Madame Allanya’s gasping mini-bus wheezed to a stop on the outskirts of the last green town in Nebraska. Emblazoned on the side, below the windows, her “Astounding Android Acrobats” in title script with “Death defying stunts, by death denying acrobats” as subtext, showed in a swooping wide smile beneath a hand painted trapeze act depicting a half-dozen robots twirling mid-air.
A boy on a homemade scooter, foggy-glass solar panels strapped to its side, hummed by, his neck craning to take in the spectacle. As Madame Allanya popped open the door, her paisley skirt and swirls of scarves flowed out and about and around her. The boy, his red cap backwards, set down his feet. “Them real ‘droids, or just a tri-D?”
Allanya glanced around, smoothed her clothing and straightened the purple scarf that held back her graying hair. “Three D? Not on your life, my young man.” She patted the side of the bus. “We are IRL daredevils, come to amaze you and your lovely town. We seek your town’s…”
“They don’t take much to strangers here.” Redcap spun his hat forward. “‘Specially strange ones.”
“… leader, your mayor or such.” Allanya had suspended her words, pause-button style. “If you could point us in the direction of your local authority.” She stretched her ruddy lips letting bone-white teeth glimmer through. From within the pocket in the driver’s door, she retrieved an array of colorful candy suckers, individually wrapped. “We come fully stocked from sweets from the South and elixirs from the North.”
Redhat gazed at the orange and green, blue and yellow spirals of sugar. He spun on his seat and pointed. “Major Lumbard, he’s the latest. Down that way, big brick building, gots the only trees ain’t dead yet.”
“My thanks, young man.” She lowered the sugary bouquet. “I’d reward you but, candy from strangers, and all that.”
“You ain’t that strange.”
“My sentiments exactly.” She selected a smaller version from her fan of treats. “For your excellent advice,” she offered, extending her hand.
Redhat kicked off, made to leave but looped around, dashed by Allanya, and snatched the sucker from her fingers like a ring from a hook at the carousel.
“We’ll see you tonight.” Allanya cupped her hands. “Tell your friends and family.”
“The batteries are all charged. The rigs are secured. The performing troupe is ready.”
Madame Allanya eyed “G” in her private dressing mirror tucked away near the front of the bus. “And the sneak droids?”
G shifted uneasily. “Our spy reports that there’s hardly anything worth stealing in this town.”
“You say that more and more often, G. Yet, we always come away with something of use, something to sell for barter.”
“The video dogbot recorded shows only desperate people. No powercells, no comms, nothing of value.”
“What about their gardens? We passed patches of green on the way in.” Allanya had traded her billowy clothing for a sleek, skin tight suit that revealed a taut body, trained alongside her acrobatic team. She ran her hands over smooth curves. The desolate lands continued to be ruled by men, she’d established.
“You mean to take their food?”
The troupe leader shook her head, her drawn-back hair, painted dark for the show, swung seductively side to side. “They’re hiding something in those sheds. Leave the food. Find out their secrets.”
“Good. Let’s give ’em an excellent show tonight. Tomorrow,” she patted G on his slick carapace, “we’ll find out just how this town continues to survive.”