top of page

Windswept: Part II

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

“You have to be more careful out there, bud.”

A screw was tightened.

“I’ll have to scrap most of the arm. These new parts cost me a fortune.”

Gears were set in motion.

“Not that it matters anyway, with the cash you’re raking in.”

Joints were tested and greased.

“I’m not saying that I’m just doing this for the money, by the way.”

Springs were stretched and fitted.

“I like fixing you up. I don’t get to see this kind of machinery every day.”

Something snapped.

“Aren’t you going to say anything?

The bounty hunter sat among the chatter of the marketplace. A sharp gust rattled the mechanic’s tent. It sheltered the two from the harsh light of the sun, but the heat was relentless. May took an oil-stained rag and wiped the sweat from her forehead. She was crouched over the shoulder-joint, but had stopped working to glare up at her client.

“I did not realize there was a need for conversation.” It said.

The stranger had been staring out the tent at the variety of tourists and merchants passing by. A man in a powder-blue striped vest noticed it. He stopped just long enough to see what was in the shadow of May’s tarp, give a startled yelp, and hurry past. The stranger turned its attention to May.

“Have you repaired my antenna yet? I am waiting to receive the next contract.”

She whacked its shoulder with a wrench. “Is that really all you have to talk about?” She said.

“I am not concerned about anything else,” It replied, then looked at the new dent on its armor. “Except for this. Do you expect payment for repairing your own damages?”

“Don’t worry about it,” She said, grabbing her hammer. She removed the plate she had hit, and started to work out the dent. “Listen, It’s going to take at least another hour to get that arm of yours working again, and I’m starting to get bored. Can’t you find something interesting to talk about, for my sake? Why not tell me about how you got your arm ripped off in the first place?”

She pointed with her hammer at the remnants of its arm on her workbench. The cables between the steel plates had been stretched out, leaving it twice as long as it was supposed to be, like some disjointed snake. A bouquet of stripped wires poked from the shoulder joint, and the connective metal was twisted and ripped like cardboard. Its fingers had been bent backwards to pry it off the man’s corpse.

The Bounty Hunter regarded the arm with indifference. “James Theodore Whitney tore it off.” He said.

May sat down on the sand-covered rug. “And? Why? How? I need more details here, bud, you’re killing me.”

There was a pause as its eye looked again into the distance. The pupil-light flashed gold, blue, brown, orange, white, and red. May watched it replay a recording stored somewhere in its maze of circuitry. An entire day was condensed into a few seconds, too fast for her to process. The recording ended, and its eye returned to neon white.

Then it spoke. “I arrived in Oasis after hearing rumors that a man with three arms had sought shelter there. He was-”

“Wait, the guy had three arms?” May said, grabbing a rusty pair of pliers from her overalls.

“Yes. He was-”

“How? Is that how he did that to your arm? Was he-”

“I am not finished.”

“Sorry, go on.” She said. She continued to work on the new arm, listening to the story through the speaker in its chest.

“He was staying in the Oasis Saloon. I questioned the bartender, but he denied that he was harboring a fugitive. I was forced to search the rooms myself. He emerged from one of them, and tore off my arm. I then killed him with my spear. I left Oasis, and took his body to the drop-off point.”

“That’s it?” May said. She had begun soldering together the various wires that ran through the new arm.

“Yes.”

“Come on, you can do better than that,” A plume of lead-based smoke rose from the tip of her soldering iron, “What did he look like? Why did he rip your arm off? How did he get it off? I’m missing out on the good bits.”

The stranger paused, then continued,“He was one hundred and eighty centimeters tall. He was exhibiting signs of malnourishment. He was wearing a standard-issue Institute jumpsuit - torn.”

“Okay. And? Was he, like, angry?”

“He was afraid. He removed my arm to prevent me from killing him. I do not know how he did it. His third arm was unnaturally strong. It was as if it were made from stronger metal than I am. He attempted to escape, and I threw my spear through his chest to prevent him from doing so.”

“Okay… wow.” She said, looking up from her work.

“Wow?” It said.

“Yeah. I mean, I’m sure he was a criminal and all, but do you ever think about why you go around killing people all the time? It can’t be good for your mental health.” She connected another wire, and adjusted the antenna sticking out from its shoulder.

“I do not have a ‘mental health.’” It said, pointing at its chest, “I have a set of objectives to carry out.”

“So you don’t think at all about the dirty looks everyone gives you? I’m kinda your only friend, you know. Maybe if you, I dunno, saved someone’s lizard from a cactus or something, people would like you more.”

“I…” It sat still for a moment. “I have thought about that. I go through many towns in pursuit of my targets, and few of them have shown signs of improvement after I leave. Perhaps if I” -ZZZZZZZCRACKKLEEZZZIIIP

U1VCSkVDVFdISVRORVlSRUNFSVZFRFBFUkZPUk1BTkNFU0FUSVNGQUNUT1JZTkVYVFRBUkdFVFBFVEVSUk9PVElERU5USUZZSU5HQ0hBUkFDVEVSSVNUSUNTQURESVRJT05BTEVZRUxBU1RLTk9XTkxPQ0FUSU9OTkVBUlpFUEhZUg0K

Sparks flew from the antenna, receiving an encoded message from the stranger’s employers. The figure stood up. May jumped back, and started gathering the tools that had been scattered across the ground.

“I have to go.” It said, “I have received the details for my next assignment. Thank you for repairing my antenna.”

“Seriously?” Said May, “This is the most you’ve talked in months! And I still have work to do on that!” She pointed at the half-assembled arm.

“I can complete the repairs on the way. You can add the charges to my account.”

It pushed the tent’s flap aside and stepped into the sunlight. The sun was low over the rolling dunes beyond the marketplace.

May called after it, “Well don’t get too busted this time, alright! And think about what I said, okay?”

The figure turned midstep, nodded, and continued through the market, past nervous shopkeepers, and toward its new destination.





28 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page