A message icon fizzled into existence on one of Sadie Sticks screens. It was a welcome break from the monotony of monitoring the external defence systems, and from the occasional but mind-numbing conversations with Rebulba and Retsina. She still could not figure out why she had requested this assignment. The bounty hunter opened the message. It was a call from Shu Pong. She accepted.
A small screen to the bounty hunter’s right faded to life. An image of the senior external defences operator was displayed. His face was spread wide with one of the most genuine grins the bounty hunter had ever seen. His mop of hair was matted with what appeared to be grease. “How is it going down there, Miss Stick?”
Sadie Stick forced a smile. “Very well. I’m having a great time. Your assistants are entertaining me.”
Shu Pong frowned. “Really? They are normally as boring as fluff! And their profound ugliness and circumferences are superficial and very short-lived sources of humour.”
“True, I guess. What do you want?”
“I wanted to show you something.” The image of the senior operated pulled back. He was standing in the centre of what looked like a mound of cushions, and he was wearing nothing but a black pair of baggy shorts. His skin glistened. “I’m oiled and ready!”
Sadie Stick struggled not to grimace. Shu Pong’s body, although not chubby, lacked condition and definition. It was a stark contrast to the lean and toned body of most bounty hunters. “You’re a little premature, aren’t you?”
The senior operator looked down at his shorts. “You can tell?”
“I’m referring to all the oil! I won’t be with you for a couple of hours at least.”
“I know. I just thought I’d give you a taste of what to expect!”
“I’ve prepared several bowls of juicy fruit with two jugs of thick chocolate cream! We can smother each other before and after we…”
“Enough!” The Sadie Stick shouted. Rebulba and Retsina looked up lazily from their consoles. Their mouths were hung open and their flabby expressions were vacant and brainless. The bounty hunter lowered her voice. She forced yet another smile. “Don’t spoil things. I’d rather be surprised when I arrive.”
Shu Pong nodded. “I understand. You will not be disappointed when you see my…”
A brief alarm sounded.
Without thinking Sadie Stick cut the communications link with Shu Pong and looked around. All the console screens and the giant main screens had the words ‘Lavender-Blue Alert’ written across the top. Above, up on the high black ceiling, a purple light was pulsing. The bounty hunter focused on her console screen. Her hands moved rapidly across the controls. Previously dormant processes were now running. For some reason the thought ‘too soon’ flitted into her consciousness. She shuddered, and then blinked rapidly for a few moments. She gulped back a bitter hint of vomit.
A voice interrupted the bounty hunter’s thoughts. “There are power fluctuations. Some new processes are running.”
Sadie Stick turned. The pallid mass of Retsina’s fat and blotchy face, lit by nothing but the glow of her console, was gazing at her.
Retsina continued. “You’ve done something wrong.”
The bounty hunter looked down and operated her console. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Rebulba joined the conversation. “You initiated the new processes. They are harmful.”
“They are not harmful!”
“I must contact Shu Pong. He will know what to do. He will correct your mistake.”
Sadie Stick felt a brief wave of nausea spread across her body. Her eyes blinked, and then she stood up. She walked over to the two lard-laden assistants and stood between them. “Before you contact Shu Pong perhaps I can correct whatever problem you see?”
Rebulba nodded. “Perhaps…” She said, pointing at one of her screens. “One of your processes is de-coupling the power transfer conduits. Another has locked out…”
With a rapid outward flick of her arms Sadie Stick thrust two small blades into the bloated necks of Rebulba and Retsina. With expertise she twisted and dragged the blades, severing the assistants’ spinal columns and opening up their throats and jugular veins and arteries. Rich dark blood pumped out. Re-sheathing the blades, the bounty hunter grabbed the assistants by their hair and yanked their heads back, opening up their wounds even further. Rebulba and Retsina looked up at her, paralysed and wide-eyed; their mouths gulping like fish as litres of blood poured into their throats and lungs. “I’m sorry, but this is for the best. You need to die. Take comfort in the fact that no one will grieve for you. No one will care.”
The two assistants fell still. Pushing their heads forwards, Sadie Stick positioned them in a slumped pose. It was indistinguishable from their normal working positions.
After locking out their consoles the bounty hunter turned and strode quickly away.