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Preface from Mooderino

Book 2 – 21: Mr Bright Eyes

Third Quadrant.

Planet Enaya.

Elect City Battle Arenod™.


Point-Two controlled his breathing through his nose, maintaining enough airflow so he wouldn’t pass out. His mouth was sealed shut by the thick, muscular thighs wrapped around his jaw and neck.

He considered himself an able exponent of numerous zero-G techniques, offensive and defensive. He could move efficiently in a broad range of gravitational fields. He was versed in a variety of combat skills. Even if he was outclassed by a bigger, more powerful opponent — some fights just couldn’t be won in a direct confrontation — he was proficient enough to distance himself and seek an escape. Or so he had thought.

Bam was far more experienced than him, he acknowledged that. She hadn’t just dominated the fight, she had guided him into making moves with a precision that would have been embarrassing if she wasn’t so far beyond him that it turned into a free masterclass.

She also knew he wasn’t a woman. Something he had expected to be obvious but for some reason, no one else had noticed.

The only difference between the others and Bam, as far as Point-Two could tell, was that she didn’t have an ocular implant. Was that how Ubik had done it? He had made it so the implants gave the wrong information, but it seemed it had done more than change people’s names.

They were locked together, floating in the middle of the ring, away from the walls that might have given him something to gain leverage from. The two of them spun slowly, under her direction, keeping him from gaining any situational balance. He would say she was toying with him if it weren’t for the fact she never let her clear superiority turn into overconfidence.

Every move he had tried, thinking he had found the way out of a hold or a throw, had immediately revealed itself as a trap, and she had been waiting for him to fall into it so she could follow up with an even more devastating combination of impossible to deal with moves.

The thighs now clamped to his face were surprisingly smooth and silky. The muscles weren’t overdeveloped with bulk, they were taught and lean, designed for strength, not show.

His hands were free, but they weren’t of much use. They slid along the gently rippling musculature, finding no chink in her defences. He considered using some inappropriately intimate attack on her lower body to get himself free but that just felt petulant.

In a real fight, he would force himself to be patient and wait for an opportunity. She wasn’t trying to kill him, so either the bout would end or she would grow tired.

There was no shame in losing to a better opponent. And she was on home ground. If she wanted to make a point about who was the dominant female in this arena, she had every right to do so.

Point-Two tensed his neck muscles to prevent his oesophagus from collapsing and continued his shallow breathing.

Just as he accepted the position he was in and gave up on trying to find a way to break free, he sensed a change as her legs switched places, the lower one rising behind his head as the one covering his mouth slid down.

He was pivoted around the top of his spine and before he had a chance to react, she had flipped him over and mounted him from behind, her arms now where her legs had been and her face pressed to the back of his neck.

“Who do you work for?” she whispered from next to his ear.

She had her forearm in front of his face. The metallic wrist guards she wore were polished to a mirror finish. His eyes and one squashed nostril were reflected back at him, along with half of Bam’s angled face peeking out from behind his head. Her eyes were locked onto his.

“Which family sent you? Was it the company? Who?”

He couldn’t say anything with his throat constricted, he could only communicate his confusion through the wrist guard reflection.

She tightened her hold. “Who was it? Node? Don’t play dumb, the agents swarming outside aren’t here to watch the show. Are they here to dismantle the resistance?”

He couldn’t make his confusion any clearer or any more acute. He really had no idea what she was going on about. Although, if there were agents outside, he had a pretty good idea who they were here for.

She let go of him and pushed him away. “Ha. You really don’t know anything, do you?”

Point-Two rubbed his throat as he fell against the wall. It was spongy and you could kick off it or, if you were moving fast enough, you could fly through it. The person being thrown was in control of how they wished to use it, the fighting was carefully controlled and choreographed, combatants working together. Usually.

“Okay, I’m done,” she said, indicating through the wall that she wanted to come down. They both gently floated to the ring floor.

“Good workout,” said Teenha. Point-Two’s utter defeat had come as no surprise to the other women. “Let’s hit the showers and then get some rest. The show goes live at eleven.”

The women got up and started heading back to the changing room.

Point-Two landed on the floor and took a moment to regain his balance and his breath.

“You smell bad,” said Bam, towering over him. “That’s how I know you aren’t one of them. Spies smell clean, because they think it hides how dirty they are. You smell like you’ve been in the same clothes for days.”

“I have,” said Point-Two.

She nodded. “On the run. Who are you running from? Why come here? There’s some crazy shit going on right now, you might have been better off to keep running.”

She could outmanoeuvre him and outfight him, and all while wearing nine-inch platform heels. Any extension of limbs made zero-G mobility more complex. She had made it look easy.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Point-Two.

“I know,” said Bam. “I can see it in your eyes. You have very clear eyes, they don’t hide much. But you didn’t go to all the trouble of making yourself one of us for no reason.”

“How come you can see me properly?”

She tapped a finger under one eye. “No ocular blindness. That’s how they control us, make us see what they want us to see. But you can tap into the network. That makes you useful.”

“Ladies, please,” said Teenha from the stairs.

“Come on. I’m sure you want to hit the showers. They’re communal.” She put an arm around his shoulders and guided him firmly towards the edge of the platform and shoved him off it.

He landed gracefully but an arm thumped him on the back and Bam was next to him in an instant.

“You know, someone who can fool the network is someone worth knowing. You just might be the girl of my dreams, Janeane.”

“I think you’ve got it wrong,” said Point-Two, as he was led from behind. “I didn’t do anything. I have no idea how to access your network.”

“Just a lucky coincidence?”

“No. But not my doing. You’ve got the wrong, er, girl.”

“Oh, you had help? Okay. I like meeting new people. The more the merrier.” Ahead of them on the stairs, Teenha waited impatiently. “Let’s be discreet though. There are people watching.” Her arm closed around his neck.

“Nice to see you getting on so well,” said Teenha. “She’s new, Bam. Don’t use her up all at once.”

“No fear,” said Bam. “I’ll be extra careful with this one.”

Point-Two had the distinct impression he wasn’t the first new recruit to fall into Bam’s clutches.

They walked through the changing room, not with equal eagerness, towards the entrance to the showers, the sound of running water and wisps of steam greeting them.

“Hey, go easy on her,” said the girl who had been crying earlier. She still had a glum look about her. “You don’t want a sexual harassment charge. Again.”

“Just taking a shower together, Chrys,” said Bam. “Completely consensual, right?”

Point-Two wasn’t sure what to say. A refusal was likely to offend. He shrugged and said, “Sorry for your loss.”

The girl’s bottom lip trembled. “Some things aren’t meant to be. Those meteors falling were his way of saying goodbye. They were so beautiful...” She started to sob again.

“Good work,” said Bam, shaking her head.

“Sorry, I didn’t—”

Bam pushed Point-Two into the wet room where naked women glistened in soap suds. “Don’t worry about it. Only Chrystal could see a natural disaster and make it about herself. Now take your clothes off.”

Point-Two did need a wash, there was no doubt about it. But he felt a little awkward sneaking into a women’s shower room under false pretences.

Bam stripped off her corset and tossed it in a corner, unzipped her boots and stepped out of them so she was only a little taller than Point-Two. She had an impressive physique.

She passed her hand across the nearest wall and powerful jets of water fell in a deafening cacophony. Water flowed down her hills and valleys.

“Don’t be shy. Let’s see what you’ve got. Chill, you’re not my type, just want to make sure you aren’t wired for sound. I wouldn’t put it past them to try the long con and slip you in as a poor little runaway looking for shelter. My weakness is I have a thing for lost strays.”

Point-Two wasn’t sure who it was she was wary of, or even if they were real. She struck him as a little paranoid. He removed the guild greys and walked into a powerful spray of hot water. It was the best he’d felt in days. None of the other women reacted to his alternative anatomy. Ocular blindness was a powerful thing, clearly.

Skin pushed up against him and hands roughly applied soap to his back. “We can talk under the water. Disrupts any eavesdropping. Now tell me, who’s this friend of yours who can tap into an Ollo network?”

The way she spat out the Ollo name suggested to Point-Two that he not bring up his relationship with the heir to the dynasty.

“Um, I’m not sure you want to meet him.”

“Why not?” A hand slipped in under his arm and soaped his chest. “He sounds like exactly what we’re looking for. We have a few minor problems he could help us with.”

“He’s not really a problem solver, more of a problem multiplier. Best you let us pass through. I don’t know what’s going on here, but I doubt it will make much difference with what’s happening up there.”

“The asteroid? You heard about that, huh? Everyone wants a piece of that alien garbage. I hope it eats them all alive. And the wormhole. Money and power, that’s the only thing they care about. And Ramon Ollo controlling it all, keeping it to himself. You think that’s good? You like that?” She was washing him very vigorously now.

“I, uh, no, uh, could you…”

“He takes everything, and the people who are meant to look out for us, they’re no better, just want to take his place. The real Enayans, we don’t see any of the benefits they promise us.” She worked the muscles in his shoulders. It felt good but somehow wrong. “There are some people, though, good people, who want to make a difference. Make things better. I don’t know what kind of trouble you’re in, but we could help you, and you could help us. People with your sort of know-how, you’d come in very useful. There’s someone you should meet, someone you can trust.”

“You said, ah, no, not there, you said there were agents outside.”

“Nothing to worry about. I can sneak you out of here. You and your friend. Get you somewhere safe. What did you do, kill someone?”

Point-Two’s head was feeling a little light. Bam’s hands weren’t only good at fighting. Waves of pleasure ran up and down his spine. “The meteor storm.”

“That was you?”

“Central Authority ship. Self-destruct.”

The hands stopped moving. “You destroyed a CA vessel?”

Clarity returned with a resounding thump as Point-Two was spun around and slammed against the wall. Bam pushed up against him, up against all of him. “Just who are you?”

“Ah, sorry to interrupt.”

Point-Two turned his head to the side where a small drone was hovering under a cascade of water. The voice coming out of it was decidedly familiar.

“Got a moment?” said Ubik. “I seem to have got myself in a little hot water.”

“I know the feeling,” said Point-Two through the water hitting him in the face. “Want to switch places?”

“Love to,” said Ubik. “Can’t actually move at the moment. Head honcho of FLEM wanted a chat. Turns out the guys who run this place aren’t just interested in the fighting game. They want to fight the whole planet. They’re looking for ‘volunteers’.”

“That your friend?” said Bam. Point-Two nodded. “He’s in the office?”

Point-Two nodded again. “This person you want us to meet, can you set something up on short notice?”

Bam smiled. “No need. Looks like your friend already found him. Welcome to the resistance.”

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Afterword from Mooderino
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