Charlie. Charlie Spider.

A saloon much like any other, with the swinging doors and the window that had been broken so many times they replaced it with a forcefield. The floorboards creaked under her partner’s heavy feet as they made their way to the bar. The pianist, a consummate professional drunk, played on, but the half-dozen patrons stopped to stare and the bartender eyed them as he wiped off the counter.

The girl was perhaps ten years old (the bartender had never had children and was bad at gauging these things), dressed in a black duster slightly too large for her. A fringe of short blonde hair peeked down beneath a wide-brimmed hat. A holster on her back held a rifle nearly as long as she was. She grasped the counter and swung up to sit on a stool in front of the bartender.

“What’s a woman gotta do to get a juice around here?” she asked.

Her companion was, if possible, even more remarkable. Heavy, gray metal hands came to rest on the counter. Round cylindrical body and arms, topped by a transparent bubble of a head. Within the bubble sat a spider about the size of the bartender’s fist. It was purple, and wore a grim expression.

The girl caught him staring. “This is my partner, Charlie. Charlie Spider. Say hello, Charlie.”

A robotic hand lifted briefly to wave.Charlie.

“He’s a spider,” she said.


The girl continued. “We’re looking for a man by the name-”

The bartender leaned forward and tapped the metal torso, where gleamed a faded yellow radioactive symbol. The tap echoed around something heavy and solid within the hollow body. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to take the power plant outside, mister.” He turned to the girl. “And I’m not sure you’re even old enough to be in here, young lady.”

She frowned. “Just point me towards who we came for and we’ll be right out.”

“A fly? Plenty of those in the kitchen!” some wag in the room called, and the customers laughed and laughed.

The girl smirked and locked eyes with the bartender. With a sudden swift move she had a revolver drawn. The laughter choked short.

“No. Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “This man is wanted in five systems. Man with a talent for killin’ little girls’ daddies. His name…” Her eyes wandered from the bartender to the line of IDs pasted to the running tab list behind the bar, “…is Frank.” She clambered up onto the bar and leaned over to prod one of the ID cards with her gun. “Frank Buth.”

The room went still. Even the piano went quiet.

“The Scorpion?” breathed the bartender.