I'm old enough to remember when the BBC used to report the news instead of a load of opinions some freelancer with an agenda just made up. I'm also old enough to remember when the vast majority of the most lucrative MSM sinecure jobs were just handed out to privately educated Oxbridge graduates. Admittedly that hasn't changed at all. One thing that I do need explaining about our current culture of equality and inclusivity is: WHY IS IT OKAY FOR FEMALE MODELS TO MAKE 90% MORE THAN MALE MODELS FOR DOING THE EXACT SAME JOB? Surely that can't be right. Oh sorry, I was forgetting the enormous amount of hypocrisy involved in all this shit.
Having gained entry to Itchyelbow's Emporium Jake was conscious of the fact that things were escalating pretty rapidly here. Since the moment they'd freed Doxy from her imprisonment the violence had increased rapidly. From beating up a few guards to unloading a truck full of munitions to her latest exhibition of shooting skills. Skills that were pretty amazing. She'd shot two men hiding behind Impenatranium shields, not only avoiding the shield but their body armor. That was beside the point. There were things happening he wasn't entirely comfortable with. Actually the vast majority of things that were happening made him uncomfortable. They'd also given him an impression of something he was worried about raising at this precise moment. Jake was getting the sense of a particular genre permeating the situation. Ludicrous in the extreme yet, to his mind, inescapably logical. Though he'd entered a world that was far more technologically advanced, there was an anachronistic feel to this reality. The settlement was a bit like the wild west in his estimation. Which given the amount of science fiction he'd absorbed was only natural, he supposed. Only here the cowboys started from the outskirts of New York City, relatively speaking.
Itchyelbow was taking his time to appear. Understandable under the current circumstances. It left things a bit awkward for Jake. He didn't have another witty one liner to use. This was all new to him. Were the three of them supposed to chat or was this purely business? Should he acknowledge the two men slowly writhing on the floor? Strictly speaking they were moving, wasn't that breaking a rule. Doxy hadn't told them not to move though or made any threats as such towards them. All he could do was take Pip as his guide and she was standing there doing nothing in an entirely neutral way. There was a clunking coming from upstairs. It grew louder as whatever it was headed down. Doxy kept her eyes on everything at once. Finger curled round the trigger of her gun. The door behind them shuddered and ground its way closed. Boy she'd really done a number on that self repairing, impervious, wonder material. He really hoped the Scarlet Harlot wasn't made out of that stuff. Otherwise their travels through space would be a nightmare for him. He wouldn't have any confidence in Impenatranium until at least after he'd contacted their consumer complaints department.
"Come on you fat fuck." Doxy yelled. "Get your fat ass down here. I ain't got all day and it's rude to keep a lady waiting you stinking piece of shit."
"I can't help thinking you two don't have a particularly healthy relationship. Have you ever considered counselling?"
Doxy gave him a stern look.
"There ain't a man or woman in this place that doesn't hate this bag of puss. I've stepped in better things than him."
The clunking reached a crescendo then stopped.
"I'm coming through now." Itchyelbow called from the other side of his door. "My men are armed, but have been given orders not to make any threatening moves."
"That would be very wise of them. I'm not in the mood for games."
The door behind the counter slid open quietly. Three men emerged, their weapons pointed directly at the floor and held across their bodies. Once they'd spaced themselves out around the doorway Itchyelbow emerged. Clanking his way through the doorway in some impressive, but highly restrictive armor. That explained why it had taken him so long to emerge.
"I take it you're here about your ship Captain."
"Fuck me." She exclaimed sarcastically. "What would make you think that? Of course I want my ship back."
"It's a very valuable piece of property."
"It's a very valuable piece of my property you mean."
"Ownership is a very difficult matter to decide I'm afraid. I took the Scarlet Harlot in good faith. I've had to keep it in storage for several months. That costs. I'm sure you can see that. The vessel is worth at least a quarter of a million credits. That is what I expect to be paid."
"Do I look like I've only just stepped off the boat? The ship is worth precisely nothing to you Itchyelbow. You can't even get inside her without my help. Right now all it is to you is a huge paperweight. Give me back the ship and I won't kill you. That's my counter offer."
Itchyelbow was getting cocky again. Inside his personal tank he felt untouchable.
"If you kill me you won't get your ship back Captain."
"That's debatable. I've cracked tougher nuts than your storage warehouse."
"Yes I am aware of that. Only getting in isn't the main problem with folded space stores. It's finding what you want in something with the internal dimensions of a small city. It would appear Captain that we are at an impasse."
"Well the impasse is going to give way to a funeral if I don't get my ship back now. I haven't got a quarter of a million and even if I did have I wouldn't use it to get my own property back. I'm thinking that killing you slowly will have to do as a substitute for my vessel."
"Surely that would break the code Captain?"
Jake was about to point out the flaw in Itchyelbow's reasoning, only Doxy got in first.
"Good point. I'll have to compensate myself by blowing this place and everything in it to kingdom come. You might want to evacuate while you still can."
The armored head turned towards Jake.
"Your companion. The one who who has pretensions of being a cyborg. Why does he keep snickering?"
Jake became bashful at that. Now wouldn't be a good time to reveal that he found Itchyelbow's name to be funny. Thankfully Doxy was up to the task.
"He's excited about killing people and damaging property. Got a knack with thermal explosives. He could turn this entire building into a puddle of molten metal no problem. Loves his work."
"I wouldn't stand idly by while you and he did this would I."
"I hope not." She responded. "That would mean I could kill you without breaking the code."
Itchyelbow looked to be considering something.
"Of course there is a way round this Captain. There is a method of payment I would happily accept were you to offer it."
"So you wanna fuck me."
There was a nervous cough from inside the suit of armor, followed by a clearing of the throat.
"Not precisely how I would have put it. Essentially correct though. Perhaps you'd like time to consider the offer..."
"Sure. Why not? Let's get naked and do it."
Jake did a spit take and guffawed with laughter. This lady was priceless. Itchyelbow gave him another disapproving look which was quite something considering most of his face was obscured. The man had become very nervous again.
"Well.. Yes... I... That was... I didn't expect you to agree so easily I must confess."
"She's my baby, my sister and my mother all wrapped up in one. There isn't a thing I wouldn't do for her."
"Except part with money." Jake muttered receiving a warning look from Doxy.
"There would be other stipulations with our... our congress. I'd want..."
"To film it and have your guards present. They can watch if they like."
"Wh.. That's.... Unarmed of course. My men would also be unarmed. Merely present as a precaution." Doxy nodded her assent. "Scan her."
One of the goons stepped out from behind the counter through a seamless hatchway. He ran his palm device over her from head to toe as she held her arms up high with the gun resting in them. The device bleeped a warning as it approached her wrists. The guard nodded that she was free from other weapons.
"Come on Itchyelbow. I hope to God it takes less time getting out of your armor than getting into it. Tell you what let's save ourselves some time here. You open up your storage facility, bring Scarlett out and I'll bang you aboard her in the Captain's cabin. I'll leave my fourmag with my companions if I may."
Jake held out a hand to accept it only for it to be given to Pip. He could have taken that as a subtle insult, only she was a lot more open with her insults than that. The girl would be seen as less of a danger.
"I will need..."
"Relax. I've invited you aboard. Doing you any harm there would go against the code. Article one no less."
Far more insulting was the fact he and Pip were left to their own devices as everybody else went through the door behind the counter. There they were with the two wounded men. Completely dismissed as a threat. Hadn't they seen him in the cage with Slayer? He dared not look at Pip knowing what was about to happen. She was perfectly aware of the mechanics behind sex, he was sure, that didn't mean they could exchange knowing looks. Doxy had come full circle according to his experiences with her. No doubt she'd be needing a shower aboard her ship, once this was over. Doxy sure was a trooper taking those two particular bullets in her stride like this. It was very difficult to decide which of the two men, Kruger or Itchyelbow, was the most odious.
"I'm getting bored." Pip declared. "Why don't we take a look round? Se if there's anything of interest."
"Mmmm. I'm tempted Pip. Do you think there are more guards about though?"
"Bound to be." She responded. "They'll be upstairs though. Locked behind secure doors. Don't expect to find anything of value but nosing around beats standing around every time."
The two of them climbed over the counter and through the still open door. There was a large main room and smaller rooms to either side and a corridor to another door directly opposite. It had to be the rear door and must have been where the others had gone. Pip started sifting through things she found. Meanwhile Jake walked over to that rear door.
"If your looking for a window, there's one over there." Pip advised him.
He hadn't been until she'd mentioned it. Now all he wanted to do was look out of it. If he could find the damn thing. He walked over to where Pip had indicated, looking for a switch or other control. Nothing there. It was only when he stepped back he saw that the two windows were small slits up near the ceiling. Intended only to allow light in he supposed. He fetched a chair then stood on it.
"Damn. This place backs onto a river or waterway of some kind."
"I know. I live here. Can you see the Captain?"
"No. I can see a wooden jetty coming from the right and the other side of the river. Oh no wait. There they are. Walking along the Jetty. Itchyelbow and Doxy followed by the three guards. Shit she does not look happy about something."
"It'll be having people behind her I expect."
"You could be right. They've stopped and the three men are coming up level with them and now they're in the lead. Well apart from the one beside Itchyelbow. That name still cracks me up. I don't understand how nobody else gets it. Have you found anything interesting?"
"Nah. There's a whole lot of porn, but not much else. The good stuff will either be upstairs or in storage."
"They've stopped again. I think they're haggling over something he.. Jesus fucking Christ she's just killed him. Oh shit, oh Jesus, oh man.. oh fuck." Jake's hands clasped his pale face as he turned and slid down into a sitting position still cradling his face. "She just upped and ran him through with a sword. Where the fuck did she conceal that?"
"It's a folded space scabbard. Ideal for concealing long thin things." Pip answered unconcernedly. "What about the guards?"
"They were already dropping when she pulled that sword out. I thought they'd all tripped and before they even hit the ground she'd run Itchyelbow through. Aw fuck she killed Kruger to. She wasn't upstairs having sex with him. She was throwing him out of his own window to his death. He was murdered, I'm missing. They'll think it was me. I can never go back."
"I thought you couldn't anyway."
"That's not the point." Jake snapped.