VI. Under the Silver Gun
The Place Where All Revolutionaries Wind Up...
They were working the corner when it all went down. It had taken some convincing on the Force’s part, some convincing on her part, and a couple of killer parties with lots of puffing and passing, but at last, Lita had made her decision: it was time to make real alliances. Time to get serious.
The exact time They wanted her dead.
Lita sauntered out of her cherry-bomb Bug, denim ragged as ever, and dabbed up Mack Malten, standing tall and proud in his leather riding gear alongside his wide-wheeled bike.
A third hound was also there. He was tall and silver, perched six stories up with a .50 cal surprise in his slender digits. With great precision, he lined up his shot, his electric eyes glowing as red as his target’s.
Much of the time was spent chopping it up, chatting about their latest blows dealt to technocracy. How many autocops they had wasted, the latest media spin on their crusade, all the usual things. And at the end of it all, the one-eyed biker decided to make his move.
“So you want a team-up for real then?” he asked in his cool rasp.
Lita nodded. “Never hurts to have a coupla real ones at ya back in this town, especially since I know you cats are the real thing.”
The biker smiled, straightening his vest and kicking a leg up against the brick wall of the alley. “Well shit, me and the boys're cool with it. What angle we working?”
“Simple.” she began. “When I need muscle, I want muscle. When I need backup, I want backup. And if you cats need any real help with big stuff. Police, gangs trying to fuck with operations, shit like that.”
Malten nodded. Nothing seemed beyond the pale from where he was standing.
“Just remember,” she cautioned, “I ain’t a pawn in gang wars, and I don’t need no poon hounds licking their lips outside the den. Besides my man and I both agreed that if we needed to burn off some fuel, we only pick the best. So if I need someone on a lonely ol’ night, I got just one name on my list.” She sauntered up to the towering biker and drew a U in his fur. “Your girl cool?”
“She dipped.” Mack said dryly. “It ain’t cheating if she just wanted a little something on the side herself anyhow. Besides, what the hell made your man so cool about it?”
“Hun,” snickered Lita, “Nicky’s in a rock-n-roll band. You play it hard and loud enough and you’ll get any girl you need. If you need it. Most nights we just call each other.”
Malten got the picture alright. “Now the treaty’s been rolled out, how about we sign?” He stuck his half-gloved paw out and Lita met it halfway. A good, firm shake, all neat and business-like. “What about the black-sites?”
Lita froze. “Black wuh?”
Malten shrugged. “Ain’t that what they call them joints where all the weird shit gets made? 607 and the like, stuff none of us is supposed to see?”
The dark gray punk had never thought of it that way. She shrugged in kind and said, “file it under ‘if I need backup.’ Least you get to see something cool.”
The biker nodded. And it was on that note that the firefight began.
Blood-red laser fire came shrieking down from the adjacent skyscraper. Malten ducked and Lita drew her Wildey. When she aimed for the head of the assailant, his red eyes glowing in the dark, only to find the electric bullets rocketing back her way. She grabbed hold of Mack and the two dove into the Red Devil.
“Any yo boys got a cell?” she asked, firing the blood-red Bug up.
“Tell ‘em come grab your hog.”
She tossed her phone over, ripped the gearshift into place and hit the gas. The Red Devil vanished in a cloud of rubber smoke, blasting past 60 as it flew away into the night. Mack checked the rearview to see who was coming after them, and was greeted by a leviathan visage. It was a hovercar; sleek, slender, but nothing like the ill-programmed autocops. No, this creature of the night was big, built like a caliginous Lamborghini, and had the speed of one too. The bike was spared, but the two rebels wouldn’t be so lucky.
When he got off the phone, “you got your piece on you?” was the next question out of Lita’s lips, to which Malten replied, “That’s with my girl back in the alley.” Without missing a beat, she drew her Mateba and handed it to him. He rolled the window down and swung himself out. Before she joined him, Lita jabbed at a button on the dash. She slammed the throttle the floor, and a latch snapped over top of it, holding the pedal to the floor
Lita slapped the window’s handle, the lever spinning madly as the glass dropped and she swung out. Both wolves aimed for the hover engines, but found themselves bumped and jolted by the pursuing craft. For a moment, it battered the Red Devil so hard, Lita practically leapt out of the window, caught by Mack who promptly dragged her inside the Bug. She hit the button and took back control of the footwell, drifting down onto a side street, the obsidian hovercraft following suit.
“Well, who’d ya piss off this time?” Malten asked, cracking his neck and knuckles in three rough crunches.
“I don’t know.” she said. “That ain’t the police, and that ain’t any asshole I know. Might be one of them Felixes the white coats make. The ‘bots…shit, do I got another assassin on my ass? Goddammit.” The biker fell back in his seat before he could chime in.
From out of nowhere, darkness. The Bug flew into black, like the flick of a light switch. His headlights couldn’t identify anything, except
The wall in the dark.
Both hounds were out cold. When they came through, both were strapped to chairs and sat beneath a blistering white light.
“You sure done pissed ‘em off,” Mack groaned deliriously.
Lita shook the grog out of her head, trying to gain her bearings. She could still smell burnt rubber, so she knew the Bug was there in the room with them. Protruding out from the dark were three large barrels, pointed squarely at the bounded hounds. Then a voice. Nothing mechanical about it, not even in ornament.
“Well, that was easy to arrange. Nothing like a cloaked storage unit, eh?”
They could hear the great steel doors close.
“Didn’t even need to wait on Android Development, just accelerated cloaking tech.” the voice wryly chuckled.
“Anything in particular you jackasses want?” Lita growled.
Silence fell over the holding cell.
“WELL YOU BUGFUCKED SONOFABITCH?” she roared.
“No Miz Bond, I vant you to die!” the voice cackled in a faux-German accent, the last word ricocheting off the steel walls. He returned to his clean voice once the echo subsided. “Look sweetie, here’s the scoop: you been on our list for a while. And the Missus is none too pleased about what you’ve been digging up. Plans, stations, hubs, and all. Frankly, she’s had enough of you.”
Both wolves broke into feral snarls.
“My word, what savages have we!” the voice cried in feigned fright before snapping back. “Look, if it was up to just her, she’d have had you done in a long, long time ago, but even the Boss Lady can’t do it all. So guess who got put on your case? Your friendly neighborhood God mic, me!”
The gaiety of tone, to no one’s surprise, wasn’t shaking them into silence. That’s when the laser-fire was brought out. Two big beams missed Malten and Lita by an inch. And instead of shutting up, both wolves started screaming at the top of their lungs every obscenity they had for the city, A.C.E.S, and anything they had left over for their captor.
It took another crossfire volley to get the duo to shut up.
“Jesus, wasn’t expecting you to be such goddamn troglodytes about it,” the voice muttered to himself. He fired the lasers again to make sure they didn’t start up out of offence. “Alright, let’s get shit straight. Because I think you’re kinda cute, above you in this trailer is a beam. This beam is specifically for Lita. Mr. Malten, don’t sweat your pea-brain, all you know is some dumb mutt went running home to Daddy with a reel of tape in his hands they won’t even begin to understand. As for you Lita, if this doesn’t fry your chip into vegetabledom, you are free to leave. If it does, well, have your friend drive you home and enjoy the rest of your natural, lobotomized life. Fair deal?”
All he got were more guttural roars from the two.
“Alright, I’m switching this bastard on. I got a function at 4 and I don’t have time to waste. Now, Lita babe, if you’re real nice, and you say your prayers and eat your veggies, I’ll come over to the den afterwards and we can have some fun! Just you and me, lights down low, smoking a joint, screwing like rabbits without a care in the world. At least you won’t I presume. Sounds like good times, eh?”
Before she could even begin to light into that whole can of worms, a loud whirring filled the container as the white light went red. Lita twitched, howled and frothed in a deranged display. Her body tensed, her fur bristled, her eyes widened and her pupils shrunk. Her head turned slowly towards Malten, the one-eyed gray startled by the sight.
Until she winked.
The unchipped punk held up her bound hands to his, and up past her leather-clad knuckles was a bracelet. He could feel a round, plastic sort of button. On instinct, he hit it with his fist. From out the dark, two red lights came racing towards the hounds; the brake lights of the Red Devil. The Bug blasted the two chairs away from each other and both wolves took hold of a handle on the crimson beast’s side as it charged towards the steel doors. The punk and biker braced themselves as the Bug blew the door wide open and stopped short once it hit the pavement. They fell to the road, chair shattering on impact. Lita was the first up and ripped herself free of the rope. She freed Mack and both flew into the Bug and bolted away from the steel container.
“What the hell was that?” Mack barked.
“Total recall, baby!” cackled Lita. “Tuned my little man’s frequency to this ol’ bracelet and now he can help me out of all sorts of jams. Who’s a good boy? You’s a good boy!”
While she baby-talked the Bug all over, the biker checked the rear-view. “How about this one?”
Not only was the tanker decloaked, but the massive ground-style big-rig towing it.. And boy could the bastard move too. The truck whipped the container around, its cargo missing buildings by centimeters and tore after the Red Devil with screeching tires.
She shifted it up and slapped her paw down on the throttle, the Red Devil soldiering ahead. For a moment though, there was a strange look on her face, until she lifted her rear up and looked down.
“Well shit.” she chuckled. “Grab the Mateba.” He let Mack help himself to the black revolver before she plucked her silver hand-cannon out from the seat. She holstered her piece just as they blew past their alley from earlier. “Least the boys saved her.” she smiled.
“We still got our friend, though.” Mack said gravely.
Lita’s head snapped to the road and she came down hard on the brake and clutch. The Red Devil spun around on a dime. The truck came careening down one path and from out of another black hovercraft down another. She held the Bug in place, waiting for them to get closer. When both came in for the kill, she hit the gas and sent the Bug racing down the side street. Behind the punk, biker, and Bug came a calamitous bang!
“Works every damn time.” she giggled. Mack could only let out the deepest breath of his life.
“You still the craziest bitch I know.” he sighed, checking the Mateba over.
“STILL THE ONE I’M AFTER!”
The captor’s voice slunk out the mechanized mouth of the silver assassin as it sprinted out of the fire and towards the Red Devil. He wasn’t dolled up to look like true-blue wolf either; he was steel-plated and dressed to kill. His arm retracted, now a giant tube fit to fire round after round of white electric lead, rapid in its pulse as it got closer and closer to the Red Devil.
Lita drifted her little man ‘round corner after corner, but every turn she made, the silver assassin was there, and packing heat. Then the direct hits came, laser fire rocking the Bug all over the road, his master fighting feverishly for control.
“How’s about we put that alliance to the test?” Mack said. “Hand me the phone.” She did so without question. Her biker called in the crew and had Lita whip through every side street in the quadrant. It was when she had made Turn 50 she spotted two sets of black-gloved mitts holding something. It was invisible to her and Mack, but she floored the Bug through it.
When the ‘bot came a-sprinting though…
Dropped him right to the road. Lita hit the brakes, and whipped the Red Devil around. The whole crew, bitch, bikers, and all, gathered round the fallen ‘droid. For a second, he looked dead, until the machine’s hand-cannon went red. Everyone ducked and dove for cover as the assassin started firing wildly at anything that moved.
“Well,” Lita said, ducked behind her faithful rod, “Guess we’ll have to try something else.”
Whatever she meant by “something else,” what she ultimately got was everyone started lighting into the guy simultaneously, and for a moment, all they got were deflected rounds and chunks of adjacent buildings plummeting all around them. But something curious came out of the concentrated firepower: the android glowed.
He glowed red.
“KEEP AT ‘EM!” roared Malten as he blasted away with the strange Mateba in his mitts. Everyone did as told. Dual-wielding, shotguns, revolvers, pistols, the entire armory of the gang and their vigilante cohort kept firing and firing on the lone figure until his body grew so red…he melted.
The great silver assassin, in a crumpled, languid, spark-fueled display, caved in on himself, guts screaming with every pint-sized eruption. As the molten steel finally hardened on the ground, the voice box, though damaged and distorted, once more produced that peculiar captor’s crystal clear tones.
“Well. At least we can manage property damage. You and I both know this isn’t the end, so I won’t labor it. Think of me as the second set of eyes, Lita. Ace watches all, but I’m watching YOU. And boy are you an easy watch. The police, your peon-minded crooks, none of them are a match for what I’m about to do to you. This bad boy was just a warm-up. A taste of adventures yet to come. And even a hundred hounds might not be enough for next time. Au revoir.”
The head blew to pieces, rocketing out everywhere, even into Lita. She looked down to find a slit in her jeans, and a trickle of blood running down her leg.
“Well shit…sonofabitch actually got me, huh?”
The Avenger now found herself with a proper foe, but plenty of muscle to help her out. When the parties parted, the only thing left lying on the tarmac with the desecrated body of the silver android was a question: what was “next time” going to look like?
365 Infantry is a reader-supported publication devoted to quality pulp entertainment. Support the Force as a free or paid subscriber today!