Saleen moves in slow motion toward the door; her long stride and gangly arms cut through the atmosphere like knives. You grab the bill of your cap and pull it down low on your brow, broaden your shoulders, and step into the shadows as Saleen opens the door.
“Captain,” she greets Malloy. “Feeling better?”
“Yes! I just heard on the radio… that ASSHOLE who damaged my goods is floating in the septic pool. Marinating… until someone is willing to fish the SLIME out.”
You see Malloy smile, probably for the first time ever, as he plops down on the leather sofa in the middle of the room. “Ugh,” he grunts; he then grimaces and rubs his junk.
You close your eyes and try not to laugh, but your shuffling feet draws Malloy’s gaze.
“There you are,” Malloy grunts. You give him an exaggerated nod. “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be on the transport headed to Cydonia!”
You look at Saleen. She shakes her head,.“The conference starts in a few days, and the world’s leaders should have already started checking in.”
You wipe your hands on your pants, nod, and begin to make your way to the door.
“Hold it!” Malloy demands. You freeze, staring at the door a mere five feet away. With a deep breath, you pull your cap down lower and spin around to face the captain. “Good luck, soldier.” You nod, swing around equally fast and practically sprint out the door.
As you tunnel through the labyrinth of halls and corridors, you see a couple of people dressed in the same uniform you have recently acquired. “Hey,” you say to them. “I… uh… was assaulted by that intruder… was knocked out... I can’t remember how to get to the transport.”
They point to the right and you take off down the corridor, following the bend. There are three transport cradles, but only one pod door is open. As you close in on it, the scanner reads Cydonia.
You step into your transport pod and red lights are flashing. You push the large green button to signal you’re present and ready for take-off with five minutes to spare. You stare at the lights and whirling gizmos of the control panel and try to absorb all of the information you’ve just been given.
You are apparently on your way to Cydonia to assassinate some world leader, and you have no idea who it is. You can’t even fly a transport. You start to laugh and shake your head, “Me, an assassin.”
“Pretty funny, huh?”
You jump as you notice a man that resembles your Uncle Ernie buckled into a seat in your pod. He’s eating potato chips and has a trail of crumbs and grease down the front of his grey sweatshirt. “Uh,” you fumble.
“Yeah you don’t look like an assassin to me either.” He tips the yellow bag on its side and pours the remnants of greasy potatoes into his mouth. “But that’s ok… we can help each other out,” he crunches.
You continue to stare at him as he dusts his hands off on his sweatshirt and extends one toward you. “I’m Bob.”
You take his salty hand, “Hi, Bob. I’m…. I’m …” You’re trying to remember who you’re pretending to be, but you’re drawing a blank.
“Wallace, I know… The assassin.” He digs in the bag beside him on the floor. The doors lock, and the pod lights begin flashing again.
“So I’m the assassin. You are… the pilot?”
“Nope.” He pops the cap on a Diet Coke and takes a long swig. “Auto pilot. You should buckle up.”
“Oh.” You sit down and strap yourself into the seat next to Bob, still wondering about his role in this mission. You watch as he digs around in his bag.
“I’m the secret weapon,” he says as he continues to dig.
He turns and looks at you with a seriousness you hadn’t noticed before. There’s a flicker in his eyes and the corner of his mouth twitches. “I’m… the secret weapon,” he says.
Bob smiles as his face melts into an unrecognizable blob. His body shifts, twists, and turns, settling into the lovely form of Saleen; dark eyes, big hands, and all. She winks at you and quickly molds back into regular old Bob. “Oh,” you mouth as Bob returns to his bag on the floor.
“Parcheesi?” He produces a board game and sets it up between the two of you. “We have about half an hour until we land on Mars’ surface. I’m blue… you?”
Bob is very good at this game, and in the 25 minutes you have been in the pod, he is one roll away from winning the whole thing.
“Bob, is there a plan? I have a bit of a head injury… it’s coming back to me… slowly,” you lie.
Bob laughs. “We should be docking at Cydonia Mensae soon. We have a room booked at the Hilton, but we will have to take a shuttle into the city from the dock.”
You nod and consider your possibilities of escape. You are no assassin, so that option is definitely out . . . but what about Bob? How can you ditch this guy? If you ditch him, will he go and finish the job?
You don’t get the chance to think about it too long; the pod begins to slow and bumps to a stop. The hatch opens and the cab lights begin to blink red, signaling your arrival. “Welcome… to Mars,” a female voice booms over the loudspeaker, “Remember dock number 4-5-3-7-1 Cydonia Mensae. Grab a drink at… the Terminal, get your Martian souvenirs at… The Hot Spot… Refuel at…. The --”
“Let’s go,” Bob pushes past with his bag over his shoulder, “I need a drink.”
“First I need to take a leak.” Bob heads toward the men’s room. “I’ll be right back.”
You look around the dock, trying to come up with a plan.
A. Run. No plan, just go-now!
B. Grab a drink with Bob and challenge him to a drinking contest in hope of getting him drunk and ditching him?
C. Go along with Bob. Enjoy a free hotel stay at Cydonia's luxurious Hilton - you need a vacation, so let NOSSA's corrupt pony up while you figure out how to be the hero?