Chapter 23, "Hector 2.0 and Xlormp Work Through Their Issues"
In all of the hustle and bustle to make a plan, get things ready and execute said plan, Christopher had never let on that there would be so much danged waiting. In my waiting exhaustion, I had dropped to my butt, leaning against the liquor store while Xlormp and Hector 2.0 shouted nasty things back and forth at each other.
"Guys," I said, in my best attempt to quell them, "if the Tallybonkers do show up, they're probably a lot more likely to notice a screaming match."
Xlormp, still in yelly mode, yelled, "Oh yeah? What of it?"
"I mean they're probably going to be all, 'Hey, should we invade the quiet home where nothing appears to be happening, or should we check out that robot and that alien hollering over there?' I bet they think things like that, you know."
Xlormp crossed several of his tentacles and rolled at least six of his eyes. "Frig, you should stay out of serious business. I don't think you understand it at all."
He was too far away for me to hit. Christopher had given very specific instructions about not moving once we were in position. So instead, I glared across the distance at him in what I hoped was a very mean-looking way.
I think maybe five whole minutes passed before the taunting began anew. Seriously, this was totally ridiculous. Like Xlormp had anything to be jealous of. I mean, what could Hector 2.0 really do? He was a robot, for crying out loud.
I jumped at a sharp, crackling noise around my waist, before remembering that Christopher had outfitted us all with walkie-talkies.
"Something going on over there?" Lou's voice came over the speaker.
I pressed a button and said, "Nope, everything's fine," just as Xlormp yelled, "YOUR MOTHER WAS A TOASTER AND I HEARD SHE BURNED EVERY SLICE."
The walkie-talkie cracked again. "Okay, because it sounds like there's an awful lot of yelling going on."
"Nope, not at all, we're all good over here," I forced out over Hector 2.0's retort of, "AT LEAST MY MOTHER WAS NOT A DISGUSTING BALL OF VISCOUS SLIME."
"Should we rotate out your guards?" Lou asked sincerely.
I thought about that. The idea of not being able to gaze upon Xlormp's heavenly visage for any amount of time, no matter how obnoxious he was being, seemed stupid and unnecessary.
"Maybe we could just put some kind of silencer on Hector 2.0?" I suggested, as Xlormp yelled back, "YOU TAKE THAT BACK, MY MOTHER WAS A FINE ALIEN AND YOU DON'T EVEN DESERVE TO SPEAK OF HIM."
This conjured up all sorts of weird images about Zmeephish-Quian reproduction that I wasn't sure I was ready to deal with.
"I think that's a fine idea," Lou said, a touch of wariness in his voice. "I'll send Mr. Haberdash over immediately."
The shouting continued, growing ever more ludicrous as the minutes ticked by. I didn't bother trying to stop it again, because seriously, they were both being epic jerkfaces right now and it just wasn't worth it.
Mr. Haberdash showed up quicker than I'd expected. I guess this really was a well-oiled machine. The plan, I mean, not Mr. Haberdash, or even Hector 2.0. He was just a robot. I hadn't seen him oiled at all. I wondered if that's the sort of thing he did when he was all alone by his robot self, and then I stopped thinking of that, because it got awkward really quickly.
I noticed that Lou had dressed Mr. Haberdash in normal "civvie" clothes, jeans and a t-shirt, so he would appear less conspicuous. It was quite odd to see Mr. Haberdash without his signature loin cloth. It was equally odd to realize Lou had been the one behind the clothing change, considering Lou usually had no sense of clothing whatsoever.
"So!" Mr. Haberdash proclaimed jovially, clapping his hands together in helpful readiness, "What seems to be the problem here?"
I gestured to Hector 2.0, still screaming insults and threats back and forth at Xlormp, the latest of which being, "MY CIRCUITS BOIL WITH THE RAGE OF A THOUSAND PROCESSORS!"
"Ah," Mr. Haberdash said, raising a finger in understanding. "His compassion programming has a bug, I think. Just a moment." Mr. Haberdash pressed some buttons on Hector 2.0's back, and the robot slumped forward in stillness.
As Mr. Haberdash fiddled with the circuitry inside his formerly human son's back, it occurred to me that now would be the perfect time for the Tallybonkers to strike, what with our defenses lowered and stuff. But, as luck would have it, they were either not paying attention or really stupid, and no attack occurred.
"That should take care of things," Mr. Haberdash declared gleefully, and patted Hector 2.0 on the shoulder. "Let me know if he acts up anymore."
I nodded. "Will do." I watched as Mr. Haberdash pranced off, whistling a happy tune.
"My dad is a fantastic person," Hector 2.0 roboticized gently.
"Yes," I agreed, unsure how to proceed from here. I shot a cautious glance at Xlormp to see if he had calmed down at all, but it appeared that his slime might still be poisonous.
"Frig is also a fantastic person," Hector 2.0 continued.
"Thank you," I said carefully. At least he wasn't screaming anymore.
"I love you, Frig," Hector 2.0 said, placing a metallic hand on my shoulder.
"That's good." I sure hoped Xlormp wasn't watching. But I checked, and he was watching. I panicked a little.
Hector 2.0 wrapped his robot arms around me and pulled me into a robot hug, planting a robot kiss on my cheek.
"Um," I said, "Maybe you don't want to do that because I'm pretty sure Xlormp is still in angry mode."
Hector 2.0 did not seem to run that through his processors, because suddenly his robot mouth was on my human mouth, and it felt weird, since it was cold and metallic. I let out a "mmmmrph" but it did no good.
It didn't matter. Xlormp had slithered his way across the street to us, and slammed his tentacles around Hector 2.0. Somehow, he managed to miss me completely, which was good, since he was poisonous. But he wrenched the robot away from me, and proceeded to screech what were probably very hurtful insults at Hector 2.0 in native Zmeephish-Quian whilst flogging Hector 2.0 with every one of his tentacles.
Which was about the time my walkie-talkie crackled with Christopher's voice: "Tallybonkers are attacking. Repeat. Tallybonkers are attacking."
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