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Down to the Wire

By Rachel Ann Michael Harris

“No, it’s the red one.”

Gwen jumped, nearly slicing the black wire. The BD-001 droid hovered around her head like a pesky fly. Before her, the bomb strapped to the fuselage of the colony ship continued to count down. Five minutes. Reaching over and tapping the screen on the droid’s belly, Gwen checked the schematic again.

“What are you talking about? It’s the black one.”

BD wove back and forth, then up and down like a buoy in the ocean. “Yes, but human psychology must be taken into account.”

Gwen sighed. Not this again.

“We must understand that this bomb maker is experienced and knows anyone within the Nebula Protection Force would know that the black wire is the one they would cut, so it makes sense they would change up the wires.”

Gwen focused on the bomb. It was made with intricate circuit boards and glowing blue panels. And from the looks of it, would pack enough punch to blow a hole the size of a shuttle in the fuselage. It was one of the highest tech bombs she had ever seen. Yet it still came down to the wires from a hundred years ago. Gwen tapped the white wire with the tip of her knife. “What about this one?”

“No, the white is useless.”

“Okay.” Breathing deep, Gwen slowly brought the knife over to the red wire. Gently lining it up, she pinched the wire, making it taut against the blade.

“WAIT!”

“What now?!”

“Oh, he’s a tricky one. No one considers the white wire. Which makes it perfect. Cut that one.”

Four minutes.

“You are supposed to be helpful. Downloaded with the most current bomb-defusing techniques, schematics, and equipment. Up to date with research on human psychology. How is it you can’t even decide what wire to cut?”

“Because humans are tricky and can’t make up their minds.” An arm from BD’s side extended and produced a tiny knife about the size of a scalpel. “You’ll want this one. It looks like that white wire is going to be hard to get.”

Letting the knife drop into her hand, Gwen bit her cheek. “How we’ve survived this long is beyond me.”

“Because of our amazing teamwork.” BD beeped out an upbeat tune.

Passing the red and black wires, she reached toward the back. Holding her hand steady, she reached for the white wire. Three minutes.

“STOP!”

Nearly nicking the explosives when she jerked, Gwen turned around and tossed the knife at the droid, who glided to the side, avoiding the blade.

“Why would a bomb maker put the most important wire all the way to the back where they might trip it at any moment while building the rest? Doesn’t make sense. Plus, they would anticipate that we would anticipate they would change things up, so what better way to throw us off than to make it to specifications? Cut the black one.”

Two minutes.

Dusting off her jumpsuit, Gwen shook her head. “I’m done.”

“What?”

“I’m done. You know so much about these bombs. You know the human factor. You are the expert. So you defuse it.” Striding across the hall, Gwen crossed her arms and leaned back.

“But… but…” the droid flew between Gwen and the bomb and stuttered to respond.

One minute.

“Okay,” BD said. “I can do this. I can do this. I’ve been downloaded with the most up to date data on bombs and the human psyche. This isn’t a problem.”

Forty-five seconds.

“Let’s see. They would use the black but that is the obvious choice so the red would be unusual. ‘If it’s red, it’s a herring.’ But they might anticipate that, so the white is…”

Thirty seconds.

“Um.” The droid moved the knife from the black wire to the red to the white and back to the black. “Um.”

Fifteen seconds.

“WHY IS THIS SO HARD?!”

Ten seconds.

Pinching all three wires, BD sliced through all of them at once, then turned the knife and stabbed the circuit boards repeatedly.

The glowing green numbers froze… and the timer went blank.

Quivering, the droid turned to Gwen, the knife waving in its clamp. The screen on BD’s stomach blinked like a nervous twitch.

Gwen exhaled, blowing her bangs. “Well, that was decisive.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Ann Michael Harris is the writer of fantasy stories and working on her first full length novel as well as other projects. She’s been published in various anthologies and with Havok Publishing. In 2019, she won the Untold Picture Contest through Untold Podcast with her piece, The Defeat of Raven’s Swamp. Currently, she is working on a blogged fantasy adventure, Woven Fate, released in segments each month. You can visit her on Facebook or at her website.


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