The Joneses #15

We Can Work It Out

Luna stared down the barrel of Azazel’s flesh and bone cannon and twisted her face.
“Azazel,” Luna said, “Grotesque as ever.”
“My master found me very useful, Mrs. Jones.”
“Your master?”
“The Demiurge.”
Luna rolled her eyes.
“You ruined everything.”
“Me specifically? I felt kind of marginalized during the big crossover, but then again with that many character…”
“What are you talking about?”
“I have these moments. Gradual descent into madness is a side effect of the procedure. But if you ask me these moments seem more like clarity.”
“You played a part in the Master’s demise. I intend to exact my vengeance upon you.”
“I’m sure my husband would have something to say about that,” Luna said into her comms, what she thought was, surreptitiously.
Wolf sat up when her heard her come over the comms. He took a swig of his beer, then looked see how much was left. He repeated this process twice more before opting to take the bottle with him.
“Oh yes, indeed. Summon your husband. I want him here. He needs to be part of this.”
“Is this like where Yalda always wanted people to watch?”
“I’m just trying to make this easier for myself.”
“He should be here any minute. Better shoot me while you can.”
“Oh I will, as soon as he walks through the door. Last thing he’ll see of your face is it being smattered across the windows.”
“Sounds great. He’ll be here any minute.”
“Any minute.”
“He takes his time, doesn’t he? You know, you figure with a loved one’s life on the line...”
Luna shrugged.
Azazel shook his head, “I actually feel bad for you, now.”
Luna nodded.
“When in doubt have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand,” Wolf said aiming a pistol at Azazel.
“What took you so long?” Luna said.
“It’s a big ship.”
“You were finishing your beer.”
“I finished it on the way,” he produced an empty beer bottle.
“You can’t go two minutes…” she jabbed her finger at Wolf over Azazel’s shoulder, bumping against him like he was only thing keeping her from snapping Wolf’s neck.
“This is supposed to be my revenge, not marriage counseling,” Azazel protested.
Wolf took the beer bottle and jammed it into the barrel of Azazel’s cannon, with a hollow thump.
“Hey,” Azazel looked at the bottle lodged in his cannon. The cannon broke apart and reformed into his arms. He looked at Wolf, who was pulling back his fist. “Not the face,” he flinched.
Wolf punched him across the jaw and he hit the floor. Luna stepped over him, jogging for the door, dragging Wolf behind her.
“You’ve been playing the Bickersons gambit a lot recently,” Wolf said. “Are you trying to tell me something?”
“Nothing. It’s fine.”
“What’s fine? What did I do?”
“Nothing. I’m just worried about Holly.”
“I’ll hunt you down, Joneses,” Azazel screamed as he pulled himself off the floor.
“I siphoned your fuel,” Wolf called back.
“You couldn’t have taken it all.”
“The rest of it is streaming from your tanks into that star.”
“Wolf,” Luna groaned.
“A ticking clock makes it fun.”
“How long do we have?”
“I don’t know...a little bit? Soon, I guess.”
“Azazel, if you don’t want to explode, come with us.”
“We’re not giving him a ride.”
“We can’t be held responsible for the death of a GA agent.”
“A dirty one. He came after us.”
“They don’t know that. As far as this looks we sought him out and murdered him for no discernable reason. And when the fuel outside finally ignites and takes the ship with it any possible evidence to the contrary goes up too.”
“Listen to your better half, Wolfram,” Azazel said, grinning in the doorway. “She’s clearly the brains of the organization.” He smacked the panel by the entrance to the flight room and a blast door slid closed. “For My Demiurge.”
“Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” Wolf said.
“Oh my god, just run,” Luna said as she raced for the Starcrossed.

“Lovelace,” Holly said, “You’re looking evil. And not in prison.”
“And you’re looking helpless and alone,” she replied.
Holly grabbed a lug wrench from her workbench.
“Relax. I was sent here to kill you…”
“That might be relaxing for you…”
“Let me finish. But since my client just arranged his own assisted suicide, he’ll never know if I fulfill the contract or not.”
“I guess you’ll be on your way then?”
“Absolutely. But maybe I don’t leave here alone?”
“So instead of an assassination it’s now a kidnapping?”
“Assassination? Somebody’s confident about their place in the world. No, I’m making you an offer.”
“Come with me. I’ll introduce you to a wider world beyond…” Lovelace scanned her surroundings with an exaggerated disgust, “...this.”
“No thanks. I just got back from a pretty big thing. I’m looking to wind down for a bit.”
“Aren’t you pushing 50?”
“Late teens I suppose.”
“Is everything protracted?”
“More or less.”
“Puberty?” Lovelace squinted her eyes.
“Feels like an eternity.”
“You poor child. And you spent the whole time locked in an asteroid orbiting, what’s probably the ugliest planet in the galaxy. Why?”
“For my…”
“Protection? Safety? Is it one of those limp words?”
“I’m not even supposed to exist.”
“Does that mean you have to act like it?”
“Director Raphael…”
“This was probably his idea. Lock away the mistake. Pretend it doesn’t exist. Your parents just went along with it?”
“It was for my...”
“Oh, please. If you say that again, so help me,” her hand started to glow with violet light, then dimmed. “Did you know on your homeworld, in feudal Europe, the lords of the manor used to tell the serf the night air was poisonous so none would attempt escape in the night, thus ensuring a steady workforce? Maybe not a loyal one, but certainly a fearful one. And in the absence of loyalty fear will do. What do you do around here? Work for the family business?
“They wouldn’t be in this business if they didn’t have to…”
“Right. You’re also being held accountable for their choices. Let me ask you, can you see that you were told danger is out there waiting for you? Do you even know if you can face it on your own? Or if it even exists?”
“I’ve seen dangerous things.”
“Anything specifically directed at you, or just blowback from your parents?”
Holly lowered her eyes.
“Look, Jones. When you’re ready to upgrade your operating system from victim to powerful give me a call.” She brushed her hands over a computer console and violet and blue streaks rippled across the surface. “I left you my number. Run lovelace.exe when you’re done being someone else’s liability.”
“Why?” Holly looked at he sidelong, her head bowed.
“An old mentor of mine used to say: sometimes your enemies aren’t your enemies.”
“Sounds reasonable. Who was he?”
“Yaldabaoth, the Demiurge,” she whispered in her ear. “He had me convinced I needed him too.”
Holly narrowed her eyes and glared.
“Relax, he’s still a drooling idiot. Your mage friend put a pretty good hurt on him.” Lovelace placed her hands on the communications console. “Holly. A species of flora from your homeworld. If I recall correctly, holly has thorns.” Her hands began to glow orange and she disappeared into the console. Streaks of orange pulses raced, in circuit patterns, across the surface.

“For his Demiurge,” Wolf slumped in his seat. “We’re never going to live down that mistake.”
“Yet, you keep making them.”
“It wasn’t just the Bickersons gambit, you are pissed at me.”
“We just helped a GA agent frame us for his death. I’m pissed.”
“You were giving me static before you knew I turned the freighter into a cartoon bomb.”
“I knew why it took you so long to get to me and Azazel.”
“You didn’t know.”
“Not specifics, but I knew you were fucking around. Indulging whatever insane impulse passed through your head in the moment. And it’s because you’re loaded.”
“Wait, wait, you’re going to lecture me on being loaded? Wolfie, where did you put the grass? Wolfie, we’re out of Cuervo. Wolfie, I was saving those liberty caps.”
“Am I hammered right now?”
“No. I guess not,” he crossed his arms.
“Are you?”
“Okay. Point made.”
“You say that every time and here we are, about to get pinned for the murder of GA agent.”
“Do you want me to scrub the scene? Turn around. Go back. I’ll scrub the scene.”
“The scene is scattered in orbit around a fucking white dwarf, Wolf. And you know Azazel sent a report before the freighter exploded. Of course we can’t know for sure because Holly is on the DL. Which isn’t a coincidence.”
“I’m here,” Holly said over the comms.
“Are you okay? Was everything okay while we were gone?”
“Yeah, mom. Everything was fine, here. The problem seems to have worked itself out.”
Luna squinted at Wolf and mouthed, “She’s lying.” Wolf shook his head, askance.
“Are you guys okay?” Holly asked.
“We’re fine, honey.”
“You’re lying.”
Wolf looked confused.
“Your father and I are having a discussion.”
“I can’t wait to hear it through my pillow and bedroom door.”
“Holly, don’t…”
“There’s a communique incoming from Director Raphael. Patching him through to the holographic console.”
“No, no,” Wolf panicked, “Audio only, audio only.”
A tiny image of Ray flickered on atop the console.
“What…” over the past century as Director of Intelligence, Ray had discovered that a pregnant pause after the interrogative pronoun lent a sense of drama and authority to those he was about to scold, seizing their attention from outset. The problem was, Ray never got the hang of the timing. Sometimes the timing was too short and he came across as yappy. Other times the pause was too long, allowing his interrogatees time for their focus to wander or to invent an excuse to find other things to do.
“Oh, would you look at that?” Wolf said. “The transmission froze. Guess we’ll have to talk later, Director.”
“...have you two gotten yourselves into?”
“What have you heard?”
“That you sought out and murdered Agent Azazel.”
“It was a set up. He was a Yalda fanboy. We’re innocent.”
“I believe you. Azazel was dirty.”
“Well there you go.”
“I just can’t prove it. It was a gut thing. Gut things don’t pass muster as evidence. So now I get the GA shit list fresh off the presses and guess who I find is number one and two.”
“Who’s number one?”
“What the fuck?”
“It’s alphabetical.”
“Luna is short for Zluna.”
“Wolf,” Luna groaned. “Ray, what can we do?”
“Hide. Lay low. The list just went out so you should be able to make it back to the satellite unspotted if you hurry.”
“On our way.”
“And don’t call me, I’ll call you when I think it’s secure. Ray out.”
Luna pulled the throttle and aimed the Starcrossed straight for home. The Joneses sat in silence for a good portion of the trip. Wolf glared out the window and Luna kept her mind on her flying. They both jostled in the their seats as their ship was brought roughly to a halt.
“A tractor beam,” Luna said.
“It’s that big hunk of shit up there,” Wolf pointed to the vessel that had its beam locked on.
“Bounty hunter.”
“We’ll just flash the membership card.”
Luna tried to stifle a smile as she powered up a rifle.
“So we’re in 'trying not to laugh at my jokes' mode now?”
“Let’s just get out of this,” she said, starting to pull on her owl mask.
A gas canister rolled into the cockpit and began to spray a yellowish cloud. Luna groped at her helmet in an effort to pull it down over her face, but rolled her eyes and passed out. Wolf soon followed. The hem of a white linen cape billowed over them.