It’s an hour before Black Friday and I’m trynna get the new model of X-box for my nephew, but it ain’t gonna be easy. I’m taking deep, ancient-mystical-secret-infused yoga breaths as I ninja my way across the mall ceiling, wearing a pair of prototype gloves and boots engineered by DARPA, ones that allow me to crawl across smooth surfaces like Spider Man. I lift a finger to the state-of-the-art Multi-Range Transparency Overlay goggles on my face, and click the dial on its side two notches clockwise. I’ve just toggled what the engineering nerds call my “visual overture” to display nonvisible ranges of light, granting me the ability to see through walls. I look towards the mall’s main entrance and I glimpse an eerie sight: Hordes of yuppie-parents lined up in rows, staring blankly ahead. Their eyes are wide. Unblinking. They breathe in unison, the rise and fall of their shoulders perfectly timed. Creepy AF. On my earpiece I hear a slight fritz of static, and a quiet “ruff.” Bitefighter—my loyal buddy, 10 lb. Terrier Extraordinaire and in this case my one-man (dog?) command center—is asking me to check in. I click my comms twice, letting him know that I’m good. After crawling about fifty more yards on the ceiling, I position myself over the X-Box and look down. Right now I’m in an expansive domed antechamber, roughly the same size and dimensions you might expect from the Vatican or a high-end museum. Directly below me is the X-Box, encased in a beta-amyloid graphene box about six cubic feet in volume. Low-level anti-gravitics keep it suspended in a state of perpetual levitation, spinning slowly to its right. I click three times into my comms, pause, then another three, telling Bitefighter I’m ready to begin my descent so I can snatch up the X-Box. As I double-check my carabiners and rig myself for descent, a Chipotle gift card slips out of my tactical vest and past the corner of my mask (I like burritos at the end of the workday—don’t judge). I see it fly past and make a desperate grab for it but it’s too late: It’s past arm’s reach already. Oh. My. God. I whisper furiously into my mic: “Yuppie bait is loose—they’re gonna be on me in a second!” Its bright hologrammed surface spins end over end, catching the light as it drops downward and hits the floor with a deafening CLICK. Suddenly I hear a massive burst of scuffles and snarls erupt from the mall’s main entrance. I look up, utilizing my see-through-the-wall goggles to see what’s going on. It’s the gift card: The smell of yuppie bait has ignited the yuppie parents’ primordial programming and is turning them into unthinking killing machines. I hear an ominous rending sound as the mall’s doors buckle inward, then a heart-stopping crash as legions of yuppies crash into the building with bloodshot eyes, sniffing the air like animals. I see their gazes lock onto the X-Box and gift card, and they begin rushing forward like a horde of rabid zombies. I let up on my rappel line and start zipping downward. An instant later I crash bodily into the X-Box glass cage, sending broken shards of glass everywhere, grab the console, and activate the rappel-line servomotor I’ve drilled into one of the ceiling struts. I begin shooting up, but I only make it a few inches before a J Crew-clad arm shoots out of the sea of yuppies and grabs the console. I grit my teeth as my rappel-line pulls me up another foot and clench down harder on the X-Box. My shoulder feels like it’s going to be torn out of socket. My eyes flick toward the mass of Tae-Bo trained moms and angry, undersexed dads. I’m done for. I’m just about to start blubbering my personal version of prayer (typically some variant of “DARK KNIGHT SAVE ME!”) when Bitefighter says into my earpiece: “ROWRR-ROWF ROWF ARUFF!” Of course! Thanks little fella! I throw my head back and scream “PALAMEDES PUBLISHING!!!” There’s a magic flash, and suddenly I hear the drone of a Nightblade gunship overhead (still in dev over at Area 51) and then a hail of 10x re-amplified laser fire begins punching through the ceiling, mowing down legions of rabid yuppie-zombies. I’m screaming like an eighties action hero as the yuppies let go of my X-Box and I rocket toward the ceiling through a blaze of multicolored death. I low-crawl-sprint through a few sections of ventilation shaft, kick out a panel, and make my onto the roof, which is rumbling and shaking from the sheer amount of punishment it’s taking from the Nightblade’s weapons systems. I look frantically around and spot the assault craft on my left. It’s a cross between a UFO and an Apache gunship—a sleek, ergonomic length of blackened armor and weapons clusters. Bitefighter’s in the pilot’s seat, doggles and headset firmly set on his furry little head. He turns toward me and yells “ROWF!” over the scream of laser-fire and I begin hauling ass toward the ship. That’s when the roof entrance tears open behind me and a horde of yuppiez (yuppie zombies) begins spilling out. Bitefighter cuts the lasers so that I can make the jump, and just as I leap off the rooftop everything goes slow-mo: the building collapses under its own weight, and legions of yuppiez get squished to death, snarling “RAAAA! RAAAAAAAAWR!!!!” I grab a landing skid on the Nightblade and chuck the X-Box aboard. Bitefighter banks the ship a few degrees port and begins heading home. I clamber onto the main platform, breathing heavy and exchanging a high-five with my tiny buddy.
Yuppiez are no joke. Make sure that when you go shopping this Black Friday, you have a state-of-the-art gunship to hold them off when they revert to their shopper-hunter forms. Palamedes publishing. Check out their revolutionary Responsive Books software here: Responsive Books. Check out their poetry here: Manhattan 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