The little girl flinches, stepping back and hugging the teddy bear and Granny Chun’s leg. “Well what did you expect?” says the old woman. “You come here looking like some badass, muscle-head man and expect your daughter to recognise you?”
The Anvil steps back, shakes her head. Chun is right. What prompted her to make such an extreme change? Armatures come in female forms. Why take on a male version?
“Of course. I bet you’re thinking ‘why didn’t I take a female form?’” says Chun, rolling her eyes. “You’re just as stupid now as you were then.” The Anvil is taken aback—she still has no memory of who she was before, other than that she was the mother of Violet. She pops another two memjets for good measure.
“You keep popping those pills and who knows how your synapses are going to resculpt,” says Chun, grabbing the packet from the Anvil’s hand. She’s fast for a wizened, cranky old crone. “You’ll probably end up brain damaged, if you’re not already.”
“I need those,” says the Anvil, reaching.
Chun holds them back and wags her finger sternly. “Of course, you do. But better to see how much of your recall comes back naturally, rather than pushing your limits with memjet.”
The Anvil regards the old woman suspiciously. “And just what makes you an expert on Armature rebirths?”
Chun smiles slyly. “Who do you think recommended the upgrade?” She places the box of pills in her pocket. “Of course, I never said use a male version. What, did you think having a dick would make you tougher? Now that’s just sad.” Violet giggles, while still clinging and hiding behind Granny Chun’s lower leg.
“I need to get my daughter out of here,” says the Anvil. Her expressionless masculine face belies any concern. She’s not sure how she feels, yet. Maybe that, too, will come back in time.
Chun laughs. “Of course, you do. And where were you planning on taking her? You don’t even know why you’re here.”
The Anvil looks perturbed. The old crone has a point. “What would you suggest?”
Chun picks up Violet and hangs her on her hip. The girl chews her teddy’s ear (already dog- eared, no doubt her go-to in times of stress). “I’ll accompany you.” Chun goes behind the blanket dividing the room. The Anvil can see her infrared silhouette pulling gear from a cupboard. Violet is a multicoloured vision flicking her legs back and forth as she sits on the bed where Chun deposited her.
A few minutes later Chun emerges with full flexiplas body armour, ion ammo belts for her pumpgun and a wicked looking, six-inch NESblade in a scabbard on her right boot. “Of course, I’m prepared.”
“Where did you get all of that?” says the Anvil.
“From you, idiot. Before you rebirthed.”
The Anvil scratches her head. As insulting as this old witch is, her presence is reassuring. Or maybe that’s just the way the Anvil’s new brain thinks about someone before smashing them.
Violet exits wearing a sleeveless flak jacket. “Sorry, sweetie,” says Chun, kneeling to check the fit. “I don’t have anything else in your size. We missed the kid’s battledress Christmas specials.”
Chun stands and faces the Anvil. “Have you fully assimilated the guide yet?”
“I think so.” The answer is more hopeful than the Anvil would like.
More eye rolling from Chun. “If we get in a jam I don’t want a multiple choice from you when I’m asking for a mega-joule microwave emitter.” The Anvil smiles, but deep down she’s feeling a level of anxiety she isn’t used to (or is she—was she anxious before? Damn her useless memory).
The Anvil kneels next to Violet. “I have a compartment for you, Violet, in my back. It’ll keep you safer than that jacket.” The area of the Anvil’s back from splenius capitis to latissimus dorsi, opens like a multi-segmented flower. The portions lengthen fluidly and join to form an armoured capsule that extends from the rear of the Anvil’s torso. At the top, a clear plassteel cover has formed where Violet’s head will be, so she can see. Violet looks to Granny Chun for guidance. “It’s okay, sweetie,” says Chun. “It may look like a stupid male, but it is, in fact, your stupid mother.”
The tiny girl, gripping her teddy tightly, climbs cautiously into the compartment, which seals around her. At first, she is alarmed, but once the Anvil stands she calms and starts to laugh at the wonderful ride. It’s like she’s being permanently piggybacked in a super-strong baby carrier.
Chun and the Anvil step out of the crude shack onto the concourse. The stalls are empty, without movement. The familiar sights and sounds and smells have vacated like the passing of a puissant hallucinogen. A lone, shadowed figure stands not far from the pair, nestled between a throng of wicker baskets and laminated jackets.
“You’re not going anywhere,” it says in an amplified voice fit to grind calcium from bone shards. In response about twenty red targeting optics appear on the Anvil’s chest, laser lines knifing back to covered snipers positioned around the complex.
“Of course, we beg to disagree,” says Chun, cocking her pumpgun.
To be continued…
Missed earlier instalments? Click here.
What is ANVIL?
ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’ve created to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.
Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.