“What are you waiting for, Noll?” Tenney demands from the doorway in front of us. “Tell those two to shut up and bring them up here already.”
“Yes, sir, Tenney, sir,” Noll says, shoving us forward. “You two be quiet, okay?”
“You let him boss you around like that?” Griff asks as we walk toward the doorway.”
“Well, he is da boss,” Noll answers.
“Right, but why aren’t you the boss?”
“Because Tenney’s smart. I’m dumb.”
“I don’t think your plan worked too well there, Griff,” I smirk.
“Shut up!” Tenney shouts as we arrive at the doorway and enter behind him. “Or I’ll tell Noll here to smash your heads in.”
“Please don’t make me do dat,” Noll whispers to us.
“Okay,” Griff agrees.
Tenney turns around and gives us a final warning glance. Griff makes a gesture with his hands that he is locking his lips and throwing away the key. I giggle at the gesture, quickly stifling the noise to avoid any further anger from Tenney.
We enter a long hallway. Red carpeting reaches all the way to the ornate doorway on the other side. Gold and bronze line the hall, as well as a multitude of statues and armor. It would appear whoever has taken up residence here has decided to keep quite the collection for themselves. The stuff outside must have been the reject pile for their interior decorating.
I hate to admit it, but I could easily see Griff getting a little overwhelmed with how easy it would be to abuse time travel and grab every shiny thing he sets his eyes on before disappearing off to some other time and realm. Heck, even I would have a hard time not succumbing to that temptation.
Our footsteps echo through the vast hall as we near the opposite end. There are several other halls jutting off along the way. Outside of the three of us, these halls appear to be completely devoid of people.
I guess we must have just set up business and haven’t had the time to bring in all the hired help quite yet.
We reach the large wooden doors on the opposite end of the hall and with a great creaking, they open, seemingly on their own. The room within is dark, causing my eyes to need to adjust as we enter. I can just make out the throne we had seen Uthyr sit on hundreds of years from now.
“Greetings!” I hear a familiar voice shout from within. “I had wondered how long it would be before you arrived.”
I see a figure seated in the throne, with another figure standing alongside.
“Well?” the figure says, standing as we are shoved further into the room. “Are you going to say hello?”
“Who the hell are you?” Griff asks.
“Gentlemen, thank you for your diligence. I assure you will be greatly rewarded,” the figure says as he waves his hands in dismissal.
“But, I’d much rather talk about—“
“Leave us!” the figure commands. Tenney and Noll leave hastily, the door shutting loudly behind them.
“I said, who the hell are you?” Griff repeats.
“Oh, dear Griff, I’m surprised you don’t remember me. Or perhaps we haven’t had our time together yet? I’m still somewhat confused about this whole time travel nonsense.”
“You must not have made much of an impact on me,” Griff growls.
“Then perhaps I should shed some light on the subject,” the figure chuckles before clapping his hands together. At the sound, the room fills with a bright light, causing me to have to squint under the change. “The Clapper,” the figure continues. “It’s a magical thing, isn’t it?”
“Wyllt?” Griff says weakly. “Is that really you?”
“Oh, look. You do remember me!”
“I’m kind of surprised you remember me,” Griff continues. “You were a lot older the last time we talked.”
“Ah, I’m glad to see my life still has some length left to it. I have to admit I was somewhat concerned what your arrival might mean for me.”
My eyes have now adjusted and I can’t help but notice the person standing beside the throne wearing a beautiful flowing green gown. It’s a face I’m unfortunately incredibly familiar with. From the mirror.
“What are you doing here?” I say to myself as I step forward. “Why are you here, with him?”
“Ah, my young Chelle. I have to say, I’m not sure this spirited version of you is nearly as attractive as my own queen.”
“Your queen?” I spit. “What sick deed did you do to make me ever even consider becoming your queen?”
“Oh, I assure you that you were quite happy to make the decision to stay here with me,” he says as he walks to the other-me’s side and caresses her face. She doesn’t seem to react at all.
“What sort of sick game is this?” Griff asks.
“What did you do to me?” I scream. I run in their direction. Griff holds me back.
“Not yet, Chelle. We don’t know what he’s capable of.”
“I did not expect the two of you to react quite so poorly to finding me here. I had somewhat expected you to be happy about it all.”
“How so?” I growl.
“Don’t you understand? You live, Chelle.”
“I’d hardly consider being your silent slave a form of living.”
“Oh, you’re not silent,” Wyllt disagrees. “Chelle, why don’t you speak for yourself?”
“Hello, Chelle,” Other-me says flatly. “How are you?”
“She definitely doesn’t sound right to me,” I spit. “What did you do to her?”
“I don’t know,” Wyllt shrugs honestly. “You were this way when I found you. Maybe you change?”
“I am fine,” Other-me says.
“Hold on a sec,” Griff says, walking up the steps purposefully. He approaches Other-Chelle and touches her on the shoulder. “You’re mighty cold there, kid,” he says to Other-Me.
“I am fine,” she answers.
“Are you human?” Griff asks.
“No, I am a series X10 personal service android, release software fourt—“
“There you go, Chelle,” Griff says, seeming undisturbed by this turn of events. He looks to me with a knowing look in his eyes. “It’s not you.”
“You made a robot version of me?” I yell at Wyllt, running up the steps to inspect the work.
“Robot?” Wyllt says confused.
“Yeah, as in, fake person, not real, mechanical woman.”
“I can assure you, everything about my queen is pure woman.”
“Ew,” I squeal, looking in the eyes of the robotic version of myself. “How dare you?”
“It was purely consensual.”
“Where did she come from?” Griff asks, returning to the android’s side to inspect the work.
She looks as though she’s about ten years older than me, making me feel happy to know I seem to have aged well. Outside of the blank eyes, I don’t see anything which immediately shows she’s anything other than pure human.
Griff is a little less delicate in his inspection for the cybernetic bits.
“Hey there, pal,” I say to him. “Hands off the goods.”
“They aren’t yours. And she doesn’t mind,” he says with a shrug. “You don’t mind, do you Robo-Chelle?”
“If you are looking for my service port, the access hatch is located within the area directly underneath my shoulder blades. Please utilize the button located on the center of my back to release the hatch.”
“That doesn’t mean you get to get all handsy,” I warn.
“Fine,” Griff says, putting his hands up in the air as if surrendering. “You do the honor.”
I look at Robo-Me’s back and see there is a zipper, which is not quite as anachronistic as an android in the Middle Ages, but still pretty well out of place. I unzip the dress to expose the center of her back and feel around before finally finding a notch which feels like a soft vertebrae. I press on the odd bump and with a beep a square foot of skin slides down, exposing a series of lights and circuitry.
“Well, she wasn’t lying,” I sigh in relief. “She’s definitely a robot.”
Wyllt comes to my side, looks at the unexplored portion of his queen’s body, and lets out a soft scream. “What have you done? Where is my wife?”
“Looks like this is her,” Griff chuckles. “Don’t suppose you’ve got any robo-kids running around, do you?”
“My wife and I have long struggled with the disappointment of infertility.”
“Well, looks like you’ve finally found out the reason why.”
“But why is she here?” I ask. “Why would there be a robotic version of me in the Middle Ages? Or a robotic version of anyone for that matter.”
“Now that,” Griff says, eyeing up Wyllt dangerously, “is a question that I for one would really like to have answered.”
“What?” Wyllt says as he shuffles away from the demented-looking Griff.
“Where did you find Robo-Chelle?”
“That’s kind of hard to explain,” he explains poorly.
“You better get to explaining,” I warn. “I’m not too big a fan of knowing someone’s been running around with a duplicate of my body.”
“I didn’t know, I promise. I thought it was you, and when you showed interest in me, well, I mean, it’s not like too many people actually express much interest in me. I’ve learned to not ask questions when a beautiful woman says she loves me and promises me everything.”
“She promised you everything?”
“Yes, how do you think I got here? She’s the one responsible for bringing me to the throne.”
I turn slowly on my heel and eye up my doppelganger once again, noting her blank eyes staring at me. “What is he talking about?” I ask myself. “What are you doing here?”
“That information has been designated as classified,” she says with what I’m pretty sure is a fair amount of snark.
“Where do you come from?” Griff shouts at the woman who is not human. “Who sent you here?”
“That information has been designated as classified.”
“Wyllt,” I say, turning on my heel again as I fear I’ve begun to realize what’s going on here. “Where did you find her?”
“Like I said, she found me. I was just a simple sharecropper. She was the one who knew what to do to get us here. If it weren’t for her, I’m pretty sure I’d still be on the farm.”
“What about your friend, The Wizard?” I accuse. “Where is he?”
“Myrddin, the evil man who killed everything I loved about this damned town,” Griff growls. “Where the hell is he?”
“I honestly have no clue what you’re talking about. All I know is this girl found me and has sent me all around the globe and time in order to prepare this town and set myself up as king.”
“But why?” I ask incredulously. “Why would she want to set you up as king?”
“If someone comes up to you and asks you if you want to be king, would you ask why?”
“Yes, I most definitely would,” Griff answers.
“That is a question I can answer,” Robo-Chelle answers. I hear a whirring coming from within her that sends a chill right up my spine.
“Um, Griff,” I say anxiously, “I’m thinking it might be time for us to run.”
Without thinking, Griff pulls me down the stairs. Just as we reach the bottom, I hear the unmistakable sound of machine gun fire, which I’ve learned about from all the war movies Griff has made me watch over the course of the couple months. I look up as we bolt toward the entrance and see Robo-Chelle’s arms have been replaced with a pair of large assault rifles.
“What the hell is going on here?” Griff yells at me as we enter the long hallway.
“Well, if I had to guess,” I say, gasping for breath and sprinting as fast as I know how, “I’d say The Wizard sent a robot back in time to kill us.”
“Like The Terminator?”
“Yeah, pretty much exactly like The Terminator.”
“Awesome,” he says as he plows into the exterior door.
“Yeah,” I agree, “totally awesome.”
He pulls the door open and we slip outside. Slamming the door behind us and pausing for a moment to get our bearings straight, we notice Noll and Tenney are still outside standing by their wagon.
“What’s that then?” Tenney grins. “Trying to escape again, are you?”
The door blasts open behind us in a loud explosion of flame and stonework, sending me and Griff flying through the air. We land at Noll’s feet.
Noll lifts me off the ground and gives me a questioning look. I look over my shoulder at the now-smoking hole in the side of the castle and see the face of my future robotic-self enter view wearing an evil grimace.
“Can we get a ride?” Griff asks nervously, jumping into the back of the wagon.
Tenney, not missing a beat, hops onto the back of his horse and turns the wagon around toward the gate. Noll throws me into the wagon and jumps in behind me, causing the horse to be taken off-balance momentarily before Tenney forces him to speed forward.
I look and see Robo-Chelle folding herself in half. Just as we exit under the gate, I’m pretty sure I see wheels come out from her chest. It’s like some sort of crazy nightmare as we make our way across the narrow bridge over the open chasm.
Robo-Chelle appears at the gateway as a rocket shoots out from somewhere on her. In a sense of panic, I take off my shoe and throw it at the approaching projectile.
Amazingly it makes contact, creating a great explosion just feet away from us which sends our cart flying forward.
We land and narrowly avoid falling off the edge of the bridge and into the brink. I hear cracking below and see there’s a great hole in the bridge which is getting bigger by the second.
“Go!” Griff screams. “Faster!”
The cart jerks forward, shaking underneath us as the road continues to disappear. Through the smoke, I see Robo-Chelle paused at the edge of the destruction. I pray to myself she doesn’t have some sort of helicopter blade set-up built into her skull.
We make it to the end of the bridge with plenty of time to spare as the rest of it crumbles away behind us. Almost tilting the cart onto its side, we turn right and head down the street. Noll and Tenney both look as though they had seen the devil himself. I can’t help but think the same thing.
“What the hell?” Griff yells while panting for breath.
“What the hell is right!” Tenney yells back at us. “What was that thing?”
“I had hoped to avoid telling all of you this,” I answer, feeling a calm wash over me as I begin the lie, “but the reason I had been on the run is because a monster has taken over the throne. This monster is so keen on usurping my power that I fear it may be willing to destroy everything we’ve built.”
“I ain’t never seen no sort of monster like dat before,” Noll whines.
“Have you ever seen any sort of monster?” Griff snarls.
“Well, dat depends on what you consider a monster.”
“That’s a monster!” Tenney yells. “I ain’t never seen nothing like that. We have to leave town!”
“That won’t be enough,” I reply as I take off the shoe from my left foot and throw it off the cart. “Do you guys know of anywhere we can hide around here?”
“I do,” Griff smiles.
Go to Chapter Forty-Three