Lisa was talking to Vince, but he didn’t seem to be paying much attention.
“So,” she punched him lightly on the arm, “Anyway, you and I’ll need to get some permanent disguises or something. That video of me ripping that guy’s head off was probably seen by everything on the station, and you’ve got whole channels dedicated to you. Have you seen some of these imitation vids? The ones of you as a girl are especially awesome.”
They were floating in the big center space they had put together in their giant magnolia. Syrge was listening to Skum… Rip… Ted, whatever’s story and writing it down by hand. She didn’t know why he did things like that, nobody wrote by hand. Vince was continually extending his arms and popping guns out of them. They were different each time. He was staring into space, probably reading or scanning his HUD, and muttering silently.
“Yeah… disguises. Kick has little hologram things make us look like whatever.”
“Oh wow. You actually heard what I said?”
“I can do things at once now… several things at once.”
“Well, I want to be like a butterfly girl! Wings and antennae! Creepy little disjointed arms!”
She made a bug face and twisted up her arms and started jabbing at Vince’s ribs and neck. Vince pushed away from her irritated.
“Mannooway Lisa! So bugging!”
His voice was harsh.
Rip looked at him with a dark expression. Lisa saw it and rolled her eyes, sighing, ignoring the slight. Rip turned back to Syrge and continued the tale of his other life.
“Just trying to cheer you up ‘Laser Boy.’ All you ever do is mope and brood, playing with your big guns. Probably means something. Are you upset because you killed all those people?”
Vince’s head shot up, looking right at her.
“What?! It was just PIGS! Who gives a venting vent about PIGS?!”
“What about those science dudes? They were…”
Vince’s voice rose alarmingly.
“That! Was an accident! Didn’t even know I had guns then did I?! No! Venting Plint!”
Lisa pulled herself upright relative to him.
“Hey. Vince. We’re your friends here. I’m your friend. I know shit is bothering you. Trying to help.”
Vince slumped and looked apologetic.
“Sorg. Sorry I called you a plint. It’s really this thing with…”
Lisa heard a high-pitched scream. She had heard something like it before, but she couldn’t place it. It was definitely a new sound here in the downstem wilds. She pushed herself toward the edge of the energy field that kept the bugs out and scanned outward from their base. She completely missed the dark fury that took root on Vince’s face when he heard the sound. She heard the sound three more times, but it didn’t seem to be getting closer, so she went back to the main room. Vince was moving toward the area where he usually slept. She started gliding toward him, but he turned and spoke to her.
“I don’t want to talk anymore Lisa. I need to rest.”
His face was red and his eyes looked watery.
“Okay, whatever man. Scroot’s better company anyway. See ya later.”
Zombie Lisa flapped over to Scroot. He was, as usual, clacking away on his keyboard. She lit beside him and turned his secondary screen toward her.
“Scrooty! Show me a gallery of animal girls so I can pick a disguise! We need to get out of this zero g soon!”
Instantly a wide selection of images of genetically and surgically altered women that looked like various animals scrolled past.
“Ooooh! Rhino girl! Monkey Woman! T-Rexy Lady! All these different bird girls! Hey there’s Kick!”
Suddenly, Lisa remembered where she had heard that high-pitched scream before. Some of Kick’s pornographies were extremely popular, played on the blackwalls for a while a year or so ago. That was a sound Blue Kay made. That was a sound she made when she was…
Elvis was not in the camp either.
“Holy fucking shit. Goddamn cunt.” She muttered, even as a weight on her chest seemed to lighten.
She was worried what this would portend for her kras, but part of her was relieved, and she knew it was selfish, but she couldn’t help it. Poor Vince. Poor stupid Laser Boy.
Lisa flicked idly through the image gallery, marking the interesting ones. Then she pulled up a public biography of the Herald Dynasty. Kick had six siblings, and none was the acknowledged heir to the fortune. One of her brothers worked on the board of directors, but sources said he was least likely to succeed the old man. One of her sisters had joined a religious cult that lived in pods outside the station irradiating their bodies with cosmic rays hoping for… whatever. Another brother was on an ice-finder crew. Gossipmongers often considered him the front-runner, at least before Kick Herald, The Fabulous Blue Kay decided to go porn star party girl. Her charisma made her the public’s favorite, who knew what daddy thought of her antics. This new phase of hers had all the family’s followers gnawing their nails waiting for more tidbits of information about her.
Lisa laughed quietly, “I should start an anonymous gossip page about her.”
When she heard the proximity warnings buzz Elvis and Kay into the nest, she closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. This would not be pretty. Calm. The only way she could help here was to stay calm no matter what was said or done. She breathed deeply twice more and turned to look at them.
Rip glanced up at them and said, “You guys catch anything?”
Blue Kay, wearing Elvis’s stovepipe for fuck’s sake, tossed a flurryburry to him.
“Dag! Thanks,” he took a big pulpy bite.
Syrge abandoned his normal adult like demeanor and jumped over to them, climbing on Kay like the small child he actually was. It was easy to forget.
“Me. I need! Give!”
He and Kay started spinning toward a group of branches laughing as she held the energy net of berries out of his reach. He finally got two and pushed himself over to land next to Lisa to give one to Scroot. Kay met Lisa’s eyes and held a berry out with a question mark on her face. Lisa breathed in again and nodded slowly. She caught it easily and reminded herself to breathe again. She was really tense. She hoped she didn’t black out. That would be no help at all. Breathe. This was such a weird fucked up situation. Much more grey than she was used to.
Everyone turned to look at Vince, peering into the clearing from his little alcove. His face was in partial shadow, forming a leafy pattern on his face, like war paint. Elvis pulled himself to a large branch and pulled himself to a sitting position on it, keeping steady by holding it with one hand. Kay was floating in the middle of the clearing, the light blue of her plumage slowly darkening to navy. Rip looked at Vince, then at the hat on Kay’s head, then at Elvis.
“Oh vent,” he muttered.
Vince slid into the clearing and held his hand out.
Kay tossed him a flurryburry. He caught it and tossed it into his den.
Syrge was upside down to they way everybody else was.
“What’s wrong here? Did something…”
Lisa reached out and covered his mouth, turning him around so he could see everything. His eyes widened and he backed up to float behind Scroot, who continued clacking his keyboard.
Elvis cleared his throat like he was about to speak. Vince beat him to it.
“Save it clowner. Every time?! Every single girl?! You couldn’t once just let me have one?”
Elvis put up his hands, “Easy brother, don’t say anything you regret.”
Syrge surreptitiously set Scroot’s gear to video the proceedings. He himself settled in to watch; absolutely fascinated by it all. Kay moved in between Elvis and Vince.
“Hey. Guess what Laser Boy, nobody gets to ‘have’ me unless I say. We had some fun, but what can I say? Just sex man.”
Vince’s voice rose a pitch.
“Venting hell… but we… What about all that time? Running… All those people I killed for you?”
Kick narrowed her eyes at him.
“That’s beneath you Vince. You finally came off your dull coward routine and took some agency for yourself. If I helped inspire that in you, great. Don’t pretend you did all that for me. That would just be pathetic anyway.”
“Pathetic! But I was your first and we were each other’s firsts!”
“You said it was my first time, I never said that.”
Rip pushed himself out of his crook.
“I can’t watch this anymore. Lisa, come get me when this is over. Vince, people are going to remember this. Try to stay cool krassy.”
He shot out of the nest.
Vince had tears floating around his face.
“Not your first? But you said…”
Lisa moved next to Vince.
“Damn, girl, you really are a hoe bag ain’t ya?” She was smiling wide and bright.
Kay turned a fierce gaze on her, Lisa’s eyes and smile grew even wider, with a pleading angle in her brow. Kay’s face softened a little.
Elvis pushed himself upright.
“Look krassy, I know she means something to you. I waited like two weeks man. If you were going to make something happen, you’d of done it by now. You can always google her ass.”
“Google her… Oooooh! Venting penner! Every single girl we meet ‘krassy!’ every single one.”
“Not me,” said Lisa. Oh Jesus, did she say that? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Fuck.
Kay laughed, Vince’s face screwed up tighter.
“Yeah, not Zombie Lisa.” Said Kay, “But her wiring is all messed up. You are very cute Vince, but Elvis is…”
Elvis put his hand on her shoulder and took his hat back, shaking his head.
“You’re not helping birdy.”
Syrge made a fearful, “Huuuh!” sound.
It took a moment for anyone else to realize that bladelike black guns had poured into both of Vince’s hands. They both glowed with a crackling scarlet energy.
“Vince!” yelled Kay, “Turn those off!”
Lisa placed herself in front of Vince, looking directly into his puffy eyes. Whispering.
“Come on man. Put the guns away. He’s a slut. They both are, and you have every right to be hurt, but this isn’t you, it’s this weird tech running away with you.”
Kay’s voice was a little panicky, coming from behind Lisa.
“Just go into your menu Vince. You can use your tech to smooth yourself out, take off the edge.”
The guns slowly seeped back into his arms and he gently moved Lisa out of the way.
“What? Drug myself up so I can be a cold unfeeling monster like you? No thanks.”
He pushed away from his place with one foot and flapped his wing shirt. He flew right between Black Elvis and Blue Kay without looking at them, and left the camp.
All of Lisa’s muscles went limp.
“Jesus Christ. You two fucking suck.”
Elvis was nodding his head.
“Yeah. Kind of.”
Kay looked irritated, “That was really unpleasant for me, too.”
Lisa laughed harshly, “Yeah, well, welcome to the kras bitch.”
Elvis said, “Whoah. I say who’s in the kras.”
Kay made an “aheh,” sound and raised her eyebrows at him.
“Yeah, so, uh, you’re in the kras.”
“Make me fucking puke,” said Lisa.