His Pants Are The Least of His Problem by Nathan Waard

Published Issue 125, May 2024

The irritating little bell went off again on Jerrick Blade’s watch. He jabbed at the screen without looking, even though he knew it would force him to hear the message before shutting off.

“Warning, Jerrick Blade: Your Levi Supreme 101s will expire in a maximum of 80 thousand cycles. Please deposit the minimal credits required to remain clothed.”

Stank, Blade thought angrily to himself. Fructose, he cursed silently. He nearly shouted it aloud, but the FreedomBots would have scanned it and fined him a couple hundred credits he could ill afford at this moment. Even so, as he twitched through the cross-crossing crowd going with and against several currents in the direction of Legion 86 — in spite of the cobalt gray sky, slashing rain and Atari neon — the dombots appeared to turn their heads and watch him fight to the other side of the eight-way intersection before the autobots resumed their timed flow.

When he reached the plaza, he was running again. If he didn’t get to a terminal, if he didn’t rez in, if he couldn’t clock Gizmo … a lot more than his jeans was going to expire.

“Attention, Jerrick Blade: Your Levi Supreme 101s will decompose if you do not deposit the minimal credits required. Please look into it.”

“Ahhh, fruc you!” he yelled at the watch, dashing across the plaza, wildly scanning for a termjack. In his periphery, two dombots furiously buzzed toward him, one from the right and one from the left. They hovered just in front of him, blocking his path.

Dombot 1 blinked its LED eyes sternly, its aging props flying it in a bit of a drunken list.

“Jerrick Blade. Warning, you were detected using Category 3 language in a Category 2 space,” the dombot explained.

“Jerrick Blade. We hereby fine you 250 credits,” Dombot 2 told him, scowling brightly. One of its rotors was sparking festively.

“Come on,” said Blade, waving his arms at the flying bots and trying to duck out of their way at the same time. They instantly, if somewhat clumsily, lifted beyond his reach.

“Jerrick Blade,” number one continued, “Your pants have an alert. They require credits or you will become unclothed.”

“Jerrick Blade— ” number two jumped in, as Jerrick tried to sidestep the bots.

“Come on, get out of here you stupid dombots!”

“— and you will then be in violation of Statute 403 dot 14. Do you wish to prepay your fine?” Dombot 2 was jabbing at Jerrick’s shoulders with its old Graptor appendage which no longer had its foamgrip.

“Stop, hey, ouch, quit it,” Jerrick yelled. “You’re poking me!”

“Better learn to like it, meatsack,” the dombot taunted.

“Okay, TLC699, that’s enough. Back to your station,” the first dombot barked at the second, sounding annoyed. They hummed off, high and away into the rain. Jerrick pressed on across the plaza, glimpsing a possible termjack in the distance.

His watch dinged again.

“Jerrick Blade. Your account has been charged a fine for violating Statute 403 dot 14. Have a nice day!”

He gritted his teeth and screamed inwardly. Outwardly, he picked up his pace. Several cockhawks were closing on his position. He could feel his jeans loosening.

“No, no, no thanks,” Blade called loudly, waving his arms in front of himself and moving even faster as the hawks stuck big waving cyberdildos in his face, offering to perform the implantation for free. The fracas attracted more FreedomBots, but this time Jerrick got away. He reached the edge of the consumer district bazaar sprouting in the shadow of the Legion 86 arkhood. There was a short row of termjacks at the edge. Jerrick recognized the tout at the jack on the far left. And he recognized Jerrick.

“Jerrick Blade,” called Enzo Striker. “Coming in for a term?”

Jerrick waved and grimaced and moved in Enzo’s direction, then stopped. Enzo watched.

“Jerrick Blade. Your Levi Supreme 101s have expired. Please purchase a new garment,” advised his watch. He frowned, then looked at his legs. They had just now become enveloped in a fine gray mist which soon dissolved into the air like a fart in the wind.

Jerrick’s Atari-style Speedo left nothing to the imagination.

“You better get in here quick, brom!” Enzo waved frantically and Jerrick bolted for the door of the termjack. Enzo held it open, waving his arms as he watched the sky, his eyes widening. Jerrick threw himself inside and the door clanged shut behind him. He heard at least one dombot smash itself against the reinforced metal on the outside.

Watching him from behind a plexy-resin security screen, an immense woman, in a gorgeous flowing purple and gold neon LED sari, examined him.

“You will need to purchase a lower body garment before admission,” she told Jerrick with practiced boredom. “The machine’s there,” she added, indicating an older model Fabrikaty on the opposite wall of the lobby. He stepped up to it.

“Jerrick Blade. You cannot afford pants. Would you like to rent a pair of shorts on credit?”

Jerrick Blade did. The machine vended same. He slipped them on over his neon thong. And he entered the termjack.

Nathan Waard is a lifelong writer, who has also been a filmmaker, a teacher and a corn detasseler. A lover of genre, dark humor and microbrewed beer, he resides beneath Green Mountain in Boulder, Colorado.

This is Nathan’s debut with Birdy. Keep your eyes peeled for more work by him. Head to our Explore section to check out Issue 125’s other featured stories and art.