Now that page proofs for PRIME DECEPTIONS are off to the publisher, I thought I’d share something fun to celebrate. The votes are in, so please enjoy this deleted scene from CHILLING EFFECT, in which The Fridge’s attempt to take over La Sirena Negra doesn’t go quite as planned. This occurs in Chapter 20, but is relatively spoiler-free.
Stay safe, amigos, hasta luego!
Sue napped in a hammock she’d strung up in a corner of the crew quarters, dreaming of curry. Mala slept on her lap, purring softly. While they were docked at DS Nor so Eva and Pink could find Vakar’s sister, most of Sue’s robots were busy working on the cooling system, which she’d decided was slightly more important than the shields or the artificial gravity. La Sirena Negra could always run from a fight, or the crew could tie things down and float around, but a hot core meant sparky sparky boom boom death. The other bots were playing with the cats, who found them highly entertaining.
((Sensor failure,)) Min pinged at her. The location nudged Sue’s consciousness like a compass needle.
“Check it out, Two-Two,” Sue murmured. The little robot saluted and raced off, climbing into one of the ventilation shafts that led to the belly of the ship. Weird that a sensor would randomly fail there, but it was an old ship. Sue was already halfway back to Nap Town when another ping woke her.
((Intruders,)) Min pinged at Sue.
Sue yawned. “That sucks. Wait, what?” She sat up, dislodging Mala, who rolled but recovered and landed gracefully on the floor. Sue’s exit from the hammock was less graceful.
((How many?)) Sue pinged back.
Rusty buckets. Sue retrieved her blaster from her locker, hands trembling. She’d never shot anyone with it before, not even when she’d robbed that veterinarian by accident, but there was a first time for everything. She just had to get through the mess, down to the cargo bay…
Then again, she didn’t know why these people were here. Maybe she should keep Min safe instead. Yeah, that sounded better than trying to be a big darn hero.
Sue headed for the bridge, hoping Eva and Pink would be back soon.
Down in the cargo bay, two Fridge agents examined a large shipping container nestled against one wall. Some kind of habitat, by the looks of it, with a variety of toys and food bowls and a covered box with an opening on the side. It was strangely empty.
One of them looked up, his hand flying to his weapon as something leaped to the top of the container. He relaxed. Just a cat. A sweet, fluffy kitty cat. That explained the habitat, and the box must have been for the animal’s waste. It raised its tail and trotted around in a cute little figure eight, staring at him and purring as if begging to be petted.
The agent by his side saw this as well, but was less enchanted. She turned around to look for the life support components, but froze. In front of her, in three neat rows, were more cats than she had ever seen in one place in her life. They all looked up at her, pupils dilated, purring gently. In waves–first row, then second row, then third–they did the same figure eight dance, barely breaking eye contact as they turned and twined sinuously in their respective places.
The other two intruders, meanwhile, pulled off an access panel to examine the guts of the ship underneath. What they found was a trio of robots playing what looked suspiciously like hopscotch. The bots squealed and ran away, behind the adjacent panel.
The agents shared a look and a shrug and continued their nefarious work, disrupting the ship’s sensors in case the pilot was jacked in. But just as they were readying to put the panel back on, the robots returned, five instead of three, and began to repair the sabotage.
“Hey,” one intruder said. “Shoo.” She flapped her hands at the bots, who squealed in protest and ran off.
She started to undo their fixes, pausing as eight bots appeared, making strange electronic scolding noises and redoubling their repairs.
Her partner scowled and swatted the bots away, then zapped one for good measure with a stun baton. It squealed, the smell of ozone drifting up from its lightly smoking body. The other bots stopped and stared at it, then at the intruders, then picked up their friend and raced off.
The Fridge agent looked over her shoulder at her compatriots, narrowing her eyes at the rows of cats and the people standing frozen next to them. They had to finish prepping before their target returned if they wanted to avoid a fair fight, but nobody was moving. Cats, tiny robots… Why was this so hard?
“Um,” the agent next to her said.
She turned back. A solid wall of robots stared at her. Sadly, by the time she realized they were all holding welding torches, it was too late.