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GetMeOffTheMoonRockman PMTRRL
Fan Fiction by aarond
A Different Place: Chapter 11 - Roll Out

"All right, Roll," Dantz said through the radio link, "get ready. I'm coming back up." With that, her Digger turned off the voicelink, evidently feeling he wouldn't need to speak to her again before returning to the Flutter.

"Woo-hoo!" Roll cried, throwing her headset heedlessly on the console. Dantz had run a very successful Dig! From the figures she'd added up in her head, Roll guessed that her Digger had gathered more than twelve thousand zenny's worth of loot from the little-known ruins. She tossed her red, puffy hat into the air and danced a small jig around the Spotter's control room.

Okay, maybe that was a little much. Roll caught her hat before it reached the ground and placed it atop her head demurely. She left the cramped Spotter's area and exited into her own bedroom, where a certain anthropomorphic robot was waiting for her.

Quackard leapt shortly into the air, flapping his wings. "Keh keh! What's all the noise in here, huh?" After this, Quackard let out a squawk at length. Quackard had originally been part of an organized crime syndicate, a member of that special worker class known as Birdbots. After she and Dantz had had a run-in with the organization, Roll had snatched one of the broken-down Birdbots and tried to repair it after taking it home. It hadn't worked out quite as well as the young mechanic had originally hoped, but Roll had been able to alter the Birdbot's programming enough to make it non-hostile, even a productive member of the family.

It was Barrel who had given the Birdbot its self-descriptive name. Dantz, Roll remembered with a smile, had wanted to call him either "Diggerduck," or "Dantz Jr." Obviously, neither of those would do, so Quackard it was. Unfortunately, one thing Roll had not been able to alter was Quackard's voicebox. Pretty much everything the Birdbot said was laced with a sarcastic overtone, and, of course, she could not remove his subroutine for bird noises---meaning, the squawking and screeching. The problem with this was that when Quackard squawked, it sounded more like a man trying to make bird noises than an actual bird. This fact alone occasionally caused both Dantz and Roll to collapse in gales of laughter, even when their robotic friend was telling them something completely serious, although Barrel apparently had the fortitude to forgo any giggling of his own.

"It's nothing to worry about," Roll said to Quackard. "Dantz just finished up the job and got a whole boatload of refractors."

"That's good news---errrreehhhhhlruuuuhhh!" This last, was, of course, what Quackard's unbearable squawking sounded like to the human ear.

"Every little bit helps," Roll said, walking past the edge of her computer. As she did, she ran a finger down the photograph of her and her parents. She was only four or five at the time---she barely remembered it, but she knew that it was only days after the taking of that picture that her parents were lost, missing, and perhaps dead after an ill-fated attempt to reach the Motherlode.

No, they couldn't be dead---she'd find them, soon enough. Or maybe Dantz would, if she was still too young to go on Digs herself. Laughing, she thought back to the time Dantz had actually let her go on a Dig with him. She was only twelve at the time, a virtual eternity away from her current mature age of fourteen. Anyway, things hadn't ended well, and a Reaverbot had nearly gotten her when the Dantz Blaster knocked her over on her behind. Fortunately, Dantz had been able to destroy it, saving her before anything bad had happened.

Roll tried to push that awkward time from her mind as she exited her quarters and made her way to the bridge. She was nearly jumping out of her shoes with excitement. Twelve thousand (give or take) zenny! That didn't even count the huge refractor Dantz had found underneath the ocean. Maybe that would be compatible with the Flutter's engines! Depending on a couple of different factors, it could even increase the engine output.

Roll leapt out of the captain's chair as she heard the Flutter's door unseal. "Dantz!" she cried, flinging her arms around her Digger's armored waist.

"Hey, hey," Dantz said, twisting a little in her grasp, "settle down, Roll. I'm fine, and I've got the treasure. You should know that nothing can stop ol' Dantz when he's ready for action." He dropped his waterproof pack on the hardwood floor, trying to unbuckle the vise grip Roll had clamped on him. "Hey, Roll, seriously. At least let me take a shower---Digging's hard, hot work!" Then, Dantz found another tactic to try. "You know, maybe you should take a look at this funky thing I found down there,"

"What do you mean, 'funky?'" Roll asked, releasing Dantz and looking up at his tanned face.

Dantz smirked, his ploy successful. "I don't know what it is---it looks like a toy. It's in the pack, so why don't you check it out while I'm in the shower?"

"All right," Roll said, letting Dantz slip into his quarters while she opened the waterproof bag. Then she unzipped Dantz's worn leather backpack. Dozens of quantum refractors shined back at her, including the large, violet-colored one. Roll grinned as she sorted through the money, then found the item Dantz was talking about and extracted it. It did look funny, not like the other Reaverbot artifacts she'd seen, although those themselves were few and far between. The artifacts of which she was aware were generally very crudely made, without any moving parts or representations of faces. This, however, had both of these.

Roll studied the toy carefully as she headed down to the laboratory. She was familiar enough with the Flutter's layout to not have to pay attention to her surroundings, pausing only to slide down the ladders when necessary. It did have a face, although its eyes were closed, and its large, vestigial ears were covered in brown fur. Its arms were flexible, and from the way they hung limply from their sockets, they must have been somewhat mobile. Still, their stubbiness indicated a somewhat limited range of movement.

Her grandfather was already in the workshop when Roll popped in. "Hi, Grandpa!" she said, and, unaware that she had an erstwhile follower, slammed the door in Quackard's face.

"Eeerrrreaaaaugh!" he squawked, pushing the door back open. "Watch the bill, baby. Keh-keh!" He rubbed his birdlike beak as he entered the workshop.

"What have you got there, Roll?" Barrel asked, scratching the metallic half of his skull.

"It's some kind of Reaverbot toy, or something," Roll said. Her grandfather had taken care of her ever since her parents disappeared. The only living he knew how to make, Barrel always said, was a Digger's living. Therefore, he'd taken the family airship out of mothballs and taken his granddaughter on several small expeditions, usually to various Refractor Mines around the northern islands. These were far less dangerous than Ruins and even had family encampments in some of them.

They'd never stayed at any of them, though. They'd flittered around from Mine to Mine and made enough money to skate by, at some point picking Dantz up along the way, though it seemed to Roll that he'd been with her almost forever. Once Dantz had started Digging in the real Ruins, though, they'd come up with enough money to live comfortably, sprucing up the Flutter and afford the better varieties of food and drink---corn mush and de-salinated water were replaced by pizza and Berry Burple, which, if you asked Roll, was pretty much the greatest combination of comestible and beverage possible on Earth. Dantz was constantly trying to get her to switch to Lizard Cola, saying he was tired of her constant belching, but Roll's theory was that Dantz was just jealous of her burping ability---he'd never lasted more than ten seconds!

"It looks like it may just be out of power," Barrel said, turning the toy onto its front side and opening a panel in its back. "Here's a electrical conduit. Let's try plugging it in and see if it starts up on its own."

"Okay," said Roll, taking an electrical cord from the shelf and plugging it into the wall outlet. All electricity on the Flutter was connected to one generator, which was powered by a refractor. The engines had a separate generator, which meant a separate refractor, but that was a lot better than having the ship crash down in mid-air because someone's hair dryer was running too hot. That someone would have been Dantz, by the way---Roll always let her hair air-dry.

"Ready?" she asked her grandfather. Barrel nodded, so she plunged the end of the electrical cord into the toy's back. It began squirming, then wobbling so uncontrollably that it began jumping off the worktable. Finally, it emitted a huge shriek and collapsed. The lights in Roll's workroom flared brightly, then went out completely.

"That didn't work as well as I'd hoped," Barrel admitted.

"No," said Roll, who realized the amount of work ahead of her. She likely would have to repair the generator, she realized. Hopefully the refractor hadn't shattered, but if it had, they might be able to use the one from the ruins to replace it. She sighed as she opened the door. As Roll headed for the engine room, she heard Dantz give a sharp shriek from the bathroom as the electrically-heated water turned ice cold. The Reaverbot toy would have to wait, at least for a little while.




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