Behind me: Thud-thud-thud-thud…
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I whirled around and very nearly shot Mr. Grund.
“Glurk,” I said, swallowing my heart. “Mr. Grund. You’re late.”
“Late.” I stepped out of the mirror. The dancefloor was rent in places where the monster’s weapon had swept across it. The insides of those channels still glowed an angry red.
I put off having to look at Annn by examining the monster. It was obviously a machine, and almost certainly a custom piece- no company would build a thing like that. Its one remaining eye lay motionless in its head. None of its gears were spinning. Safe? No, but to hell with it. I climbed up on the monster’s chest and examined the thing. It was an odd mishmash, old and outdated parts used in places where new ones would’ve been twice as effective- not to mention twice as cheap. I reversed my opinion. Mr. Grund would’ve had no trouble beating this thing into the ground. To my trained eye it looked almost ludicrous.
“What were you for?” I muttered. “What were you doing here?”
Beneath me, something went –whirr-.
The monster’s one remaining eye rolled in its socket, fixing on me. I scrambled to my feet, fell backward, and rolled into the space between its legs, hitting my head on the floor.
I pushed myself up on my hands and knees in time to see one tree-trunk arm rise from the floor. It floated, slowly, to the monster’s shoulder. It dropped. There was a muted –click-. I stood, rubbing my head, and caught sight of a flashing light in the vicinity of the thing’s shoulder- it was my day for flashing lights. Below it, very tiny, I could see the number 28. Wait, scratch that, 27. Wait…26. Oh.
I should’ve been running for the door. I should’ve been pelting down the street like my hair was on fire and my ass was just beginning to singe, but I wasn’t. Not yet. I had to know. I dashed over to where Annn lay, slid, and whammed to the floor for the second time in five minutes. I crawled to her, rolled her over. One side of her face was the smooth- if dirty- complexion of a woman in charge of her own destiny. The other side was a blackened metal oblong from which a score of wires and connectors protruded. Apparently it was also my day for meeting machines. Wait a minute, wasn’t I running from something?
I hefted Annn –oh! My aching back! Damned machines!- and ran as best I could for the doorway.
I was maybe three feet away when a big warm hand lifted me up and threw out the door- KA – BLAM!!!
I was lying in the road about ten feet from the burning remains of Club Emphasis. Annn lay in front of me, her arms and legs cocked at weird angles that reminded me of a marionette when the operator has put down the controls and just let it slump. I peeled myself off the concrete and crawled to her. She looked no worse for wear, so I picked her up again- sorry, back-, and made for the sidewalk.
The club was in shambles and the police- the real police- would be along in another hour or two. It was time to get gone. I was about to do just that, tormented back nonwithstanding, when something huge came stomping out of the burning building.
“Mr. Grund,” I said. “Still with us, eh?”
“Wonderful. Coming with us?”
“Also wonderful. Here- take the maiden fair, she’s killing my spine. Ready?”
I started jogging toward Thrine Street. After a moment, Mr. Grund followed.
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.