From the author: This story was the co-winner of the Wily Writers Short Story Contest in 2011. I'm reprinting it here for free as a bit of Australian post-apocalyptic fiction seems relevant right about now.
by Alan Baxter
Declan pressed the circuit back into place and reconnected the power source. A jagged, phasing hologram popped and crackled in the air for a second, then settled into a gently rotating image of beer bottles and bar snacks.
“Ha, you’re a legend!”
“How do you do it?”
“Dunno. It’s just something I understand. You know I can fix anything, Bob.”
Bob popped one eyebrow, gesturing with his head. “That fucking travesty is proof enough of that.” He wore the expression everyone did when they talked about Jane.
“She’s with me now,” Declan said, looking up at the round, chrome ball hovering silently beside him. “Aren’t ya, Janey.”
“I am.” The voice was silky, smooth, almost human.
Bob shivered. “Whatever ya reckon, mate. I certainly don’t want anything to do with ’em.”
“Your prerogative. So, this is fixed...”
Bob tore his eyes from Jane’s hypnotic presence and smiled at the hologram. “Beautiful, mate. This place looks high class now.”
Declan looked around the dingy bar, bright sunlight slanting in through gaps in the weatherboard walls. Scratched and broken tables and chairs littered the filthy floor, equally broken and filthy people scattered among them. The smell of Bob’s pungent homebrew, desert-grown weed, and cheap tobacco heavy on the air. “Sure. Place looks a million bucks.”
Bob nodded. “So what do you want in payment? Smokes? Petrol? I got all kinds of stuff. No dollars, mind you.”
“Just some food and water. I got everything else I need. Something he can eat too.” Declan flicked a thumb towards Jackson, curled up against the bar, all mangy fur and dust. Jackson looked up, face splitting into a grin, and panted.
“You got good eatin’ right there,” Bob said wistfully.
“Nah. Me and him are partners. Same as me and Jane here.” The chrome ball bobbed up and down.
Bob stared from Declan to Jackson to Jane and back to Declan. “You keep some fucken weird company, mate.” He disappeared behind the bar and rummaged around. Two small bottles of water with faded labels and a tin of beans appeared on the bar. Bob looked at Declan, his eyebrow hitched again. Declan called Bob’s eyebrow and raised him a gesture of the chin. Bob made a face of annoyance, added a packet of jerky to the bar.
“No more water?” Declan asked.
“Ha! Next time it rains you can have more water.”
Declan shrugged. “Fair enough.” He hadn’t seen rain since before they came. He swung his pack off one shoulder and swept his payment in. “See you around.” He turned to leave.
“You coming back this way? I bet you could find a few jobs ’round here, skills like yours.”
“Who knows. For now I have a plan, so I don’t expect to be back any time soon.” He slapped his thigh and Jackson jumped up to trot alongside.
Declan strode through the red dust, Jackson loping along at his knee, Jane gliding silently by his left shoulder. He pulled the brim of a tattered Akubra low over his eyes and stared at the ground a couple of metres ahead as he walked. “They still coming?”
“Yes,” Jane purred. “Two hundred and fourteen metres back.”
“What are they carrying?”
“Bats and knives. One is holding a gun.”
“A gun, really? Can you tell if it’s loaded?”
“Impossible to say from this distance. I’ll let you know as soon as I can.”
Declan looked up, scanning the land around. The permanent silver grey of the occluded sky flattened everything to dull red and shadows. Dark patches swirled and swam in the permanent cloud. Cloud that never rained; at least, never anything a soul could drink and stay alive. Scrubby skeletons of trees pricked the horizon, occasional clusters of rust stained rocks, otherwise nothing but rolling desert. What he’d give for a natural spring. He sighed. “How far to the next locality, Jane?”
“Just over twenty five Ks.”
Declan nodded. He turned around, shrugging off his pack. “Jackson, here you go.” Jackson stepped up, offering his broad, tan shoulders. As Declan manoeuvred the pack into place Jackson dutifully lifted one paw then the other. He shook his shoulders, settling the bag.
“How you doing for spark, Jane?”
“Pretty much charged and ready, Dec.”
“Good-o. Up and away then.” He stretched his shoulders, rolled his neck and slipped a long, shining bowie knife from his boot. Jane floated up high above him.
After a few minutes four skinny, angry men appeared through the heat haze, faces hard. They held clubs and knives, as Jane had warned. The one in front held a rifle, cradled in both hands. “Loaded?”
“Yes, two rounds.” Jane’s voice was soft in his earpiece.
Declan laughed through his nose. “Rich fucker. Two whole bullets.”
The men stopped fifty metres from Declan. “You can’t go walking around with meat like that, ya prick,” yelled the one with the gun. “We’re gonna have to relieve you of it.”
“He’s my partner,” Declan called back. “Nobody’s going to eat him.”
“Are you fucking crazy? When was the last time you had fresh meat?”
“You’d be surprised. He’s not for eating.”
The man with the gun started moving forward again, his cronies falling into step behind. “I plan to disagree with you there.”
Declan drew a deep breath. “Jane, can you sort out the one with the gun?”
“Cool. Jackson, aggro.”
Jackson immediately slunk around behind Declan’s legs, crouched and coiled, teeth slightly bared. He watched intently between Declan’s knees. As the men drew nearer Declan stepped one foot back, knife raised up in plain view. “I’d really advise you boys against this.”
All four laughed, guttural, phlegmy. “Four of us and one of you!” Rifle-boy laughed again. “Besides, this settles all bets, no?” He hefted the gun. “Don’t think I’m bluffing, it’s fucking loaded.” They were only about twenty metres away.
“I know it’s loaded,” Declan said. “Two bullets. That’s one each for me and Jackson here. Assuming you don’t miss. How good are with that anyway?”
“There’s more than two bullets in here. And I’m not gonna miss!”
Declan shook his head. “No, there’s two bullets and you’re such a pussy you’ll probably break your shoulder with the recoil. How many times have you actually fired that thing anyway?” Ten metres away.
“Where’s his fucken tech?” one of the others said, but Rifle-boy didn’t seem to notice.
The man growled and swung the weapon up to his shoulder. “You are in no position to be telling me what I will and won’t do!” He dropped his cheek to the stock, sighting along the barrel. Eight metres.
“You better get nice and close then, bitch. You wouldn’t want to miss, what with only having two bullets in there.”
“How the fuck do you know how many rounds I got?” Spit flicked from the man’s lips as he yelled along the rifle. Four metres and he stopped. “Fuck you!”
Declan ducked to one side and sprinted forward at exactly the same moment as a silver blur shot down from above. Jane hammered into the man’s head, his skull cracking in unison with the rifle shot. Jackson zigged the opposite way from Declan. As the bullet scored a puff of red sand two metres from his own feet, Rifle-boy dropped to the ground like a sack of bolts. His friends braced, looking frantically left and right. Declan barrelled into one, Jackson leapt and flattened another as Jane rang metallically off the forehead of the third. Jackson snapped and growled, drawing blood from his victim’s arms and face as the man screamed like a child. Declan rose to his knees on the chest of his opponent and swept his knife across the man’s throat, bright red spraying across the darker sand. Declan looked at the face of the man he’d just killed, then at the men brained by Jane.
“Jackson, leave it!”
Jackson backed away from the torn and bleeding man, casting an annoyed look at Declan. “I know you want to finish it, buddy, but they’re all fucked. All got the ‘phage, look at ’em.”
Jane swept low over the bodies. “Correct. All heavily diseased. Don’t bite any more, Jackson.”
The man on the ground moaned weakly as blood oozed from several bite wounds. One with his throat slit and two with their skulls crushed by Jane, that made him the lucky one. Jackson whined.
The man with Breaker on his nametag tugged on his beard, looking from Declan to Jackson and back again. “Who the fuck keeps a dog as a pet?”
“I do. Enough said. You want these or not?”
Breaker was clearly disgusted but he put his attention back to the table between them. “The clubs and the knives I’ll take. Not sure I can afford the gun. Why are you selling it anyway?”
“Guns are more trouble than they’re worth. You spend all your time trying to trade for ammo. Same as petrol. Too valuable a commodity. I just want food and water.”
“Water’s worth as much as bullets and gas around here, buddy. You wanna go back the other way if you like water so much.”
“Which is why I’m not interested in bullets and gas. I gotta go this way.”
Breaker stared into Declan’s eyes for a long time. Declan let him. “Why you gotta go inland?” he said eventually.
“Got a plan.”
“I’m looking for Crank.”
Breaker leaned back in his chair, barking a laugh. “You don’t look for Crank, man. He looks for you. And you better hope to fuck he never does.”
Declan shrugged. “It’s all right. I got a proposition for him.”
Breaker shook his head. “You’re a dead man. I’ll fill up your water bottles and give you three cans for this shit.”
“Four and some dollars.”
Declan drank deep of foul tasting beer and watched children playing on the floor. People sat around the tables eating, drinking, smoking. Those lucky enough to work somewhere were paying extra for the better beer but it all looked shit to Declan. The elderly bar owner limped over and pressed a padlock into his hand. A key hung from it. “Use this on the inside. The door should hold, but I reckon you’ll have a few visitors tonight.” He looked down at Jackson, panting beside Declan’s leg.
Declan took the lock. “Thanks. I’ll be fine.”
Other people in the bar cast sidelong glances, taking in Declan and Jackson, watching Jane hover nearby. “I don’t like the kind of attention you’re bringing,” the old man said. “Fuck off at first light if you’re still alive.”
Declan smiled. “Sure. Wouldn’t want to cause you any trouble.”
The old man harrumphed. “There’ll be trouble soon enough, I’m sure. I’ll be surprised if you make it to bed.”
A voice broke from the back. “What the fuck are you doing with that anyway?”
Declan scanned the room as the old barkeep scurried off, ducking behind the stained bar. “Doing with what?”
“That thing, floating around your head. It comes from them, dunnit?”
“You reckon you can trust it, buddy? You’re a fool.”
“Yeah, I can trust her. I can fix anything and I fixed her. She’s called Jane.”
A man leaned forward from the shadows at the back of the room, burly, grizzled. “She? That’s a part of what ruined us. How can you just swan around with it?”
“It’s just tech,” Declan said casually. “Nothing to be scared of. I figured it out, repaired it, reprogrammed it. It’s what I do. She decided she was a she. I can fix anything, for a price.”
“You can keep your paws off anything of mine. And you walk around with a live dog too. You trying to get yourself killed?”
“I can look after myself. My dog is called Jackson, he’s my friend.”
The burly man shook his head. “Maybe we should tell the kids here why this man is so unwelcome.”
“You know why we don’t like this man and his shiny silver toy, kids?” Burly said, leaning forward. The children stopped playing. “We don’t like him because that shiny toy comes from them. It’s a part of the bastards that ruined us all.
“You know when you go out and help your mum and dad with whatever measly crops you’ve managed to grow in this ruined land? Do you ever stop to think about the tiny bugs living amongst them? No, of course not. You’re just collecting what you want. Those tiny bugs and worms are irrelevant. That’s what we was like when they came. Hundreds of millions died, but only because they were in the way. Millions more sick with the ’phage.”
Declan swallowed the last of his beer and slapped his thigh, heading out of the bar towards the shack he’d secured for the night. Jackson hopped up and followed him.
“You should listen to this, you bastard!” Burly said.
“Heard it all before.”
Declan went into the small shed with Jackson and Jane and padlocked the door. “You guys keep an eye and an ear out, all right? I need some sleep.”
“I’m surprised you’re still alive.” The old man took Declan’s dollars and poured a huge cup of coffee.
“People around here are smarter than they look, I guess.” Declan drank deeply, savouring a treat that only real dollars could buy.
“No one trusts you. Don’t be surprised if they’re waiting to follow you out of town.”
“That happened last time.”
The old man raised an eyebrow.
“Now they’re all dead,” Declan said, with a predatory smile. “At least, three of them are dead. The fourth one probably bled out before anyone found him, but maybe not.”
“What are you doing out here?”
“I’m looking for Crank.”
The old man leaned his head back and laughed heartily. “Then you’re fucked! Ha! You’re a walking dead man. No one goes looking for him.”
Declan smiled. “So I keep being told. But I got a proposition for him.”
“He won’t wanna hear it,” said the old man, still laughing. “He controls everything wherever he goes and takes whatever he needs. And he does it with alien tech, so he’s hated as much as you are. You think he’s gonna let you join his crew or something cos of that ball you got?”
“I don’t want to join any crew. I have a business proposal for him.”
“The old man is talking to a group of two or three people at the back of the building,” Jane said in Declan’s ear.
Declan kept walking, past a struggling artesian well, caged and guarded, following the rough track out of town, heading deeper into the desert. “What’s he saying?”
Jane came swooping up to Declan’s left shoulder, settling into her usual position. “He’s telling them not to risk following us. Apparently he thinks we’re too dangerous.”
“He’s right. How you doing for spark, Janey?”
“Pretty good thanks. There is a bit of a break in the pall about ten Ks west though. There’s actually a bit of sunlight coming through.”
Declan looked back over his shoulder. “Really? They’re definitely not going to follow us?”
Jane shot straight up. After a few seconds she dropped back down. “No one is following. Looks like they’ve all gone back inside.”
Declan nodded. “Cool. Go and get it then.” Jane shot off to the west. “Just you and me for a while then, Jackson,” Declan said. “Wanna play a game?”
Jackson looked up, ruffed a question.
“I don’t care, you pick the game.”
Jackson ruffed again.
Declan scratched his friend’s ears. “All right then. Tell you what, I’ll teach you to sing, how about that? We gotta do something, it’s a long walk.”
Jackson growled softly, deep at the back of his throat. Declan patted his head, reassuring him. “It’s okay, buddy.” They sat on rocks around a crackling fire, orange flickers pushing back the night.
“What’s up with ’im?”
Declan shrugged. “I dunno. He’s never liked blackfellas. I reckon maybe one of you belted him as a pup or something. It’s nothing personal.”
“No offence taken. Got ’is reasons, I spose.”
A large tin mug was passed from Declan’s left. He took it, looked inside.
“Kava root. Friendly drink. From the islands.”
Declan nodded. “Thanks. You really got enough to share?”
Dark shoulders hitched in the shadows. “Four of us, one of you, sharing a fire. Share kava too. Look out for each other till we part ways again.”
Declan took a long swig of the muddy water in the cup. It tasted earthy, dusty. His tongue began to numb slightly. He nodded to the others, passed the cup to his right.
The man to Declan’s right leaned into the firelight, bared his teeth. His gums were black, his teeth brown and loose. His dark skin mottled with grey and yellow flakes, his hair patchy and thin. Declan nodded, leaned past to hand the cup on to the next man around.
“What’s that tech you got? From them, eh?”
Declan nodded again. “Yeah. Broken and left behind. But I fixed her. I can fix anything.”
There was silence as the cup went around again. Eventually, “What is it then?”
“Re-con probe, primarily. All kinds of funky stuff on board though. Now she’s a friend, travelling companion. We got a plan.”
“Got a proposition for Crank. Me and Jane, we came up with a good idea.”
Dark faces swung left and right in the firelight. “He’s fucked up, Crank. He won’t listen to you.”
“I’m sure he will. You know where he is?”
“Yeah. But he’ll kill ya.”
“He’ll listen first, I’m sure. I’ll take the chance. Where is he?”
“We were walking through Flinder’s Canyon two days back. He was camped out there. Lucky we saw ’is camp before he saw us. Ran back and went around.”
The man with ’phage leaned forward again. “How come you not eaten your dog, fella?” His voice was thick with phlegm. He turned his head and spat wetly into the dark.
Declan patted Jackson. “He’s my mate. We work together, me and him, and Jane. People think a dog’s good eating, but he can catch other stuff. There’s plenty of rabbits and lizards and stuff out there for him to earn his keep. Even skinny roos sometimes. Gotta think long term, you know? You can only eat a dog once, but a dog can catch you lots of tucker.”
Laughter rippled around the fire. “We know that, man, you don’t have to explain it to us. You smart for a whitefella.”
Declan smiled. “So why don’t you have dogs?”
“We usually do. ’Cept a bunch of fuckers pinned us down with bows and arrows, shot the dogs. Threatened to shoot us if we didn’t fuck off.”
“Bows and arrows? Bastards. What happened.”
More laughter. “We fucked off! That’s where we going now. Cousin got some pups, we gonna get a couple.”
“Just the four of you?”
“Yeah. Soon be three, eh, Jimmy.” Jimmy nodded in the firelight, picking absently at loose skin on his chin. “But we’re tight with other mob. Plenty boys roaming around these parts, some women too, but secret places, eh.”
Declan looked around the group, nodding softly. “You show me the way to Flinder’s Canyon?”
“That’d be showing you the way dead.”
“I’ll take my chances.”
“Your dog and drone thing there good to keep watch?”
Declan smiled. “For sure. They’ll both watch us all.”
“Good. Be nice for us all to get a solid sleep tonight. Show you the way in the light.”
The men slid off their rocks, curling up on the sand close to the red embers of the fire. Declan scratched Jackson. “Watch.” Jackson huffed, licked Declan’s ear. “Yeah, yeah, love you too, buddy. Janey, can you go high and watch?”
“Already up and watching, Dec.”
Declan slid to the ground, drawing his knees up tight around his pack, pulled his hat down over his eyes. The embers crackled in the darkness.
Declan sweated in the shade of his hat as he walked, Jackson panting alongside. He looked at the last two inches of water in his bottle, crouched, poured half onto Jackson’s sandpaper tongue before swigging the rest. “Anything?” He stayed crouched, gently stroking Jackson’s smooth head.
“Yeah, I see them,” Jane said from afar. “They’re still camped in the Canyon, northern end.”
“How far from me?”
“You should make it before dark if you press on.”
Declan nodded, standing with a grunt. “Come on, buddy. We gotta keep going.”
Jackson stood, sighing. He paced dutifully alongside.
“How many?” Declan asked.
“Nine men. They have tents and trailers and a couple of old cars of some kind. They’ve been converted beyond anything recognisable. Plenty of guns in view, with ammo. They have a bore hole, so there’s water. And the weapon, of course.”
“Yeah, it’s big. Mounted up on six wheels, armoured body like a long box with rounded edges. The dish and cannon sit up on top. Crank must be smart to have fixed that.”
“Maybe. I guess he’s a lot like me.”
“The only reason they’d have left that behind is if it was beyond repair.”
Declan laughed. “Beyond repair is subject to standards. They left you behind too, remember.”
Declan sat on his haunches looking down into the valley. Tents like dried-up turtles sat in a semi-circle, two cars and the weapon parked up in front of them. The men sat around laughing, drinking, playing with guns. Declan laughed humourlessly. “All that petrol, ammo, water, grog. These guys are rich.”
“Desert rich,” Jane said. “They rule among the poor and the scavengers.”
“Yeah, but they must have some connection to the cities too.”
“What makes you say that?”
Declan gestured expansively with one hand. “Look at the tech they’re sitting on. The government would know about this. The cities may be little more than prison camps run by fascist police, but there’s some kind of order there. That order is kept because the government knows what’s going on. I bet Crank and his crew keep the government informed about life out here. Inform and suppress any possible insurrection. In return they’re allowed to keep this tech and keep their grip on the wastes, taking whatever they want.”
Jane hovered left and right casually. “Maybe you’re right. Given the bonding, maybe it’s easier for them to work with Crank.”
“Or force him to work with them, more likely. That weapon may be kingshit out here, but the government could vaporise him in a second if they chose to.”
“And you really think he’ll go for our plan?”
Declan sucked in a long, deep breath. “Let’s go and find out. How you doing for spark?”
“I’m good to go.”
“Cool. C’mon, Jackson.”
Nine well fed, healthy men levelled nine guns at Declan and his dog. They each looked like they couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing. Crank was apparent, obvious by the reputation that preceded him throughout the wastes. All sweat and sinew, attitude seeping out, his bald head glistened in the pall-filtered light. He held a massive automatic weapon that could cut Declan and Jackson to pieces in seconds.
“What the fuck, exactly?” Crank said, incredulous.
“Parley!” Declan called across the fifty metres between them, both hands held high over his head.’
“You speakin’ French to me?”
“No, no. Parley... well, it might be French. I don’t know. I just want to talk.”
“Is that right? Why should we want to talk with you?”
“I have a proposition for you gentlemen. Something that will make us all rich. Can I come and talk with you?”
“You bring that dog as a peace offering? Think we might all sit down and chit-chat over a nice big roast?”
Declan laughed, surprising Crank even more. “No, not at all. This is Jackson. He’s my mate. He’s not for eating.”
“Fucking really? I think maybe we’ll decide that.”
“Can I come and talk to you guys?”
Crank lowered his gun, shaking his head. “You got balls the size of your head, and no mistake. Come on, but keep your hands where I can see ’em.”
Declan nodded, letting his elbows sink, keeping his hands up in front of his shoulders. He walked slowly towards the camp, heart pounding in his throat. When he was about five metres from the men he stopped. They stood in a ragged line in front of him, each wearing a look of amusement.
“So,” Crank said. “You have a proposition for us?”
“Yes, I do. I think we can work together.”
Crank shook his head. “What could you have that we’d want?” He held up a finger. “What I mean is, what could you have that we can’t just take if we want it? Like your mutt there, that I’ll be eatin’ before sundown.”
Declan looked down at Jackson, smiled. “No. No, you won’t. He’s not for eating.”
Crank laughed, his eight cronies rumbling along with him. “You’re a funny bastard!”
Declan smiled again, wondering if they could see his legs trembling. He felt as though his pants were flapping like flags in a hurricane. “Here’s the thing. I have information and alien tech that can make us all rich.”
“Yeah. Jane, can you show yourself briefly.”
The men tensed, looking around, gun barrels swinging left and right.
“It’s okay, really,” Declan said, desperate to reassure them. “Look, up here.” He pointed above his head.
Jane swooped down, hovered, spun a loop, then shot up out of sight again.
“What the fuck was that?”
“That was Jane. She’s a probe, sorta, got all kinds of funky features. More importantly, she’s got all kinds of alien intel. I fixed her and reprogrammed her. I can fix anything, see. So she’s bonded to me.”
“Yeah. You have that fancy unit so you must get it. One of you was smart enough to figure that this stuff has DNA bonding sequences. Was it you?” Declan gestured towards Crank. “Are you the tech genius? The one like me?”
Crank laughed. “I’m nothing like you, boy! But yeah, that weapon only works for me.”
Declan grinned. “Smart! Isn’t this tech just beautiful? So you get it. You know how it works. I can’t use your weapon, you can’t use Jane. But your weapon and Jane’s intel could make us both rich. If you work with me.”
Crank stared at Declan’s face, drilling through with slate coloured eyes. “What exactly did you have in mind?”
Declan still trembled. “Well, you know that weapon can be pretty destructive, obviously. You’ve used that plenty. But it can be constructive too. That unit you have is far more than just a weapon. All their stuff is more than it seems, weapons are never just weapons, probes are never just probes and so on. We can use your tech to build and develop more tech.”
Declan laughed. “You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff Jane has plans for. Weapons, recon, vehicles, surveillance, water processing! All kinds of stuff. Jane has the plans, but I got no tools. You got the biggest, best tool the bastards left behind, but no plans.”
“The problem here,” Crank said, “is that you seem to think that I want to diversify my business.”
Declan’s eyebrows crept up. “You don’t? We could rebuild the world.”
“I take anything I want and I’ve got everything I need. The last thing I want is more of the stuff that raped the shit out of this planet flying around. For one, that stuff is best forgotten and, more importantly, I want to be in the unique position of owning the only bit of working alien tech not in government hands.”
Declan nodded gently. “You’re not the visionary I was hoping for.”
All nine men laughed. “You’re right about that. But still, I truly do admire your balls for trying this on. I’m almost tempted not to kill you, eat your dog and reprogram that little probe bitch for myself. Almost. Of course, you have to die for me to have that probe, and I do so want it now.”
Declan took a deep breath and blew it out slowly through pursed lips. “Oh dear. Jackson, aggro.” The dog ran behind Declan’s legs, crouched and ready. “Jane, you still full of spark?”
“All charged up and ready to go, Dec. Plan B, is it?”
“’Fraid so, love. Plan B.”
“Let’s end this rubbish,” Crank said.
The nine men lined up in front of Declan raised their weapons. “Don’t shred up the dog with too much fire,” Crank said. “I want dog steak for dinner, not dog mince.”
Jane swung down out of the grey, patchy sky and hovered half a metre above Declan’s head. Her shiny surface rippled and a gap opened around her circumference.
“Fuckin’ fire!” Crank yelled.
As thunder erupted from nine barrels, Jane let out a pulse of light and energy. Everything went silent, mouths opened wide, bullets melted in mid-air. Crank and his crew threw their arms up to protect their faces and their arms blackened and roasted a fraction of a second before their faces did. Clothes ignited, tents went up in bursts of yellowblue flame, tyres ran black across the sand. The paint on the cars and the weapon cracked, peeled and flaked away in a blistering wind. Less than a second and it was done.
Jane dropped, inert, smoking, onto the red dirt. Sound came back in the crackling of flames as anything flammable was consumed. Crank and his crew were blackened skeletons, twisted on the ground. Declan and Jackson looked up from where they cowered, scanning left and right.
Declan leaned forward, looking closely at Jane. Jackson crept up, sniffing tentatively. “She’s gone, mate. That was all of her spark.”
Jackson sniffed again, huffed.
Declan looked from Jackson to Jane to the weapon, and smiled. “But don’t forget, mate. I can fix anything.”
It was time a for new plan.
This story originally appeared in Wily Writers.