Wyld FLASH– August 28 2020
Two sips into a glass of spiced ale, I hear him.
“Stop me if you’ve heard this one.”
The pub on Canaan is too posh for my liking. I’m more comfortable in outer planet dives, with fresh air and red clay caking in my jacket seams. The air here is artificial and smells it. A thick, bowed windowpane offers a view of the velvety expanse of space, yet I feel suffocated. Rosha and I docked to refuel and maybe catch a new job through the comm hub, and we dipped into the pub to wait.
I haven’t laid eyes on Kyllan since our run to Umia, but my ears have been burning across the galaxy. He was with us then, one of a team running meds and the like to outer planets. Now he’s a hero. A legend. Barkeeps boast of having served him and children play-act his conquests.
What a joke.
I rotate on my stool, squinting to the spot where raucous laughter sounds, and get my first look in a long time of the man who has been singing my song all over the galaxy.
Kyllan soaks in the crowd’s adoration, allowing the bar to quiet before continuing. They’ve all heard this tale, but they’ll let him tell it again. It’s a good story.
I should know. It’s mine.
“So, there I was, alone on the plains of Umia.”
Rosha and I discretely make our way around the perimeter of the bar, my gaze pinned on Kyllan.
“I see this glint in the distance.” He pauses dramatically. “Rollers. A whole fleet of ‘em.”
People gasp. I roll my eyes. It was me who spotted them, sunlight reflecting off their metallic bodies.
“Every bone in my body ached to run but there was a village down the hill, with lots of children, good as fodder for Rollers.”
It was just an open plain. But he’s right about the village, the children. Easy pickings for the malfunctioning, discarded policing bots. Here in the central ring, the defective bots were quickly scrapped and repurposed. In the farthest reaches, in the dust and poverty, the metal corpses were simply – and ineffectively – buried. Before long, they resumed terrorizing those they were built to protect.
My slow circuit brings me to where Kyllan is holding court.
“Thinkin’ of the children, I charged, took out two bots ‘afore they even caught me comin.’ After that . . . “ He sips his ale. “Was almost too easy, dismantlin’ the rest. I had a helluva night with the locals, f’ya know what I mean.”
I bristle at the knowing chuckles. Kyllan’s never faced a Roller, let alone dismantled one. The coward had taken one look at those bots and run. Likely wet himself, too. It was the last I saw of him.
Rosha stirs at my side, as though sensing my mood. Kyllan never took the time to get to know the Deesu, dismissing him as a worthless, lower lifeform.
If only he knew.
Kyllan spots me then, knocks over his glass with a whispered “shit.”
I smirk, glance around the table. “What are we drinking here, fellas?”
One of the jesters wrinkles his nose. “Who are you supposed to be?”
Apparently, this is a private party. “Chlo Kamara.” I slap Kyllan on the back. “We go way back.”
A muscle in Kyllan’s jaw ticks.
“Heard you telling these fine folks about some Rollers you took out on Umia. How many was it again?”
“Seven,” pipes up the peanut gallery.
“Seven. Damn.” I stare down at Kyllan. “How’d you do it?”
I lift a shoulder. “You took out seven Rollers on your own, yeah? How?”
He sputters, flaps a hand uselessly in the space between us. “I, uh, just, uh – “
I turn to address the masses. “You see, boys, a Roller’s powered by an anion cell. Meant to last ten years, at least, and pure hell to extract. They’re right about here.” I gesture to the underside of my chin. “Those bots’re made to roll for ages, even without their heads. Recording, or even shooting.” I tap my forehead, where a Roller’s main weapon is located. I now command the attention of the table. “It’s damn difficult to pull one of those cells out on your own. And seven?” I let out a low whistle.
“You callin’ me a liar?” Kyllan challenges.
I smile sweetly. “Well, you’re not wrong about the Rollers, or that they were taken apart.” I look back to the table. “Problem is, he wasn’t there when it happened. I was.”
“But you’re a . . . “
I glare at the mountain of a man who has spoken up. “A woman, yes.” The nerve on me.
“All right, then,” Kyllan drawls, feeling the surging support of his meathead admirers. “Why don’t you tell us all how it happened, Chlo?”
“It was three bots, not seven, and I had help.”
Taking the cue, Rosha climbs from my vest pocket and hops onto the table.
An anion cell is roughly the size of a fingernail. Tiny, but powerful. Like Rosha, who wears a line of them on a cord around his tiny neck. Tokens won as we’ve picked our way across the galaxy, dropping cargo to the outer rim and dismantling any Roller who crosses our path.
A Deesu is a deceptively precious-looking thing. No bigger than a hand and covered in soft, pearly fuzz, but strong as any ten men. It brings a grin to my face, thinking back on the way Rosha’s little fist had punched clear through that first Roller’s metal skull.
“That?” Laughter erupts around the table, with Kyllan leading the pack. “What’s that little bastard got to do with this?”
I nod permission, and Rosha hops to the floor. Without preamble, he yanks Kyllan’s chair out from under him in one swift tug, toppling the big man.
As Kyllan moans on the floor, I waggle my eyebrows. “How’s about I buy you lot the next round?”
Small Packages was first published at Wyldblood.com on August 28th 2020
Author bio: Chrissie Rohrman is a training supervisor who lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with her husband and their five rambunctious four-legged kiddos. She likes white wine and writing competitions, and is currently drafting her debut novel “Fracture,” the first installment of a young adult fantasy series. On Twitter @ChrissieRawrman
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