The Archer chronicles
Lost Boy
The Plot Thickens...
Archer kept his eyes focused on the branches above him and put one hand in front of the other, pulling himself up the tree slowly. The wind still blew, a gentle sort of thing that had his bag swaying lazily in the air and for a moment Archer was scared it would fall before he could get to it. And if his bag fell there was a chance that his hologram would break and there was no way he’d let that happen. The image was the only one he had of his mother.
“No way that’s gonna happen,” he muttered.
He thought of the voice and scowled. Whoever had taken his bag better look out because Archer was going to let him have it. He bent his head back for a better look but the flash of purple he’d seen from below was gone.
He reached for the next tree limb a determined look on his face.
Dash was behind him and from the sounds of the bot’s whirs and beeps, Archer knew that Dash wasn’t happy with Archer’s decision to climb the tree. Sure some folks might think that there was no way for a robot to sound angry, but considering Archer had fooled around with the emotion circuits for nearly a week it wasn’t surprising.
Dash was programmed to care for Archer (or at least to sound as if he cared) so right now it was pretty obvious to Archer that Dash didn’t think the climb up was very safe. Archer could have ordered Dash to retrieve his bag, but this was personal and Archer was determined to get it back all on his own. No matter what.
So he kept climbing even though the bag seemed farther away than he first thought. For all he knew maybe ‘the voice’ kept moving it. Archer wasn’t exactly afraid of heights or anything, but he decided not to look down and instead kept his eyes glued above him.
Up here the leaves were thick and they smelled sweet (which was weird) kind of like Cook’s soft toffee cake. It was enough to make his stomach rumble, for like the tenth time, and Archer gritted his teeth. He was hungry, hot, and he sort of smelled gross. What he wouldn’t give for a hot shower or a swim in the pool on board the Remus.
“Dash,” he said pulling himself up onto another branch. “Any of that water you scanned good for swimming?”
He huffed a bit as he reached for the next branch and hauled himself up. This one was a bit smaller than the last and it began to wobble a little bit, sending Archer’s heart into a rush as he waited for the branch to settle.
“Affirmative,” his bot replied. “There is a waterfall about two miles south of here. The water is clean and the temperature is pleasant enough for immersion.”
“Good,” Archer said in a huff. His bag was nearly in reach. He stepped up on his tip toes, wrapping his left arm around the trunk as he tried to grab hold of his bag. But it was no use. The tips of his fingers barely brushed the bottom and there was no way he could get enough of it to haul the bag down from the branch.
He blew out a long breath. He was going to have to go up one more level.
Suddenly a gust of wind nearly toppled Archer and he barely got both arms wrapped around the trunk before his feet slipped off the branch. For a few scary moments he dangled in the air, legs flailing like a puppet on a string. He squeezed his eyes shut and concentrated, fingers digging into bark until the wind died down enough for him to scramble up to the next level.
Once there, Archer took a few moments to catch his breath, ignoring Dash as the robot zipped around the tree, eyes flashing red, beeps loud and piercing.
“I’m okay, Dash,” he said.
“There is a forty-five percent chance the wind velocity will increase and you could fall next time.”
Archer cocked his head toward his bot and made a face.
“That’s not going to happen.”
“The probability is high and there’s no way to predict whether or not you’ll actually fall, Archibald.”
“Geez Dash. You can stop any time.” He sure didn’t need his bot giving him grief. Heck, Dash was sounding more and more like Cook, or...or his dad for that matter.
“Actually I can’t,” Dash replied.
“Why not?”
“Because my programming won’t allow it. Your safety is always of the utmost importance.”
Archer pushed a big chunk of hair out of his eyes. “Guess it’s time for me to tinker with it then.”
“If you insist, though I must tell you that it’s not in your best interest to do so.”
“Says who?” Archer mumbled, eyes back on his bag.
“Why you of course,” Dash replied hovering a few feet away. “When you tweaked my programming.”
“Yeah, yeah. I know but that doesn’t mean I can’t tweak it back.”
Dash chirped twice. Guess his bot didn’t like that particular answer.
Archer leaned over and snatched up his bag from its perch and opened it. He did a quick inventory, but there was nothing missing which kind of surprised him. Frowning, he glanced back up at the tree. He thought of the purple fur and squinted, trying to see up as high as he could.
“Where are you?” he whispered.
“Right above you,” someone answered.
Archer went as still as a statue, eyes scanning and seeing nothing. When a few seconds had passed, he slipped his bag over his shoulders, but instead of climbing back down he reached for the branch above him.
“Archer, I would suggest retreating until we know what this creature is.”
For one split second Archer almost agreed, but then he heard the voice again.
“What’s the fun in going down when you can go up, up, up?”
So Archer kept climbing. He still didn’t see anything but branches, leaves and the occasional small bird whipping among them.
“I guess you like playing games?” Archer asked, pulling himself up onto yet another branch. He was so high that he couldn’t see the ground clearly anymore.
“I don’t know this But if it describes watching a humanoid climb a tree when said humanoid obviously isn’t used to it, then yes, I like playing games.”
The weird thing was that the creature (whatever the heck it was) sounded just like Archer. As if Archer had recorded himself and was listening to a playback.
“Who are you?” Archer asked, balancing a bit better as he slowly straightened himself.
“Who are you?” the voice shot back at him.
“My name is Archer.”
“I don’t have a name,” the voice replied. “But I like Archer.”
“You can’t have that one, it’s mine,” Archer replied.
“Is that part of the game?”
“What?” Frustrated, Archer tried to see around the large trunk but there was nothing there. “Where are you?”
“Look up,” the voice replied.
Archer leaned back and looked straight up. What he saw was so unexpected that he nearly lost his balance because he was shaking his head in disbelief.
“Hello,” the voice said. But the voice didn’t come from the little alien he’d seen. It didn’t come from Del or anyone else. It came from a small creature, one no larger than Cook McDaniel’s dog. It was cat-like in appearance, with purple and yellow fur and large pointy ears.
And it was talking.
“I say,” the creature said. “If you’re not careful you’ll fall and it’s a long way down.”
“You can talk,” Archer said slowly.
The animal got up and stretched lazily, yawning and arching its back just like Archer’s grandfather’s cat back on earth used to do. The animal’s tail moved back and forth and then stopped, pointing toward Archer like it was a finger or something.
“Of course I can talk,” the animal said, its eyes suddenly intense. It jumped down until its head was close to Archer and for the first time Archer noticed that its teeth were extremely sharp.
“The question is my friend,” the animal said slowly, that tail still pointing, the eyes still intense. “Are you going to listen to what I have to say?”
It took a lot to stump Archer and even more to leave him speechless. Wow. He scratched his head and studied the animal in silence. If only Cook could see him now. But then Cook would never believe any of this.
Archer finally found his voice. “Sure, let’s talk. But can we do it on the ground?”
“Of course. See you down there.”
And with that the small cat-like creature jumped past Archer and disappeared between the many branches and leaves.
Nope, Archer thought, Cook would never believe any of this. He hiked his backpack a little tighter and began to climb back down.

Keep Reading

Chapter 9

A New Friend...And then some...

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