“Come on, shoot that motherfucker,” the sniper rifle said with its tinny voice.
“No. This is recon only, weren’t you listening during the briefing?” the woman said through gritted teeth. She was looking through the scope, crouching down and peeking through the valley at a meeting place 2 kliks away.
“So what? They’re not the boss of you. Just shoot ‘im. Come on. Shoot ‘im. Shoot ‘im,” Trifle said annoyingly and filled her synced field of view with targeting data and ballistic measurements.
She shushed it. The woman hovered the scope between the two men, who were standing a few meters apart and talking about their deal. The off-road vehicles that had brought them were facing each other, and their security was tense and twitching over their holstered guns. “It hasn’t gone down yet. Are you sure you’re recording? We need proof for this.”
“Sure, I’m recording this lame ass deal in this lame ass desert on this lame ass moon. I’d hate to sneeze and miss all the excitement.”
“I’ll get you lubed up if you shut up for five minutes,” the woman said to her sniper rifle.
“Will you get that sexy android to do it? If so, we got a deal!” Trifle said excited.
“The five minutes have already begun.”
“Okay, sheesh. Touchy much, Red?” Trifle said and then shut up.
The men in the distance were talking now. The scope popped up a holographic parabolic microphone and allowed the woman to hear what they were saying. It was very distorted but you could make out the words.
“-After this, the second half. Deal?” the man on the left said.
The other man’s response was more garbled. “I’ll need to see the NRX first. G- -n’t be pleased.” Predictive algorithms flickered through the possible words on her vision. ‘Grunt/Grant/Gallant,’ ‘want/wand/won’t.’ ‘32.5% chance.’
“Tell that fucker that I’m the only NRX supplier in the quad. If he doesn’t like my terms, feel free to keep on looking.”
The man on the right pulled up a communicator and spoke softly for a while, too soft to make out from this distance. The he clicked it off and said “’Kay, ‘e says to get on with the d-.” The predictive text said ‘eel/feel/deal.’
“Is he chewing his finger or something? Damn that accent, can’t make out half he says,” Trifle blurted.
“You couldn’t manage not talking for five minutes?” Red said, clearly not surprised.
“Come on, how could I remain silent while staring at this illiterate git?” Trifle snorted.
“We won’t shoot him.”
“Why not? It’ll be for the benefit of society. Look at his nose, it’s an affront to aesthetics in half the galaxy,” Trifle said and chambered a round with an audible clang.
Red sighed. “Okay, fine, you make a good case. Let’s shoot him then.”
“Really?” Trifle said, excited.
“Of course not,” she said tersely.
The men in the distance completed their illegal exchange and parted ways, their vehicles leaving a trail of dust behind as they sped away.
“Careful with your fingers,” Trifle said and Red dexterously held it up only by the gun handle. “We don’t want to ruin your manicure.”
“I’ve never had a manicure in my life,” Red said as she strolled back towards the colony.
“And now we know why you’re still single,” Trifle said, condescending. The gun pulled the long barrel inside back into a modest length, the scope spun and screwed itself shorter and the gyroscope spheres adjusted in different lengths as it became an assault rifle again. “There. All nice and fit once more. Now, if only you could do the same about that bum of yours…”
“Oi, watch it!” Red threatened and holstered the rifle diagonally on her back.
“Yup, I can see it better now. Could use some shrinking. Planetoid ladies are so out of fashion these days, you know,” Trifle drolled.
Red didn’t reply. She knew that anything she said to Trifle could be used as ammunition, and she simply wasn’t in the mood. It was scalding hot, the red giant above boiled the ground, the horizon was shimmering with mirages and illusory lakes and the wind whipped any exposed skin with sand. She was covered head to toe with her Olwether suit, protective goggles and all, and she fished the gloves back from a pocket and slid them on. She always sniped with exposed hands, to feel the grip of the weapon and the tiniest breeze. The suit had picked up the surrounding colours, camouflaging her automatically, and as she looked down, it felt like her feet were vanishing into the sand. Her cloak billowed behind her in desert tones.
She bit back a retort, thinking again about Trifle’s last comment. Why had it stung that much? She certainly wasn’t planetoid in shape. In fact, most men, even some distant panhuman species, found her positively desirable. It was the reason, she assumed, that her father needed Trifle in the first place, to fend of nasty people who might get the wrong idea about his little girl. She didn’t realise that she was attractive back then, growing up isolated with a single dad.
It was so easy for her mind to drift in this featureless landscape with the Olwether suit taking over half her body and marching on at a steady pace. She wondered, if she died of exhaustion in the desert, would the suit keep marching on? Would she stroll back into town like a technological zombie? She assumed so, the suit was clever enough to keep her alive but dumb enough to just carry on with its last command. She sipped some of her recycled moisture and shook her head, dismissing the nostalgic thoughts. She needed to focus on the job, not daydream about past decades. It was ridiculously hot, but her suit kept her alive. Trifle’s familiar weight on her back comforted her, though she’d never admit to that because she’d never hear the end of it. The hypercooled rifle was radiating cold, and in this environment, it was a relief.
She had people to snipe.
Read more Antigravel Stories here.