Harry hadn’t died in bed. Come to think of it, he probably didn’t sleep. He lay, facedown, in a puddle of his own fluids. There was a large, ragged hole where his middle used to be. The air smelled faintly of char.
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“How long ago did this happen?” I asked.
“An hour, maybe a little more.”
“Did anyone see it happen?”
“Hm. Who got here first?”
“I did. I heard the shot from my office and rushed in.”
“Did he do or say anything before he…died?”
If she was lying, she was doing a damn fine job of it. I sighed. “Did anyone see the murderer?”
“Wonderful. You said this happened about an hour ago…if that’s true, that would mean you came looking for me immediately after it happened.”
“You are the city’s top machine detective, Mr. Jones.”
“I’m the city’s only machine detective, lady.”
“You see? No contest.”
“Stop trying to be witty, it doesn’t suit you.” I looked around the room. “The attacker was in here…but he fled…somewhere…Annn, how many exits are there from this room?”
“Just one, the one we came in.”
“Can you go back through the mirror without a handprint?”
“Sure, but everyone on the dancefloor would see you.”
“It’s dark on the dancefloor.”
“That’s true…hey, what about a disruptor suit?”
“Disruptor suits are so illegal, it’s a crime to think about them. Besides, they would be completely useless on the dancefloor, what with all the lights bouncing around.”
“Just trying to help.”
“Just doing my job. Now if you could-…” I stopped. “Annn?”
“Are there any closets in this room?”
“Yes, but I don’t see-…”
“Shh. On second thought, start mouthing banalities. Ignore me.”
“Um. Alright. How’s the weather? I think my club is wonderful, the lights are just as I like them and…”
I let her babble. Meanwhile, I tiptoed toward the closet, ears open, eyes open.
“…but my staff is never up to speed with the qualifications that- oh my god!”
I threw open the closet door. Shit! I ducked left and something went –BOOM!- overhead. I rolled to my feet, drew my gun, and flattened against the side of the closet. I spared a moment to check on Annn, who was fine and healthy and not in the room. Good.
A gun appeared at the lip of the closet door. It was closely followed by an arm, which was closely followed by the creep attached to it. I got one good look at his face and knew exactly what I was dealing with. He was a TSL- 480, nearly ten years obsolete. They were always a little wonky, the 480’s, a little too prone to logical gaps. What the hell was this one doing here?
The rest of his head emerged from the closet, and I calmly placed my gun barrel against it. No use trying to reason with a machine- I pulled the trigger.
I was examining the remains when Annn came back.
“Is everything alright?”
“Alright? We’ve got two dead robots lying on your sitting room floor -one of whom was most likely working as an assassin for someone else- no motive, no leads, and my ears are ringing. Why wouldn’t things be alright?”
“That’s not what I meant, Mr. Jones.”
“No?” I began pacing, running over the events in my mind. Annn’s pet robot gets shot by someone. She goes immediately to me for help. The killer hides in the closet, waiting for someone to…find him? It didn’t make any sense. If I could-…”
“There’s a light blinking on this…man.”
“There’s a-?” I looked. “Annn, get everyone out of this club. As fast as you can.
“Don’t question me, dammit! Just do it, quick, get everyone-!”
KA – BLAM!!
Annn took off toward the mirror at a dead run and I, stooge that I am, followed.
She splashed through the mirror. I hung back. I may be a coward, but I’m a lively coward. The dancefloor was in chaos. People ran in random directions, screaming and gibbering and trampling their neighbors. In the center this mass exodus stood a monster. Mr. Grund was a huge man, but this thing had him beat, simple as that. He could’ve crushed my skull with one hand.
And there was Annn, so small beneath him she looked like an optical illusion, advancing on this beast with one accusatory finger- like a weapon- pointed at his ugly mug. I suddenly wished the mirror wasn’t soundproof- I desperately wanted to hear what she was saying.
The monster smiled, revealing row after row of jagged metal teeth. It raised the biggest hand cannon I have ever seen. It looked like an anti-aircraft gun from the old days- a ludicrously big thing that would’ve taken three men just to lift. It leveled this hunk of metal at Annn and-
KA – BLAM!!!
A beam of hot yellow fire spewed from the barrel. The left side of Annn’s face disintegrated. Her knees unhinged. Shit. I took careful aim at the monster’s left eye and pulled the trigger four times. The eye exploded in a splatter of green jelly. The other turned to look directly at my hiding place. The cannon began to swing around. I fired another volley of shots, dotting its ass-ugly face with holes, and suddenly I was looking down a barrel so large I could’ve stuck my head inside, had I wanted to. I was going to die. I scrunched my face up- hoping it wouldn’t hurt to be flash-fried, hoping there were no machines in Hell- and pulled the trigger again and again- if you’re going to die, go out shooting- and then:
KA – BLAM!!!
I opened my eyes. I wasn’t dead. Why wasn’t I dead? I looked at the monster.
The gun was gone. The monster’s right arm, its shoulder, the left side of its head, all were gone. Bits of flaming debris littered the room, casting weird shadows in the pulsating light. I must’ve hit his gun with one of those shots- hit it in just the right place and…well…ka-blam. Lucky me.
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.