April 4, 2020

Jarek Slater & the Ballad of the Broken Glass Kids

Jarek Slater took one last wistful glance down the bleak, sunbaked alleyway and sighed. It still looked too much like an escape route. He took one last pull from the dark bottle on hand and welcomed the fire that tickled its way down his throat, leaving traces of oak wood, cherries, and Pryce’s own handmade love dancing across his tongue in the aftermath.

“One last pull, sir?” came Al’s smooth English robot judgment in his earpiece.

Jarek scowled, then relented when he remembered his disembodied AI companion could no longer see such affectations. Not without Jarek deliberately raising his comm camera to face level first, at least. It hadn’t been easy for either of them, acclimating to Al’s new handicaps since they’d lost Fela.

“Personally, I blame the alcohol, buddy,” he said, frowning instead at the bottle in his hand. Almost empty. Maybe Al had just a smidgen of a point. It had been his seventh or eighth one last pull in the past two minutes.

“Not to mention our current surroundings,” he muttered, looking back at the old Victorian house that’d once been a lowdown inn for those in dire need, and a home for Jarek, too, albeit for a too-brief moment in history.

Someone had been taking care of it.

“Did I mention this is the worst idea you’ve ever had?”

“You did, sir. Multiple times.”

“Right.” Jarek frowned at the bottle, then downed the defiant last drops like the ruthless conqueror, Alexander the Drunk. “And where did we land on that one?”

“I believe right at the part where this was in fact your idea, sir.”

“You can’t prove that.”

“To you? Never.”

Jarek grinned, wiping his mouth, and appreciating the warm buzz that tingled through his brain as he did. “They can take my suit, but they’ll never take my sassy robot.”

“Stirring, sir. Perhaps we can have matching T-shirts made, after we’ve seen to business here.”

Business here.

That alone was enough to bring the sober sauce oozing down on his head like a murky cloud of regrets and poor decisions, new and old. This was where it had all started—where Conner and his Iron Eagles had gotten their hooks into Jarek, and tugged him along on his first inevitable steps to the Soldier of Charity. This was where Rose had done the same, in her own far gentler way.

Goddamn Boston.


Tags

harvesters, short story


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