luckily I have been able to keep track on him. but not for long. The further he travels, the less of a signal I receive. 
“Well done, buddy. We’ll catch up to him. He’s not getting away this time. Juice the turbines, I’m coming out.”
Yes, sir.
Kilgor turned to face the door and heard a scrape behind him.
Each of the bodies who he presumed dead, began to rise. 

And, the sound he heard previously, sleet hammering metal behind the walls, crashed into the hallway. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Chapter 2

It seemed only yesterday Traft saw the light at the end of the tunnel. 
Unfortunately for him, the light blinded him when he was pulled from the gel-filled Womb by hands sleeved in blue latex. He could still recollect expanding his lungs to breathe until he was turned over and lightly smacked on his back, spewing chunks of the vat’s gel that had filled his lungs. A few more smacks drained the gel but left his lungs raw and burning as they swallowed oxygen for the first time.  
The surgical masked brunette female who wore the blue latex held him up. The indention of her smile beneath the blue surgical mask and her wide blue eyes didn’t cure his burning lungs, nor did soothing words spoken in her alien language.  
Traft almost believed it would, too. Almost, since his small brain was so vulnerable.   
He should have known better that her happy expression could hide an important human feature: unpredictability. Because being placed under another blinding light his nose and mouth was covered with a clear synthetic mask, forcing oxygen into his lungs. As his lungs expanded and he swallowed air, panic switched to calm.
Only for a whopping three clicks.
If that much. 
A shadow blocked out the light. A single eye blazed red. It buzzed. And hummed. And unfolded its four appendages shaping itself in a large claw. 
Traft’s shrieks were muffled under the synthetic.
Long needles grew at each end of the appendage and a click later drilled into Traft’s arms and legs. And if four shots weren’t enough to sting the flesh, something very small and very cold crawled onto his cheek.
It twitched to life and scratched its way across his skin and located his ear and slipped inside.
Traft’s muffled shrieks switched to screams.  
The bright light winked out, leaving dark spots in Traft’s vision. The brunette reappeared, now unmasked, and placed a warm blanket over him and spoke more soothing words—more lies, Traft was sure of it—in her alien language with a wide grin under her nose. She touched his forehead, spoke a few more words, as four glass walls grew around him.  
She placed two foreign objects beside him. One with two bubbles atop an oblong green head and a tongue stuck out between its lips chimed “Ribbit” from an unseen speaker while another harbored long whiskers, a twitching nose, and a stretch of long ears grown from its blue skull. It held a carrot in one of its hands.
Both did not move.
They only gazed at Traft with wide eyes and smiles.
Like the brunette. 
As fear still played a tune, Traft’s screams turned into cries and soon sleep arrived, pulling him into the dark. 

#

And somewhere, deep in the darkness of Slader Corp, Traft could swear he heard voices.
Musty air filled his lungs, a swallow of vintage history, as he stepped inside. 
He moved the Wintergreen Life Savor around in his mouth.
Then flicked a switch on his weapon. 
Light blasted back darkness. And if one holomercial wasn’t enough already: 
No, I don’t wish to order the warranty, Traft mentally snapped the holomercial off, thank you very much. How had he forgotten to disable the company’s welcome message when he ordered it? 
He blamed it on a non-caffeinated state. 
He blinked, cutting off the holomercial for the second time. “Gods who ride in the spheres, does it not e—?” 
<—on your next order. Don’t wait. Don’t hesitate. Don’t allow this special to fly away!>
“Apparently not.” He blinked a second time and waited.
Silence.
Traft lifted his boot to move forward. “Okay. Finally—”
Traft grumbled. “Nimbus, please help?”
Yes, sir.
Silence once again.
A permanent one.
“Thanks, buddy.”
He used his fingernail to loop another Life Savor. Dropped it. Cursed. And angled his light to quickly snatched it up before the five-second rule ended. He crunched the one already in his mouth, then swallowed. He popped in the other, keeping the wintergreen sensation continuous without flaw on his taste buds.
Another voice slipped down the hall.
He slipped his weapon off his shoulder.
The hallway showed no sign of a door and no sign of a keypad for an entry. The path stretched until he strolled past an elevator and slipped through a door leading to a stairwell. His boots echoed during decent to the next floor.
 Multiple keypad outlets littered the walls, but none glowed neon. 
Traft frowned.
Gods only knew how long the building had been vacant of its predecessor. Clawdious never gave him that info, no history lesson of the day, just emailed him his orders and sent him to recover the bodies. 
As always.
He glanced at his bracelet. The fire emoji silently flickered. 
The target wasn’t far.
Traft’s light shoved away more darkness as he slipped into another stairwell, descended, and in twenty boot steps he stopped, cocked his head and twitched his left ear. 
Behind him, movement and a giggle.
He reversed his light.
Nothing. 
He stood there a few clicks longer before starting off again.
The hallway took a hard right and a ramp covered in anti-slip material descended him toward another stairwell. Midway down another hallway a sound tapped his hearing. 
And the floor vibrated.
Traft swung around, his weapon at the ready. Light splashed the view as the vibration increased its intensity and a metallic whirr spoke behind the walls. As if it rained sleet made of metal behind the walls, a storm crashed and its reverberation swarmed the hallway as it passed by, slipping around a corner, slipping away until diminishing. 
“You get that, Nimbus?”
Yes, sir.
“Any ideas what the hells that was?”
I’m scanning, sir… but something is jamming the frequency, not allowing me to read it.
He placed a claw on the wall, felt a slight vibration tingle the tips of his fingers. 
Traft crunched his Life Savor, popped in another.
The emoji continued to flicker.
It was very close.
The path took another hard turn and Traft stood about twenty boot steps from a spot of a glow of an orange spot on a wall.
 A shadow winked out the genesis of the color for half a click, a shift in the room’s air space and another wink as something dark and furry plopped out of the hole onto the floor. Another few furry objects followed, all following the leader, and eight beady eyes gazed up at Traft.
Wet noses sniffed the air and small heads tilted backward as they twitched their long whiskers and wiggled their long tails.
“Kilgor, good to see you again,” the voice echoed in the hall.
“Nice pets,” Traft said. “Too bad I didn’t bring any glue traps.”  
The voice chuckled. “Very amusing. You always love making jokes.” 
“Gotta pass the time somehow.” He crunched down on his Life Savor.
“Well, since you’re here, don’t just stand there. C’mon inside.”
The rats moved out of the way to allow Traft a pass. A wheel in the wall spun with a whine and the orange widened just enough for Traft to squeeze through. He felt like he stepped into another world. Or, better put, the only room in the entire building remodeled. The walls were splashed with color and a few abstract-looking paintings hung. The place reflected a strong similarity to the Oval Office with tall windows sitting behind an oak desk, an overview of the colony. Two flags sat on both sides of the desk, at opposite corners of the room. One harbored the design of a black arachnid over white, while the other harbored crossed scythes, both black, set over blood red. Sitting behind the desk peeking out of a hooded cloak was Maximus Slader. 
“Sorry, the door is defunct. My computer is having issues today. It may have a virus.”
Traft sniggered. “Must be in the water.”
“Much like those corpses in the river, huh?” he chuckled.
“Uh, evidently.”
“So,” the chair squeaked as Maximus reclined and placed his feet on the desk, “you here to retrieve another one of my kiddos?” 
“You bet.”
“I would have figured Clawdious has enough of my blood to run the Troughs by now.”
“I wouldn’t know. I don’t question Clawdious.”
“You should. Then you could persuade the old guy to stop sending you my way.”
“I don’t question the job. Why wouldn’t I stop coming here? I enjoy every visit, Maximus.”
“I’m sure you do, since you seem to leave with the winnings.”
“Guess I’m lucky.”
“You may not have luck by your side today, old friend.”
“I’m betting I do, old friend.”
“Kilgor, you’re just like a clone. You do as you are told.”
“Much like you do to Barrabas and Kimberly?”
Maximus’ left eye twitched. The corner of his mouth rose. “Yes. They are loyal. They’re soldiers. They follow orders. The scar on your left ear should be a reminder of that.”
“I guess you could say that.” Traft’s twitched his ear, sniffed, and shrugged his shoulders. “But I am also a loyal soldier.”
“Yeah, guess you’re right.” He sighed. “Well,” he slipped his feet off his desk. “It seems you continue to arrive her unannounced. Not a fan of the pop-in, Kilgor.”
“Sorry, just my style, Maximus.”
Maximus stood. “So it is. I grow so very tired of it, Kilgor. Usually you are efficient when it comes to collecting your bounties, flying under the radar and snatching my children when I am not looking. Not today. I made sure your scanner led you to this room. Today things will be changing. You’re not getting another one of my children. Ever again. You won’t walk out of here alive.”
“I’ll be the judge of that, thank you very much.”
Maximus forced a smile through a scowl. “Indeed, you will.”
Behind Traft, there were footsteps. 
“Who’s that?” the small voice asked.
Traft turned to face not only a little girl sheathed in a light blue dress, which was the only thing nice about her, save for her pitch black eyes and dark grey skin, but five more just like her. Cloned just like her.
“That, my little dears, is a good friend of mine,” Maximus introduced. 
“You running an experiment I don’t know about?” Kilgor asked.
“Perhaps.”
All small faces gazed at Kilgor. “Does he like to play games?” one asked.
Maximus’ eyes flicked at Traft. “Always. He loves them. Make him feel at home, children.”
She grinned, pulling her lips away from a palate of ivory points. “Sure thing.”
“I’m sorry I cannot stay, Kilgor. Please, accept my apologies. You may see me again…” a spot on the wall spiraled open. “Or not.” And he was gone.
“What shall we play?” one girl asked another.
“Let’s play Pin The Tail On The Traft.”
Each child squealed with laughter and clapped their hands.
Then pulled very long knives with very sharp blades.
They took a turn and chanted:
“Pin the tail…”
“…On the Traft.”
“If he hollers…”
“….If he screams.”
“If he cries….”
They circled the goblin badger. 
“….Make him pay.”
“By driving…”
“…Another blade.”
“Inside him…”
“…To.”
“Save…”
“The day.”
They all grinned ivory.
“And….”
“….If he.”
“Screams…”
“…If he.”
“Bleeds…”
“…If he.”
“Shrieks….”
“…Let’s all.”
“Make sure…”
“….Traft.”
“Is…deceased.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Traftology

Chapter 1 

Goblin badger Kilgor Traft steered the wheel of his bouncer past Ozarium’s welcoming sign, once an illumination, now as dead as the pale faces floating in the river below. 
He wiped a clawed hand over his face and mumbled displeasure in his non-caffeinated state and yawned. And scratched his head and chin. Then mumbled: “Is the Jolt maker working yet, Nimbus?” 
The onboard computer Nimbus beeped an answer via digital scroll across the windshield: Not yet, sir. I am still working on it.
Traft grumbled. And yawned again. Not only did his home brewing Jolt machine fail to work this morning back at the vault—because of some hideous Tourette Syndrome virus going around, no less—his brand new recently installed Jolt Maker for the bouncer was on the frizz. Freakin’ unbelievable. He'd just ordered the damn thing off the Gridd and had the techs install it yesterday. Had they forgot to connect a wire or two? Did the two bone headed humans who drank more beer on duty than do their actual duty for the day screw this up? All he knew was all work and no Jolt makes Kilgor Traft a dull goblin badger. 
And that, my friends, was a recipe for disaster doing this type of job.
Sort of.
I mean, you could go out and do the job but....there's that particular issue of not getting a "bump" to help you along. 
Traft clucked his purple tongue. “There isn’t a chance the j-maker got a virus, is there?”
I wouldn’t rule out the possibility, sir.
Lovely. The only good thing was the maker wasn’t spatting obscenities at him like his home brewer had. Wasn’t that a mind riot? Waking up, strolling into the kitchen, hitting the fat red button only to receive obscenities instead of “Good morning! How about a cup ah Jolt?” He kinda liked to hear it every morning. It was kinda nice and an uplift to the start of the morning. But...being called a pointy eared dweeb with bad breath was far from a good start to the morning. And an additional “You suck beef liver and onion-flavored Gobstoppers” or “Go to hells and stuff sea weed-flavored Pop Rock candies in your mouth” or “Your mama has a carbon fiber leg with a titanium kickstand and sticks the ends of red licorice up her nose” set the wrong mood for the day.
Sir, your maker does have a virus and its choice of words are quite …disturbing.
And, speaking of wrong moods for the day why don't we resort to the obvious:
“Use the anti-virus, Nimbus.”
Yes, sir. the anti-virus’ algorithm will take longer than expected I’m afraid. 
“Fine,” he grumbled. “Just…fix the damn thing, please.”
Yes, sir. While you wait, may I suggest a pre-Shift blend, such as Folgers or Maxwell house?
“No, you certainly may not. I may as well as drink a cup full of river water from a corpse's mouth.”
How about two Sting The Beast tabs, sir? They are manufactured by Jolt.
“Negative, Nimbus. Damn things give me the kraken vibes and the last time I consumed them I had a rash from hells. I can only take so much caffeine in the morning and those tabs are five times the size of a regular cup of Jolt. They don’t call them Sting The Beast for nothing.” 
I have forgotten that, sir. My apologies.
“No worries. Please do what you can to get me a cup of Jolt brewed.” He yawned for a third time and looked out the window. Ah, good old Ozarium. The place needs a serious facelift.
He peeked at the sky.  
And a new weather system to run the program, no less. Why Mr. Gorph doesn’t just clean this place up and make it his own is a mystery. However, there is that more serious problem at hand, the reason why they can’t do that. The reason why I’m here. 
Clawdious sent me here to locate another unwilling soul to work in Troughs. How many more bodies did the guy really need to work the lines? I’ve already lost count of the bodies I've collected. Honestly, how many did it take to work the lines? Twenty? Thirty? A hundred? I’m betting Clawdious has revenge in his head since they hurt him pretty bad. 
Your Jolt coffee, sir.
Ah, finally!
Kilgor sipped the steaming brew and allowed it to tease his tongue with hints of blueberry and a mild bitterness. He swished it over his teeth before he swallowed, then smacked his lips, and with a wide stretch under his nose showing off his choppers he spoke as if he was playing an actor for a Jolt commercial holding his cup high: “Good job, Nimbus. There is nothing like Jolt Coffee!” 
Thank you, sir.
“Sometimes you surprise me, buddy. You always come through. My right hand man.”
I complete my job as necessary, sir.
“And you do it quite well.” Traft's mood morphed for the better, now as happy as a kid munching down on her candy necklace.  
He sucked in a deep breath, blew it out, and turned on the infrared option. Time to get the show on the road. 
A red blip appeared. 
He zoomed in and found it was inside the Slader Corp building—as usual. He shook his head. It seems they all congregate there. 
He drained his cup and punched the accelerator toward his destination and a holomercial splashed the dashboard.   
“Stop by Vern’s Virtual Worlds and receive your first ten minutes free when you purchase a virtual vacation!” said the tiny dancing guy in the suit wrapped in a brightly colored jacket. A lady in a brightly colored dress popped out of the air and joined the suit. He grabbed her and spun her like a toy top. A picture burst open behind them and unfolded a collage of inviting vacations while you sit in the Cushy Chair connected to the console. It showed an example of a woman lounged in the Chair with her eyes closed and a smile carved under her nose.
Before the holo ended the couple vanished, cutting off their Charleston dance from the pre-Shift days.
Kilgor opened his mouth to express something but lost his train of thought when one holo replaced the last: a large face of a clean shaven man promoting the latest anti-virus program to prevent the Tourette’s Syndrome Virus effecting your home appliances. 
How convenient, Kilgor thought. If only I knew of it by n—.
Another replaced it, this holo’s transmission quite bad as it flickered and warbled, making the speaker’s tone crawl. The background tune had caught the disease as well, but the point it wanted to promote was for the ghost catcher, the Cryptronica.
“Nimbus, jam these things, would ya?”
Copy, sir.
And as soon as the next voice chatting about some strawberry shampoo of the century that could also be used as a bubble bath appeared Nimbus cut it off.  
No more dancing little people or slow motion vocabulary or a naked man taking a bubble bath with oozing bubbles in the shape of strawberries. 
Traft's bouncer shot over the infamous Bork Burgers, one of the many fast-food restaurants in Westerphere with a flying saucer crash-landed in its roof.
Traft licked his lips. I wonder if they have any burgers left tucked inside a freezer? Be nice to try one… 
Slader Corp grew in the windshield and he redirected his thought pattern. It was the tallest building in Ozarium. 
Traft launched the bouncer over the rooftop, found a spot to land and disengaged the landing gear.
Traft drained his cup, smacked his lips, and sat it back on the tray. It disappeared inside the dashboard. Then reappeared filled to the rim. He grinned, showing his palate of canines again and drained it in one swallow. He noticed he left a drop. He drained that, too. Then he stood and stretched. Yawned for the fourth time today and snatched another second to stretched. Again. And, scratched his head again.
“Okay. Let’s do this, buddy.” He sniffed.
Yes, sir.
Traft picked up his weapon of choice and programmed it to link a connection to his HeadKase, the microcomputer in the form of a chome cockroach which attached to his brain. His neurotransmitters relayed the signal.
a woman’s voice said.  
The barrel spun with a whine. 
Check.
The levels pulsed a bright yellow ten.
Check.
The charge was one hundred percent, plus the external battery.
Check.
He stuck two fingers to his breast pocket, found it empty. He moved to the next one, found that one empty as well. Then, checked his front pants’ pocket. Only lint. He padded himself down before popping open the glove compartment. 
Traft frowned. “Where are they, Nimbus?” he said while looking under his seat. 
Where is what, sir?
“My Life Savors.”
I do not know, sir.
“Figure you could use your infamous clairvoyance and locate those for me.”
It’s not clairvoyance, sir. 
“What’s it called, then?”
Foresight.
“It’s the same thing, Nimbus. Same meaning.”
Not according to my records, sir.
“Your records are wrong, buddy.”
No, they are fully functional, sir. They are up to date with Gorph’s Library.
His nostrils flared and drain a pocket of oxygen. His mood slightly turned south. “Right… Just make them find my damn Savors, please.”
Can’t be used for that, sir. 
“Why?”
my foresight option is only used for our missions. Not to locate personal items. 
“In this case, it is part of the mission.”
No, it cannot be. 
“What would be the difference of you locating my Life Savors or locating a Target?”
Lots, sir.
“Lots?”
Yes, sir. Locating a Target is our mission. Locating your Winter Green Life Savors has nothing to do with our mission.
“I beg to differ. What if I didn’t have my Jolt for the day? Would you give me the same response?”
Yes, sir.
“Unbelievable," he snorted. "Let’s pray to the gods who ride in the spheres that does not occur. Ever. Look…I need my Wintergreen Life Savors like I need Jolt, both to consume to perform my job. Helps me get in the mood, you know.”
How would it put you in the mood to do your job, sir?
“Trust me, it just does. Now, help me search for my Life Savors cause I ain’t goin’ anywhere until I find ‘em.”   
Your actions will not effect me, sir. We could sit here all day.
“Oh? Being a bit sarcastic are you? Tell you what, buddy, you are in charge of logging our progress. You download the reports once we arrive back home. If it’s off by a filament, I mean a hair off, if there are any other notes other than what our work includes, Clawdious will switch you out and replace you with—” 
Something was kicked across the floor.
“Oh. Never mind. Scratch that. Here they are.”
The pneumatic door of the tug whispered open and cool air ruffled Traft’s dark hair and the white streak stretched across his cranium. A swath of grey colored the skies, casting bleach white clouds wavered above. Pockets of darkness appeared in the windows of a nearby building, except for one small orange glow.
Traft frowned and clucked his tongue.
Please be careful, sir.
“Copy on that, Nimbus,” still gazing at the orange.
Mutated worms scattered at his first step. 
“That’s something you don’t see every day.”
The worms took refuge inside a decayed corpse sat upright against a defunct air conditioning unit, as if the box posed as a gravestone. The worms made the dead’s lower jaw click open.  
“Nor that.”
Traft swiped a claw across the screen on his Smart bracelet and opened an app. A tiny emoji flame appeared on a graph, flickering. He also scanned for any others and found nothing.  Traft stood in front of a wall and tapped on a keypad.  
Nothing happened.
“Well, crap. Nimbus, a little help.”
        Nimbus’ voice was like a bullhorn had been jammed in his ear.
“Whoa! Turn back the internal voice!”  
      Better, sir? 
"Uh, yeah, much." Traft screwed a digit in his ear and wiggled his claw.
A second later the keypad glowed neon green and a spot on wall stretched open.
“Thanks, buddy.” Traft sniffed, peeled open the end of the Wintergreen Life Savor's roll with the tip of his claw, and slipped one of the circular candies on his tongue. 
Then stepped inside.