BY: TRISHA O’KEEFE
Aya’s family has to move. The Triumvirate have picked up their sound and, even now, are sending the Borgs on patrol, sweeping the sewers for signs of anyone breathing the oxygen so vital to human survival. One by one, Aya has rescued a collection of human children from the Recycling Dumpster, as well as a mutant reject and an old robot named Blu. Raising them in the old sewers below Megacity on cabbage, water cress, fish, and frogs, she preserves the history of human kind by telling them stories about The Time Before when their kind ruled the earth.
But now, they must move like rats through the sewers under the city to the fabled place called Trezarium where they can see the sky and breathe the air. Aya remembers the way back from her parents who survived the purge, only to be recycled by the Triumvirate. Those tales kept her company when she was orphaned, warm through cold nights, and fed her when she was hungry. Now she would have this small band of wanderers do the same, salvaging the history of humans.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Flight to Trezarium by Trisha O’Keefe, a group of refugees, living in the sewers of the city in some distant future, try to escape and make it to Trezarium, a wilderness outside the influence of the “powers that be.” Their adventure and the civil war that follows is a fascinating journey. Aya and her small family of three young human girls, a young human boy, a rejected mutant, and an antique robot abandon their meager existence in the sewers for the unknown outside of the city. But what if Trezarium is only a myth, as Aya fears, and there is no refuge?
An intriguing adventure, filled with wonderful and zany characters, fantastic creatures, and a well-thought-out plot make this a delightful read. I highly recommend it.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Flight to Trezarium by Trisha O’Keefe is the story of political corruption in a city were humans are considered the dregs of society and scheduled for termination. Mutants, robots, and cyborgs are the upper echelon in a city that keeps its citizens peaceful by addicting them to drugs and “Happy Pills.” In this dystopic landscape, a group of humans, with one rejected mutant and an antique robot, survive in the sewers. All they want is for their little family to be left in peace, but if the borg guards catch them, they will be sent to the Dumpster and “recycled.” So they flee the city and head for the wilderness of Trezarium where they can live free. Or can they?
Flight to Trezarium is a bit zany, clever, and fun, while still being a fast-paced page-turner. If you like fun interesting books you can’t put down, you’ll love this one.
In the years following the Lost Times, humans had nearly erased their own species from Planet Earth. A new and powerful society emerged from the darkness that engulfed the world. It was called The Triumvirate.
After humans began to count time once again, they found that the mutants–those who were crossed with another species–outnumbered them almost two to one. The humans thought this was because the mutants had survived by any means possible the calamity that had almost erased them and their entire civilization from Earth. The mutants, on the other hand, thought their survival was due to their superior traits. They blamed the humans for nearly destroying the planet and considered them an inferior race.
In spite of their differences, both races–mutants and humans–began to reconstruct the skeleton of civilization. They agreed to establish their capitol city on the ruins of a once sprawling metropolis. The new capitol Megacity was to be ruled by a high council or ubercouncil, made up of representatives of each group. On the human side, there were the Noble Warriors–clans with a well-established system of government. Also representing the human side were the scientists, and the artists who hoped to bring human traditions and culture back to the new society.
On the mutants’ side, there were various drummans, who had mechanical extensions; droids; cyborgs; and chimeras–animals with human qualities.
Since every great civilization has its shady side, that was represented by the Grays. Like wolves, the legendary animal they were named after, the Grays lurked at the fringes of civilization. They made a profit selling contraband–scarce commodities like food, fuel, and human slaves which they kidnapped and sold to the mutants. They also did a brisk business in making imitation Happy Pills and Swaug, a drink that made everything beautiful–except work. Since the Grays were involved in everything that was illegal, they might as well be included in any policy decisions.
The ubercouncil directed the policies of the Triumvirate, the executive branch of the government. It was composed of one representative from each group, except the Grays. As time went on, though, humans were considered greatly inferior to those mutants who were more than seventy-five- per cent Other species–drummans, droids, cyborgs, and pure robots. Humans without robotic adaptations were not only considered physically inferior, but disloyal as well, always ready to rebel at the slightest provocation.
At a secret meeting. the mutants decided to engineer that provocation. “If they want to rebel, let us give them ample cause to start a war. That will finish the Neanderthals once and for all.” That was ubercouncilman Riksbury. He was a drumman, a mutant with wheels for legs. A nasty sort, mean as a snake. Of course, I have never seen a snake, but legend has it they have a reputation for being mean.
Who am I? Oh, I forgot to introduce myself. My serial number is BUZ323, but call me Blu. Everyone does. Buz doesn’t sound very dignified, sort of like a demented bee or something. Besides, Aya called me Blu the night she found me beside the Dumpster where that ungrateful son-of-a-shovel left me because I couldn’t dig ditches fast enough. He said I wasn’t worth the money he paid for an old piece of junk like me. The idiot mutie didn’t know I was programmed by a scientist to record important data, for pity’s sake, not to do manual labor. Good grief, even robots can’t do everything!
In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a robot, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings. Aya has taught me those, you see. Who’s Aya? Keep your armor on, Shorty! I’ll get to that part. Let me finish with all this history first, will you? Good grief, you little humans get bored easily!
As I was saying, the Triumvirate didn’t have to wait long for the rebellion to take place. When the Noble Warriors lost control over the meager resources the ubercouncil had allotted to them, they rebelled. Led by the powerful Lombardi clan, all the tribes left Megacity, to become nomads once again in the vast unknown lands beyond the river. They were determined to create another city where humans could live in peace.
But the Borg Guard, the military arm of the Triumvirate, had orders to not let anyone escape. The Borgs set out in pursuit of the rebels, and the two sides finally clashed at Sumi where the Warriors had set up camp.
At the Battle of Sumi, the Thane of Galen was killed, bless him, and the rest of the tribes escaped across the Sumi River to the Trezarium, taking his body with them. They laid him to rest in an unknown place, but legends say a chestnut tree marks the spot, the chestnut being the sacred symbol of the Galen Clan.
The Trezarium was an experimental forest started by Doctor Edward Spencer, a former member of the ubercouncil, to house a collection of plants and animals considered extinct after the Lost Times. Even the Borg Guard dared not follow the humans into the vast sprawl of plant and animal life. They were programmed for the cement streets of Megacity, not where strange things sprang out from behind rocks, and tree roots tripped up the unwary stranger. The tribes of humans escaped and some made themselves at home in the Trezarium while the others made their way into The Land Beyond and disappeared somewhere into tomorrow.
The mutants gradually tightened their grip on Megacity. Anything considered to inferior, obsolete, or useless to the Triumvirate was condemned to be recycled by the Brain, a giant computer system which controlled every aspect of Megacity. According to the caste system set up by the ubercouncil, humans fit all three categories and were termed Rejects. If they were designated useful by the Scanner, a function of the Brain, – though usually only the young and strong, they were made slaves and sent to work in factories making parts for mutants and robots.
If the Scanner found that they fit all three categories or designated to be dangerous, they were to be recycled. A few Rejects escaped and went underground where they hid in the old sewer system beneath the ruined city.
That was where Aya assembled her family–four children, one mutant marked dangerous by the ubercouncil, and an old robot. That was me, Blu. Aya raised the children on love as well as on a diet of fish, frogs, and sewer cabbage–not me! I don’t eat that stuff. Give me a good can of oil any day. I’m an easy keeper. Except that, in the sewers, cans of oil don’t come down the drain very often. So what did dear Aya do? Gave me fish oil instead. Yuck!
With my help, she taught them how to read, write, and cooperate with each other. You can press any button on me, and I will recite any history or any book in three languages.
But the time grew near when Aya knew we must leave the safety of the underground for the peril of the unknown. The Borg Guard were sending patrols with sensors that detected any human presence, even the heat of their bodies and the smell of their cooking. It was time to leave, but where would we go? Here’s the story. If you sit still long enough, you may find out!
THE SEWER RATS
“Quiet, they’re coming!”
The little group froze, mouths opened to ask questions, eyes wide with fear, but they knew better than to speak or move. Aya’s whispered command was law in their underground world. They looked upward, as if they could see through the layers of cement that separated them from their enemy. The Borgs’ sound detectors could zero in on the rustle of a rat through the old sewers below the city.
At Aya’s signal, they all held their breath except for Blu. Being an old robot, his control panel made a whirring noise which the Borgs could detect. Thur had to press the button to put him on power-saving mode, which made his mismatched eyes roll in opposite directions. He looked so funny, Miri and Qin stifled giggles as the Borg sensors approached, making their high-pitched, hissing sound. Then, just as the Borgs were right overhead, little Annabeth sneezed.
And before anyone could stop her, she sneezed again.
The high-pitched whine stopped, and they could hear the sensor come down through the iron bars of the grate. It sounded like rats’ feet over broken glass and looked like a big glass eye. The sensor turned around slowly, scanning the long tunnels of the sewer. For one horrible second, it seemed to look squarely at them, and then it rotated away like the eye of a cyclops looking for its prey.
While the sensor was turned in the opposite direction, at a signal from Aya, the Reject family began to move along the sewer walls. With Aya and Riga leading the way, they crept back up the passage in the direction the Borgs had come just from.
Miri kept her hand over Annabeth’s mouth in case she sneezed again.
“Whew, that was close!” Even though the Borgs had long passed them, Aya kept her voice to a whisper. They always whispered, not daring to raise their voices.
The sewers echoed, magnifying any little sound by ten times. That way, the sensors could catch it a mile away. But Riga always led them out of range, tossing a stone far down the sewers or banging on the pipes overhead to make it sound like someone was running down the endless labyrinth of tunnels.
At last, Riga gave the signal to stop, and they all dropped against the sewer walls, exhausted by fear and hunger. Their supply of cabbages was nearly gone and their supply of frogs, fish, and rats was running out. There had been some little frogs and minnows swimming in the sewer water, but even those were gone, probably eaten by the voracious rats.
“Can you read us the story now, Aya?” Annabeth asked. She was sucking her thumb again, a sign she was hungry and frightened. Even Aya didn’t have the heart to correct her. “The one about the little boy who asked for more food and the bad people wouldn’t give him any.”
Aya looked at Riga, and the mutant nodded his agreement. “Well, just a little bit, Annabeth, while we’re resting,” Aya replied, taking a battered, mildewed volume of Oliver Twist out of her knapsack. Everybody knew the story of how, as a child, she had discovered the book floating down the sewers, probably abandoned by someone fleeing the Borgs. Even when she had fished it out of the water, the book was very old. In fact, older than Aya herself, she said. Since they had never seen anyone older than Aya, they all thought the book was ancient. The outside was covered in scraps of faded cloth concealing the title and author’s name. The pages had come loose, and been sewn back into the spine by loving fingers with colorful string.
The story of the little boy who had lost his mother when he was born, but had triumphed over every obstacle, soothed fears and hunger pangs every time they heard it, which was usually once a day. The older children could even read the book themselves, having been taught to read by Aya. A whole world of learning had been built around that single volume.
The old woman had just begun the story when Thur, who had been covering their retreat, dropped down beside her. He signaled for Miri to take over reading. “You don’t look well, Aya,” he said. “And we have to move on in a little while. We have to find a place to hunt for food. A safe place where we all can hide. You have told me of such a place a long time ago.” He put his weapon gently down against the damp wall, not too far away in case he needed it. “Trezarium, you called it. I remember it well. All about the trees and the blue sky. And birds, you said. Little animals with wings that fly. Whatever they are, they were part of it, too.”
Aya touched his crisp, dark curls, which should have been soft, but the city’s dirty air had caked them almost stiff with soot. As a result of being raised underground where baths were rare, Qin’s copper hair and Miri’s honey-colored waves matched Thur’s so that they looked like dark-haired triplets.
But in reality, Thur was older by several years. As Aya had roamed the dark streets of Megacity, she had found Riga, a warrior in training at the Academy. He was sheltering from the constant black rain in the wreck of an overturned Robocar with a small boy he called Thur. He told her he had been cast out of the Academy when they discovered he had a human ancestor. With Riga’s help, she had found the robot Blu beside the Dumpster where someone, who was too lazy to get a recycle permit or too busy or too poor, had left him. The three girls she had found on the dark streets where they were scrounging for food. Slowly Aya had assembled her little family in the old sewers below the old city. Now they all were in danger of being discovered.
Riga was their defense, using his mutant powers and his warrior training to keep them safe so far. He had trained Thur to be a warrior like himself and even taught the girls some warrior moves. Under Riga’s watchful eye, Miri and Thur would spar together but Qin preferred to teach little Annabeth to read and write from their battered copy of Oliver Twist.
“That’s right, my boy. Trezarium they called it, but you will certainly die trying to get there so I will not tell you where it is. Let me rest a bit and we will find a new place to plant our cabbages, there’s a good boy.” Aya leaned back and closed her eyes. “Let me sleep a bit now.”
Coming back from leading the sensors away, Riga saw Aya slumped down against the wall. He immediately squatted before the old woman, looking intently into her face. Thur knew he was scanning her to detect her life force with his mutant powers. Then his eyelids dropped down over his pale eyes, as though what he saw wasn’t good.
Opening her eyes, Aya didn’t miss his expression of sorrow. “I don’t have long, do I, Riga?” She made an attempt at laughing, but it was a strange croaking sound. “That’s all right. I have lived too long in this place, anyway.”
“That’s exactly the trouble, Aya. We’ve got to get you out of here.” Riga got to his feet with a slight shake of his head. “We’d better move on now. Blu and I will take turns carrying her,” he said to Thur. “You carry Annabeth. We must be gone before the Borg Guard passes again.”
Miri had been listening to their conversation. “Did you say the Guard? If they even suspect we’re here, they’ll vaporize the whole tunnel.” Turning to the old woman, she said, “Aya, please tell us where we can find Trezarium. There’s no life for us here, that’s for certain. The Guard are going to come down here to search us out. Before they find us and send us to the Dumpster, please let us try and escape this place. The Triumvirate get rid of humans and Rejects like Riga and Blu. You, above all, know that, Aya. You said they destroyed everyone dear to you. Aya, please, please tell us now before it’s too late.”
“Sweet child, you’ll just die trying.” Aya began to slump, crumple like a snail retreating into its shell. “I want to spare you that. I’ve seen so many of our kind perish.”
“I don’t care, we’ll all perish anyway, don’t you see that?” Miri looked away, wiping off tears of fear and frustration.
“Yeah,” said Qin, “They don’t have any use for Rejects like us. ‘Obsolete mistakes,’ they call our kind, and the Triumvirate hides hide all their mistakes in the Dumpster. If it weren’t for you rescuing us, that’s where we’d be. Is that what you saved us for, Aya. I don’t think so.”
“Hush, Qin,” Mira cautioned her out-spoken sister. She’s just trying to keep us safe.”
“I feel about as safe as a rat in a trap with a hungry cat nearby.”
“What’s a cat?” Annabeth asked, taking her thumb out of her mouth long enough to ask the question.
“Ask Aya,” Qin snapped. “She has all the answers.”
Pretending to ignore them, Aya sensed their hopeful glances in her direction. She had known that hope once. Years ago, when the Triumvirate had abruptly ruled that all humans were to be reduced to slave status, her father, a prominent scientist, had arranged for her to escape capture and hide underneath the city with many other families. She had never seen her parents again, although she had searched every night for years.
“No more talk!” The order came from Riga. His signal for quiet was immediately obeyed by the huddled little group. It meant the Guard was coming their way again. The Borgs knew they were on to something, having picked up Annabeth’s sneezes. They had programs for everything–even reading finger prints carelessly left on railings or doorways, a sure sign that human Rejects were hiding below.
The group began to move as one body, staying low, creeping from shadow to shadow. Their eyes grew wide with amazement as Riga led the way up flights of what had been the subway stairs. This was higher than they had ever been before, but Riga was motioning them with his gloved hand to go even higher.
It was obvious Riga had a plan, but right now, he wasn’t sharing with anyone, not even Thur. A little disgruntled at being left out of Riga’s confidence, Thur followed close behind his mentor, his adl-adl drawn and ready. Blu carried Aya in his powerful arms, as though she were made of glass, his round eyes moving back and forth in different directions like scanners.
Though of obsolete design, Blu had many built-in custom features that modern robots didn’t include. His hands were padded with water-resistant fabric so he wouldn’t scratch things he carried. These pads kept moisture out of the computerized joints of his fingers so he could easily pluck a fish from the sewer water. A matching pad on his head protected his central controls. To complete the ensemble, Aya had made Blu slippers from an old scrap of carpet to keep his feet from clanking on the cement floors of the sewers.
The coverings were made of shaggy fabric in light and dark shades of brown and gray. The whole effect, though no one had the heart to mention it, made Blu look like a giant, spotted puppy.
Miri grasped Qin by the arm and led little Annabeth with the other hand. At a signal from Riga, they suddenly froze like statues of old caught in the middle of a gesture. One flight below them, a troop of Borgs passed by with their scanner, their suctioned boots making the distinct hissing noise the Rejects had heard only minutes before. They all knew what had brought the Borgs back.
The little girl looked up at Miri and smiled. “I fooled them,” she whispered. The hissing stopped. The sensors had picked up the sound of human voices.
Immediately, Riga motioned them to move up to the next level and, as one, they obeyed. Thur rapidly descended the stairs until he was behind Miri and the girls, bringing up the rear. Trying to make as little noise as possible, they ran up the stairs behind Riga
But a noise suddenly rang out far down the sewers and, being programmed to investigate any sign of life, the Guard went in search of it, double-time. Riga kept them climbing up and up until they reached the level below the street. There they all crouched in darkness and looked up through the grate.
For a moment, they saw nothing, heard nothing, except the sound of softly falling rain.
And then Annabeth pointed one finger at the grate. “I see one,” she whispered to Miri. “I see a star.”
Even Thur looked at the direction her finger was pointing and nodded. His eyes met Miri’s and, embarrassed by the feeling that welled up in her, she looked away. He took that as a rejection and told himself what Riga had told him a million times before–that he was a warrior like his father before him. The Dark Warrior, Riga called him, a name they had called his father. Riga had lectured him since he was little that, someday, he would be a leader of warriors like his father. He could not go looking at girls now–perhaps never.
Hidden and raised here in the bowels of the earth, most of her Reject family thought of Aya as their mother, except Blu, the robot, of course, and Riga, the mutant. Most of her little band had never seen the sun or even the sky, although Thur had ventured up to the grates, where he had seen the night sky through the iron bars.
“Leave me here and go on, all of you,” said Aya. “You’ll never make it with me holding you up. I’m wheezing like an old horse about to drop in its tracks. Leave me, I say.”
“What’s a–” Annabeth started to ask but Qin stuck the child’s thumb back in her mouth.
Thur looked at Miri and then at Riga, who just shook his head, warning them not to argue with the old woman. Everybody knew it was useless. Aya would only remain fixed on death. It was her way of preparing them to become independent.
“That’s right, Aya.” The mutant’s face glowed faintly blue beneath the light filtering down through the grate. “That’s why we have to leave, so you can be well again.”
“Oh, hush, Riga!” Aya said harshly, straightening up in Blu’s arms. “Let’s get on with this fiasco.” Suddenly, she straightened up and sniffed. “I smell rain. It’s been so long since I’ve smelled rain. I always loved that smell. Put me down, you walking tin can!” she said to Blu. “You’re making me seasick!”
Once on her feet, Aya looked around. “Now where are we headed? Across the Flyover, I presume. That’s the only way out, isn’t it, Riga?” She looked around, wheezing hoarsely. “Dressed as Rejects in tatters and rags, we’ll never make it.”
“We’ll just have to dodge the patrols, unless you have some magic spell to make us invisible.” Thur looked impatient, tapping his adl-adl against his palm. He longed to hit something else besides sewer rats with it. Even in his dreams, he pictured braining some Borg with lightening accuracy and how his father would glow with pride. “The sooner we get started, the better. The daylight is coming, not that it makes much difference. As usual, the smog is so thick and dark, you can’t see your hand in front of your face.”
“What’s a Flyover? And what’s daylight?” Annabeth questions were whispered, but impossible to ignore. She would only keep asking until someone answered.
Thur hunkered down beside the little girl. “Daylight is when the sun comes out. It lights up everything so we can see. But we can also be seen, so it’s a good thing and a bad thing. And the Flyover? We’ll find out together, how’s that? I’ve never been there, see.”
“What’s a sun?” Annabeth asked, cupping her small hand around Thur’s chin. “And underneath the dirt, you are still dark. And why have you got soft hair on your face and Miri doesn’t?”
“You just gave me an idea,” Riga interrupted to Thur’s relief. “Here, Thur, take my lazorizer. It’s rusty, I know, but it still works. You keep answering all Annabeth’s questions and I’ll be back in fifteen minutes. If I don’t come back within that time, move on. Don’t wait longer than fifteen minutes, understand? But I plan to be back,” he added, looking at Miri.
“I’m coming with you, Riga. You’re not armed,” Miri said. “I’m trained as a fighter. I know I’m not warrior class, but just the same, you trained me yourself.”
“No, someone has to stay here in case…well, just in case.” But everyone knew what he meant–in case the Borg Patrol spotted them. “Thur has the only weapon and he’ll use it.”
“Don’t forget I have my adl-adl,” she said, holding up her version of a slingshot. “I’ve been practicing on frogs and fish ever since you showed me how to use it. I can even beat Thur at close range.”
“Always bragging, Miri,” Thur muttered. “I’ll take a good lazorizer over an adl-adl any time.”
The mutant regarded Thur sternly. “Arms led to the downfall of your kind. Lazorizers didn’t help the Noble Warriors at the Battle of Sumi, not when the Borgs have lazor cannons. There are other ways of accomplishing things without arms. Miri, mark what I say, even if Concrete Brain won’t let it soak in.”
Thur bristled at being called Concrete Brain, a term Riga used when Thur didn’t catch on to something right away. “I’d like to know what’s wrong with vaporizing Borgies. It’s either them or us.”
But Riga just gave his half-sad, half-twisted blue smile. “Remember, fifteen minutes.”
Miri turned to Thur. “You shouldn’t have let him go alone. If they find him, they’ll only trash him, you know that. He’s a Reject.”
“What’s a Reject?” Little Annabeth looked from one tense face to the other, wondering what was wrong with her usually good-humored companions.
They were all brought down to reality by her question. Their perilous situation loomed even greater in their minds when they were forced to put it into words.
“Someone who doesn’t meet the Triumvirate’s standards for the categories,” said Miri trying to plait the little girl’s unruly hair into braids using her fingers as a brush. “Or they might be defective in some way.”
“Or a mutant military machine like Riga,” said Thur, still smarting from Riga’s jibe.
“Or just a human, like us,” Qin said.
“I beg your pardon.” Everyone looked Blu, as though they had forgotten he was there. They usually did. “Speak for yourselves. I am a fully papered robot. Both my parents were robots, and I am practically put together from their old parts.”
“Which is exactly why I found you in the Dumpster.” Aya seemed to be revived by the air coming through the grate. “Your parts were rusted, and you creaked so loud you sounded like a rusty gate.”
“Well, at least I can be recycled,” answered Blu. Everyone looked at him sympathetically. “Except for my fur. They don’t do fur.”
Aya never let them think their differences made them superior to anyone else. “We’re all part of a family, and that allows everybody to be themselves yet we all stick together. That what a family does.”
“What’s a family?” The question hung there in the thick, humid air, daring any of the group to grab it with an answer. Little Annabeth looked from one to the other. “Well, I’m waiting,” she said, looking at Thur.
“It’s where everyone is related, I guess,” he said, looking to Miri for help.
“What’s ‘elated’ mean?”
“Not elated, related,” Aya corrected. “Sometimes families are put together by experiences and stick together out of love. Now, hush the talk. The Guard aren’t that far away.”
Riga was back in fourteen minutes, just under his original estimate. “That will give you one minute to change,” he said. “To your new identity.”
Annabeth was silenced by Miri pulling something down over her face. “Hush,” Miri said, “we have to hurry.”
She suppressed an explosive giggle when she saw Annabeth. She was dressed as a monkey which suited her petite frame and frisky movements perfectly.
Qin was struggling into an acrobat’s costume, and Aya was a happy clown. Thur was a lion tamer, although his whip was a piece of string tied to a stick, and Miri a pretty tightrope walker with black tights and a short ruffled skirt. Riga climbed into another clown’s suit and shoes with wheels on his feet. On his back was a large sack full of what appeared to be pink spun sugar cones. Blu was dressed as himself carrying Annabeth on his shoulders, but she soon climbed up to sit in Aya’s lap. Between his fur mittens, the robot grasped an accordion as if it would explode any moment.
“It plays a tune, Blu. Here let me show you.” Riga took the squeezebox and played a few notes. “Think you can do that?”
Blu rolled his mismatched eyes in different directions, which meant he was thinking. “After a search of my programs, I think I can play Bach’s Fugue but I’m a bit rusty, I’m afraid.”
“Oh, swell,” Qin muttered. “That will liven things up.”
When the Borg Patrol passed, they hardly glanced at the strange collection of Rejects. Street entertainers were a common sight in Megacity. Usually, they were composed of Reject mutants, but, occasionally, a human slipped among them unnoticed. In any case, they were periodically swept up by the street cleaning machines along with any trash to be recycled. In between cleanings, the entertainers were tolerated if they had a permit to perform. Which is what Guard 80047 stopped to ask them.
“Permit, please. Take your time,” he said politely in his robotic voice. “You lot go on ahead,” 80047 said to the rest of the Patrol. “Keep an eye out for the humans. They must be around here somewhere. Well?” He turned his attention back to the little group. “Who’s in charge here? Hurry up, please, I am off duty in twenty minutes.”
“In that case, we invite you to our show,” Thur said, bowing from the waist. “You’ll be our honored guest.” He hoped Riga approved of his diplomacy, even though it was killing him to be polite.
Guard 80047 scowled behind his Borg mask. These Rejects were a tricky bunch. Likely they were up to something, like stealing a keg of Swaug, a few Plasticles, or worse yet, homemade Happy Pills. “Are there any humans in your troupe? We don’t allow humans to perform, you know. Only drummans, droids, and mutants of the right percentage, or if they are in charge of a chimera.”
“We’re all mutants except for one tin box as you can see,” replied Thur.
“I resent being called a tin box,” said Blu. “I’ll have you know my parts are all certified interchangeable.”
“Shut up,” said 80047. “You’re only allowed to speak when spoken to. Someone should have programmed you for better manners. Even though you are the oddest-looking piece of equipment I’ve ever seen, you’ll pass as robotic.”
“Well, I never–” started Blu before he received a jab in the fuse box from Qin.
“Mutant,” the Guard said to Riga, “do you have a permit to perform in a public place? Only mutants with the class rating of seventy-five percent Other are allowed to perform.”
“We are all of that class,” replied Riga, regarding the Borg with a steady gaze.
“Then prepare to produce it when you get where you’re going. Where are you holding this show, anyway?”
That’s when Miri stepped forward. “The Flyover at eight sharp. Be there or be square.”
Suddenly, Guard 80047 couldn’t get his brain to work. It seemed have jammed up, shut down, and otherwise, refused to work correctly. He tried to speak several times but all that came out were a series of squeaks. She–and she was a definitely she, even mutants of a certain class were divided into she-mutants or he-mutants–was wearing, among other things he tried not to notice, a large pair of bat wings or bird wings. He hadn’t seen either animal except on the Learning Screen. Remnants of the Human Age, he realized. But what he hadn’t realized was how beautiful, how perfectly charming they could look on a she-mutant.
“See you there, Borgie,” she said and smiled, her lips curving under her bat mask.
“Hrrumph,” was the only sound 80047 could make, and it was ugly in his ears.
© 2017 by Trisha O’Keefe