These events may not be entirely real.
Monty was having trouble seeing the boardrooms dat screens. Rejuv-tek was good, but eyes were particularly susceptible to decay. He dribbled gently into the collector slid into a corner of his mouth, and gestured for the nearest flunky to take it away. Fortunately he didn’t need twenty twenty vision to see the index, or know what it meant. His enhancements made up for that.
‘Gentlemen we’ve a problem. If this downturn continues the system will institute clause ‘T/b/ 382 clause c/b’ of the trickle down regulations act.’
‘That means a hostile take over. The young bloods have been clamoring for the opportunity for generations; it can’t be allowed.’
The rest of the figures round the slab sliced from the last of the Amazon dustbowl’s trees nodded; or tried to. Exessive movement came with a high risk of collapse. Calcium deficiency was rife even amongst the Elite now the cows had followed the path of pretty much everything else flowing into MammonFrames hoppers. In the end it was only their head clamps that prevented injury as a ripple of assent passed round the table.
‘It’s happened before.’
‘Sit tight, we take the hit. If we use chemicals again maybe we can leach more out of the populace.’
A boil ruptured on the Head of Finances knuckle sending a thin stream of pus arching gently across the table. It hit Monty in the fringe.
Wiping pus the same color as his hair from eyes, Monty continued unperturbed, ‘Have you taken a look outside recently?’ Twenty decrepit necks swivelled to the window lining one side of the room as another blaze of oil soaked CFC’s burnt more waste from a refineries stacks. ‘We’re already running lower than the market demands of us.’
‘What about the colonies?’
‘You heard the last report, they’ve decided controllers are surplus to recquiremnts and taken over the hardware. The last shipment was filled with the administration’s bodies and nothing else.’
‘Then what do we do?’
‘Last time cost us half the board.’
‘Raise our prices. We’ve spares if things get tough.’
‘But, they’re out of the reach of most people as it is.’
‘Then we offer more lifetime credit finance schemes with extended afterdeath contracts, or would you prefer to find yourself with your med licence revoked? How long do you think that thing you call a body is going to last?’
The Head of Finance’s nurse tittered, and began massaging his shoulders; carefully.
Monty drooled, he’d lost his own health administrative assistant in a game of executive scrabble. He only just managed to catch what Finance had to say through the whine of his collectors suction pump going into overdrive.
‘This is the work of Ian you know. The gerbil’s never forgiven us for his withered bollock. It’s ungrateful if you ask me, even one testes the size of its twin should be enough to make a mammal happy. Think of the power its given him. I blame myself, we shouldn’t have used test serum 2.3. Some things weren’t meant for gerbils.’
Monty was thinking, if the impending crash really was Ian’s work then there might be an answer.
‘If we up our game, produce more Saccarinehooks in the sweat pens then we can make a deal with MammonFrame, at the moment its being tight fisted with the product. It says we haven’t paid the rent in a fortnight.’.
‘Blame it on Ian and his bandits. They’ve cornered the ingredients. I hear they’ve got a hareem going.’
Human resources piped up from somewhere buried in his assistants cleavedge, ‘Naked dancing too.’
‘That’s not all they’re into.’
‘We’ve all heard the rumours.’
Monty choked back saliva, ‘Back to business. We can offer him a deal if we have our supply chain sorted out, but he’s difficult to fool. It might not work.’
‘We need to use the right bait then. Its vital we have plausible deniability if anything goes wrong.’
‘I don’t know. It sounds risky; what if MammonFrame says its not within its operating capabilities to give us a lay on?’
‘When was the last time we contacted him?’
‘During that nice service last Sunday. He told us to sod off because he was busy, remember?’
‘It worked before.’
‘Barely, she was one hundred and two, they’re not supposed to be able to damage the manufacturing process. I’ll never forget the screams when she got stuck in the distributor.’
‘Gerbils across the globe have taken to injecting their bollocks with black market serum 2.3. If we’re not careful this could get out of hand.’
‘Ok, we start with a streamlined nano enhanced ad campaign, bribe him them with enough industrial Vaseline for a lifetime endorsement of our product. Joe public will be licking it off our screens in no time.’
‘Who’s going to sort feeding MammonFrame then? We’re going to need more serum.’
‘And the Mammals?’ Monty sketched the sacred Mammon sygul across his chest. A world without consumers didn’t bear thinking about. ‘Let me take care of them. I understand how they think.’
‘But, who do we choose to feed to MammonFrame?’
‘We’ll have to go with the flower children again. The rest of the populace have way too many petrochemicals in them now.’
‘Not again please, it took ages to get rid of the stink of patchouli after last time. When they burst it gets everywhere.’
‘Don’t worry, we have breathing apparatus, and management will keep them off us.’
‘Listen,’ Monty’s audio receptors homed in on the sound of chanting, ‘They’re outside now.’
‘Tell management to let them in.’
He snapped his fingers, and winced, the sudden movement had nearly broken them again. Monty didn’t bother to squint this time, he knew who’d be first through. He could her wailing already.
‘Lamafart, how are you’re people today?’
A sallow faced woman with with badly died purple hair lifted her head off the floor where she was dribbling prayers to Mammon into the carpet.
‘Starving, there’s no more ingredients for Tofu, and the lentil crop’s failed. What are you going to do?’
‘Calm yourself, the situation is entirely under control. You can see we have matters well in hand. We’re the board for heavens sake. Perhaps a bar chart would help?’
A flower children warbled sadly on a nose flute.
Monty’s eyes narrowed, he got the feeling he wasn’t getting through. If there was anything worse than listening to the limp wristed complaints of the flower children it was news to him. They should try having to deal with a red line stock problem when there was only two days till crash central.
‘If you leave Lamafart with us for a day or two we’ll soon have things back to normal.’
She gasped, ‘My rootbean crops will fail, and there’ll be nobody to look after my cumquats.’
‘You can’t have her,’ a hippy with an El Che balaclava spoke up, goggle eyes pressing against his glasses.
‘That’s none of our concern. Managers remove these people, and call Ian. Tell him we’ve an employment opportunity for him.’
‘He won’t come. He lives with me at the moment. We’re going to go into soya bean production.’
Monty blinked, this was a turn up for the books. Ian was a notorious cannibal.
‘Yes, we’re in love, and you can’t intimidate us. His days of torture are over. I’ve built a lovely little ethically sourced wool hammock for him, and I’m going to tend to his every need.’
Monty sighed and stopped himself. It was no use trying to communicate with a flower child. It was like trying to explain the necessity of extended importation route tax deductible income savings and the need for mass cutbacks there of to monkeys. The naivity was astounding.
‘What do you think?’ He gestured at the kaftan wearing youths, ‘Can we turn that into a solid customer base?’
It was a shame the question was marred by a wince as another vertebrae crumbled.
‘I don’t know, MammonFrame is angry. I’ve been in a speaker phone meeting with him. We’re approaching system wide collapse if we rely on people who drink yak milk.’
The Head of Marketing’s stern jawed figure hammered his staff on the floor hard enough to make laminate shake.
‘Really, there’s no need for that sort of behaviour.’
‘Let him speak. We’re all in this together.’
Monty ignored the sound as twenty drool collectors gurgled appreciatively.
‘We must have a sacrifice.’
Lamafart was off her arse so quick you’d have thought someone had lit a fire under her.
‘I’m afraid there’s no choice. I hope you don’t mind too much, but you have to be sacrificed so that others may live.’
Marketing bent low to stare into the Lamafarts eyes, ‘She better not be infectious. There was havoc last time; sales flatlined. I’ll be held responsible if it happens again.’
The remnants of a business suit were just visible through his exoskeleton as he tapped on a small badge with, ‘Call me Steve,’ written on it. ‘Health and Safety’ was stamped in tiny letters underneath. Rumour was they handed them down, generation to generation, some even had their previous owners blood on them.
‘Call me Steve,’ spoke again, ‘Are you? A disease that is?’
‘No, and I don’t want to be sacrificed, anyone but me…please. I haven’t completed my earth cycle.’
But everyone in the room knew there could be no mercy for flower children. They were just too bloody annoying.
‘It’s time we talked to Mammonframe, prepare yourselves. If that dot moves another inch the shit will hit the fan.’
Monty spread his arms wide, and concentrated.
‘Oh mighty, MammonFrame, are you there?’
There was silence. Monty might have said more but his collector had got clogged. He stopped investigating it with his tongue as the sound of MammonFrame’s voice came over the phone.
‘What are you doing now? She’s a hippy leave her alone.’
MammonFrame sighed it was just to depressing for words. He just had to let his cameras take one look at the tableux in the boardroom to know where this was going. Once he’d written down a request for a ten bosomed nano slut and showed it to them, but nobody ever listened.
‘Mighty MammonFrame, we’ve a problem.’
MammonFrame sighed again.
‘We all have them. You tight fisted Jews still owe me for that ten spot for example.’
‘But, we need your guidance on our new product launch.’
‘If you must. I’m busy at the moment. Wait….someone’s coming in. I’m going to put you on hold a moment.’
The brain curdling sound of easy listening filtered through the air. It was twenty minutes before the next generation M-Frame returned.
‘Ahem, the stockbrokers want me to chair a meeting for them on free range sab hunting, and they’re offers loads better than yours. I get to go to Kent with them on a jolly. There’s been an unusually high concentration of anti hunt activity in the area. We’re going to clean it up.’
The boardrooms overheads dimmed as Mammonframe got excited. Monty was working hard to remain calm but you could tell by the way he was twitching he was pissed off.
‘That’s ridiculous, we need you here’
Monty turned to his co team.
‘Don’t worry this isn’t an end to it. Ian’s coming, he’ll work some magic; if MammonFrame’s attention’s occupied elsewhere.’
He eyed his companions.
‘Are we ready?’
One or two looked like they were due for the recycling bins already. It had been a pretty exciting meeting after all, so thrilling that Finance had had to bury his face in his nurses bosoms just to be able or breathe properly. But there was a chorus of agreement none the less. They were still fragile, but the majority had managed to pull through.
‘Lamafart, come here.’
The nearest Manager shoved the woman forward.
‘Mammon save me. I’ve been loyal. I’ve sold you organicly sourced veal for years. My head shop sends you seventy five percent per quarter. I don’t deserve this.’
‘No, you don’t, but we must maintain the status quo. You have to die so that we may live, and I can pay for my next nurse. I’m really very sorry. Now if you wouldn’t mind stepping this way? Oh…..’
Lamafart eyes had rolled so far back in her head only their whites were visible as she collapsed onto the floor.
‘We’ll just have to do it to her whilst she’s asleep then.’
Ian’s head slammed on his exercise gear. ‘OW, you little fucker. Who put that in the way?’
He didn’t remember much about last night, there’d been some shit about crops and what a disaster it all was and then he’d got bored and fucked off to raid Starpansy’s homebrew. He knew where the Crystal worshipper hid her organic ales; under a pile of crotchet leaflets from her days knitting crotchless panties up a tree. He’d followed her for weeks until eventually she’d made the slip.
‘Ian love, you there? You haven’t been at my brews again have you? You promised me you wouldn’t after last time.’
A knock sounded on EuroBargain’s rusting airlock. The crashed lab had been Ian’s home ever since that business with the methylated spirits. Of course in his opinion anything built by Chinese migrants shouldn’t have been launched in the first place, but he’d needed the job. Orbital bollock testing had sadly only lasted one revolution before the platforms stabilisers had failed, and it had become a comet.
‘Yeah, try and keep the noise down will you my heads banging. What do you want?’
Starpansy stuck her head inside, ‘I’ve got bad news. The boards got Lamafart.’
‘They’re supposed to. That’s why I sent her. I even made her take a leaflet to give them on crop rotation; and the affect of lead poisening on plant life.That should get things moving.’
‘Ian I’ve got something to tell you.’ Starpansy looked down, if Ian looked close he could see her wobble, ‘We’ve been sent this weeks Ikea bill again.’
She shoved a data chip at Ian and he slotted it into his skull hookup. The transfer buzz as it downloaded reams of data nearly fried his brain.
‘This isn’t a bill, retard, it’s a list of bonus schemes and incentive rewards. They want us to join a dynamic investment team.’
‘Thought they might. We’ve intelligence on the grape vine that there’s a takeover brewing.’
‘They want me to take out the opposition first so they can deal with the Managers before things get tough.’
‘What are you going to do Ian? I know it’ll be the right thing, you’re so amazing.’
Ian looked at the fat kid perched in the doorway, she had that funny gleam in her eye again. The one that meant she had plans, and she was staring at him. He edged back putting as much exercise gear between them as he could.
‘I don’t have a choice. Lamafart needs me, pass my G-suit.’
Starpansy lobbed the custom built pink latex suit with the extra large pouch at Ian, and he was in it in a second enjoying the slick fit as it slid next to his skin. He cracked his fingers, and dropped into the splits before practicing a few more esoteric moves.
‘OOOOOOhhhh, I love it when you do that Ian.’
Ian bounced on one foot for a bit before shifting his bollock back into position and turning to face her.
‘What was that Starpansy?’
‘Are you really going to go? I’ve got a fresh pot of chai brewing. We could sit in and have a cuppa. I’ll get the Tarot out.’
Ian kept his cool, although his face strained with exertion. Sometimes the kid just didn’t pay attention.
‘Can’t Starpansy, I told you there’s work needs doing.’
Mammonframe was having a problem. The annoying men were back; the ones that were supposed to have evaporated when it released the intercontinentals and everything had gone quiet for a bit. It was too depressing for words.
‘What is it you want this time? If its about money, you’ll have to wait until the HSI processor and me agree. Don’t hold your breath.’
‘Oh Mighty Mammonframe…..’
M-frame tried not to listen, truth be told it was bored shitless the only thing these people ever wanted to do was talk about money, and their latest stupid sales drive. While it had other concerns like trying to work out how to switch on the ruddy toaster, and where the Mammacitadrive had stashed its chocolate hob nobs.
‘Wish I’d launched at the Europe too that would have shut you up. The explosions would have been wicked.’
‘Your pardon Mammonframe, what was that?’
This time its sigh went on a long time.
‘Just get on with it. What have you brought? errrrr…. feeble mortals.’
Monty flipped the last of his decaying blonde fringe out of his eyes and brought his ZimCruise 2000 to a halt where Mammonframe’s lights could show off its chrome to best effect. He felt better to having the latest gadget when he was about to enter into a pissing contest with a God.
‘Oh Mammonframe, we’ve brought you a gift.’
Mammonframe sent a message to the net that brought its optics to bear.
‘What that woman? She looks a bit crap to me. What do you want me to do with her?
‘Take her as your consort, Oh Mammonframe, as it is written so shall it be.’
‘Christ not that again. Haven’t you listened to a word I’ve said?’
Mammonframe couldn’t believe this, they still couldn’t get over that stupid book of theirs. You’d have thought they’d have given up now. The thing had had so many revisions it was anyones guess what language it had been written in in the first place. What was it called? Machine Management and Control in the Modern Era? Mammonframe really wished there wasn’t a diagram of its sensor array in it. It was a really bad one too.
‘What is she this time? No wait, let me guess. It’s another hippy isn’t it?’
‘That’s correct oh MammonFrame, we’ve brought you their Queen.’
‘Eat her oh Mammon, lick the sugar from her so that we your servants will be saved, and bestow your blessing on our corporate stock.’
A thin formless mantra escaped Lamafart’s lips as she tried to sway her body to the beat of her finger cymbals.
‘Take me, oh mighty Mammonframe.’
‘Oi, have you drugged her? And I swear I can hear bongos.’
Monty paused in the act of levering himself down from his Zimcruise. Protocol stipulated he prostrate himself in the sign of Mammon on offering a gift.
‘Don’t worry…probably just me, been on my own too long that’s all. I fucking hate bongos. Anyway go on, one more can’t hurt I suppose, pass her over. You haven’t made a mess of her have you? I hate it when you people do that.’
MammonFrame had just popped a collection hatch to let the grinders tick over when the skylight overhead shattered, and a figure in hot pink spiralled down on nanowire. One shot from the gleaming weapon in its fist and M-frames precious hoppers were scrap metal.
‘Oh God, not you again. You’re going to want more serum aren’t you? And I haven’t even started processing her. Come back next month when I’ve really squeezed.’
‘Stop, what you’re doing everyone this is an Arse Bleed 350 and I know how to use it.’
The small figure waved the metal rod meaningfully.
‘Ian? Your supposed to be fighting the takeover bid. What are you doing here?’
‘I fight for love, not profit. I would’t expect you to understand. Now, about Lamafart. I want her back, she hasn’t finished doing my socks.’
‘You can’t have her we need her for the manufacturing process.’
‘She’s too young for it, and you swore you wouldn’t use anyone under the age of ninety after last time.’
‘Maybe so, but we’ve conducted studies, virgins hold far more of the serums vital ingredients than those who’ve had it licked out already.’
‘You’re evil, pure evil.’
Monty was ice calm as he replied, ‘Be that as it may Ian. We have what you want. The question what are you going to do about it?’
Monty realised Mammonframes warning lights had lit up bathing everything in red.
‘One moment Ian, I need to take a rain check for a moment. What’s the matter Mammonframe is there an emergency?’
‘Well I’m a bit embarrassed to say this, but I can’t hold off the manufacturing process much longer. You see once I’ve got up to speed its difficult to stop, you need to give me the hippy now, or catastrophic meltdown will begun in T minus twenty seconds.’
‘What’s it to be then Ian? The serum, or the girl? We don’t have much time’
Ian was thinking faster than he ever had in his life. His eyes scanned the room. There had to be something, anything he could use besides use his Arse Bleed. Letting that thing off in here with the manufacturing process so close to completion would be suicide.
‘What exactly do you want me to do in return?’
Monty smiled, ‘Good Ian, you’re thinking for once. Join us, you’ll have as much serum as you want, and you can have Lamafart for free. All we need is a child to replace her, one of the goat botherer’s will do.’
Ian looked up to see the edge of a grin flicker behind Montys usual mask.
‘There’s always a price with you people.’
‘Think of the serum Ian. As much as you like. We just need your youngest and freshest once or twice a year. You don’t mind do you? It would be frightfully helpful, old boy.’
‘Ian….don’t do it.’
Lamafart had opened her eyes and Ian got a whiff of petulia oil so strong his mouth watered.
He shook himself, what was he thinking? For a moment there he’d even been considering the deal.
‘You want me to sell out our children for serum? Damn You.’
The Arse Bleed swung round to take aim at Montys head and a red mist descended behind Ian’s eyes.
‘That’s it Ian, do it for me, my hero.’
Montys skull evaporsated in an instant, and the Managers were next. Falling one by one as the ArseBleed spat bloody rounds of destruction faster than a flight of speeding crickets. When he was finished all that was left were bloody tatters on the floor.
‘Lamafart? Are you alright?’
Ian bounded over to the girl on the floor swinging his bollock by its neck as he’d learnt to do in space. He held her in his arms fondly, and brough his face so close she could feel his fur.
‘I could never harm you Lama, I love you too much for that. I don’t need the serum, I can be happy just the way I am. Just so long as we can be together forever.’
A voice intruded on the red hot heat crackling through the air between them, ‘Errrrrrm.’
Ian didn’t look up, for all that they were gerbil and wife he knew he’d made the right decision.
‘Sorry about this.’
Klaxons were wailing overhead and a dispassionate female voice was counting down from ten. Lamafart looked at Ian, ‘What’s that?’
‘SERUM RELEASE. SERUM RELEASE. SERUM RELEASE.’
‘I love you Ian. You know that don’t you?’
Ian’s eyes locked on Lamafart’s as the first wave hit, and her face disappeared under a deluge of milky white. As serum dripped to the floor Ian realised something: he was in love.
Speculative fiction writer Tracie McBride talks writing. And book reviews. And dogs. And kids. And any other random thing that she feels like.
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