Advisory: Language, locker-room banter, Germans, tobacco use. Smoking is bad folks.
Carter watched the fly. It’s translucent wings granted rainbow chromaticism by the glow of his monitor.
In an instant the six legged nuisance was hovering inches from his face.
“I see you Art.”
The voice sounded tinny over the speakers.
“Very funny Greta.” So they’d moved on to flies.
The air was cold. He could feel it through his sweater.
The machine landed on the desk and did a little dance.
“Warum bin ich so fröhlich? So fröhlich …? So..” Greta was feeling matronly again.
Arthur Harrison Carter suppresed the urge to smash the tiny monstrosity.
He didn’t like the direction Halifax had taken.
“If I don’t finish this inventory then none of us are going home.”
“I don’t want to go home.”
“I bet Ted does.”
“You bet your ass Ted does.” Again it was tinny. Schroeder was taking the whole retro approach a bit too seriously.
Quirky. Halifax was certainly quirky.
“Wie heißt du? Du heißt …Beelz!” It was almost unintelligible through the ancient PA.
The robot was vibrating with pleasure. She’d programmed sounds.
“Beelz, einen schönen Namen!” The creepiness continued.
Arthur’s hand came down heavy. There was nothing but a funny sort of residue. Nothing at all reminiscent of the organic. Just fine silver dust. Gunpowder gray.
Art could hear Greta screaming. A smile stretched across his thin lips.
“We’re all going to need Jesus before this is over.”
“I didn’t think you the religious sort.”
Arthur certainly wasn’t religious but there was something uncanny and unpleasant about the little impostor and Greta’s name choice.
“He is a monster!”
“Yea..an expensive monster. That was three thousand in parts and five hundred for two days labor. Karl is going to throw a fit.”
“I already explained that I won’t put up with creepy or annoying shit.”
“He’s going to fire you!” Greta screamed.
“He can’t fire me.”
“You are a cocky son of a bitch you know that?”
“The cockiest and sumofabitchiest somoabitch thank you kindly for the recommend!”
Arthur’s confidence wasn’t unwarranted. There was literally no one who could replace him. There just weren’t many neuroscientists, with high level security clearance, and a decade of software engineering experience.
“I dunno these Germans stick together. Especially when they want to screw with the English.”
“The Germans are opportunists and the English have something they want.” Thin cruel lips.
“Yes, darling I am perfectly detestable. Now I think you have some steps to retrace. Tick tock.”
“You are a truly wicked cunt Art. Truly wicked.”
“Mongolian sky!” Art screamed.
“Mongolian sky in fucking deed my lad!” Ted rejoined.
Greta did not join in the ritual opting to fume in silent Teutonic fury.
The trio were standing beside a couple of gleaming silver eggs in the Gobi desert. Vast polished spheres that reflected a starry Eastern sky. Spheres that weren’t a joke like solar panels because they drank those stars. Sleepless, deathless, self-sustaining sentinels in a cold and lifeless void. It never ceased to be spooky.
“Anybody fancy a fag?” Carter asked pulling out a pack of Chungwa.
“I’d prefer morphine.” Ted said nonetheless drawing a death stick from the little red box.
Art watched Gretas long thin delicate fingers reach for a ciggy. She had beautiful hands. Her bright grey eyes shot him a withering look.
“Feuer.” She muttered.
Art pulled out a Zippo with a hula girl on it; lit his own cigarette, took a few puffs, and then with pained comic slowness extend the device to his flustered colleague.
She grabbed it, turned, and began walking off.
Ted was about to say something but Art’s hand shot up to restrain his shoulder.
“Don’t ruin it you pillock. Such a lovely thing.”
“O you are truly an evil prick…”
“She looks good in those jeans.”
“That she does. But you’re still an evil prick.”
“I think you’re looking for the word genius. I just got the only woman for a thousand miles to give me a butchers at her ass.”
“You didn’t plan this.”
“No but I seized an opportunity when I saw it. That’s as good as planned.”
Ted shook his head and laughed. It was quickly lost in the silence.
The two men had a hard time telling what was smoke and what was their breath. The fact that they could be out at all without gear was itself a pleasant break.
Temperatures in the Gobi were wild. It was good that they were here in the summer rather than the winter or fall. It could get to forty below Celsius during the cold months. Now it felt to be about 14 degrees.
“You know that it’s going to be a scorcher today.”
“You say that every night.”
“And you say that I say that every night.”
“The rituals complete then?”
“We are truly hermits, truly monks then?”
“Then the ritual is complete.”
Greta was rounding the corner with stereotypical punctuality.
“I guess Wu is gonna be here in a tad.”
Sure enough after a few moments the three boffins heard a strange electric hum.
Ted cackled in faux mania as he climbed the little boat ladder.
“I really do hope we get those mad scientist goggles soon.” Art quipped.
“You guys are such dorks…”
“Ladies first darling.”
“Pervert.” She said smacking Art’s ass with a resounding slap.
He howled with pain and Ted’s mock laughter became real.
“How do you like being treated like meat.”
“Jeez.. try to give a girl a compliment.”
“You Anglos have such flat bony asses.” Greta remarked nursing her hand.
“Nah, that’s just ‘im love.” Ted called down from the hovercraft.
To Be Continued