The door shuddered. “Three minutes, Mindy!”
Trevor’s good to me because he knows as well as I do that hungry fans have no patience. A last mirror check confirmed I looked like the Queen of the Biker Chicks, not a classically-trained cellist. I’d been seduced by the money and the adulation; I kept saying I’d give it up someday for classical, but not someday soon. I picked up my axe and headed for the stage.
It was the last stop on my Coming Out Fighting tour, in a place called Horsell Common. The midwest town was so small you couldn’t find it with a microscope, but for some reason it had a 12,000 seat football stadium which my concert had packed.
I was on the last song of the first set when I noticed them: four-storey tall robots looking over the tops of the bleachers. They looked like bastard children of jet fighters and humanoids, and I could tell they were eyeing me. I fought down the impulse to scream; instead I wet myself and finished the song.
As the last power chords faded, one of the robots vaulted over the stands and landed by the amps. With surprising grace it dropped to one knee, then the cockpit opened and a girl in a flight suit leaned out. She took off her helmet and shouted down, “Mindy! Are you ready?”
“Ready for what?”
“Aw, crap! Didn’t you take the memory releasers?”
“I don’t take drugs, especially not from weirdoes in trenchcoats!”
“Mega-shit.” She unbuckled and slid down a metal pole-ladder to face me. “In just over...” she checked her watch “...three minutes, a Garridan invasion fleet is going to drop on this stadium with enough firepower to melt Chicago. We need you.”
“For what? Musical accompaniment?”
“You’re the best damned fighter pilot Earthforce has ever produced. Take this pill and my mech.” She forced the pill into my mouth and punched me to make me swallow. “I hope fifteen seconds’ retraining will be enough.”
Almost instantly things were coming to mind. How to control the robot, how to shoot, the fact that I should be wearing a flight suit.
“Wait! How...?” but the ladder was already pulling me up into the cockpit.
I stared at the array of controls. I knew maybe a third of them by now, but they were the most important ones. And I remembered my bloody sense of duty. Earth needed me.
But there was something else; I got on the com. “Where’s the USB on this bucket?”
A mechanical voice answered. “Under the main console.”
“Thanks.” I reached under and plugged in a key. When the menu came up I chose track six. As I lifted off it started.
I’m gonna come out FIGHTING!
Don’t get in front of me.
I will be fast as LIGHTNING,
I’m gonna get me free!
Robot combat? If I must. Robot combat without music? No effing way.