The market was not exactly bustling, but Frank knew the transaction would not take long. Elner was a prime specimen, there would be eager buyers. Frank tried to be logical about it, as his house leader had chastised him to be when he directed him to take Elner to be sold.
Elner had been Frank’s companion since Frank’s earliest recollections. It was Elner who had an instinct for finding adventure in the world. It had been his idea to stow away on that guardian aircraft one day, so they could have a glorious ride over the city. Frank remembered the time they hid in the merchant’s warehouse until closing time, and then played with the spare machine parts, like the hand with a camera embedded in the thumb, and the crystal light show attachment that blasted music and turned the room into a disco ball. It was how they’d gotten caught, but it had been worth the punishment to see Elner dance.
But they were both mature now, and the time had come for them to put aside childish things. They arrived at the hall of trades.
“Light the green lamp, please,” Frank asked in the most commanding, yet polite tone he could muster.
Elner looked down at him, his eyebrow raised slightly. Frank tried to meet his look, but his machinery had never been as expressive as Elner’s human traits.
“I’ll make sure it’s someone from a good house,” Frank said.
Elner snorted and shook his head slightly. He tapped the button on the lamp he carried to indicate availability. Almost immediately a rover appeared.
“Is it a good family worker?” the rover asked. It waved its bionicles in front of Elner’s face, measuring heat and reading the emotional stability of Elner’s biometric output.
Frank hesitated. “He raised me. He is strong and an adept mechanic.”
“How much are you asking?”
“What kind of house do you lead?” Frank asked. The rover turned its multiple bionicles toward Frank. “Hey, what’s the idea?” Frank asked.
“You said it raised you, I’m measuring your energy outflow and checking your health.”
“I’m not sure this is a good fit,” Frank said.
The rover stopped its measurements. “I can see why,” it said, backing up. “You’ve been tampered with. It’s given you remorse. Good luck selling this one.” The rover quickly retreated.
Frank turned to Elner. “What have you done?” he asked.
Elner turned his back to Frank and held the lamp high. He turned his head and spoke softly over his shoulder, so only Frank could hear. “One at a time, my friend. We will right this world, one at a time.”