It’s drizzling in Golden Gate Park, and it’s making Barb more than a little irritated.
“Of course it’s raining,” she grumbles. “I just got my hair did, and it’s flapjacking raining.”
Her partner-in-repo, Eliza Driscoll, grins and wipes a hand across her own wet forehead. “Vanity, thy name is CyBarb.”
“Suck it,” Barb says. “It’s brand new hair. I wanted it to look nice for longer than five flapjacking minutes. The world is against me. You’re against me.”
Eliza holds up her hand and rubs her thumb and index finger together. “Tiniest digiharp for you. Sadness abounds.”
Barb growls under her breath. Should have expected it to be miserable out, she thinks. It’s only been raining for the past three flapjacking days. Not that it would have mattered, of course. Umbrellas aren’t part of the official BoomBoom Department of Repossessions and Collections uniform, after all. Because why would they be, right? Need to have both hands free when you’re repoing some poor flapjacker’s autocar, in case he shows up when you’re overriding the codelock on the doors and you need to do some fancy Corporate hand-to-hand to stop him from busting your ChrohmSteel FemSkull open on the pavement, right?
“Never should have gotten out of bed this morning,” Barb mumbles.
“It’s your own fault for getting hair installed,” Eliza says. “Should have stayed a chrome dome like me.” Eliza’s own bald metal head glistens in the rain. “Old school class, babe. Hang on a minute,” she says, and comes to a stop on the sidewalk. She raises her company vPhone and checks the RepoTrak app that’s already open on it. “Says the autocar’s still there, but flapjack if I see it.”
They’d left their own Corpcar a block back, illegally parked on the curb by a hydrant. BoomBoom didn’t get a pass from the meterbots, but flapjack it. The Corp. could afford to pay some parking tickets in the name of a few good repos. Besides, the two cybes weren’t going to pull up alongside a target in their Corpcar. Announcing yourself like that was a good way to get a zap pistol pulled on you, and nobody wanted that. The pistol wouldn’t kill you, but once you barfed, peed, and crapped yourself after you got zapped, the humiliation certainly might.
You’d think a cybe wouldn’t be affected by a zap blast like a skinbag would.
“Lemme see,” Barb says. Eliza tilts the phone towards her, and Barb eyeballs the app. “It’s supposed to be…” She looks at the row of parked autocars along the curb, then points at one. “There you go. Flapjacker painted it. Sneaky.”
“Hope he’s inside it,” Eliza says. “I’m wet, I’m irritated, and I really want to zap him.”
“Let me pull him out first so he doesn’t pee on the seat when you do.” It’s Barb’s turn to drive the repo back to the depot, and she is not going to be sitting in some deadbeat’s puddle while she does it. She wishes she could just have the autocar take itself in, but the Repo Squad wouldn’t be here if the nav AI hadn’t been disabled, so yeah. Flapjacking deadbeats always think they can get away with something. Idiots, every last one of them.
Now Barb wants to zap him, too, just on general principle. She pulls her zap pistol from her holster, holding it down at her side. Eliza puts her vPhone away and takes out her own pistol. As a pair, they continue along the sidewalk, until they are three autocars away from their target repo. The vehicle looks empty from here, but you never can tell with deadbeats. He could be stretched out in the back seat, cruising the VerpNet, and eating emote drops like tuber chips.
“I got the street side,” Barb says.
“Stay out of the puddles,” Eliza replies. “You’ll wreck your shoes and your hair.”
Barb raises her flapjack finger at Eliza, then drops it and puts a two-handed grip on her zap pistol. She steps off the curb (up to her ankle in a water-filled pothole, because of course), and slips past the rear of the closest autocar. She moves around to the driver’s side, Eliza matching her pace on the passenger’s, and together they slink through the rain towards the target vehicle.
A city autobus thrums past Barb, throwing up a sheet of cold water that splashes against her left side (because flapjacking of course it does), and Barb turns her head away. She catches Eliza grinning at her over the top of the autocar between them, and throws her a scowl so dark and epically terrifying that Eliza’s grin grows even wider, and Barb almost decides to zap her right then and there. Later, she tells herself. Unprofessional to do it in the middle of a repo. Do it during lunch at the CentiBurger. Then lock her out of the autocar.
The cybes keep moving forward. The vehicle is two autocars up, then one. Barb and Eliza make eye contact at the rear of the repo, then move quickly to the doors on either side and swing their zap pistols to point through the window plass and into the interior.
“Flapjack,” Eliza says. She lowers her pistol. “I was looking forward to shooting somebody.”
Barb holsters her weapon. “At least nobody peed on the seat.” She slips the skelly out from the case on her belt and holds it against the lock, triggering the decode function. Deadbeats always change the codelock when they disable the nav AI, but the skelly makes quick work of it, plowing through a million or two possibilities in about five seconds, and the door hinges up. “Lunch after this,” she says.
“CentiBurger?” Eliza asks. She accesses the valet app on her vPhone and calls for their Corpcar to drive itself to their location.
Barb puts the skelly away and smiles. “Flapjacking right, CentiBurger.” She gets into the autocar and taps it awake.
“Nav disabled,” the autocar says. “Give me directions and I’ll get you there.”
“Hang on,” she tells the AI. Barb rolls the passenger window down, and Eliza leans in. “We turn this thing in,” Barb says, “then we hit up lunch, then we get some dry clothes, then we get CentiBurger.” It’ll be funnier if you crap yourself after you put on dry clothes.
“Sounds good,” Eliza says. The Corpcar pulls up beside the repo and stops. Eliza taps her knuckle against the side of the repo. “Easy credits.” She moves around the front of the repo and over to the Corpcar, opens the door, and climbs inside.
“Hey! Hey, flapjack face!” someone shouts. Barb sees a man across the street, holding a digipaper copy of The Empirical over his head as an umbrella against the rain. He is rushing across the street towards them. “What the flapjack are you doing with my car?”
Barb rolls her eyes and doesn’t even bother to step out of the repo. The man steps in between the Corpcar in the street and the repo at the curb. She cracks the window on the driver’s side just enough so that he can hear her. “What do you think, derp-derp? They only call us after you’ve skipped six payments.”
The man throws his wet digipaper onto the street. “I’ve missed three!” he shouts. “Possibly four! This is a crime against me!”
Eliza rolls down the passenger window on the Corpcar and leans across the seat. “Sir. You’ll need to take that up with Corporate.”
“A crime!” he repeats,turning to shout at Eliza now. “I want your badge number!”
“We don’t have badge numbers, sir,” Eliza says.
“Should have paid your bills, derp-derp,” Barb adds.
The man turns back to Barb. “Five payments! No more than five!” He punctuates each word with a jab of his index finger. Jab jab jab jab jab jab.
“Sir,” Eliza says. “Step away from the car, please.”
“I’ll have your flapjacking jobs. Do you even know who I am?”
“I’m your worst flapjacking nightmare, you flapjacking cyborg waste of datachips!”
It’s almost a thing of beauty, the way it all comes together after that. Barb and Eliza will play it back later on their Corpcar’s vCorder, reversing, replaying, adding comic sound effects, mixing in BoomScents, up-scanning it into Hyper Fidelity OrpheumD, forwarding it to their friend group, and achieving a small amount of viral fame for an hour or two on the vSoshes.
At its core, when played back in ultra slo-mo for fullest enjoyment, the vid shows Barb, grinning like she’s eaten an entire box of Ripping Final ThreshDown at VerpSports emote drops, raising the driver’s window in the repo car. At the same time, her extended flapjack finger lifts up into view from behind the door’s panel.
Simultaneously, in the Corpcar, Eliza’s zap pistol comes into frame, pointing towards the open passenger window of that autocar, aimed at the raving deadbeat between the two vehicles. Three frames of vid go completely white as Eliza pulls the zap pistol’s trigger, and for another ten frames, the blue bolt of zap-plaz can be seen hitting the deadbeat square in the small of his back.
What happens next is a marvel of short circuited biology.
First, there’s a spectacular geyser of vomit which explodes out through the deadbeat’s open mouth with the force and majesty of a Last Vegas dancing fountain water jet blasting up into the desert air. The magnificent chunder thunders against the repo car’s closed window, sending chunks of what looks like a lunchtime burrito flying hither and yon, corn and beans and rice Pollacking in a dazzling display of disgorged detritus.
The shock from the zap sends the deadbeat reflexively into a spin, turning him away from the repo car and towards the Corpcar. For ten frames in the middle of his full-rotation between the two autocars, clearly visible in ultra slo-mo, a track of urine darkens the front of his tan trousers, appearing in the center of his groin and spreading outward, like an animated 21st century map illustrating the devastating expansion of Communism across the free world, or else it was Capitalism, nobody really remembers the specifics of any of that from school these days.
Finally, in the barest breath of a moment before the deadbeat completely loses his balance and drops down out of the vCorder’s sight and into the annals of vSosh history, the vid captures the sublime wonder that is a fully uncontrollable and completely unstoppable bowel release. For seven glorious frames of vid, a brown blossom blooms across the seat of his trousers—breathtaking, astounding, awe-inspiring, the Mona Lisa of all the crap shots ever recorded in the history of mankind: excellence in excrement.
“Holy mother of flapjacks,” Barb whispers from inside repo car.
Eliza slides across the seat of the Corpcar and looks out the passenger window. “I think I got him,” she calls out to Barb.
Barb, not wanting to roll down her puke-covered window, shouts out gleefully, “Hit him again!”
On the ground, the deadbeat swims in a thick batter of rainwater and bodily fluids, twitching now and again, grunting. Eliza observes him, making sure he’s not in any terminal distress, which through the magic of engineering that is the zap pistol, he most certainly is not. He’ll be back to functional in about five or six minutes, though he’ll feel like he’s been run over by an autotruck for a couple of hours after that, and of course he’ll smell like a week-old corpse in July for at least that long.
“Hey, derp-derp!” Barb shouts. “Next time, make your flapjacking payments!”
The deadbeat bleats like some kind of exotic forest animal, and twitches again.
Barb switches to her internal vNet link, and sends to Eliza, “You know I’m not washing this thing before we turn it in.”
“Flapjack no,” Eliza sends back.
“Turn in barf car. Then CentiBurger.”
“You know I was planning on zapping you after we ate lunch.”
“Not unless I zapped you first,” Eliza sends. “Hey. So you know? Your hair looks fantastic.”
Barb puts on her seatbelt. “Yeah, it does, doesn’t it? And the credits for this vomit comet ought to just about pay for it.”
She throws a salute to the deadbeat still twitching in the street, and then checks her new hair in the repo car’s rear view mirror. She pulls a wet lock away from her forehead and puts it back behind her ear. Her hair is, to put it mildly, a disaster on par with the burning of the Library at Alexandria, the sinking of the Titanic, or the entirety of the 21st Century.
“Worth every flapjacking credit.”