I Hear You Knocking
“That’s ‘Back in the Day Ray’ taken care of,” Yalda said, watching his whiskey as he swirled it. “You left the portal open for future Super Dick Ray to come crusading through. That leaves Not So Back in the Day Ray. Have you figured out where the detachment chased the Joneses off to?”
“Not yet,” Vidjeda grumbled, glowering into the distance.
“Close enough is good enough. If you’re going to miss, try and make it behind them. But I’m sure I can fix whatever they fuck up if we wind up in front of them. If I remember this Vyx guy correctly, he’s a squish with a cyborg enhancement fetish. Creepy as fuck, but for some reason the whole world wants to blow him. Really pliable, though. He’s got some exploitable skeletons in his closet. Vivisection on poor kids and shit. Dickens on coke type shit. Of course, that would be the shit I remember. It’ll all come back to me once I get there.”
“What do you think your younger self will think?”
“I’d be embarrassed if he didn’t try to kill me.”
“Welcome to the future Casa de Jones,” Wolf said, wiping an armful of dust bunnies off a computer console.
“So, we’re in a hollowed out asteroid tumbling through Saturn’s rings?” Ian asked.
“The D-ring,” Holly said.
“That’s so cool,” he wandered about assessing the room.
“It’s a decommissioned Seraphim outpost from the war. Ray hipped us to it when I got pregnant with Holly. He help keep us off the radar,” Luna said.
“Why do you need to keep off the radar?” Cheryl asked with a poorly concealed arched eyebrow.
“The genetic enhancement procedure we underwent was supposed to leave you sterile. A built in safety measure. You don’t want a sudden boom in the population of super soldiers. But here we are.”
“That’s we were the first and last humans admitted into the program,” Wolf added. “Ray took us on as intelligence agents at the time. Ray helped keep Luna’s pregnancy underwraps, sent us off to be “killed in action,” and gave us a sweet pad to hide out in. When Holly got old enough to look after herself at four, we changed our names and became bounty hunters.”
“What were your names before?” Sophie asked.
“Martin and Alice.”
“Yeah, nobody is going to be afraid of Martin and Alice,” Cheryl said.
“Are people afraid of ‘Cheryl’?” Wolf stuck his tongue out at her.
“Yes,” Hunter and Ian said in unison.
“I’m letting that go because I’m still kind of stoned,” Cheryl said trying not to smile.
“Holly,” Luna called, “Can you get this trash to work?”
“Seraphim tech is practically immortal,” Holly walked out from the hall, “It’s a little ‘retro’, but it’s better than anything Earth’s got at this time. Probably have it up and running in about eight hours.”
“So, what do we do in the meantime?”
“Psamurai,” Wolf looked at him with a sly grin, “Let me try that shit.”
“Hmmm?” Hunter snapped to.
“The blue shit. Or haven’t you started on the blue shit yet?”
“As a matter of fact,” he slipped a vial strung up on a piece of twine wrapped around his neck. It was filled with a blue liquid.
“You’re taking shots of Windex now?” Cheryl asked.
“It’s a distillate. Bart isolated the active chemicals and created a tincture. Much easier on the constitution. Clearer.” He passed the vial to Wolf.“A dab’ll do ya.”
“What do you think will happen if the rest of us take it?” Cheryl asked.
“No idea,” Hunter replied. “That’s never been tested.”
Cheryl squinted at the vial.
“Be my guest. At the very least you’ll have a moderate psychedelic experience.”
Cheryl looked hard at the vial, “Fuck it.”
“What?” Sophie said, “Really?”
“Coming in with me?” Cheryl said to Sophie.
Sophie puffed out a breath and widened her eyes. “I usually have to prepare for these things.”
“I’m curious, as well,” Ian chimed.
“Oh, Sophie,” Cheryl leaned into Sophie and mock whispered, “Roland beat you to the punch. I might have a new best friend.”
“Fine,” Sophie sighed. “I can’t let the new guy take my place.”
“Carl?” Cheryl called.
“I volunteer to babysit,” he called back, pausing his detailed examination of the Starcrossed.
“Skoal,” Wolf bellowed.
Four Hours Later
“Now dig this, guys. I travelled through time,” Wolf drew out his words then mimed the explosion of his head.
“I can’t make my hands look like hands, again,” Cheryl cried.
“Cheryl?” Sophie sighed. “Again?”
Sophie made a motion over Cheryl’s head as if she was pulling a tissue out of a box. Pinched in her fingers was a squirming, squealing, worm with rats teeth in its snapping maw, “Wolf,” Sophie said.
Wolf drew his pistol and called, “Pull.”
Sophie tossed the creature in the air and Wolf blasted it into a shrieking ember.
“That was weird,” Cheryl shook her hands.
“Stop making those,” Sophie scolded.
“I can’t help it. I…,” she was interrupted by a clang and the violent lurching of the floor. The whine of buckling metal rippled around the room.
“Holly, dear,” Wolf called, “Maybe you should have activated the ablators first.”
Holly came stomping in from the corridor, jabbing a long slender tool at Wolf for emphasis. “You were the one that begged me to hook the stereo up first.”
“That’s because I didn’t remember the ablators,” Wolf pled. “I rely on you for that stuff.”
“I told you about the ablators,” Holly shouted.
“No, you didn’t.”
Holly let out a frustrated roar.
“She said it like fifty times, Wolf,” Sophie said.
“At least,” Luna joined.
“It stopped sounding like a word,” Cheryl added.
“Either way,” Holly said, “It wasn’t a collision.”
“She’s right,” Ian said. “It came from under us. The sound of the impact was hollow.”
The floor thumped again although the impact was much less. Ian hopped up and crept around the room with his eyes half closed and unfocused.
“It’s moving around under there,” Ian murmured. “Whatever it is, it’s big.”
“There’s an under there?” Wolf’s expression twisted and he looked at Luna who shrugged her shoulders.
“The schematics show a lower level. Director Raphael had it sealed off, not long before you moved in,” Holly said.
“Why didn’t you tell us about it?” Luna asked, mirroring Wolf’s expression.
“Because I knew you’d go looking for it. And since Director Raphael went through a lot of trouble to seal it up and then sent you two to live in front of it, I sure as heck didn’t want to find out what was down there.”
“I sure wish I knew what was down there,” Wolf sighed aloud.
“Sue me for wanting to have a few things that I can say I never had to scrub blood off of,” Holly stomped back down the corridor. She returned moments later with a buzzing device that looked like a metal detector the size and shape of a bent table tennis paddle and waved it over the floor, “Two huge things. They look like they’re fighting,” the floor jolted and her eyes widened. “They’re fighting, alright.”
“What do they look like?” Luna asked.
“This old piece of junk only picks up heat signatures. But ‘elephants’ will have to suffice for now.”
“Honey, where’s your scanner?”
“I asked Dad if he could put in my bag for me. He said he would,” Holly cocked her head and stared down Wolf.
“Here we go,” Wolf threw his hands and stood. “I’m going down there and fucking up whatever’s in the basement.”
“Are you in any condition for this?” Sophie asked. “You just took a lot of psilocybin.”
“I once assassinated a powerful sector crime lord and collected the bounty off my tits on PCP. Don’t remember a thing,” Wolf chuckled.
“As your however distant grandmother, I have some reservations about your choices.”
“Oh, that’s the least of it,” Luna sighed.
“You’re not supposed to side with your inlaws.” Wolf said walking down the corridor. “Where’s the entrance?” his voice echoed back.
“In here,” Holly sighed and pointed out toward the hangar.
“Where did Carl go?” Cheryl looked around. “Some babysitter.”
“He was eye humping the ship all of what I assume to be night,” Hunter muttered.
“The portal to the lower level is in the hangar,” Holly said.
“Maybe he found his way down there,” Luna said walking out to the hangar.
They rest followed.
Once down on the steps to the lower level, they found the lights were already on. Crude, makeshift tools were strewn on the floor among the detritus and discarded animal bones. It was unclear if the mess was from a struggle or poor housekeeping. Luna led them single file down a short, narrow, steel lined passage with a door, like a bank vault, at the end. It was open. They passed through the portal onto a wide platform that hung over large space that stretched before them and below. Yellow lights were embedded into the low ceiling. A set of narrow stairs descended several feet down into an area that looked like an unkempt animal’s pen.
“Carl,” Cheryl called.
“Hello,” Carl’s voice came from by the vault door.
“Carl?” Sophie asked.
“Hey, Sophia, Cheryl,” Carl rubbed his hands on the thighs of his grease stained jumpsuit and rocked a bit, “Mr. and Mrs. James.”
“Jones,” Luna narrowed her eyes.
Cheryl and Sophie glanced at each other.
“Yeah sorry, Jones, I’m bad with names,” Carl chuckled.
“What was all the banging about?” Cheryl chirped.
“Banging. On the ceiling.”
“Oh. I was. Rummaging around, knocked some stuff over. You know I like the mechanics.
“Yeah. The mechanics. You’re really keen on the mechanics. Where’s your friend, Carl?”
Carl looked at her and shook his head.
“Your friend. There were two heat signatures.”
Cheryl drew her taser and cranked it, “Talk, John Carpenter. What did you do with Carl?”
Carl shrank down and reformed into the likeness of Cheryl, “You’re a clever bitch.”
Cheryl jabbed at the Doppelganger and a hole formed in its torso and Cheryl’s arm went right through. Its chest closed back in around her arm.
The Doppelganger put its hands on both sides of Cheryl’s face, leaned in and gave her a deep kiss on the lips. “Just what you always wanted,” it began cackling.
“I’m too fucked up for this,” Cheryl wailed.
As Sophie sifted through the subconscious of the Cherylganger, it snapped its head to look at her. Somewhere between the start of the head turn to the end it had assumed the appearance of Sophie.
“What are you looking for, Sis?” it chirped. “All you’re going to find is what you put there.”
Sophie clenched her fist and staggered backward, wide eyed and panting. Wolf fired a bolt at its head, but the head rolled down its arm and merged with its torso as a new head sprouted in its place. It had Wolf’s face. It leapt toward Wolf and grinned nose to nose.
“I was a little rusty with the first one, but I forgot how much fun this is,” it cheered, “Playing with your prey before putting it down.” It reached out and grabbed Luna by the throat, lifting her off the ground. “I’m so scared for Holly I keep her in a box,” it said with Luna’s face.
Wolf slashed its arm, severing it.
“Honey, that’s cold,” it grinned at Wolf.
It withdrew its stump and jabbed its other hand into the severed end of the arm still gripping Luna, merging with it and renewing its assault. In the meantime, its chopped arm had grown anew. Hunter severed its arm again, and it repeated the trick. He wound up to take the legs out from underneath it. It morphed back into Sophie and fluttered its eyes. Hunter recoiled.
“I knew you couldn’t do it to me, Hunter,” it cooed.
Hunter stepped forward, “Try that trick on me, you amorphous bastard.”
“Sweetie, there are doors even I won’t walk through,” it said in an unfamiliar female voice.
As it returned its attention to Luna, it became wrapped in arcing electrical currents. It began to melt and oscillate through a panicky retinue of its most recent impersonations. Its liquefying body streamed along the grooves in the floor and onto the deck below. Luna dropped to her feet and coughed. The thing seeped along the floor and down through the grating in the platform.
“Am I going to have to step through this shit?” Cheryl groaned.
“Cher?” a weary voice came from below.
“That’s a Carl.”
Holly sat slumped over a circuit panel, zapping it with a slender tool. As she happened to glance up, she jumped to see Wolf standing over her, grinning.
“I am usually more aware of your presence,” she said, returning to her work. “How’s the basement?”
“Did you find Carl? What was going on down there?”
“Oh, Carl knocked over some stuff while he was rummaging. He’s a big guy, you know?”
“And the bumping after you went down?”
“Oh, uh, we helped clean up. In fact they’re still down there cleaning up. I bailed, like I do.”
“You wanna help me with something?”