Absent Night – Chapter 1 – First Draft

*What was supposed to be a short story has now grown into a much bigger baby.*

***

A heavy downpour on a black night, slick black mud coats the ground. Keh-tee splashes through puddles, over dead and dying leaves, and ducks beneath low lying limbs. The loud screech of metal on metal echoes. A crack of thunder, the sound of her heart thudding; she draws a fully charged particle blaster from its holster and settles behind a line of brush almost fifty yards from the walls of their target—a human labor camp.

Can you see anything?” Prinz says. He stands behind her and on the tips of his toes, craning his neck to see what lay beyond.

“Nothing yet. The entrance is that way.” Keh-tee points to the east. She looks back at Prinz. His fearlessness is both admirable and disturbing.

Shaggy blond hair tops his head, though now it lays flat against his face and neck, dripping wet. He appears as a child, no more than six years. Only three feet, eleven inches, wearing the cherub face of an innocent child. Those who do not know Prinz would never guess they looked into the eyes of a cyborg aged over four hundred years.

His role in this attack is simple. Approach the camp. Pretend to be a frightened child. Make sure a sentry-droid catches him. Plant the bomb. Run.

Easy.

“You ready for this?” Keh-tee asks him.

“Yep.” Prinz nods. “You?”

“Let’s do this.”

Keh-tee bounds out from behind the brush, splashing through thick puddles of mud. Prinz follows with expert movement–which admittedly looks strange coming from someone so small. Keh-tee zigs west while Prinz zags east. They will meet in the middle once the bomb is set.

She darts past the south wall into another line of brush.

Prinz’s movements sound clearly in her audio implants. The rustle of leaves, slosh of water, screeching metal again.

Keh-tee is still not accustomed to the strangeness of the audio implants. They work like this: when switched on, they transmit any sound from both parties, but they only do so at a distance of fifty feet or more, or when the ambient noise level is over a set amount of decibels. Strick explained it to her, but he didn’t mention how distracting it might be.

Their little tag team of two became three last week when they recruited a beast of a man. Seven feet, two inches, and a whopping three hundred eighty pounds of muscle. Strick knows tech better than most androids, which for a human is impressive. His pitch was simple and effective. People always used him for heavy lifting, dirty jobs, and ass-kicking. In truth, he preferred to be the ‘guy in the van’ as he put it. The last thing Keh-tee and Prinz needed was a lumbering fool looking for a fight. So when he offered his tech-savvy abilities, they both said yes simultaneously.

“I love this part,” Prinz says in her head. “I wonder when the androids are going to work out how easy they make this.”

“Won’t be easy if you keep talking to me.” Keh-tee rolls her eyes.

More sloshing follows sobbing and wailing. Prinz plays his role to perfection. He reacts to the rumble of a sentry’s approach.

“No! I won’t let you take me back!”

Keh-tee waits until she hears the buzz of the sentry’s stun weapon. It hums, and Prinz’s teeth chatter. She winces. “That’s got to hurt.”

She leaps to her feet, starts to run, but stops when something catches her eye.

A flash of silver slips past the brush. Not silver, like the metal body of a sentry, but silver like the hair of an old man or woman–almost white. She spins and strains her eyes to see into the darkness of the forest.

“Prinz, we may have a problem.” Keh-tee grips her particle blaster with both hands now and creeps into the wooded area. “Someone has escaped the camp.”

“Damn it. Is it more than one?” Prinz whispers between sobs and pleas for his mother.

“I don’t know, but security will be on high alert. We might want to play it safe and wait for things to settle down.”

“Just go with the plan.”

Screaming.

“I’ll be fine.”

Whimpering. “Let me go, you big ugly robot!”

Keh-tee lowers her weapon. “Whatever you say, boss.” She turns back around and heads for the wall. “Now for my favorite part.”

***

Titanium fingers dig deep in the crevices of the concrete wall. Keh-tee looks upward then downward as she deftly moves her hands and feet into any hold she can find. The rain doesn’t make it any easier, but she enjoys a good challenge.

What she doesn’t enjoy is her drenched hair sticking to her forehead and cheeks. It tickles her face. Several times she’s had to fight the urge to reach up and scratch it. Now that she nears the seventy foot mark, the climb requires her most focused concentration. Even with a titanium ribcage and skull, the organs inside are as delicate as any human’s. A break in her attention could result in a fall, and she has no desire to die tonight.

“I’m almost to the tower. Have you made it over the wall?”

The tower controls the sentries from one main computer. Each one is given a command based on the position of the others and the circumstances it finds itself in. Without the tower, they have no orders. Without orders, they switch to sleep mode.

Keh-tee hoists herself upward and grips the top edge of the wall. “Just about.” She grunts as she pulls herself up and over. “There.”

The hum of machinery buzzes in her implant along with Prinz’s heavy breath.

“I never realized what a mouth-breather you are.”

“Really? Interesting.” A door opens and closes with a clang. “You’re a grunter. I could hear you all the way up the wall.”

Keh-tee smiles as she stands and peers down at the base of the tower. White and blue lights flash in a sluggish rhythm. She can just make out Prinz’s cotton-top head. “I see you, Q-tip.”

“Ugh. You’re going to have to come up with some new insults.”

“In two hundre–”

A siren blares, stopping Keh-tee mid-sentence. She jumps and has to hunch down to catch herself before losing her balance. “Shit!”

“Looks like they realized someone made it out.” Prinz sounds unconcerned as though he’s just noticed his faucet leaks.

“Just be quick, Prinz. I don’t think I can take out a whole brigade of sentries.” Her heart hammers against its titanium cage. “I’m on my way down.” She stands again and leaps across the gap between the wall and the tower, grasping the steel beams; hand hitting the rail with a loud ping! The sensory nodes on her fingers and palm shoot a round of pain signals to her brain.

She stifles a scream.

The siren sounds again, this time in one long, bowel-shaking hum. Her stomach clenches with the rush of adrenaline.

Keh-tee hurries downward, hand under hand, foot under foot. The ground appears clear of any sentries.

“Bomb set,” Prinz whispers.

“Great.” Keh-tee plants two feet on the ground.

“Oh no.”

Her heart skips. “What? Prinz, what’s going on?”

“Remember how you were saying you couldn’t take out a brigade of sentries?”

She starts toward his location. “Yes, and I meant it.”

“What about a brigade of androids?”

Keh-tee skids to a stop. “We’re screwed.”

Copyright © 2015 Sophie Giroir

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