I flounce through the front gate of my compound, across the Robot King parking lot and through the glass double doors leading into the electronics store. My ears ring. My head aches. Sharp pain flows through my left leg with each step, where a Scrapper got me good with a baseball bat.
Eight combat bots, the only ones left after the fight, follow me into the building and line up against the front wall and await their next command. Each is constructed with soldered steel plates that form a rough shape of a person with large chest like a bodybuilder. They roll on wheels and have a digital face displayed on a tablet for a head.
I walk over to Combat Bot 227 and open the metal hatch on his chest. I pull out a double chocolate crunch bar, rip off the wrapper, and bite it in half.
I drift over and collapse onto my leather couch and grab the tv remote between the middle cushions. I press the power button and the flat screen in front of me lights up and displays a top down satellite image of a secondary Robot King location on the other side of the highway, right in the middle of Oklahoma Tech University, the home of an unknown number of Scrappers who want me dead. To be fair, I tried reasoning with them but they’re like animals.
Wheels roll up behind me and stop at my left side. I look over and see Lilian, a social bot, cycle through three different still images with an exaggerated look of concern.
“Were you successful, your highness?” says Lilian.
“I don’t understand. There were too many of them. Nearly three times as many Scrappers as I originally estimated. It was a slaughter,” I say.
“What are the numbers?”
“Forty-six bots destroyed. Eight survived, hardly enough to defend the castle.”
“We have four additional combat bots in reserve. What about the Scrappers?”
“We couldn’t even make it inside, Lilian.”
“What will you do? Build more?”
“Look around, Lilian. There are no more components. This place is tapped.”
Dozens of empty white isles with metal shelves line the electronics store. The home theater display, the Emerald Room, held twelve of the greatest television sets ever created. I used the components from those in the last two combat bots.
Thank you for keeping the castle safe. We’ll figure out something, I promise. I love you,” I say.
Another series of still images slide across the tablet screen, as she expresses love through her large green eyes.“And I love you,” she says.
I turn back to the television and press a button on the remote. The screen splits into six different sections, live security footage of every angle of the compound. The north, west, and east parking lots are clear between the wall defenses and the building. The south alley and loading lot is clear. The north gate isn’t damaged.
The screen switches to the outer gate camera.
My heart sinks.
Three scrappers stand outside the main gate. The only thing keeping them out, and the other murderers and monsters in the wilds, is the 10 foot wall that stretches around the perimeter of Robot King electronics and two six foot deep spike pits that surround the perimeter on either side.
The Scrappers are wearing armored suits made of metal plates secured to their bodies with thick black leather straps. One of them has a stop sign as a chest plate, bent to better conform to his lanky body. It nearly wraps all the way around him.
The other two wear green chest plates. One reads “Topeka, Kansas 666 miles” in bold white letters. Both of them wield two handed crossbows, but white cylindrical canisters the size of a soda can are attached at the head. They hold nets, or net shot, and are extremely effective for getting tangled in my bot’s wheels, something new.
The one with the stop sign also wields a crossbow, but the canister at the end of his bolt is different. It’s green. He aims the crossbow high in the air, towards the Robot King entrance, and fires. The projectile makes a wide arc and lands on the asphalt. It slides until it comes inches from the glass double doors.
“Take cover!” I say.
The tablets on the soldier bots display hardened and angry faces of soldiers with grizzled beards, scrapes, burns, and the look of an intense burn in their eyes.
I fall to the floor and position myself on the other side of the couch for cover. I unholster the pistol on my hip and grip it with a sweaty hand.
There’s a series of clicks as four gun barrels poke two inches out of the chest of the combat bots, each designed to fire a barrage of .22 caliber bullets. You don’t have to be accurate with an increased volume of firepower.
The bots form pairs and roll throughout the building. Two stay and position themselves on either side of the entrance. I expect the Scrappers to burst through at any moment.
I look back at the security footage. They’re walking away, back towards the highway.
I sit up, grab the remote, and cycle through every angle. Nobody. I don’t get it.
What is with these guys?
Pistol still in hand, I walk through the double doors.
I study the bolt lying on the ground. I holster my pistol. I reach down and grab the cannister, open it, and look inside. There’s a piece of paper. I pull it out and unfold it. A letter. I struggle to read the barely legible handwriting, but by the time I reach the end of the note, my eyes are wide open.
“A ceasefire? I can’t believe it,” I say.
Lilian rolls out of Robot King and stands besides me.
“Is it safe?” she says.
I rest my hand on the top of her shoulders, where I imagine them to be at the top of her thin rectangular body, and sigh.
“For now, but they’ll be back. They promise a ceasefire for one month, until they’ve had time to care for their wounded,” I say. They must think we have a lot more firepower hidden away for another attack. Good.
“Can we trust their word?”
“No. But we don’t have a choice. I need to think of the next move.”
“Maybe it’s time, your highness.”
“Time for what?”
I crunch up the letter and toss it into the air. It catches some wind, blows back behind me, and hits the tan brick wall of Robot King electronics. As I bring my hand back, I notice four holes, half inch in diameter, piercing the white plate armor surrounding my arm. Fresh blood trickles out one of the holes and makes a red streak down towards my hand.
With all the commotion of the attack, I hadn’t noticed I was injured. My heart is beating so fast. I unbuckle and slide off my arm piece and it falls to the asphalt.
Lilian, fully aware of my injury by now, rolls back inside the building and comes back out holding a clean white rag in her metal pincers.
“Thank you, Lilian.”
“You fought hard. Let me make you something. Tell me about it.”
“There isn’t time. I don’t have a way to build more bots, and I need help if we ever want to take the other Robot King from the Scrappers. We need those components, Lilian.”
“Charlie, Driftwood is the nearest human settlement. You know what you need to do. We’ve talked about this.”
“Why are you so persistent on me traveling to Driftwood?”
“What other choice is there? You need help from other humans. You’ve come this far without their help, but now, things are different. We are nearly defenseless. We might not survive another attack. We barely have enough bots to defend the castle.”
“I know you’ve never liked other humans, but I don’t see another choice, Charlie.”
“Humans are vile. Why would they help me?”
“They have to help you. You have to make them help you. Sir, you are the Robot King. You’re our king. You have to do something.”
The last time I saw a friendly face was the day my father and mother left for food eleven years ago, when I was seven. They’ve been dead to me a long time, and so has everyone else.
“You’re right Lilian. I have to do something. I have to find help. I’ll bring the gold I’ve collected, and a few battery powered gadgets, and find some help. Mercenaries, maybe.”
“We all know you can do it. We’re counting on you, your highness. All hail the Robot King.”