The challenge for today was to write something which included…The itch was bad. Real bad…this is what I came up with … a bit of Science Fiction Flash….
“What did Bernie tell you? Why’d he take all the men?” I dabbed oil on my cloth and spread it up the barrel of my gun.
A man was nothing in these parts without a well-oiled gun. Of course, I’d cleaned the firing mechanism first, but protecting the business end of my weapon mattered more. This caustic rain ate metal within a month without the protective coating.
My whiskers itched. The itch was bad. Real bad. And didn’t that just tell me something horrible was coming? Bernie left Jethro and I to guard the haul and disappeared with the others. I hadn’t been a part of that conversation, but it made no sense. We were too vulnerable sitting here with just two men.
Jethro didn’t believe me when I’d told him about my beard. He didn’t think whiskers could speak to a man, but mine had saved my life too many times to count.
I spat out my cigarette and reached for another.
“Those things will kill, you,” Jethro muttered. He abstained from the stims they gave us, choosing instead to chew the raw product. The bluish stalk wobbled between his lips as he gave me one of his disapproving stares.
What the fuck did I care. I didn’t plan on having a long and fruitful life. That’s not why men like me signed up for assignments in hellholes like this.
With a flick of my lighter, I made a show of lighting up another cig. “You gonna tell me what Bernie said, or do I have to drag it outta you?”
He leaned back, bringing his weapon to rest on top his knees. The metal at the end of his barrel already showed deep pitting. He didn’t spend the time, didn’t respect the elements. In another week, those pits would turn to craters and make the gun nothing but an overly heavy stick.
Not my problem. The metal on my weapon gleamed.
Which was a good thing considering how my frackin’ beard itched.
I resisted the urge to scratch. You can scratch and itch, but you can’t itch a scratch, and damn if I wanted to shave this damn beard off my ugly face.
Someday I would.
Jethro chewed on the twig, sucking in the raw stim. It turned his teeth a pinkish purple and his lips a bright cherry red. Reminded me of what a woman might look like, it there had been any here to see. Women were smarter than the rest of us. They stayed up there, and made us slag around in the muck.
“Bernie said they’re seeing more action in the North. They’re offering bonuses to anyone willing to head up there. Since we finished packaging, he took them there.”
More action meant more frackin’ itchin’. I was happy to stay here.
My beard felt alive with the itchin’ going on. “They’re gonna be here soon, Jet.”
His eyes narrowed. “How can you say?”
I didn’t want to be talking about my itchy beard with him again. He already thought he’d been partnered with a loon. But I was the oldest ass loon on the planet. There was a reason I’d survived.
The sky deepened from its rosy pink to the purple of twilight. This damn place didn’t have day or night, just shades of lighter pink and darker purple. That with the blue tinge of all the plants messed with my eyes and gave me migraines.
I reached for another clip. Our ride would be here in ten minutes. Unfortunately they would be here in less than five.
“You better grab and extra ammo pack,” I warned.
“Why?” Jethro leaned against the mud wall. “Scouts said the area was clear.”
He should be watching the treeline with me. Bastard didn’t respect this place.
“Scouts be frackin’ wrong.” I slammed a clip into my gun.
The itch was bad now. Real bad. I’d misjudged their arrival.
I tossed Jethro three clips, the last of our ammo. He was a good shot, maybe better than me, the only reason I tolerated his crap.
High-pitched squeaks and squeals sounded in the underbrush. A massive rustling told me we had a decent sized pack headed our way.
We’d cleared out everything around the landing pad for a hundred yards. The two of us sat behind a mud walled enclosure. Behind us, our payload waited; over a hundred thousand credits of unprocessed weed. That stuff was the most valuable substance in the galaxy and the most potent drug ever manufactured. It was also vital to our pilots. Without it, they couldn’t dip between the cracks in space.
The only problem harvesting weed were the weasels. Don’ t know what they called themselves. Didn’t really care. Damn mongrel rats revered that stuff, and they fought tooth, nail and claw to keep us from lifting it off their planet.
I’d be more than happy to never come back to this hellhole, but the stuff didn’t grow anyplace but here. And besides, I loved the monotony of target practice.
“Lock and load,” I said to Jethro. “Here they come.”
A wave of furry brown bodies spilled from the protection of the trees. Frack me but there must be hundreds of them. I’d never seen so many in one place. A glance at my timepiece told me the transport wouldn’t make it.
Jethro shot a few rounds, but they were too far away.
“Don’t waste your ammo. We need them in range.”
I wasn’t sure if my 10 percent of the profits was worth this crap.
Reaching up, I scratched my beard. The damn thing felt alive, something I wasn’t so sure I could say for myself. Bernie had it wrong. Or maybe the rats figured out he’d taken the men. Jethro and I were sitting ducks.
Shit, I hated this job. The butt of my rifle pressed into my shoulder.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
I took the fucking weasels down, puffing on my stim-cig. If I made it out of this alive, I was done. The beard was coming off and I was spending all my credits on something worthwhile. Not these fucking stims. I was done harvesting weed and I hadn’t had a woman in months.