Kick Herald, The Fabulous Blue Kay was disguised as a hulking four-armed muscular man. Vince was holoshaded to look like a skinny low-level tech with acne.
They were making their way through the crowded axel, glad to be free of the insects and humidity. Everywhere were broadcasts singing the praises of the Presidency. They ignored most of these, except, they stopped a moment when they showed an interview with Kick Herald telling the station how this slum gang had tortured her and made her fight police. She broke down into tears. The real Kay huffed.
“As if I’d shed a tear for those things. She doesn’t even look like me.”
“Yes she does,” answered Vince dully, “except for the showing emotion part.”
Kay laughed uncomfortably, “Yeah. I guess it is a good likeness. Hey! Let’s take a break and get some processed food! I require preservatives! And salt!”
They were scanning for an acceptable diner when Kay spied something that made her stop. It was a stenciled painting of the upper bodies of Laser Boy and Blue Kay, embracing and looking out at them, cheek to cheek. Looking grim and ready to fight. They were both holding laser pistols up and at the ready. Beneath it was some writing in Qualmpthese. Their tech translated it and Vince and Kay both read it aloud in whispers.
“Laser Boy Lives.”
Kay covered her face and said,
“Venting balls. You’re a dagging folk hero now.”
Vince chuckled, “So are you. Elvis is going to love that.”
Kay started walking again, “Anyway. Moving on. Food.”
They decided on Leper Cheese, it was a disgusting place, but there was something comforting and delicious about the disgustingness of it. All the bright yellow and red, the smell of frying fat and the presence of chubby little kids suggested a middle class ideal that did not really exist. It was not the same branch Vince had robbed weeks ago,
They picked a booth and the globe in the center of their table showed a menu in 360 degrees. They ordered and Kay slipped a few stakes into the slot, food shot into the container immediately; solid crunchy items on one side, liquids and sauces compartmentalized on the other side with sterile tube straws octopussing out. At least they were supposed to be sterile.
They ate with some small amount of desperation, trying not to look too out of place. After a few minutes Kick stopped eating. The screen behind Vince was playing a show called ‘Vacuum Jump,’ in which desperate contestants tried to survive a jump across an ever-longer area of cold space vacuum. Whoever could survive the longest jump won fabulous prizes, the losers floated away into space.
The silence was awkward for both of them. Vince kept his eyes on the vid screen. Kay was poking at her food. She was slightly relienve when a robed hairless smiling woman drifted to their table and offered them a pamphlet for, “The 1st Church of the Masque.” Kay smiled and gave her a stake. She eyed the pamphlet for a moment without seeing it. Then she forced herself to look at Vince’s face.
“Vince. Thank you for saving me. I had a moment there where I thought I was going to die, and an even worse moment when I thought you would let me die. But you didn’t.”
Vince used the table vac to suck up some floating crumbs around his face.
“I had a brief moment where I wasn’t sure I was going to save you. At least one third of me had that moment. The other two thirds never stopped to consider not killing those monkeys.”
“Vince. I don’t really like to talk about… feelings and sorg. That’s why I’ve been such a plint to you. Ignoring you and making fun of your…”
“I don’t like to talk about feelings either. So why are you talking to me about feelings.”
“Well, almost dying. It was a rush. Different than the various rushes my tech gives me. I feel all tingly and vibraty.”
“I don’t think ‘vibraty’ is a word.”
“Well it venting is now!”
Vince smiled slightly and ate another Crispy Leper Finger.
“Anyway. What I’m trying to say is that I do care about you. And I do like you. But I’m not really a girlfriend, monogamy type. At least not right now. I really like Elvis too, you know. It’s not just me being all flighty. He’s really concerned with making this stupid station a better place. He takes responsibility for a wide array of people. It’s pretty impressive. And it’s cute how weirdly spooked he gets at the thought of explosive decompression.”
Vince curled his lip.
“I don’t know if I’m in the mood to hear how great Elvis is. I know it anyway don’t I? Saved my life didn’t he? Still a pennywising hamlet though. Always has been.”
Kay put her hand on top of his. Vince let it sit a second and then pulled his away.
“You’re welcome for the save. I don’t really hate either of you. Just… I sort of hate both of you. UNO?”
He sent an aggregate file of his pain and longing and shame into her head. She winced. Her hand involuntarily jumped to her chest. Her hardware filed it away in her archives. She sighed. She sent an INO back to him that compressed her feelings of frustration and sorrow and regret into a small file for him to integrate.
He laughed sharp, “Got your number blocked plint. Don’t really care to know what your feeling right now.”
“Oh. I guess I can live with that. We should get moving and get those schematics.”