Extermination just got a whole lot more fun.
When lifelong friends Reggie, Joel, and Cody, fail to win the Virtual Reality Elite championship, they’re forced to find real work. The guys sign a pest control contract, ridding space stations of infestations.
Sonic Shuttle, En Route to Sector 12 Transgalactic Station
Reggie looked around the ship proudly. He was a freaking entrepreneur. An independent business owner. The salt of the galaxy’s economy. An intergalactic pest control expert. He might have been sitting on a plastic bucket, in a postage-stamp sized galley watching his friend murder a defenseless oxygen regulator, but for him, life couldn’t get any better.
Joel was bent over his workbench, which was actually the dining table in the galley, halfway through putting the oxygen regulator back together. His wavy, brown hair dangled forward just reaching the upper edge of his vision. He brushed it aside, leaving a smudge of thick, black goo across his forehead. It complemented his forest green eyes nicely.
His fingers, like the rest of him, were quick and agile, adjusting small parts with confidence.
Cody walked into the room looking for a snack but was disappointed to find Joel hard at work in the spot where he wanted to eat. He knew there was no point arguing about it—Joel worked wherever he found space. But Cody couldn’t help but notice the handful of regulator pieces still sitting on the table.
“You do know we need that to breathe, right?” Cody asked, pushing his thick glasses up on his nose and indicating the device. His fine blond hair looked like a small heap of straw on top of his head, and he swung his lanky arms when he talked, gesticulating like an Italian grandmother. It could be dangerous to stand too close to him.
He set about searching the cabinets for something to eat, ultimately settling on some freeze-dried meat substitute.
Joel scoffed. “If it works just fine without those pieces, then why have them in the first place? I’m just making it more efficient.”
“If it works?” Reggie questioned. He shuffled to get more comfortable on top of the overturned five-gallon bucket at the back of the room, near the sink. They only had three chairs on the entire ship and moved them from place to place as needed. The two chairs that Joel wasn’t using were in the lounge, and Reggie didn’t feel like fetching one. His large, athletic body barely fit on the bucket; he looked like a Great Dane trying to sleep in a cat bed.
“It’ll be fine,” Joel said, undeterred.
The guys, or ‘Notches’ as they affectionately referred to themselves, had been on the ship for two days now. No jobs. Nothing to do. Totally bored. If they didn’t find something to do soon, Joel would end up taking the entire ship apart.
That’s when Reggie decided to remind them of the one surefire thing he knew would occupy their time and keep them out of trouble.
“Remember Deep Space Death Match?” he asked.
The name drew a gasp of nostalgia from Joel and Cody.
“We were so good at that game,” Reggie continued.
“Were?” Joel said. “We’re still so good at that game. There’s just no one to play against anymore; everyone plays Team Hollow Point now. Death Match was way better.”
“Totally,” Cody added. “The graphics are better. The story is far superior…no one cares about the story anymore. And the fucking microtransactions.”
Joel and Reggie both groaned.
“I hate them so hard,” Reggie said. “And the players are so vulgar. There can still be friendly competition without all the swearing. It’s all ‘F this’ and ‘F that.’”
“Yeah,” Joel said, smiling over the edge of his tinkering project. “What the fuck is up with that?”
Reggie threw a balled-up rag at Joel, who swatted it away. “Seriously?” Reggie said. “How do you guys eat with those potty mouths?”
“Jesus, Reg, you sound like a seventy-year-old woman sometimes,” Joel teased. He set the oxygen regulator on the table and wiped the sweat from his forehead, leaving a second streak of thick, black goo across his brow. “But, damn, what a great game.” He stared off like he was looking into the past. “If we’d played Death Match in the championships, we would have been top ten for damn sure.”
“No doubt,” Reggie said. “None of the current VRE teams could stand two rounds against us. We’d smoke all of them.”
Cody pulled a stray thread from the sleeve of his shirt and snapped it off, looking at it appreciatively. “Have you seen the top team’s siege dynamics?” He wound both ends of the thread around his forefingers. “They’re garbage. All show. Barge into a building, guns blazing. No tactics. No finesse.” He took the thread and slipped it between his two front teeth and began flossing. “It’s insulting.”
Reggie winced at the sight. “Yeah, really disgusting.”
“You know what’s disgusting?” Joel asked. “Space bugs. And that’s what we’re stuck with, thanks to that goddamn Hollow Point game. If we’d played a decent game in the championship, we definitely would have made top ten. We’d be VRE pros right now. Corporate sponsorships. Intergalactic tour circuit. Hotels. Free food. You know how I love a good continental breakfast.”
Reggie leaned back in his chair and folded his hands behind his head. “Yeah, but look at us. Look at what we’ve got.”
“The likely potential of bug guts on our boots?” Joel teased.
“Our own business,” Reggie corrected. “We’re entrepreneurs. Small business owners. The backbone of the intergalactic community. The salt of the galaxy. We’re making our way with an honest day’s work. We’re pest control specialists.”
“You aren’t selling it like you think you are,” Joel said, setting back to tinkering.
“There are major infestations all over the galaxy,” Reggie began, that familiar glint in his eyes when he spoke about the new business. “These space bugs are apparently destroying enough infrastructure to economically cripple a system. Don’t you want to be a part of ridding the galaxy of such evil?”
“Yeah, maybe,” Joel said with a chuckle. “Mostly, I want some pancakes right now. Like the kind they serve at those fancy hotels.”