©2019 by Tin Balloon

Jarvis & Our Last Job

Follow two criminal screw-ups from war-torn Southern California to a shady space station and back again. They're not sure why everyone from bounty hunters to militias want them dead, but it might have to do with the last job.

A Twitter serial written in bursts of 280 characters.

(Image by J. Strawn)

 

by 

J.A. Strawn

I.

We waited ‘til the old dude fell asleep. It was late & Jarvis wanted to do the job tonight. We started moving the electro-currency box to the trailer when I felt the plasma gun at my back. He fooled us good. Probably didn't drink the Gorlax piss I gave him neither.

He was either a bounty hunter or competition but I wasn't in the mood to swap life stories. I dropped the box and pulled out my switchblade laser. Jarvis said the old dude was still smirking when he went down.

 

I don’t do journeys of self-discovery. This is who I am. Anything else I’m so-called “hiding” hasn’t been born yet or it’s just a result of paranoia. Jarvis, did you dose early? We are in the middle of a job. Oh yeah. We should hide the body.

Jarvis was already off his head. That left me dragging the loot to the handoff while he wandered into bushes & aimed his new plasma gun at imaginary bats. I guess I'm just a softy, not leaving him at a bloody murder scene all jacked up like that.

“We should’ve stayed up North to fight in the War,” Jarvis said. I shrugged & scratched at the crusted blood on his shoes. I killed the old dude, a bounty hunter, but Jarvis got saddled with the guilt. Always did. “You’re a good egg, Jarvis. But you’re no hero.”

We hid the electro-currency box & waited for the hand-off. Miss Heddy, our fence, wanted us out in the open, right under some tree. Looked too much like a target to me. She also sounded jacked up on the transmit & I couldn’t relax until we concluded business.

The day took a swift turn for the worse when the sun blinked out and a hail of meteorites hit the field. Miss Heddy was shooting at us from her ship. I guess she flew halfway across the solar system to let me know our business arrangement was null and void.

Do we give up the loot & make a run for it? Didn’t your parents teach you anything? So...run? First the old dude tried to kill us. Now Miss Heddy is breaking our contract—with bullets. Lotta fuss for what? Hand me my laser switchblade. I’m opening the box.

Well, I didn’t expect that. What’s inside? Where’s the electro-currency chip? Not here, Jarvis. I don’t get it. Who would kill for this? I think Miss Heddy is about to shoot again. We gotta run. Yeah. I’ll just grab the...bottle.

"When did you do this? The transport's stripped to the chassis!” “At least it’s raining. Might wash off some of the blood. It really gets into the—“ “Stop talking, Jar. I'll deliver you to Miss Heddy myself if you say another stupid word.”

He shot me a look like I kicked his kitten, then slumped to the ground. I saw him wipe tears away but he still had a tight grip on the plasma gun.

The sun was creeping up over the horizon & we still didn’t have any transport. Miss Heddy stopped shootin but we needed to get outta this border-town, maybe take the bottle of mysterio to Dr. Stern. His office is 5 miles under old-LA, near the wasteland & my apartment.

“When’s the last time we saw Dr. Stern?” “We has the bad batch of Super K & she fixed it up, made it street legal...6 months ago?” “We paid her, yeah? Ouch!” I started to limp from the blisters on my feet. “Nah dude, she’s gonna be pissed,” Jarvis chuckled.

 

"You did scrap our getaway vehicle, Jar."

"Did I kill that bounty hunter?" he asked.

"Nah, I did it," I lied.

I squinted at the cloud of dust kicked up from the transport coming straight at us. We were walking all the byroads & backroads to avoid this sorta thing. I gripped the cursed loot a bit tighter & cleared my throat. Jarvis caught my drift & handed over the plasma gun.

II.

The transport braked & I aimed at the pilot. Hell, after last night's brush with death I assumed it was all self-defense from now on. A leg kicked open the door. When I spotted the head of silver curls, it took a split second to I.D. Aunt Sargie.

I relaxed my shoulders, lowering my weapon. “Tía Sargie! You came to rescue us, sweet lady?!” Jarvis exclaimed. Hie voice was fried from thirst. “Don’t 'Tía' me! What did you two donkeys do to piss off Miss Heddy?”

I didn’t trust Sargie's too-tight hug & celebratory toke in the back of her transport. Maybe she’d get us to Old LA, maybe not. 'Cause that lady never did a thing for my benefit. Jarvis was a smiling fool. Even caught the hiccups. "Miss Heddy send you?" I asked.

“You taking us back home?” I asked. Sargie ignored the question & got our transport off the ground. I played with the enviro switches to piss her off, a side-effect of being a smart-ass with the jitters. She didn’t ask about the loot. A tip-off somethin’s wrong.

“K. We can hitch a ride back later.” “Why?” Sargie & Jarvis asked. I gave Jarvis a kick. He really was a donkey sometimes. “For the electro currency box. That was the job. Won’t make us rich but If Miss Heddy don’t want it...” “Oh? What’s in your pocket kiddo?”

“It's just my switchblade laser keeping me safe, like your fierce ladies from the Artemis Militia taught me,” I told Tía Sargie, patting my side. “I losst mine,” Jarvis slurred. I could hear Sargie sigh in frustration. "You didn't lose it, kid. Momo stole it."

Sargie fished something out of the glove compartment & tossed it back. The switchblade laser fell on the floor with a clang. "Always to the rescue, Tía!" Jarvis cried. I rolled my eyes & kept playin with the enviro switches. Bet she stole it in the first place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Image Copyright by Wix)

 

She pulled the thruster and we shot out of the atmo. "I guess we won't be in Old L.A. by tonight?" I asked. "You guessed right. We need a pitstop. Then you can explain why you're lyin' to me."

We stopped at the British Satellite facilities somewhere over Australia. She took us to the local called “Tickle My Pickle.” The beer was passable but the last time I ate there it came back in technicolor. She was messing with us. She had patience and a strong stomach.

The barmaid had direct satellite transmit hooked up to her skull. Her glazed eyes told me she was deep into somethin so I served myself & switched on the tv. Some reality show bullshit I couldn’t turn off. The barmaid glared at me. “Don’t mess with my show, punk.”

She wasn't the prettiest but the nail art & intricate hairstyle told me she made an effort. Shame she didn’t take the same pride in her job. I nearly told her so when I saw a very special tattoo on her left wrist. I downed the swill in one go & considered my options.

 

"You grew up in Artemis?" I finally asked the barmaid. I tried to be subtle when I pointed out the ink—a traditional symbol of the militia: an abstract deer in the circle of a drawn back bow & arrow. She turned down her skull hookup and glared at the two of us.

“How did you two survive Artemis?” “Mama couldn’t care for me no more & J. thought we was joining the circus,” I said with a smirk. “Got adopted into it. So...any chance you seen— ” “Oh c’mon. Him?” She pointed to Jarvis who was licking something off the table.

“That ain’t clean!” I shouted at Jarvis. “He ain’t that bad. Just had a hard time recently,” I tried to get us back on track. “That’s not what-“ “I know. Artemis has a strictly female policy. Exceptions happen. Listen, you gotta know Miss Heddy. You seen her lately?”

“You came in here with the General or somethin, right?” “Dunno. She’ll always be Tía Sargie to me. Busts his balls enough.” “Hey!” Jarvis shouted from a fetal position under the table. “Sorry J.” I don’t think we were making the best impression. Somethin stank too.

III.

I dragged Jarvis around the commerce level of the British Satellite Facilities till we found a doner kebab place. I had to choke it down, what with the stench of a chemical spill clogging my nostrils. No alarms this time, I noticed.

It wasn’t a huge shock when we ran into Tomo near the Penny Market. “Yo! Jarvis & 69!” Not that name again. “Tomo. Yeah, hey man. Sorry I never called ya back.” “Nah, I’m good. Oh damn! You look like you been thru some serious—“ “The blood? Pssht. I’m good. We’re good.”

We went to Tomo’s place to clean up & change. I grabbed an old plastic bag for my laser switchblade, the plasma gun, & bottle of mysterio. Had to take it with me into the showers for safekeeping. I liked Tomo enough but people on the fringe tend to steal my shit.

I like a scorching shower. Maybe it burns through all the sin. And it feels hella good. Gives me time to think. The shower drain is blood red. Killing ain’t my element. I do small jobs. But the dude back on Earth? He woulda killed us. So tired.

“Nobody’s forcing you to stay here.” I heard Tomo getting defensive. They were headed to a smack-down when I got to the lounge. “You dumbasses are giving me a headache. Tía find us yet?” I asked Jarvis. “She kidnap you again? Like some space pirate?” Tomo chuckled.

I had a smartass comment in mind when the familiar green scent of high quality bud filled the room. “Ach. The air vents are for shit,” Tomo said. He went to a wall panel to fix the air flow. “You hiding a farm on this space-bucket?”

Tomo reached for the switch and managed to turn off the air vent. “C’mon! I was enjoying that,” Jarvis whined as the green scent of bud dissipated. “You wanna see it?” We were #unlikely to find ourselves at a space weed farm again. I gave a shrug. “Sure.”

“This all yours?” I asked Tomo. These were the greenest maintenance tunnels I’d ever seen. Rows of vertical gardens as far as the eye could see. “Nah. I got a partner. Makes sure I got the good water, fertilizer. Keeps it duty-free if you know what I mean.” I did.

My eyes were tryin to adjust to the alternating blue & red lights shining from the ceiling. Were they supposed to flash like that? Tomo & Jarvis had black spots instead of faces like some kind of blank nightmare-men from a horror movie. “You ok, 69?” Tomo asked.

I wasn’t sure what he was asking. Am I ok? I killed a guy yesterday. Am I ok? “I last saw you on Station Brazilia. You was planning to quit.” Oh. “You told him what?” Jarvis’ voice shot up an octave.

“That was after the border raid. San Diego.” I answered J, staring him down until his memory caught up again. “Cause they snatched Lucy,” Jarvis said. “She still—“ “In the ‘Cage’?” I took a deep breath. “Think so.”

No one knew what to say after that and the lights were starting to give me a headache. “That’s enough story time after the adventure we had today. We either gotta get a transport off this space boat or I need a nap,” I announced. Jarvis slapped my back and smiled.