I don’t know how I get myself into these situations. One day, I’ve got a perfectly legitimate job repairing customs automatons, the next I’m smuggling counterfeit robot puppies for the crew of the Flying Dragon.
Okay, maybe those two things are related. It’s not my fault that automaton developed a crush on me!
“Why couldn’t I stay in steerage with the Sergeant?” Eratosthenes squeaked in my ear, knocking my goggles down onto my face.
“Because this whole debacle is your fault!” I grumbled, shoving my goggles back into place, “if you could manage to keep your mouth shut, the pirates would never know my secrets and exploit them.”
“But I’ll get dismantled if we get caught!” Era wailed, “And you’ll be in jail, so there will be no one to put me together again!”
“What happened to all that brave talk of sky battles and daring exploits?” I asked, lugging the giant trunk down the gangplank of the U.S.S. Banshee, the latest addition to the aeronautical cruise line. How Captain Sauveterre managed to get me a berth, I don’t even want to know. If all went well, I’d be getting straight back on again cash in hand. If not…I tried not to think about Sgt. Reynolds, alone in steerage.
“It all involved a large audience of pirates that were also partaking in the danger,” Era sniffed, hopping from my head to my shoulder and scampering down my arm to perch on the trunk, “Plus, this trip has all the danger, but none of the fun.”
I had to agree with him there, even if I took less pleasure in pyrotechnics than he did.
We lugged the trunk full of dismembered robot puppies to the line for customs and a trip down to the surface. Apparently sneaking contraband through customs wasn’t enough, I had to actually take it down to the actual city of New York, not just the air docks. With my luck I’d end up on a ferry full of cops and the trunk would fall over and break open.
I felt so guilty when the automaton’s eyes lit up at the sight of me. Literally, they went from the dim glow indicating there was power to full blown search lights. I might have gotten a slight tan.
“Anything to declare, Aife?” the automaton crooned, with an approximation of Frank Sinatra’s voice.
I tried not to roll my eyes, and gave him half a smile. “Nothing this time. Just some spare parts for a job.”
The automaton heaved a gusty sigh. I could almost smell the disappointment rolling off of…him? It? Man, now I had to find a name for the poor sod.
I forced my smile wider, and put a hand on his scanner. “I’ll be back through soon, though. Lots of business in the air docks for someone like me.” Ugh. I’m reduced to flirting with semi-sentient machines. Eratosthenes will never let me hear the end of this.
“Really?” the automaton perked up, and I heard the cooling fan in his chest give a little stutter. “Well, if that’s the case, could I ask you for a favor?”
I pushed a particularly wayward curl out of my face. “Maybe. Tell me what it is first.”
The automaton’s pleasantly neutral expression took on a rosy hue. “Call me Frank?”
I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing at him. Of course he’d name himself Frank. Serves me right for letting the Sergeant pick the music while I work; he loves all things Rat Pack.
“I think I can manage that, Frank,” I replied, heaving the trunk onto a levi-trolley.
Era wound his way up to my shoulder and watched Frank as I walked over to the ferries. “I’m pretty sure that if you murdered someone, that machine would help you hide the body, and possibly take the fall for you.”
I glanced back, only to find Frank’s eyes still watching me with longing. “Are you saying you’d leave me with a rotting corpse on my hands?”
Era slid down and draped himself over my forearm. “I’m more the break you out of prison friend. Leave the gallant heroics to suckers like Frank and the Sergeant.”
“I’m gonna tell him you said that.”
With two flaps of his wings Eratosthenes was back on my head. “Go ahead. I’ve said far worse to his headlight.”