by E. A. Blevins
Soren’s mother loved to shop. Today, she’d dragged him to her favorite boutique in the town square of Helmsley. Soren’s brother had already been dropped off at the big kids’ school, but Soren got to skip because of the tornado. It had crushed Sunshine Elementary’s cafeteria.
Soren was mad at his mom because she wouldn’t take him to see it. Bad enough that he’d been stuck in a basement with almost no toys to play with when it happened. He wanted to SEE.
He didn’t think his mom knew he was mad, and she might take him to the ice cream parlor after. That was his favorite place on the square. Sure, the big kid behind the counter always slung Soren’s marshmallow swirl too hard into the waffle cone. And sure, he grunted when Soren asked for a new one. But maybe he didn’t like having to wear the striped hat and bowtie. Soren didn’t like wearing ties, either, but his mom made him every time they went to see his grandmother. And maybe the big kid wanted to eat all that ice cream but wasn’t allowed to spoil his dinner. Or maybe he wanted to play with his remote control car but his mom wouldn’t let him.
Unlike Soren’s mom, who let Soren take his remote control car everywhere, even to the cramped little boutique.
Soren sat off by himself and sent his toy car on patrols like any good Robot Overlord. A little old lady entered, browsed an overstuffed rack of fabric half–hidden behind another overstuffed rack, and frowned at him when his toy car skidded a little too close to her foot.
He met her eyes, his thumbs lifting off the buttons of the controller, and wondered what she’d do next. But she only tilted her head forward, pinched her lips together, turned, and stepped deliberately over his car. The shop bell jingled as she left, and Soren returned to his mission.
Witnesses neutralized, check.
Scene scouted, check.
Objective targeted, check.
“Want a sucker?”
Soren whipped his head around and stared at the stealthy woman holding out a red sucker.
She wiggled it. He reached out, took it gingerly from her hand, and held it as she smiled down at him. “Out of school today?”
“My nieces and nephews are, too. Crazy about that tornado, right?”
She mussed his hair, which Soren found irritating, and left him alone. He fixed his hair, then looked at the sucker in his hand. It could be a diabolical device to prevent his master plan, or it could be a cherry sucker.
Soren decided to take the gamble and unwrapped it. He took a moment to savor the first burst of sugar and then turned with the sucker in his mouth to finish his task. He decided the white stick made him look like one of his dad’s movie heroes about to blow something up.
Not that Soren had ever blown anything up.
He wasn’t old enough to play with explosives yet.
Sucker clamped firmly in his jaw, he sent his car to the door to distract the shop lady. It worked. As she glanced over at his toy, he moved behind one of the racks and reached up to pluck down his goal.
It was a gleaming braided metal monstrosity, a belt so hideous and uncomfortable–looking, Soren’s mother had tried it on last Thursday and laughed that someone must have made it as a weapon.
That alone would have caught his attention, but it was also pure copper, the fine threads of metal twisted together in an agony of fashion.
He knew from his uncle that machines needed wires, and copper was the best. Soren could pull the belt apart to build his robot army. He would probably need a robot manual, too, but he’d worry about that later.
Right then, in his hand, the belt felt like the first step on the road to become THE Robot Overlord of Helmsley.
He would have held it up like a video game character, but he thought the shop lady might notice if he did that. Instead, he wrapped it twice around his waist under his shirt and planned to dodge any hugs his mom offered him.
As he picked up his remote control and made his car race across the boutique and bump under the changing room curtain, he smiled to himself.
There was no way he could fail.