Dust roiled by as the pickup truck idled. The door unlatched, and a figure descended. Spurs jangled on cowboy boots as it approached the motionless figure in the ditch.

“You all right there, pardner?” The vaguely feminine voice was lit through with static, crackling and altering in pitch like a broken synthesizer. “You look lower’n a ground snake in front of a combine.”

Arris coughed. “Why are you wearing spurs…if you’re driving a truck?”

“Well, lookee there! A sign of life, praise be. Let’s get a lookit’cha.” A hard boot nosed under Arris’s chest and he winced as he was flopped on his back. “Jus’ flip ya like an ole johnnycake there.”

After his pupils had stopped screaming and adjusted to the sudden influx of light, Arris could see his rescuer. It was an android, probably an old NX-6 model. But it was impossibly tarted up, sporting not only a pair of spurred boots, but also a set of bluejean overalls, a plaid pink shirt with handkerchief, and a massive ten-gallon Stetson. The overalls had two sets of wear; one human-shaped, another where the servomotion joints of the NX-6 had rubbed against it. The Stetson was pink, as was every possible accent on the android’s outfit, and a pair of blond ponytails dangled from the hat as well.

Not from the android’s head, mind; they were attached to the cowgirl’s Stetson.

“Well, we got ourselves a stranger in need of rescuin’, wouldn’tcha say?” the robot continued. It extended a hand that terminated in a pink-and-white buckskin fringe glove. The face above them, two lit oculars and a square mouth, could hardly be said to look as friendly as the Western twang emanating from them.

Arris weakly batted the hand away. “Hallucination…” he mumbled. “Leave me be.”

A moment later, he was sitting up and wide-eyed in terror, his ears ringing. The robot had drawn a revolver from one of its pockets and fired it into the dirt at Arris’s feet.

“I SAID, we got ourselves a STRANGER here in need of RESCUIN’,” the NX-6 screamed. “When Sally’s EXTENDIN’ the hand of FRIENDSHIP, the only sort what bats it away are DUMB, MEAN, or CROOKED. You best tell me RIGHT NOW which of them it is, and if I hear anything other than a ‘YES MA’AM I AM SORRY FOR BEING DUMB’ I will END you with this here Schofield. You READ ME, cowpoke? You PICKIN’ UP what I’m TRANSMITTIN’? Or do I need to say it in BINARY MACHINE CODE to get it through that THICK CHASSIS OF YOURS?”

“Y-es ma’am,” said Arris. “I’m sorry for being dumb. I see now that you are not a hallucination.”

“Well, howdy to you too.” The NX-6, “Sally,” spun her revolver like a trick shooter and replaced it in an inner pocket. “Now, let’s get you in the truck and back to the ranch, eh?”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!
Advertisements