Short Story: Hadaly’s Day Out (Part III)

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To that the preacher crooked his staff in his arm, raised his Bible overhead, and then beat on it with his hand. “It’s not a physical place, sister, it’s a spiritual place. And if you don’t get right with the Lord, your soul will be burning in a very real, spiritual hell.”

“And you can demonstrate that?”

“I demonstrate this every day when I speak the truth from the pages of this book,” Brother Jed said. “You don’t need to observe it, if you have faith in the word.”

Elaine pinched her nose. “So you’re going to buttress your disconfirmed hypothesis with the unobservable, won’t give any demonstrable evidence to support your new claim, and that alone should convince me? How insubstantial of you. It’s hard to believe you found that convincing enough to repeat.”

“You’re all only rebelling because you know that I have the truth,” he said.

Frog leaned in close to her and said, “He’s hilarious, isn’t he?”

“I think he’s some kind of idiot,” Elaine said. She’d fished two sticks of Pocky out of one of her many pockets and munched on both at the same time. If she couldn’t get any work in on her Android project, she’d figured, she’d at least enjoy a little snack while letting Frog and Hadaly have their fun. Where was Hadaly at anyway?

“Are you two girls, lesbians?” Brother Jed asked.

Elaine paused for a very long moment before replying. “We certainly are not.”

A peal of laughter erupted next to Jed and Hadaly spoke up. “Elaine doesn’t get out enough to be a lesbian.”

The android-girl stood immediately next to a boy wearing an orange knit cap with broad fox-ears sewn onto it—a long, fluffy fox tail hung between his legs—and to her other side lounged a tall girl wearing silvered goggles. Between them, they held a neon-green poster-board sign with a message, printed I black bock letters: “BUTT SEX 4 JESUS.”

That caught Elaine’s attention. Of course, Frog only guffawed the moment she saw the sign, and Brother Jed blithely ignored it, continuing on to speak about the evils of being female and homosexual and mentioning how all three girls should get themselves husbands. The Android phone safely stowed in one of the pockets of her cargo pants, Elaine moved through the crowd towards Hadaly. She was garnering too much attention already, ignoring the Daylight Protocol.

“Hadaly, I don’t think that—” she started to say when music started up behind her. She recognized the harsh harmonics and heavy vamping of  some popular post-Industrial band along with a long vocal note keening out the beginning of a word.

“Hold this for me,” Hadaly said, handing Elaine the neon-green sign as she strode boldly past.

She walked a brisk six feet into the clearing in the crowd next to Brother Jed and stopped with adroit suddenness. Her upper body pivoted slightly forward, her hair fluttering around her face, and though Elaine could not see it—she knew the android girl would be smiling.

“Strike a pose,” she said, frozen in place for a scant half-second before she launched into a full turn pirouette, raising one foot off the ground and pivoting on the ball of her foot. Her white lab coat flared out about the bottom as did her brown hair—an interesting blend of polyester fibers woven directly into the skullcap “skin” that covered the skull cavity of her chassis. The fibers glistened in the sunlight as they caught up with her and she, paused again, waited for the music to catch up with her.

The vocalist in the song began to sing in a rhythmic style reminiscent of rap—Linkin Park, Elaine noticed—and Hadaly responded by dropping to one knee and rolling onto her side. She adeptly followed the melody of the music and the vocals and threw herself into a roll, pin-wheeling her legs in a UFO power move. She let the momentum of her legs carry as she bent her back and spun down onto the rough concrete and sprang up again.

Applause crackled from the assembled and the entire crowd shifted to stare at Hadaly and totally ignore Brother Jed—he had gone on to quoting something, but Elaine couldn’t hear it for the thoughts rushing through her head.

Hadaly continued her routine with the music—and against everything she’d agreed to—flashed a huge grin at Elaine as she performed a perfectly calculated sinusoidal motion wave through her arms and torso. An easy feat with the processing power and the gimbal-mounts that articulated her shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, and ankle joints. After she completed a series of motions mimicking a bowl of very energetic non-Newtonian fluid, Hadaly put one hand on the ground and ran in a circle.

After completing the circle, she lifted herself up, twirled one leg, kicked off with the other, and flipped midair, landing again on her other hand. She continued into other unlikely contortions and configurations, throwing out feet, using hands to prop herself up, elbows set to allow her to pivot-and-spin. Each time she paused within a set, the crowd applauded and cheered; and each time Elaine’s stress and paranoia over what someone might notice about Hadaly’s strangely preternatural abilities mounted.

Until, at nearly the top of the song, a gust of wind and an astonished cry from the preacher provided a distraction.

“Hey, stop!” Brother Jed shouted suddenly. He launched past with surprising speed for his apparent age in pursuit of a black-clad figure—who, from Elaine’s point of view, seemed to be holding onto his crucifix staff. He shouted as he ran. “Stop! Theif!”

With so many eyes on Brother Jed and the thief now running past Danforth Chapel, Elaine grabbed Hadaly by her arm and drew her out of the circle of spectators. Frog quickly fell in behind them both as she quick marched the android towards the MU.

“We’re heading back to the engineering bay,” Elaine said. “We need to power down your chassis for a while.”

“Aw, do I haveta?” Hadaly asid.

“You just violated Daylight Protocol. Of course you have to, and you’re also going to go on the net and make sure nobody got a good picture of you.”

Hadaly moped for a moment, but she didn’t give any resistance as Elaine dragged her towards the dormitories, the underground engineering bay, and thus home.

“The person who just stole the guy’s staff looks awful familiar,” Frog said.

“That was rather strange,” Elaine said, “and a perfect distraction to get Hadaly out.”

“I wonder what’s going on,” Frog said.

“I’m sure we’ll find out later,” Elaine said. “We always do.”

Hadaly simply pouted, but the corners of her synthetically generated lips curled up in triumph anyway.

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