Peter, Kora and Eun were in Peter’s bedroom, studying a slide he’d projected onto the left-hand wall (the one that had the least amount of fist-marks in it). Right now, it shone with a detailed diagram of ANOS’s west wing—the quadrant with the warp gate.
Bitefighter was also in attendance. The Bite Mobile’s display pad shone with a hologram. The little rapscallion in a thinking man’s posture—left arm bent across his torso, left hand cupping his right elbow, right hand stair-cased over his mouth. His right eyebrow and right ear were crooked up.
Eun directed her laser pointer at the central trash hangar. “This is our entrance, right? You said the only people here are transport guys and garbage personn—”
“Dude!” Peter looked excitedly from Eun to Kora. “A trio of brave-as-fuck kids, breaking into an evil-ass science facility! This is right outta Stranger Things!”
Eun slapped him upside the head. “Peter. This isn’t television.”
“Yeah…I guess you’re right,” he conceded. Then he swung wildly at no one in particular. “This is way better than television! Intelligent bikes, interdimensional mushroom trips, a barbarian king in a cheer captain’s body? Are you fucking kidding me?” He gave them both a shit-eating smile. The girls regarded him with strained patience.
“Focus,” Kora said.
“Whatever,” he muttered, crossing his arms and settling back in his seat. “You need to get laid. Both of you.”
“Not an issue—I’ve been fucking Leona senseless,” Kora replied distractedly (the more time she spent on Earth, the more comfortable she became with its dialect and speech patterns) “There’s a rec center a couple blocks west; if anyone asks what we’re doing in ANOS, we can always pretend we’re dumb teenagers. ‘Sorry officer. We were hanging at the rec center, then went for a walk and got lost.’ ”
“We were trying to find a Denny’s or something,” Eun offered. “If we play it right, they’ll think we’re stupid kids and nothing more.”
“Exactly,” Kora nodded. “Let their preconceptions work against them.”
Peter was still reeling from Kora’s initial statement. “You and Leona…”
“Are going box-munching crazy,” Kora affirmed. “When we’re not plowing each other with state-of-the-art robo-cocks.”
“Oh my God,” he whispered. A blob of drool formed on the corner of his mouth. “That…is so…fucking…HOT.”
“Peter.” Kora’s eyes narrowed in distaste. “Carnal relations are a natural part of life.”
“Uh…right,” he managed. For a second he looked torn, then the question slipped out before his brain could filter it: “Could you make a video of you two banging each oth—”
Eun upended a glass of water onto Peter’s crotch. He jumped out of his seat—“FUCK!”—and snatched a fresh pair of jeans and boxers from a nearby laundry basket. “Turn away,” he muttered, yanking down his pants. “Wouldn’t want to blind you—I’m pretty fucking huge.”
Eun rolled her eyes. “The only danger we face is being sucked into that black hole you call a ‘cock.’ ”
“Very fucking funny.” He zipped up his jeans, fastened the button through its loop, and turned his attention back to the slide. “Once we’re inside, we need to move fast. People are gonna wonder what the hell is up with a trio of short, skinny custodians. I’ll have a map loaded onto my phone, but memorize the route, just in case.”
“Zen zaps?” Kora asked.
He pointed at a tupperware bin atop his desk. Its sides were lined with a black plastic bag, its center held a four-inch cake of mycelium-coated birdseed: nutrition for the mushrooms that coated its surface.
“Got a fresh crop ready to go. We’ll have plenty of rocket fuel.”
“That it?” Eun looked from Kora to Peter. “Break in, find the gateway, and cast the spell of translation?”
“According to the Timekeeper, yeah,” Peter said. “I asked for more info, but all he said was: ‘get to the brain and figure it out.’ ” He shook his head. “What a dick.”
“He’s an interdimensional demigod,” Eun countered. “He’s got other stuff to do besides—”
“You’re hot for his nuts.” Peter smirked.
Eun shrugged. “So? He’s off-the-charts fuckable.”
“Bet my dick’s bigger,” Peter groused.
Eun scoffed. “Please.”
“I miss mine.” Kora looked down at her crotch. “It was the size of a battle-mace.” She held their gaze for a long, hanging moment.
Peter and Eun erupted with laughter. “Kora’s…Kora’s…” Peter couldn’t finish.
Eun recovered first. “You may not know it, Kora, but you’re a comedian. Born and bred.” She wiped a tear off her cheek. “Aaahhh…that was good.”
“A comedian…” Kora cast a speculative glance up at the ceiling. “Never thought much of jesters or minstrels, but still…hmm…”
Peter cleared his throat. “Everyone’s clear on what we’re doing, right?”
Eun nodded. “I’m good.”
“Me too,” Kora said.
“Two days.” Peter’s face turned somber. “Two days, then we break into ANOS.”
The three teens Zipcar’d up to the James Woods’ Recreational Center. It was closed for Thanksgiving, so theirs was the only automobile on the lot. Peter clambered onto the roof of the car, detached the Bite Mobile from its Yakima rack, and wheeled it carefully off the hood. Yesterday, Bitefighter had written PARK ME AT THE REC CENTER on his holographic whiteboard. When Peter had asked why, BF had lain down and gone to sleep.
The three teens were dressed in gray jumpsuits, complete with forged photo IDs. When they’d first put them on, Peter excitedly noted their resemblance to the Ghostbusters. Eun pointed out there weren’t any Asian Ghostbusters, which had triggered Peter’s rage and caused him to denounce the entire franchise. The whole series was a motherfucking joke; he was going to make a reboot where all four Ghostbusters were giant-cocked Koreans with blonde, blue-eyed girlfriends. At first, the girls would be super innocent and new to sex, then they’d start trying butt stuff, then they’d invite their friends into the mix, ’cause ménage-a-trois was where it was at, bitches, and then—
“Peter!” Eun slapped him, breaking him free of his sex-vengeance reverie. “No one cares!”
“Whatever,” he muttered, rubbing his cheek. He parked the Bite Mobile in the rec center’s bike rack. “You guys ready?”
The girls nodded.
“Good. Let’s do this.
The guards on duty were bored and listless. Peter had gone through each of their dossiers; ANOS’s security guys were all burnouts. Former door-kickers from law enforcement or military who’d seen too much action. As long as the teens didn’t run afoul of ANOS’s Special Response Unit, they would be okay.
The guard in the trash hangar was named John Sabo. Despite the action hero name, John didn’t have a whole lot going for him. He spent his modest salary on beer, food, subscriptions to porn sites (guy had taste—Brazzers topped his search history), and the occasional hooker. He received opioids and antidepressants on a monthly basis, courtesy of the VA, but if John needed an extra kick, he’d score some heroin from a local dealer. Not much—just enough to help him sleep.
According to his file, Sabo had retired from the service after twenty hard years. He’d had options, but two decades of uniform-bound mentality had strapped him into an invisible straitjacket. In the military, there were guys who could do anything, and guys who couldn’t do anything else. Sabo fit into the latter category. Every other guard was in the same boat.
Two weeks ago, Peter had hacked into the VA and changed Sabo’s meds, his disability rating, and a host of other stuff. It wasn’t just Sabo—Peter had fucked with every security guy, sending them all into a mild tizzy. Instead of focusing on manning their posts, they’d drawn together during work hours, bitching loudly about how the goddamn VA was falling flat on its face. Big surprise, right? In the service, family and pay were a fucking priority, but on the outside, it was the exact opposite. Fuck politicians and their top-tier healthcare, fuck the promises from whoever was sitting in the oval office and their dysfunctional collection of congressional jerkoffs. Fuck everybody. They all let you down, with the exception of Jack fucking Daniels. (Well, Jack did too, but at least he was honest about it; he didn’t lead you on like the pricks in DC.)
Peter understood. Sympathized, even. He didn’t consider himself a soldier or a patriot, but he’d put his nuts on the line for the betterment of everyone, just like the guards. Now, he—and they—were getting fucked by the powers that be.
As the three teens passed Sabo, he muttered a disinterested, “heyhowyadoing” and continued staring at his phone, shaking his head in abject disgust. Goddamn VA, fucking things up again? Come the fuck on!
The teens entered a dingy trash room, where wheeled dumpsters had been arranged in a semicircle. Eun stopped and looked around in puzzlement.
“What?” Kora asked.
“This is a top-tier research facility. If it suffered a breach, people could die. They know that—they have to. But everything here is just so…so messy. So sloppy. It’s like they couldn’t care less.” Judging by her wrinkled features, Eun was perplexed and annoyed.
Peter threw her a devilish grin. “People don’t wanna think about their garbage; they’d rather toss it out and forget all about it.” His voice lowered. “This place is like an unguarded asshole. Bam!” He made a circle with his left hand and thrust his right fist through its center. “Here we come, ready to cow-punch some poopchutes. They should’ve taken the time to wipe, because—”
Eun shook her head, disgusted. “Peter, don’t be gross. What’s next?”
He took out his phone and clicked its screen. “Oldie but a goodie. Gonna run some all-is-good video loops on their security cams…” He finished with a decisive tap of his index finger. “Boom. For the next two hours, the cams’ll show an endless repetition of boring-ass footage.” He grinned again. “Classic. They should put that in the next season of Stranger Things.”
“This isn’t TV,” Eun reminded. “Come on—what’s next? Let’s get to the brain, do our thing, and get the hell out of here.” She crossed her arms, glancing to either side with a skeeved-out look. “Being in ANOS creeps me out.”
Peter took the high road and refrained from cracking an anal sex quip. He reached into his pocket, grabbed a handful of zen zaps, and maowed ’em down. “Eat your shrooms.”
When it came to tripping, Kora and Eun weren’t nearly as eager, but the Timekeeper had stated that mushrooms were “the key to your salvation,” so they’d all agreed to dose after they’d breached the facility. They were trying to save reality, after all.
Kora chomped dutifully away. Eun winced as she gulped hers down. “Where to?” she asked, wishing she’d brought a soda to help wash them down.
Peter snapped his fingers, sending their perception Slideways. “This way.” He walked through a drifting nest of fractals and took a left. Eun and Kora followed closely behind.