It was the early morning, still dark, with only a faint smudge of the sunrise peering over the horizon. Jennifer still perched on the room's round table, reluctant to leave. JVKlub was teeming with people, some of which were packing rucksacks with food and bottled water. These people, and pickle, lined up orderly against the wall in preparation for their leaving. the Engineer Ramm paced along the row, handing out a shriek rifle or some other cruel looking weapon from a sack as he went.
"Cal and Yak you both have standard issue rifles, twenty rounds each. That's all I could manufacture in time, let's just hope you actually think before you shoot." Cal and Yak took their respective rifles from Ramm and loaded in the first four bullets each.
"Anthony, I'm giving you this..." Rammjet heaved a rocket launcher from the sack. It was short for a launcher, no more than a full arm's length, but it was bulky and curvaceously shaped so that it would rest over the shoulders comfortably. Anthony also took three warheads from Ramm and cautiously placed them in his own rucksack.
"Poozy you already have your weapon, you should all be ready to go assuming you've all been to the toilet." Anthony half-smiled at this until Yak flung his bag to the ground and rushed off to a door in the far left corner. Joman got up from the round table and signed for attention.
"This is more for those of us who are left behind than those who are leaving." He announced, "This mission is in no way an end-game, OK? If suspicion rises, we cover for those who are gone. Try not to do anything in particular, try not to raise any alarms. This mission needs to go smoothly and secretly, so lets all play it low for a while." Prism and Ramm nodded their approval at this, Ymmot however turned from the table and quietly made his way to the entrance of the den. He would have left, if it were not for what happened next.
As Ymmot drew back the metal sheet that covered the stair well, the droid Python tumbled down. He soared past Ymmot and crashed down the stairs onto the floor of the den with a loud thump. He looked up dizzily, then stared about him terrified as shriek rifles were raised to point at his head. Yak walked back into the room busy with his belt, then let it go at the sight of the droid. His trousers slid to his ankles.
"What the flipping heck is a droid doing here?" Yelled Poozy, standing firmly in front of Python with a rifle aimed down his neck. Yak hurried to their sides and readied his own rifle. The droid raised his hands to head height and looked about at his captors.
"I'll tell you! I'll tell you!" He stammered in a robotic voice that almost had a hint of the fear which his body language clearly portrayed, "I found Jennifer's note in the Orchard so I followed her!" Jennifer blushed and his her head between her shoulders.
Ymmot bounded back down the stairs and in to the view of Python. "We should kill him!" He decided, "He must have come here to expose us, why else would he be eavesdropping outside? We can't risk him telling the others, we can't let him go back out there!" Ymmot grabbed the shriek rifle from Cal and aimed it down at Python's face, who in turn yelped and fell onto his palms. Cal snatched the rifle back before Ymmot had a chance to pull the trigger.
"Hold off there! These things are really loud, do you want to burst all of our ear drums?" He slung the rifle over his shoulder instead of pointing it back at Python, and pinned down Ymmot with a watchful glare. The droid shuffled uncomfortably.
"I wasn't going to tell the other droids, to tell the truth I wouldn't trust them. Ourr programming is starting to decay and they are acting irrationally."
"It's true." Said Prism, "Remember Squids? Droids are programmed to hold a council with Jiggmin before exacting 'permanent justice', but they just killed him there and then!"
"I want to help!" Python continued, "I heard all of your plans, and I agree with them! That's why I didn't report you immediately." Ymmot kicked at the dust and flounced to the other side of the room.
"I can't believe you're listening to this!" He remarked, "Since when has a droid ever helped us? You'd be foolish to let him go back!"
"And we won't" Replied Joman. He winked at Poozy, who bowed his head in response. "He'll go with the mission party."
The guns that were pointed at Python were raised and set aside, Yak offered a hand to help Python to his metal feet which was gratefully accepted. Ramm walked up to the droid, speaking aloud to Ymmot as he went.
"We've ignored Python because he's the night-watch, but in truth he has shown no signs against us. Maybe his programming broke... the good way." He reached into his sack and drew out another gun, shorter and more skeletal in structure. "You can borrow this, you'll have to get close to make the best of it though. It's actually rather clever, it works by compressing sand into glass beads and using those as the munitions. The heat of the last fired round is used to smelt the new one. This means each bullet is in fact a searing hot shard of glass, the stopping power may not be great but-"
"Okay Ramm that's enough." Prism interrupted. "He doesn't need to know how it works, just how to use it."
Python turned to Poozy, Anthony, Cal and yak, and beamed.
The quintet scampered silently around the surface of Jiggmin's Village, picking their way through the ruins of broken houses where there were least watchful eyes. The sky was now a shade of dulled blue, calm and peaceful before the tyranny of the sun awoke it. It was easy on the eyes and the party made it to the Welcoming gates without a hitch. Cal lightly pushed the gate and it drifted open with a creaky murmur. He winced at the noise, though it was very slight. They passed through one by one, having only opened the gate only just enough to squeeze by. Then they were out! The desert lay before them, stretching to what seemed like eternity into the distance. A dirty brown haze stained the horizon, Sparks was no more than a day's walk away. The cool air and serene atmosphere soothed Anthony, he knew too well that the filthy and foul smelling air of Sparks was only too close.