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

CHAPTER 6

Bobo descended from the furnace, fingers of smoke trailing from the glowing edges of his parts.

He looked down upon the dead man. He had seen many non-living humans, but seldom with their works exposed. Human hardware was so strange, so irregular and moist. It was as if their insides were made of red vegetables and string.

"Bobo offers condolences for disorganizing this man," he said.

A shot rang out. Bobo spun and fell, tumbling awkwardly against the giant metal oven door. A hail of sparks popped from a sizzling hole in his breast.

Yellow jumpsuit lowered the rifle from his shoulder and took a few cautious steps forward. He wiped sweat from his brow then risked a quick look down at his fallen cousin. His face hardened. He raised the gun again and moved closer.

Bobo's brain was deluged by notifications. Both vascular and hydraulic pressure were dropping rapidly. His range of recommended operating temperatures had been exceeded, and his warranty was void.

Yellow jumpsuit cocked his weapon. "You metal bastard, this is where you die."

"No," warbled Bobo. He leaned heavily into the furnace door, his works buzzing plaintively as they threatened to fail. With the tread on his feet ruined he could find no purchase in the mud.

"Yes."

His head was knocked hard aside by the next shot, the carapace over the port side of his face broken and the works beneath distressed. He was blinded. "The residents…" he croaked, stuttering over the syllables.

Yellow jumpsuit snorted. "Fornicate your residents."

Bobo recognized that the man in the yellow jumpsuit was not only not a physician, but that he actually meant harm. He represented an entirely new category of human being: an anti-physician. This classification helped Bobo cast for optimality in the appropriate direction.

The existence of an anti-physician was a danger to residents everywhere. It was Bobo's responsibility to mitigate the threat insofar as he was able.

Bobo dug deep. With a creak and a stuttering hum Bobo pulled himself up. He staggered to the far side of the great oven, putting its heat and its metal between himself the man in the yellow jumpsuit. He could hear the man circling around to take another shot.

Bobo felt around in the mud at the oven's base until he found its mooring bolts, and he heaved. Even the loosest standards required that Bobos be possessed of sufficient strength to rescue multiple residents in the event of an emergency situation. Even multiple obese residents. And so when Bobo heaved the furnace tore from its foundations with a bass groan and toppled sidewise, its tonnage too much for even Bobo to control. Sparks and smoke clouded the air as a lava-like puke splashed out of the open front, searing everything it splattered.

There was chaos. The tool sheds were on fire. Steam roiled from the ground. Shouts and screams rang out.

Bobo crawled away on his hands and knees.

Progress was slow but by dawn he had worked his way deep into the junkyard. Far behind him were the neat stacks of materials clearly separated from heaps of discards; now he was surrounded by nothing but rounded hills of unsorted refuse. As the main star climbed an effluvium of vile gases steamed out of the hills and occluded the sky.

Bobo could appreciate this because he had found a stray eye. It wasn't a proper eye, in fact, but a tourist camera -- but it was better than blindness. Everything he looked at was superimposed with a flashing string of text: NO RESTAURANTS FOUND.

By noon he had recovered the parts required to synthesize a crude workaround for his leaking hydraulics. He sat in the shade of an algae-stained hot tub and worked on himself a while.

Gulls wheeled in the air, squawking. Flies buzzed. Bobo crawled on.

The waste turned fetid. Slurries of organic rot oozed between the piles of rubbish. Bobo smelled a unique mixture of compounds. The air was alive with spores and rank with methane and sulfur. NO RESTAURANTS FOUND, his eye reminded him.

In a clearing he came upon an enormous figure, solitary and still.

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