Friday, January 16, 2015

E.L.F: Chapter 11

Author's Note: So, to draw back the curtain for a bit, there was a chunk of this chapter discussing the technical specifications of night vision goggles and such and such, and my editor pointed out that I had gotten the physics completely wrong and I wrestled for hours with how to describe the new technology of the future...and then I realized it doesn't matter, cut the whole scene, and no one will be any the wiser.

Chapter 11: First time on the range

The gun leaped in Jimmy's hand with a bang that was only slightly muffled by his ear protection. He lowered it and tried to unpack what he was feeling for maybe five seconds before he decided to just live with the fact that he really liked firing guns. Even if the hole the bullet had made wasn't anywhere near the target's bullseye.

Or the target itself.

Or the wall.

Jimmy scowled, then glanced at Pix, who was putting shot after shot through her holographic target, glowing indicators reading out how many points each shot was worth.

Jimmy looked down at his weapon. "I always thought I hated guns, but I never thought they might hate me back." He lifted the gun back to a firing stance and pulled the trigger. Click. He sighed, then unloaded the magazine and reached for the fresh one, sliding the empty magazine into the auto-loader built into the counter top that laid between him and the range. The loader made soft whirring and clicking noises as it started to slot cubes of caseless ammunition into the magazine.

"Oh, it's not that hard." Pix smiled at him. "Just compute the angle of the bullet, add it to the elevation of your arm, impart a bit of twist by flicking your wrist and-"

"Pix, remember how I'm not an E.L.F? My fleshy flesh brain is unable to compete with your fancy space brain."

Pix grinned, then leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. "But it is a sexy sexy brain. Even if it trembles in fear before the power of my mighty space brain."

Jimmy grinned, then turned his head up and put his lips to her lips. She pressed against the divide between them, and her tongue pressed up to the place between Jimmy's gums and his upper lip. His toes curled in his shoes.

"Ah-HEM!" Edna's voice shattered the moment. Or, at least, it tried to.

Pix made a point of latching onto Jimmy's lower lip, keeping him in place till she was done kissing, then she slid back with a quick glare at Edna.

Edna gestured at them. "Keep practicing. We want you to be at least meh-shots."


"You know." Edna moved her hand from side to side in a deucedly 'meh' gesture. "Meh."

"Ah. Meh." Jimmy nodded. "I think I'm currently at blegh."

"I'm a fwa." Pix giggled.

"Fwa isn't a word.”

"It is now. If William Shakesman can make up words, I can make them up. And you can't argue with em! I have a gun." Pix winked, aimed, fired. The shot didn't quite hit the bullseye, but it was close. "FWA!"

Edna rolled her eyes and left them to the practicing. Once she was gone, Jimmy risked a few more shots. They were about as boleful as his first few, but at the very least, he was able to hit the paper. Once his magazine was emptied, he took it out and started to reload the other. Looking at Pix, he saw that she had cut the center of the target out with bullets and was twirling her empty and saftied gun on her finger.

"Okay, I've gotten better," she said, casually. "How are you doing?"

Jimmy looked at his target. It looked more like swiss cheese than an even grouping of bullet holes. "I choose to interpret this as 'showing improvement,'” he said after a few moments of thought.

She leaned over into his stall and nodded. "It's not that bad." She smiled. "It's not like we're going to be looking for a fight."

"Yeah, I doubt anyone looks for a fight, Pix."

"Some people do. Like...jerks. And crazy people." She grinned, leaning on the divider between the stall. She leaned forward a bit, using her toes to push herself up a bit. Her shirt poofed out and Jimmy tried really hard to look into her eyes.

Pix gave him a thumbs up. "Good job, you actually kept your eyes on my eyes!"

Jimmy scowled. "You're an evil person."

"Yup!" She relaxed her toes and stood straighter up, her eyes twinkling.

Jimmy smiled, slowly. He had been noticing tiny changes in Pix over the past few days. He was trying to put his finger on what it was...and then it clicked. She didn't put her hand into her pocket anymore. She didn't fondle her lighter anymore – in fact, she hadn't done it once in almost a week. And more, she just looked more confident – an easier, more self assured confidence that made him think...maybe she was dealing with her parent's death. Maybe.

What he did know for sure though was that her confidence made her...well...sexier. Pix noticed him watching her.

"What?" She cocked her head, antennas sparking. Jimmy kept smiling.

Pix narrowed her eyes. "You're doing that smiling silently before a big kiss thing, aren't you?"

"Oh, that's a good idea!" Jimmy grabbed her and yanked her forward for, well, a big kiss. The kiss started off powerfully passionate, then got more so. It was a bit curious, and if Jimmy had been interested in anything but the way Pix bit his lower lip – oh so playfully – then he might have come up with some profound philosophical theories about how every time he thought the kiss couldn't get hotter, it got hotter. If the divider hadn't been there, Jimmy just knew one of them would drag the other one down and...

"I don't hear shooting!" Edna shouted. Pix drew away, her eyes closing. Jimmy put his finger on her lips.

"We're outta bullets!" he shouted back, lying. Like a gunrunner would run out of bullets.

Pix giggled. Edna sighed and opened the door. By then, Jimmy and Pix were not within kissing distance and Jimmy had finished wiping his lips off.

Edna examined both of them. Slowly, she lifted an eyebrow. Jimmy and Pix looked as innocent as possible. Edna sighed. “Practice for another half hour, then you can screw like rabbits, okay?” She turned around and ducked out of the room.
Jimmy beamed at Pix. Pix shook her head, laughing, and went back to putting rounds down range.

Then, a half hour later, they were hustled out of Edna's compound and onto the road again. As they walked out, Pix muttered: “Son of a bitch, she tricked us...”


"Backpack, food, gun, com system." Pix tapped her ear. "Shoes, pants, shirt, jackets, breathers, just in case we decide to walk into some nerve gas."

Jimmy snorted. "A medical pack each. This stuff is heavy."

"Don't I know it!" Pix shifted, her backpack rustling against her back. "How the heck do action heroes manage to run so fast with all their guns, ammo, supplies and stuff?"

"Um, because they read the script."

Pix winked. "Then we shall read the script. And in the script, we are awesome, we are both beautiful, and we are both going to kick the bad guy's ass!"

Jimmy grinned, then leaned in and kissed her. She kissed him back. You know, Jimmy thought, I could just make out all day.

"Okay," Pix whispered. "That's enough kissing."

She paused. "Okay, one more."

Edna sighed over their comlinks. Jimmy winced. "A little loud," he said.

"Your camera is crooked."

Jimmy blinked, then looked at Pix. "Is my camera crooked?"

She reached up and fiddled with the camera mounted on the side of the comlink piece. Edna made an "ah" noise and Pix grinned, then kissed Jimmy again. Which knocked the camera off center again. Pix kissed his nose, then started fiddling with the camera again.

Once they were both ready, Edna spoke. "Okay, so, head out to the city and head to the north-eastern corner. Also, turn on your eyepieces."

Jimmy reached up and tapped the comlink. A small eye piece slid out and went over his left eye. A compass was set in the top, along side a little mini-map.

And if that was not the most awesome thing ever, Jimmy did not know what it would be – save, maybe, for a naked Pix covered in whipped cream.

They made their way down the bustling streets of Tortuga – all searing graffiti and screaming vendors trying to compete against the traffic noise. The complete lack of odd looks, shady strangers following them, or gunshots made the cacophony of the eyes and ears seem like the most beautiful day back home. At least, it did to Jimmy. He smiled, grabbed Pix's hand, and squeezed. She squeezed back, but kept looking around suspiciously – her eyes focused on every other Xorquin in the crowd.

They reached the north-eastern corner and, there, they found yet another one of those elevator things, and unlike the blue box entrance, this one was an Architect design. Jimmy had gotten good at spotting the difference between stuff the Ancients had crafted and technology kludged together by the modern inhabitants of Harbinger. Xorquin made bladed, sharp looking things. Yetel were gooey and brown. Human stuff tended to be chunky and square. This elevator, though, was the smooth, matte black of most of Harbinger.

And it went up smoothly, like all Architect stuff. As they rode the elevator, Edna's voice came in over their coms. "Okay, listen, you're going to come out in the middle of the Armory. Well, middle and to the side.” The minimap swelled up, filling the entire eye-piece, showing the map of the Armory. It didn't have nearly as much detail as Jimmy would have liked. It was more of a big old empty space with the occasional marked landmark such as "big thumb" or "Sssszzxxx." Whatever that meant.

A small blipping red dot appeared, way up in the eastern part of the Armory. "And that is your destination. It should take you about two days of walking. Get to it."

The comlink blipped, which meant Edna was no longer listening. They had argued about that for a while, arriving at a compromise. Jimmy just had to push a button on his left wrist and then start shouting his head off and Edna would hear. Jimmy looked at that blip, them at the world around him, trying to not think about how heavy his backpack already felt. In the distance, he could hear the explosions of the war, and the faint, echoing cracks of gunfire. Pix sighed, rubbing her hands together – if she wasn't trying to get mentally ready for the march, Jimmy would have eaten his socks.

Jimmy tapped his wrist. "Okay, do we know where the Xorquin is?"

"Nope." Edna sounded unhappy about that. Jimmy didn't blame her.

"Great." Jimmy tapped the button again. Pix shook her head.

"Don't see him." Pix bit her lip. "And we're not all full of holes."

"Best evidence I can think of." Jimmy sighed and looked around with his camera, panning it slowly and deliberately around.

"What are you doing?" Pix and Edna said at just about the same time. Jimmy paused, then finished looking around with his head, before looking back at Pix.

"I'm scanning." Jimmy paused. "Edna, you have some kind of scanner that can identify targets and tell us if it sees something. Right?"

"Uh, no, just working with the Mark One Eyeball thing. I just had the cameras put in so you didn't have to narrate everything you did."

She paused.

"Though that IS a really good idea. I'll see if they have any programs like that." There was a sound of typing. "Okay, I made a note! "

Jimmy slammed his palm into his face, covering his eyes. Pix snorted, then grabbed his other hand and started dragging him along. Jimmy let himself be dragged.

A mile later, they found that palms got rather sweaty rather fast. But they held fast.


A few planes jetted overhead with the standard screeching noise. Jimmy winced and rubbed at one ear as he tried to get comfortable underneath Ssszzxxx – it was hard, as the damn thing didn't have a lot of space underneath it, and that was before Pix had wriggled in next to him. Sszzxxx was an artifact that had been discovered by the Xorquin in the Armory, and hadn't been given a name in any of the human languages. It looked a bit like a half-bent thumb mounted on a semi-liquid base of black goop that somehow kept it upright.. What was it for? Jimmy had no idea. But it did keep them out of sight, and it looked kinda cool, if you liked weird, half-bent thumbs made of super smooth black metal.

Jimmy rubbed his temple at that thought. He was sick of the Armory. He was sick of big open spaces, he was sick of being near battles, and he was sick of things that made no sense, things he'd never be able to figure out. He closed his eyes and pressed his face against his knees. Pix sighed, slowly, as another plane rocketed overhead.

"You know, I think we can head out," she said, looking over at him. "I mean, those planes aren't looking for us specifically."

"I know," Jimmy said, "I'm just tired."

"I know, these backpacks are heavy."

"No, tired of this place." He looked at her. "I want to go back to a place where everything at least kind of makes sense. Say what you will about the sewage system, but at least humans fit in there. There are machines we can use and fix and fiddle with, not all these...these...confusing, crpytic pieces of junk!"

Pix reached out and rubbed his hair, gently. "There is one machine in this place you can fiddle with, you know..."

"Yeah, what?"


She leaned in, slowly at first, then . Tingling anticipation turned the kiss into something deliciously addictive. Her tongue poked against his lips, then slid into his mouth. Jimmy put his hands on her shoulders, sucking slightly.

"Um, guys." Edna's voice badgered in over the comlink. Pix kept kissing Jimmy. His hand slid down along her arm, feeling her smooth skin, her elbow, then down her flank, to her oh so cold, oh so hard data port. His finger slowly traced around the edge, where flesh and machine meshed. Pix quivered, drawing back and gasping softly. "Nn...I love it when you do that," She whispered, softly, grinning at Jimmy.

"Isn't there a whole 'need to go and save the human race' thing?" Edna continued, her voice getting fainter every second.

Pix reached up and slid the comlink off Jimmy's head. She set it on the side, camera facing away from them. Jimmy put his hands on her cheeks, drawing back. "Are we..."

She nodded, beaming at him, cheeks flushed. "Y-Yeah."

Jimmy gulped. "Here?"



"Yeah." Pix bit her lip. "Listen, you. A lot."

Jimmy was unable to form a single word. In fact, he was suprised his heart continued to beat.

"And I want you." Pix blushed. Hard. " Screw timing, screw beds...screw me! Heh."

Jimmy snorted, then kissed her, gently at first, then with more force. A smoldering fire burned in his chest and seriously, that phrase had never made since till like, right now. And it was ever so true.

Pix drew back, panting. "Are you ready?"

Jimmy nodded. “Yeah. No. But yeah.”

Pix paused, drawing in a breath, then took a hold of her shirt and yanked it up and over her head in a single motion. She put it aside and paused, grinning at Jimmy before undoing her bra. Tension. Not sure what to do. Jimmy paused, feeling more awkward, trying to think of what to say. Finally, something blurted out.


Like them?” Pix snickered, the tension relaxing to almost nothing.


She paused. Grinned. “T-Touch em.”

I’ll do more than that,” he murmured, his voice soft. He moved forward. Lips found her neck. Pix rolled her head back and bit her lip. Jimmy sucked, ever so gently. Pix’s moan was musical. Jimmy cupped her breasts and squeezed. She had hard nipples, soft flesh.

Pix drew herself back, grinning. “Pants. Off. Now.”

As you wish.”

They both giggled. Jimmy shifted and slid his fingers to his button. Popped it. Unzipped. Paused, then slid down. Pix crooned, softly. “Ooh…”

Jimmy felt about twelve feet tall. He grinned. Then Pix reached out and squeezed. Gently. Too gently. Jimmy shifted, feeling his ears heat.

Y-you can, uh, be a bit harder.”

Pix grinned.


Oooh, did I hurt you?” Pix paused. “Let me kiss and make up.”

But her lips didn’t meet his.

There weren’t words after that.


Pix panted. Pix glowed. Well, not literally, but, looked that way to Jimmy. She grinned and her antennas sparked. "That," she murmured, "was...more fun than I expected."

Jimmy mimed insult. "You expected it to not be fun?"

"Well," Pix bit her lip. "I mean...well..."

Jimmy narrowed his eyes. "Piiiiiix."

"I mean, you're a guy! Guys arn't supposed to know how..." She bit her lip. " know. Use anything but your doodle."

Jimmy snorted. "Pix, I have watched movies, you know."

Pix blushed. "Well, yeah."

"And I was paying attention. And I understand the concept of reciprocation." Jimmy shifted, rolling to his side, grinning as he did so, his hand sliding along her belly, then further down. Pix mumbled something, her eyes going half lidded. She looked really really silly, but Jimmy didn't notice. To him, it was the sexiest thing in the whole wide universe.

"Mmm," Pix whispered. "To the left slightly...ah YES!" Her fingernails scrabbled against the ground.


"D-don't stop that!"


Jimmy started, looking over at his comlink. He wiped his fingers on his hip, then grabbed his comlink, cramming it on his head.

"W-what?" he asked.

"There's an army heading your way. See, if you'd kept walking, you'd be safe, but, no, someone had to stop and fu-"

"Right, we're going," Jimmy said, tapping the comlink off. He grabbed his shirt and pulled out it. He looked at Pix...then looked away, covering the camera away. "S-sorry!"

Pix giggled. "She's a girl, Jimmy."

"Yeah, but she might have someone standing behind her."

"I do." Edna piped up. Jimmy started, then took the camera off, setting it down as he did so.

Pix sighed, pulling on her bra. "So, what did she say?"

"An army is coming our way, imminent death if we don't go, yadaya, bla bla, gotta get dressed."

Pix sighed. "Great, you leave me hanging and we might die. If I die without you finishing up, I'll come back to life and kill you again."

"But then I'll be dead too and..." Jimmy shook his head, buttoning his jeans up. "You know, this conversation is pointless."

"No, it's not." Pix stuck her tongue out.

"How do you figure that?" Jimmy pulled his jacket on. It smelled like Pix now. Best. Jacket. Ever.

"Well, any conversation with you has to be awesome. It's in our contract of true love."

"You're an odd girl, Pix."



They started to hustle, heading westerly to keep from being directly in the army's way. Pix and Jimmy's hands were pretty much connected the whole time. They helped one another over any and all hurdles. They joked. They laughed. For a short time after the sex Jimmy was worried Pix and he wouldn't still be friends.

Then, five seconds later, she made a joke. He laughed, and told a joke back. She giggled and snuggled against him. A normal conversation, but with a snuggle slipped into it. Which made it twice as good!

Maybe three times.

Jimmy tapped his comlink. "Edna, could you show me the Armory map and where we are."

"Ummmmkay." There were some tapping noises. "I don't have your exact position, the signal is getting a bit dodgy."

"Well, you're still hearing me, right?" Jimmy gulped. He knew Edna might disconnect, but not this soon.

"Sorta." Edna's voice was starting to sound a bit staticy. Distant booms and rattles started off in the distance. "Shit! Turning off radio. Run north."

The comlink cut out and the map vanished. "Great." Jimmy slid the projector away from his eye. The sounds of battle were getting louder. They were still way off in the distance, but it was getting worse.

They had jogged a good ways away before the first artillery shell screamed down. Pix and Jimmy hit the ground, hard, cold metal jammed into nose and cheek. Fragments whined overhead as a second artillery shell burst behind them. The noise was incredible...Jimmy coulden't even hear himself scream with terror.

Jimmy looked over his shoulder once the last shell had slammed down. There was no crater, but all the boxes had been knocked over and perforated. He looked at Pix.

"Well," He said. "That could have been bad."

"Jimmy," Pix's voice was rather strained. "My foot hurts. And the only reason I'm not screaming is...I DON'T KNOW!"

Jimmy pushed himself down as Pix rolled to her back, her eyes closed. It didn't look good: A trinagular hunk of twisted metal had slammed into the sole of her foot, and bright red blood spurted onto the ground. Jimmy felt his stomach twist around and he closed his eyes for a moment. He knew what he had to do...and so he opened his eyes. He looked at Pix. "This is gonna-"

"JUST DO IT!" she shouted.

Jimmy nodded, grabbed the hunk – it was hot to the touch - and yanked it out. Blood splattered and Pix shouted a rather loud, rude word at the top of her lungs.

Jimmy threw the metal away with a wince, then opened up his backpack. He yanked out the medical kit, grabbed the sealent and a red hypo. Edna had said it was good for small cuts and big cuts and, really, most kinds of cuts.

"Okay, hold still," he said, trying to keep his voice controlled and not hysterical. The sealent looked like pinkish goo that formed to the wound and closed it up. Once the sealent started to harden, he put the red hypo against Pix's foot and then pushed the thumb button down. There was a hissing nose and Pix flinched, then sighed.

"Okay...okay, okay," Jimmy bit his lip. "How does that feel?"

"It feels like I have a big hole in my foot!"

"Can you walk on it?" he asked as he helped her to her feet.

"Um..." Pix took a slow, cautius step. She nodded. "Sealent is hurts like hell, but I can do it."

Jimmy slid his arm through her's and smiled. "We've only got X number of miles to go."


"Well, I don't remember, and we've still got no linkup to Edna."

"I'm guessing cause an easily traced radio signal right next to a battle would be a bad-" Something screamed overhead, blazing brightly in the darkness of the armory. It smashed into the ground behind some large boxes, the boxes blocking most of the actual explosion from Jimmy and Pix. The shockwave almost knocked both of them over.

"Idea." Pix finished, her voice sounding a bit distant in Jimmy's ears.

"Let's just keep running."

They did their best, hobbling/running along, Pix hissing every once and a while. Jimmy looked down and behind them and stopped.

"Your wound's reopened-"

"Jimmy!" Pix grabbed his head and turned his gaze back to the front.

There was the wall. It was almost invisible if you looked too high up, but down low the strange, sourcless ambient light of the Armory made it visible. Jimmy looked around, then risked flipping his comlink on.

"Edna?" he asked. "Quick. Door location, now!"

"Go, right!"

He tapped the comlink off. Pix set her shoulders and hobbled against him as they headed right, away from where they had just stood. No artillery screamed down, as the battle seemed to be getting hotter behind them. More planes burst in the air or smashed into the ground.

Then. There. The door. It was actually a human door frame, welded over an open hole in the wall. It was a whiff of home, a touch of normality in an otherwise alien locale.

Jimmy and Pix got to it, leaving a trail of bloody footprints.

It started to open with a quick twist of the wheel. It creaked open. Jimmy saw Pix draw her gun out of the corner of his eye. He made a mental note to tell her what a good idea that was later.

The door finished opening.

And there was the Xorqin assasin. His back was to them, his feet clicking as he walked down the hallwy. He wore his same jacket as before, the bandage gone now, the stain faded to a dark pink splotch. He held a bag with one hand, a bag stuffed with guns. It looked like he was getting out of the Armory as well and either didn't know that the two of them had headed this way or had...actually, that was the only reason Jimmy could think of for why his back was to them, and why he was walking down the corridor.

Jimmy and Pix froze. Perfectly. Still.

If he had just set up his ambush AT the door... Jimmy thought.

The Xorquin walked around the corner at the end of the hallway. Jimmy let his thought remain unfinished.

Jimmy breathed out, slowly. He closed the door, slowly. He locked it, slowly. Pix bled all over the floor with her foot, her face pinched with pain.

Jimmy motioned for her to sit down. Then he had to help her, taking weight off her foot so that she could get onto her bottom. He sealed the wound up again, then tied it tight. Just in case.

"Okay," she whispered. "What now?"

He bit his lip. "Go around?"

"Ambush him!"

"Yeah. Go around."


"Edna, you're never going to believe this-" Jimmy glanced at Pix. "-but we got the Xorquin between us and the whole, uh, where we're going thing."

"I don't believe it" Edna sighed. "What do you want to do? Go around?"

"Ambush him!" Pix snapped.

"Yeah, Pix, he's a trained killer. I say the less he knows that we are here, no, wait, let me try again. If we can get past him without being seen, then he won't have a chance to shoot at us."

"If we shoot him in the back of the head, he won't ever have the chance to shoot at us ever again!" Pix stood, wincing as her bandaged foot touched the ground.

Jimmy scowled. "Could you shoot someone in the back of the head? In cold blood?"

Pix opened her mouth. She closed it. Then she opened it again. "I...n...y..." She sighed, then looked down. "No."

Jimmy put his fingers on her chin and pushed her head up. "Did I mention that I love you a lot?"

"Yes. But it's always good to hear it again." She smiled, slightly.

Jimmy kissed her, slowly, then drew back. "We go around."

"One sec." The sound of typing came over the comlink. "Okay, got a new path lined up for you, assuming you don't mind heading through an area of the dark."

Pix grinned. "Does this mean we get to use the night vision?"



Jimmy grinned, then turned to the door. Pix opened the door and tested the weight on her foot at the same time. It didn't seem to hurt her, as she grinned at Jimmy.

"Okay. Ladies first?"

Pix stuck her tongue out at him.


Going through the Dark was always an experience, but with each repetition, it got to be a more pleasant one. The first Dark walk had been cold and scary and only lit by Pix's lighter. The other had flashlights, and only one jacket between them. But now, Jimmy and Pix both had nice, thick jackets, and were toting night vision good enough to make the Dark seem banished: They saw the world in computer enhanced, perfect color – none of that green, fuzzy crud that cheap vids used to indicate that night-vision was being used.

Also, he wasn't a virgin this time.

That was the best part.

Pix's hip bumped against his hip every other step and her hand was hot against his hand.

"So," she whispered, barely audible over the soft squeaking of their shoes.


"I said, sooo..." Pix trailed off. "And then I forgot."

Jimmy snorted. Edna crackled onto the uplink. "Giving you next few coordinatzzz." Her voice staticked into a white fuzz.

"You get all of that?" Jimmy asked, whacking the side of his comlink. The minimap flickered, a thin red line marking out the roundabout route they were heading down.

"Quite a walk to go." Pix muttered.

"Eh," Jimmy said, "we're good at that, aren't we?"

"Depressingly so." Pix said, shaking her head. "Jimmy, is it just me or is the evil plan to kill all the humans not...sense make?"

"You've said that before," he said. “And...well, it's extreme, but it is clever. And it will work, as far as I can tell.”

"You said that too, but my same question remains: who'd want to do that?" Pix paused, knocking back a sip from her water bottle. She wiped off her lips with her hands. Reflective material looked odd under night vision, like it was way way too shiny. "I mean, it'll wreck the sewage system – most of that stuff is biological, not technological, so the radiation will kill it as dead as us. And when people have to start drinking water thick with fungus and molds and stuff because the scrubber-reefs are dead, that'll kill a lot more people. Or at the very least, make a load of them sick. This plan is sounding more and more Bames Jond every second! Either that,or a ruse."

Jimmy tapped his chin. "Firstly, James Bond. could be an attempt to discredit the Xorquin? Like...I don't know." He put his hand on his forehead.

"Come on, Jimmy." Pix affected the accent of their humanities teacher. "Wrestle with the issues!"

Jimmy stuck his tongue out at her, then leaned against the wall. " were right. This has to be a ruse. But a ruse to who? Mom? Dad? That's where the crystal was going, that was who the Xorquin on the crystal was talking too."

"They do work for the government."

"Mom's a mid-level cryptanalyst. Dad's an ambassador. They don't have enough clout to...well, I mean, if they find this crystal, they can alert the Xorquin government or our government." He frowned. "Maybe it was all part of a plan to spark a war between mankind and Xorquin?"

Pix frowned. "So, the Xorquin guy came after the crystal to get rid of the data..." She shook her head. "No, then, why not just approach us and say, 'hey, some supposedly secret data is coming by, but it's not real, k-thx-bai."

Jimmy shook his head. "Yeah. Asking politely always seems to work better than just blowing shit up and getting into a shootout with the police."

They were silent, walking. Thinking. But no answers came.


Creeeak. Jimmy peeked out through the crack of the door, one hand on the wheel that spun the door open. His other held his gun, which aimed out through the crack. It only took a fraction of a second for the night vision computer to correct the feed coming in from the infrared camera, paint it in real colors, and then show him the room.

Which was...completely empty. A door way was stuck at the other end, possibly leading to a death chamber. Or, more likely, another bland, endless corridor.

"See anyyyy-" Pix's mouth opened in a yawn big enough to swallow the hand that covered it. "Anything?"

"No." Jimmy sighed, opening the door fully. "Edna was right, it is bland, boring and more boring."

Pix shrugged. "Can you think of a better place to sleep?"

"Home with a bed."

Pix nodded slowly, her hands in her pockets. "Touche, young man. Touche."

They walked inside and Pix cocked her head. "It's almost nine o'clock at night."

Jimmy grunted.

"At home, I'd want to stay up till one." Pix dropped to her knees. "Now?"

"Let me guess, it starts with a Z!"

"Zzzzzz!" Pix buzzed. She shook her head. "Gah, why do they call it catching Z's? Zzzzzz does not sound like a snore. A snore sounds more like-" She imitated a chainsaw making short work of pumpkin.

"Don't do that." Jimmy took his jacket off, after taking everything out of the pockets – which made a rather tidy pile of death and destruction- and laid the jacket out on the ground. It was not a mattress. But it would do.

Pix put her hands on Jimmy's comlink and lifted it up. The goggles retracted into the ear mufflers and Jimmy grinned, blind as a bat.

"You're so beautiful."

"You can't see anything." She took her goggles off. Her eyes glowed in the dark.

"You're even more beautiful when I can't see you."

She whacked him. 


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