Part Two – Tea For Two
The hatch of the gleaming retro space car hissed open. Alex whimpered and dodged back inside his house; being woken up in the night was a bad start, but now it had become dramatically worse. There was clearly nowhere to hide effectively, except by running out of the front door which would only result in a pathetic chase culminating in his ignominious death in an alley. The shiny spaceship-car was unmistakably Galaxy Team, as was the landing. It would be a bloody death. Alex had watched the family of high tech lunatics take care of one of their own in proper gangster style – a memorable evening. He remembered every moment of the killing, especially when Man Ho’Tujsk gave him a big hairy wink and then strolled away. Being left to live and (not, very definitely not) tell the tale just wasn’t their usual style. It made him feel very uncomfortable; Alex had been curtain twitching ever since.
Alex dithered in the kitchen. He opened and closed the cutlery drawer. Stacked up his unopened post. Checked he was still tucked in. In a fit of nervous energy he put the kettle on and faffed a bit more. Gravel crunched outside in the ominous way that only gravel can manage and the light in the kitchen faded away. Alex stood in darkness, hefting the ice axe unconvincingly. Blue light poured slowly through the panes in the back door and soaked the kitchen tiles with a cool glow. The gravel crunched with excessive menace as if someone were grinding their feet on the scabby mat Alex kept outside the back door.
Next there came a knock on the glass; followed with slight hesitation by a second weaker tap and a more confident third. With each tap the lights flared back up and faded away again. A pause. The knocks came again, slightly harder and with consequently fiercer pulsing of the bulbs. Crap. They probably knew he was in. Probably because they’d seen him in his pajamas. Turning on the kitchen light would likely have reinforced this. Alex had made many mistakes, he didn’t feel he was learning from them. The third round of knocking was much louder and two of the flimsy halogen light bulbs exploded like miniature fireworks; the kettle boiled.
With a daring display of nonchalance Alex opened the back door which he had failed to lock. His grip was slippery on the handle and his mouth was dry. He managed a weak, “oh hello” as the door swung open. Before him stood the brilliance of the Boytronic Wonder. He seemed human enough at the top, except for the silver tendrils that ran beneath his skin, tiny lights winking in his neck. From there down he became steadily squarer and blockier, his t-shirt’s Nike logo drawn tightly over the odd protrusions and angles that bent and deformed his torso. His legs were full on wind-up tin toy robot and they shuffled awkwardly as if his key was running down. The Wonder’s eyes (one human blue, the other a terrifying kill ‘bot red) met Alex’ eyes and looked down, embarrassed.
“Oh, hello,” said the semi-human half-robot killing machine, “I hope I’m not disturbing you.”
“Umm,” said Alex, struggling for vocabulary in the small hours, “no, I was only sleeping.”
“Right,” said the Wonder, “look, I’m sorry about your shed-”
“It’s a garage, it’s just built the wrong way round.”
“-Garage then,” he turned to glance down the garden, his body revolved smoothly at the waist like Alex’ old Action Man. “Sorry about that. I just didn’t want to park on the road – it’s a bit too obtrusive.”
“Sure. Well, you’re here, I’m awake,” Alex stumbled into conversation, and waved vaguely at the steaming kettle. “Would you like a cup of tea?” Social conventions are there to fall back upon whenever one’s brain ceases to function; they navigate us smoothly through awkward conversations with doorstepping local politicians and help us to invite psychotic cyborgs into our homes. Well done good manners.
“Oh, if it’s no trouble.” The Boytronic Wonder’s eyes fell on the ice axe still gripped in Alex’ fist.
“Sorry. Thought it was kids,” Alex rested the axe against the door frame, “come in.”
Alex stepped back to allow the metal man to shuffle awkwardly into his home. He cast a worried eye over the 1930s ladder-back chairs which suddenly looked terribly fragile under the Boytronic Wonder’s reaching fingers.
“I’m a leaner,” said the Wonder, releasing the chair and settling back against the chimney breast. The radiator promptly buckled under the weight of his legs.
Reluctantly Alex closed the door and turned back to the kettle. Silence hung in the air between them like an ugly beaded curtain. Alex made the tea, with a minimum of teaspoon rattling or nervous eyeing of the cyborg’s reflection in the cupboard door. The last time they’d almost met Alex had been half-buried in rubble, able to only watch while seen the Boytronic Wonder levelled a ludicrously oversized weapon at one of his brothers and blasted him into a thin film of ex-personhood. Alex had every reason to be afraid, not least because he’d secretly recorded that encounter on his phone, and yet… Alex got the feeling that the powerful being destroying his radiator (and probably the structural integrity of his house) was the more nervous of the two of them.
Now that he was paying attention, freed from thought by the meditative ritual of mashing tea bags against the mug wall just the right number of times to make a perfectly average cup of tea, Alex noticed the waves of anxiety rippling out from the manbot. His unexpected guest was upset about something. That made Alex feel rather better, though a contrary thought that maybe the Wonder was just anticipating having to kill Alex skewed the calm into stomach twisting alarm. If total carnage (Galaxy Team’s usual style for everything from buying coffee to family disputes) were intended, Alex doubted that the only casualty would have been his garage.
He sucked in a quick breath and turned, fingers twisted awkwardly round the mug handles. Words died in his mouth once more as the Boytronic Wonder burst into tears. Sparks spattered and singed the lino as the tears flowed along the silver strips in his cheeks. Alex barely noticed the burning sensation in his knuckles as hot tea splashed onto the floor.
Is the weeping just a ruse? Will Alex be summarily executed? Will his radiator need to be replaced?
Find out next week in Part Three of: A Cyborg Calls
Read more Galaxy Team adventures
Read more Alex Trepan stories
- A Cyborg Calls – Part 1 (captainpigheart.com)