For WipItUp Wednesday, here’s another excerpt from The Last Rancher. This one is darker than the one I shared last week, but I hope it’s a good taste for the side of this story that’s not all cow-milking and sexytimes (you HAVE been warned lol):
“Ember, do you think it’s just the Brotherhood that are involved in this?” His question surprised me.
“Regular people don’t have an interest in crap like that, they’re far too busy with football player exchanges or the latest music.” It was inconceivable that regular people would be involved in this.
“All regular people?”
“Sure, I mean… that stuff’s pretty all-consuming. Even my companion-doll used to think sports were important.” I remembered her voice fondly. She had been my best friend growing up. My parents even used her as a babysitter regularly.
“Companion doll?” Hadley looked baffled. I realized he probably never got one out here.
“When I was a kid, I was sent a little talking doll. Every child got one when they turned three. I called mine Sherry. She had a touchscreen in her stomach, and she taught me to read and write, how to do a bit of math, and every day, she reminded me at the right time to do dance-along with the big purple cartoon dinosaur on the TV. Sherry would do the exercise with me so I was never lonely.” At my words, the expression on Hadley’s face grew darker. “When I got older, she used to find other robot dolls nearby to wirelessly connect to. She would always seem to connect to robots with owners who shared my exact interests. That’s how I met three of the girls on the skating team, before I joined. Sherry even had a camera in her eyes so I could make videos of my day.”
Hadley sighed. “Novara just gets more fucked up every time you open your mouth.”
“Hey! She was my best friend growing up. I guess those dolls were everyone’s best friend until they were old enough to go and meet people. I shared everything with her.” I was eager to defend her. Sherry had left me with nothing but good memories.
“Why?” His question irked me.
“She wanted to know. She asked me questions about my day, what my parents had been up to, that sort of thing.” It had been nice. She had been the only thing in my life that had ever taken an interest in how I was doing.
“Holy fuck.” He ran his hands through his hair; a sure sign he was stressing.
“What?” I didn’t understand his reaction.
“You had a talking doll that spied on you and trained you to do exercise and vetted your friends before you ever met them.”
Now it was my turn to stare at him. Bile rose in my throat and the ground seemed to sway beneath me. I shook my head. “No. That’s not fair. Not Sherry. You can’t take Sherry away from me. She was my friend!” I began to cry because I realized what he said was true.
He put his arm around me and reassured me. I just wanted one thing to be real from my whole life before I met Hadley.
“It’s going to be okay, Ember. I’m going to fix this, I promise. I’m sorry I asked. If they controlled everyone that much, I don’t think they trusted them enough to let anyone else in on what they were doing to people.”
“Hadley?” I was still sniffling. I felt so despondent.
“How can we fight a secretive boys’ club who can do that to twelve million people? There’s only two of us!” It seemed like such an impossibly huge undertaking, and we weren’t anything special. We were both honest and hardworking, neither of us were especially smart, and we didn’t fully understand everything about our opponents. They, on the other hand, were smart enough to enslave a whole city, they understood everything about both of us, they knew exactly how everything in the city worked, and they didn’t play fair.
“I don’t know, babe, but we’ll think of something.” He kissed me on the forehead and his determination warmed me a little. “I promise you, we’ll think of something.”
* * *
That’s all for this week’s, but The Last Rancher is out on Saturday, and I am fizzing with excitement to share it with everyone!! In the meantime, I made this:
Lots of love,