Fawn cared nothing for the fact that her Master did a science fiction sort of job to make a living. So what if he was a Seeder? All that mattered was his ability to provide for all of them. That…and her triumph.
Just that morning, she’d finally persuaded him to staple the full color sales poster to their living room wall. For the more than two years she’d served as his consensual slave, the tiny but powerful redhead had been working on her Master’s head, patiently inching him toward her way of thinking: Buy a Harley, please; get rid of that Italian piece of junk sitting under the tarp in their driveway.
There’d been willing collusion in this project from her slave sister. Teal already owned her own chunk of Milwaukee iron, a replica 1953 Panhead. Not only that, but it looked like she might get her driver’s license back before too much longer. Not too soon, though. No way could Fawn tolerate another broad in the house being able to ride around on a Harley unless she herself could two-up behind The Man.
“It is a beauty, isn’t it?” Attractive but hardly in the slim redhead’s league, the stocky dishwater blonde stood admiring the picture of the bright red Road King R. R for Replica, an exact copy of the first 1999 production model 88 inch monster.
“Not bad at all. Yours is nice, too, though.” No way was she going to let Teal feel anything but good about the Panhead. Talk about science fiction; the older woman’s entire life read like science fiction! A mere six months out of prison, she still had plenty of insecurities and needed care in the way she was handled.
Oh, one might not think so. She’d been whipped and branded, just like Fawn had. Garrett Di Marco had personally wielded both leather and iron in each case, trusting no one else to the task. Both girls were his. Yet though the redhead was younger and prettier and had been with their Master longer, she still cared for the ex-con like they were twins.
Which Teal desperately needed. Her handwriting still showed those huge “d” loops, a sure sign of a super thin skin. Anyone with that stroke in her handwriting could and would feel deeply hurt by the most innocent comment.
Additionally, Garrett and Fawn both knew that touchiness marked the girl as emotionally unstable, not to be trusted with ultra-sensitive, life and death secrets. For example, she’d not been told everything about the Seeder’s youth or that Fawn’s pre-slave given name was Camry, nickname Cammie, sometimes Cam.
On the flip side, Garrett had investigated Teal’s past thoroughly. Very thoroughly indeed.
The two girls talked bike talk for a few more minutes. Both had been Harley harlots since puberty. Their Master, on the other hand, had only been riding for a few years and mostly on (barf puke) pasta poppers at that.
The Jovian war had been hard on motorcycle manufacturers in general yet relatively kind to a few. Once again, Harley Davidson had survived the lean times by getting into the war effort. Militia and government troops alike found two and three wheeelers the ideal choices for courier duty, especially when equipped with passive night vision, oversized fuel tanks, and–for winter duty–titanium studded tires. For whatever reason, no Earthling ever understood exactly why, Jovian seek and destroy forces from orbital gunships to ground units acted like anything with less than four wheels couldn’t possibly be a threat.
That had to be the weirdest discovery of the entire conflict; the PSYOP boys and girls had a field day with that one. Four wheelers and larger were wiped out on contact. Infantry survived only with ample cover. In between, smack dab in the middle, men and women on bikes and trikes moved freely as long as they didn’t run in packs. Despite incredulity that never did fade completely, riders served as forward observers, letter carriers, even snipers and demolition specialists, with relative impunity.
Harley enthusiasts loved to brag that Milwaukee iron won the war. One comic, in a routine shortly after the cessation of overt hostilities, told an interesting joke.
“Hey,” he’d stated, “It wasn’t the two wheels that threw the Twiggies out of whack. It was that exhaust note they’ve been claiming as their own since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. You know, that r-r-r-rumble that marks every Harley in the world and rattles your hemorrhoids right back up your butt. ‘Cause, see, new research has discovered that’s a sexual sound on Jupiter, and when them Twiggies hear that, they sorta just can’t think about killing!”
The joke never got much applause but did reach the think tank boys who in turn decided it might not be a joke at all. That’s where it stopped. The war was over, the military brass felt they were reaching clear beyond science fiction into pure fantasy, so what was the point? They let it go.
Not surprisingly, Harley Davidson at war’s end stood alone as the only manufacturer of mass production motorcycles anywhere on the planet.
Except for a couple of weird Italian models which, apparently, even Jovians knew nobody cared about one way or the other.
A few politically incorrect comics joked about Harley having made a pact with the Devil, or perhaps with the Twiggies themselves, to eliminate competition. After half a dozen Hell’s Angels stomped onto a talk show set and trashed the host beyond repair, though, no one–not even the comics–repeated that particular heresy.
For a time, there’d been a surplus of two wheeled iron on the market, though limited to Courier and Raider models. By 2130, that surplus had been siphoned dry. H-D had so much money stashed away that the owners could have retired and bought their own country. Instead, they came out with the first Replica in 2131, an exact copy of the 1951 Panhead. Every production run sold out before the bikes were even shipped to dealerships, a pattern which continued with every annual release of another “model R” to the Here and Now. This year’s Retro Replica would be the bigger, badder 88 inch Road King.
Garrett was hooked, and he had placed his order eleven months in advance.
“Took him long enough.”
The girls looked at each other and laughed aloud. Both had spoken the exact same words at the exact same moment. For a time, they were able to forget their worries about their Master’s health…even if he was out chasing spiders that sounded like something from a bad science fiction novel. Or maybe a bad horror novel. Whichever.
On his part, airing it out north to his Deeper New York destination, Garrett Di Marco wasn’t worried about his health at all. Or so he told himself. Cotton-pickin’ teeth continued to bug him, and he really was going to have to have them yanked one of these days.
Guild policy recommended that all Seeders keep their own choppers as long as possible, though, pretty much in line with what dentists had to say. In fact, there was even a Guild superstition that any Seeder who had a tooth pulled was closing in on retirement. But tooth repair, or removal now that it was coming to that, was routine stuff. Everybody had to deal with dental problems. He didn’t know even one person with perfect teeth and probably never would.
Besides, he could get dentures with perfectly straight porcelain fangs, not like his slightly crooked natural set.
Fawn had said his color looked a little off this morning, but then she was epileptic and had a few mental health issues. As much as he loved her, she was wrong. He’d just looked in the mirror and grunted, “Hngh.” She probably thought it meant he agreed with her when it actually meant, “Bull puckey.”
He was just a little tired. Yesterday’s visit had taken longer Inside than he’d expected. The several Seeds embedded in the man’s astral body just to the left of his nose had come out as planned. When their removal led to discovery of something moving under the skin on the right side of the face, that’s when things got ugly.
It turned out to be the nastiest little pit viper he’d ever coaxed out of a host to its own destruction, and it came awfully close to getting its fangs into his fingers during the process.
Okay, so maybe he’d lost a step. At thirty-seven, he wasn’t exactly a kid any more. Maybe he should slow down, take it a little easier. Consider early retirement after all, get out while he was still at the top of his game.
“Aiee-ee!” A wail of chagrin. He’d forgotten his contemplation this morning; no wonder he was out of sorts.
Well, that was easy enough to remedy. Twenty minutes on autopilot later, his eyes popped open three seconds before the alarm sounded. He felt thoroughly refreshed.
See, Baby, he thought reassuringly, You worry too much.
At the chiropractor’s office, her wall clock showed 9:45 a.m. Doctor and patient were already there, two total strangers but well briefed on his qualifications. The patient’s qualifcations were another matter entirely, at least in Di Marco’s mind. A guy who claimed he could remove his own karmic seeds–without a Box, even!–now that had to be science fiction at best, more likely purely deluded fantasy. Hopefully the dude wasn’t a paranoid schiz; those could be deadly dangerous Inside.
The chiropractor rose from a swivel chair, moving out from behind her desk and extending a hand. “I’m Shannon James, the doctor who called the Guild. And this is the gentleman with the spider challenge, my friend and client, Frank Clawson. You’re the Seeder? Garrett Di Marco, I presume? Do I have that right?”
“You have the name right, Shannon. It’s all right to call you Shannon? But we do tend to get a mite irritable about being called Seeders. Guild Representative, or even just plain Rep, is preferred.”
“Ah, but it doesn’t catch the imagination the way Seeder does.” She was a strawberry blonde, around five-five and one-fifty, capable looking hands that belonged on a rancher’s daughter and mild, pale gray eyes. Not quite a cloudy sky color, but close. Her voice held no indication of apology for calling him a Seeder and no hint that she might stop doing so.
“You have a point. Frank, you’re comfortable with me being here?”
“Yes and no,” the stocky black man admitted. “I intend to do the actual work myself. Shannon will guide me but no more. Why she felt you were needed, I have no idea. I’m not much of a believer in your science fiction hocus pocus box.”
No hint of apology for rudeness in his voice, either. What an asshole.
Choking down his admission to himself that he was getting thoroughly pissed, Garrett looked to the doctor for permission. “May I?”
“Be my guest.”
“Well then. Frank, you’re usually confident enough to work on your own inner bodies without help, right?”
“Freakin’ right.” The idiot’s flat stare was actually…challenging!
“But in this case you realized you needed backup, so you called Dr. James, right?”
“Unh-hunh. You know that.” Maybe it was an alpha male thing. Or he didn’t like white men. Something.
“Okay. Dr. James takes on the case, but it sounds dangerous enough to her that she felt the two of you needed more backup, correct?”
“Yeah. Something like that.”
“Well, I’m it. If you distrust Shannon’s judgement….”
“Nah.” Frank Clawson suddenly shifted gears from challenging to embarrassed. “Guess we ought to get to work, huh?”
They shook on that.
It turned out to be an unusual experience indeed for Garrett. Once Inside, for instance, he had no trouble at all locating the mental body on which the work needed to be done. Flaming red arrows marked the path all the way. A courtesy, obviously, from his host. For the first time, the Seeder began to think maybe Frank Clawson was not the victim of Science Fiction Mind Syndrome after all.
Maybe he really did know what he was doing.
A minute or two later, a second Frank popped into existence directly behind Mental Frank. Unless Di Marco was badly mistaken, the black man had simplyly projected as “Soul only” from his physical body to his own Mental World, then mocked up a duplicate of his own Mental Body. Sort of a psychic self-cloning. Or something like that. The concept tickled an almost-thought in the back of Garrett’s mind, but he set it aside for later perusal. For now his focus on the job at hand must be total.
It did feel like the Zar was tring to tell him something significant, though….
I’ll think it through eventually, he promised silently. The Zarellan, his spiritual guide, would understand. He hoped.
There were indeed two egg sacs, one in each ear. From the size and activity therein, they’d arrived with no more than minutes to spare. Newly Arrived Frank stood stock still, as still as his equally motionless Mental form, eyes glazed in total concentration. Seconds later, a golden globe of light appeared on either side of Mental Frank’s head, enclosing each sac of baby spiders with room to spare. An instant later, violet light filled the insides of the two golden globes.
How the Seeder knew he was seeing two separate colors, one contained within the other, he could not have said. He only knew that he knew…and that he’d never seen or heard of this technique before in his life.
He stood frozen in place, fascinated.
The tableau remained unchanged for what later turned out to be precisely nine full minutes. Not once had any of the lights so much as flickered. When they did finally wink out of existence, nothing was left behind but a rapidly fading afterimage.
Mental Frank blinked. Soul Frank vanished. Garrett Di Marco stared, utterly stunned.
Mental Frank’s two ears were as they should be, squeaky clean, not a single baby spider in sight, not a single egg or even so much as a hint of ear wax.
Dr. Shannon James’ voice came out of a nearby tree. “All done, Garrett. You can come out now.”
Sounded like hide and seek. Blinking in bemusement, he thumbed the outgoing stud on his Box. He’d never earned an easier 50,000 credits, yet his life would never be the same.