My eyes opened slowly, and the room appeared again, the relaxant hum of the dome generators wavering through my gradually waking head – Tommy had started a fragrantly strong brew of coffee.
Stretching my rested muscles for a few seconds, I lifted my one hundred and sixty pounds up off the bed and yawned. “Tommy,” I said, watching him enter my rest quarters. His one large eye was pulsating. “What’s the current temperature outside the dome?”
My usual cup of steaming espresso was jittering on a tray in Tommy’s metal fasteners as he strolled across the room.
“Twenty-two thousand degrees Fahrenheit. Barometric pressure is minus two hundred. We can expect an increase in temperature, possibly by fifty degrees, by early afternoon,” he replied. “Shall I prep the crop robots?”
I reached for my steaming coffee, its vapor rising into my face; I took a small sip. “No,” I informed him, taking another sip from my steaming espresso. I pressed a button on the remote control and the left quarter’s window facing the harvest appeared from behind the slowly rising radiation shutters. Outside the dome, the red giant flared like heaven on fire through the window. I could see my corn crops gleaming like a golden sea, and my wheat fields swaying in the artificial wind. “Can you ready the teleport. I got business in the City today.”
“Sir, I strongly recommend that you not visit the City today. There’s been a lot of terrorist activity in the inner and outer circles. My advice to you, sir, would be you wait until the C.S.A scrounges up some of the strangling fractions. According to my weblink, an inner circle faction has claimed credit for that massacre last night; they blew up half the Renoir. Two thousand people were killed in the blast.”
“I ‘m not going anywhere near that part of City. I ‘m headed for Howler, it’s strictly a non-partisan circle.”
“Sir, should I remind you that Howler is only ten minutes from the Renoir?”
“I think you just did,” I replied, thrusting a foot into my boot.
“Isn’t that a bit close?”
“I thought I told you to replaced your mother circuits with brother ones?” I told him with a big smile on my face.
Tommy went silent, his big red eyeball flashing.
“Alright, alright, don’t blow a transistor. When does mother think the C.S.A. will have finished its vital mission of ridding the City of the factions?” I asked, peering into Tommy’s red eyeball. “I hope it’s soon cause we need crop food as soon as possible, or it’s curtains for the harvest this year.”
“Perhaps two or three months. This, mind you, is only an assumption. Much of my facts are still being relayed to me via the weblink.”
“If I wait another quarter, the crops will die. An if they die, I die, and if I die–“
“Tommy dies, correct, Sir?”
“You got it.”
“The teleport will be ready, Sir,” Tommy quickly acknowledged. Tommy did an about-face, then started towards the exit, its metal ankles and knees squealing.
“Thank you,” I told him. “How bout I pick you up some new software for your logic circuits?”
Tommy replied “Whatever for?”
“I’d like to try something new,” I told him.
“Sure, Sir,” he replied.
The market place in the City seemed like a busy hornet’s nest: hundreds of people carrying their possessions underneath their arms or strapped around their necks bouncing from storefront to storefront, each peacefully minding its own business. The C.S.A. were everywhere, at every corner of the market place, their photon blasters in their hands prepared to do whatever damage needed.
I had changed course, directing the telepod for Newark, the actual spot where the massacre at the Renoir had taken placed — I had to lie Tommy or he wouldn’t let me leave the dome.
I stepped off the telepod and onto a battered sidewalk. There were a few farmers I knew who were at the market place buying harvest food for their crops as well. One of them was Chester Preston. He was hoisting a load of power cells onto his telepod. I never really liked Chester: always snooping around, asking questions for the C.S.A., I guess you could call him a C.S.A. snitch. As I drew closer to the market place I took careful note of his dog, Kane, sitting steadfast at Chester’s side and baring its teeth.
“Quiet dog!” He growled at the huge animal. “Alfred, have you any new stories to tell your comrade?” He asked me.
“No, No sir, Mr. Preston. Come by to pick up some crop grower. The harvest won’t wait, you know.”
“I hear that,” Chester replied. “What are your thoughts concerning the bombing of the Renoir last night. Or did you hear about it at all. I ‘m sure you’ve already seen all the destruction.” He asked me, one hand slowly stroking Kane, the other pointing at the ruins around the market place.
He seemed to be waiting for the wrong answer to come from my lips.
“I hate violence,” I told him, grimacing.
“Well sometimes you need violence to fight violence. If you don’t fight back, those bastards will take over the City,” Chester replied angrily, grinding his teeth, the muscles in is face twittering.
“What’s left of the City, that is, ” I grumbled softly, moving towards the grower section of the market.
Chester grumble something at me then went on with his own business, finally leaving me in peace. I found the crop grower I needed and a few software packages for Tommy and quickly left.
Crop robots were flying over the crops, spraying the crop grower that I had purchased from the market place. I watched as thick grower clouds slowly descended upon the crops, slowly blanketing the harvest. The crop sensors were beaming, acknowledging the crop’s appreciation.
Outside the dome was a whole different picture. Nightfall was advancing quickly. The last of the red giant’s blazing luster was fading in the horizon. Enormous cumulus clouds, brimming of toxic acid, were vomiting their poisons down upon the impenetrable dome. I could hear the fizz of the acid rain dancing on the dome and the rumbling of thunder.
With a drink (whiskey and soda water) in my hand, I sat peacefully in my soft chair, slowly getting plastered, watching the harvest, the dome, the lights, the clashing lighting, the sounding thunder. But for only a moment as I was interrupted by the clang of metal, and the complaints of joints.
“Sir, if I may?”
“Yes?” I asked.
“There are a couple of men in battle armor, with photon guns, asking to speak with the master of the dome. Should I let them in?” Tommy said.
“Sure,” I said. I must admit that I was worried a bit. Who in their right mind teleports in an acid storm, as bad as this one, unless it was very important.
The soldiers had planned well ahead. As I got closer to their teleports, I noticed they were wearing deflective membranes over their armor. They were well protected from the acid rain, or for that matter, from any other dangers.
“Comrade, my name is Spark. This here,” pointing to his buddy next to him, “is Dr. Madi. We’ve come to ask for your help.” The red haired man then pulled a round of photons cells out from his belt and rammed them into his firearm. “Me and my friends wish to spend the night here, until the storms pass; I don’t believe our deflector shields will hold out for very much longer in it. We’re asking only for shelter. We have our own food.”
“Army regulars?” I think that was one of the dumbest questions that I had ever asked. By the clothing he was wearing, I could plainly see that he wasn’t military. And the rifles in their hands weren’t standard arms used by the military.
“No, of course not,” he laughed at me. “We’re part of the City’s work force. We use the blasters,” he said, brandishing the firearm at me, “to break up the unwanted crystals that build up under the City’s dome.” He took a puff off his cigar, squinting at me .
I knew he was lying to me. I wasn’t that stupid, maybe a little ignorant, but not stupid. “I’m really sorry, but you see I have no room in —” but before I could finish my sentence, Spark rudely jabbed his rifle in my face. An evil smile was appearing on Dr. Madi’s face.
“Let us in, now!” Spark growled at me, his rifle still stuck in my mouth. He then jerked his head back to yell, “Come on!” His long red hair, like unruly weeds growing from the top of his head, slapped my face.
I stepped back, trying to speak through the gun in my mouth, “Come– inside — Tommy will set up a place for you and Dr. Madi to sleep for the night. But tomorrow, you and Mr. Madi, and the rest of the work force must leave. I am having some City delegates over tomorrow to discuss the harvest’s progress,” I lied to him. He was lying to me so it seemed all right that I lie right back. Hell, he might even be encouraged to leave tonight.
“We will see these delegates to their graves, crop man, then we will leave.” Spark pulled the gun from my mouth, motioning for the rest of the men to follow him inside. They were huge monsters, eleven of them, striding into my humble home. One of the so-called workers grunted at me as he entered. I just smiled.
I peered out my bedroom window– the smell of espresso had awakened my sleepy mind. The sky, as the red giant rose over the horizon, was glowing fiercely. Streaks of darker red speared the sky. As I dragged my body into the forward quarter, I discovered Tommy obediently serving the rogues.
They were treating Tommy rather harshly, and it sickened me to watch. The worker’s callous laughter was beginning to really bother me too. And their smell, that God-awful smell, was nauseating.
But I remained calm. “So,” I looked over to where Spark was finger kicking paper balls at Tommy and I kindly asked him, “really Mr. Spark, when are you and your men leaving?”
Burping loudly, the red haired leader grunted, “Just Spark. No Mister, or anything like that. Just Spark.” Burping again, “Like I told you last night, crop grower, when we finish killing the delegates, then we will leave.”
I was beginning to feel mighty sick.
Some hours had gone by when I heard a scream coming from one of the grunts who was lounging in the right quarter, followed by a terrible explosion from outside the dome. Spinning around, I saw the grunt shaking violently in a beam of bright yellow. I noticed up through the dome a battleship, military police type, firing a disintegration beam through the dome’s force field. Somehow, the military had gain access to the entry codes of dome’s force field.
Doctor Madi was starring at the beam, his mouth wide open, his eyes blood red. “What the hell!” He growled out. He then looked my way, waving his sabor with his hand, “The crop man was lying! That’s a C.S.A. attack vessel!”
“Take offensive action! Fire up through the dome!” Spark howled.
Another disintegration beam seared its way down through the dome, purging two rogues instantly.
My dome was at its end. Giant gaps were forming in it, pieces of it peeling and falling down into the harvest. At any minute, the heat from the red giant will fry everything alive or lifeless underneath it. Everywhere were rogues dying quickly, their bodies evaporating instantly. Another explosion rocked me and a few of the remaining rogues off our feet.
I got up fast, thinking dreadful thoughts about my harvest: visualizing it whipping wildly in a rage of fire; visualizing the hot earth bubbling underneath the flames; and finally realizing that I did not need to worry about my harvest not producing. No, not anymore.
I motioned for Tommy, who was appearing from behind the macrovision, to follow me. Between the falling debris and the panicky cross fire of photon beams, Tommy and I finally made our way to the teleport chamber’s entrance.
However, before I could make it into the teleport, my arm was nearly ripped off by the brutal Dr. Madi. My heart stopped. His grip was tightening, hurting me. The monster then screeched at me through badly stained teeth, “Where do you think you are going crop man! There’s one telepod, all the other have been destroyed–” another blast shakes us both, “and there’s just room enough for two in the tele-pod. And that’s means room for the robot and me! Not you!” He lifted me up and slammed me against the wall.
Luckily, Tommy came to my rescue — prime directive number one: no harm must come to his Master. Digging its claws into the Doctor’s chest, it threw the rogue halfway down the hallway.
The Doctor quickly got up on his feet again, grunting and complaining, his hands gripping his torn chest. He reached for his firearm that was hanging around his neck and aimed it at me; blood was trickling from his mouth.
Tommy reacted quickly, firing a beam of deadly photons through the Doctor’s neck. Madi’s head plopped to the shaking ground, bounced around for a while, and finally rolled behind a big heap of falling ceiling. More ceiling began to crack and fall just in front of me. But I just stood there as it cracked, scared senseless, knowing that pretty soon my world would come crumbling down on me.
Tommy’s electronic mind acted quickly; grabbing me with its magnetic beam, he propelled my petrified body into the remaining telepod. There was smoke rising from its square head, rising from his neck and knee joints, and all his others joints. Shaking my head, I squinted my eyes to get a better look at my rescuer, and discovered why his joints were smoking. He’d been struck by a stray photon beam. The beam had opened a big hole on the left side of his head. Globs of energy was bubbling from the hole.
“Good bye, Master Alfred. The telepod is ready for take off. Go now, before it is too late.” He said to me as he buckled to the ground.
After pressing a few buttons on the telepod’s control panel, the telepod started up. I was then quickly jettisoned out of the dome, on a course set for another dome. The battleship made no attempt to intercept my telepod. My guess was that it scanned the speeding telepod for Dr. Madi and Spark; and after finding no signs of the two rogues within my pod, it decided to let my telepod escape.
I looked out the rear portal of the telepod, as the pod veered from the farm, and saw my farm and dome surrounding it finally explode into millions of parts.
Tears were rolling down my cheeks.