Breadcrumb #435


Ivan, though he retained no olfactory unit in the slightest, could smell a rat. It was one thing Woodworth choosing to take his first vacation in two decades of Outer Galaxies employment, but another entirely that he chose the morning of Yrpa Minor Day as the moment in which to shuttle off into the cosmos. Frankly, it was enough to make his ocular feeds jitter and his PG.firewall to weather curses even 19th Century shellbacks would have thought twice about muttering. Nobody heard him, mind, he had switched to Silent.

That was the trouble with micro-managing a hit with a baker’s dozen of partially-conscious-entities, you never knew who paid for their batteries. That’s not to mention the admin involved in such an exploit. Everyone’s schedule ran concurrently, with no leeway to put down a grav-weld and take a minute to plan out the low-key murder of a lowly OG clerk who’d found himself on the wrong end of a spark-plug one evening. Quotas ad infinitum.

Ivan had been over at Umpteen Appliances, talking nice to a renal unit by the name of Testing-1-2-3. He was fairly certain he had pulled her matrix, when there was a scuffle just on the edges of his periphery.

A sizzle, a spark and a sprint.

Immediately intrigued, Ivan tweaked his vision, something about the gait of the man had struck familiar even at this distance. A bar of white suddenly appeared where teeth would have appeared on a flesh-bag; Ivan’s version of a grin. A quick Movement Pattern Scan proved his theory correct. It was his paymaster, Phineas Emeritus Woodworth. Fancy that.

Ivan found the Homindroid heaving and sputtering its last, eye-shutters morsing a description of its attacker. It was keeled over by the trash, its wires dangling in oil puddles. It had puncture wounds in its neck and torso. Ivan had taken a step back at that, no need to be overly helpful. He’d only just had an overhaul himself a month back.

It was keeled over by the trash, its wires dangling in oil puddles.

So he lingered just out of arm’s reach, submitting his warbling compatriot to a full diagnostic. It was a Newark B7 with only 9,456 days on the clock. Practically fresh off the factory floor. He twinged with jealousy.

“Friend of yours?” Ivan asked, pointing a thumb in the direction of Phineas’ escape. Any stick, no matter how inconsequential, thrown then and he’d have tracked it like a bloodhound. This is what servitude did to a robot, drove him to extremes such as this to get one over on a Squidgy.

The Hominidroid coughed sparks. “Friends do-do-do-do-do thisssss?” His head began to judder and shake uncontrollably, his vocalizer locked in a feedback loop.

Ivan was practically giddy. He’d been looking for the right amount of dirt to take Phineas to the cleaners for the better part of twelve years. He could nigh on taste success. “What did he do? Gosh, please tell me it was fraud?”

It hadn’t been, but it had been just as juicy. Ivan had followed it up like the diligent droid he was, crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s on the kill contract he’d brokered with a particularly rude man by the name of Finkelbottom. Edmere Finkelbottom III. His only preference: that Ivan do him like he’d done his daughter, by taking away everything she owned in the most demoralizing of manners. So, just what he’d been planning since the day they had met, then.

• • •

Breadcrumb #247


Wanda June’s journey from the castle down to the planet was an emotionally calamitous one, to say the least. The air, though breathable, felt heavy around her and filled her lungs so quickly that it became much harder to regulate her heartbeat. Especially now, as she plummeted toward the surface, a place that had never seemed more than a flimsy concept to her.  

    During her many decades ruling over Windfall City, Wanda June had done little outside of her home. She was a complete and utter shut in, save for her yearly visit to the lavish amphitheater at the top of the East Tower. The poor East Tower. It was always Wanda June’s favorite, and despite the fact that it was the only one she’d ever step foot on, she felt justified in her opinion. And why shouldn’t she? The people of this city had once worshiped her as both their Queen and their God. She wasn’t used to being told that she was anything but right. 

    That is until they showed up and ruined everything. Those other ones, with their vast warships, had reduced the East Tower to rubble, and for what? Just so that they could take control of her city and force its still-living inhabitants to rebuild once again? It was all so unfair. And the nasty things her people called her after it they’d shown up as if she was somehow responsible it all?  Despicable.

    She fell much slower than she had anticipated, though she assumed that was due in part to her environmental suit. In the instructional videos she’d watched exhaustively as a child, a descent was a much quicker affair. People like her would don one of these outfits, fly out from a hovering space ship, and collide with the surface of a planet at such a violent, exciting pace. Connecting with the ground from a great height had looked exhilarating, and she had forever longed to do so herself. But Tin-Man had warned that her fate outside the castle in the clouds remained uncertain. Had urged her to take solace in the locals’ reverence of her and remain within their shared, yes sometimes cramped quarters. A bubble in the shape of a floating fortress.

    But, no, that fervent imagined pace she had dreamed of wasn’t what happened now. Now she fought her way through the thick neon clouds, surrounded by shards of what had been best stained-glass window. Wanda June reached out and tried to grab one of those shards, yelping as it broke her gloved skin. She brought her finger to her mouth, sucking on the cut, tasting the warm copper of her blood, and fumed even more about the unfairness of it all.

    Tin-Man, her faithful robot caretaker, had taken to those others quickly. Much too quickly for her tastes. It was as if he’d been forever loyal to them, and not her as she’d been lead to believe. She wouldn’t forget the kindness he had shown her during their years together, but she’d never forgive his betrayal. His subservience to those others, the ones that looked like her with their blotchy pink skin and thread-like hair. Not only had they taken away that feeling of awe the locals had when they stood before her, but they’d stolen Tin-Man: her one true friend.

She wouldn’t forget the kindness he had shown her during their years together, but she’d never forgive his betrayal.

    The loneliness was so unbearable that, gathering up all of her courage, she donned the suit, a fragment of her long-dead mother’s days of space exploration.  She wasn’t quite sure what she’d do when she finally got that impact she so desired. But she couldn’t go to sleep at night knowing that her people detested her so. She needed to go to them. To show them that they were still in her favor, despite the heavy boots they now found upon their necks. To put things back to the way that they were before those others had ever shown up.

    A week ago, Wanda June had overheard Captain Root of her once powerful Wolfpac, speaking to Tin-Man and Corporal Timms from those others about a resistance forming on the surface. Root was confident that he could get it under control if they’d only allow him to do it alone, but Timms, that bitch, said she’d be happy to exterminate the rebels at the press of a button. To eviscerate their home, if only their home weren’t the very sewer and tunnel system built on the foundation of Windfall’s three remaining towers. The conversation was heated and ended with a standstill, but the impending conflict was inevitable.

    She must go to them, she told herself then and was still telling herself now as the uncertain pit in her stomach continued to grow. Ten stories from the ground, she remembered what the old equipment instructional videos had taught her. Built into her environmental suit were not only the anti-gravity emitters that slowed her descent but also magnetic boots that should cushion her landing. She only needed to find a way to fold herself and reach the buttons on the bottoms of her feet. She’d practiced this in her quarters, late at night for the past four, but hadn’t thought to factor in the difficulty of pulling it off midair. She depressed them seconds before it would have been too late, but it didn’t prevent her thunderous collision with the East Tower’s rubble. 

    Wanda, who’s breath was squarely outside herself now, took off the suit’s helmet and let her gray hair tumble out onto her shoulders. Her whole body heaved with sweat and she gasped for air but took a certain amount of solace in the fact that she’d survived the fall.

    As if from nowhere, she was surrounded by a horde of rebels wielding an assortment of guns like she’d never seen before. Silently, she reached down to her pocket as the one closest cocked a rifle in her face, halting her movement.

    “Not so fast, your highness,” spat the heavily tattooed young woman before her. She was wearing civilian’s clothes, but draped over her back was a makeshift cape made from the repurposed yellow of a Wolfpac guard’s robe.

    “If you’d kindly just let me grab something,” whispered Wanda June, gesturing toward her pocket, “you’ll see that I’m here on a show of good faith.”

    “String her up! Burn her like they’re burning the rest of us!” shouted someone outside the Queen’s sightline. She cringed at this obvious display of hatred but remained still.

    “I may well yet,” promised the woman before her, bringing the muzzle of her rifle even closer to the Queen’s face.

    “You know I’d shoot her in the head myself, Kendall, if I could, but we must think rationally here. We can’t kill her,” said their leader, a woman in her thirties with the violet skin of someone from the Western Reaches and tentacles that reached down past her shoulders.

    “And why the hell not?” asked the ex-Wolf. Wanda June remembered her now, after hearing her name. The new recruit who’d only a month ago gutted the surface’s criminal syndicate from the inside out was now a hair-trigger away from murdering her.

    “Think of the Queen as a bargaining chip,” said the one in the lead, “We’ll need her alive if we hope to have the upper hand.”

    Kendall groaned as she shouldered her weapon, but not until she jabbed it into the Queen’s abdomen. Wanda June screamed out, seeing red. She’d never felt true pain in her life, before the second she landed, and here it was repeating itself all over again, only moments later.

    “I promise, I’m not here for them,” whimpered Wanda June, as she pulled a white kerchief from her pocket, “I surrender, I relent, I’ll go with you willingly. I only ask for one thing...”

    “And what is that, your highness?” asked Kendall sarcastically, staring death into the Queen’s eyes.

    “Let me help you stop them,” she whined, spitting a little blood up onto her collar, “Let me help you make things right.”

• • •

Breadcrumb #237


She stands at the bar, surveying her surroundings. She’s never been in a place such as this: the intergalactic hub at opposite end of her Solar System. A barkeep passes by with what looks like a towel thrown over its shoulder. She motions for another one of the turquoise looking concoctions that stands drained in front of her. 

    She’ll need the liquid courage if she plans to allow anyone around her to approach.

    “Is this your first time, honey?” asks a twelve foot tall monster, with a head so high up she can barely make out what few facial features it has. “Let me buy you something to eat.”

    “I’m fine, thanks,” she says, sipping at the drink in front of her. Salty, with a hint of hazelnut, which settles into a burning sensation that stretches all the way from her throat down to her toes.

    It holds out a giant, leathery tentacle, which she grasps, shaking with all of the power she can muster.

    Confused, it grunts, “What do you think you’re doing, miss?”

    She glances down at her hand, still grasping the slimy thing in front of her, when she notices a second drink down on the bar next to her own. She lets it go, and whispers, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

    Something reverberates throughout the entire building, and she thinks it might be this thing’s attempt at laugher. Or disgust, she couldn’t be sure. Other patrons around them stop mid conversation for a moment to gawk, before returning to mind their own business.

    Without another word, her new friend slinks off, sidling up to another woman across the room. She isn’t sure whether she should be offended or relieved, but in the moment decides for the latter.

Something reverberates throughout the entire building, and she thinks it might be this thing’s attempt at laugher. Or disgust, she couldn’t be sure.

    The barkeep returns, chuckling, “You won’t last another day here.”

    “And why would you say that?” she spits, a little too indignantly.

    “You humans, you’re all so jumpy. I’ve never had one of you last longer than a month,” it glances up at the wall, to what looks like a clock, and finishes,  “My money says you’re outta here before I close for the night.”

    “I’m not that green around the gils, you know. I’ve just never done anything like this.”

    “Tell me something I didn’t know,” chuckles the bartender, a martian with skin bluer than the Atlantic ocean.

    Another patron, this one with a skin the color of snot, decides to pipe up. Its features are humanoid, but you can tell by its face that it’s never called the Earth home. “You’re all the same, you know that? You think you’re so special because your skin is pink and silky smooth. That just because they don’t wear make up or come from earth means they’re somehow less than. You make me sick”

    “I take offense to that, and I’ll have you know...” she starts, but doesn’t know where she ever meant to finish, instead staring into the bottom of her glass and staying silent.

    “You would,” it groans, belching loudly and stalking off after another, more accommodating hostess.

• • •

Breadcrumb #233


They came from planet Earth.  That’s what they told us.  The word sounded foreign on our tongues, “Earthhhhh.”  It was hard for us to get our mouths to make the scratchy, whispery “th” that was nowhere in our language, which is all silky and smooth and full of long “ooohs” and “ahhhhs”.  We communicated with the Earthlings mainly through gestures and misunderstandings, trial and error, even our gestures were different.  Apparently, on Earth you communicate the affirmative by moving your head vertically.  The misunderstandings diminished exponentially once we figured that out. 

    One Earthling was especially skilled at translating our gestures.  She seemed to understand that when we came close to her face and exhaled in a deep sigh, we weren’t trying to intimidate but to welcome, and she soon tried her own, stunted version of the meeting ritual.  Soon she had taught her fellow travelers, and the streets of our planet were filled with Earthlings and our people breathing deeply on one another.  

    Marcia, that was her name, was good at imitating our breathy language, and seemed to really want to learn the meaning of our words.  Within a month, she spoke more fluently than a three hundred-year-old child, and we were all impressed that she had learned so quickly.  We made little effort to pick up the Earthlings’ language after that.  It was too harsh and rough on our lips, and we had Marcia to translate for us in the interspecies meetings that were held twice daily in the Planet Center.  

We made little effort to pick up the Earthlings’ language after that.

    Still after the first month we were unsure of the reason behind the Earthlings’ presence on our peaceful planet, and Marcia, try as she might, was having extreme difficulty explaining it to us.

    “We want to see,” she said.


    “Because it’s there.”


    “Because we can.”


    “Because…”  She stalled, apparently lacking the vocabulary to go further.

    “Do you wish to take from us?  Our resources are many.”

    She appeared confused, and denied any intent to steal, borrow, or barter.  

    We believed her.  After all, this was our Marcia.  Our friend, our curious ally, our translator and representative.  If only we’d known how soon we would come to regret it. 

• • •