Well idk if this topic will ever be at its glory days again but imma take a chance.
I wake up to pain.
I moan and roll over.
The boiler must have stopped working again.
I sit up with my teeth chattering. My hands are almost numb.
After smacking my hands on my sides a few times enough life returns to them to get out of bed and dress. I shiver into the kitchen of my house.
No. It’s not my house. It’s Badcop’s house. But I’ve taken it over. He’s gone. He’s been gone for months. His dad is gone too. He left after deciding that it was too risky to stay any longer. The borders were getting tighter, and he had a family to provide for on the other side. He left a note for when Badcop got back explaining that he couldn’t wait any longer, and how sorry he was, and he wished that he would stay safe.
Now I was wondering if he’d ever get the note.
He had never done this before, and I had no choice but to assume the worst. The empire had got him. It was the only explanation.
I sighed as I sat down at the table to a meager breakfast and shivered. The house was fairly nice for No Man’s Landing, but the busted boiler was a problem. Especially in the winter. I had tinkered and banged it up as well as I knew, but who was I kidding? It needed a guy’s brain and that was one thing that I was missing.
I finished breakfast and grabbed my green winter coat. It had been unusually cold in No Man’s Landing for the past week.
I stepped outside.
I hadn’t seen snow in town before. Only by the Old Mount. Not that I went to the cold grey mountain very often. But I had been there once, exploring with some of my urchin buddies.
As I crunched down the white streets, looking for autos to decommission, (nothing better to do) I thought about my options. I couldn’t stay in this junky town forever, I had a calling to the mountains. Whenever I looked toward Evercity, the Old Mount and beyond, my heart ached for adventure.
I glanced over at Beth Applemine as she fell in step beside me.
“What’s up?” She asked.
I shrugged. “Nothin’ miss.”
Beth stooped to pick up a handful of snow. “What have I told you, no ‘miss’ in my name. It’s Beth.” She smacked me with a snowball.
I brushed the snow off my coat, a little irritated.
“Fine, Beth. And please don’t get snow on my face.”
Beth shrugged. “Ok. you seem a bit on edge today, is… everything alright?”
I sighed. “No. I…I don’t know what to do with m’self. The heater at the house is busted and I can’t fix it.” I felt a twitch in the back of my throat. “I miss him.”
Beth gently put a hand on my shoulder. “I’m here for you. How about if I come to your house this evening and help you fix the heater?”
I nodded. “Yeah. That would be great.”
Just as we rounded a corner Beth put an arm out to stop me.
“Automaton,” She whispered. “Shall I take it or you?”
“Go for it.” I nodded toward the sound of the auto’s metallic feet crunching on the snow.
Beth grinned and pulled out her flame cane. “Cya.”
She ignited it and charged around the corner.
I smiled wistfully and started in the opposite direction of the skirmish.
I walked a few blocks past tattered houses and dingy windows.
Maybe it’s time I payed Missy a visit. Haven’t seen her in a long time, she usually can cheer me up.
A strong hand clamped over my mouth and pulled me back into the alleyway I had just passed.
I reached for my pistols but my arms were pinned.
“Hmmmmmmmmp!” I screamed into the gloved hand.
“Hello, Ranger,” a dark voice said into my ear.
I twisted around to see my assailant.
No one was near to hear my scream.
“Quiet! Do you want every automaton in town to hear you?!”
I started at the sound of the voice. “Mr…… Badcop?”
I stared at the man. It could be him. it sounded like him. But if it was he was very different from when I had last seen him. He was confident, sure of himself. His paranoia was all but gone.
“Who’d you think it was.”
Yup. Definitely him. He still asked questions like he was stating a fact of life.
I gasped and grabbed him in a hug. “I’m so glad you’re not dead!”
He let out an uncomfortable cough.
“Oh yeah. No hugs. Whoops.” I backed up.
“Yeah well I’m not dead,” He scrutinized me. “You look… good.”
Badcop Blackshine was wearing an outfit I had never seen before. He had his black boots and pants on still, but now he was wearing a black leather vestish thingy almost like a breastplate, and a black cloak. A handkerchief was covering his face which explained my lack of recognition. His grey eyes were as penetrating as ever. I was surprised that he wasn’t wearing aviation goggles like usual. The gauntlet on his arm really threw me. It looked like… an auto officer control gauntlet.
I backed up a step suddenly scared.
“I… I didn’t recognize you. I thought at first that you were an auto officer.”
Badcop seemed to sense my apprehension. “What’s wrong?”
I hesitated. “You just….” My voice trailed off.
“Scare you?” He asked.
“Where have you been?” I changed the topic. Badcop sighed and walked a few steps away.
“Ranger, I know what I look like. But I’m not an auto officer.” He turned back around and looked me in the eye.
I swallowed. “I do. At least I’m trying to. It’s hard when I haven’t seen you in so long and you won’t tell me what you’ve been up to.”
He smirked. “I will. Eventually,” He looked down the street both ways. “For now I need to talk to an old friend. I wanted to talk to you first. Is my father still ‘round?”
I shook my head. “No. I’m afraid he left a while ago.”
Badcop glanced back at me. “I figured as much. Take care.”
With that he strode away down the street.
Still not much for goodbyes. Well, that’s typical. He does seem different... I don’t like it. And where on earth has he been?