Showdown in Briardale

By TOM LISOWSKI 

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The two of them lay on an inflatable raft floating and spinning slowly down the river. His skin was partially torn off, revealing robot mechanisms and wires beneath. Her skin was mostly intact.
She lay with her head on his chest, listening to the pistons extending and contracting his mechanical heart. Birds chirped in the tree branches that had grown over the river. Now and then a fish jumped out of the water to catch a dragonfly in its mouth. The robots’ eyes were closed but the female’s hard-drives were running, purring as they sorted information.
Spinning around a bend in the river the raft floated past some soldiers in Revolutionary War patriot uniforms who were coming down a path through the woods. As the soldiers set up a picnic of pheasant on a large rock slab, one of them spotted the raft floating by. Hey, look at that! A young soldier said, pointing a pheasant drumstick at the outlandish raft. An old man plucking pheasant feathers took notice as the raft floated out of view.Further down the river the raft encountered some rapids. It was thrown around and almost capsized but the robots didn’t open their eyes, they just held each other tighter.

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The raft floated day and night, for miles through forested areas. Occasionally delinquent kids, out smoking in the trees, threw rocks at them. Dragonflies alighted on their foreheads. Now and then the raft snagged on roots extending from the riverbank but every time the current pulled them away.

After about a week they reached the outskirts of the small town of Briardale. The male robot’s eyes popped open, glowing red. This is it, baby, he said, squeezing the female’s shoulder. Her eyes popped open too, glowing magenta. They hand-paddled the raft over to the shore. Pulling themselves up onto a small dock they left the raft behind, heading towards a few small buildings with people working on boats nearby.

Even from a distance the mechanical precision of the robots’ gait looked unnatural and the dock-workers stared. Anyone who got too close was instantly lacerated by laser beams shot from the robots’ eyes. Word spread and by the time they reached the town square a rag-tag militia had assembled, crouching behind the old stone walls, mismatched muskets pointed at the intruders. The mayor of the town, with muttonchops and hair tied behind in a pigtail queue, stood on the stage of the central gazebo and addressed the intruders. Thou shalt step not a foo—and he was brutally diced with double laser beams. This set off a torrent of bullets from the militia that ripped the skin clean off the robots, revealing spidery silver skeletons. Smoking, the robot skeletons continued to advance across the town common.

Just then the patriot soldiers arrived from up the river. The trained soldiers jumped the robots and the sheer weight of their bodies pinned the robots down. But even with fifteen men per robot it was a struggle. Now and then one of the patriots would get thrown, landing some yards away. Keep them down, said a voice. The old man who had been plucking feathers at the picnic came wobbling across the grass. He pushed between the soldiers and opened a panel in the back of the male soldier’s head. He pulled some wires apart. There! he said and the robot froze in position. But just then the female robot erupted in fury, throwing off her attackers in every direction. She blasted a laser beam at the old man but he tumbled out of the way and lost only one of his legs. Blood gushing from where his leg had been, he lifted the male robot’s head and, operating controls inside the back panel, used the head to fire laser blasts at the girl robot, forcing her to dance back and forth. They traded laser blasts until finally the female robot unleashed a tremendous magenta fireball incinerating the old man and the patriot army soldiers and creating a huge crater in the town common. When she realized she had unintentionally melted to death her robot companion she let out a terrible siren-like scream and took off like a rocket into the sky, the likes of her never to be seen in Briardale again.

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