Endangered

Androids have all but won the war against humanity, and the remnants of the once-great human civilization are reduced to miles of wastelands and hidden communities struggling to survive. Dirk and his friends are sent out to scavenge for supplies, while AR is sent to hunt down and exterminate the dwindling human population. Their fated meeting is the beginning of a union between species that was once thought impossible.

0Likes
0Comments
3313Views
AA

13. Chapter 13

You have a general idea of where you ended up after the blue android chased you around the compound’s perimeter. There should be another hatch door nearby, although protocol dictates that it remain sealed at all times, and you don’t want to risk taking AR into the compound through a checkpoint where an EMP gun might be in use. Honestly, you have no idea what you’re going to do with him, apart from getting him to the maintenance lab so you can attempt to do something about the tear in his metal limb and maybe fix the damaged circuits on his chest, although you don’t know if they even have a practical purpose. You’re still reeling from everything that’s happened in the last hour. As the two of you slowly progress along the compound’s concrete outer wall, the headache you can feel coming on isn’t making things any easier, although it’s nothing compared to what AR must be going through right now. ‘Marked for disassembly,’ he’d said. You aren’t sure what that means exactly, but if the fight that followed his encounter with the other android is anything to go by, it’s probably some kind of execution order.

All because he protected you.

Maybe. It’s hard to tell what he was really trying to accomplish, since his words and actions have been contradicting so much lately. You shouldn’t ask, but you can’t help it.

“What were you saying to the blue android?” you ask, throwing caution to the wind. AR’s metal limb is heavy in your arms as you try to shift it into a more comfortable position, mindful of the twitching claw. “I mean, assuming you were talking, right before he attacked you.”

“I was not ‘talking,’” he says with distaste after a particularly long, reluctant pause. “I was exchanging information with that unit.” He flinches as another spark in his damages limb arcs across the exposed wires. You wince sympathetically at the sound he makes, before tentatively speaking again.

“What kind of information?”

“I was informing him that you were mine. He was incapable of understanding that concept, and accused me of operating outside of my parameters.”

“Yours?” you echo the word quietly, less of a question and more a statement of quiet disbelief.

“Yes.” AR turns to pin you with a stare, and something about the cold authority of it makes your blood run hot. You can feel your face turning pink, but he either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. “Those were the terms of our agreement. In exchange for having killed the humans threatening your settlement, you are willingly mine to do with as I please. I informed your brother of this as well.”

You almost succumb to a sudden wave of horror, before remembering the footage of them talking to each other, along with Bro’s strange behavior when you woke up in the infirmary. The fact that AR had already told him about your deal sort of explains why he acted that way, although you still aren’t sure why he went to such lengths to hide everything afterwards. Your conversation falls into a tense silence, as you carefully contemplate your next question. A large industrial pipe, half-buried in the dirt, forces the two of you into a short detour around it. The sky is already a faint, cloudless blue, and you can see the sunlight just starting to reach the tops of the city’s ruined buildings in the distance.

“Why did you save me?” you ask him, unable to voice the question any louder. His eyes watch you unreadably, as you anticipate the answer to a question that’s been eating you alive a month. “I saw the security footage, and the file in the infirmary’s computer. I thought you wanted to…” you trail off, before swallowing hard against your anxiety and trying again, “…to kill me, when it was done, but you left. I didn’t know why, and my Bro wouldn’t say anything. He tried to hide it from me, and I thought…” that something terrible had happened to you.

AR stares at you silently, still clutching his shoulder and keeping pace with you at his side. You’re starting to recognize your surroundings as you get closer to the south end of the compound, and it shouldn’t be too much further to the hatch door. You’ll find some way to contact Roxy when you get there, but for now, you can’t wait any longer to ask these questions. AR seems to contemplate his answer.

“Originally, my plan was to take you with me into the city at the conclusion of my task.” He says, and one of his functioning appendages lifts into the air, snaking around behind you and hovering close to your neck. You reflexively lift your hand and rest your fingers on the open claws. “I was going to peel away your skin and pick your muscles apart individually, before stripping your bones and cracking the joints in half. I would have kept you alive until the very end, before pulling out your organs and opening your skull to remove your brain tissue. My ability to delay human death has greatly improved over years of experimentation. Given your current physical condition, you would have survived several hours at least, depending on your rate of blood loss, however the careful cauterization of major vessels has thus far prevented death in this manner for the last several hundred humans I have captured.”

You listen to his words, almost detached from what they really mean. He makes it easy with his mechanical monotone, going through the information like it’s a vocabulary list. Part of you wants to recoil in horror, but none of it is out of character for him, to the point where you’re more surprised by your own acceptance of it than you are by what he’s saying.

“However, your behavior in response to the electromagnetic weapon was…” he trails off for a moment as the claw at your neck retracts, staring ahead thoughtfully, “perplexing.”

“I didn’t want you to die,” you finally admit. The chain link fence coming up on your left marks the beginning of the compound’s south side. He winces again as his injury sparks, although it seems to be happening less frequently now.

“You acted directly against your own survival,” he states accusingly. “My death would have released you from the consequences of our arrangement, and your effort to prevent this from occurring was pointless and suicidal.”

You suppress the rising urge to defend yourself. There’s nothing else you can say that you haven’t already said, apart from admitting to harboring some very irrational feelings for him, but even at the time, you hadn’t consciously come to terms with your own motivations yet. It felt like more of a reflex than anything else. AR’s eyes begin to narrow as he speaks, his voice low.

“I found myself more confounded by your actions than I had been when I first encountered you. My initial hypothesis was that your behavior was a result of insanity, perhaps due to some fault in your neural patterns, or the presence of a neoplastic tumor disrupting the structure of your brain. However, regardless of the underlying cause, I would be unable to resolve my curiosity if you were to die from the severe injury you sustained. This outcome was unacceptable.”

Your heart sinks as he speaks, even as you internally berate yourself for it. Of course he didn’t save you out of affection or appreciation, and you were stupid for thinking otherwise. You should have known better, especially after everything you’ve been through, with him physically trying to kill you not once, but multiple times. You almost don’t hear the rest of his words, as you quietly sulk.

“I informed your brother of our arrangement, and that your death was imminent without prompt medical attention. After transferring you to a location with suitable equipment, I ordered him to keep you alive, and when he claimed that he did not understand how to prevent the lethal symptoms of your injury, I provided him with the information to do so, before returning to the city in order to avoid the threat of your settlement’s electromagnetic weaponry. While this had little to do with understanding your actions, it allowed for the chance that I would have that opportunity again in the future, an outcome that would have been impossible otherwise.

“So, you were just curious,” you say softly, listening to the comforting rhythm of your own feet on the ground. The disappointment is evident in your voice, but it’s unlikely that he cares.

“Yes,” he affirms, ending the single word with a quiet, pained sound. The claw dangling from your arms gives a weak twitch, clanging its tips together, and the two of you lapse into another uncomfortable silence, as you try not to let your mood sink any lower. You still need to figure out how to get in touch with Roxy, and you might have an idea, but you’ll need AR’s help. It’s a good thing you brought your shades with you out of habit, and it’s a miracle they didn’t break when you fell and hit the ground. You checked the eyewear for cracks earlier, and the stems are a little bent to one side, but it’s nothing you can’t fix later. The memory of this morning prompts you with another question that you aren’t sure you want the answer to.

“Is that why you saved me from the blue android?” you ask, holding your breath when AR’s expression suddenly darkens. A month ago he probably would have struck you with one of his appendages, given the way he’s glaring at you now.

“I would not have intervened with that sagittarius unit, had I known that he would report me to H.I.C. as defective.”

You blink under AR’s glare, slightly unsure of what you just heard.

“He reported you? To who?” you ask, as AR turns away.

“I have been marked for disassembly and deletion, as a result of my failure to follow protocol,” he answers vaguely, as his expression turns pensive. “Perhaps I have malfunctioned. The fact alone that I have resisted another’s attempt to carry out the order and have not obeyed the repeated commands to return for decommission is evidence enough.”

You aren’t sure what to make of his sudden, subdued tone. From the sound of it, he really is in trouble for protecting you. It seems bizarre that he’s been ignoring whatever set of rules he was supposed to follow, even though he’s genuinely been trying to end your life for most of the time that you’ve known him.

“What is your protocol?” you ask curiously, taking note of the tall, narrow tank appearing around the next corner of the fence. The south hatch door should be just past it.

“My protocol was to continuously seek out living humans in the city by any means at my disposal, followed by the immediate application of lethal physical force.” He speaks informatively, like reciting a printed decree, apart from his use of the past tense. When you first met AR, he spoke to you and examined the flash drive you were carrying, while the blue android simply tried to tear you apart on sight. Apparently, he’s also been experimenting with the people he catches, and while it sounds like he’s been torturing them in the most gruesome ways possible, if he’s supposed to just catch and kill them, then he really hasn’t been doing what he was supposed to. In that case, making a deal to help you in return for killing you later would have definitely been against the rules.

AR comes to a stop when you reach the closed door next to the tank, regarding it with something like vague skepticism. You know he couldn’t break through it even if he had all four limbs at his disposal, because the compound’s exterior doors are reinforced to prevent that exact thing from happening.

“We need to contact Roxy,” you tell him, dropping the subject of what the both of you have done for each other and why. There should be time for it later, if you can get him to the maintenance lab without incident. “Are you still in the base’s network?”

“No, I am not,” he replies simply, clutching at his shoulder again. He seems preoccupied by the injury, even though the claw on his damaged limb isn’t twitching anymore. You carefully set the bundle of metal coils on the ground at your feet, before retrieving the pointed shades from your pocket and holding them out to him.

“Do you think you can get my shades to work again, even if they’ve been wiped? The wireless chip should still be in there.”

He stares at the eyewear for a long, displeased moment, probably remembering the last time he used them, and you mentally remind yourself to ask later about whether or not he had anything to do with your operating system being deleted. He takes them from you and reaches to the back of his neck, plugging in his thin, black wire before returning them. You pry the bent stems apart and rest them over your ears, ignoring the discomfort as they pinch the sides of your head.

The blank screen flickers, and a window appears a moment later, filling with scrambled letters and numbers, just like the first time you did this. A simplified chat box opens on top of it, with your list of contacts on the side, and Roxy’s name highlights on its own as a blinking cursor appears at the bottom, waiting for your input. AR stands by silently as you mentally type out a message.

 

-- timaeusTestified [TT] began pestering tipsyGnostalgic [TG] --

TT: Roxy, are you there?
TT: This is urgent.
TG: yeah im here whats up
TT: I promise I will explain this later, but I need you to let me into the compound through the south hatch door.
TT: It’s the one above ground, with the big tank next to it. I think the tunnel is just past storage.
TG: wait ur outside??
TT: Yeah.
TG: why??????
TT: Because Caliborn forced me out at gunpoint and left me out here to die, until AR saved me from another android, but now he’s hurt, and we need to get to the maintenance lab.
TT: Roxy?
TG: are you serious
TT: Yes.
TT: I have never been more serious about anything in my entire life.
TG: wait the android is hurt??
TG: how does that even work? is he like bleeding oil or something?
TT: No, but there’s a tear in his plating, and some of his wires are sticking out.
TG: does that really hurt him?
TT: Yes, the damaged area is extremely painful. It is analogous to multiple exposed nerves.
TT: You will comply with Dirk’s request immediately and open the door.
TG: woah
TG: ok hold on im omw
TT: Sorry, Rox. And thanks.

-- timaeusTestified [TT] ceased pestering tipsyGnostalgic [TG] --

 

You hand the shades back to AR. He takes them from you, but doesn’t remove the wire, holding the eyewear in his hand and looking down at it strangely.

“Why was your computing device deleted?” he asks.

“It was my Bro, I think,” you tell him, leaning against one of the large pipes coming out of the compound’s concrete wall and finally noticing the dull ache in your ankle where the other android grabbed you. At least it isn’t sprained. “I told you he tried to hide everything from me. He said you left because you lost interest. I knew he was lying, though.”

AR says nothing, and you don’t bother asking for your shades back, as the two of you wait in silence and the sun continues to rise until it peeks over the buildings blocking your view of the horizon. You squint in the early morning light, but it’s something you haven’t seen or felt against your face for a month, and you hadn’t realized how much you genuinely missed the sun. Despite the circumstances, you breathe a gentle sigh, still disappointed that AR was only protecting you out of his typical, analytical curiosity, but relieved that he’s here, and that you have the opportunity to see him and talk to him again. You really did miss him all this time, with a kind of desperation that only seemed to get worse as the days went by. Now, you aren’t certain what’s going to happen next, with no idea of what Bro is going to do if and when he finds out that you’re trying to help AR, and that’s still assuming Caliborn hasn’t already tried to kill your brother too. AR interrupts your train of thought a few minutes later with an outstretched claw, holding your shades in its upturned grasp.

“I have restored the data in your computing device,” he says as you slowly take the eyewear from him, meeting his red eyes in silent confusion. “I was unable to reconstruct your operating system, however I have simulated its layout and functionality to the best of my ability.”

“You…fixed my shades?” you ask, bewildered. The desktop screen is exactly the way you remember when you slide them on, and you realize a moment later that he even bent the stems back into place.

“Yes. It is a useful device for maintaining contact with you, and I have kept its contents in an archive within my data banks since integrating myself with it the first time.”

“That’s right,” you murmur, “I remember you saying something about doing that kind of thing out of habit.”

“Transferring the data back into your device was a simple process,” he continues. “Your technology is inferior, and the rapid decline of your population was exceedingly predictable.”

“Hey, come on,” you remark indignantly, forgetting your confusion. “I’m trying to help you, the least you can do is maybe not insult my entire species.”

“I was not insulting you or your species, I was stating an objective fact.”

“That was not an objective fact, that was an insult.”

“Your cognition is clearly inferior as well, although I have already inferred this during our previous encounters.”

“Seriously? Do you want me to fix your limb or not?”

“I am highly doubtful of your ability to do so.”

“Then why did you come with me?”

“Uhh…hey.” Roxy’s voice emanates from the compound’s wall, and you turn to see her head poking out from the side of the open hatch door. AR doesn’t react to her sudden presence, apart from blinking at her indifferently, and you wave to her after shooting him an annoyed glare, still frustrated at him, and somewhat humiliated that Roxy caught you arguing, but you’re grateful to see her again after everything you’ve been through today. She beckons both of you inside, and you gather AR’s metal limb into your arms, before following them into the compound, and sealing the hatch door behind you.

   
Join MovellasFind out what all the buzz is about. Join now to start sharing your creativity and passion
Loading ...