Liam shifted his body to pick up the heavy crate, rotating at the hip. Inside his arm, gears whirled and whined. His brain calculated the angles necessary for the move. His manufactured skin could only wasn’t perfect, but he could feel enough. It was enough to get the job done.
The pads of his fingers pressed on the crate just enough to
lift it. His brain weighed it for him and reported back—two hundred and twelve
point five kilograms.
Liam sighed. Another crate.
He turned again and walked to the other side of the room. He
deposited the crate in a precise line with the other crates. One thousand,
three-hundred, and forty-seven.
He sighed again. Mission accomplished.
What to do now? How about moving another heavy crate?
That’ll be swell!
The voice from the doorway was a very pleasant distraction.
“What are you doing meow?”
The ‘meow’ was probably involuntary. Liam turned his head to
nod at his best friend. His voice modulator hummed. “It’s the same thing we do
every day, Nicko. Try to take over the world.”
Liam chuckled, but Nicko didn’t notice. He was suddenly
fascinated by something on his hand. He stared with furious intent. He licked
at it. He shook it. Nope, still there. He noticed that Liam was looking at him.
He smiled and waved at his best friend.
Liam just shook his head. Nicko didn’t seem to notice.
“Are you ready to do this thing, meow?”
Liam tried to smile. The gears of his face twisted. He hoped
it was coming out right.
Nicko was always doing what Nicko wanted to do. You couldn’t
talk him out of it. Liam suspected it also came with his mutant cat DNA. It was
usually better to agree than argue with a cat-man. Chances were high that he
would just forget about it in a few moments.
Time to play along. “You really think the two of us can bust
out of here?”
“I have the shuttle gassed up and ready to roll.”
Liam raised an eyebrow. He had really thought this one out. The
cat was showing an unusual sense of commitment.
He had secured an escape vehicle?
Nicko purred, “I figured out all the guard schedules. Meow!
There’s only three of them between us and the hangar bay. We have to move in
the next five minutes to make our window, though.”
Where was this level of focus coming from? He shrugged. At
least it will break the monotony.
I can always say the cat made me do it! It was dark
His mind darted through the logic. His brain was enhanced
with a little computer wizardry.
Getting caught would likely result in severe punishment, but
there is no job lower than “Supply Management.” He did hate his job. Were they
going to demote him to a less interesting job?
The whole thought process took a nanosecond. Nodding, Liam shifted
his bulk toward the door.
“Only three guards? We better do this thing.”
Nicko exposed his fangs, excited. His throat vibrated in a
purr. Nicko was horrible at poker.
Liam willed his body into stealth mode. His footsteps—normally
booming—were now almost silent. Of course, it severely drained his batteries
and limited his movement to half speed. Stealth mode also changed his volume to
a whisper, “Which way?”
Nicko sprang forward. His movements were always
silent. He landed with a soft brush of fur, only audible to Liam’s enhanced
Nicko disappeared down the hallway. “Walk this way meow!”
Liam wished he had his guns. This reminded him of his old
field missions. He felt naked without his guns. He flexed his fingers.
He moved with ease behind Nicko, gears almost silent. Nice
and easy. Like butter…
Nicko had dropped to all fours as he bounded down the
hallway. At the next corner, he turned to look for Liam. Nicko waited for a
couple seconds, and then disappeared, impatient. Liam smiled and continued his
slow, silent walk. He had never seen Nicko this excited about anything.
When Liam finally rounded the corner, Nicko was already at
the end of the hall. Liam’s enhanced hearing could make out some voices around
the corner. That must be the guards. Nicko was waving at him, excited. He could
hear them, as well.
Liam resisted the urge to walk at a normal pace, or to
increase his pace. Slow and steady.
There was another sound in Liam’s ear. Nicko was still
purring—and not in a quiet way.
Liam pressed a finger to his lips and flashed a scolding
glare at Nicko.
He formed the words with his mouth. Oh! He nodded with
firm lips. The purring continued. Liam rolled his eyes. You can’t win a battle
Liam reached the corner. Nicko pointed at the corner in
excitement. Guards, he mouthed.
Careful to keep his steps silent, Liam rounded the corner.
The three guards were facing away from him. Each had a laser
rifle at his hip They were laughing, chatting, and passing the time—average
guard duty. Liam raised both hands. His mind calculated the exact amount of
pressure it would take to smash two heads together like coconuts. He didn’t
want to kill them—just render them unconscious. The third guard would be
surprised by the sudden attack, and could be subdued without…
The call was loud and echoed off the walls. All three guards
spun to face the sudden sound, raising their rifles. Liam was still steps away
from them. His eyes opened wide. He reminded himself to never again take a cat
with him on a stealth mission.
Liam’s brain fired at light speed. His body entered combat
mode. His movement was enhanced. He needed all of his enhancements. One of the guards
was running for the ‘panic’ button on the wall. Liam had moments to act.
A laser blast singed across the borg’s chest. His nasal
sensors could detect burning bio-skin. That might have hurt, if he had nerves.
Nanites in his chest were already being dispatched to repair the damage.
Liam hadn’t had a good fight since the war. It’s clobberin’
time. He sprung into action before the guards could fire again.
His two hands were already raised. Liam grabbed two of the
guards by the heads and slammed them together. They crumpled to the ground.
Liam grabbed the last guard by the belt, stopping him just
short of the big, red button. The frantic guard raised and fired at Liam from
point-blank range. Pew! Pew! Pew!
Liam grunted. He resisted the urge to snap the small man’s
neck. He was just doing his job. He spun the man around like a doll and placed
him in a sleeper hold. The man struggled useless in the massive grip. Liam
waited until the man slumped to the ground.
In a blur of fur, Nicko bounded past. “Gotta go! Gotta go!”
The need for stealth was past. Liam engaged full pursuit
speed. His feet bashed against the ground as he kept up with Nicko. At the end
of the hall, the cat man burst through a set of double doors and into the
hanger. As promised, a small shuttle waited with open doors. Liam could hear
the hum of the engines. Yee-ha, Nicko.