K-2 dashed stiffly out of the bar, with robots laughing at her weird way of walking. They knew what she was, K-2 thought, and she knew that inside, they really weren’t laughing. They were suffering.
K-2 stopped in the middle of the sandy main street. There were no Arvers around her…no droids, no aliens. There were just robots. This was all Vastrada’s plan. Her next step was the world—the Galaxy. She couldn’t stay here. But where would she go? She was hardly able to walk like an Arver and hardly blend into average society, but she had to get away from Nosgo.
If Vastrada discovered that K-2 was alive and here in the town, who knows what she would do to her? K-2 was no longer for her. Why would “the empress” treat her as if nothing had happened? But where was K-2 going to go?
Her mind raced as she stared down the dusty streets, with robots crossing every which-way with blank expressions. One by one, they all stopped and stared at her. K-2 could only gaze in awe and shock—they here all enslaved and hypnotized.
A name hit her in the head: Conogo. She must find Emperor Conogo. He was still alive, and he was still on Planet Tinacia. With sudden urgency, she knew he had to be found and warned. Maybe he could stop her. Surely she had not conquered any other planet or civilization…no, surely not.
Abruptly, the whispers entered her head again. Help us, they said. Please help us. Do something. Save us.
K-2 set off down the dusty plain. She had to get away from there. The whisper was frightening her. Robots, she overheard, were already talking about the strange girl standing in the middle of town square. Instantly, she spun around when she heard a robotic cry.
“Stop. Her. She is leaving. The town. Stop her. Stop her.”
Then a whole group of robots appeared out of nowhere, stalking her like zombies with their arms out in front.
“Why can’t I leave town?” she asked in fright to the one who had spoken.
“Empress. Vastrada. Commands that no one. Leaves the town’s premises. Must destroy.” A missile shooter came up out of his metal arm.
They all got closer as K-2 backed away.
The whispers came back, even louder now. Help us—please, help us.
K-2 realized: the whispers were from the “minds” of the robots. She still had half a robotic “mind”, (and robots are capable of limited telepathy between their kind). The robots were programmed to stop her from leaving town…but the voices inside cried for help. The whispers were faint and desperate. They stalked toward her with red glowing eyes and loaded missiles. But behind all that was something much different.
K-2 gaped with frightened eyes. “I will bring help,” she stuttered. “I…I will help you.”
The robots came nearer. The corner of K-2’s eye saw a hover jet-ski by the side of the wooden planks of the sidewalks. As stiffly as she always did, she hastened to the jet as the noises rang behind her.
“Stop. Stop,” they said.
K-2 jumped onto the jet. It hovered above the ground. She squeezed the accelerator on the handle with her metal hand. With a great gust of wind behind her, she sped off into the desert. The yells and robotic cries were behind her. Were they programmed to tell Vastrada if one had left the town? She hoped not.
She traveled on it seemed for hours. The flat, dry ground turned into heaps and mountains of sizzling sand. K-2 sped on. It was a few minutes out of the town’s premises that she realized how hot it was. She had senses, now, and she could feel the sting on her skin from the desert heat. The wind against her face was thick and stifling. Squinting ahead she could see nothing but mounds and miles of desiccated sand. It blew behind her as the jet exhaust emitted from the engine. It blew in her face and K-2 brushed it out. The desert was becoming hotter by the moment. As she rode into and during the night, the heat wore off, but the humidity did not.
Their whispers still hung dauntingly in her “mind”.
The hover jet-ski held out surprisingly well by the morning, but she could tell it was losing fuel. It wasn’t going as fast as it was before. K-2 also felt fatigued. Her battery was only halfway charged—she could feel it. For a hundred years it had not been used, yet it was active now. Yes, Arver batteries are powered by heat, but only so much. Heat-energy is what gives it additional power, but a charger is needed to keep it active in the first place. But K-2 had no charger. She only hoped for one before her battery ran out. But where? She didn’t even know how she was getting to Tinacia, and much less where she would find a battery charger.
The stretches sand had turned into flat plains of sand and rock. Hundreds of huge rock formations grew from the durable ground. K-2 was so caught up in her thoughts about her battery that she didn’t realize that she had flown right into the maze.
Crying out, she dodged the boulders in her way. This way and that she leaned with her hover jet, her handlebars moving violently from left to right. The side of the jet hit the corner of a rock. The jet swerved and K-2 looked back as she saw the rock fall, making a terrific noise. Her eyes returned in front of her and she failed to dodge the rock not a hundred feet away.
The jet smacked the rock and it fell to the rocky ground. K-2 landed on her face, unable to get up at first. The jet spun out of control, and it exploded—parts flying everywhere, inflamed.
It was quiet. K-2 slowly got up. She saw the hopeless, useless hover jet scattered around her. She glanced ahead at the miles of sand and rock she saw. Breathing heavily, she looked up at the blue sky. She was away from her hometown, yes, but now she was lost in the desert. Without a battery charger, she would not survive. She couldn’t turn back, and she didn’t have the motivation to continue onward.
A flash of metal and dust zoomed past her. K-2 spun around. It slowly backed up.
It was a miniature spaceship. Out of the sliding door came…someone with her structure. He was dressed in black with orange streaks across his chest. His sleeves fell over his hands. An orange diadem was wrapped around his head. Seeing K-2 alone in the dust would have confused anyone. But he smirked.
“You from ‘round ‘ere?” he inquired.
“I…yes? No. I—” K-2 had never spoken at her own will to anyone but Vastrada. She didn’t exactly know how to do it. But she didn’t need to answer.
“Wha’re you doin’ out ‘ere in the middle of the desert?” he smiled. “Scarab ‘unting?”
“No!” K-2 objected. “I’m going to the planet Tinacia!”
“Planet Tinacia?” the man laughed. “You were plannin’ on walkin’?”
“I…” she stopped. K-2 couldn’t help but smile at her awkwardness. “I kind of need a lift.”
“Well, we only travel to Nosgo, Frauk, and Aberjan,” the man stated.
“The Inter-Space,” the man declared. “You’ve neva’ ‘eard of it? Transportation across the Galaxy—we’re gonna broaden our services to all Five planets soon’a or lata’. It’s our bi-weekly trip to Nosgo today.”
“Bi-weekly?” K-2 asked. She couldn’t think of what would have happened if she had been in the desert at the wrong time.
“Y’ don’t just go zippin’ around like you do in ‘ologram shows,” the guy laughed. “This is real life we ‘ave ‘ere. Frauk alone is ‘alf a light year away. Y’ can’t get there all in one day.”
“Oh.” K-2 looked back. She saw dark clouds and a sudden blue light. She spun around.
“Can you get me to Frauk?” she said urgently. (She knew it was one of the closest planets to Tinacia).
“Well—well sure I can get y’ to Frauk,” the man smirked.
“Then let’s go now!” K-2 said. She boarded the ship without hesitation.
“Hey now!” the man yelled. “Wha’ about my stop at the town ‘round there?” He pointed towards the dark clouds.
“No one is going to leave that town,” K-2 cried. “Get on! Take me now!”
“Alrigh’ keep your disk in,” the man said, hurrying up the ramp.
K-2 glanced desperately towards the blue lightning that flashed in the distance. The door closed and she dashed to the window. With a sudden jolt, the ship lifted from Nosgo’s surface. She was gone—away from Nosgo. She had never ventured this far in her “life”. Did Vastrada know she was going? Was she looking for her?
With a great force, K-2 fell over. The ship had blasted from Nosgo’s atmosphere. The next time she gazed out the window was the first time she witnessed the stars.