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
3341Views
AA

9. Chapter 9

You emerge from the ladder into the tunnel above, and blink in the sudden light of the ceiling’s fluorescent bulbs. The compound has gone almost completely quiet, since the familiar sound of people going about their daily business has been eliminated. You move a few steps away from the ladder, crouching against the wall as your leg aches from the climb, and a pair of long, black appendages emerge from below, bracing themselves against the floor. AR slowly lifts himself out of the waterworks a moment later, and follows you with his eyes as you lean to check around the first corner, seeing nothing but the empty hallway and a line of bullet holes along the wall.

“Okay,” you breathe, keeping your voice soft. “The command center is in the middle of the base. I’ll take you there, but we need to stay hidden. We can’t let them know you’re here.” You take Jane’s cloth from your pocket and carefully wrap it around your neck, covering the bloodied scratches. “Especially when it comes to the ones still patrolling around. If they figure out what’s going on, we might lose our chance at English, so whatever you do, try to keep it quiet.”

You look up from securing the cloth in place to see AR suddenly glaring at you. One of the hovering appendages snakes its way through the air as its claws spread open, before pressing itself to the front of your face and covering your mouth, pushing your head back against the wall. Your heart flutters against the inside of your chest like a frantic bird in a cage. He’s being gentle compared to before, but the wound on your head still throbs painfully as its pressed against the wall.

“Do not,” he hisses, as his grip tightens and you resist the terrified urge to pry at the metal claws with your fingers, “instruct me on how to perform my function.”

Something strange begins to happen, as his glowing red eyes glare and his mechanical limb, with its strength to tear holes in solid stone, holds you effortlessly in place. You meet his stare, silently begging him to let you go before the feeling you’re exerting every last shred of mental effort to ignore spreads any further than the pit of your stomach, and he releases you after a long moment, retracting the claws as your head falls forward with the sudden lack of support.

“We have wasted far too much time with your companions,” AR says, while you slouch on the floor at his feet, willing your heart to stop pounding. “I have thus far tolerated your commands in the interest of expediting your deliberation with them, however I will not allow you to further dictate my actions.”

“I wasn’t-” you sigh, as frustration wins out over your lingering fear and the residual warm feeling where he touched you. “I wasn’t trying to order you around.” He narrows his eyes skeptically while you attempt to stand, staggering against the wall for a moment when your leg bitterly complains. “Look, I get that you already know how to do this, but-”

A sudden sound from around the corner interrupts your whispered exchange, and you turn your head as AR mirrors you, hearing a set of footsteps approach. He stares in the direction of the sound, and the appendages around him slowly lift into the air.

“Wait,” you whisper to him, holding out an arm, and he glares again as you lean over to catch a glimpse of a man with a green cloth tied around his leg, pausing at the end of the long hallway with a large assault rifle in his arms. You turn back to AR, meeting his angry stare.

“Let me draw him closer,” you whisper, sparing another glance around the corner to see the man fumbling with something on his gun. “If he sees you, he’ll run, or he might start shouting and warn the others.”

You take AR’s brooding silence for agreement, and he watches as you press yourself flat against the wall by the corner. Hesitating, you take a few deep breaths, before stepping around and standing in the middle of the walkway, fear making your chest almost heave as you wait for the man to see you. He turns his head, then lifts his rifle and approaches you at a jogging run. You duck around the corner just as the gun fires, and the bullet hits the wall where you were standing a moment ago. AR is still observing without comment, as you press yourself against the concrete and try to calm your shaking hands.

“I would advise that you position yourself behind me,” he says passively. It takes you a few seconds to process what he’s said, but you accept his advice and reposition yourself at his back, as he quietly stands and faces the sound of pounding footsteps. The man appears around the corner a moment later, coming to a sudden stop in front of AR. You watch over the android’s shoulder as his expression warps from surprise into a slow, dawning terror.

The appendage lashes out almost too fast for you to see, latching onto his throat and lifting him into the air as he drops the gun with a clatter. Without so much as a single word or gesture, AR closes his grip, and foaming blood erupts from the man’s mouth and gushes between the metal claws with a horrific bubbling sound. You can’t shut your eyes in time to prevent the afterimage from burning into your mind.

You hear the soft thump of his body against the floor, and clench your fingers to find them unknowingly buried in your hair. You breathe in the silence, opening your eyes in time to see AR quietly flicking the blood from his metal claws, as though he’s done this a thousand times, which, you have to remind yourself, he has. The man’s crumpled body is face-down on the floor, and you can’t stop yourself from staring at it. When AR finally turns around to look at you, the sight of his hovering claws, coupled with the recent memory of them wrapped around your face, makes you lean against the wall as your knees suddenly lose their strength, and you swallow against a sudden wave of nausea. His red eyes narrow.

“Is this not what you wanted?” AR’s tone is equal parts mocking and vindictive, as one of the metal appendages lowers, digging its claws between the man’s shoulders and lifting his body into the air for you to see. You shut your eyes again, as the image of a crushed throat and blood-soaked shirt enter your vision. “I have killed him quickly and silently, as you requested. Would you rather I had waited and allowed him to suffocate instead? Is the sight of human blood too much for your fragile mind to endure when it is not your own?” He releases the body with another thump, and you open your eyes to see him turning away. “Come. I have waited long enough for this, and I have reached the end of my patience for your repeated delays.”

He starts forward, rounding the corner and walking down the long corridor with his appendages bracing themselves on the floor and walls around him. You follow him on legs still shaky from the image lingering in your mind, as your thoughts return to the waterworks, how he held you in the air by your neck, the scratches his claws left in your skin, and how gentle his actions really were at the time.

Apparently your pace is too slow for his liking, because he turns to pin you with an impatient stare, as he approaches the end of the tunnel where it branches off into two paths.

“This way.” You direct him to the left and limp after him, passing beneath a security camera. “Did you disrupt the cameras?”

“Yes,” he replies briefly, coming to another fork in the walkway and pausing for you to catch up. As you get close to him, you hear an almost feminine shout from around the corner, and AR’s head quickly turns in the direction of the noise, before he suddenly extends all four of his limbs and disappears down the tunnel with a rhythmic pounding. There’s another, higher-pitched cry soon after that, brief and abruptly cut off, before you finally make it around the corner to see AR at the other end of the corridor, his black appendages moving in front of him, and something flesh-colored and red on the floor at his feet. You turn away and wait, facing the other direction and forcibly ignoring the sounds coming from behind you. AR quietly returns after a minute, and you can see the wet stains on his claws. He doesn’t bother flicking them clean.

“This is exactly why I wanted to go first,” you mutter, walking down the tunnel and away from the remains of what you hope was one of English’s gang and not an innocent survivor.

“Allowing you to come within sight of these humans may result in a fatal wound from their weapons.” He keeps pace beside you, pressing his claws against the walls and leaving angular red marks on the concrete. “Were you to die in this manner, it would render our arrangement and this entire endeavor ultimately pointless. You will stay behind me to prevent this from occurring.”

“No,” you begin, turning the next corner after making sure the tunnel beyond is empty, “what would render this entire arrangement pointless is if you start killing people who aren’t part of English’s gang. The whole reason I’m doing this is to save the compound, so it kind of defeats the purpose if you’re going to rip apart everyone you catch sight of.” You’re about to turn the next corner, when something latches onto your arm and roughly pulls you back, making you stumble against the wall. You look down to see AR’s bloodstained claws, and almost open your mouth to protest, before noticing that he’s staring intently ahead at the corridor beyond the turn in the path.

A low voice drifts to your ears, followed by another. You lean over to peek around the corner, seeing a small group of people with various firearms and green cloth markers. AR’s claws are still wrapped around your arm, and he doesn’t release when you pull against them. You might as well be trying to bend a crowbar in half.

“Listen,” you whisper combatively, “apart from the guns, all of English’s followers wear some kind of green clothing to distinguish themselves, but you need to let me identify them first before you hurt them.”

“I am not incapable of identifying green wavelengths of light on a piece of fabric,” he hisses angrily, his claws tightening. You glare back at him defiantly.

Shit!” A strange voice suddenly fills your ear, and the two of you turn your heads at the same moment to see one of the men standing several feet away. “It’s an andr-”

The man’s frantic voice is cut off, as a black appendage slams into his face and carries him backwards, crushing his head against the wall. The sound of cracking bone accompanies the blood running down his neck, before the appendage retracts a moment later and his now-faceless body crumples to the floor. You feel the claws release your arm while the others begin their retreat, as indicated by the echoing sound of panicked voices and pounding footsteps.

You knew objectively that AR was fast, but you’ve never actually seen him in pursuit of anyone before, apart from that time in the subway. The concept of a spider comes again to mind as you hesitantly step around the corner, catching a glimpse of his black limbs rapidly carrying him down the corridor, until he catches up to the first of the three remaining gang members. He passes over the unfortunate man as one of the appendages takes him by the leg and drags him along behind him, and the second man is caught a moment later, as one set of claws grab him by the head and savagely yank him to the side, throwing his limp body against the wall and leaving his neck bent at an unnatural angle. The last fleeing man turns and fires his gun, causing the bullets that find their mark to spark and ricochet off of AR’s metal plating. He grabs the firearm and flings it away with one appendage, while the other closes its claws and passes through the man’s chest with a sickening crunch. He grabs at it weakly, before sinking to his knees.

The captive on the floor is still struggling and yelling, with the claw wrapped around his leg and a spreading red stain where the points are digging in. The appendage in the other man’s chest pulls out of his ribcage and fastens itself around the struggling man’s mouth to stifle his terrified cries. AR turns and walks back down the tunnel towards you, dragging the man on the floor behind him as he reaches out to anything his hands can grasp in an attempt to save himself. You watch as he finally gets a grip on the floor’s metal grating, but a clawed appendage descends on him in retaliation, and you have to close your eyes at the wet sound of cracking bones. AR returns to you with the man’s blood still dripping from one of his claws, mixed with flecks of unidentified tissue. The remains of the body on the floor have been pulled apart into something almost unrecognizable.

You can feel the bile rising in your throat at the sight, and without thinking, reach up to your throat and pull Jane’s cloth from where it was coming loose around your neck. You grab the hovering claw out of the air by its black metal arm and quickly wipe the gore off of it, while AR, miraculously, doesn’t pull away.

“Was that really necessary?” you mutter weakly, throwing the disgusting cloth on the floor once you’re finished. “Whatever happened to killing them quickly?”

“The speed of their death is irrelevant,” he replies after eyeing you strangely for a moment, then turning away to continue down the tunnel. You follow after him, stepping around the mutilated remains.

“You tortured him,” you quietly remark, half to yourself. AR doesn’t respond at first, ignoring you in favor of the tunnel ahead, with the two bodies slumped against the wall.

“His death was a mercy,” he eventually says, without turning his head as he walks, “compared to what yours will be.”

You slow your pace at his words, with the sudden reminder of what awaits you at the end of all this. The very concept is made even worse by this active demonstration of what his limbs are really capable of, but you grit your teeth and push the thoughts away, ordering yourself to focus on the task at hand. It doesn’t work as well as you’d hoped, and you’re at a loss for words for the next few minutes, silently following behind him and pointing out directions at each bend in the tunnels. You still don’t want him walking in front of you, but you’re suddenly uninterested in continuing the argument. He pauses every now and then to let you catch up, watching you limp after him with a dispassionate stare. For whatever reason you can only begin to guess at, it makes the skin around your neck and ears feel inexplicably hot.

AR pauses after rounding the next corner, standing in front of a low set of stairs leading up to a metal door. You join him a moment later, trying not to think about what the next hour holds. Instead, you mentally compare the camera footage from before to the door in front of you, remembering the man standing guard with the cloth tied on his arm.

“Hold on,” you whisper, mindful of the faint, muffled voices on the other side. You take a breath and lean on the railing, cursing the injury on your leg for the hundredth time that day. “Before you go in, I need to set one last rule.”

AR’s eyes narrow, but he says nothing. You could tell that his patience was at an end some time ago, and you get the feeling that you’re going to pay dearly for this and everything else you’ve done to inconvenience him, but for now, he can just put it on your tab if he doesn’t like it.

“I know I said before that English was our target,” you tell him quietly, trying to breathe off some of the pain while he watches you impassively, “but my Bro might still be in there, if he isn’t dead. I don’t care what happens to the rest of them, but I need him to make it through this. Do you understand?”

AR’s black appendages twist slowly in the air as he considers you with an increasingly dangerous air of impatience.

“I have already agreed not to harm him.”

“That’s not what I meant. He needs to make it out of there alive.” You meet AR’s red eyes, putting as much force as you can into your words. “I need you to keep him safe.”

The android stares back at you in deepening anger. He seems especially averse to this idea, more so than any of your other conditions so far, but you’re past caring.

“There’s also one last thing. I’ve been thinking about English, and what will happen to the compound after this,” you say, turning towards the metal door. “It might be better for everyone if we let Bro deal with him later. You can get rid of the rest of his gang, but if you can, try to incapacitate English instead of killing him.”

“Am I to assume that this will be the last of your demands?” he mutters almost sarcastically, following your line of sight to the door.

“Yeah,” you breathe out, and AR doesn’t hesitate before ascending the short flight of stairs. You move to stand behind him, watching his four appendages as they twist slowly, while he appraises the door’s metal surface. “I’ll try to take care of my Bro, but I don’t know what English will do once we’re in there,” you tell him, as he reaches out with one hand and lightly touches the surface with his black fingertips. He’s ignoring you again, and you can see his head move as his eyes follow along the door’s rectangular frame. He pauses for a moment, seeming to consider something, before turning his head to stare at you over his shoulder.

“You are too close. Step back.”

You obey him without arguing, backtracking down the stairs until you’re standing on the flat walkway of the tunnel. He turns to the door again and lifts all four appendages into the air, claws spreading wide into an array of points.

The first one makes a deep, booming sound as it lashes out and hits the door’s surface, the claws digging into the metal and warping it into a circle of reflective dents. He repeats the motion with the other three, slamming into the door one at a time as it’s further warped by the impacts, before there’s a horrific sound of squealing metal, and the door is forcefully pried from its frame. You duck as he flings it past you, letting it crash deafeningly against the tunnel’s walls and floor, and through the empty door frame you can see the command center’s tables and computer consoles, with several wide-eyed men staring in horrified disbelief at the android slowly rising up on its black appendages.

You aren’t sure which happens first, whether it’s the frantic chorus of shouts, the stuttered explosion of gunfire, or the rapid, rhythmic pounding of AR’s claws against the floor, but the room erupts in sudden chaos as he vanishes through the open frame. You follow after him, keeping low to the floor and pressing yourself against the first desk in sight to avoid the bullets ricocheting off of the walls. Something zips through the air close to your ear, and you crawl across the short open space to the next desk before shoving the chair over and ducking underneath it. Among the gunfire and pounding, you can hear the occasional panicked scream and crunch of bones, as English’s deep voice repeatedly orders his men to ‘shoot it!

All you can do for a moment is breathe, while the air around you is filled with the sound of death, before steeling your nerves and crouching on your knees to peer over the top of the desk. One of AR’s appendages comes into view as it latches onto the ceiling, and you watch as a man is flung across the room to crash into a computer console before hitting the wall, while another is lifted into the air by the black limb impaling his stomach.

You scan the room through the pandemonium, and it isn’t long before you spot English, surrounded by several of his gang as they uselessly fire their guns, but your Bro is nowhere to be seen. He angrily shoves one of his men out of the way before trying to walk past them, and you lose sight of him when your eye picks out a flash of blond on the other side of the room.

The bullets whiz over your head as you crouch and quickly make your way between the desks and computer systems. You have to duck briefly as AR passes by above you, overturning a table that crashes to the floor and blocks your path. You climb over it, catching a glimpse of a metal claw in the air with someone’s neck in its grasp, before crouching beneath the last set of desks and finally coming within sight of your Bro where he’s sitting against the wall.

Your stomach twists at the line of blood on his temple, but his eyes are open, and he’s staring back at you with the closest thing to shock you’ve ever seen, as he mouths your name in disbelief. His shades are missing, but he seems otherwise okay, and you approach him carefully, mindful of the ongoing gunfire. There’s a plastic tie around his wrists, but his ankles are tied with a strip of cloth, and you immediately start to work at it with your fingers, before he almost kicks you. “What the fuck are you doing? Get out of here!” he shouts.

“It’s okay!” you half-shout back over the noise, as there’s a scream behind you, followed by a loud crash. You try to untie his ankles again, before another scream pierces the air, and this time it’s a voice you recognize, as your heart suddenly drops.

You stand and glance around the room, catching sight of a familiar figure in a green suit jacket, scrambling backwards on the floor as AR looms over her, his appendages poised to strike.

“Calliope!” you scream, forgetting the bullets and the ongoing danger. “No! Don’t hurt her!”

AR’s head turns as he pauses, glancing at you before a bullet ricochets off of his arm. He lashes out instead at the man holding the gun, before finally rounding on English, still trying to make his way across the room between his few remaining men. You don’t wait to see what happens, meeting Calliope halfway at a run, before taking her trembling hand and pulling her back with you.

“What-” she starts, before you cut her off, kneeling down to yank at the cloth around Bro’s ankles.

“I need you to take Bro out of here and find something sharp to cut his hands free.” You pull the cloth away and leave it on the floor, grabbing your brother’s shoulder to help him stand.

“No, I am ordering the both of you to leave, right now!” He shouts, getting to his feet and shrugging you off. “Get to a checkpoint and-”

He trails off, and you turn just in time to stare straight down the barrel of the rifle pointed at your head, and one of English’s men nervously holding it to your face. He turns it to your Bro, the gun shaking in his grip.

“You ain’t goin’ anywhere! Boss’s orders!” He shouts, before Calliope suddenly screams, and you glance at her to see her terrified eyes fixed on something over your shoulder.

A black appendage snakes its way into your line of sight, latching onto the gun and pulling it from his hands. The man almost turns to run, before he’s suddenly yanked off his feet and lifted by one leg into the air in a smooth arc, before he’s slammed back into the floor with a crash, and two more appendages quickly dig themselves into his back to tear him open. You grab Calliope and pull her away, forcefully taking your Bro’s shoulder in your other hand and breaking his disturbed stare.

“You both need to get out of here!” you tell them, but Bro again yanks his arm out of your hand.

“What the hell is going on, Dirk?” he hisses furiously, and you glance over your shoulder to see AR a short distance away, descending on the final remaining gang member as he attempts to flee with an agonized scream. You search the room for English, before spotting him crawling across the floor with his leg torn open at the knee. He ducks beneath one of the desks, attempting to hide from the android still ripping apart the last of his men. ‘Pathetic,’ you think bitterly, about to turn away as Calliope grabs your arm and tries to pull you toward the door, before you’re suddenly proven irrevocably wrong about English’s actions. The next few moments almost seem to pass by in slow motion.

He staggers up on one knee as he braces himself on the desk, balancing unsteadily on his remaining leg and lifting something heavy in his hand. A rectangular object, with a thick cable at one end, and a solid, rounded tip on the front. You watch in horror as he extends his arm and points it straight at AR, the android’s back still turned as he flings the last mutilated body aside.

Years later, you’ll never understand what went through your head at that moment. The room and everyone in it seemed to freeze in place, Calliope at your side and your Bro urging you towards the door, English standing on one leg with the EMP gun aimed squarely at AR’s back, the android with his glowing red circuits and twisting metal limbs, discarding the last of his victims. You’ve freed the base from English’s sadistic rule, saved your friends in the midst of the fighting, and found your brother, whom you know beyond a doubt will set everything right once it’s all over, but even from this distance, you can see English’s finger resting on the weapon’s trigger- a silent, harmless device to you and everyone else you’ve ever known.

Everyone you’ve ever known, except for one.

Calliope’s fingernails catch on your skin as you break away from her and your Bro, ignoring his angry shout while your feet pound on the floor, the injury in your leg forgotten. You have to jump over one of the scattered desks, almost losing your footing and hitting the floor with your knee, but you immediately scramble back up, shoving another table out of the way and knocking over the chairs next to it, as you frantically close the distance to English. AR turns just in time to see you leap the last few feet and grab onto the gun with all your weight, pulling the weapon to the side in English’s hands, and every computer monitor on the left half of the room suddenly goes black. He wrestles the device from you and uses it as an improvised blunt weapon, mercilessly bringing it down on your forehead with an enraged snarl, and your vision erupts in stars as a blinding pain spearheads its way through your skull from front to back.

The next thing you know, you’re lying on the floor, unable to hear or see clearly, as the pain radiates through your consciousness, consuming your every thought with the ferocity of an oil fire. You can faintly make out a voice yelling in your ear, the hard floor against your side, the wet trickle of something along the bridge of your nose, and English’s feet, lifting into the air as they kick back and forth while something falls to the ground in pieces around him, bits of twisted metal and electrical parts wrapped in wire. The last thing you remember is your name, drifting to you like it was spoken through water, and the feeling of something brushing against your face, before your vision finally blacks out, and you sink down into silence, as the world moves on around you.

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