Just before Mass tonight I let out a little laugh. Never knowing what I’m up to my wife looked me a question.
“Just saw part of a story,” I said. I’d been making correxions to the newly re-edited version of “The Fourth Law” all day, so it was a surprise to suddenly have this story break in. Nonetheless, it was a pleasure to see what I did. The ironic part is that what I saw doesn’t happen until pt.6!
Gary fired. His right eye looking through the rifle’s site told him he was –
“Low and right,” came the rich woman’s voice from behind his left where he lay, chambering the next cartridge.
There was a *crack!* from Faustina’s rifle, also from his left.
“Low and right; you are not his twin, Namesake! Do that again and I’ll clout you!” The woman spoke again. Faustina tittered.
He fired again.
“Right. Consider the slight breeze, Gary.”
His sister fired.
“Right. What about the breeze did you not get?”
“Empty,” he called.
“Empty!” Faustina; pleased with herself.
“Stand,” said the woman behind them. They left their rifles stood, turning about as they did.
Six feet tall and still in her biking leathers from when she met them, Fausta’s combat android looked down at the two children with her slightly creepy crystalline search array: what that form had instead of eyes.
“Gary, you’re an excellent marksman for a young human male but I expect better.” Tactful as ever. “Namesake? One hundred yards is wasted on you. Set your targets at two hundred from now on!”
“And don’t call me that!”
Gary saw a blur. Where his sister had been Fausta was, her hands over her head. Was that yelling from the sky? He looked up as Faustina reached her apogee and began her return to Earth.
“Promise you’ll do better?” The machine asked.
“Yes…” He was getting a little uncomfortable. “You are going to catch – ?”
Without looking up she took a half-step back held out her arms. Faustina collapsed into them.
“That wasn’t funny!” She balled her hands into fists and pummeled Fausta’s armored chest. “I must have been fifty feet up!”
“Closer to seventy-five. Keep hitting me and I’ll try for one hundred.”
“I do think of you as my godmother!” She sulked.
“Kah, kah!” Fausta’s odd laugh. “I’m aware, Namesake!”
She pressed her lips to the top of Faustina’s head.
“I just enjoy playing with you!” She tilted her head to bring her array onto Gary. “Both of you!”
“Shall we go to your home? I would like to see your mother and father, too,” Fausta said.
“Yay!” Faustina cried.
It’d been quite the surprise, three hours earlier.
“Why can’t we just put up targets in our backyard?” Faustina complained as they rode their bikes to the outdoor rifle range.
“Because if we missed that nice elderly couple in the farm behind ours might die, little sister,” Gary replied, pedaling next to her.
She shot him a look.
“We don’t miss, brother!”
“I know we don’t. I also know that – for all mother and father know and suspect about us – they would never give in to such a request. So why fight it?”
He kept pedaling at her usual response to losing an argument. A split-second after Faustina, his head came up at the sound down the road ahead of them.
“A motorcycle,” he said. “Unusual.”
“Maybe one of the O.R. machinists put it together…?” His sister ventured.
They came to the top of a slight rise. At the top of the slightly higher next their destination was on their right. The cyclist just cleared that hill and was headed towards them.
“Stop, sister.” It was a bother, sometimes, to have to vocalize things like that when there was no signal. It made both of them uncomfortable. His Intended had explained to him that the vast, vast majority of the world was without signal, so he tanjed well better get used to it.
The biker must have seen them, too. He stopped at the nadir between the two hills.
“What do you see?” Gary knew her beautiful turquoise eyes were even better than his.
“Saddlebags; content unknown. A katana over one shoulder and the stock of a semi-auto rifle over the other,” she reported.
The rider gunned his engine and came towards them.
“Dismount. Stand to!” Gary called.
They stepped off their bicycles and let them fall. Moving right to the ground next to the road they brought their bolt-action rifles into their hands and waited.
The rider drew to the rise of their hill and turned his bike to just slightly point towards the two kids. A full helmet occluding all of his face.
“What was…?” Faustina whispered.
“What?” He tried, sotto voce.
He killed the motor and lowered the kickstand. He got off slowly, his face never leaving the two.
“Safeties off,” Gary said calmly. Life in the former US was like this. He didn’t raise his rifle to his shoulder but he did point it.
“Stop. Who are you and what do you want?” He called.
The rider stopped. For a moment, no one moved. He raised both hands and pointed toward his helmet. Gary nodded.
Pulling it off, a mass of dark brown hair cascaded out. He heard the *snik* as Faustina put her safety back on just before tossing her rifle into the grass. She ran.
“FAUSTA!” She cried, running and leaping into the android’s arms.
Gary let his breath out with a tiny shudder. He flicked the safety and slung his rifle over his back before walking toward their visitor. He didn’t bother putting his hand out to the one that had saved his life eleven years ago.
“Gary! You’re so big in your home!” Fausta boomed with her slightly Hispanic accent. Holding his sister with her left, she leaned down and gathered him into her right. He embraced her.
“Fausta.” His typical tonelessness. “I am happy to see you. What brings this form to Knoxville?”