A Heaven for Toasters | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book After relaunching A Heaven for Toasters, complete with new cover, I promised to publish it here in installments. 

Note: You can find a link to all published chapters at the end of this post or read more parts on Wattpad.

A Heaven for Toasters

What if your perfect man was a robot?

Detective Mika Pensive has a new partner. He’s hot. Smart. Funny. And an android.

Set in the near future, A Heaven for Toasters is more than a sci-fi crime adventure with plenty of romance and wit. It’s the book that will make you look at your toaster in a whole new way.

CHAPTER 5: Old Town

2:53 p.m.

Half an hour later, we stopped before the blue door that led into the Hydra police station. I caught a whiff of fried fish, probably because of the next-door tavern. Still sniffing the air, I stopped a moment to run my fingers over the door’s rough surface, savoring the feel of real wood under my fingers. With trees prized for their carbon-reducing properties, most doors back in the States were made of plastic or iron. A lifetime of salty air and a couple of centuries of painting plastered over the wood had taken their toll on this one and I almost yelped in surprise when a splinter pierced my finger.

I suckled my finger as we entered the station, which consisted of a total of three rooms and a cell that could hold two people at most. The doors to all of these, even the cell, were open. It was obvious the island suffered little crime, save perhaps for the odd drunken tourist.

The only person in the room was a young policeman wearing the Greek police olive branch and cross on his lapel, sitting behind a desk across the entrance. His cloudy eyes revealed him to be enthralled by something he was watching on his hololenses. He looked up from his desk. A look of mild annoyance at the interruption flashed across his face. “Nai?” he asked in Greek.

May I help you? a woman’s voice translated in my head. Despite my argument with Richard, there were aspects of life in the twenty-first century I simply could not live without. The hololenses’ translating program was one of them. How people communicated before them was beyond me. “I’m Mikaela Pensive. I was asked to see you.”

“You’re alive,” he exclaimed. His eyes clouded for a second, while he was presumably scanning us through his hololens. Before I could respond, he shot up from behind his desk. “Sarge will be pleased to see you.” He waved us to the second room. “Please.”

We paused before the open door as he knocked. A familiar-looking officer, like a middle-aged version of Guide, looked up from a battered tablet in his hands. Despite the prevalence of hololenses, some claimed it was easier to read the old-fashioned way. His uniform was identical to the policeman’s at the entrance, only his insignia was silver, identifying him as a superior.

Great. Another clone. I swallowed my distaste and extended my hand. “Mikaela Pensive.”

This clone was the second person in the space of minutes to shoot up at the mention of my name. Somehow, that made my stomach sink. His gaze traveled up and down my entire body, his eyes wide with surprise. He took my hand and shook it. “I’m so glad to see you, Detective.” His joyful words failed to match his sour expression. “When we heard of the accident, everyone thought…”

He did not finish his sentence, nor did he need to. The zoomer’s flight plan had registered both our names. It was obvious what they had assumed.

“Right now, our captain is bringing back your zoomer and the…” He paused. “Body.”

Richard. I flinched at the thought.

The sergeant must have thought he was hurting my hand and dropped it, an apologetic look replacing his previous apoplectic one. I was grateful; his handshake felt like a wet fish had just sneezed on my fingers. I had to stop myself from wiping my hand against my chest as soon as he freed it.

“I’m fine…” I quizzed him with my eyes.

“Sergeant Morgan.”

Of course you are. Half the people on this island are probably called Morgan. I motioned to one of the two chairs in front of his desk. “May I, Sergeant?”

“Sure,” he said. “Please, sit down, Detective and…” He cast a questioning look at Leo. His gaze caught at his earlobes and the sour expression returned to his face. “A toaster.”

Leo sat down in the second chair and flashed him a disarming smile. “Actually, it’s Detective Leo.”

“Would you like some water?” Sergeant asked me, sitting back behind his desk again. “Kostas, bring us some water,” he shouted at the open door without waiting for our answer, then turned to Leo. “Do toasters drink water?”

“Just a glass of your finest motor oil, thank you,” Leo said, his face serious. “And some cheese.”

Sergeant’s brow furrowed. “Seriously?”

I shot a glare at Leo and raised my hand to stop the ridiculous exchange. “I’m sure my colleague is fine. And all I want is to know what happened.” The next question made me queasy, but I had to ask it. “You mentioned a body?”

Sergeant shifted his weight on his chair like the wood was covered in splinters. “We’ve retrieved a body from the wreckage. The zoomer was registered to you, so we assumed…”

I felt sick. “I know what you assumed,” I blurted out. “What happened?”

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out.” The man rapped his fingers on the table. The sound was strange, then I realized that was because the desk was also made out of wood.

It’s like the land that time forgot. I shook my head to clear my thoughts. “I came to the island with Richard… I mean, Mr. Underhill. We had an argument and he took his zoomer to return to the States.”

The young policeman brought us a tray with a carafe and two glasses filled with water. He filled mine and paused, his hand holding the carafe hesitantly over Leo’s glass.

“The toaster’s fine,” the sergeant snapped at him. “Go.” He waited to continue until the man left. “An argument, huh? And you never heard from him?”

“We were in Clonesville,” I explained. “We had no connection to the Network. We only received your messages when we got out.”

His eyes narrowed. “Can anyone verify this?”

“Of course,” Leo said. “I was with Detective Pensive ever since she arrived on the island.”

“And I suppose it’s all in your memory.” Sergeant rapped his fingers against the table again. “Of course, electronics can be tampered with.”

“Are you accusing me of something, Sergeant?” I asked more bluntly than I would have liked.

“I’m just doing my job.” He leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. “What was your relationship to Mr. Underwood?”

I braced myself for the inevitable questioning. For some reason, I wished Leo could step out until it was over. “We were dating.”

“Things good between you two?”

My feet tapped the floor. “As good as with any couple.”

He gave me an ironic smile. “But you’re not the marrying kind, are you, Detective?”

“I’m not the murdering kind, either,” I snapped. “And you still haven’t told us what happened.”

He studied me for a moment, probably wondering how much to share. “We don’t know much at the moment. It appears your friend lost control of his zoomer while flying over Gibraltar. A few minutes later and he would have crashed into the ocean.”

I leaned toward him, my eyebrows raised in surprise. “Are you saying he was flying on manual?”

Sergeant crossed his hands. “It’s a possibility.”

I sank back into my chair, crossing my arms like him. “No way. I know Richard. He’d never do such a thing.”

“He was upset with you,” Leo pointed out in his calm voice. “It’s my understanding that humans tend to be irrational in situations like this.”

“You mean he did something he knew I hated just to get back at me?” I clicked my tongue. “That’s crazy. You didn’t know him. Neither of you did. Sure, Richard could be a pain at times but—”

“You did have an argument,” the sergeant said. “Wouldn’t be the first time people did something stupid when mad.”

“Not Richard,” I insisted. “He was as level-headed a person as anyone I know. He’s an art historian and a professor, for goodness’ sake.”

“…Who left you behind on the island,” the sergeant said. “That doesn’t say level-headed to me.” He ignored my glare and continued. “Besides, what other explanation is there?”

“Were there no other vehicles in the area?” Leo asked.

“None.” Sergeant speared me with his eyes. “No witnesses at all. Which is either a one-in-a-million coincidence or…” He let his voice trail off.

My hands tightened around my chair’s arms. “Or?”

“All I’m saying is, you had an argument and Mr. Underhill ends up dead.” Sergeant’s eyes never left mine.

“We’re police officers,” Leo interrupted him. “In our line of work, we make enemies. If you’re right, Sergeant, and the zoomer was somehow sabotaged, wouldn’t Detective Pensive be a more likely target?”

“Perhaps,” the sergeant conceded. “Or someone wanted Mr. Underhill dead.”

“For what?” I interrupted him. “Failing a student?”

Sergeant Morgan ignored me. “Or Mr. Underhill,” he continued, “inexperienced as he was on manual driving, decided to have a go at it with disastrous results.” He grabbed his tablet and started typing—another odd anachronism. “I’d like you both to remain on the island until further notice.”

“You can reach us just as easily in the States,” I protested. “If you need us—”

“If I need you, I’ll find you at your hotel,” the sergeant interrupted me. He threw his tablet back on the table and leaned toward me. “Or do I have to lock you up until our captain questions you?”

“No need,” Leo said calmly. “I take it I’m not a suspect?”

“No,” Sergeant Morgan said with a growl after a moment’s thought as if Leo’s innocence was a personal affront to him.

“In that case,” Leo continued, “perhaps I could help. I’d like to take a look at the wreckage. Can you arrange it?”

Sergeant turned his glare at him. “No. You have no jurisdiction here. This is an internal matter.”

“Isn’t that a matter for your captain to decide?” I asked.

Sergeant grinned. “I’ll pass on your request.”

Yeah, right. “Well, then. If you don’t need us any longer…” I spun around without waiting for his response.

“Don’t leave the island,” Sergeant yelled as I marched out of the precinct.

Leo followed me out. We walked in silence for a few minutes through the Old Town’s narrow, cobbled alleys, while I was trying to clear my thoughts. I wanted to punch something. Anything. Leo seemed to sense my dark mood and stayed a few steps behind me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a black drone hovering over our heads. Did we just grow a tail? I whirled around and tapped my temple to activate the tracker app, thankful I had let Mary convince me to install it on my hololens despite the high cost. Red crosshairs appeared in my view, zooming in and out as the app tried to lock on to the drone.

Somehow sensing the danger, the drone darted erratically left and right until it disappeared from view before the app had a chance to get a lock.

Ta ma de!

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