Although the pepperwood plank salmon was delicious and the chilled wine imported from the planet Canenae was refreshing, there was only so much Anny could hear about “the boltheads” and “the metalfaces”. 

“And then- then it was begging me to stop!” a red-faced man guffawed. 

He coughed into his meaty balled fist, the flesh around his eyes erupting into purple. 

“But by then, its insides had already blown, wasn’t like we was gonna put it back together again! So I kept going until it was fit for scrap!”

Mr. Cassia gave a hearty laugh at that. 

“I’m sure that scared the gearies good n’ plenty!”

“Oh yeah! Not one of those things looked me in the eye a solid week!”

Anny set aside her cloth napkin. “Will you excuse me, gentlemen? I’m not feeling well. Must be the heat.”

“Of course, my dear!” Mr. Cassia waved with a smile, “Can’t wait to hear what your own calculator has to say about the rest. Goodnight.”

Over her shoulder she heard one of them bark to an android standing at attention in the corner, “More wine, rustbucket!”

Anny slammed the door shut, pressing her back against it and rubbing at her eyes. It was only when she’d opened them again, taking a few blinks in the planetlight, did she notice the android sitting on her bed.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded a bit more acidly than she meant.

“Forgive me your majesty,” WISR spat back, “But our mission will come to an abrupt halt if I cease to function.”

“Don’t be so dramatic. I was fine before I had to work with you,” she said, crossing her arms.

“Ah, yes, I imagine you were stuck with me by pure coincidence.”

“Hush. What is it you need?”

He reached into one of the enormous pockets of his cargo jeans and pulled out what seemed like unending piles of junk. A rolled-up android repair kit, a mini first-aid pack, a packet of crackers, a lump of paper napkins, and something that looked suspiciously like a hacked microchip for a video game cabinet.

Finally, he came up with a travel adapter, the kind that plugged into the wall and took hours to get a decent battery percentage.

“Have you a free outlet? I’m running low.”

Anny snatched one end of the wire from his hand as he settled the other into port at his wrist.

“You coulda done this yourself, you know,” she huffed as she bent down to plug it in.

“All of the charging stations in the cabins were taken and I didn’t want to be seen outside of them. And is it so hard to imagine that I’d want to check up on my darling partner, compare notes and such?”

Anny rolled her eyes.

“You didn’t need to barge into my room for that.”

“Ah, since your prior mission had gone so well, were you planning on letting your utter incompetence bring me down with you?”

“What did you just say?”

“I’m… sorry. That was uncalled for,” WISR finally said.

She turned away, “Doesn’t matter. You’d be thinking it anyway.”

“Well, yeah.”

“Here, let me see?” she asked, sitting beside him and reaching for his arm.

“But of course, who am I to deny you?”

Anny rolled her eyes but said nothing, pulling one of the tightly-wound wires from WISR’s wrist and plugging it into the top of the handheld device on her lap. The screen in the middle of it sprang to life with the requisite logos and startup screens before showing her a menu of options. Selecting one, it showed a list of error codes and messages, of which there were blissfully few and she let out a relieved sigh.

“And here I thought you didn’t care.”

“I don’t, but if you don’t come back in one piece, [boss] will have my head if not my job, and who knows what this environment would do to you.”

“Indeed, I’ve seen firsthand the effects the place has on other robots.”

“Yamaya sucks,” she said, mopping at her glistening forehead with the collar of her shirt balled in her fist.

“I agree. Here I thought our forced partnership would be the worst part of this job.”

Anny scowled at him.

“Do you really have to be so mean all the time?”

“Come now, you dislike this just as much as I.”

She leapt up and went to the window, the thick breeze off the bayou failing to lend any relief.

“We need to figure this out and soon. But we have a revolution with no way of stopping, a client who I hate with every fiber of my being, and with no answers, there’s no way out.”

She turned back to face him.

“Is it bad that I don’t want to help put a stop to this ‘uprising’?”

“No. Although it might be a bit self-righteous to think you can do anything to help.”

“That’s not true! That’s our job, to help androids in need. And these need us now.”

“Strictly speaking, our job is to do what the clients – the human clients — say.”

“They aren’t the ones who need us now.”

“But what exactly can we, alone, accomplish?”

“We could report the mistreatment. Androids have rights, too.”

“Only slightly more than your house pets,” WISR remarked sardonically, “But with the condition a lot of the robots are in, many would be scrapped immediately.”

“And that doesn’t help anyone.”

She grabbed at the tufts of her white-blonde hair and huffed out loud.

“What are we supposed to do?”

“What we’re supposed to do is the job. Find out who is leading this revolution, put an end to them via PAX or more permanent means, go home, collect our respective paychecks, and get suckered into doing it all over again. What we should do, however, is a little different.”

“What we should do is convince the foreman to treat his androids better and there wouldn’t be a need for an uprising at all.”

“Correct-a-mundo,” WISR replied dryly, “But he doesn’t care about the wellbeing of his androids at all. So what does he care about?”

“The other humans working here? We could stage an assault or start a fight!”

“And get Interplanetary called.”

“Right. Police would make everything worse. What about money? He sure cares a lot about that, he went on and on this afternoon about how much the operation rakes in.”

“Did he mention a number?”

Anny shook her head, “No, but I suppose I could investigate and find out.”

“Who knows, maybe there’s something in those numbers that will give us a clue.”

Like this chapter? Be sure to give a ‘Like’ and Comment what your favorite part is! Don’t forget to Share as well with anyone who loves robots, technology, or the magic of friendship!

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J.D. Locke • Watercolorheart

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