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Bobo, a novella by C. B. Brown; illustrations by Matthew Hemming.

CHAPTER 2

Bobo stood in the middle of the recreation room's stained carpet, alone.

A crowbar worked the jamb, prying the front door from the frame with a loud bang. In response a flurry of dust drifted down from the ceiling. A flashlight flashed through the doorway, pawing through the gloom, beam winking with slowly swirling motes.

"Smells like piss."

A man in a yellow jumpsuit stepped inside the home, turning in a circle with his flashlight at the shoulder. Strange stains streaked the walls of the lobby. His boots crunched on a bed of mouse turds. He adjusted his breathing mask, swore, then hollered, "Stop your lollygagging, idiots! Clock's ticking."

Idiots came through the front door two by two. The man in the yellow jumpsuit watched as they dispersed through the corridors, little metal feet clicking on the tiles. He shot his cuff and checked his watch, then started his own rounds to wander the property for anything noteworthy while the idiots did their work.

In a custodial closet he found a full-body medical scanner and shelves jammed with odds and ends, broken parts, and singles of pairs of things. There was also a mop encrusted with bacterial empires, a screwdriver with a melted handle, an adult video wafer and an empty beer bottle. He tagged the medical scanner and moved on.

In the corridor the man in the yellow jumpsuit dodged idiots ferrying items out to the truck. A brace of them scuttled into the custodial closet to retrieve the scanner. He stepped around them and passed into a common area with tiny slivers of sunlight squeaking in around the edges of boarded-up windows.

Bobo stood in the middle of the recreation room's stained carpet, alone.

The man in the yellow jumpsuit tilted his head. He let his flashlight wash up and down over the thing's dust-coated carapace before licking his lips and starting to smile. This scavenge might be worth the price of parking after all.

He closed his eyes and whispered, "Thank you, thank you, thank you. Patent pending, amen."

The man in the yellow jumpsuit tagged Bobo for pickup and then went back to the truck to eat his lunch. He had two boiled eggs. While he unpeeled and ate them a dozen idiots marched back and forth from the decrepit retirement home to the truck bearing mouldering sofas and framed flat pictures and cracked lamps and sunbleached books. Six of them coordinated to carry an oven, the truck's shocks groaning as they manoeuvred up the ramp. Two more came out of the home with Bobo stiff between them.

Yellow jumpsuit popped the last bit of egg into his mouth and started the engine. Idiots folded themselves into cubes, the last stacking the others neatly in the corner of the cargo bay. It tightened a safety-strap and then joined the stack, limbs retracting, ribs collapsing, torso doubling over and then splitting to fold again.

The man leaned in from the driving compartment. "It's alright?"

A green light winked on. He turned back to the controls and designed a course back to the junkyard, stubby fingers leaving little greasy clean spots on the buttons.

Everything inside the truck jerked and swayed as the vehicle grumbled into motion.

Bobo's head knocked against a bulkhead. He blinked. His limbs whined feebly as he found his balance and shifted on his feet against the motion. He felt depleted and discombobulated and cold. Startup errors from various subsystems beeped inside his brain.

Timidly, he addressed the stack of folded idiots: "Is there anything Bobo can get for you?"


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