NBA Chapter 4

A Spell & New Dress

Two white figures marched in formation down the cracked street, like walking scars. Their steps and pace timed, even as one dragged a damaged leg after it.

To anyone else, their positions and measured distance between them would seem random. But as she watched them, Kayla could see the phantom X-ers who once filled that space. And the endless echoes of blood and pain.

Hundred years. And X-ers were all that remained of a war long fought and lost. Sure, some said they won. They took out the AI after all, but. A sigh. She sank down next to the shattered window. Her lips curled into a wry smile, the events of the last few days flashed in her mind— Could you really call this winning? 

She bumped her head against the wall, careful to not make a sound, and closed her eyes. Tried to calm her heart as the mechanical steps grew fainter and fainter. Her hands balled into shaking fists at her sides. 

It had gotten better over the years, more controlled, as she had grown confident in herself and her new pack. Had it been the… explosion, or the platoon? It was as if she was back to a small helpless pup again. No. A cowardly stupid pup who merely shivered, froze, and hid as those close to her fought and… 

She bit the inside of her cheek, tasting metal, and forcibly pushed the memories aside. Looked over at the bot, the ghost, who sat not even two meters from her. Its legs were splayed out in front of it, its arms loosely at its side. 

It sounded the same, its steps. If a tad lighter and quicker. It may be a ghost, but had proven itself plenty capable of destruction. To be more dangerous than the X-ers. Then why? It met her gaze and blinked its round blue eyes with a small chiming click. So… Benign. In the end, she couldn’t see it as anything but a mere ghost. Though, in a way, X-ers were ghosts as well. 

Just not so harmless. 

A green, clawed hand waved in front of her face, she flinched and followed the arm back to a frowning James. He had crawled forward at some point to reach. 

As she stared at him, he withdrew his hand, lifted it to the side of his head, and tapped twice. Ah. She closed her eyes again and tilted her head, her ears moved in all directions. She waited an extra minute to be sure, then glanced over at Bunbun and gave the signal. He nodded in agreement. 

“All clear.” 

James stood as soon as she said it. He stretched his arms over his head with a hiss, his tail straight, then shrugged. And imitated her, “Let’s bring it along. It will be safer. It can protect us.” 

He waved his hands in the air as he talked in a higher pitch. When he passed the bot, he lifted his foot and kicked its lower leg. He snarled, “Much good it did.” And walked out.

So much for maturity. 

Tara’s cry of outrage at the kick overlapped with Kayla’s sigh. She was not in the mood. At all. For Tara’s sake, though, she leaned forward on one arm and half-hearted called after him, “Was that really necessary?” Not that she got a response. She heard him walk down the stairs to the first floor. 

Bunbun looked between her and Tara, and the door. He hesitated a moment, then turned away, and jumped after James, his ears hanging. 

Tara got up and rushed over to the bot. She kneeled at its side, her hands clasped on top of each other on its leg. Almost as if to stop bleeding. It took Kayla longer than she would like to admit to realize it was the same spot James had kicked. Dammit. Had he?

Kayla sat down next to her, and gently pried her hands off. She didn’t know what she had expected. Perhaps a tear in the metal, for it to be leaking oil, or cooling, or some other important liquid bots had. There wasn’t even a dent, no, scratch that, there wasn’t even a mark from the kick. The leg was perfectly fine. 

The second she let go of Tara’s small hands, however, they were back on the leg. And firmly pressed down. That couldn’t be an accident. 

“Tara, why are you holding it like that?” 

Tara’s face scrunched up in a frown. She didn’t move or glance her way. Her eyes fully concentrated on the injury as she answered, the words infused with as much seriousness as her juvenile voice could produce,  “What you do.” 

Kayla blinked and parroted her words back at her, “What you do?” 

Tara gave a nod, “Mm, when someone hurt.” 

She opened her mouth to ask where she had learned that, and thought better of it. She watched those tiny fingers tightly clasped together. It wasn’t wrong per se but… Two larger hands enclosed Tara’s. 

Kayla softly spoke, “That’s right, but when someone is just a bit hurt, like this, a spell works better.” 

Tara’s face went slack and her mouth dropped open in wonder. She looked up for the first time, her blueish-pink eyes wide. ”A spell?”  

As soon as the word left her mouth, however, it snapped shut. Tara’s eyebrows furrowed. She seemed angry at herself for her more than earnest reaction. 

Was Kayla really that untrustworthy? 

She swallowed down a laugh, and tried to put as much enthusiasm in her voice as possible instead, ”Yes! A spell!” She smiled and squeezed the hands under hers. “Like this. First, repeat the words after me, don’t worry they are easy to remember, just—” She spoke the spell and nodded for her to say it. 

Tara stared back at her, doubtful, as if she was half certain Kayla was only messing with her. She repeated the foreign spell, ”Pain… pain… fly away?” 

Kayla smiled in encouragement and carefully cupped her hands around Tara’s, almost as though picking up a small bird. She brought their hand up into the air and released. Her fingers fluttered down, and scattered the pain away.

The image reflected in the bot’s blue eyes. And overlapped. With laughter, and sunlight. Gleaming windows and swishing red hair. With a pair of small hands grasping its own. Lips moving in fleeting words it could not hold on to. 

Tara’s fists were still in the air. She copied the motion to the best of her ability and glanced at Kayla to make sure she had done it right. Kayla nodded. 

“That’s how you do it.” She smiled and gave her head a heavy pat, her hand nearly large enough to cover it. And stood. 

For a while now she had heard James rummage around in the kitchen, she should probably go search for supplies as well. With his current mode, she would never hear the end of it if she didn’t. 

Tara looked at her palms for a moment. 

And closed them. She pushed herself up, stepped across the bot’s legs to the other side, and tiptoed her tiny feet. 

Kayla was at the doorway when her ears twitched. She glanced back in time to watch Tara reach to place her hands on the bot’s head panel. There was a large dent on the left side of its head, had been since they first met. 

Tara wiggled, and nibbled her lower lip as she fought to remain balanced. But she was determined. With both hands on the dent, she mumbled the spell and let one clenched hand go to sprinkle the pain away. 

Kayla’s tail swayed as she silently ducked out of the room. 

“Humm, humm, humm, hum. Humm—” 

Tara’s odd walking tune had stuck— Unfortunately— Kayla hummed it, a slight grin on her lips, and sifted through the yellow drawer in the child bedroom. 

They had hidden in the closest house, a blue two story villa. It had been a fast decision, with no consideration for potential supplies. 

It turned out to be a good place, however, intact and untouched, for the most part. There might not be much in the way of food, but she should be able to find some clothes for Tara. They seemed about the right size. 

She held up a dress and squinted. 

It was white with a pink rose pattern. Not the best in her opinion, but as they were unlikely to find toddler military garb, it would have to do. 

She shook the dust out of it and peeked her head out the door to call Tara over from the desk room. The bot followed her. 

Now that she paid attention, she could see how small her current clothes were. Both the sleeves and pant legs were too short, and the shirt tighter than it should be. To think, if Seth hadn’t mentioned it before they entered this city, it wouldn’t have even crossed her mind. Kayla shook her head. 

“Wgh… Uum… Buuu…” 

Tiny grunts of effort left Tara’s mouth. The shirt had caught on her head, she struggled to take it off. 

The bot reached out a hand from behind her and Kayla instinctively tensed. Tara got it off on her own. And the metal hand stopped and retracted. 

Had it wanted to help? 

She threw an incredulous glance its way, and re-focused on Tara. In the brief moment she looked away she had already managed to pull the white dress over her head. It was definitely a better fit. Size wise at least. 

Tara smiled, and twirled around. Squealed. Delighted when it puffed out. She seemed to like it; Kayla was a bit skeptical though. 

The dress was already the least colorful of the bunch, yet she couldn’t help but compare it with her own clothes, especially her favorite multifunctional military jacket. But, no, it wouldn’t be long before Tara needed something new anyway. 

It was fine. 

She packed away a spare, discharged the old, and at once found herself without anything productive to do. She looked around the room. Took it in. 

The first, most notable, and important detail, was the fact that the windows in this room were intact. Which meant, unlike the desk room, it hadn’t had to weather rain and all nature had to throw at it the past hundred years.

That in turn meant; wood floors that weren’t swollen and bent, wallpaper that hadn’t peeled off. No books laid decomposed, nor furniture collapsed. 

And colors. Colors other than dirty gray and brown. And boy was it colorful. Seth had said this was one of the first cities to be hit. No one had seen it coming. And it had been over fast. She imagined everything here was the same as before the war, if a bit muted by the thick layer of dust that covered the room. 

The walls were pale blue with a white cloud pattern, the wardrobe as bright yellow as the drawer next to it. There was a plush gray rug, or perhaps white. And the bedframe was deep blue. Not to mention all the different colored toys scattered about. She sat down on the bed. And a puff of dust rose up. 

Kayla coughed and placed a hand down behind her on the bed sheets. There was a robot depicted in the center of the white sheet surrounded by characters she didn’t recognize. The bot wasn’t an X-er, but neither was it like most ghosts she had seen. No, actually, it might be similar to THE bot. The nanny one. 

…Maybe it was time they named it. They couldn’t just go around calling it ghost, or the bot. Not that she could think of anything better at this moment. 

Her eyes wandered the room. Tara had found some of the old toys, a pair of cars, and showed it to… the bot. She seemed to try to teach it something. Kayla didn’t listen too closely. She yawned. Her gaze ended up back on the bed. Then the pillows. Or more precisely, something by the pillows. She stretched over and picked it up. 

It was a doll, white, plush, with pink gems for eyes. A bunny. Though it reminded her more of Tara than it did Bunbun. She used her sleeve to rub some dirt off its cheek. Stopped when it only made it worse.  

A crash downstairs. Kayla jumped off the bed, her ears perked and body tense. A succession of crashes followed. And a despairing cry, “Augh!!” 


She motioned for Tara to hide. And ran for the door. 


Feel free to comment if you see any issues, spelling or writing-wise, even if something seems out of place, or boring. I have yet to find an editor, so I’m open to constructive criticism. 

Also, this is what AI gave me when I typed in the room description, not completely accurate, but it gives a very nice vibe: 

Previous Chapter | TOC | Next Chapter

One Reply to “NBA Chapter 4”

Leave a Reply