THE DAUGHTER OF DORAN

3

BURT MANNE'S DESTROYER

 

SPRING

Aeryalday, 17th of Snowmelt, 3830 AR

Duchy of Keldor

(12/12/2016)

 

            “What the hell happened to you?” asked an older mechanic with gray hair and a thick mustache as Veyd came walking up in just her slip covered in black and blue bruises up and down. He was getting ready for the day when he just happened to see her walking by.
            “Interesting story,” Veyd replied and shook her dirty hair around a bit. It was early, about six in the morning, the sun not yet up but the sky turning a lighter shade of blue. “It turns out, shockingly, that bigger girls can be bitches sometimes.”
            “Not in this town,” he stated simply. “The women of Oakmud are all ladies.”
            “Yeah, I think you might be wrong about that and Oakmud, really? This place is called Oakmudd?”
            “You got a problem with this town’s name?”
            “Sure do,” Veyd replied with a laugh. “Seriously though, I did get beat up by a bunch of girls.”
            “Really?” he replied mockingly.
            Her eyes narrowed. “Yes,” she replied and then, mimicking his mocking voice added, “Really.”

*          *          *

            Veyd stumbled out of woods with her hair hanging down around her face several pounds lighter into a group of five young women in their mid to late teens hanging out by campfire smoking marijuana.
            “Whew, that was wild,” said Veyd and got no response. She had not eaten anything but berries and nuts enchanted to remove poison for two days. All five girls were all looking at her strangely. “Well hey there—other girls.”
            They all had a vaguely sexualized look, low cut dresses and shirts, short or no sleeves, short skirts or tight pants, etc. etc. but also poor, farm girls with farm muscle, that Veyd could easily see even with only a bare margin of light in the air.
            The apparent leader was a tall girl with dark hair cut short at the chin wearing sleeved purple shirt that ended somewhere above her waist between tight jeans showed off her legs revealing just enough skin to sense sculpted abs.
            “Well what do we have here?” she asked and tossed out her joint into the fire. The others did the same without a word.
            “I think it’s fairly evident—” they all started to walk around her “—am I going to get my ass kicked?”           
            “Could be?” the leader replied.
            Veyd had quick flashbacks of her temple days. Talia disciples, despite the goddess being one of great dignity and pacifistic leanings, could be mean little bastards. Something to do with her being one of the two highest of the gods, the Queen of the Heavens, perhaps. Whatever it was Alan Veyd was beaten mercilessly for years, the worst being the time they mistimed their beating, got caught and were expelled.
            “Nice earrings,” said the leader.
            “They match my eyes.” Veyd took a deep breath. “So, girls, I was wondering if any of you knew a way to that town or township near that tower I saw up on that hill back there which I hope to find has a temple that has the feeding the hungry personality trait. I’ve been lost in the woods for about two days and I am really hungry.” They just stared at her as they settled on all sides of her. “Riveting reply full of wit and information.”
            They were all grinning at her, several of them opening and closing their hands.
            “I’m going to get my ass kicked!” said Veyd in shock. “You’re actually going to beat the shit out of me! You’re not going pull my hair and cat scratch me or any of that shit! You’re going to pound me into the ground!”
            “It’s true, we are, and then we’re going to take all your stuff.”
            “Why?”
            “We want them. It’s worth thousands of gray.”
            Actually, she was wearing fifty thousand dollars plus of gray but she didn’t say that. What she did say was, “But we’re girls. Girls are supposed to be nicer, right? We’re a member of the fairer sex.”
            “Who told you that load of crap? Sounds like something a skinny idiot boy would say.”
            “Can I just give you all my crap and walk away?”
            The leader pretended to think about it, then said, “Nah. We hate rich girls.”
            “Well, technically, I’m not rich—” the first fist came and it sent her stumbling back grabbing her bleeding nose “—ow! That hurt! That really hurt!” It had that feeling akin to being beaten by a linebacker when she was Alan Veyd. “Oh, it’s not going away!”
            “Yeeeeeeeeah,” said the leader slowly. “Pain does that.” She pointed in a direction away from the hills. “Town’s that way, by the way.”
            “Thanks. Thanks a bunch—”
            And then they all started to beat on her on all at once and they didn’t stop until she was unconscious.

*          *          *

            “I’ve had worse,” said Veyd. At least they didn’t break her bones the way the street thugs did back in those wondrous early post-Talia days.
            Anyway, she had a plan, and had said plan since she saw the tower last the day before far in the distance.
            The town of Oakmudd was built in a place where the Franko Mountains made an L shape as they petered off into the distance. The town was built into the space between the L and to the east were farmlands. The tower was on the long part of the L just above the town.
            The entire bottom, which she couldn’t see from down there but knew, were a series of a garages, three or four, capable, of housing, showing, or fixing many vehicles, airships and smaller starships included, two to five floors of that which probably included servant quarters, and then a stem that shot straight up five hundred feet or so to a saucer that was a small mansion built into the air with solid windows surrounding it on several floors with several landing pads on the top and balconies as well.
            No one lived there and there was a “For Sale from State” sign on the door when she had crept over and looked.
            “Can you prove those accusations, rich girl?”
            “What? Oh the bitches, no, probably not. They’ll all back each other up. Do you have a—”
            “Well don’t expect much from us here.”
            “Not even from the temple which was stupid for me to say because I don’t see one.”
            “Charity is earned, not given. We believe in earning our own.” He frowned at her. “Don’t expect free anything.”
            “Oh, sure, no problem there.” She shrugged him and everything he said off. “You got an ATM around here?”
            “We do.” He frowned. “It’s over by the market.” He pointed across the street to “Cal’s Market.”
            “Cool. Thanks.”
            “You ain’t getting nothing out of that,” he told her. “Thugs cracked it open and there ain’t no more cash in there.”
            “That’s nice,” she replied.
            Veyd cracked her fingers, moved her neck around which hurt a lot, those girls weren’t big but they might as well have been, and went over to the ATM.
            She opened it, gained access the system, found an old account she left behind just in case she ended up back in the material plane somehow. She had a vibe she would return, something weird with that damn pillar, and she left a secret backdoor access to her old identity Anderson Amberwood and his semi-wayward son Paul. It was a simple account, with just a few gray to survive, ten thousand gray, with just a teeny, weeny, portion of the Roach Bar interest all set up on the day she jumped into that stupid pillar.
            She made the holographic projected keyboard, solid as the real thing, typed in her information, connected to it and felt her open eye bulge open like a billiard ball. “Suck off a donkey,” she gasped.
            She looked around quickly, no one close enough to see, and felt her heart stop. She squeaked, slapped a hand over her mouth, then almost screamed with joy and managed only to stop by the merest margins.
            There was 57,917,538 gray in that account.
            She grabbed her face, healed it magically despite the fact it almost made her pass out right then and there, and quickly entered into the files using the backdoor technology in her satellite. She had once owned the satellite it bounced off of so getting in was easy and she quickly entered in her new identity. Alice Amberwood, Anderson Amberwood great-granddaughter, the niece of his “idiot” son Paul Amberwood who was actually Alan Veyd in the old days. Over the next ten minutes he created Alice Amberwood out of thin air starting with her grandfather’s older and more respectable son, Anderson Jr. and Paul’s brother, and a fake wife named Emily Walton and then killed them all off except the great grandfather leaving Alice Amberwood their sole heir.
            She scanned her eyes, her fingerprints, her blood DNA, and it ejected out a card connected to a new account under Alice Amberwood with fifty thousand gray with. Veyd also bought that tower on the hill in Anderson Amberwood’s name for fifty thousand gray, an insanely modest amount, and used the hacking programs built into the account to predate the purchase a few weeks before. No one had even looked at the thing for ten years so she doubted anyone would care about a few weeks although a deep look would give it away.
            It could possibly come back to haunt her if someone figured that out but she wasn’t that worried. People had bigger problems in Doran than a mysterious purchase of a tower that no one wanted.
            “Woo hoo!” she cried and quickly erased the ATM history and turned around.
            She turned around and saw the mechanic staring at her. “That work out for you girl?” asked the man.
            “A little,” she admitted and nodded.
            “You have money?”   
            “A little,” she admitted and nodded.
            “Did you just heal magically?”
            “I did,” she admitted and nodded
            “Who are you?”
            “My name is Alice Amberwood,” she told him and was happy he asked after she had gotten to the ATM. “My great-grandfather is the one who bought that tower.”
            He blinked. “He did what now?”
            “Oh I own that tower. I’m your new name neighbor. Put ‘Er there.” She held out her hand.

*          *          *

            The mechanic known as Burt Manne stared with stupefying disbelief at the grinning girl and her outstretched hand.
            “You are a liar!” he said.
            “You’re right. It belongs to my grandfather until I come of age.” His eyes narrowed in powerful suspicion and she lowered her arm. “See you around.”
            He went back to his shop, went on the computer, and checked the ownership of the town. It was public knowledge who owned buildings to his brother, the town lawyer, and he had access to it although that was illegal.
            Anderson Amberwood did indeed own that building and had for weeks evidently.
            The little girl, Alice, was walking onward, her hand holding a card, toward the inn, barefoot and covered in nothing but a thin white slip.
            Burt Manne looked up at the tower and thought, She is just some girl and he’s just some old, foreign old man. What could possibly happen?

*          *          *

            “Alice” quickly went to work.
            She got herself a room at the local inn, Oakmud Inn, took a quick shower, borrowed some shower slippers from the wide eyed middle aged lady owner and started out to the nearby clothing store.
            “Have you this man?” asked a slightly robotic voice.
            “Arthur,” she said and turned to see the floating ball shaped robot turn its face toward her, the projected picture of Alan Veyd at the end in front of him. “Holy shit pants—” he jerked up to her at lightning speed.
            “You know my name! You’re Alice Amberwood!” Arthur was one of the very few individuals who knew the deeper details of Alan Veyd’s shenanigans. “Where is he? Where did he go? I knew he didn’t die.”
            “Yeah, about that—”
            Arthur’s ball face with its two very big robotic lens eyes grew wide. He had a face, kind of expressive, which mostly relied on the eyes because he didn’t have a mouth. He was black, had eight retracting limbs that came out of his body like a spider when he needed to do something, but usually he just appeared as a floating half-sized black beach ball with those eyes of metal shrinking and growing around the fake bright blue pupils which at present were narrowing to slits of concentration.
            Then they opened wide and Veyd knew he knew.
            “Good gods, sir, look at you,” he gasped. His front arms unfolded from his body, the ones with actual hands, and landed on her shoulders. “You have different hair and eyes. You’ve lost weight.” His eyes narrowed further as he scanned. “And bone mass. And appear to be younger, by half a century. And have double X chromosomes. And working female sex organs. Your fingerprints are different. Your retinas are different. Your bone structure are different. Hmm.” He poked her in the chest a couple of times where her breasts were growing. “And are going through puberty again.”
            “Yeah, I’m developing those still.” Arthur had always been “weird” ever since the moment a seventeen-year-old Alan Veyd had traded several cartons of cigarettes and five thousand gray for a very broken down old butler android from some junk dealers who had been abusing him mercilessly.
            His brain had and still worked perfectly but he had developed separation anxiety. The moment Alan Veyd made a new body form him he followed him everywhere he could.
            Veyd supposed he had never believed his master to have died because Alan Veyd had left no body behind and, instead of serving the queen as Alan Veyd’s will commanded,  instead obsessively followed all leads which evidently did lead him to his target.
            “My name is Alice Underwood, Arthur.”
            “I remember this game,” he said as he nodded happily.
            “Alright!” said Veyd. “Follow me, big guy! I’ve got clothes to get!”
            “I’ll tell the robots to set up your room the way you like it.”
            “For now yes but I might have to change a bit because I’m, you know, a girl.” She shrugged and gestured to the store. “Let’s rock.”
            She turned and started into the clothing store but then saw something. “Look, there’s that jerk mechanic.” Then she heard what his customer was saying and he was using his engine of his hovercar to explain what was wrong.
            “Is it time for a shenanigan?” asked Arthur happily.
            “It is,” she replied.

*          *          *

            “What the hell is this?” Manne cried.
            Three Marko Brand robots had been seen moving around the base of the tower unloaded unnecessary scrap into organized piles from the garages and upper floors. A half dozen different robots, less intelligent versions, were evidently working under them clearing up the yard, the garages and everything else.
            Manne was staring up at one of those three Markoes fixing the power relays on the ceiling.
            He looked over and saw a clean version of that pretty annoying girl coming up to him slippers on and a Marko Butler Ball following behind her.
            One of his best costumers, Pierce Pritcheir, a cousin of the local lord family with who all lived in the nice manor-castle an hour up north, was trying to get his attention. He was the son of the richest man in the county and an endless pain in Manne’s behind.
            “Are you saying you have to order a five hundred gray part for this vehicle?”
            “Yes but—” the girl came up to them, walked into the room, and picked off something from a wall, a small backup calibrator assister for a small hovercycle. “How much is this?”
            It was an assister, a backup of a backup calibrator. “Twenty gray—”
            “Sold.” She popped it open with her hands, walked up to the vehicle, turned it off, reached into the open hood, popped open the engine cover, and then took out several small parts. She replaced them with parts from the assister, shut the hood, and tossed the Pritcheir the part.
            “You’re welcome.”
            Pritcheir frowned, reached in, turned on the keys, and the sound of the vehicle came alive smoothly and easily.
            “You!” he cried suddenly and jammed a finger at Manne. “You try to cheat me!”
            “I did not! I swear!”
            “You’re a stupid man, Burt Manne, but do you expect me to believe a thirteen year old girl just showed you up!” He got into his car, backed out, and turned to leave. “You’ll be hearing from my lawyer!”
            “I’m innocent and I’m well within my rights besides!” he cried as the vehicle drove off smoothly and without sound.
            He looked over at the girl walking into the clothing store, eyes wide.
            Burt Manne checked his watch to see just how long the girl had been in town. “It’s only been forty-five minutes!”

*          *          *

            Veyd picked out some reasonably normal clothing, a red t-shirt over a long sleeved dark blue shirt with dark blue jeans and white sneakers. She put her hair in a ponytail, put a new dark brown dapper bowler hat on Arthur, and returned the slippers to the innkeeper. She had picked out several more outfits, which included a cute little blue dress, and a whole bunch of underwear and other things. She gave those to one of her dumb worker robots, which, somewhat ironically, looked for more humanoid than Arthur, to carry off to one of the other Markoes in the tower.
            It was still incredibly early but there were people in the diner so she walked with Arthur floating behind her and a hand shot out quickly and caught her by the wrist.
            “If it isn’t my bestest best friend ever,” said Veyd with a smile.
            The leader of the gang turn frowned at her, pulled her closer, and said, “Where did you get all this money?”
            “From your dad, of course. He’s very giving.”
            “You want a second beating?” she whispered.
            “I retract my statement.”
            “Good girl.” She scuffed her hair with her other hand. “What’s the story with all the, uh, clothes, money and former mad scientist tower.”
            “Is that what that tower used to be? That’s awesome!”
            “You told me you were poor.”
            “I lied, obviously,” she replied and the girl frowned at her.
            “You let go of her right now,” said Arthur angrily.
            Veyd pulled her arm free. “Let’s finish this later. I’m starving. All I had today were five sets of fist sandwiches.” The girl laughed and Veyd moved on over to the counter.
            The hostess looked at her with wide, interested eyes. “You’re Alice Amberwood.”
            “I am.” In her mind, she thought of her true identity as “Jessica Veyd,” but Alice Amberwood would be the name she would use in Oakmud and most places but that was far from her mind at that moment as she looked back at the kitchen beyond the hostess. “You able to cook something yet or do I have a while before you open?”
            The woman nodded. “We can make you something now.”
            Veyd grinned and said, “Hit me with bacon, eggs over easy, Fluerian bread with apple syrup, a side of mixed fruit and I’ll have myself me a fountain drink as well and why is everyone staring at me?”
            “Where did you get three Markoes and a ball butler?” asked an older man in the diner drinking coffee.
            Veyd paid the bill with her card and included the tip. “My uncle owned the robots and they transferred down when he died because I’m the only baby left in the family.” Veyd actually found the story really felt good to tell. She liked being a kid again. It was like she was having a second chance at childhood.
            She took one of fountain drink cups, poured cola, and drank it deep.
            “Oh gods, I missed this.”
            Arthur was grinning at her with his eyes.
            “What’s that on your face? A robot smile.” Veyd laughed, put on her cup top and stuck in straw and sat down. “Everything is perfect.”
            “You!” cried a voice. “Who are you?”
            “Of course,” said Veyd and she looked up at the mechanic.
            “You!” he walked up to her and pointed a finger at her. “You bought a tower!”
            “Yes—”
            “You bought out a clothing store!”
            “Only normal stuff really—”
            “You didn’t have any other clothes.”
            “I had a really nice dress but it was beaten off of me by ruffians.”
            “I saw a mechanic Marko!” cried the man.
            “I see your fear now.” Veyd gave him a wide smile. “I have a superior garage, I am an incredibly good mechanic and I could ruin you if I wanted.”
            He stared at her for a moment. “Is there a punchline to that or something to make me feel better?”           
            “No, not really. I could totally destroy you. ”
            “Why you little—” The man looked up and his eyes bulged at the sight of the lights turning on in the tower, flashing in the shadows as they came to life in the early morning.  “There’s power in the tower!”
            Veyd burst out laughing. “At your age! Good for you, old man!”
            “I’ll kill you!” He threw himself at her. Arthur blocked him easily enough, he was almost able to lift a car.
            Veyd laughed out loud. “I’m just messing with you,” she told him. “I’m not opening up a mechanic’s garage. Actually, I might come looking for some work from you later.”
            “Really?”
            “No, not really.”
            “Why you­—” he looked at the angry butler ball and then back at him “—how old are you?”
            “Thirteen and I’m already farther than you.”
            The man was frowning at her, Arthur’s funny long fingers wrapped around his shoulders, when the hostess pushed him aside. “Buzz off, Burt. I’ve got a customer.” He reluctantly turned around and walked away.
            Veyd squeaked happily at her food as the waitress placed it down.
            Suddenly Arthur jerked a bit. “No!” he said and he spun around. “No, no, no!” He turned as the door opened and in came another ball, this one white, a sister model to the butler known as a “nanny” model.
            “Francine?”
            “You can’t have her, she’s mine—”
            “I’m the nanny so she’s my responsibility!”
            “No, she’s not!” And suddenly they were beeping at each other in their robot language, the unfolded main arms jerking and pointing in angry gestures.
            “Take it outside, guys, I’ve got-no don’t take my food!”
            Francine was hovering over her. “That is not good food a young lady,” she said and her long arms went against her body like hips.
            “I’m going to eat this as a celebratory breakfast.”
            “Well after this I need to pick your food so you don’t end up short and fat.”
            Someone laughed. “I know what I’m doing,” she said and she quickly ate before Francine stole her food.
            She was found in a similar manner to Arthur, a limbless ball that was being kicked around an orphanage in the asteroid belt. She had bought her, put her back together, and had intended her for children that never materialized.
            “You were illegally scanning me,” said Arthur. “And I don’t appreciate you trying to steal my charge,” he added.
            “I was going to say the same thing,” in her tough, older woman’s voice.
            “I’m just the prettiest girl at the ball.”
            “You could be if you don’t eat like that.”
            Veyd laughed. “Okay, that was good.” They got into a deeper argument, beeping quietly at each other, and Veyd was able to finish her food in reasonable peace. She stepped up to the hostess afterward and asked, “Where is the mayor located?”
            “Mayor Shinkledack?”
            “That name is so fake. You are making that up.”
            “No, it’s really his name.”
            “Good gods in the sky,” said Veyd. “And why did you ask me that? Do you have two mayors or something?”
            “No but some people think Mayor Austin from Wendell Town is our mayor. Mayor Shinkledack can be found in the apartments in the clock tower. Thanks for the tip by the way. I haven’t been tipped in five years except to get a better job.”
            “That is really screwed up and aren’t those apartments for for the judge?”
            “He’s also the judge.”
            “Small town, gotcha.” Veyd stepped on outside, looked up at bright blue early morning sky, and grinned.
            “I’ll need to pick out better clothes for you,” said Francine from behind.
            “These are casual wear and I’m Alice Anderwood now, got it?”
            “I heard the whole thing.”
            Arthur grumbled as he flew on the other side of Veyd just behind. “You can’t have her.”
            “She’s a girl child now and that makes her my responsibility.”
            Arthur snarled in a robot way, turned her around, and the two were suddenly yapping at each other in that angry robot voice.
            “I’ll meet you guys at the tower house.”
            Veyd grinned as she walked, feeling like her old self, wealthy, in control, with a new life and body, walking happily as she went down the street. She went into the clock tower, opened the door, and jerked back as a man appeared inches from the door
            “Hi there!” said the wide eyed, goofy man with glasses. “You’re the girl looking for me!”
            “Good gods, man, you almost made crap my pants!”
            “I’m Mayor Shinkledack. You can call me Dink.”
            “Dink Shinkledack? Really?” Veyd shook her head. “Whatever, I just came to introduce myself—”
            “Great to meet you!” He snatched her hand, shook it vigorously, and said, “You are the most beautiful young woman have ever seen.” His eyes were huge, wide, bright blue and open and amplified by his glasses to look incredibly large. He was wiry in shape, maybe a hundred pounds, with dark hair was hanging out everywhere wearing a suit was old fashioned, brown, and with a bright red bowtie.
            “Your wife doesn’t put out much, does she?”
            “No and she left me a linebacker.”
            That didn’t surprise Veyd at all and not just because she understood female perspective for the first time ever. “Tell her that a better looking whore would have left you for the quarterback,” she told him.
            He laughed. “I like you. You’re funny and cute.”
            “Well, I came to introduce myself. My grandfather may contact you over potential purchases.” She didn’t think it would be hard. Mayor Shinkedack didn’t strike her as too difficult an antagonist for buying property. Houses owned by the state after foreclosure could be bought over a computer but actual land required mayoral approval since he represented the town and was town property. “Mayor Shinkledack—”
            “Call me Dink.”
            “Dink.”
            “Yes?”
            “I’m going to need that hand back.”
            “Oh yeah, yeah,” he said and quickly let go.
            “Tell me about the hill? Is that for sale?”
            “Oh yeah, it is for sale.”
            “Cool,” she replied. She stepped inside. “Tell me all about it and any farmland that is for sale as well and I’ll need to contact the local lords and deal with them as well I suppose.”

*          *          *

            Burt Manne’s face began to twitch.
            “Are you okay?” asked Milton Shinkledack, his nephew by his sister.
            “I’m fine!” he replied unhappily.
            “Is it because a thirteen year old girl out staged you and gave you the business in from one of the great men of the area. A man who could, in time, because your lord.”
            “I swear to the gods, I’ll beat you into the ground.”
            “It’s nothing to worry about,” said Milly Shinkledack, Milton’s twin.
            “You know Amberwood bought the whole hill,” said Milton Shinkledack happily. “Oh look, it’s that Marko Mechanic robot. Maybe this one can fix my starter right if the girl isn’t too busy.”
            A vein on Burt Manne’s forehead began to pulsate.
            “Yeah,” said Milly. “It’s possible one of them can actually do their job without the help of a thirteen year old girl.”
            Burt Manne’s face began to turn read.
            “Are you okay?” asked Milly. “You looked like someone totally emasculated you.”
            “I’ve never been better!” he cried. “I’m feeling unbelievably fine! Not a thing is wrong! Not one damn thing!”
            He looked up at the building in the early morning light, the two Marko balls moving about in front of the long windows at the saucer top, pointing and gesturing angrily.
            “This can’t be happening to me! Everything was normal this morning!”
            “Oh don’t be so melodramatic,” said Milly. “You can also sell parts still.”
            “Actually, she’s got a fabricator?” said Milton.
            “She’s got a what?” cried Manne.
            “It’s true,” said Milton. “I saw them pulling it into the garage this morning. Full industrial. She can make any part on the market right here if she’s got the materials.”
            “You could always go work on a farm again like when were you were a kid,” said Milly. “Maybe get some part time work while you look for a job that a used up old man with no other skills could get.” Burt’s eyes were growing wider and his hands were beginning to shake in rage. “I’m just kidding,” Milly told him.
            Milton laughed. “You really could get farm work but you would have to work for her family, though, and it would be hard because they own all those Markoes and have a ton of worker bots. Her grandfather owns the whole of Marcus, Miller, and Matthew farms. They’re calling it Amberwood Farm but I think the Amberwoods went with Marcus Farms. They’ve already hired a few of the locals to work on it. Uncle Nathan, who used to work for old Marcus before he died, is helping with the planting season while they’re building some weird building in one of the corners.”
            Manne’s face distorted and he looked down at his watch. “It’s been three hours! She’s ruined my life in three hours!”
            “It’s not too late to start over,” said Milton. “You’re, what, fifty-two, fifty-three?”
            Burt Manne let out a scream of rage.
            “Calm down,” said Milly. “He’s just joking.” She shrugged. “You’re barely fifty, right?”

*          *          *

            It was about ten o’clock in the morning and Veyd felt satisfied.
            “Alright,” she said as she looked down at her laptop. She had purchased the entire three farms simply because it was literally a tenth of what she had expected the piece of smaller farmland she had intended to purchase. It was just too good deal to pass up.
            It was something good for the town too. She would hire people, start a produce stand, and sharecrop a lot of it. Her robots would do they crazy hard work and she would the people the complicated other work.
            Alan Veyd had done this before in a hollowed out asteroid she had built to be a year round farm.
            Arthur was in the tower setting up the computers and a system for dealing with the robots and other Markoes and Francine in her room setting it up to look feminine. Veyd wasn’t one hundred percent sure she was going to like any of that last part.
            Veyd looked down a hill at the farm with her eyes for a moment, several robots led by Nathan Shinkledack and setting the projected holographic bars for the land’s exact territory which would later be replaced by actual fences. Nathan had the perfect place to erect the workers quarters and the alchemist greenhouse already set to be built. She would require tunnel digging for that last, the proper ingredients, the careful environmental tests and sealing of the buildings. The underground version would be invaluable and of course the—
            “Aaaaaaaaalice…” gutted an angry, mean voice.      
            “Is that the sound of happiness and love?” Veyd turned around to see that Burt Manne go holding a baseball bat. “Why hello ther—”
            “You!” he snarled. “You did this to me!”
            “Did what to you? Is this because I helped out that rich boy with his car?” She looked him over. “It must be that. I’m clearly not the reason you don’t exerc—”
            “I’m going to send you to hell, that’s what I’m gonna do!” he cried. “Send you right to screaming hell!”
            She looked him over, an overweight man with a bushy beard and mustache, with a red nose of a drinker and potential alcoholic. She wasn’t sure how she could tell but she was certain he was more than overweight and incredibly out of shape besides. “Look, I don’t think this is a good idea—”
            He charged forward with a scream.
            “Oh shit!” She ducked his swing, a full backed swing with both hands, and then was running away. “What is wrong with you?”
            “You ruined my life, you little bitch! You ruined it good!” He was huffing and puffing almost instantly. “Don’t make me run, you evil bitch!”
            “That would be my grandfather who did all that!” she cried out as she was quickly outdistancing him, somewhat forgetful she had a healthy thirteen year old’s body. She stopped after a second and then turned around. “You need to relax, Mr. Manne.”
            “I’ll kill you!” he cried as he leaned on his knee with one hand and the bat like a cane with the other.
            “Good gods, man, is it that hard to do a few pushups once in a while?” He raised his eyes. “You literally chased me for less than a minute.”
            “You bitch!”
            “Have you tried natural medication, maybe some vitamins, perhaps pick a salad up from time to ti—” he screamed and charged. “Oh come on!” Veyd let him chase her for a bit and then he was soon out of breath again. “Seriously, you need to get in shape.”
            “You evil bitch! You are destroying my life!”
            “How the hell did I do that?”
            “You have a Marko Mechanic!”
            “I do don’t I? He’s been with the family for years. Relax, I’m pretty sure he won’t fix everything anyone asks for free.”
            “For free! You’re ruining my life for charity! I’ll kill you!” He took two steps forward, stumbled to one knee, and breathed.
            “You’re not going to, you know, die on me, are you?” He was breathing heavily. “I really don’t want to start my life in Oakmudd with the mechanic dying of a heart attack as he attempted a vengeance rampage.”
            “You are a little monster! You are the worst!”
            “You are wrong but I will admit that there are people, rare, crazy and bizarre as they are, who, like you, have come up with the absurd notion that I might just be ‘annoying.’”
            “I hate you so much.”
            “Why? I’m cute. People are supposed to like cute girls.” Evidently, being a beautiful girl didn’t really mean a person could get away with everything. Veyd supposed they had to have at least a little bit of charm which, evidently, had not magically formed in Veyd’s mind since acquiring a new body.
            Burt Manne glared at her and she sighed and approached him.
            “Look, Old Manne Sensitivity, I’m probably not the world’s most polite person but—” He jerked up, swung, and she jumped backward.
            There was a crack as his bat swung wide and he let out a cry of pain. “My back! Oh dear gods, my back!”
            “Wow,” said Veyd as he stumbled. “I’m actually sort of sorry now.”
            He screamed, swung again the other way, and let out a high pitched shriek when he swung wrong and his right arm went too far the wrong way.
            “I didn’t know grown men could scream like that,” said Veyd.
            “My arm! Oh gods, my swinging arm!” He glared at her. “You did this to me!”
            “Ohhhhh-kay?”
            “You think I’m afraid of you? Is that what it is?”
            “No, I don’t think it’s that exactly.” Veyd was, for one of the few moments in her existence, without a witty response. “Mr. Manne, for your own sake, please stop trying to kill me.”
            He swung at her again with his left arm, which she dodged easily, but his bat accidently hit a tree and he let out a cry of misery and pain. He broke, or sprained, his wrist and he shrieked, stumbled back, stepped on something wrong, twisted his ankle, and went rolling down the hill toward the farm breaking things as he went down.
            “What the hell just happened?” asked Veyd. She moved to the edge of the hill and looked down at the twisted form of Burt Manne caught between several trees on the side of the hill. Nathan appeared at the bottom and looked up at her. She shrugged and said, “I really don’t know what’s going on.”
            “You.” Burt Manne grimaced in agony. “You. Did. This.” He turned away and breathed.
            “Well at least he’s alive,” she said awkwardly and then, still feeling and looking confused, called down, “Nathan can you please go get a doctor.” He nodded, turned and ran back into town. “This day got really weird really fast.”

*          *          *

            Doctor Mary Manne, Burt Manne’s aunt who was oddly younger than him by a decade, looked down at the hill beside Veyd. She sent her apprentice down there with a hovering medical cot, her older nephew Martin Manne who couldn’t have been older than twenty, and stood there in a white doctor’s lab coat watching the cot itself grow mechanical limbs to help Martin put Manne in the cot.
            “What exactly happened?” asked Mary Manne.
            “I’m not one hundred percent sure.” Veyd looked at her. “He tried to beat me up with a baseball bat and hurt himself. How he managed to kick his own ass with such finesse I’ll never know—”
            “You did this to me!” growled Burt Manne as he was carried up covered in bandages. “You did this!”
            “I couldn’t have kicked your ass this well if I tried,” she told him. “But, hey, Mr. Manne, think on the bright side. If you ever did something you regret you sure taught yourself a lesson.”
            He growly loudly, actually tried to get up in his rage, but the doctor injected him with something and he was out like a lamp.
            “Biiiiiiiiitch…” he moaned before his eyes shut automatically.

*          *          *

            Burt Manne woke up in a full cast over his body and deep confusion over his mind.
            Somehow, he did not know how, that little girl had just did a masterpiece job of humiliating him. He knew in his heart that Alice Amberwood was the source of all his woes but he wasn’t sure how she did it exactly.
            “I’ll get you, you evil bitch!”
            His younger aunt appeared above him. “A problem with how I fix your screw-ups?”
            “I meant her!”
            “Are you really going to go to war with a thirteen year old girl just because she gave you the business and caused you to injure yourself badly in an attempt to get even?” His eyes widened and he opened his mouth to speak. “Her family is now the largest landowner in three counties and Lord Pritcheir is very much found of the payments going into his coffers with her various purchases. Try not to piss off her grandfather, if you could.”
            She turned and walked away.
            Burt Manne stared up at the ceiling, his face full of rage, then tilted his eyes to the left toward the clock. He saw the time clearly enough.
            “It’s only been five hours.”
            It was just late afternoon and that girl had barely even started.


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