December 14, 2019

Free Fiction Friday-Helium Party Part 3

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Here it ’tis; our weekly installment of rogue Space Clowns, doing what rogue Space Clowns do. Be sure to start back on chapter 1 if you’re new to the story, or read Helium Party and other original tales of science fiction in their entirety.

Helium Party

by

David Dickisnon

Chapter 3

I crept towards the fray. The battle scene before me was truly epic, if not slightly hilarious. Pies flew, both toxic and explosive. Bad puns and gags were exchanged. I knew that it was only a matter of time before the battle would devolve into cutlery throwing and hand-to-hand-buzzer combat.

I scrabbled to activate my wrist mounted holo-recorder, as I found a relatively clear patch to stand and record the skirmish. Clearly, the Citizens were taking the worst of the attack; I was to later learn that this was merely the advance shock troops of the rival clowning cooperative known as the Killing Jokers. As the smoke cleared, three forms emerged from the mist to survey the damage they had inflicted. Even with the breather-masks I recognized them from my research: Zappo and Sparky, led by Misti Rude.

I knew her reputation and that of the Killing Jokers, as well. Like the Citizens, they operated on the legal fringes, placating the Clowning Guild when it suited them and cutting corners to get ahead. This kind of direct confrontation wasn’t unheard of, but I was perhaps the first reporter to witness one transpiring close up.

“How ya doin’, Toots…hey, a hostage!” Zappo reached out to grab me with an oversized augmented arm. Misti Rude rose up and waved an electo-buzzered hand to stop him.

“You’re not one of them…” she said to me, as if she was examining a curious new toy or a strange lunch item on the menu.

I forced myself to not swallow hard before replying, “Allie Allegra, Terran Solar News…”

Misti smiled as she noted the holo-recorder. Both Zappo & Sparky automatically stepped back and combed their orange hair with their fingers as best they could. Cameras have that effect on people, clowns or no.

“Remember what you see here today.”

“Flash bangs are set, Misti…” I heard a voice call back from her commset.

“Let’s blow this three ringer,” she replied back, and they disappeared back into the purple fog.

“Wait, just a few questions for the good people back home,” I blurted out. Part of me was almost disappointed that they didn’t kidnap me in a way; things were getting quiet around the Citizens’ clubhouse, and it would have been fascinating to compare how a Clowning organization like the Killing Jokers operated compared to the Citizens. I knew that they could be even more on the fringe of Terran Law than the Citizens of Silliness, and little was known about them beyond the public façade they projected. I knew that Crunchy dismissed the fact that women like Misti could be successful as clowns, perhaps a throwback to chauvinistic attitudes in the industry of old. Clearly, the Killing Jokers were a force to be reckoned with. They had hit the clubhouse hard.

“You OK, Ma’am?” Lanky’s oversized red gloved hand reached out to help me up. I looked to make sure that it was firmly attached to his body, as he had tried this gag on me before, but he seemed sincere, if a bit shaken this time around. He’d clearly taken a pie or two too many, and wore the hand buzzer scorch marks to prove it.

No sooner had I replied, than a huge WHOOMP! knocked us both off of our feet. The outer hull of the chamber collapsed, revealing the ink-blackness of space. I was thankful once again that I had donned my pressure suit earlier, and I heard the whir of its micro-pumps as the visor slid down into place and the heads-up display came online. I saw that Lanky had his Citizens-issue helmet bubble in place as well, although of course, it came with the mandatory clown–ruffle collar.

“You dirty-dealing wannabes!” He said shaking his fist at the sky as the Killing Jokers’ attack craft vanished into the void. I saw the final automated Jack-in-the-Box sentries jumping harmlessly after them.

“I’ve got a question,” I called back to him over the commset, not really caring who heard me now. “Why don’t you guys go to the Lunar Authorities? Or arm yourself with some real weapons?”

“It’s duh code, Sweetheart,” Crunchy emerged from the debris like a general scouting out the war zone. How he still managed to light and smoke a cigar in an excursion suit I’ll never know.

“Besides, The Jokers probably paid off the Campus Authorities to pull this stunt.”

Another secondary shook through the complex. It was no doubt in my mind that whatever the Killing Jokers had planted, it had lots of fuel to keep going. Did the Citizens really need that much explosives and ammunition? Crazy images of clowns prepared for the “Clown-apocalypse” again danced in my mind’s eye.

I thought of the glove-cam footage I’d shot during my brief exchange with Misti Rude and her accomplices. That alone was “film at 11” material, and perhaps my ticket off of this assignment. I could be back Earth-side tonight, and resume my usual beat chasing well-heeled Terran celebrities…

This time, however, Crunchy was actually two steps ahead of me. He stopped me before I could return to my bunk-space, slamming down the lid of my uplink terminus.

“Oh no, dearie, that’s strictly tactical info now, property of the Citizens of Silliness.”

“But if we get the footage out there ASAP, this could build your case against the Killing Jokers, sway public sympathy and add support to your cause…”

“There won’t be a ‘case’” he said as he swept his hand in my direction. “This is Guild business, clowning around or no.”

Isotope broke in. “Sir, it’s…”

Crunchy was impatient now “Spit it out, son…”

“The He- helium. It’s escaped into space…”

Crunchy was the very caricature of a cartoon character about to blow his top. You could almost see his slot machine eyes roll back in his head and land on mushroom clouds.  All through the post-attack, he’d been calm and collected, as if this was just another clowning around incident. It was all he could do to slap Isotope in the back of the head.

“What? We’ve got birthday parties coming up just this weekend…”

“All of the main tanks are emptied…”

Well, it turned out to be not quite all, but enough to put a damper on the Citizens’ operations and shut them down in the near term. Tinker had a small stash for research in the lab that they had missed. Plus, there was what had already been loaded and pre-positioned planet side on Earth for tomorrow’s birthday parties. But the big tanks filled with 90% of the Citizens’ bootleg liquid helium had been ruptured and was now forming a thin tenuous ring around the Moon. Sure, it was inert and didn’t further feed the explosions, but the damage had been done. No doubt the Killing Jokers were poised to swoop in and take whatever party action that they could now.

Of course, Crunchy knew once he calmed down and came off of an especially expensive chocolate binge, that an appropriate response had to be mounted. But this concern was subordinate to the immediate problem of the loss of their helium stash. He looked like he could see the dollar signs drifting out the gaping wound in the side of the clubhouse and into space. I knew soon that one of the most secret rites of space clown-hood would be conducted; a helium party would have to be dispatched.

To be continued…

Read Helium Party and other original tales by Dave Dickinson.

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