Unsung Heroes: Devon, 2300 AD Chapter 8
A Painful End
By Average Joe
An olive green metallic torso floated over a crumbled section of wall to hover just before Red and Devon. Its eggplant-shaped head swiveled slightly, the single yellow ocular lens focusing on Devon. Devon warily edged a couple of paces backward, away from the robot, stammering, "R-red? D-do you know--do you have any idea what this is?"
Red nodded, frightened. His eyes still locked on the robot, but his head turned slightly to address Devon. "It's a Proto. I don't know what model, but I know how to fix them. The computer was teach--" Red paused, then corrected his verb, "teaching me how to fix them. I didn't know why, until now." He then began addressing the automaton directly. "It's you, isn't it, computer? You're--in there, aren't you?"
"Yes, child. I have indeed transferred my program to this near-fully functioning Proto-Custom model. I wanted to be certain that you completed the task I set out for you, and that the Neo-Species Eighty-three unit completed his." The Proto-Custom's optical sensor servos moved its viewing range toward the deceased mutant laying in a pool of its own blood. "It seems that both of you fell woefully short. So," the optical lens snapped back toward Red, "I must complete the tasks myself."
"What? What tasks?" Devon blurted, drawing the robot's attention again.
"This child was ordered to leave you out here, and I informed the Neo-Species Eighty-three of your location. It was sent to kill you."
"What? Red, you knew about this?" Devon exclaimed.
Red turned back to face him, eyes full of tears, and shook his head. "I-I didn't want to..." he said in a near-whisper.
The robot hummed forward, aimed towards Devon. "Child, please return home. I do not want for you to see this. It would be--most unpleasant all around." Red stood adamant, and moved to intercept the Proto-Custom. "Please, child..." Its digitized voice hinted at emotion; it seemed to be imploring Red to leave. "I don't want you to see this..." It still moved forward, slowly, but steadily. Red still stood unmoving. "So be it." The robot's altitude raised up over Red's head, completely out of reach. It moved over and behind him, and continued towards Devon, dropping altitude as soon as it was behind Red.
As he watched all this happen, Toma's words echoed inside Devon's head. "That's what being a Levine is all about. Facing scary things so you can get some great treasure is what we've always done. Be brave, kiddo." Devon braced himself, and, feeling that last burst of energy one gets when they think they're about to die, wrapped his pack around his hand in a way that his right hand was covered by the pot, forming a rudimentary iron boxing glove.
"I may not be trying to get some great treasure, but this journey's very important. I'm not just gonna give up right here and let you kill me. I have things I have to do," Devon spat out at the machine. "Just as Toma said, I'm gonna have to be brave, kiddo." Devon drug out the last word just long enough for it to be derisive towards the robot.
"You have ceased to make sense, human unit Devon."
"You too, pal," Devon shot back. Inwardly he thought, "That's the best retort you could come up with? 'You too, pal'?" Devon gestured for the robot to start its attack and growled, "Let's get this over with, shall we? I have places to go."
The robot did not respond verbally. Instead, it charged straight towards Devon headfirst, the armor plating clamping down over the intake and exhaust gaps to make it invulnerable to physical attacks. Devon sidestepped, but was set off balance when the Proto's head collided with his shoulder. Devon tried to use the momentum to his advantage, completing the spin and extending his arm so that his armed fist would connect with the robot's back. Unfortunately, the only effect this had on the Proto-Custom was a slight ding in an exhaust tube.
The Proto swiftly pivoted on its axis, and the clamshell doors for its shoulder weapons began to hiss open. The right one opened smoothly, but the left one began to whine as an actuator froze in place. Traces of black, oily smoke started wisping out from within the left weapon bay. The right weapon bay opened and closed several times in quick succession, an attempt on the Proto's behalf to close or open the malfunctioning weapon, since both sides worked in tandem and could not be operated seperately. A decision was made and the right port simply remained closed, and no further attempts were immediately launched because of risk of internal fire.
Devon watched the display in slight confusion until the opening started to smoke. He then realized that this could be a potential weakness, and if he could figure out a way to exploit it... The left side was frozen partway open, and the right side clamped shut. "If I can find some way to hit that side, I may be able to break that piece off, and maybe the insides'll be vulnerable," he figured, trying to dodge again from another charging attack. "How I'll be able to do that--" The thought was left incomplete as the green torso spun, preparing for another charge.
Devon formed an X in front of his chest with his arms and rushed towards the sentient machine in synchrony with its own attack. A split second before the impending collision, Devon slid under the Proto-Custom on his back and latched one hand onto one of two outstretched gravity nullifiers, and lodged his covered hand into a similar position on the other. He rolled over to his front, halting its forward motion with his momentum and smashing it to the ground on its back. Devon only had enough time to get to his hands and knees before it started wobbling back up.
The drab green torso slowly drifted forward, the emotionless yellow eye trained on Devon. He had no time to think, only react. He launched himself forward and upward, throwing as much strength as he could into his fist as he struck out at the faulty shielding on the robot's left shoulder. He connected, and tore the dome-shaped armor plate clean off, exposing a weapon beneath.
"I thank you for the assistance, Devon," the automaton buzzed. "Terminating you will be much easier now, for both you and myself." The remaining shoulder plate hissed upward, and a soft whining started growing in both intensity and pitch.
"What are you doing?" Devon shouted at the machine. "Red, what is it doing?"
"No," Red whimpered.
A circular red light began glowing within the right chamber, and at the end of a roughly cylindrical apparatus on the exposed left. Devon, in a near panic, threw his weight into smashing down on the open side with his covered fist. The robot easily dodged, moving behind Devon, leaving him to fall forward with the force of his attack. Devon's fist led a clumsy arc as he turned about again, trying to catch the Proto off-guard. It quickly slid behind him, evading the second inept attack by the ailing man. The Proto-Custom stood stock still as the weapons' drone reached near inaudibility.
Devon dizzily let out a wheezing cough and fell to his knees, the last of his energy finally spent. The robot leaned forward slightly, and the two cylinders trained themselves on the center of Devon's head. The power levels on the two weapons topped off, fully prepared to fire. Devon struggled to glare into its single, soulless uni-eye as it whirred, "It is over, Devon. Say hello to the rest of your species." From behind the flying torso there was a loud crack, sending it surging forward as sparks began flying from every aperture the mechanical monster had. As Devon stood, he saw electricity arc out from all over the robot's metal body, to land on the ground, itself, and its attacker, Red.
Red clung to his knife, embedded in the back of the dying mechanoid. Streams of electricity coursed through his body, sending him into convulsions. His head arched back, his mouth opened and he tried to scream in pain, but the only thing forthcoming was a gurgle, froth spilling from the sides of his mouth.
And in a moment, it was over. Red was thrown back with the final surge of energy from the machine, which dropped lifelessly to the ground, its optical sensor flickering for a moment before finally going out. Red's knife still protruded from just below the base of the robot's head, jammed beneath an armor plate to sever the main power supply. Devon stared at the slightly smoking hulk before hopping over to Red, weakly writhing in the dust.
Red's palms were blackened, his eyes rolled back in his head, and his hair was smoldering slightly. His contortions eased a bit as Devon approached, as brain functions were either repaired or shut down. Devon kneeled, pulling him up to a near-sitting position to see if he would be alright.
"Red? Red? You okay?" Devon patted him on the back a couple of times, to try to keep him breathing. Red turned his head to face him, but his eyes did not seem to focus, and it also seemed that he only barely registered Devon's voice.
"De-Devon?" Red managed to rasp. A slight puff of smoke came from Red's throat as he coughed, allowing a slight trickle of blackened body fluid to fall from his mouth.
"That's right, Red, I'm here. That's three now, but I could've done it myself." Devon tried to force a smile and laugh to keep Red's spirits up, though neither turned out very well.
Red did not seem to hear him, only stare through and beyond him. "De-Devon?" he coughed again. "Dad's calling."
"That's right, kiddo, your dad's waiting for you. But you gotta come with me now, okay? Come on, you've gotta pull through this. I can get you to an Enertr--"
Again, Red was heedless of Devon's words and interrupted. "And a man named Toma..."
Devon froze. He hadn't told Red about his brother.
"He says 'good job.'" Red's body slackened, and Devon felt salty streams forming on his cheeks at the loss of what had become a little brother to him.
"Goodbye, Red," Devon whispered, closing the boy's lifeless eyes. A wave of cold washed over Devon's body as he set Red back down. He stood, and eyes closed, turned his face to the sky, a pained expression on his face as he mourned the new loss.
A day and a half later, a nearly lifeless husk of a man stumbled into the outer gates of Trann Dome, wearing standard dome-dweller's garb and carrying a small bundle wrapped up in a blanket. Though his energy was nearly spent traversing the vast distance from his home to the new, yet eerily similar locale, he vigorously fought off any who dared to disturb the small seedlings sprouting from a bar of compressed nutrients in the base of his small, dented pot with a knife that sat in a sheath hanging from his belt. He was often seen feeding the seedlings with what remained of a skin once full of pure, sweet tasting water.
I may stumble and stutter in my efforts,
dragging myself along the ground,
struggling to pull myself forward,
fighting against all odds,
a great weight holding me back,
coming nearly to a stop itself,
yet I am moving forward.
can be a step of infinite proportions
if taken in the right direction.
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