Edited: 03/29

~o0o~

He knew there would be no one left, there shouldn't be anyone left. Robots never had mercy with any human, the charred bodies with twisted expressions lining the streets were a testament to that. Children with missing limbs lay in his path and Up was hard-pressed not to turn around and head down a different street. His leg was burning but the destroyed town held his attention and the pain crawling up his leg became background noise. He walked slowly, making sure to listen for calls of help or approaching robots. He stopped in front of a small shop, a broken sign declared it to be a Panaderia, were there voices nearby? Yes, definitely. He could hear the artificial robotic laughter from somewhere nearby and the screamings of someone being tortured.

He spun slowly, eyes closed, straining his ears to catch the tinny human voice that needed him. There! He turned towards the center of the town and sprinted down the blood smeared streets. "Acercate pedazo de mierda! Dejame bajar! Aver que tan valientes son!" Up ducked into a tall gold-colored building, it was relatively undamaged, except for the people lying in heaps of limbs and torsos near the edges. Had there been a party? Everyone was in their best threads. The furious screaming and robotic laughter continued on, deeper into the shadowy building. Sparks leapt from circuitry exposed in the walls and Up was careful to skirt those, he peered around the blasted and crumbling edge of a decorated wall.

There was food thrown everywhere in the airy ballroom, a giant blue and green cake lay up-turned near one corner of the room and about a hundred people decked out in all of their finery lay dead in piles. There were about three dead robots neatly lined up by the door where Up stood, but about half a dozen more stood in the center of the room where... Up's jaw dropped. There was girl strung up by her waist to the ceiling. He charged into the room, bellowing like a mad bull.

"Get back here, mija!"Her mother held out the hairspray threateningly, "Andale, or I'll spray jou in de eyes. Tazzie..." Taz huffed over to her mother and plumped herself onto the bed. Her heavy skirts making it hard to walk. "Mami, do jou still love me even though I'm not girly like Rubi?" Her mother smiled and wrapped an arm around her daughters shoulders, "Ay, I would love jou even if jou were una muchacha muy brava. I will love jou until de stars wink out." Taz stood and hugged her tightly," I was hoping jou'd say that."

Her mother pulled away from the hug and looked at her daughter's face, a couple of inches below her own eyes, "Pinchi," she said fondly, "I am jour mama. Jou are silly for thinking that I wouldn't love jou."

Taz chuckled, " And papa always wonders where I get my swears from."

"And if you ever tell him, I'll chase you with the hot curling iron!" her mother charged at her, waving the steaming curling iron it in front of Taz's face. Taz laughed and backed up, holding her hands out in surrender, "Okay, okay! MAMA!"

She screeched, backing into the bed and falling. Loud rumbling interrupted their banter. Taz sat up and her mother rushed to the window, peering out of the two story yellow house onto thebusy street. Taz's mother pursed her lips and squinted at the sky, "Taz..."

" Si mama?"

"Go tell jour father to look at de weather report for today, We'll be inside, but maybe de guests need paraguas."

"Si mama." Taz stood and holding her skirts above the floor trotted downstairs. Humming, Taz happily skipped through the kitchen, her midnight blue quinceanera dress trailing the floor. Carefully she patted her curled hair, she was happy to have a party and dance the night away but the idea of having everyone's eyes on her the whole time made worms crawl in her belly. Yech. She practiced a few steps in the living room, gracefully twirling, already imagining the colorful lights sweeping the floor and her familia surrounding her, happy and drunk off cold Tecate. She couldn't wait to cut into the cake, delicious fruity cake. She kicked the back door open with her toe, "Papaaaaaa." She bawled out into the backyard, "APAAAAAA!" A tall and dark man stuck his head out of a tool shed, his mustache twitching, "Jou sound like un becerro, a baby cow, mi pequeno sol." Taz laughed and beckoned her father for a hug.

Taz's mother gazed out of the window when Taz left, she fervently hoped that the Starship Rangers would keep the small city safe, today especially, for her daughter. Preoccupied, she picked up a rosario from the nightstand and ran the beads through her hands. The worn ceramic a comfort to her. Her family had already lost Rosa, Emilia and Dead God knew if Enrique was alive. His Starship, the Brava had not been seen in a year and a half.

Taz had left her papa and was now aimlessly walking through her house. She ambled into her papa's study and sat in the big leather chair, humming the vals she'd have to dance with her papa, " Hoy le compre a mi hija el ultimo juguete... ya crecio..." She trailed off when she spotted the hefty serrated Ranger knife in the glass case. Her papa use to be a Commander but retired as soon as he could to marry and settle down with Taz's mom. Quickly Taz lifted the knife from its pedestal, the blade was as twice as long as her palm and the wooden handle shone darkly. Taz rummaged through her dad's cabinets until she found the sling that went with the knife. She lifted up her dress and strapped the knife to her thigh admiring how the heft of it made her feel safe. Smirking, Taz stomped around, hitching up her dress and pretending to be an undercover Ranger on a mission to save civilians. Laughing, she skipped out of the room to show her mother.

Up rushed the room, tearing the robots apart and shooting those far enough. He was thrown to the ground by a couple of Octobots; he reached into their unprotected arm-joints and ripped out their tentacle arms. He used the tentacles as whips, tripping up more robots and then shooting them in the face. The girl had been screaming in unearthly tones, but when she spotted Up she stopped her racket and procured a knife from her skirts. She aimed the knife at the rope encircling her waist, furiously, she hacked at the rope until she fell ten feet to the floor. Up heard her land and roll in a tight ball. He rushed to her side and slung her over his shoulder.

Screaming hysterically, she pummeled his back and kicked his chest. Up winced; how was someone so tiny, so furious? "Calm down girl!" he yelled, still shooting at the four remaining robots. The girl twisted around and tried to wiggle out of Up's grip, "Let me down! Jodido de la puta madre! Esos pinches robots mataron a-" The girl began sobbing, she slipped from Up's grip and he tightened his hold on her, her weight pressing painfully on his chest wound. She was now clinging to his neck, he could feel her tears, wetting his undershirt.

Up was bewildered at her sudden mood-swing, he simply stood there, shooting down the remaining robots while a short girl in a large blue dress clung to his neck and bawled out her fury.

He ran out of the ballroom as soon as the last robot dropped, keeping his zapper at the ready. He met Lt. Vasili and Commander Pryce at the rendezvous place, out of breath and a little bewildered.

"Where the hell have you been Up?" Vasili rushed forward, only pulling short when she saw the poufy, bloody, blue bundle clinging to Up's neck. "What's that thing?"

"She's –" Up began but was interrupted by the girl jumping down. She was a sight; the large midnight blue dress was drenched in blood and shredded. One of her eyes was swollen shut, her cheek purpling beautifully, her hair was burnt and matted with blood. A large gash at her forehead was bleeding profusely and it stained her face a dark shade of red, " I am a woman jou piece of shit!"

Furious, Vasili jumped forward, hand raised.

Up snatched the girl from harm's way, "For dead God's sake Vasili! She's just been through hell, leave her alone!" Looking injured, Vasili snapped, "And well, what does she matter? She's not even a citizen! Just a dead goddamned useless harlot. Should'a left her where you found her."

The girl in his grip shuddered, and Up was filled with an inexplicable rage. He'd just watched this small girl fight for her life like a tigerdillo while her family lay freshly-dead underneath her.

Up snapped.

Snarling, he rounded on his friend, "What the FUCK is wrong with you?"

Vasili and even Pryce stepped back. "This girl just watched her family get MURDERED and the people who are supposed to protect, her attack her for being a victim. WELL FUCK YOU!" Up took the girl's elbow in his grip and dragged her down the hill, towards the humvee waiting for them.

"Wait!"

Up stopped and looked behind him, the girl was trailing him by several feet, the dress weighing her down. She stopped and pulled out her knife, Up stepped back, uncertain of what she was going to do. The glint in her eyes was dangerous and he didn't want to be near her with the large serrated knife, which was about as long as his palm. She bent over and began sawing the dress off, Taz wished the man would turn away but she didn't want to speak with him. Silently, she stepped away from the blue dress, black and ugly at her feet. Taz was glad for the blue She did camisole and lycra shorts she wore, but she still felt exposed. Embarrassed, she strapped the knife back to her thigh, "What jou lookin' at? Creep."

Without a word he stomped on, they stumbled through a thicket of trees and Taz could see what looked like the remains of a fierce battle. Discreetly she glanced at the man, Up, that walked in front of her. He had dark hair that was silvering near his nape and ears although it was hard to be sure in the low light. He was smeared in mud, blood and motor oil. She glanced back for a moment and a hot, thorny knot formed in her throat at the thought of what lay behind her. This starship Ranger was as useless as Enrique. Taz's brother should've been here today, he could've protected them, but he'd gotten himself lost, his ship MIA. Taz bit her tongue in frustration, NO! I will not cry! With a silent growl she gritted her teeth, the day had torn her world apart but she couldn't, she wouldn't let that break her. Looking at the man leading her way, I bet nothing hurts him. I puked when I saw the kids in the street but he didn't even blink. She decided to harden into something that the world would not break, and with every step she took, the old Taz slipped away.

The girl who appreciated green trees and lazy Sundays quickly dissolved, absorbed by the silent May night. Taz looked back one last time, but she couldn't see her home anymore, just a dark patch of trees and the hill.

By the time they reached the GLEE humvee, Up had almost forgotten about the girl trailing him, he looked back and almost jumped out of his combat boots. The girl he had slung over his shoulder was gone, there was now a solid wall of freezing anger standing behind him. Up felt pity for her, first her family was stolen from her and now she seemed to think that being angry would solve everything. The robots took more than lives, they took people and turned them into the cold facsimiles of themselves. He sincerely hoped she would snap out of it, there had to be some nice adults at the refugee camp who'd help her. Poor kid.

~o0o~

Taz Translation (Taz'lation):

. "Acercate pedazo de mierda! Dejame bajar! Aver que tan valientes son!"Come closer you piece of shit! Let me down! We'll see how brave you are then!"

una muchacha muy brava A very manly and untraditional girl / brave/ a fighter

" Hoy le compre a mi hija el ultimo juguete... ya crecio..."This is another very traditional quinceanera song, but this one is ONLY danced with the father; it says - Today I bought my daughter her last doll... She's already grown...