"I know you are there. I have need of you." Linus Guthry's voice was like being stabbed with an incredibly sharp and vicious knife that was made from silk.
Every word was smooth and pleasant and at the same time filled with a bottomless hatred of all. Linus Guthry was an incomparable sociopath, a recluse and mastermind who considered dealing with subordinates to be the most unpleasant thing conceivable.
"Daaaaaaaaaaa." Popov said, lifting up the receiver.
"Listen to me Vortis," this was the name Guthry still referred to Popov by, although it had just been the name of his body when they had originally met. "You and your companion must vacate your bolt hole immediately. The Imperatrixians have moved and their agents are here on this planet, searching for you."
"Return to our ship?"
"No, absolutely not. As of now it is only a single operative, a free agent, though more may come. He will find your ship and it is not safe to return to it now. I have cancelled your arrangements to meet with the Bodgian and film a little 'adventure'. Such a meeting would likely attract attention, despite the foul creature's claims to be able to evade the Imperatrixian's system blockade. I have had Felix prepare a new safe house for you to use. Instructions to finding it will be left at the secondary drop point."
"Move all of operation?"
"Destroy the operation. Take your video equipment, we may yet be able to resume your work, but you absolutely must destroy every piece of footage. If you or any of your clients can be identified by evidence you leave behind it will mean trouble for us all."
Popov remained silent, contemplating the half dozen tapes he had sold on the side, mostly to black market traders who had ventured to earth secretly. One of those tapes was probably what brought the Imperatrixians to earth in the first place. One of those tapes was in the hands of a human. Popov had never earned the boundless wrath of Linus Guthry and he had no intention of speaking up and doing so. He had heard many rumors about his capacity for second hand bloodshed and Popov was certain that his lackey Felix had ways of dealing with a creature composed of gas.
"What? What is it?" Guthry hissed, sensing discomfort.
"Just that it is tough," Popov covered awkwardly, "always fleeing from the Imperatrixians."
A lilting laugh came from Guthry.
"Of anyone you should be accustomed to fleeing from them. Get it done Popov, a mistake now could cost you much more than your life; it could cost me mild discomfort."
There was a click and the line went dead. Popov put the receiver back on the cradle and slowly turned to look at Vladimir. He was halfway through cramming an entire Twinkie into his mouth and, meeting the red gleam in Popov's eye, he pulled the whole soggy thing back out.
"We are leaving here. First, we have a tape to get back."
Popov began pulling on a pair of stained pants and reached deep into a stack of empty chocolate milk cartons for his undershirt.
"I can't fucking believe this!"
Dale was watching CNN. Watching his arch-enemy, Maggie Bogdanovitch, lie to the American people.
"What is it?" Cokey leaned over Dale's shoulder to look at the portable TV he had set up on his desk.
"It's her, it's-," he paused to consider how to explain things to her. "Have you ever seen that movie with Will Smith and Gene Hackman, 'Enemy of the State'?"
Cokey chuckled at Dale's habit of trying to explain everything to her in his woefully unhip 'black people' terms.
"No, it looked retarded, but I saw the previews," she replied, "I know what you're talking about."
"Well, okay, in 'Enemy of the State' Will Smith and Gene Hackman are being chased by these guys from the NSA. It's a real organization, kind of like the CIA, only nastier. The thing is there is one even worse than the NSA, even more sinister, and it's FEMA, and this woman is the head of it."
"What's making you mad though? Government is doing bad things all the time."
TOTAL WRECK - crazy-eyed hound is covered in cobwebs, has a vespiary on back, graffiti on side and savage thirst for boat fuel. Frankly, I'm in over my head. He's in room 115 at Motel 6, yours free. 555-2851
Yes, it's the perfect form for surviving a car crash. But it's also the perfect form for so much more, like surviving the trauma of reading any news headline in 2016.
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