A Strong Right Arm – written in response to Diana Wallace Peach’s Myths of the Mirror #writingprompt for May 2019.
When Jackson de Ville came to, he was seated and Electra was straddling him. The knife was in his clenched fist and there seemed to be some mental compulsion preventing him from letting it go. She moved forward, so that the blade began to impale her soft flesh…
For a second he had to fight to remember how he got there…
Jackson’s bodyguard work on the inner planet Folis 12 was supposed to be the climax of his distinguished career as a cop. ‘Cop’ was an old word now, but it had stuck. The Enforcement, for which Jackson worked – had been on Electra’s tail for an age… now the undercover detective and his sidekick, Brocco, were closing in for the kill.
The woman giving the talk was the fabled Dr Rosenthal. Specialist in the new meta-science of system balancing, she could draw an audience from across the explored galaxy. Her ‘systems’ were complete solar systems, within which her new family of non-linear equations could adjust an entire set of planetary orbits, bringing about harmonic changes so that each planet could be farmed, using the energies of the others…
It wasn’t rocket science. It was way beyond rocket science. He remembered whistling with admiration as the invited crowd of VIPs surged towards the thick quartz observation window, flanked by the two gothic-looking towers on either side. The whole building looking down on the desert below from the edge of a rocky escarpment.
Dr Rosenthal had turned and motioned he and Brocco into one of the small towers where she said they’d get a better view of internal and external proceedings with a wider angle. They had been assigned to protect the genius lady, who turned out to be far more attractive than Jackson had expected. He could see by the grin that Brocco, found her so, too…
That perfume…. rich and expensive. Where had he….?
Rosenthal’s voice could be heard closing her speech from the adjacent chamber. Jackson stood in the doorway, scanning the audience.
“So, honoured guests, please continue to look down on this desert that is about to be transformed into high yield agricultural land for food.” She moved towards the door to the chamber containing Jackson and Brocco, still speaking. “I will make our final adjustments and rejoin you as you watch our very first act of Solar System Terrafarming…
And then the fragrant lady they were protecting was sliding into their strange little tower and Jackson’s alarm bells were drowning out coherent thought. He was startled when she pushed past them both and hit the middle set of buttons on the chamber’s small console.
There was a roaring noise and the room shook. At first, Jackson thought the tower had tilted to allow for a better view, but then he saw that they were climbing into the sky. A mile below, three large black machines surged into the desert plain and spaced themselves out in a huge triangle. Within seconds each had spawned smaller replicas whose role was to fill in the sides of what was becoming a vast stockade. He gasped as the interior became a sea of self-replicating drilling machines…
By then, his head was hurting and his heavy body was clinging to the edge of the console, trying not to fall to the floor. His last view out of the window was of a desert plain thousands of kilometres wide, filled with frantically-moving black machinery.
Then he hit the floor and someone strong whose perfume was beautiful but deadly was rolling him into an acceleration bag, which inflated just as he began to black out. The tiny chamber was now dark. As he lost consciousness he saw the blackness of space through the perspex panel over his face.
He moaned. His muscles were stretched taut. A warm body next to his ran its fingers over his skin in response.
“Welcome back…” it said.
“Don’t worry, she was already dead.” The fingers played and teased with his right nipple.
“Who?” he managed with a hoarse whisper.
“Who – the dead Dr Rosenthal or who – your captor?”
“Shit,” said Jackson.
“Only me,” said the perfume he now knew was Electra Eckberg’s. Her disguise had been perfect!
“Shit,” he cursed, again. “Didn’t you get enough last time!”
“Petulant…” she said, kissing where the fingers had teased.
Her voice changed, becoming hard business. “Sadly, we can’t take another vacation.”
Jackson fought the urge to tell her what he thought of her sick humour, but she put a soft finger over his lips. The conditioned response kicked in and he turned mute. He hated himself for it. It was a form of hypnosis – like the effect of the deadly perfume.
“I’m dying,” she said softly. “Really dying. Folis 12 is now generating more oil than humanity needs for the next twenty years… Don’t hold it against me, I had to fund my retirement and I’m very good with molecular machines…”
He swallowed, wondering, irrationally, if swallowing was allowed. His heart was racing. He sucked in air and fought to be calm. The fingers stroked his skin. No pain so far…
“Brocco?” he asked in a whisper.
“Thanks for the sympathy, bitch!” she barked. Then, softer, “He didn’t make it. Wasn’t expecting two of you and I only had one acceleration pouch.” Her strong fingers squeezed. He winced, swallowing.
“Don’t tell me I was wrong…”
She slid her body off the cold metal table. The perfume – dark hybrid roses spiced with opium at three in the morning: she had made him learn it when he was at his most unhinged – walked around his head.
Then came the whirring noises. He looked up to see a canopy of tiny drills sliding over his body.
“Electra, please.” He was begging. Six foot four of total muscle. All begging.
“I could have killed you a long time ago. Stop being such a bloody baby.”
But it didn’t stop him screaming, even though the million sources of pain were more like tiny electric shocks than agony.
After a while he blacked out. When he came to, he was seated and she was straddling him. The knife was in his clenched fist and there seemed to be some mental compulsion preventing him from letting it go. She moved forward, so that the tip of the blade impaled her soft flesh.
Lights flashed outside the tiny escape craft.
“Where are we?” he shouted at her, seeing tiny drops of blood. Knowing she wasn’t kidding – she was dying…
“Akkatura,” she hissed.
“The orbiting pirate station?”
“Yes,” she managed.
“And you think a cop will be welcome here!?”
Her hand came up to pull his neck. “You’ll see… now kiss me,” The whisper faded to a tiny “one last time…”
He couldn’t help it. He was alive, even if his flesh was screaming. She hadn’t killed him. He bent forward and did as she commanded, sliding the blade home as their lips met.
The taste was bitter sweet. Like her perfume. The loss of consciousness was instantaneous. The lip gloss had begun its work…
He woke in a strange but opulent room. Hours had passed, he could tell from his beard.
“Good morning, Mr de Ville,’ said the robot voice. You are safe and one of our guests. Your account is pre-settled. You can leave when you wish but a rather large amount of money is conditional on you staying here for a short while…”
He looked around, then noticed a light blinking on the room’s console. “The late Ms Eckberg wished to you to have every…” the voice hesitated, seeking the right word. “…comfort while you recovered from your operation.”
Operation! His head was screaming as he ran to the bathroom, remembering the rig of tiny drills. He moaned as he caught sight of his body in the mirror. He had be re-engineered… A complex mass of electronics and energy cells lined his right torso, but the biggest change was his right arm, which appeared to be completely bionic.
“You bitch!,” he hurled at the image. “You tormenting bitch… I hope you went straight to hell and burn there…”
He watched in horror as his right hand began to climb in slow motion up his flesh, in what was obviously a silent parody of cyber-movement. When the digits reached his nipple, they tweaked it. At the same time a familiar and perfumed voice said in his brain, “Now, I hope we’re not going to hurt each other, Jackson…”
© Stephen Tanham
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.
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