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When Laurie Lucid stumbled over the rigid body of Manny Perril lying in her darkened apartment, she shut her eyes and screeched like a peregrine falcon. Concerned, she touched her nose, feeling for a beak, then felt her forearms for feathers. Nothing. Opening her eyes, she saw Manny’s saxophone lying at his feet. Laurie looked closer: traces of an onion bagel were clinging to the reed. Most women in her shoes, or even their own, wouldn’t have noticed that.
But Laurie did. Scanning toward her left, she saw Manny’s wide open sax case near the door, several dollar bills scattered within its velveteen interior. Her mind reeled. Had Perril been busking in the hallway? Had her neighbors in the posh 55th floor Manhattan condo been dropping cash into his sax case? But now he was dead. Maybe it was something he played. She recalled wanting to choke him more than once when he was mangling Misty.
But let’s get back to the body. After all, that’s what American culture was all about on this hot day in July, 2094: violence, spectacle sports, and a fad involving dressing up your pet ferret in pink underwear. Looking back from 2540 A.D., long after the Intercession of the Grolnathians and the Great Transformation, it’s easy to judge them, but wait: I’m getting ahead of myself.
There he is, Laurie thought. She lit a Phillies Cheroot and took a long drag on it, but her mind was unable to focus, her synapses sautéed. What was she supposed to do without Manny? It seemed he’d always been a part of her life, guiding her, directing her, making choices for her. She tried to recall life without him and couldn’t. Whatever. The body. She had to get rid of Perril.
Suddenly, inches behind her willowy neck, a gently soothing whisper, “Got a problem, lady?”
Laurie whirled around. Then whirled again. And again! That crazy music in her head – West Side Story!
“I like to be in A-me-ri-ca,
OK by me in A-me-ri-ca,
Everything free in A-me-ri-ca
For a small fee in A-me-ri-ca…”
Whirling about the apartment like a mad thing she was now, unbridled and free, her arms spread wide, doing little Latin pirouettes over Perril’s body. But I have that effect on women, especially during Insertion, the instant when I download myself from the future. So let me introduce myself. My name is Legion. Legion Ayers of the Trans-temporal Corrections Agency. TCA’s mission is preventing horrendous crimes throughout history, which is a tall order, and I’m not talking about those Mile-high McDonalds Macro-Macs topped with ice cream and banana shards. They stopped selling those in 2465, when all 229,308 McDonalds restaurants worldwide were vaporized by order of the Grolnathians. No, I’m talking about really horrendous crimes, like what had happened to Perril. Or World War II. Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination. Justin Bieber’s first record date.
But let’s get back to Laurie, whirling like a mad thing. I tried to bring her down, joining her dance, exchanging energies, melding auras. We wound up face-to-face, pulsating, pumping, snapping our fingers. It was cool. Real cool. Laurie was staring into my eyes with a dazed look, the attraction between us skyrocketing. She slipped her arms around my vigorous waist and drew me into a long, passionate kiss, a kiss so deep I was afraid I’d get the bends if I pushed her away too fast. I could feel the nitrogen bubbles forming in my saliva. Finally, our mouths rejoined their respective faces with a loud popping sound. I took her by the hand and led her into the bedroom, sat her down on the bed.
“Look, lady, you been through a lot. I want to help.”
“Who are you? Where did you come from?”
“That’s a long story. You have to trust me for now.”
“Did you see Manny? Did you see that awful…”
“Don’t worry about it. Maybe it was a bad dream.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look, he’s like, gone. He’s out of here.” She looked at me disbelievingly, leaped up and sprinted into the living room. I whipped out a stopwatch and timed her – 1.3 seconds. Impressive.
“He is gone,” she exclaimed. “The sax, the blood, it’s all gone! What did you do?”
I ambled out of the bedroom. “Are you sure it really happened, Miss…?”
“Lucid! Call me Lucid.”
“I’m sure you are, but are you sure about…”
“Manny? Of course I am. There’s his case, open, with the cash inside!”
Oops. I’d forgotten to time-transfer the sax case. No matter. Nothing special there. But Laurie was suddenly frantic. “Where’s the sax? I need it!”
“You do? Why exactly?”
“For a…for a remembrance?” For the first time since my insertion, something didn’t add up. Something smelled fishy, and it wasn’t a wine-poached salmon with asparagus and black truffles in Dijon butter sauce, which was too bad. I couldn’t tell Laurie now, but I’d sent Perril’s head and body and the saxophone back a few hundred years. Some Native Americans of the Lenape tribe might be looking up and wondering what that grisly apparition was floating 500 feet in the air over their teepees, but their arrows couldn’t reach that high and there were no helicopters back in the 15th century. They came later, during the French Revolution. Or was that guillotines? Too much time-travel, I thought. I needed a drink.
“Forget the sax,” I told her. “You got any Dom Pérignon?” I lowered myself carefully onto her French provincial sofa. There were times I’ve sat down through a sofa, being not fully solidified. It makes a terrible impression. Not on the sofa, on people. You lose their confidence when your molecules merge with the furniture. Tonight, no problems.
“What’s a Dom Pérignon?” Laurie asked. That was when the entire Folies Bergère from a 2160’s Dom Pérignon cybercommercial came hurtling through the wall, plaster flying everywhere. I sent them back where they came from. I have to watch what I say sometimes. Laurie passed out when she saw the dancers, so I went into the kitchen and got two Miller’s out of the refrigerator. So much for posh. When I popped the tops she started to come around.
“You had a relapse.”
“What was your name again?”
“Legion. Legion Ayers. Here, have a sip of this.”
“Wait, why did you – why are you in my apartment? And where’s Manny?”
“Who’s Manny? I came by, your door was open and you were in here calling for help.”
“Yeah, you was, but you seem OK now.”
I got her going on the Miller’s and after a while she relaxed. By the third one she was more interested in the beer’s head than in Perril’s. “It’s got a rich, creamy body that tickles my upper lip,” she murmured.
“So do you,” I said, moving in for another kiss. The Perril caper could wait.
“What was your name again?” she murmured.
“Lonnie Donavan. I was with the Yogurt Hurlers. Played lead guitar on our album, Hey Mama, Mama Wow, I’m Drunk. But things have been tough lately. Now I order pizzas for a living. You want a pizza?”
“Yah, gee, excellent.”
She had no idea what she wanted anymore, at least that was my impression. I had a lot to learn. But I figured it was time to move on. I went to the phone and dialed a random number. “Leaning Tower of Pizza? This is Lonnie. Send a pepperoni-minestrone-Welsh pony pizza to my current GPS location. Yeah, large. Cool. Bye.” Twenty minutes later I was headed across the bridge in Laurie’s 2042 BMW for a visit with Perril’s mother.
I had a bad feeling about the way things were going. I’d googled “Perril + Brooklyn on Laurie’s on-board computer and there were thousands of them in Flatbush, not to mention all the trees.
But more important, I’d forgotten my mission. That happens to me a lot at my age. Frontal lobes just weren’t designed to go zipping across five centuries at light speed. I knew it would all come back to me, but for now I was running on empty, like that old rocker Jackson Pollack.
As I drove, I could feel the hard Brooklyn streets closing in on me like the lips of a giant sea clam. I turned right at Central and drove past the YMCA. They say it’s fun to live at the YMCA. I hear young men can do what they want. But I’m not a young man, I’m 280 years old. So it might not be that much fun, even though I’m in pretty good shape. I do a lot of jogging, about 10 miles on foot and another 5 miles on my hands. It’s not fun, but it’s better than hitting myself in the head with a hammer. I used to do that to toughen myself up. That was the first time they took me away, but that’s another story, and not a pretty one.
So there I was, cruising up Central, when a motorcycle pulls up alongside, someone slaps a magnetic device onto my passenger-side door, then speeds off with a roar. I knew I had to get out of the Beemer fast. I slammed on the brakes, shoved open the door and rolled out into the street. I kept rolling, rolling fast, rolling under the car in the next lane, luckily missed by his onrushing wheels, rolling all the way to the curb. That’s when I heard the crash and raised my head to look. The big gasoline truck behind me had crunched into Laurie’s car, crushing it like an aluminum BMW, like a car made from Pepsi cans, if there was such a thing – not a bad idea, you could market it on eBay and make a killing. But
I knew more trouble was on its way, big trouble, so I leaped up and ran over to a guy on a BMW chopper – God, that company is doing well – gave him an elbow in the face, jumped on and gunned the motor and got the hell out of there. In my rear-view mirror I saw the explosion, cars flying everywhere, end-over-end like in those 50 million dollar action movies they had back in the 21st century. Wait! This was the 21st century, and I was in it.
I had to catch that bomber on his motorcycle. I weaved left and right around cars until – there he was up ahead! “Hey, slow down,” I shouted, “I can’t catch up!” but the guy ignored me and kept going. Luckily, my last assignment had been in the Old West and I’d developed some skills there. I pulled out the lariat I keep in my backpack. (I told you I had a backpack, right? No, don’t leaf back through the book, the part about the backpack is probably gone. This book is written in Ephemeralscript, from Ephemertech, a 26th century firm, and the contents are constantly changing, morphing as you read it. Picture the primordial nothingness just before the Big Bang. What you’re holding is a lot like that.)
Back to the lariat: I whipped it out and hurled it unerringly at the biker. It dropped over his head and I pulled hard, jerking him off his, yes – another BMW bike! I’d strongly recommend BMW at its current valuation and anticipate robust growth in earnings in the next quarter, except who knows what quarter you’re in. Down he went on the pavement, and I flew past to drag him behind me for a few blocks to teach him a lesson, but I could see in my rear-view he had kept his feet and was actually running behind me, holding on to the rope! This was impossible. Now he was pulling back on my bike, slowing me down. Who was this guy? When he got me slowed way down, I jumped off the bike to face him, tying the rope to my bike handle.
That was when he started whirling my motorcycle around in the air in big circles as oncoming traffic veered off or screeched to a stop. This was turning into a hell of an assignment. Ever feel nostalgic for the future? That was me. But I couldn’t cut and run. There was too much at stake: Laurie, Manny Perril, my BMW shares, and the Starbucks coffee shop behind me. That whirling bike was getting too close to the cappuccinos for my taste. That’s when it hit me! I needed a cup of coffee right now! I turned and headed for the door. That’s when it hit me! The bike, that is. He was good. He just grazed my temple with the front tire. I went out like a light.
New York City Police Detective Feral O’Farrell was dog tired. He was finishing up an 18-hour shift during which he’d had to race on foot from 41st Street to the Bowery to run down and pummel into submission a white-trash meth dealer, then he’d gotten into a bloody 45-minute firefight with a firefighter, had wild kinky sex with a Romanian hooker while trying to get the story on her Russian gangster boss, then used his rock-climbing skills to scale the first 28 floors of the Empire State Building to pluck a buck-naked hippie exhibitionist off a ledge and clamber back down with the guy on his back. What with all the running and screwing and hippie-hoisting, well, he smelled awful.
But now here was his police radio springing to life with the hated voice of Captain Quartz, his boss. “Get off your butt, O’Farrell, you lazy Mick, and get over to 23rd and Central in Flatbush. We got a gasoline truck explosion and some street-fighting bikers in front of a Starbucks.”
“I’m off duty in ten minutes, sir.”
“And I’ll be off the can in thirty. Time and a half, O’Farrell. You can buy a lot of Guinness Stout with that.”
Feral bared his teeth at the cloudy Manhattan skies, fired up the engine of his cruiser and headed toward the bridge, sprinkling a big pile of cocaine from a salt shaker onto the back of his left hand and snorting it up. Damn. The meth was wearing off. By the time he reached Central and 21st, he was back in control, except for when he plowed into the burnt hulk of the gasoline truck. No problem. He gunned into reverse before his wheels could catch fire. Where was that damn Starbucks anyway? He found it two blocks farther down. Central and 23rd, that sounded familiar. Lots of police cruisers with flashing lights too. Something must have happened here. Something bad. He needed a cup of coffee to deal with it. Inside, waiting on his Caramel Macchiato, a cop approached him.
“We’ve got one of the bikers over in a booth, Detective.”
“Bikers? What’s this about bikers?”
“Didn’t Captain Quartz tell you?”
“No, he just said something about a fight between some bikers.”
The cop looked confused. “Maybe you ought to talk to this guy.”
“Why? We can’t kick his ass here. Let’s take him downtown.”
“Don’t you want to ask him a couple questions first?”
“Ask who a couple of questions?”
“The guy in the booth.”
“Good idea.” They called him for his Macchiato. He downed half of it in one gulp. By the time he reached the booth, he was back in control. The suspect looked like he’d been through a grinder, but tough enough to break some of its gears. He looked like he could take care of himself, maybe even handle a bizarre fictional narrative in the first-person. Feral could care less. He took out his coke shaker, unscrewed the top, emptied its contents into his Macchiato, tilted his head back and poured the rest of the coffee up his nose.
I looked up at the brawny detective. I’d never seen someone intentionally pour coffee up his nose. My kind of guy, a risk-taker. But his voice was blurred by the sudden expansion of his adenoids, and I had to strain to make out what he was saying.
“So, shmart guy, whatsh your bike doing shticking out of a window in da shird floor of shish building?”
I smiled at him. “Must have been the gas truck going up.”
“Hell, that wash two blocksh back, on 21sht.”
“It was a hell of an explosion.”
“Maybe sho. Sho what’sh wisha lariat around shyour neck?”
“Beats me. I used to be a cowboy in the 19th century, but…”
“So you’re a wise guy, huh?” His voice was clearing up. I liked that. “Got any other cute ideas?”
“I anticipate robust growth in the next quarter for BMW shares.” The guy took out his notebook and wrote the information down. “How about Apple?” he asked.
“Come on, an antiquated record label? The Beatles are dead, O’Farrell. Wake up and smell the New Millennium.”
“No, I mean Apple the compu – hey, how’d you know my name?”
“It’s your I’m Feral O’Farrell And You’re Not baseball cap. But I know a lot more about you than that. I do some gumshoe work myself. I know you’re a rock climber. Look at your fingernails, all splintered and filled with concrete. I know you got a little issue with the white powder. And I know you smell awful. But I can overlook that. Look, let’s forget about this little gasoline truck explosion thing. Help me track down a couple of people. I have a feeling we could work together.”
“So who you looking for?”
“Just the guy who clamped an explosive device on my car. And I’m trying to find out more about a guy named Manny Perril.”
“Manny Perril the international jewel smug – I mean sax player?”
“That might be the guy, yeah.”
“Never heard of him, punk. And why don’t I think you’re really a gumshoe?”
“Hey, lighten up, pal. We could team up on this.”
“OK, I’ll give you a chance. But no funny business. Now what about your friend on the motorcycle?”
“I have a feeling he’ll show up again. I’ll let you know when he does.”
“This is getting too complicated, Mr. – what was your name again?”
“It’s Ayers,” I said. “Legion Ayers. And yeah, I know you been through a lot today O’Farrell. Maybe you should try one of these.” I reached into my backpack and pulled out a vial with some yellow pills from which a strange glow radiated and handed one to O’Farrell.
The police detective looked around to see if they were alone. “I’ll try anything once,” he murmured and popped it into his mouth. “Wait a minute,” he mumbled. “I hear a pulsing, exotic melody in my ears. Everything is fading around me. Only a tunnel of light, and look! A shadowy figure approaching the door. Now the door itself is dissolving. Look! A radiant, robed figure, bathed in lavender glow. Hey, I know this guy. It’s Lord Krishna, the Vedic godhead, Divine Prince of the entire universe! What’s that you say, your Divine Majesty? We we need to talk?”
The dazed look in O’Farrell’s eyes told me my interrogation was over. I slipped out of the booth and made my way back through the kitchen and out the back door, taking a couple of blueberry scones along for the ride. I looked down the darkened alley and wondered what my next move should be. Now I had an angle on Manny. An international jewel smuggler! Well, not any more. Now he was in a holding pattern over pre-Columbian Manhattan. He’d been there a while now, and I realized the crows would be working him over up there. That would look really weird, flocks of birds congregating in the sky, ripping at the flesh of a human body floating in mid-air. Eventually there would be nothing left but the saxophone, sunlight glinting off its varnished brass, visible from miles away at sunset. That would look pretty cool.
Wait, I had to snap out of it. Get to the bottom of the case. Of course – the case! That must be where the jewels were! I had to get back to Laurie’s place. Of course, she’d be pissed as hell her BMW exploded, but a world-class collection of jewels can buy a lot of Beemers. I headed down the alley toward the side street leading to Central. That was when I heard the footsteps behind me. I stopped, they stopped. Just like in the movies, except this wasn’t a movie. I made sure, checking right and left for cameras or a director in one of those big director’s cranes that go up in the air. Nothing. I started walking again and the footsteps were closer now. I began skipping along like a little girl, and heard the same pattern echoing behind me. I tried a John Cleese silly walk, leaning back and sticking my legs way out in front. When I stopped, silence; then, very softly, a Woody Woodpecker call. This was getting ridiculous. I executed a couple Olympic floor-exercise moves, including an acro line and two different saltos, finishing with a triple-reverse overhead flip. I hit the ground perfectly in balance, but I couldn’t move. Must have pulled something. That was when I sensed someone caressing my back and felt a wet tongue in my ear and heard the whispered words, “You’re fine, so fine, let me tell the world that you’re mine, mine, mine.” It was Jerry Lee Lewis! Except it couldn’t have been Jerry. He was into pre-adolescent girls, not 280 year-old men. But that voice – I knew that voice. It was…
“Hey, tiger, why’d you ditch me like that when our little party was just getting started?”
“Laurie! How the hell did you get here?”
“Oh, I get around. I wasn’t that drunk. And I’m not as stupid as those pink elves looking down at me from that tree think I am.”
“Never mind, tight-buns. I followed you down to the parking lot and slipped secretly into the trunk of my own car. I was with you all the way to Brooklyn.”
“Hey, I’m sorry about the car. How’d you escape the explosion?”
“I know a couple things about locks.”
“I suppose Perril taught you that, right?” I was starting to put apples and oranges together but they didn’t add up. And it was hard to concentrate: she had changed into tight leather short-shorts and a red, see-through camisole.
“Let’s not talk about Manny anymore,” she said. “Let’s get out of this alley and find some birds and bees.” I had no problem with that, except I still couldn’t move. “I think I hurt my back a little,” I explained. “Poor baby,” Laurie said, and put one hand on my rock-hard pecs and began rubbing them up and down. “Wow,” she breathed, “some six-pack.” She changed to a circular motion and moved lower, lower. My back started feeling better fast. I experimented with it by thrusting my loins forward, then back, then forward, then back again. I took a couple steps. My back was OK now, but I couldn’t stop the loins. I tried to be casual and took her hand to lead her out of the alley, but my thrusting wouldn’t stop. Talk about a silly walk. It was embarrassing. Laurie slapped me hard in the face and it stopped. “Later, Tiger,” she said. I liked that. I like a woman to slap me sometimes, or choke me, or even slather lard on my face, but more about that later.
We reached the end of the alley. “Here’s our ride, Legion,” she purred. Parked there was a gleaming new BMW 800 GS Enduro. This was making no sense. The big chopper couldn’t have been stowed in her Beemer’s trunk. But all I could think of in the moment was the cleft in her short-shorts. Laurie climbed onto the seat, turned a key and the motor roared to life. This baby had room for a passenger behind the driver and she motioned me aboard. I put my hands around her waist and held on as she roared up to the corner, hung a right on Central, passed the stunned police and headed for Manhattan.
Now, I’m the kind of guy who needs emotional intimacy in relationships. I like to take things slow and find common values. I need to hear a woman share where she is on her journey and her creative life. So it was hard for me to understand what happened next. It was as if a cloud of pure sensual energy descended on me and by the time we were on the Brooklyn Bridge our bodies were joined together as one, both of us crying out in ecstasy, oblivious of the people pointing at us from passing buses.
But as we screamed off the bridge at 120 mph, I finally realized: I had seen this chopper before, and it wasn’t the one lodged in a third floor window. In a flash, I lost my, well, sexual function. Luckily, I always keep a cucumber in my backpack, and was able to placate her. When we reached her apartment, on a hunch, I licked the tip. It tasted something like pomegranates with a touch of silicon and solder. No doubt about it now: she was a bionic woman. It really was she who had whirled that motorcycle around like a tennis ball. She lowered the kickstand, turned and stared at me. My only advantage was that she didn’t suspect I knew what she was.
“I suspect you know what I am,” she said. I scanned the dimly-lit garage. I didn’t stand a chance against her if she went ballistic.
I had to try to humor her.
“Skeleton walks into a bar and says, ‘Give me a beer and a mop.’”
She stared at me uncomprehendingly. Finally she rolled her eyes.
“Comedy will get you nowhere, Ayers.”
I shifted gears.
“Oh, that this too, too solid flesh would melt, or that the everlasting had not fixed His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter…”
“Tragedy won’t work either. Look, you play your part and you won’t get hurt. Got it?”
“Yeah, I got it. So what’s the play?”
“There is no play. You might thank me for getting you away from the cops. And for our little bridge-bang too. Stay in touch. You know where to find me.” She turned and slank away toward the elevators. Believe me, that woman, or whatever she was, knew how to slank. I breathed a sigh of relief and watched her disappear into the shadows.
It had been a long day. I needed a place to crash. I headed down the stairs and up 6th Avenue to Central Park. There was a secluded spot near the Balto statue, so I pulled my 3rd millennium sleeping bag out of its flask, it expanded and I settled down. The stars were as bright as a million stars. I couldn’t be completely sure though, because it was totally overcast. But stars are always like that, right?
I drowsed off trying to remember what my assignment was. Oh yeah – this Perril guy, he was going to destroy the earth with some sort of technology he’d developed. Bionic people, something like that. There must be a connection somewhere, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I was so sleepy. And now Perril was dead? Seemed like there’d been a mix-up back at headquarters. Whatever. I wanted to check out that sax case. I decided to stake out Laurie’s in the morning, wait for her to leave, then break in and case the joint. Then case the case. Then, my eyes closed. I assume.
“Number 4700 said to Number 3,
You’re the cutest android I ever did see.
I sure would be delighted with your company.
Come on and do the Robot Rock with me,
Deep in the labyrinthian bowels of a cavern under a West Side warehouse, hordes of what appeared to be beautiful young women and strikingly attractive men began to writhe to the pulse of a 1950’s rock classic. High above, passersby stopped briefly, feeling ground tremors. Below, on a subterranean stage, a figure that appeared to be Elvis himself joyously slithered and barked out his lyrics and strummed his Gibson guitar. Actually, they weren’t all that attractive. A minority of the young women had parts of PC boards protruding from their bodies or CPU chips for nipples. Some had their spleens on the outside rather than inside, and some of the guys had clumps of hair instead of hands, or eyes on their tongues or, you know, cartilage lips.
Their creator, a sociopathic computer genius named Manny Perril, had worked for Microsoft way back in the early days, long before his bionic humanoid start-up. People forget the constant PC crashes at the turn of the Millennium, the data losses, the suicides, office workers jumping out of windows because of Windows. People thought it was Bill Gates’ fault, but Manny Perril was the one responsible for those horrors. Supposedly a quality control manager, he used to sneak in the building at night and insert bugs in all the programs. Nothing in life gave him more pleasure than the words, “Oh no! It’s gone! All my work is gone!” Around 2004, they discovered him, he got fired, and people noticed PCs were getting more stable. Perril went ballistic and spent decades planning to get even, until he hit on a way to eliminate the human race itself.
Most of the androids in the cavern were enormously attractive, and in any case, the males were programmed not to objectify females. The females, well, a woman can overlook cartilage-lips if a guy is sensitive and caring. Yes, the androids crashed sometimes, but that was manageable, unless they were driving a car, in which case they really did crash. But Perril figured that would just keep the android police busy. Since everybody was programmed to be honest and cool, the police would have a lot of down-time, so traffic accidents, paradoxically, would be kind of beneficial. Perril was way deep into kind of.
His sick idea was to replace the conflict-ridden human race with a race of sensitive, New Age, dance-till-you-drop humanoids, except they never would drop. But could they reproduce! The little ones came out all ready to go, no special care needed. They did video games until they were 3 months, then they could have sex, because their growth rate was 84 times faster than humans. At three months they were full-sized. They were multi-colored and multi-racial and free of prejudice. Hey, you’d love these people. Only problem was, they didn’t love you. They weren’t really New Age. They were set to take over the world and you were set to be toast. As Perril liked to say, “You gotta break some eggs to make a peaceful planet.”
Now, as Elvis finished up, as the dancing frenzy subsided, as a disco ball descended and a Donna Summers clone took the stage, Number 4700 said to Number 3, “Hey, doll, let’s get some fresh air.”
She looked at him uncomprehendingly. “Fresh air? What’s that?” For many the androids, planetary details were on a need-to-know basis.
“I’ll show you…follow me.” 4700 took her hand and headed down some stairs and into a side tunnel off the ballroom. They came to a big iron door, but he performed some manipulation and it creaked open. The N Train subway tracks lay before them.
“Come on, 3,” he shouted, “we have to beat the train to Canal Street Station.” Perril had made the androids fast. Sprinting down the tracks, they got to Canal Street in less than a minute and quickly jumped up onto the platform without being seen. They could run and jump too, could kick some Usain Bolt butt, no problem. Number 3 got a few stares because of the CPU chip protruding from her chin, but most of the New Yorkers figured it was a punk thing. When they got to the exit gate, jumping the turnstile was a piece of cake.
“Hey, you two, snapped the attendant, “Pay up or you’re looking at jail time!” Tough guy. 4700 reached out and tore his face off. Hard to yell without a face. By the time stunned commuters could react, the two androids were gone. Number 3 was upset though. “Why did you have to do that, 4700? That was kind of extreme.”
“Look, 3, there’s things coming up you haven’t been updated on yet. Let’s just say I know what I’m doing. Trust me, this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius and pretty soon everything’s gonna be harmonious – real harmonious. Anyway, look around you, it’s New York! The greatest city in the world. Hey, you want to eat Italian?”
“4700! We’re not cannibals!”
“Not eat an Italian – Italian food – pasta, pizza, spumoni!”
“It’s – wait, you should be programmed to know that.”
“Yeah, I think my memory chip is chipped.”
“Really? Where’s France?”
“Uh-oh. Where’s Africa?”
“Monday nights on NBC?”
“What’s an elephant?”
“On the kitchen counter next to your keys.” 4700 sighed. Some date night. Conversation was going to be tough. Well, 3 was a very early version. You would expect some glitches. He escorted her down Canal Street to Mulberry and turned uptown into Little Italy. Sophia’s was three blocks up. “You’re going to love Sophia’s,” he said. “They make an amazing linguini alla vongole con vino blanco.”
“Linguini and clams in white wine? Sounds great.” Some sectors of her memory must be OK. 4700 wondered about her sex techniques file. Well, time would tell. The couple reached the doorway of the small family-owned bistro and strode in. 4700 headed for a table near a small stage where a performer was plucking a mandolin. A maître d’ soon appeared and cast a withering look at their attire. He was a barrel-chested man whose gravelly voice was much rougher than his choice of words.
“I’m sorry, sir, this table’s reserved. All of them are, actually,” he growled
“I want an appetizer,” 3 smiled. “Do you serve oysters al pacino?”
4700 cut in. “Let me handle this.” He grasped the waiter’s wrist with a lightning-quick motion. A look of shock came over the man’s face as 4700 locked his intense gaze on him. “Two linguinis alla vongole, very good,” he mumbled submissively and shuffled away. “Don’t forget the vino rosso and some nice pane michetta with olive oil!” 4700 shouted. Heads turned toward the couple, then turned away. The bread soon appeared and a Sangiovese was politely poured into their glasses, then the linguini came.
3 was delighted. “Oh, 4700, you dance so well, you handle awkward situations with such aplomb, and 299.1 million tons of shipping passed through the Panama Canal in 2033.”
“Thanks, 3, no one’s ever told me that before.” He felt her hand under the table stroking his thigh. “Let’s make babies,” she whispered. “We could live on Long Island and go to the beach in the summertime, and… it’s a bouncer toward first! It goes through Buckner’s legs!! Here comes Knight – he scores and the Mets win it! I don’t believe it!” She was out of her seat, shouting with a faraway look in her eyes. Some of the customers were irritated, others seemed to be smiling at a long-forgotten memory.
“Sit down, 3, sit down! Cool it. Here, have another sip of this Sangiovese.”
“Isn’t that a crime family?”
“No, that’s Genovese.” A large man at the next table watching them out of the corner of his eye scraped his chair back and started to get up, but his girlfriend grabbed his hand and pulled him back.
“How’s the wine, sweetheart?” 4700 inquired, with a touch of Bogart in his voice.
“Well,” commented 3, “it’s delicious and oaky and spicy and fruity and corky and tarry and flowery and mellow and piquant and…”
“OK, OK, 3, I like it too.” They focused in on the linguini. It was as fabulous, as 4700 had predicted. About halfway through, a small older man in a fedora came in with a burly compatriot. The man looked down toward 4700 and 3 and grabbed a passing waiter. There was an intense conversation with angry gestures. The bigger guy headed toward the two androids and stopped in front of their table. His voice was menacing.
“You two need to clear out in a hurry, like right now, if you know what’s good for you. This is Mr. Scarlatti’s table.”
“Scarlatti!” 3 burst out. “Can you play the Sonata in F Minor K. 69?”
“Please, 3, let me talk to the man.” He smiled at the bruiser looming over their table. “My friend, I think you might not know who I am. In Chicago, my name is very well-known. Mr. Scarlatti and I have some important business to discuss tonight. Does the name Carlo D’Amato mean anything to you?”
The man’s face turned red. “What the hell you talkin’ about?” He lowered his voice. “Get the fuck up and take off now, you testa di merda.”
Hearing this, 3 grabbed her t-shirt and pulled it off, revealing her totally bare, perfect pink breasts. Then, in a motion so fast the man barely saw it, she stood up, unzipped her shorts and stepped out of them. In another instant, she had leaped in the air and wrapped her legs around the man’s shoulders, so that her sex was pressed against his nose. “Get the fuck up and take off now??” she shouted. “Testa di merda?? Oooh, Italian men really are hot!” She was thrusting herself against his face as he struggled helplessly to pull her off. “Oh God, I’m coming! I’m coming! Thank God you’re Italian!” she shouted, lost hopelessly in her passionate ride. The restaurant was a frozen tableau of stunned patrons. But 4700, oblivious, had returned to his linguini, finishing it off with gusto.
That was when he heard the piercing cry of a peregrine hawk. He looked up to see Laurie striding down the aisle, whip 3 off the man’s shoulders like she was a toy doll and slam her back into her seat.
“Put your clothes back on, 3. What are you two doing off-campus?” She focused on 4700. Is this your idea of a joke? You’re all on-screen, 24/7. Supervision always knows where everyone is, where they go.” She felt 4700’s anger growing, saw his breathing speed up. “And don’t try to tear this guy’s face off. We know about that too. Come on, let’s go.” The male android shrugged, got up, and Laurie followed the two of them up the aisle. “I can’t take you anywhere, 3,” 4700 muttered.
Behind her, Laurie suddenly sensed the big Italian guy make a rush for them. She turned and with a single shove pushed him back four tables and through a wall into the laundromat next door. His pals at the Italian Dockworker’s Social Club would never let him live this down. Their teasing finally led to two of them getting life-time jobs helping concrete hold up a new building on 89th Street.
“Another day at the office,” Laurie grumbled, as the three androids, to human eyes, simply vanished.
Someone was kicking me in the side. It was morning, and I was still in Central Park. The individual standing over me was wearing gold velveteen boots and paisley pedal-pushers. He had a sheer, tie-dyed blousy thing on and Jesus, he was wearing beads. And he’d blown his hair out into this Afro thing. On his forehead was a red bandana with a peace sign.
“Wake up, Ayers, we need to talk.” I knew that voice! It couldn’t be, but it was.
“Feral! What happened to you?”
“I’m Farah now, Legion. I’m in touch with my female side.”
You never know what the effects will be when you give someone Transpsychlin. It’s a powerful medication. Some people see God or Lord Krishna. Others have actually channeled Donald Trump. O’Farrell had obviously been through some changes. I had to handle him carefully. I grabbed his foot and twisted it hard, spinning him to the ground. “Oof!” he grunted. It’s a satisfying sound. If I get a guy to say oof, I know I’m pretty much in control of a situation. But this was no time for nostalgia. O’Farrell needed help.
“You’ve broken my beads,” he whimpered. “I strung them myself!”
“Look, O’Farrell, snap out of it. It’s a tough world. You have to be strong.”
“But Lord Krishna said…”
“Krishna? The deity who told Arjuna he had to slaughter all his cousins in battle? You must have caught him on a good day. What else did he tell you?”
“He said to lighten up and go with the flow.”
“Well, I’m the flow now, OK? We have to get you out of these hippie duds. Any of your fellow-cops see you like this?
“No, I got up at 4AM and was meditating in the Ashram.”
“Wow, you went off the deep end.” I got to my knees and started stripping the clothes off his body. He just lay there moaning, “No, no, don’t please!” A couple of teenagers came by, saw us and started giggling. New York City, what a town. “Here, crawl between these rocks and wait for me,” I told him. “I’ll be right back.” I grabbed his clothes and rushed through some trees onto another path. Luckily, there was a guy in a suit there, about O’Farrell’s size. I punched him in the stomach. He said oof, and I dragged him behind some bushes and stripped him. A couple of teenagers came by, saw us and started giggling. Sometimes I hate this job. “Put these on, buddy,” I told the guy, “and start a new life.” I rushed back to O’Farrell and threw the business clothes at him.
“Put these on. Now.”
“Aren’t you going to dress me?” he asked. I slapped him a couple of times. He pushed me away. I slugged him hard in the jaw. He got to his feet and threw a haymaker I just ducked. Then he landed a hard right that put me on my butt. Now O’Farrell was on top of me, unloading lefts and rights to my head. “This is more like it, O’Farrell,” I shouted. “You’re back now, aren’t you?”
“Goddam right I am, punk. I’ll show you whose boss.”
“If you’re the boss, why are you sitting on a guy stark naked?” That stopped him.
“What the hell am I doing naked?” he asked confusedly.
“Don’t worry, Feral, just put on the suit.” Which he did. “Now why are you here, Feral? You must have a reason. How did you find me anyway?”
“Look, pal, the New York City Police Department isn’t as stupid as that advanced race of intelligent reptiles living deep in the earth thinks we are.”
“Never mind. You think you can just take off from the scene of a crime with some broad, have sex with her on a motorcycle and lose us in the big city, the city that never sleeps? You think you can do that in Gotham, the Big Apple, the city so nice they named it twice, the city where every dark, twisted alley leads to an unmarked grave, where only fools and lepers venture out after dark, where hookers are as cheap as cigarettes and twice as bad for you…?”
“Pull it together, Feral, what are you trying to say?”
“It’s what I’m asking, Ayers, not saying. Who’s the dame? What’s going on at her condo? What’s with the motorcycle in the 3rd floor window? What was she doing with the couple that took Sophia’s Restaurant apart last night? And while we’re at it, who the hell are you, anyway?”
O’Farrell had just recovered from a psychic shock. I needed his help, but he could only take so much right now. I knew I had to handle him carefully.
“I’m a time-travelling visitor from 400 years in the future, Feral, an agent of the Trans-temporal Correction Agency.” Bad choice. He swung from his heels and knocked me into the bushes. “Don’t fuck with me, Ayers, I’ll hurt you and desert you, I’ll take your soul if you let me. But don’t you let me…”
“What?” I sat there rubbing my jaw.
“I’m a big James Taylor fan. ‘You Got A Friend,’ Atlantic Records?” He blinked and shook his head. “Hey, why are you lying in the bushes?” He obviously wasn’t all the way back yet, so I changed gears.
“You were asking about the girl. I live in her apartment building, see? And I found her yesterday with the door open and, well, there was a dead body her room.”
“Why didn’t you report it?”
“Well, it disappeared. I took her into another room to calm her down, and when we came back the body was gone.”
“And two hours later, you’re screwing her at 120 mph on the Brooklyn Bridge? You gotta do better than that, Ayers.”
“How about screwing her on top of the Empire State Building?” Feral swung from his heels and knocked me into the bushes again. “You’re an awful sexist who disrespects women. You think your screwing jokes are funny? Think again. Lord Krishna is ambidextrous, you know.”
“Whatever. Don’t talk like that. It upsets me. Now level with me. What the hell is going on?” I realized there was no getting around it. I had to give him a Demonstration. “Hold on, Feral,” I said, “You’re going for a little ride. You say you like James Taylor?”
“Yeah, I…” and he was gone. Sent him back to the Troubadour Club, Sunset Strip, summer of 1969, just for a while, while I figured out my next move.
O’Farrell had said something about a dustup at a restaurant. What was my synthetic girlfriend up to now? I had to get back in that apartment. I found a local coffee shop and got myself some breakfast, then headed over to Laurie’s high-rise. I skulked around the front and after an hour I got lucky. Out of the garage Laurie zoomed on her chopper, turned uptown and sped off. Getting into the building was no problem. I mean, if you’ve mastered space and time, you can get through a security door, right?
I made it to the 55th floor with no trouble, threw a couple moves on Laurie’s door and waltzed in. The sax case was shoved up against one wall. I opened it and prowled around inside, hoping to find the treasures of an international jewel thief. Nothing. Hey, what did I need with jewels anyway? Suppose Perril was a thief, what did I care? I had to figure out…what was it?…oh yeah, a bionic threat. I always have trouble remembering my assignments. When they sent me to stop the attack on Pearl Harbor, I spent the whole assignment scuba diving. I came up one day and all hell had broken loose.
So now I was muttering to myself, “Bionic threat, bionic threat, bionic threat,” and that’s when I noticed the chatter in the next apartment. I put my ear against the wall and heard maybe four or five voices. I picked up a few phrases, “automated speech,” “right-arm dysfunction, “misplaced left eye,” “incoming shipment.” And then it hit me. It wasn’t just Laurie. There were more of them. They were next door! And where else were they? Whatever Perril had set in motion was still happening.
I needed a look-see, so I got out my Walleye Paste from the backpack. Made from the eyes of walleye pikes that, by the 26th century, had evolved the ability to actually see through walls, the paste lets you visually penetrate solid barriers. But you have to really, really believe it’s possible. Which I did. Like magic, the whole scene inside unfolded before my eyes. People with sensors for eyes, six-fingered deformities, hot numbers like Laurie, stunning, Mitt Romney-like males, all working at their computers or talking on cell phones or scratching their spleens.
It was horrific. What were they planning? But I needed to get out of there before Laurie came back. Luckily, I didn’t hear her footsteps down the hall and have to hide in a closet where she’d want to hang up her coat and almost open the closet door and then the phone would ring and I’d be like “Whew!” and afterwards maybe she’d go into her bedroom and I’d sneak out while she was touching herself or maybe I’d pretend I’d just arrived and go in there and we’d have sex and it would be really good and then… But no! I just left.
I went back to the spot in Central Park where I’d slept. I really needed some help on this case. I needed O’Farrell. I decided to bring him back from 1969. In a flash, there he was, lying on his back on the ground, eyes closed, his pants down, revealing a huge erection from which great dollops of sperm were spurting into the sky. It was worse than the androids. Much worse.
“Oh God! Oh shit! I love you, Moon Crystal! Wait! What the…?” He opened his eyes and saw me. “Where’s Moon Crystal? Where did she go? MOON CRYSTAL!!” he bellowed.
“Who the hell is Moon Crystal?”
“My James Taylor groupie. We were backstage at the Troubadour and we did this really nice Orange Sunshine acid and she was so beautiful and, whoa, that tree is moving!”
“Feral, you’re too deep into drugs. You need to clean up, go into – what do you call it? – rehab. Pull yourself together, you’re back in the 21st century. You got come on your pants. Here, use this.” I pulled a cloth out of my backpack and tossed it to him.
He stared at me. “You really are a time-traveller.”
“Yeah, and now you are too.”
“Can we go back and get Moon Crystal? She was moving on top of me, in total control, undulating sweetly, giving me these little mini-orgasms, her breasts swaying like oval Hostess Twinkies just inches from my mouth, until my whole body was on fire, pulsing, and…”
“Hey, you should consider writing that stuff. It’s a lot safer than detective work. No, we can’t get Moon Crystal. Get over it.”
“Ooh, Legion, now you’re body is covered with little worms. I’m scared.” He was useless to me in this condition. Luckily I had some antacid pills in the backpack and got him off his trip fast. When he had gotten the goo off his pants and straightened his tie, he looked good again, like a cop, a detective, a dick, a tough guy. “Look, Feral, that body I found was Manny Perril’s. You said something about him being a jewel thief, but that was just a cover. Here’s the lowdown: he was out to destroy the human race with a race of bionic androids – that’s why I was sent here – and he set the whole thing in motion before he died. That babe on the motorcycle? She’s an android. She’s the one that threw the chopper up to the third floor. And there’s a bunch more in the apartment next to hers, running some kind of operation.”
“But who killed Perril?”
“I wish I knew. It might have been Laurie, some kind of robot revolt. But we can’t bust in there until we know more. Anyway, are you in with me on this thing? I need someone I can trust.”
“When this is over, can I go back and look for Moon Crystal?”
“She was just a groupie, Feral.”
“Yeah, but she had a way of slowly descending on to my hard shaft, squirming gently, moist and tight, until…”
“Enough with the 1960’s porn, Feral – OK, maybe I can send you back, but you gotta stay clean while you’re working with me, no drugs.”
“Of course not.”
“A little coke?”
“OK, I’ll just smoke weed.”
“Look, man, I’m kind of a chemistry hobbyist. Titration tubes, flasks, you know? I’m not just a magnificent physical specimen. I’m not as dumb as the guy behind you smirking at me with the two rectangular heads thinks I am.”
“No drugs. Nothing.”
He sighed. “Okay, it’s a deal. I think I love her, man. I need to go back there.”
“Let’s hope we survive long enough to let you.” I didn’t trust him at all, but what could I do? It was me and Feral O’Farrell now against the robot hordes.