Alexander Burns | James Brown
Lenny aimed his fists at the moon, bright and full in the skylight, and braced his feet, as though tugging on the distant satellite with a lasso. “And then, it’s easy enough to just drop it right on her house!”
Richard spared a moment from glaring at his cell phone to glare at Lenny. “I meant what’s our plan for dinner with Jeff and Lady Baleful. Dinner? It’s where you eat stuff. Not destroy what’s-her-name, your ex-girlfriend. Which wouldn’t be an issue if you’d taken my advice and not fraternized with a minion in the first place.”
Lenny smoothed the creases out of his uniform, a green jumpsuit highlighted with purple stripes. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I could send one of the new DX-500s to deal with her. I just don’t recall the last time someone stood me up. Me!”
Lenny and Richard stood on a catwalk high above a bustling factory floor. Assembly lines clanked and whirred as robotic arms and pistons huffed. At the far end of the factory, crews of men in simpler versions of Lenny and Richard’s uniforms fed raw parts into the assembly line. Beneath the catwalk where the supervisors stood, armored engines of destruction lumbered fully complete from the end of the line, their programming already directing them toward the ammunition loading zone nearby. The next line over, workers inspected jet packs and their bulbous blast pistol attachments. The organization operated five such factories; each produced enough weaponry every year to overthrow any given nation in the world.
They mostly used this arsenal to harass caped heroes and secret intelligence organizations.
Lenny sighed. “Kate could practically finish my sentences. Like we were meant to be together.”
“Hey look, man, it’s okay,” Richard said. He laid a hand on Lenny’s shoulder. “We’ve all been burned by a crazy bitch at some point. You need to move on. We’ll talk to Baleful tonight, maybe she can hook you up with someone in the Death Ops squad.”
“We were going to try to work things out,” said Lenny.
Richard’s cell phone launched into a sing-song ring tone. He quickly answered before Lenny could mock him.
“Yeah…no…no, he’s here. Yeah he’s moping. About that girl. The minion.”
“Kate! She’s an engineer!”
“Hang on.” Richard held the phone away from his face. “Kate? Kate Jansson from Department 4?”
“Engineering Team Despayr, yeah.”
“Jesus Christ. She doesn’t even work here anymore. She was Section H.A.T.E. six months ago.”
Lenny stared. “Section 8? She’s…a lesbian?”
“No, H.A.T.E. H-A-T-E. She’s crazy. Cracked up. Doc Downfall said something about how she empathized too much with that little Austrian town we torched last year.” He turned away to finish his phone conversation with Lady Baleful.
Lenny gripped the catwalk railing with white-knuckled fury. Kate had never mentioned that she had been fired. She still wore her uniform, as though she’d just come from a field mission or headquarters. She griped about Janet,the woman she carpooled with and who stole her pens every day. None of it made sense.
“Okay,” Richard stepped up, pocketing his cell phone. “We’re heading to Larsen’s Grill. Jeff and Baleful will meet us there.” He cocked his head. “Wait, did you say you talked to this girl yesterday?”
“Yes, yesterday. I invited her here. She was supposed to be here at six to go to dinner with us.”
Richard stood agape. “That’s impossible,” he said. “The H.A.T.E. procedure isn’t just a severance package and a friendly escort from your cubicle. They fry your fucking brain! They destroy certain brain cells that-” He rubbedthe top of his head. “Look, I’m not Doctor Downfall. But this Kate girl should not be walking around without a straight jacket is what I’m saying here! She’d have to be a beta-level telepath to even remember her own name!”
Lenny shrugged. “She seemed fine yesterday.”
“She’s a damn mole!” Richard cried.
Several trucks at the far end of the factory exploded, scattering crew and equipment. Helicopters soared overhead, silhouettes against the moon. Troops rappelled from the choppers, and in moments Lenny and Richard heard the patter of combat boots across the roof. MACE commandos poured through the entrances, yelling their insufferable battle cry and overwhelming security in moments.
Richard sprinted toward the stairs. “If they reach the control room it’s all over! We’ve got to get the 500s going!”
Rifle stutters filled the air. Crews at the end of the assembly line scrambled to get the jet packs powered up, but started taking fire from the shattered skylights overhead. The DX-500 Mechanized stood in neat rows, not yet fully programmed for battle.
Lenny looked up at the moon, full and bright and beautiful. “I would have given her the moon,” he said. “Would have dropped it right on her house.”