Company picnic—as in mandatory. My boss has purchased dozens of quaint wicker baskets and filled them with food. He and his entourage (all super-annoying masters of passive-aggressivity) mill around, playing games of catch that are accentuated with painfully watered down competition-style pleasantries…I’m looking for my exit when my boss raises a glass and cups a hand halfway around his mouth. “Hear hear!” he calls. “Let’s all welcome our newest employee: Kent Wayne!” Sheisse! Now I HAVE to stay. I’m beckoned over, and my boss says, “As I understand it, Kent, you’re a writer. We’ve got something special here for you.” He mouths out a count of three, looking around him and making eye contact with his cronies while doing so. Suddenly he yells, “NOW!” The baskets fly open, and a legion of dead-eyed not-dogs (otherwise known as chihuahuas) come flying out. They rush me in droves, and in the next few seconds I’m screaming and flailing as they latch on to every scrap of skin and cloth they can. I look like a chihuahua-covered scarecrow. My coworkers are laughing at my distress. Oh, the ignominy…to die under scores of gnashing teeth; all powered by mean, pea-brained farts that once roamed the plains as badass wolves…out of sheer desperation I throw my head back and scream, “PALAMEDES PUBLISHING!” There’s a noise like an incoming missile, and then a streak of light hits the dirt ten yards away. Spouts of fragmented earth fly up from the impact, then rain over me in a gritty hail. Everyone stops and looks—it’s Bitefighter, my loyal 10 lb. terrier! He noses the cybernetic wristband over his left paw, and it begins sectioning out a smart-weave, hexagonally-celled, total-body interface across his entire form; it looks like a gold, skintight coat interspersed with techno-organic circuitry. Then comes the armor. Beautiful crags of cabled servos begin unfolding over my buddy. With a final, inexorable CLANK, his doggy visor slams down over his eyes. A gleam of light runs across his optics and in a low-toned voice he says, “Rowf.” (He says it in the same way that Clint Eastwood might growl, “Get off my lawn”). I know he’s just given these evil bastards hanging off me an ultimatum: Get the hell away from my two-legged buddy or suffer the consequences. The chihuahuas freeze for a second…then begin ripping into me again. Bitefighter raises his paws, and along with the micro-missiles that blast outward from his tiny armored digits, he begins laying waste with a Mark V, weaponized radiance projector that springs up from his back (a laser gun, motha duckas!). The chihuahuas fall off me and charge Bitefighter, collapsing before his barrage like civil war movie extras that are charging into cannon fire. Bitefighter snarls, extends hard-light bayonets from his knees and elbows, then howls at them. I imagine it’s the doggy version of: “TONIGHT WE DINE IN HELL!” Hell yeah! Cyborg-Bitefighters over chihuahuas ANY day!
Beware of wicker baskets. Science has proven that 8.4% of them are hiding killer chihuahuas. Palamedes publishing: Check out their revolutionary Responsive Books software here: Responsive Books. Check out their short stories here: A Gathering Darkness They will soon offer Echo Volume 1 in paperback. For now, get Echo Vol. 1 on Kindle here: Vol. 1 on Kindle. Vol. 2 on Kindle here: Vol.2 on Kindle Vol. 3 on Kindle here: Vol. 3 on Kindle