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The Mad Little Toaster

The Mad Little Toaster

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Sue had always had trouble handling kitchen appliances, but this time it's really gotten out of hand.
Sue had always had trouble handling kitchen appliances, but this time it's really gotten out of hand.

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Published by: Webberly Rattenkraft on Jun 12, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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09/01/2013

 
For weeks, Sue had suspected the toaster was out to get her, but not until she caught it loadingitself with slices of C4 was she sure. She stood in the kitchen for a moment, watching its fumblingefforts to manipulate an oily, gray slab with the 3-fingered metal claws that extended from either side of its chrome body. Good thing she’d forgotten to grab her grocery list off the counter. Howlong had this damned thing been in her house? How had it found her stash of C4? Did it have adetonator yet? Having seen enough, she said, in a voice that could wilt steel, “How the hell did youmanage to get past the sensors?”The toaster gave a start and whirled to, she assumed, face her, dropping the slab of C4. Ametallic voice said, “Ah. Yes. I, you see...
 sweet mother of Babbage, what’s that behind you?
Sue rolled her eyes. “For gods’ sake, that didn’t work in fourth grade, and it’s not going towork now. Though it answers the question of who sent you, at least. ‘Look behind you’ wasalways Xander’s desperation defense.” The toaster, which had produced a throwing knife to buryin her exposed back had she been fool enough to expose it, slumped. Sue pulled a compact bundleof tubes from her purse and aimed it at the toaster. “If you’re in communication with Xander, tellhim he’s going to have to come up with something better than you to take me down, even if I amretired. Oh, and speaking of me being retired, tell him the next time he makes a move on me, I’mgoing to track him down and crush him like a cockroach on Jupiter.”The toaster tipped to one side a little, looking confused.“You know, Jupiter. High gravity? So if you stomped on a bug, you’d be stomping reallyhard?” The toaster made a sound rather like a robot snorting. “Oh, screw you. I’m a doer, not atalker.” She squeezed the tubes and a blob of thick purple gel shot toward the toaster, but it wasalready in motion, launching itself straight up on springy legs that shot out from its underside. Thegel scorched a pit into the tile surface, and while Sue cringed inside, outside she was throwingherself to the right. A pair of gleaming silver darts embedded themselves in the counter whereshe’d been standing. Sue tucked and rolled, coming up with her gel-thrower pointing at the ceiling.The toaster was scrambling sideways on six spindly black legs, small claws leaving a trail of holesgouged into the surface.Sue gritted her teeth at the sight, and sent a few more shots after it. The toaster dodged eachone, weaving a complicated pattern that left bits of sheetrock raining down in its wake. Themetallic voice returned. “You always were a lousy shot, Sue!” it cackled.“Xander, you asshole, I’m retired now! You’re way out of line!” Sue got off one last shot before the toaster leaped from the ceiling to the mantelpiece to take cover behind the couch.“I don’t care if you’re retired! I would be King of Nevada right now if it weren’t for you! Doyou have any
idea
how much money I could be making just off of Burning Man
alone
?” Suemoved to take up a position behind the kitchen island, trying to judge the toaster’s position, but itwouldn’t keep still while it talked.“Your plan was idiotic, Xander! Your robot soldiers were a joke, for one thing! I read your  plans, they wouldn’t have lasted 24 hours in Nevada’s heat! Not to mention that it all hinged uponthe citizens being so disgruntled with the state government that they’d flock to you as their newleader. They have legalized gambling and prostitution, moron! They’re the most gruntled citizensin the nation!” She tossed aside the gel-thrower and pulled a small rail gun from her purse. Her own invention, it accelerated titanium balls to blinding speed without the hassle of gunpowder or other explosives. She continued to fumble through her purse while she talked, but she couldn’t findher EMP pulser. Crap, didn’t she use it in that Best Buy last week when they wouldn’t stop playingdubstep on the PA? It must still be in the basement, recharging.“My plan was
 perfect!
” came the voice from behind the couch. The metallic overtones made it
 
even more annoying than Xander’s usual nasal whine. “My loyal subjects would have rallied to myside when they saw my plan for the state’s future!” It sounded like the toaster was staying in one place. Sue decided to pile on the aggravation.Sue laughed. “Loyal subjects? You’ve never had a friend you didn’t build in your basement,and even they only pretended to like you because you controlled access to the power source!” Sheslowly rose from behind the island, gun trained on the end of the couch. “Say, did you ever hear from your LoveBot after she ran away with your mainframe? Bummer about it downloading itself into that cyborg body you were building to hold your consciousness, huh? Too bad you didn’t getaround to giving it your face--that probably would have kept her away from him.”With an angry cry that sounded like a tangle of lengthy vowels crossed with a couple of variations on “bitch,” the toaster sprang from behind the couch, a fusillade of darts stitching acrossthe far wall and ventilating the fridge. Sue had time for one shot that grazed the toaster’s side, blowing off the handle in a spray of sparks, before throwing herself to the floor. Xander was anasshole, but he was right about her not being the best of shots. That, of course, is why she had builtcertain defenses into her home, so where the hell were they? The toaster ran along the couch’s back, claws throwing up tufts of fabric in its wake, and leaped for the kitchen counter. Sue rolledonto her back, missing another few shots aimed at its underside, and scrambled to her feet, divinginto the hallway that led to the front door.She could hear it running across the counter, knocking pots to the floor as it went, probably on purpose. Sue yanked down the painting that covered the control panel for the house’s systems, pulling the door open and pressing her palm to the ID scanner. It quickly verified her identity and brought up the overview screen, which showed all the house’s defenses off-line. “What the
 fuck?”
Sue muttered, the stress of the moment overwhelming the G-rating filter she’d imposed on her speech since the twins had been born. She was sure they heard worse in fourth grade every day, butthe habit had stuck.From the kitchen, she heard the sound of breaking glass and a wicked cackle. “Oh, Sue, did Iforget to mention that my little bread-burning friend here interfaced with your systems last night?I’m afraid your defense grid is a little compromised at the moment. Pity, too--it was a lovelysystem. No comparison to mine, naturally, but then I would hardly expect you to be able to keep upwith me.”Sue grimaced. If Xander had been able to compromise her systems, it was because he’d hadhelp. After this, she was going to have a long and probably violent discussion with the consultantshe’d hired to do the bioinformation scanners, the one aspect of her defense grid she’d needed helpwith. The prick must have hacked his way into the rest of her systems with what access she’dallowed him. She hoped for his sake that Xander had forced the information out of him, because if he’d put her family’s safety up for sale, he wasn’t long for this world.Gun trained on the door to the kitchen, Sue quickly scanned through the diagnostic screens.There had to be a way to get things back on-line, but she wasn’t finding it. She heard another crash, and that taunting voice again, “Oh, I’m sorry, I hope that Cuisinart wasn’t one of the pricier models!” Sue shook her head in frustration, but at least she knew now that Xander was directlycontrolling the toaster. No autonomous robot would be that much of a dick. She gave up on thediagnostics and sank into a low crouch, slowly creeping sideways to get a look into the kitchen.The crashing and banging had stopped, which was a bad sign. She saw plenty of mess, but no signof the toaster. She eased backwards in an awkward duck-walk, alternating her aim between theentrance to the kitchen and the hallway leading to the living room she had come from. She hadnever known Xander to be patient, so he was clearly up to something, but what?
 
Rising to her feet, she jogged sideways down the hall, gun trained behind her. As sheapproached the living room, she paused for a moment, then ran forward full-speed and leaped intothe room, tucking into a somersault and ending up behind the couch. She popped up, gun at theready, and scanned the kitchen. No sign of the toaster. A series of gouges in the ceiling led out of the kitchen toward the front door, though. Cursing quietly to herself, she surveyed the damage. Itlooked like a very angry chef had thrown a tantrum in there, but what stood out was her emptyknife rack. She guessed the toaster had used up its supply of darts when it had blasted away at her in the kitchen. Typical Xander. She bolted for the mud room, a short hallway leading into the backyard, just as the toaster came scurrying into the living room, still clinging to the ceiling. Asilver tentacle flung a paring knife at her, the rest of her expensive cutlery clutched in another. Sheducked and fired two shots as it scurried toward the far well, coming close but not close enough. Itextracted another knife, a larger steak knife, from the bundle and sent it spinning at her head. Shethrew herself backwards into the mud room and kicked the door shut. The knife burst through awindowpane in the door and buried its tip in the floor next to her.The toaster approached her, zigzagging across the ceiling as she backed toward the outer door,trying to lead the toaster but never quite able to hit it. She kicked out backwards, fumbling with her foot for the oversized dog door they’d had to put in when they’d proved unable to train Porthos, anenormous Bernese Mountain Dog, not to bang his head on the door to be let in. She was glad hewasn’t here right now--he was a lovely dog, but probably wouldn’t have been of much help againsta homicidal toaster. Luckily he’d taken sick the night before and was spending the day at thevet’s-- son of a
bitch
. Had that bastard Xander 
 poisoned 
Porthos to get him out of the way? Oh, hewas going to
 pay
. Her foot hit something that gave way just as the toaster burst through the door’sglass panes into the mudroom. She fired off a series of shots, a burst of titanium spheres flyingalmost noiselessly at the toaster, which leapt to one side, losing its grip with a few spider legs. Itwas recovering its balance as Sue backed out quickly through the dog door, loosing a few morerounds before letting the door fall shut.Sue straightened up as much as she dared without showing herself in the door’s large frostedwindow. She did some quick calculations and counted silently, “One... two... three...
 FOUR!
” Sheshouted the last word as she stood up and lunged forward, throwing all her weight into a kick— really more like a power-stomp; in her head, she was imaging that she had to kill a very largespider clinging to a wall—aimed at the bottom of the door. She saw that she’d timed it perfectly asthe door flew upward to meet her foot, a savage grin lighting up her face. Her brand-new NewBalance running shoe connected when the door was at about a 45-degree angle, and she heard amost delightful crunching sound as her follow-through smashed the door through nearly a fullswing. She almost lost her balance as her foot thumped to the deck, but she recovered quickly andyanked the door open, ready to shoot.The toaster had flown across the room and smacked into the inner door. A couple of its multi- jointed legs were twisted and useless, and it was staggering back and forth as it attempted to regainmobility. Sue aimed carefully and let fly with two shots that hit it directly on the side, but didn’t penetrate. Dammit! Xander had clearly made some progress with his materials science research.They did rattle the toaster thoroughly, and Xander didn’t seem to have any more smart-asscomments to make at the moment. She was preparing for another volley when the toaster suddenlylurched to one side and flung her chef’s knife at her. She dodged, twisting to one side, but it hadaimed low, and the knife buried itself several inches into the meat of her left calf.“You
 fuck!
,” she cried. She yanked the knife out with one hand, firing several hasty shots that punched through the door as the toaster clumsily scrambled away. She couldn’t believe she’d

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