Kappy exited through the bead door of the gun shop and the blonde young man glanced after her before sidling up to the counter. He waited there, not eager to speak without being acknowledged. The man with long black hair pulled Kappy’s clip apart and examined the batteries. He spoke without looking up.
“You’re not supposed to come in here when I have customers.”
The young man scrunched his face into a hurt expression, “I didn’t know… I was following that girl, but I didn’t see where she went. I came to tell you.”
The man looked up from the battery, “You were following Kappy? Why?”
“I didn’t know you knew her. You said to follow anyone who came into town with interesting things. And she did.”
“What was it?”
“I dunno, some kind of robot. I came ‘cause I thought you’d want to know about a robot.”
“What sort of robot?”
“It was little and bulky and sort of balanced on one wheel.”
The man at the counter grunted and went back to work. “Go see where she goes. If she’s staying in town I might go take a look at it.”
“You could maybe use it for parts.”
The young man left and the shop was quiet. The man at the counter enjoyed the silence and the darkness of his little kingdom. He finished with the clip, carefully putting the pieces into one drawer and the battery into another, before turning back to the gun he had been disassembling on the counter. There was the sound of a rifle being fired outside. The man looked up, but did not leave the counter. He frowned, listening to the voices outside. Then the young man was back, out of breath and excited.
“They’re causing all kinds of trouble! The mayor is out there and they’re all shouting and the boy fired his gun! Into the air though – didn’t hit anyone!”
“What’s going on?”
“The mayor wants that robot! They all want it! Here, I got a picture, see?”
The young man carried a Polaroid camera with him wherever he went. It hung by a string around his neck. He pulled a still developing and slightly crumpled picture from his pocket.
“It’s in the truck, so it’s a little hard to see, but you can see the top and its little flag.”
The man gingerly took the picture from the young man and frowned at him before dropping his gaze to the picture. His expression froze.
“My god, Kappy has a probe.”
“Is that the robot? Is it the probe? Is that good?”
The man at the counter leapt to his feet, “Get out there boy! Follow that robot, make sure you see who winds up with it!”
“But why? Is it good?”
“GO!” the man bellowed and with a yelp the blond haired boy rushed from the shop in a spray of beads. The man hurried from behind the counter and disappeared into the back of the shop. There were rattling noises and the sound of boxes being moved around. He re-emerged after a short while holding a stuffed travel sack. He carefully selected two guns from the wall. One he slipped into the pack, the other he holstered under his coat. He stepped from the shop into the blue shadows of the alley, closing the outside door and locking it securely. Then he waited.
A little while later there was the sound of pattering footsteps and the young man reappeared, out of breath once again.
“Well, who has the robot?”
“The girl, she left with it. I followed her to the edge of town. It looks like they’re heading to Hustle River now.”
“The mayor just let them go?” The man with dark hair sounded incredulous.
“He didn’t want to, but they threatened him with their guns. He’s a big coward I think.”
The man grimaced and pushed his black hair out of his eyes, “The fool, but it’s what I expected.” He started down the alley, “Come, we’re going now.”
The young man stood there, eyes wide, “Going now? Going where?”
“We’re following them of course. I mean to take that probe.”
“Why? Was I right, was it valuable for parts?” The young man hurried after the dark haired man down the alley.
“Not for parts, though I’m sure those alone would let us live comfortably for the rest of our lives, but for the information it holds. The Rust Initiative has never recovered one of their probes. I believe there is no price they would not pay for the safe return of one.”
“So, we’re going to take it?”
The dark haired man smiled. “Yes, we are.”