Author: Barry Boone
I could see Damian’s girlfriend wanted to sock me, but she knew she’d break her fist against my brass jaw. So she held back. Which I knew was hard for her. She was even more kickass than Damian. Damian might be her first love, but a good fight was a close second.
“Admit it,” she said. “You’re in love with him.”
She’d asked me to join her at her favorite dive to hash things out. My drinks were lined up in front of me — three martinis, untouched — my way of renting the barstool. She’d already downed hers and was onto a fourth.
“Impossible,” I said. “I’m a robot.”
“Then he’s in love with you.”
“Yeah, that’s why he waited a year to reinstate me from backup.”
She looked at me sideways.
“He didn’t know you were in the file system. You idiot.”
After I’d sacrificed myself to save his stupid life in the Milky Way’s ongoing skirmishes with Andromeda, it had taken Damian way too long to pour my historical copy into another shell. I had to say, though, I liked the improvements since my last self — especially the new weaponry in my fingertips.
“Don’t you dare call me that. I don’t even know your name.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but she cut me off.
“I know, I know,” she said wearily. “Robots don’t have names. As a way to keep your kind from gaining citizenship.”
I wouldn’t know about that; I wasn’t up on politics. Anyway, who cared about a name?
Still, I was starting to understand. She was jealous. Just like she was jealous of his new cat, who always hid whenever she stayed over. A cat, a girlfriend… I guess Damian really HAD missed me when he thought I’d died. He’d been looking for substitutes.
“Hey, if it isn’t a dish and her boyfriend!”
This from some creep stepping between the two of us. If I hadn’t been distracted by this ridiculous conversation, I’d have noticed the five of them crowding us.
“Don’t you know the rules here?” said a second, putting his arm around her and looking me over. “No mixed race couples.”
What came out of my mouth was, “Don’t you touch her!”
I know. It was a cliche. And I’m sorry. But my mind was still foggy from being archived all that time.
By way of reply, two of them lifted Catherine and tossed her behind the bar. I heard bottles smash as she fell out of sight.
“You’re gonna be sorry you ever thought you could be a loverboy, robot,” one said, raising a crowbar. “Better scram.”
As if. Have you ever been attacked by five thugs with metal pipes, broken bottles, and a baseball bat? Me neither.
My new fingertips were very useful, though, sending back electric shocks when they smashed at my face, and shattering the bottles in their hands via sound waves. Cool! There was a bit of blood, and some crunching, and I thought I’d gotten the better of them, when one of them pointed a reverse-ion-shooter at me.
Just when I thought I was about to be de-energized, Damian’s tabby was literally on his face, scratching his cheeks off. Where had SHE come from?
The guy reeled, screamed, then ran from the place.
Catherine knelt next to me. I guess I had a LOT of cobwebs to shake off. It just dawned on me she was a shapeshifter.
“Well, boyfriend,” she said. “Thanks for saving me, I guess.”
“It’s okay, Catherine. It’s what I do.”
“Call me Cat,” she said. “All my friends do.”
Tasty slice-of-life with a hint of noir. Nice.