A gray dawn opened clear and fair, the patchwork land spreading out from the window like a picture Collie dropped her stitching and stared hard, watching through the glass as though she could melt it. The glass shivered. Collie swiped at her eyes and stifled a sob that rose up in her throat inadvertently. “I mustn’t let it,” she said to herself.
“What’s that old girl?” Quinn dashed into the room, for it could be called nothing else. His blouse blossomed around him and the colorful diamonds all interconnected dizzied her. She looked through tears at the shapes that quivered, like so many flowers on a vine. He tucked a strand of her blonde hair behind her porcelain ear.
“Don’t break darling,” was his soothing suggestion. She shuddered and looked out the window. The glass shattered and sprinkled all over her white cotton dress. She picked up a shard and held it to the light, the sun shot through it brilliantly and it lit up like a diamond.
“I do wish you’d quit doing that. How many windows do you think Casanova wants to replace?”
“Oh well,” she sighed softly.
“Yes, no bother for you is it? But are you going to break the news?” He paused and glanced about, watching her brush the glass off her dress. “More have been taken.”
“How could you though?”
“Inside. I just know it. Don’t ask me.”
“Collie, do you want to play cards?”
“Yes, I’ll be the Queen of Diamonds,” she laughed softly and brushed an errant strand of hair away. Her blue eyes sparkled where the tears had pooled.
Her fingernails were flecked with gold. Quinn studied them with indifference. What did it matter if nails were painted anymore?
Casanova stepped into the room, deep in discussion with Doc. He pushed his spectacles up his bulbous red nose and sniffled. He looked like a storybook character. Casanova looked displeased, with a bright red cap standing sharply with a feather dashing out, black tights and a red doublet. Quite fashionably unfashionable. What was fashion anymore? Post-fashion. Quinn shivered.
Casanova bellowed with a shove to Doc’s shoulder. “We cannot allow anymore to be taken!”
“What will you have me do?” Doc asked, not un-amicably.
Music played hauntingly, the decided striking of piano keys, it rocked them all into a sort of trance. “Oh Pierrot….” Collie looked suddenly mystified and pursed her lips.
“Would you make him cease that infernal music!?” Casanova raged, one hand thrust forward in a comic representation of anger.
“Quit being so affected,” Collie said sharply.
“This is a pure disaster.”
Quinn stalked across the room, his diamond pants dancing with the movement. Everyone looked still for a moment, as though caught in a painting, a moment of pure action mingled with thought. The sun came in through the broken window and seemed to light upon all within with a kind of lazy magic. “I can see through the haze,” Collie said softly.
“Quite right, quite right,” Doc murmured. “We shall yet poison the bots.”
“It’s him we want, not just the bots,” Casanova rounded, the feather dancing jauntily in the cap.
“The devil with Rousseau, what about Voltaire?” Quinn looked at them quizzically through his gray eyes. His brows shifted downwards, dark and straight. His square chin caving in as he sucked his cheeks in and bit them till they bled.
“We must deal with one problem at a time,” Casanova replied casually. “And to do that we need to start making progress. We snatched only one last week, we have to do better.”
“But we are all so tired!” Collie stretched out lazily.
Pierrot walked in, his hands hanging at his side, his face downcast. “It will storm,” he said simply.
“We heard you playing, why do you play so mournfully?” Quinn asked him.
“It’s my soul trying to escape. It longs for heaven.”
Casanova remained silent but Collie ran to him.
“Oh Pierre dear, do not fret, I will mend all,” she petted him and he smiled kindly at his wife.
“Colombina, you are too pure.”
Everyone looked perplexed until a knock on the door in the hall released them as though from a trance. Collie leapt a pace away, withdrawing two pistols from thigh holsters. Quinn pulled out a dagger that was nearly a sword, marked up with multi-colored diamonds. Casanova jumped onto a rafter in the ceiling and clung perilously, while Pierrot began humming softly as he stepped behind a curtain.
Doc ran to the door, an unseen vial clutched behind his back.
The door opened of its own accord, listening to the Doc’s untold commands. The hinges did not squeak, it opened soundlessly to reveal two skelehumans. Doc did not flinch but bowed his head slightly. “What can I do for you gentlemen?” he asked with demure politeness.
“We are here for routine scan checks on Union orders,” answered one in a metallic voice.
“I suppose you have proper marks of identification?” the other asked.
Doc nodded morosely. “Come in, come in,” he gestured widely. “So sorry about the clutter, not here much you see.”
“What use has anyone for a doctor?” one asked suspiciously.
“Yes, we are self-healing products, we do not require medical attentions,” the other replied.
“Indeed!” Doc answered amiably. “But there are still undesired after-effects in some post-humans that require my services.”
“Abortions – self-termination often fails in the earlier models, some want emotions, others want to rid themselves of emotions –”
“We are not programmed with emotional capabilities,” answered the second.
“Indeed!” Doc repeated. “Yet some desire that function, they want to feel connected to their partner in some more meaningful way than just wires and bolts you see.”
“Are you separating yourself from them Doctor?”
“My speech is intended to separate myself from all clients. But of course not.”
“Yet you have emotions.”
The red eyes scanned the foyer intently, buzzing and clicking as they went. Their ugly metal skin did not cover their skeleton shape that illuminated like so much phosphorous.
“Luminescence,” the Doc said.
“Repeat and explain,” one answered him.
“You yourselves glow bright from the fluids circulating inside you. Some seek artificial tweaking such as yourselves, luminescence. There always has to be someone to fix things or pretty them up as the case may be.” He pushed his spectacles up his bulbous nose.
One nodded sharply, metal on metal.
As the skelehumans drew closer into the drawing room, an eerie hum started to vibrate through the air. “Non-human detection made,” beeped one of the bots.
Casanova jumped down from the rafter and landed on top of one of the skelehumans. It writhed like so much flesh and quickly threw Casanova from atop it. Collie ran out firing her pistols, the bullets buried themselves in the silver flesh but the thing just hissed like a snake.
Collie stared hard, concentrating all her energy on one great attempt. “Break them honey!” yelled Pierrot who began singing softly to himself. The chandelier in the foyer began to chime and jingle as Pierrot’s lulling voice hummed through the air.
While their sensory intake began to overload, Quinn threw his brilliant dagger through the air. It embedded itself into the red eye socket of one of them. It collapsed on the ground, oozing purplish blood. The dagger ejected itself and flew to Quinn’s hand, the purple blood staining the diamonds. Quinn cursed while the air around him grew more and more stifling.
Casanova kicked and spun, knocking the second to the ground again. Collie’s advances had reduced the thing to clutching its ears helplessly until the metal fingernails shattered.
“Come on Collie! Can’t you manage more?” Casanova yelled bitterly while pummeling the downed enemy. The first one writhed about until it stilled, a purple tinge to its skeleton flesh. The strength of the bots was overwhelming, despite their being only simple models. “I can’t hold him much longer!” Casanova shouted. Doc unstoppered the vial behind his back and splashed it onto the foul fiend, a hissing directly erupted in the room as the steaming metallic flesh burbled and hissed.
Pierrot raised his voice until the pieces of the chandelier released themselves and came flying in to impale the prostrate victim. Casanova froze, amidst a sea of sparkling glass sticking out of the bot. “Thanks,” Casanova said quietly.
Collie fired her pistols into the dead flesh for satisfaction, frustrated she couldn’t do more.
“Wife,” Pierrot scolded.
She sighed and blew on a pistol for good measure. The air was thick.
“We have to leave. Now.” Casanova jumped up off the ground and ran to gather any necessaries.
“We were going to play cards,” Collie whined.
Quinn grinned and chucked her under the chin. He had just finished wiping the purple blood off his blade, it sparkled again.
“You can be Queen of Hearts for now, we need you to disable their organs so they don’t transmit their location.”
Collie sighed deeper. “But it takes so much work.”
“All you do is stand there and stare at them though,” Doc rejoined.
“Yes and it is so dreadful. I have to imagine the shattering of the bloody and vulgar things. Pulsing and beating just as happy as you please. All that wiring is such a fuss. And it’s so messy.”
“Perhaps you should stop wearing white?” suggested her husband.
She shrugged and turned her mind to destruction while the others gathered up their things. “Rousseau will be on us by nightfall. Let’s hope we can secrete ourselves away before then,” Casanova said reentering the room with a trunk.
Collie watched in dignified fascination as her work was completed and the chests of the skelehumans exploded unceremoniously.