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
how much money I could be making just off of Burning Man
?” 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
” came the voice from behind the couch. The metallic overtones made it