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Old Guy

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The Lost

My partner, Whizkid, and I were working the day watch out of Nine Mile Station when we spotted the perp.

"Gotta Leaker, Whiz." I pointed at the pudgy, bald man standing on the sidewalk in front of Sid's Cat House. He was staring goggle-eyed at the life size poster depicting Sid's most famous stripper, Lola Palooza.

"Not from around here, that's certain," said Whiz. He's an odd-looking sort, what with all the purple spots and being shaped sorta like a turnip, but we get all kinds, and he's a good partner, if a little quick on the trigger. The other cops call him Whiz because he ain't very fast. Around the force my handle is Old Guy. I'm not as old as dinosaur poop, no matter what you might hear, but I survived ten years on the Eastern Frontier during the worst of the Mormon invasions and another five years fighting militant Pacifists along the southern border of my home, the great country of Mendocino. It ain't age as much as it's general wear and tear.

Yeah, Whizkid and I protect the citizens of Frisco from drifters, grifters, and worse. I carry a .45 caliber pistol and a riot gun. Oh, I also carry a badge. It's my license to kill.

Whiz eased off to one side as we approached the perp. You never know what a Leaker might do when confronted by officers of the law.

I stopped a few feet from the Leaker. He'd have seen me if he wasn't staring slackjawed at Lola's image. "Identify yourself! State your business!"

He jerked as if stung and dropped a flimsy plastic bag. The contents scattered across the sidewalk. We had him for littering, if nothing else. That would win him a year in the rock quarries.

"Huh?" he stammered. "Wha . . .? Huh?"

"Your name. Name and business."

He looked around as if lost -- which he was and not in any familiar way. "My -- uh -- my name is Donster. I -- I seem to -- to . . ."

"Yeah, right. That's what they all say, Donster, if that's your real name."

"Well, it's -- yeah, that's my name. Most folks call me Donnie." He ran a shaking hand over his bald dome. I hadn't seen anyone that out of shape since my army days, when I was part of a task force that ambushed one of Pacifica's so-called "elite" units and wiped 'em out.

"I -- where am I? Last thing I remember was walking out of Walmart and looking for my car. I turned a corner and -- here I was." He looked around at Lola's poster. "And there -- there she was."

"A likely story," I said. Actually, I meant exactly that. No sarcasm intended. "What were you doing as you left this Walmart place?"

"Um -- thinking about boobs. I think about boobs a lot. All the time, in fact."

I produced my notebook. "Any boobs in particular."

"No. Just boobs." He touched the poster reverently. "Like hers."

"So what kind of job do you have, Donster?"

"Um." He fell silent and shuffled his feet, then mumbled something.

"Sorry. I didn't get that."

"Unemployed. Disabled. But, I spend a lot of time on my computer doing -- ah -- doing volunteer work. Yeah. Volunteer work."

"Computers, eh? We've heard that term before. Sounds evil, but here in Frisco we make no value judgments on mere words. We hear a lot of odd ones." I made a few notes for our report. "So you had no job and you were thinking about boobs as you left this -- Walmart place. Is that correct?"

"Yeah. Where am I? Is this a movie set?"

"Movie," said Whiz. "There's another of those funny words."

"Whatever a "movie" is," I told Donster, "this ain't it. You'll have to come along with us."

"But -- what's going on? I was just minding my own boobs -- er -- business. You ain't read me my rights or nothing." He smirked as he spoke. I hate a man who smirks.

I resisted the temptation to butt-stroke him into next week. "Mendocino laws don't require that we tell you anything. You're thinking of Pacifica. You don't belong here. We call clowns like you Leakers. Like you, all Leakers were lost in thought -- you'd be surprised at how many say they were daydreaming about boobs -- and turned a corner -- into a different reality."

"We can shoot you where you stand," added Whiz. He likes to scare the piss out of perps. He also likes using his riot gun.

I gave our prisoner a friendly punch in the arm. "Pick up your stuff, Donster. What Whiz said is technically true, but we generally only shoot Leakers on Mondays."

Donster scrambled to retrieve his goods. "Why -- why Mondays?"

I shrugged. "After a nice weekend, we have to go back to work dealing with renegades up from the south, religious fanatics from the east, and an assortment of real criminals. Shooting a few Leakers is just a way to let off steam."

"I like to shoot one or two on Fridays," said Whiz, flashing his one-tooth grin. "Sort of gives the weekend a good start."

"Well, we're not going to shoot Donnie, now are we, Whiz? We'll just take him to the station and let the Rehab folks deal with him."

"Well. Okay. If you insist. But it is Friday."


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The Raid

Some weeks after we busted Donnie the Leaker, Whiz and I won the monthly Body Count Contest. Our reward was to be assigned to a raiding party. And our luck was in. The armed airship Potlatch was about to embark on a Mormon Raid. We were to be part of the hostage rescue team.

The airship would carry us into Mormon Country and provide covering fire for assault squads tasked with locating and rescuing Frisco women who had been abducted by gangs of Mormon men. Those Salt Lake dandies didn't consider themselves men unless they had at least ten wives -- some to pull plows and others for their private seraglios. We mounted raids at random intervals in an attempt to recover some of the women.

In practice, we would strike at their scattered outposts and grab all the young, good looking females -- some of whom might have been originally from Frisco. The men we weighted down with lead. The women in harness usually just watched us fly by, then dug in their toes and went back to work. I sometimes felt bad about leaving the ugly ones behind, but -- hey! -- I don't own a farm. What would I do with a plow girl?

Anyway, Whiz and I reported aboard the Potlatch on a Tuesday. The first crew member I saw was none other than Donnie the Leaker. He was sitting in the aft boiler room reading a tattered Fabulous Forties magazine.

"Hey, Donnie!" I yelled, startling him so bad he fell off the strut he was perched on, still clutching the magazine. Whiz and I helped him up.

"Rehab folks found you a job, eh?" said Whiz.

Donnie carefully folded the skin mag and tucked it away. "Yessir. I'm an Airship Trim Management Specialist. The pay ain't much, but I get all my meals free." He rubbed at a grease spot on his sleeve. "I get to wear these snazzy coveralls and the crew cubby has lots of good books and magazines in the -- uh -- the library."

Our reunion was cut short by the appearance of a petty officer. "Donnie! Get ta yer station! Dint ya hear the takeoff warning buzzer? Move it!"

The petty officer looked at us and lowered his voice a notch. "Better git to the troop bay. Liftoff in ten minutes."

We followed him up two decks and made our way forward. Whiz chuckled. "Glad to see old Donnie doing well. Most Leakers end up in the loony bin."

"Yeah, looks like he found a home in the Airship Corps. Good thing he had a hobby to keep his mind off his relocation."


"Boobs. That's one hobby he can keep abreast of anywhere."

Whiz managed a pained expression. "You just can't resist a pun, can you?"

"Pun? Oh. Sorry. It was an accident."

"Sure. I believe that. Just like I believe in the Tooth Fairy."

"Careful, Whiz. Them's fightin' words in Pacifica."

He just snarled and found a seat at the far end of the Troop Bay. I went down to the Ops area. It's best to stay away from Whiz when he gets into one of his moods. Especially if he happens to be cleaning his shotgun. Or if it's a Friday.

All kidding aside, I was happy to see a Leaker apparently adjusting well to his change of address. Mind you, being an Airship Trim Tech doesn't take much skill. Each airship has five or six big dudes whose only job is to move back and forth in the central corridor, using their weight to keep the ship in trim. It saves on ballast.

We did a low-level sneak into Mormon airspace and hit a small town at least a hundred miles beyond the DMZ. They were surprised as hell. Whiz and I were part of a strike squad charged with the task of suppressing defensive fire. Out in the field Mormon men are good fighters, but at home they don't seem as capable. Too much sex and too many chattering women, I reckon. I'd like to try the first and no thanks to the second, thank you very much.

Our primary targets are older women. They come out shooting every time. I can't tell if it's because they know we won't take them with us or if they're just trying to hang on to the other females. Let's face it, a senior wife with half a dozen younger wives to do the dishes, change diapers, and keep the old man happy has a pretty good life. Anyway, most of 'em own automatic weapons and ain't shy about using the damn things. I got a couple bullet scars to prove it.

We set up a blocking position on a side street. Within five minutes pickup teams were heading back to the airship herding small groups of chattering women. Some cried as they hurried along. Maybe they left little kids behind. We always let 'em bring kids if they wanted but not many do. Can't figure it. But that's only one of the millions of things I don't know about women. Like the crying. You can never tell if a woman is shedding tears because she's sad, or just busted a fingernail, or for no reason at all. I suppose I might have hung on to one of them wives if I'd been able to figure out what in the hell they wanted or didn't want.

The squad started taking fire from a bank building down the street. We returned fire and backed away. Stand up fights ain't our job. We just wanna hit and run. Then a bunch of shooters hit us from an alley across the street. One of our guys went down and while we was dragging his ass to cover the Mormon squad attacked.

Three women, all in their forties at least, came at us from the bank. Others stormed out of the alley. Two men were with them -- one on each flank. Must have been guys fresh from the DMZ because they knew what the hell was what. I nailed a woman wearing camo from head to toe, including her long skirt and the little cap pinned to her hair bun. She was lugging one of those light machine guns made way out in Yankee country. I wish we could get more of the damn things for our own forces -- starting with Whiz. He's crazy about automatic weapons and would carry such a gun everywhere -- even to the latrine -- if Supply would issue him one. Me, I'd like to shoot it, but I'm too lazy to pack that much iron around.

Whiz shot one of the men at close range. The two women with the guy left him and faded back. Whiz emptied his riot gun into the alley. I don't think he killed either of the women but he sure as hell sanitized that alley. They're probably still picking buckshot out of their behinds. The attackers in the street went to cover. We pulled back toward the airship. Somebody in the command gondola must have seen our situation because one of the ship's 20mm cannon started tearing up the street behind us. We made it back with nothing more than a few nicks and bruises, except for the guy with the bullet in his leg. He spent a couple months in the hospital. They rewarded him with a medal and a blonde, about 25, who is still taking good care of him. I reckon she likes him better than whatever Mormon patriarch she'd been married to.

Now don't get the wrong idea. No matter what you hear from the Mormon propaganda machine or them damn Pacifists, we don't make slaves of the women we bring back. It's true that some are given to the raiding forces, but only if the ladies agree. Almost all of them volunteer to take up with a raider, at least temporarily. Some want to BE a raider. Once in a while one or two will go back to Mormon country of their own choice. Like I said, there's no telling what a woman will do.

Whiz took up with a short redhead named Rhonda. That was a month ago and she's still living in his quarters. His hair -- what little he has -- is neater now, his clothes are nicer and cleaned regularly, and that odd guano-like odor isn't so noticeable. He seldom shoots Leakers now, except on Monday.

A nice little brunette accompanied me back to my hovel and stayed for a couple weeks. She was a little older than the others, maybe a lot older. Anyway, we had a pleasant time together and I still see her once in a while. Like all those others, though, she found me impossible to live with. I have no idea why.

Donnie gave up his career with the Airship Corps. He's now a janitor over at Sid's. They tell me he does a good job with a bucket and mop. Sid gave him a little cubby up by the stage light platform. He sits there during shows, eating popcorn and drinking beer. I saw him a couple times on the street, but I don't think he knew me. That glassy stare and trembling hands were a definite give away. Donnie is a true boobaholic now. His past life apparently didn't offer him any opportunity to completely immerse himself in boobs, boobs, and nothing but boobs. There's a three-step program for such sufferers, but it seldom works.

The folks at Boobaholic Anonymous say that if you can't cure boob addicts using their three steps, the men are not worth saving, which seems to be a strange attitude for a bunch of do-gooders, at least to me.

Anyhow, Donnie lives at Sid's. I hear that Lola has taken an interest in the lad, which could be a good thing -- or not. You never know about boob fanatics. Sometimes they just turn away from boobs, like I avoid Thanksgiving turkey saved in the freezer and served up at Christmas. Some end up as regulars at B-Anon meetings, wringing their prosthetic hands and wiping tears from their blind eyes, still hooked on boobs.

The End?? Or will we see more of the intrepid crime fighting duo from the great country of Mendicino?

:) Only the OG knows.

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