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Childhood’s End

It was a typical day at the lab. Dr. Ferris was working on some new robot designs to sell to a manufacturing company, and the children were playing one of the few songs with no magical properties whatsoever…unless you count making people gag a magical property.

“It’s a small world after alll…”

“It’s a small world affffter alll….”

Aria burst into giggles, disrupting the song quite a bit. Arpeggio stopped his strumming and rolled his eyes at his brother in disgust. “Man, she always does that!”

“Yeah.” Andante nodded solemnly, moving his bongos to one side. “It’s pretty pathetic. Want to go hang out at the mall?”

“Hey, yeah!” Arpeggio’s eyes lit up. “Didja hear about that new flight simulator they got? Man, I heard it was the best.”

“And the Virtual Voyage too!” Andante finished. “Hey, Doctor, is it OK if we go?” He asked.

“Hmm?” Dr. Ferris didn’t look up.

“That means it’s okay!” Aria giggled again. Then she suddenly glanced around, confused. There was a high pitched buzzing sound…What…?

KA-BOOM!!! The right wall exploded, showering them all with dust and debris. Andante leaped in front of Dr. Ferris, shielding her from the metal fragments. Aria shrieked and then stared as half a dozen robots swarmed in. To her complete horror, Aria recognized them from the newscasts. There was Cutman, Woodman, Fireman, Gutsman, Slashman, and at the back of the group was a black, sleekly handsome robot. His dark eyes caught hers for a moment, and he smiled slowly. Aria couldn’t remember his name, but she remembered the old man standing right next to him.

“Wily!” She shrieked. She could recognize the insane scientist anywhere, and loathed him at first sight. The grin he gave her and the feverish insanity in his eyes only made her terror worse.

“Hello, Ferris.” He said almost genially. “It’s been a long time.”

“Not nearly long enough.” Dr. Ferris was pale, but met his eyes squarely. “What do you want?”

“Your creations.” His voice was suddenly cold, dangerous. Aria clutched Andante’s arm, cowering away. She caught the dark robot looking at her again, obviously amused at her reaction. His smirk suddenly made Aria angry, and she pulled away from Andante, looking right back at the black robot with challenge written in her stance. His smirk became a small smile and he met her eyes again, seemingly enjoying her attitude. Aria wasn’t sure what to make of that.

“What?” Dr. Ferris sounded confused. “The new robots I’m making? But what would manufacturing bots…”

“Not them, you fool!” He barked, and Aria felt a surge of anger. “Them!” And he pointed sharply at the trio of bioroids.

“No!” Dr. Ferris exclaimed, shocked.

“Yeah, no!” Arpeggio shouted instantly. “We’ll never do anything for you, you psycho sonofabitch! And what do you want us for, anyway?”

“Oh, don’t play the fool!” He answered scornfully, treating Arpeggio to a searing glare. “I know all about your special abilities! Bass watched when you created that monster plant, and brought word back to me.” So that was the robot’s name, Aria realized, glancing back at him. He was still looking at her. Why her? Wily continued. “This power may be exactly what I need to conquer the world, and YOU will provide it for me!”

“No.” Aria whispered, and picked up Andante’s discarded bongos. She would not be party to this. “Andante!” She screamed, throwing the bongos towards him. He caught them deftly, and she immediately began singing the first combat song that came to mind… “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” by AC-DC.

Arpeggio grabbed his guitar, and started playing enthusiastically. The air seemed to warp, and suddenly, a half-dozen berserk assassins appeared out of thin air, charging Wily and his stunned robots. The assassins were intangible and couldn’t be harmed, but they were fully capable of doing damage. Two of them carved up Woodman, laughing insanely. Bass pulled Wily out of the way as one of them threw a knife right at him. It buzzed over his head, removing some of the little hair he had left.

“Doc, they’re too powerful!” Fireman exclaimed, ducking under a kick. “What do we do!?!” Wily’s eyes narrowed.

“Kill one of them!” He pointed at the furiously singing trio.

“Henh, henh, my pleasure.” And Cutman fired a rolling cutter at Andante, who was too absorbed in his drumming to notice. The shot hit him dead on, ripping his bongos apart and tearing into his belly. His scream of anguish transfixed his family, who stared in horror as his lifeless body crumpled to the floor. Aria shrieked, leaping towards Wily.

“You’ll pay!” But Bass was there. He grabbed her wrists deftly, and laughed at her attempts to free herself. His laugh was cut off by a very swift and painful kick in the crotch. He doubled over, letting her go to clutch his damaged equipment. Aria hurtled over his crouched body, intending to kill the madman who was destroying her life. Instead, her face met Gutsman’s fist. She hurtled across the room, landing in a crumpled heap against the wall. Dr. Ferris rushed over, holding Aria gently to her chest.

“Stop! No!” Arpeggio shouted as he saw Bass charge up his arm cannon, preparing to destroy them both. He ran forward and punched Bass in the face. Bass, furious, swung back and was astonished when he found himself being flung across the room. He hit the wall face first and came up snarling.

“You little bastard!” He growled, his eyes glowing red from his rage. “You’re going to pay for that!” He raised a hand to his bloody nose, and growled again. Arpeggio laughed, throwing him an obscene gesture.

“Ain’t doin’ to well so far!” Bass smirked at the bravado.

“Oh yeah?” And he let loose with a barrage of plasma shots. Arpeggio dodged easily, but forgot what was behind him…

Dr. Ferris screamed as the already weakened wall collapsed. She and Aria were buried instantly, and a large red puddle slowly flowed out from under the heavy stones. Arpeggio stopped and stared in horror. “NO!” He howled. Suddenly, large hands grabbed him from behind, lifting him off his feet. He struggled briefly, but his strength was no match for Gutsmans’.

“Well.” Wily walked up, and looked at him with a slow, evil smile. “Will you join us, or shall I have Gutsman crush the life out of your worthless carcass? Hmm?”

“Never!” Arpeggio gasped out through Gutsmans’ painfully tight hold.

Wily smile became sour. “So you’d rather die? Very well.”

Gutsmans’ hold tightened. Arpeggio gritted his teeth as the damage mounted, sending screaming pain through his circuits. And his chest was being crushed, he couldn’t breath…He choked helplessly, fighting for air, but it was a lost battle. Finally there was a twanging sound as something inside let go, and Arpeggio shuddered, his body becoming still. Gutsman dropped the dead bioroid to the floor.

“Well, that’s that. Let’s get going before the blue dweeb finds us here.” Wily and the bots left through the hole in the wall, but Bass fell behind, looking at the destruction. He felt nothing for the two males, but it was sort of a pity the girl had died too. She had been interesting…even with the kick. He rubbed his still sore anatomy. “Oh well.” He shrugged, then frowned. What did it matter anyway? She was dead. He turned and walked away, leaving the torn up wreckage of the once beautiful lab…

Continue to Chapter 4 of Aria
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