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Xinni lifted her blaster from its holster and used it to tip up the head of the humanoid. She inspected the creature quickly, but effectively. The gun was pocketed and she harrumphed. “Jax, if this were anyone but you…”
Jax drew a breath. “Alright. We’ve got to get these guys out of here. Here’s the game plan—there are about fifty total further back in the cave, so we’ll each take half. I’ll go up and out the top and you can take yours the way you came. Copy?”
“I suppose we’ll convene at the base of the Tam River and go from there. Xinni, we’re a long way off from peace, but it’s a start. Thank you.” He placed a hand on her shoulder.
She stared at Jax in mild disbelief. This was more earnest than she expected, but she shook off his hand anyway. With that action, the sudden rush of emotion left.
The educated man walked up to the pair. “Xinni, I’m Joshua Kearns, one of the original Artlifes.” His old-fashioned name was a nod to the one of the creators of the computer system used in the human/robot hybrid. “I’ve seen things in this government that most humans wouldn’t dare to imagine. I shall fill you in later, as that’s neither here nor there. As of this instant, I’m concerned they’ve sent a ThreeBot after us. We are down to a matter of minutes.”
Xinni nodded and readied her blaster. Jax summoned the other humanoids from the dank crevice and split them up. “You lot, follow Xinni. Joshua, please keep an eye on her? She can be a handful.” Jax winked at the girl.
Her bundle of nerves from earlier had turned into a full-fledged knot. She led her crew down the green tunnel, hoping they were stealthy enough. A rumble echoed through the hall and Joshua pulled her back.
“We must retreat and follow Jax,” he commanded.
“Fine,” she spat, annoyed at being bossed around by a computer. They backed into the chamber and caught up with the rest of the group. Seemingly from nowhere, a laser beam glanced off the rock next to the corridor they were hustling through.
“What the…?” Jax exclaimed.
The ThreeBot entered the cavern—the deadliest piece of machinery ever produced.
“Anyone with a blaster stay with me!” Xinni yelled. “The rest of you get to safety!”
That left…Jax and Xinni. Long story short, they used their weapons to scorch a weak corner of the gleaming walls. The enclosure collapsed on itself, which effectively rendered the ThreeBot useless.
Jax reached out his hand to help Xinni up the passageway. She accepted.
“As if our enemies didn’t hate us enough, we had to go and eliminate their dangerous and ridiculously expensive ThreeBot,” Jax chortled once they were outside.
“Too true. You know what, Jax? We may not always get along, but we should be partners more often.”
He paused for a moment. “Yeah, I agree.”
And with that, she leaned in and kissed him.