Tales from the Stream Ch. 06

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Babes

Author’s Note

Space pirates. Lesbian space pirates. That’s really all you need to know. Well, that and not a lot of overt sex. Sexiness yes, but story first and no lurid details.

This is a series. Starting with chapter one will help avoid confusion.

When we last left our beloved space pirates, they had just scored a two for one deal on a pair of Megacomf couches. But, upon returning to their ship, they found only a parking ticket and no Megacomf.

*

Chapter 6: Impounded and Confounded

Rue de Journée Metro Stop, Nouveau Paris

“You’re sure this is the place?” asked Jade, as the group of four women climbed the stairs from the underground station into the sunlight.

“Yep.” Emily held the screen of the Michelin Guide up at eye level and gestured to her right. “Two blocks, that-a-way.”

“On the dark side of the street,” lamented Jade. “Figures.”

“Sounds like a song,” said Emily.

Clouds began to close in as the group walked on in silence. Lúcia peered up at the sky, looking this way and that.

“Franz Kafka Municipal Building,” Amaliya mumbled, looking at the weathered bronze plaque set into the squarish, gray concrete structure. “I’m not getting the best vibes here.”

“Doesn’t exactly fit in with the local architectural motif, does it?” offered Jade.

“No,” said Amaliya. “And that name. Kafka. I swear I’ve heard it before.”

“Probably just named after some famous French dude,” said Emily, swiping through the pages of her Michelin Guide, “like that Charles de Gaulle guy they named the space elevator after.”

“If Kafka’s a French name, I’ll eat my hat,” said Amaliya. “Sounds more German to me.”

“Well that explains the shit-a-brick architecture,” Jade said. “Sehr in ordnung.”

“Can we agree to debate the etymology of surnames another time?” said Emily, “Personally, I just want to get this parking ticket voided of so we get back to enjoying the fruits of our two for one Megacomf score.”

Lúcia pulled the Megacomf Thank You card from her pocket and opened it. A tiny, lo-res holographic bust of Megacomf Brian appeared. “You haven’t made it, until you’ve made it on a Megacomf,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

“You brought the card with you?” said Amaliya.

“For strength and guidance,” said Lúcia.

“You really think he’s a saint? Megacomf Brian?”

“It is not for me to decide. But anyone who can offer such consistent comfort at low, low, two for one prices must surely be in the running.”

“Well, here we go, crew.” Jade reached out and tugged at the door handle, “into the machinations of local government.”

* * *

Inside the Franz Kafka Municipal Building Lobby

Behind a large, raised reception desk, that spanned half the width of the lobby, sat a lone automaton, fashioned in the shape of a prison matron with a face to match. “Take a number,” she said.

“Take a number?” said Jade, looking around. “We’re the only ones here.”

“Not one. There are four of you. Take a number.”

“Yes, but only one of us has a parking ticket.” Jade waved the electronic paper in the air. “See?”

“Take a number.”

“Oh, for fu—”

Amaliya laid a hand on Jade’s forearm.

“Fine.” Jade marched to the reception desk. “Taking a number.”

The reception automaton surveyed at the others in the group, tiny motors whirring as her head moved to level a gaze from one to the next. “Take a number.”

“They don’t have parking tickets,” Jade grumbled. “They’re just here for… I don’t know… moral support or something.”

“Take a number.”

“I’m the only one with a parking—”

Amaliya stepped forward to take a number and then tugged at Jade’s arm, pulling her away from the shadow of the reception desk.

Emily was next.

Lúcia was busy staring at the bare walls, looking them over from bottom to top, and then fixating on the mercury vapor lamps high above.

“Come on, hon,” Emily said, taking Lúcia’s hand in hers. “We all have to take a number or we won’t be getting our ship back.”

“I see green spots,” Lúcia said, waving her hands in front of her eyes. “Green spots that seem to be there, but they are not.”

“You shouldn’t stare into the lights like that,” Emily said. “Not good for your eyes. Now let’s get you a number.”

“Have you seen this man?” Lúcia, still blinking, pulled out the Megacomf Thank You card and opened it for the automaton to see.

“You haven’t made it until you’ve made it in a Megacomf,” said the holographic bust of Megacomf Brian.

There was no reaction.

“Megacomf Brian offers comfort to the masses.”

Still no reaction.

“I find myself burdened with the idea that Megacomf Brian is perhaps a modern day saint, and yet I have no way to prove it, other than the undeniable quality of materials and workmanship all at impossibly low two for one prices.”

“You think he’s the Messiah, do you?”

“Not the Messiah, no, but at least a candidate for—”

“Now you listen here, sister.” The automaton’s servo-motors whirred as she raised herself to a standing position, bahis firmaları towering over Lúcia. “Megacomf Brian is not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy.”

Lúcia put the card away and took a number.

* * *

Some time later

A panel in the wall to the right of the reception desk opened with a muted click to reveal a long, narrow hallway. At regular intervals, pools of light shone from fixtures high above.

The automaton at the reception desk whirred and clicked, raising her hand in a gesture toward the door.

“Finally,” said Jade, standing up and stretching. “What’s it been? Like an hour? This place doesn’t look busy enough to justify that.”

“Come on, Cap’n,” said Amaliya. “The sooner we get this taken care of, the sooner we’ll be breaking in our new couches.”

“Yeah, okay.” Jade crossed the threshold of the doorway. The others followed behind. Overhead lights illuminated a few dozen meters in front of the group as they made their way and extinguished a few dozen meters behind.

“Does anyone else feel like we’ve been walking for a really long time?” asked Emily.

“Like farther than the building is wide?” Amaliya put in.

“Something like that.”

“Is there a slope to the floor?” said Jade. “Maybe we’re going up.”

“Or down,” said Emily.

“I have to pee,” said Amaliya.

“Maybe it’s circular,” said Jade, “but with a really gentle curve.”

“So we’re spiraling around the toilet bowl of Nouveau Parisian bureaucracy?” said Emily.

“Or up,” said Jade. “We could be going up.”

“I’m going to be going on the floor in about five more minutes,” Amaliya said. “We can watch which way it flows and find out.”

The group stopped as a final set of overhead lights clicked on to reveal a T-intersection. A sign pointing left was labeled ‘Traffic Court’. A sign pointing right proclaimed, ‘Toilettes’. Amaliya sprinted to the right.

“Anybody else need to go?” ask Jade. “Might as well. Since we’re here and all.”

Heads shook all around.

“All better, XO?” Jade asked when Amaliya returned.

“Ship shape, Cap’n.”

“Right then, off to traffic court.” Jade turned and marched to the left.

Upon opening one of the heavy double doors, the lights of the courtroom flickered on. The four women paused and looked around. The room was completely empty except for a solitary figure seated behind a heavy wooden desk on a raised platform.

The figure was draped in a black robe and wearing a shoulder-length gray wig with curls. The figure began to click and whir, finally raising its head to reveal an automaton in male persona.

The automaton picked up a gavel and banged it once. “Court is now in session.”

For some time, the automaton bowed his head and ceased all movement while continuing to make mechanical clicks now and again. After a while, it twitched and looked up again.

The automaton whirred while swiveling his left and then right, surveying the four women, before settling its gaze on Jade.

“Do you accept the plea of guilty?” The automaton peered down his nose at Jade.

“Guilty?”

“Guilty it is then.” The autonomous judge raised his gavel.

“Wait!” shouted Jade. “That was a question, not a statement. You do know the difference, don’t you? When the pitch of my voice raises at the end, that’s a question.”

“The defendant will be silent or shall be held in contempt—”

“I’m just saying that ‘Guilty?’, you know, with a question mark, raised pitch at the end of the sentence, et cetera is not and admission of—”

“—contempt of court,” finished the automaton.

“Fine.” Jade crossed her arms and stared.

“You may proceed to enter your plea,” said the automaton.

“Enter my plea?” said Jade. “It’s a parking ticket for fuck’s sake. A lousy parking ticket.”

“Contempt of court?” said the automaton. “Did you notice how the pitch of my vocal modulator was rising at the end of my sentence, indicating a question?”

Jade sneared.

“What is your plea?”

“What are the charges?” Jade huffed. “Letting the meter run out?”

The automaton whirred and clicked.

“Criminal mischief, trafficking of stolen goods—”

“What? No. This is a parking ticket.” Jade held up the piece of electronic paper and shook it in the air.

“Criminal mischief, trafficking of stolen goods.” repeated the automaton. “Weil der Stadt district, planet Kepler-62f, year twenty-three—”

“Those charge were dropped.”

“Second degree assault. First judicial district, Philadelphia—”

“No. No. Self-defense. Listen, what the—”

“Second degree assault and battery involving a dangerous weapon—”

“A juicer is not a dangerous weapon, dammit, it’s a kitchen appliance. Besides, the son of a bitch deserved it after what he did to my—”

“Possession of controlled substances with intent to deliver—”

“Charges dropped due to improper police procedure.”

“Grand theft auto, operating a motor vehicle without a license—”

“Juvenile records that should have been expunged. Look, what’s going on here?”

“Jade kaçak iddaa Marie Espinoza, you have been found guilty on all charges and are hereby remanded into custody, awaiting sentencing.”

“What?” Jade stood wide-eyed and mouth gaping. “What the actual fuck is going on here? It’s a parking ticket!”

Panels to the left and right slid open and a pair of androgynous uniformed automatons stepped forward, clicking a whirring. Amaliya, Emily and Lúcia traded glaces with each other and with Jade. Jade’s hands were shaking.

Amaliya straightened up and marched forward. “You are not taking my girlfriend anywhere, you mechanical fucktards. It’s just a parking ticket. A lousy parking—”

Amaliya’s words fell flat as one of the uniformed automatons raised a hand with an integrated taser and fired two tiny electrodes into her torso.

As Amaliya fell into a fetal position, scrunched and quivering, a single explosion rocked the chambers. A portion of the wall crumbled and the uniformed automatons to the left fell flat on their faces. The three women still standing froze in place.

Obscured by rising smoke and a hooded cloak, a solitary figure sprinted from the doorway. The automaton who had laid Amaliya out got to experience a taser from the receiving end and fell flat in a shower of sparks directly in front of the cloaked figure.

“Order!” shouted the autonomous judge. “Order in the court.”

He too was silenced with a taser blast.

The remaining uniformed automaton turned to flee, but was quickly subdued by Emily, and Lúcia.

“What the fuck just happened?” said Jade, still standing amidst the clearing smoke.

“I feel like shit,” groaned Amaliya.

“I’m with the resistance,” said the shadowy persona. “Come with me if you want to live.”

With a fair amount of clicking and whirring, the cloaked figure lifted Amaliya from the floor and took off toward the still smoking door where it had burst forth only moments ago.

* * *

A plush office on the top floor

Amaliya lay balled up on an antique chaise lounge, groaning, with Emily stroking her forehead and offering sips of water from a clear plastic bottle.

“I’m sorry for the inconvenience you’ve been put through. It is not the intention, nor in the purview, of the Bureau of Traffic Safety to detain you.” The smartly dressed woman extended her hand to Jade. “Valerie Gestionnaire de Fonctionnaire. I’m with Human Resources. Please, call me Val.”

Jade blinked twice and finally shook the woman’s hand. “Um, thanks… Val, is it? But, Human Resources? You’re the first human we’ve seen since we got here.”

“Well, you know… cut-backs. First, it’s the secretarial pool being replaced by photocopiers and then it’s vending machines in the cafeteria. The autonomous receptionist? Pretty much all down hill from there.”

“Your receptionist is a real piece of work. And that judge.”

“I understand some of the staff have been less than stellar in the area of guest relations. My apologies. It will be reflected in their files.”

“I had to neutralize two and put down a third with a taser,” said the cloaked automaton. “There was some minor collateral damage in the courtroom. Nothing structural. The judge will need a system-wide reformat.”

“Ah, forgive me,” said Val gesturing to where the automaton sat with Lúcia. “This is my assistant, Marie-Anne de Condorcet. One of the ‘good guys’.”

“Viva la revolución!” Marie-Anne’s servo motors whirred as she raised her right fist into the air.

“She takes her position very seriously,” said Val.

Marie-Anne picked up a small microfiber cloth from an elegant Louis XIV side table and began polishing away the carbon stains on her metal arm. Lúcia pulled out her Thank You card from the Megacomf outlet store and showed it to Marie-Anne.

“Look,” said Jade, “I don’t know what kind of operation you’ve got going on here and frankly, I don’t care. I just want to take care of this parking ticket thing and get my ship back.”

“I promise you, I’m doing my best,” said Val.

Amaliya popped her head up. “And our Megacomfs. I really need a Megacomf right now. Ow.”

“Shh, just rest,” said Emily.

“Megacomf?” Val raised an eyebrow and picked up a computer tablet from her desk. Tapping and swiping at the screen, she said, “Why didn’t anybody mention Megacomf before now?”

Val leveled a gaze at Marie-Anne. Marie-Anne whirred as she shrugged.

“Two for one,” said Lúcia. And then, upon opening the card, a tiny holographic image of Megacomf Brian said, “You haven’t made it until you’ve made it on a Megacomf.”

Marie-Anne’s mouth turned upward in a mechanical smile.

“At low, two for one prices,” whispered Lúcia.

Marie-Anne nodded.

“So, um, Val,” said Jade. “I’m going to be totally straight with you. We pretty much blew all our money on that pair of couches sitting in your impound. In fact, we had to hop the turnstiles on the Metro on our way over here. Not that I should probably be telling you any of this.”

Val waved her hand as if shooing a fly.

“The point kaçak bahis is. I have no idea how we’re going to pay for this parking ticket. So unless you have any other ideas, I guess I’m going to take my chances in court. Can I get a public defender? Like, for a parking ticket? Do you do that here?”

“Dear Jade,” Val said, once again picking up her tablet to tap and swipe. “Your ship and couches are released from impound.”

“Really? Just like that?”

“Yes, really. There are still a few things around here that we humans can override.”

“Wow.” Jade stood wide-eyed. “Thanks. I don’t know what—”

“All I ask for in return is a nice nap on one of your Megacomfs before you leave. Just for a few minutes this afternoon. I swear, working here among all these half-wit drones. No offense Marie-Anne. Well, it can be rather tedious at times and I really could use—”

“Hell yeah, lady, I’ll even throw in a shiatsu if you’re up for it.” Jade puffed up her chest, cracked her knuckles and wiggled her fingers. “May I?”

“Oui,” said Val, smiling and turning her back toward Jade.

“This is just a warm up,” Jade said, as she began kneading Val’s shoulders. “It’ll be better once we get you laid out flat on the couch. I promise.”

“Much better,” sighed Emily.

“Mm-hmm,” moaned Amaliya.

“I like to watch,” said Lúcia.

Marie-Anne whirred as she grinned.

* * *

Back on The Black Prince

“You really ought to change your hull markings to match the ship’s transponder codes,” said Val, “That’s what got you flagged for impound.”

“Shh,” said Emily, oiling up her hands. “Just relax and let us take care of you.”

“Mmm,” replied Val as Emily began working the muscles in her calf. “Mm-hmm.”

Jade was straddling Val’s back, just above the tiny white towel over her backside that was her only covering.

“Mmm,” repeated Val as Jade oiled her back.

“Tell me if it gets too rough.” Jade began digging in.

“I’m not sure if that’s possible. Your hands are magical.”

Reclined on the second Megacomf was Marie-Anne. Lúcia was sprawled beside her, facing Jade, Emily and Val. Amaliya was curled behind Lúcia with her eyes closed and her breathing slow and regular. Every now and again Marie-Ann would place the sensor pad embedded in her right index finger on Amaliya’s forehead to check her vitals.

“Oh, that’s it, right there,” moaned Val.

“You seem to keep all your tension right here in your jainjing,” said Jade.

“I assume you can fix that?” sighed Val.

“Might take some time.”

“That’s quite alright.” Val took a deep breath. “Marie-Anne, clear my calendar for the rest of the day, please.”

“Certainly.” Marie-Anne sat up straight for a moment, clicking and whirring. “Done,” she said and returned to stroking Lúcia’s hair.

“Oh, that’s it,” said Val.

“I’m going to do your feet,” said Emily. “I hope you’re not ticklish.”

“Mm-mmm.” sighed Val.

“Marie-Anne,” said Jade. “Make sure she stays hydrated after this. Lots of water.”

“Oui, Capitaine.”

Lúcia peered up at Anne-Marie. “Do you believe it is possible to find evidence of sainthood in these times in which we live? Or is the very idea of saintliness consigned to the past, only to be read about in textbooks and scripture?”

“I suppose it depends.”

“Oh, that’s good,” moaned Val. “Right there.”

“When I was in the lobby of your building, I saw green spots in front of my eyes after staring at the lights for too long” said Lúcia. “They seemed so real, yet they were not. Suppose I was from an earlier age. Would I see the green spots as evidence of madness, or perhaps evidence of the divine, knowing of no other explanation?”

“Emily,” sighed Val, “What are you… ohh…”

“Perhaps.” Anne-Marie shrugged. “Perhaps it is not for us to decide what is divine and what is not.”

Lúcia nodded.

“Oh, that is heavenly,” heaved Val. “Right there. Yes. Yes.”

* * *

“Bye, Val.” Jade, Emily, Lúcia, and a barely standing Amaliya waved from the airlock.

“She was really nice,” said Emily. “You know, for a bureaucrat.”

“She was,” agreed Jade.

“I gave her a happy ending.” Emily smirked.

“Happy ending?” moaned Amaliya. “Her automaton shot me.”

“Yeah, but not on her orders. They act independently.”

“Phfft.”

“I think somebody needs a ride on the Megacomf to cheer her up,” suggested Jade.

“Maybe tomorrow,” Amaliya groaned. “My head is slammed. I can’t believe you gave her a happy ending.”

“Mind if I take your girlfriend for a spin next?” asked Emily.

“Em, honey,” said Amaliya, “we talked about this. You two do what you want. She’s not my possession to give.”

“In the courtroom,” said Jade. “Just before you got all medieval on those asshole guards, you said—”

“Yeah, I know what I said.” Amaliya clutched her forehead. “Ow.”

“Well, I think it’s sweet,” said Emily.

“I’ve never been anyone’s girlfriend before.” Jade stared at her boots. “I’d be pleased to be yours.”

“Really, I always assumed—”

“Amaliya,” said Emily. “I love you dear, and I know you’re in a bad way right now, but this is not the time to kill the moment with questions. When the captain asks if you want to be her girlfriend, you say yes.”

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