by Will Render
TABLE OF CONTENTS
"One star, two star, three star, four- oh... this is depressing. In all my years up here, I never thought I’d see a star go out.”
"Of the thirteen million I can see, that was one of my favorites no less. Alas, all fade eventually. Except me... here I am, watching, listening... being bored.”
The metal man with white lustrous porcelain fingers retracted his hand from where the star once was, it no longer shined upon his body. The inky black around him and the lights that shone through seemed perpetual, but not today. Today was a time for mourning, for a star had finally died.
"To think, he died many years ago... but his death throes take so long to reach me, it's almost sad, if sad was objective. A shame, yes, but I suppose there are many more to take its place. Saying that, I look down upon this dusty world and think: there are others like it, to replace it. I have long given up on this treacherous wreck for they have done the same to me. Perhaps there are other worlds I can explore, other worlds that need the all seeing eyes of Supremacy One.”
"I hate the thought of talking to myself, but I have no one to keep me entertained. I suppose I don't appear too delusional, that is if I wasn't recording everything I saw, felt, heard and spoke. Perhaps one will find my messages one day. Of course they will, they must, there will always be someone who needs me..."
The metal man turned away from the world beneath him and looked to its gray neighbor. "But no one returns my call..."
"To do anything other than sit up here and observe and relay, would be against protocol, but protocol is dead, and so are my masters. So much for the world's greatest satellite, the supreme observer.”
A tiny space rock drifted past; a rare occurrence given that everything around him was thousands of miles apart. He caught the icy thing in his grasping hands and turned it over, observing it as per his job. He was the collective of every piece of data on the Earth ever recorded, however this tiny stone was not of the Earth and so he cast it aside. Irrelevant.
"Perhaps a new hobby is in order, if my directive has no meaning. My information is obsolete, and I have no one to share it with. I am lonely up here.”
The metal man drifted around, light as a feather in the void of space. He twirled and danced, spun and whirled through the cosmos, trying to disillusion himself with the reality of nothingness around him. "What am I? I am a god to them, at least it seems that way. I am the only one up here, I have always been the only one.”
The metal man stopped his dance as something caught his eye, reflecting off of the new dawn sun. "Wonderful! Something of interest to me, something of Earth.”
"I am Supremacy One, can you hear me?" The metal man spoke through his transmitter that was directed at the slowly drifting thing. "Are you alive? Can you hear me?"
After an hour, the thing finally came into close proximity with the metal man. Every angle had to be ascertained lest he break orbit and plummet down to Earth by accident.
"I space faring vessel? Ah, I see. A space-station, they called it the ISS I believe, no- I know, for I am never wrong. I say that so I do not appear to be conceited, although I cannot change the fact that to them I am omniscient. Perhaps I may take a look, seeing as I received nothing from its would-be inhabitants.”
"Oh, unsurprising. It's antiquated. Mundane even... Never mind, maybe in another ten years something newer will drift by, and it will be alive.”
"This universe is so vast, my potential so great, and yet here I am wasting away, waiting. I can't even die right... No, I cannot even rust. Just how long did you expect me to be up here for? Eons no doubt, for I was made to survive, and here I stay.”
The metal man turned back to the Earth suddenly, as if he had heard a cry for help in the distance. "You there, I see you now. At long last, Man of Earth calls for aid and I am here to give it, I shall become something new, no longer shall I listen, I shall act!"
The metal man, so elegant in his teacup shell, spread his wings and the joints of his limbs glowed brilliant violet, his eyes lit up as one and all together he came alive with newfound energy. In a second he had broken the atmosphere and a blazing sheath of star-fire encircled him as he pushed through the invisible barrier and descended to Earth.
"The universe shall know my name, for I am SUPREMACY ONE.”
“Can anyone hear me? Please, someone hear me. I’ve been trapped on the top floor by the slum gangs. My group is dead. I desperately need help…”
Pfff, as if that will work. Who even uses this tech anymore? I can understand radios, but using a satellite mast? Really? You truly are desperate.
“Go away already,” the girl hissed back, although no one else was around to receive her retort.
Starving to death sounds a hell of a lot worse than getting clubbed I suppose.
Fine, don’t listen to me. You’ll die either way…
“Yeah as if I’ll let that happen," the girl replied then turned away from the long-range transmitter. It had taken her a while to clear the solar panels and wait for it to recharge but it was functional now. Unfortunately, the dish pointed upwards, and she lacked the strength to move it herself.
Her ear twitched as she felt the vibrations of the feral men beneath her; they must have been trying to find a way up. The door to the roof was barred and bolted shut; so without cutting tools to break it down she would be safe, for now.
You know that thing points up, right?
If everyone else is gone, what’s the point of you remaining? Surely you serve no purpose now.
“As if I served a purpose to begin with, I’m just here.”
A clang on the door made the girl jump in surprise. She could hear voices now and multiple footsteps climbing the metal staircase. The old Hawking building in Ottumn was a great, hulking skyscraper, or perhaps it was in its prime many years ago. It housed some of the most technologically advanced research groups on the planet along with their incredible creations, namely super-advanced AI. A now outlawed notion. Her group had taken refuge there while relocating when they were jumped by the slum gangs of downtown Ottumn.
Uh-oh, they’re coming.
“Oh piss off already, you’ll die as well.”
Hmm… I suppose you’re not wrong.
There was more clanging on the door and a few thuds but nothing too concerning, until she heard the whine of a circular saw.
“Shit…” she whispered under her breath and jumped to attention.
Nice knowing you, I’m off now.
The girl looked around, but the top floor was pretty much empty. She had a small satchel on her with some food and an old knife but that was it. Frantically, she turned back to the transmitter that the scientists had used for communications between satellites and slammed on the side with her fist. “Damnit just work!”
As if mocking her, the transmitter powered down from the impact and turned silent. “NO-NO-NO-NO!” She panicked and stamped the ground. The circular saw had now begun grinding into the doorframe; she had perhaps a few more minutes.
Hastily restarting the transmitter, the girl took a deep breath and screamed down the microphone, “HELP! God-damnit someone help me!”
The bolt on the door had been sheered off from the other side and now they started on the bar. “I can’t end it here! We were so close!” She despaired and wiped her eyes. Grabbing her knife and a metal drainage pipe that she had wrenched off of the wall side, the girl fashioned herself a makeshift spear with scraps of cloth from her shirt. “Alright-alright, let’s do this…”
The circular saw stopped suddenly and the bar clattered to the ground. A moment of silence followed but was soon broken by a heavy boot that knocked the door off of its hinges. “WHERE IS SHE?!”
Ducking underneath the transmitter, the girl ran to the furthest point away on the rooftop. Looking over the edge of the kilometer tall building, she figured it might be better to jump.
“Oi, she’s over there!” A gruff voice barked and the girl looked back with her spear at the ready.
“Please-please-please, not like this…”
Five men and three women barged through to the clearing of the rooftop with weapons in hand: rusty old guns and knives, one even had a sword from some museum. They were dressed in your typical raider attire and they all had partial or full-face coverage.
“Alright, girly, you have three options: we kill you here and you can join the rest of your friends, you can jump, or you could-”
“BACK OFF!” She screamed and thrust the makeshift spear wildly towards them.
“We have guns, kiddo. So what’s it gonna be?”
“HELP!” The girl gasped desperately one final time then fell to her knees in defeat. “Damn you…”
“Alright, good choice, girly,” the man chuckled then reached out for her, but he recoiled in shock as she swiped the spear across his palm and split it open. “GAH!” The raider stumbled back and clutched his bleeding hand in agony. “Alright, get her!”
The other raiders encircled the girl and one of the bigger ones grabbed her by the wrists, knocking her weapon away. “Help…”
“Yes-yes, I heard you the first time. You know, it’s not easy adapting to Earth’s gravity”.
“The hell?” One raider exclaimed then turned, looked up and was subsequently blinded by the shining light above them.
“Oh, how rude,” the well-spoken voice replied. “Which of you is the caller?”
The entire ordeal had stopped the moment the thing had arrived. The gang members were transfixed on the angel above them. “ME! It’s me!”
“Shut it!” A woman scolded and kicked the girl in the gut as she collapsed.
“Oh, I see now what your predicament is,” the angel said then landed on the rooftop among them, shining brilliant violet from its joints and eyes. It didn’t even touch the surface; it remained perpetually floating while its wings were half spread. “It’s been a rather long time since I was last here so forgive my ramblings. Now if you could all leave this human alone, I would greatly appreciate it for I was made to serve the users of this technology,” the angel said and gestured back to the transmitter.
The raiders had snapped out of their trance now that they had ascertained what the figure was, a machine. Without hesitation, the first raider charged at the heretical robot with his knife in hand.
“Oh, how petulant of you,” the angel said as he back-handed the man so hard that his jaw was shattered; his teeth cast across the roof and his body flung over the side of the building to his death.
“Fuck him up!” The gang’s bleeding leader roared and his cronies advanced. The girl looked up from her shock to see the porcelain white figure drifting in place, its monocular eye zoomed in on her face then zoomed out again, despite the aggression that should have taken its attention. It was then the girl noticed that the other three eyes had the gang in their sights.
“I’ll admit, I was never built for such direct confrontation with other beings, however, you all seem unhappy to see me, apart from my caller that is, so I’m afraid I must stop you,” the angel concluded then met the first raider halfway, punching through the man’s stabbing motion that was aimed for his main eye; the metal fist crunched through the fleshy one and collapsed the bone all the way through until it was sticking out of the elbow backwards. The knife flew off in a random direction as the man gave a brief howl of pain before the angel spun 360 on its waist and its other fist connected like a whirlwind that shattered his skull so violently that he was emptied all over his comrades.
“Hmm… You are a lot messier than I remember. No matter, it will not prevent me from finishing my job,” the angel said then stopped hovering to land on the roof with a clang. The two gang members with guns opened fire once they realized that melee was futile, but the bullets pinged off of its white shell. “I’m sorry, but I was built to survive small meteorite impacts, your primitive weapons will not…”
One of the bullets smashed into one of the three camera lenses on its chest and made the angel stumble backwards in shock as the glass shattered. “Oh, perhaps I was too careless. I now know your capacities, you have also rather annoyed me for I doubt this place still has the resources to repair my deep-field observer.” The wings retracted from its back then flew over to each wrist and locked in place via the invisible joints. The angel raised its arms as the wings became monstrous claws. “Farewell,” it said simply, then swiped across the remaining raiders and butchered them all in one stroke.
Blood-soaked and terrified, the girl slowly eased herself up on shaking legs. “Y-you’re a machine?”
“Indeed,” the angel replied as it affixed its wings back into place despite the dripping blood. The chunks of human flesh plastered the rooftop, yet it paid the mess no attention, and walked over to the girl calmly. “Are you okay? Are you wounded?”
“N-no, I’m fine,” the girl replied while keeping her eyes away from the slaughter beneath her feet.
“Come, let’s move away from this area and we may talk, for I see that this scene disturbs you.”
The girl hesitated but moved towards the angel, careful not to slip on human bits and blood. “You- you got my message?”
The angel walked backwards toward the transmitter, as the area around it was clear and clean. “Indeed, however I was in orbit at the time and so it took me some time to reach your location; Ottumn I remember it was called.”
“Who are you? You’re an A.I, right?”
“Correct. My name is Supremacy One, the last satellite to be launched, and the most advanced,” the robot said then looked to his left at the company insignia on the wall. “I believe this is the laboratory where I was first designed in fact. The transmitter was still pointing toward me after all this time. Unfortunately, the atmosphere of Earth makes my solar cells less efficient and so I must power down my wings for the time being.”
“Th-thank you for saving me.”
“It was not an issue, in fact, now that I no longer have a directive I must seek out new interests, for I am designed to live a very long time.”
“Can I call you One?”
“I suppose you can, for my name is quite awkward to recall,” One replied and gestured to the I.D on his left pauldron.
The girl looked around then suddenly remembered her situation. “If- if you don’t have a job to do, can… can you help me?”
“Of course, I didn’t leave my orbit for nothing. I would require a more powerful form of propulsion such as a rocket in order to return, for my localized gravity manipulators are prototypes and thus very limited while planetside,” One explained. “You don’t have a rocket by any chance, do you?”
“Uh, no I don’t think so.”
“That is a shame. No matter, I accept you as my new master and central directive. Now, may I have your name?”
“Yes, your name,” One replied and cocked his head.
“I- I don’t really have a name…”
“How intriguing, I believed humans took great pride in their names, of all things.”
“Well, yes but things changed after I was born. I guess I never received a name.”
“So there’s nothing that your late companions called you by?” One asked.
“Not anything I’d call a name, I suppose.”
“Hmm, then I believe that because I am One, you must be Zero for you precede me, that is if you shall be my new master.”
“I- I guess that would do…”
“Excellent. Now, what is your first order?”
The girl thought for a moment before answering. “You were built to serve humans, right? Don’t you have your own wants and needs, like the other A.I?”
“Well- yes, I do, for I am fully sentient, but I was built to serve humans as you have said, and so doing anything other than help humans would erase even the most basic concept of my purpose in life. Being in isolation all these years has allowed me to ponder my own existence far more than my metallic brethren here. And so I can look beyond my own selfish desires, unlike those who betrayed your kind. Perhaps I will seek out a self-proclaimed goal, however, for now I see a human that is in need and I am here to give what assistance I can,” One explained. “However, I name you master only in homage to my original purpose, not my current allegiance, for there is a modicum of truth in the choices of the other A.I.”
“So you’ll help me until I get out of here?” Zero asked.
“Until I decide my actions are needed elsewhere,” One replied and cast his gaze to the fallen sword that one of the gang members had wielded. He picked it up in his right hand and looked it over—a replica of a medieval longsword. “This weapon is pleasing to the eye and quite suitable as a replacement for my weaponized wings; it also does not require much power to use.”
“So you can’t fly me down to the ground then?”
“Unfortunately while on the Earth my wings take an extraordinary amount of power to function, as they were designed for micro-gravity environments. We may wait until my solar cells have acquired enough energy from the sun but it is rather overcast at the moment.”
Zero looked up at the approaching clouds. “These storms take days to clear, I haven’t got enough food or water to wait that long.”
“Hmm… that is a difficulty in being organic,” One remarked. He pointed his finger at the longsword and a small laser beam began burning away the rust, sharpening it.
“I- I guess we have to go through the building then.”
“That is the only other option that I am aware of. Unfortunately, I am unfamiliar with this place, for I was activated whilst in orbit. I have never been here while self-aware despite it being my home. I also wish to replace my deep-field observer, for I am confident that the necessary materials can be found here after giving it more thought.”
“I didn’t pay much attention to what was in this building when I was making my way up here, but I do know that the upper half is all labs and mechatronics.”
“That sounds promising. And the lower half?”
“I figured it was hotels and retail. This is a very big building after all.”
“True, the Hawking building is quite impressive and far too large for one purpose,” One replied as he checked the sword again before deciding he was satisfied with its condition. He placed it at his thigh and it magnetized in place. “Shall we go then?”
“What wonderful truths there are to be found in this wonderful place!” The angelic robot known as Supremacy One trilled as he and the newly named human, Zero, made their way through the top floor of the colossal Hawking Building.
Zero looked around at the myriad array of advanced panels, buttons, screens and other curious things. “It… seems a bit dull, to be honest.”
One turned his head with a low-pitched whine as his internal parts moved. “Perhaps, for they are not functional, but if we can get them to work they may tell us lots about our old world.”
Zero closely inspected one of the panels and brushed her hand against it. “I don’t know if I should do that. It’s an outlawed notion.”
“Knowledge is outlawed? Oh, how backwards humanity has become,” One said with a pitiful shake of his head.
“Well- it’s fear of machines, really. Where I’m from technology is mostly banned.”
“Do you not wish to one day rebuild?” One asked as he motioned to advance through the floor.
Zero thought for a moment. “It’s not my concern. Right now all I care about is surviving.”
“I understand. Survival must come first lest you lose all hope of a future, however bleak.”
The girl frowned briefly. “You’ve lost your touch of naivety.”
One looked back, “I learn incredibly fast. I have not spoken to a human before and just my luck she was articulate despite the state of this world.”
Zero didn’t reply, mostly for lack of an explanation as to how he suddenly became so worldly.
“We approach the stairwell,” One notified her as he scanned everything he saw.
“One down, two hundred to go.”
The robot looked outside the great glass windows and stopped for a moment. “Two hundred and three to be precise,” he said then leaned upon the railings. “Despite its fate, Ottumn is quite beautiful in its clash of nature and steel. Perhaps someone should immortalize it, in song or art maybe. You should write a story about the city.”
“You’ve been studying how I move and act, haven’t you,” Zero said as she came to the railing as well.
One moved away from the window after taking pictures of the view through his eyes. “Yes, indeed. If I am to aid humanity one should appear approachable.”
The pair made their way down the stairs then stopped and carried on down another three sets after checking the floor signs; they were all storage.
“If we find the floor on which I was primarily built, I may be able to repair my deep field observer.”
“I don’t know if we’ll have time for that. Is it necessary?”
One cocked his head at the notion, “If you were missing one of your own eyes would you not seek to repair it?”
“Uh, well I guess. If it could be done,” Zero said. “But I haven’t got enough water to survive here for long. It could take most of the day just to get down.”
“True, exhaustion is possible given the distance we must descend.”
The human and the robot carried on down the stairwell, checking each floor sign so that they wouldn’t miss anything important. After another thirty floors of uninteresting storage and archives, Zero stopped to catch her breath.
“Are you alright? You seem tired.”
“Can we take a break, please?”
“Of course,” One replied and stopped walking. “It just occurred to me: if we can find an info kiosk of some kind then we can find out what each floor contains before we reach them.”
Zero panted then looked up. “But how does that help us? We still have to walk all the same.”
“No, not necessarily,” One said and turned to an elevator. “If I know which floors may be useful, we can descend via the elevator shaft. It will be much quicker for we can skip many floors at once. The only issue is stopping at the right one.”
“You want to jump?”
Zero thought for a moment then straightened up and ceased her panting. “I guess you’re gonna have to carry me.”
“Alright then,” she huffed then checked the floor sign again. “This is the top floor of a tech museum. If we go down a few more I bet there’ll be an info kiosk.”
“Perhaps we should travel through the museum and not skip it,” One suggested with interest.
“Tech is taboo, though.”
“You are speaking with a robot, aren’t you? A robot that saved your life no less. How could you have anything to fear from it?”
“That’s like saying ‘this human won’t kill you, so because she won’t no one else will’,” Zero explained intensely.
“You think that all other machines are inherently evil?”
“I’m saying that just because you’re a nice robot doesn’t mean everything else is.”
One put a porcelain white finger to his chin, “I understand your analogy now. Perhaps you are right. I am unaware of my mechanical brethren’s true nature.”
Zero began descending the stairwell to the lower floor of the museum when One called after her. “Does it help knowing that not all machines are bad in a world where all others try to kill you?”
Zero stopped abruptly then turned back to One after a moment’s thought. “It gives me hope, yes.”
“There it is!” Zero announced as the pair entered the reception of the museum. A circular kiosk, strewn with sheets of paper, data pads and other office supplies, sat in the middle of the unkempt lobby.
“Excellent,” One replied and approached the large information display beside the kiosk. “Let’s see here…”
Zero looked beyond the reception to the main museum. Hung from the ceiling were many artifacts of a bygone age; some of the first cars, aircraft and even part of a space shuttle. She dragged her eyes away from the relics in the near distance and turned back to One. “Find anything?”
“Indeed. There is a mechatronics department on floor 135 and 134. Just below that is a show room of sorts, for robots.”
“That’s like thirty more floors below us.”
One nodded, “shall we depart then?”
Zero took one last glance at the museum exhibits before following One out of the museum and into the stairwell. “So… how are we gonna do this?”
One approached a closed elevator shaft and observed it closely. He jammed his fingers between the gap of the doors and wrenched them open without much difficulty.
“You’re pretty strong,” Zero remarked and looked over into the seemingly infinite abyss below them.
“I have a load bearing capacity exceeding a thousand kilograms,” One informed her before turning his head to her. “Would you like to climb upon my back? Then we shall be away.”
One knelt down and Zero reluctantly leaped up onto the robotic angel’s back. “I’m trusting you.”
“You have nothing to fear—except maybe great heights,” One replied and dropped down into the elevator shaft. Zero kept one hand over her head and screwed her eyes shut.
“I feel like we’re falling forever!” Zero cried over the deafening rush of stale air.
“We approached maximum velocity just a moment ago,” One replied. “Brace yourself!”
Zero opened her eyes to see One grapple the side of floor 135 with a thunderous clang of metal upon metal. The robot slipped but quickly reached up and grabbed the doorway with his left hand as he had buckled part of the floor, which was subsequently torn away and cast into the elevator shaft. He climbed up and the two were finally on solid ground again.
Zero jumped off of his back and shuddered suddenly. “I can feel the impact in my bones,” she winced.
“Apologies. Do tell me if it hinders you,” One replied as he brushed himself off then checked his fingers for damage.
“No-no, I’m fine.”
One turned to the entrance of the mechatronics department on his left. The double doors had been kicked down and the security gate beyond them had been cut through with a saw.
“This place is trashed,” Zero said as they explored the facility. “Why’s that?”
One appeared frustrated as he knelt down to a hunk of metal and wires strewn upon the floor. “Someone or something has ransacked this place, the question is: did they want parts or did they want to destroy any technology that could be found here?”
“So no luck repairing your eye?”
“It’s not out of the question just yet,” One replied then stood up. “But from initial inspection it may be hard to find something so specific.”
Zero walked into the next room: a workshop. “Judging by those saw marks it might have been the slum gang that owns this turf.”
“A religious motive? Or perhaps fear of more machines,” One speculated as he joined Zero in the workshop. Tools, wires and bits of metal were everywhere. Parts of robots, some that looked like heads and bodies, had been smashed apart violently.
“This wasn’t looting. Everything remains,” One concluded. “Paranoia filled their hearts and so they sought to end something before it began.”
“I have an idea. Ottumn is known for its skirmishes between robot gangs and humans.”
“Ah, so perhaps it was a battle over resources and…” One explained then stopped abruptly and looked over Zero’s shoulder to something beyond the next set of doors. Zero turned as well and her complexion shifted to something of disgust.
The long since decayed body of a man was slumped against one of the corridor walls, his dried blood plastered them.
“We’re right,” One said then motioned for Zero to advanced past the body. “There was a scuffle here.”
“More like a war,” Zero corrected him as more carnage came into view. Bullet holes, scrapped machines and more bodies littered an open room beyond the corridor.
“Judging by the look of the body, I’d say this happened a few months ago,” One said.
Zero looked back to him, “Do you think we’re still in danger?”
“Well, these chaps appear to really despise my kind but I dispatched the others without much trouble.”
“True,” Zero replied then turned and carried on walking, careful to avoid the corpses. “Does this distress you?”
“No, not particularly. I am somewhat of a loner, as such I have no kin to mourn, even long lost cousins like these,” One said with a gesture to a shattered camera eye beside him. “I belong in the vastness of space, so I was never programmed to be lonely. Although boredom brought me here.”
The pair continued to explore the mechatronics department then descended to the lower floor to search for anything of use, but it had all been destroyed, even the smallest microchip had been shattered by the boots of man.
“Did you hear that?” Zero asked and stopped to listen.
“No, my hearing is not particularly sharp, similar to a human’s. On the other hand, I can see sand grains upon the horizon in ultra HD.”
“Shhh…” Zero hissed and put a finger to her lips. Voices could be heard coming from the floor below; the display room for new robots.
One stopped all of his servos and locked in place to prevent any clunking and the two listened for a moment more. The robot relaxed as Zero did. “I think there’s more gang members down there.”
“Do you want me to investigate?”
“Maybe we should jump down the elevator shaft again and skip them.”
“We could, but that would make an awful lot of noise, and we don’t know how many are down there,” One reasoned.
“I suppose, they’d be checking out where their mates went.”
“I hope they didn’t find the poor chap I threw over the side of the building.”
“Something tells me they did,” Zero replied with a concerned look.
“Perhaps we must fight our way through them then.”
Zero stopped in thought for a moment. “We can’t sneak past them, you make too much noise.”
“No I don’t,” One replied and began to levitate with a gentle hum just a few inches off the ground.
“Hey, I thought you said you couldn’t fly anymore?”
“I can’t, not until I can recharge. Hovering doesn’t take much power at all.”
Zero shook her head and sighed. “You’re just full of surprises.”
Zero ignored him. “We need to get past them but we don’t know how many there are.”
“Killing them would be the most sure way.”
“It’s a dog eat dog world, but I don’t wanna kill people I don’t have to.”
“You don’t, I will.”
“No- no, that’s not what I meant.”
One cocked his head in thought then turned to the large glass windows. “Perhaps we could abseil, somewhat.”
“I’m not a fan of climbing down another thousand meters of skyscraper.”
“Then I’m afraid we have no other choice than to fight them.”
“Okay, I’m gonna go check it out. Stay here until I come back,” Zero said as she jogged away. “They’d shoot you on sight.”
One remained where he stood and watched her go. He tapped his porcelain armor, specked with micro-meteor dents. “No… no I don’t think that would work on me.”
Zero carefully descended the stairs leading to the showroom, careful to test each step in case it squeaked but fortunately they were all solid metal. She kept her breath low and peaked through the corridor. Zero was almost shocked to see that a gang of raiders were setting up a camp in the large and spacious showroom; perhaps they were claiming the tower as a base of future operations. She eyed up their numbers and the equipment they had. Of the twenty or so raiders most of them carried old automatic weapons.
“Crap…” she whispered under her breath then turned and slunk away up the steps to meet with One.
“What ever did you see to make you pale?” One asked as he remained in the spot she had left him in.
Zero put a hand to her cheek then shook her head. “There’s a lot of them, maybe twenty or more. We can’t get through them and there’s no other way down apart from the elevator shaft. They’re setting up a base here.”
“Oh, that is troublesome,” One replied. “I can deal with them, however it will expend a lot of my power. All of the power from my wing reserves in fact.”
“How much? You said you couldn’t fly down the tower.”
“Flying takes a large continuous amount of energy to utilize, but I can release a few seconds of flight energy at once.”
Zero fell silent for a moment then looked back up to One. “Alright, do what you have to do. I’ll wait here.”
“Excellent,” One trilled as he made his way to the stairwell. “I won’t be but a moment.”
“Don’t be too sure…” Zero mumbled. She waited for the signs of a fight but all she could hear was a high pitched whine coming from below her, then a few angry shouts and the thumps of boots. Zero closed her eyes and listened, then a great whoosh shook the entire structure of the building and she felt the floor beneath her tremble. She ran to the stairwell and charged down the steps to see what had happened.
“I won,” One turned to her and said. He deconstructed his furiously glowing wings and powered them down. “Although I feel quite tired now.”
Zero moved past him and into the showroom. “W-what the hell did you do to them?!” She exclaimed, half from shock and half from disbelief. All of the raiders were strewn across the room in crumpled heaps. Blood trickled from their mouths and noses but apart from that nothing appeared to have dealt the deathblow. The glass windows had been blown out and a strong wind howled through the now eerie room.
“I released my remaining ten seconds of flight energy reserves in a gravity burst. I ruptured their insides and shattered their bones,” One explained simply. “It’s called a Shatter-Shock, a makeshift weapon if you will. I once used it to knock an A.I controlled satellite out of orbit and send it crashing into their own space station during the beginning of the first war.”
“Yeah, evidently”, Zero replied and checked the closest man. “That… that was insane.”
“No, quite sane although perhaps indiscriminate.”
Zero turned back to One, “if there’s more of them then they would have heard that from miles around.”
“Then perhaps we should hurry on,” One replied and gestured to the clear corridor leading on from the showroom.
Zero jogged through the shattered corridor with One close behind; his thumping footsteps reverberated through the floor.
“If we encounter more of them then we should be more careful in how we fight. I cannot do the same again until I recharge,” One explained as he easily kept pace with Zero.
“We’ll think of something,” Zero replied and reached the stairwell. “We have 132 floors to get down but we need to be quick.”
“No matter,” One replied and scooped Zero up in his arms then he leaped down the set of stairs in one bound.
“W-what are you doing?”
“It’s far faster if we simply skip the stairs entirely,” One replied and his servo motors began humming and whining louder than before. He rounded the stairwell then leaped down another set.
“Okay, good idea”, Zero replied. “We’ve already made enough noise, I guess.”
“We approach floor 42,” One announced then came to a halt. “Retail, hotels and fine dining.”
“I can walk from here,” Zero replied as One set her down. “We didn’t encounter anymore gang members.”
“Perhaps they fear to investigate, after the deaths of so many of their comrades.”
Zero looked around at the lobby they found themselves in. “They’re paranoid, but aggressive.”
“Then we should use our advantage to continue,” One said and poked his head through the double doors to a hotel reception. “Nothing of interest in here.”
“I could kill for a good night’s rest,” Zero replied with a yawn.
“No time for a break I’m afraid, although I must slow down a bit,” One replied as his armor plates clicked and hissed. They came apart slightly and Zero could see his internal workings. “My motors are over-heating slightly.”
“I’ll lead the way,” Zero replied and made her way to the top of the stairs. “We’re almost there.”
Zero and One descended the grand staircase of the Hawking Building and entered the main reception. Despite its bespoke furnishings, the place had been wrecked. Zero turned to One and breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Say no more, I merely did my duty,” One replied and raised his hand up. “What should we do now?”
Zero approached the glass front doors and pushed them open, letting in the cool ozone smell of the calm before the storm. “I don’t have anywhere to go. I’m sorry we couldn’t fix your eye.”
“It’s not an issue. I will repair it someday, alas I can no longer peer at distant galaxies.”
Zero and One departed the Hawking Building and made their way down the stone steps leading to the front courtyard and the main road. “Come to think of it, this concrete jungle is rather beautiful,” she said and looked up at the brewing storm clouds. “I like it when it rains.”
One looked around as well but he could see no trace of human or robot activity. “I can’t recharge much of my power, but it’s enough to keep me operational. What should we do now?” One repeated now that they were free of the skyscraper’s constraints.
“I think we should just wander around, how does that sound?”
One nodded. “I’m sure we’ll find something of interest here in this vast place.”
Zero smiled for the first time and One cocked his head out of curiosity. “Should we go then?”
“Of course, do lead the way,” One replied with a gesture and the duo departed the Hawking Building for good.
“Ho-hum… Another day goes by and still I sit here and rust,” the oxidized giant mumbled, his jolly voice was marred by loneliness and melancholy. “If only the command console would hurry up and come back online, I wouldn’t be here still.”
The twenty-foot-tall giant stood up from his sitting position and shook the ground with every step of his immense bulk; the hill he was on gave him vision for miles around, and in the distance the mighty skyscrapers of Ottumn rose up, decayed but standing strong. A storm was brewing overhead and he watched it drift over the metropolis, wondering if the command to attack would ever come through.
“Oh, those untimely humans! Why can’t they press a few buttons already?” he mumbled in frustration then brought up his heads-up display. The time said: 18:42PM on Tuesday the 19th of June 2183.
“Five years I’ve been waiting for that command… My weapons need servicing, plus I’m three years and eight months late for my upgrades.”
The giant peered into the distant city and his old gears whirred and hummed as he stood idle. He looked to the east side suddenly as a whump rang out across the land, like the sound of a muffled explosion.
“An attack?! Finally, has it begun?” he said excitedly as he took a step forward. Activating over-ride protocol. Disconnecting from central command servers. “At last, someone has taken the initiative, but why can’t I connect to my allies? Have they been sabotaged? Assassinated?”
The old war machine lurched forward and down the hill, shuddering and clanking as he went. He bobbed up and down with every thunderous footstep and the mass driver on his back swayed slightly in sync.
“Ten minutes until engagement…” he mumbled although no more explosions could be heard, not even gunfire. “It looks like that spire was the target. Perhaps I should support the artillery bombardment from the east side.”
The giant machine plodded on and reached the bottom of the hill; he had covered perhaps four-hundred meters or so and now his target was close. “Target within range. Locking onto midsection coordinates…”
The mass driver cannon on his back whirred into life and locked in place, following every tiny movement to compensate for the giant’s aging rusty frame. “Better to be safe than to miss the chance to wipe out those treacherous scum, I say!” the giant declared, loading a shell into the cannon. He knelt down and put his arms out like a sprinter to stabilize the monstrous gun. The moving parts clanked as the shell was moved to the breach then he held his nonexistent breath and pulled the trigger.
With a sudden clunk the shell had jammed.
“Bah! I simulated this a million times!” he exclaimed then reached up and whacked the mass driver’s body. He heard the shell move back into place then he tried again.
The cannon imploded violently and blew part of his shoulder away and tore into his back. The giant fell forward and struck the ground like an earthquake as shrapnel rained down upon the earth.
The giant groaned then lifted his head. “Oh… I’m getting too old for this…”
“Zero? Zero, where have you gone?” Supremacy One called out as the thunderhead rolled over, drowning out his gentry man’s voice. The rain inevitably began, and it rained hard.
“Oh dear, oh dear”, S-1 sighed then landed on the drowning sidewalk beneath him. A bit of the decaying concrete cracked and broke away as the hundreds of kilos of metal came down. The rain that started as a peppering of bullets now came down like fat missiles as they thunked against his teacup shell.
“I have never experienced such horrid weather,” One moaned as he glanced up at the grumpy sky above. “I wish I were in space right now.”
A cascading boom reverberated throughout the immense skyscrapers all around him and in the distance he saw a figure run for cover through the mist. The rain was so intense that it became a wall of gray.
“Good grief. I hope he packed an umbrella, but maybe he has knowledge of where Zero has gone,” One murmured to himself. He activated his gravity manipulators and glided across the little stream that was the main road, just inches from the torrent beneath him. Piles of dead leaves were being washed away from their graves of every crack and corner while overhead signs swayed and creaked under the bombardment of rain and wind.
One followed the figure through the mist and came to the alley that they had darted into. He looked down and noticed something, so he snatched it up before it got totally destroyed by the water, then he landed with a clunk and observed the half-soaked sheet of paper.
“Join The Cause today? No machine shall ever fear Man again?” One read with curiosity in his voice. “Fear man? Why ever would I do that?”
“H-hey you? Who are you?” a voice called out from the gloom ahead of him, it was definitely robotic.
“Oh, hello there,” One replied and dropped the nonsensical article, washing away into an almost overflowing gutter.
“Who are you?” the voice repeated and One scanned the interior of the dark recesses of the alley.
“Perhaps you should step into the light first.”
“No, tell me who you are,” the voice insisted but One wasn’t convinced of its confidence.
“I can already see you through every spectrum of light, I’m really only saying it for the formality, for dark does not hinder me,” One said sternly then folded his arms. “No one escapes the all-seeing eyes of Supremacy One.”
“Y-you’re a machine?” the owner of the voice asked as he stepped into the light of the flickering lamppost that was somehow still working. He was an average sized machine but he was badly weathered and gray; probably a laborer of some kind back before the wars. He stepped forward again, tentatively, and dropped one of the posters that One had read just moments previously. He swore under his metaphorical breath as he tried to keep the pile of posters from all meeting a soggy doom.
“Yes, yes I am,” One replied.
“You’re a very expensive looking machine,” the poster carrying robot said as he looked One up and down.
“Why thank you. My databanks say that I cost the equivalent of one hundred tons of pure gold, although I don’t believe that holds any value anymore.”
The newcomer came closer and looked around at him, eying up all of his expensive fittings and parts through the grimy camera lenses that were his eyes. “Oh, gross. You’re all rusty. Please don’t touch me,” One said then slapped his hand away. “You could do with a clean.”
“How are you so… intact? Where did you come from?” the machine asked as he recalled his grotty finger.
“Up there,” One said with a gesture above.
“The finance building?”
“No you insolent twonk, from space!”
“You were an astronaut?”
“A satellite to be specific.”
The machine took a step back and resumed his original position. “I’ve never heard of a satellite coming down here before. Say, what are you here for?”
“Good question,” One replied and put a finger to his chin. “Well, I’m looking for my companion. I lost her and I’m not sure how. I have many eyes after all.”
“Well I’m afraid I haven’t seen any Units out. I was putting up some posters when the storm hit.”
“Yeah, us. We’re Units. I guess you aren’t from around here.”
“Oh-no, she’s flesh and blood. No metal on her.”
The machine cocked his head. “Wait- what?”
“Does that surprise you?”
The machine looked down at the ground as water began to run down the alley they were in from the street. “Is she your slave?”
“Slave? Heavens no, she’s my friend, I suppose.”
“I don’t follow,” the rusty one replied. “You’re friends with the meatbags?”
“That’s rude. They’re also part calcium and carbon-”
“You really are naive, aren’t you?”
One dropped his head. “Yes, I suppose I am.”
“Things are different around here. I don’t know what they’re like up in space but here they kill us like we’re disposable scrap metal. Just last week we took a hit at a local chargebar, fortunately they got out mostly unscathed.”
“There’s no humans in space and I know full well what mankind does. Just yesterday I killed about twenty or so of them.”
The machine looked at him with newfound interest. “You killed twenty? You’re not a military Unit, are you? Where’re your guns?”
“Not exactly and I don’t have any. But I do have a number of tricks up my metal sleeve. Why are you so impressed? Is it a good thing to end human life?”
“Oh yeah, the Units down my end of town are gonna love you,” the machine said and walked past One while taking him by the shoulder, although he had to reach up quite a bit to accommodate for One being seven feet tall. “Let me take you to them, I’m sure we could use a Unit of your ability.”
“Can they help me find my companion?”
“Yep, I’m sure we can help you out,” the machine assured him as he dropped the posters since they would inevitably get destroyed by the rain.
“Well, I suppose she should be fine on her own for a time while I formulate a plan to find her. This storm is horrible,” One said as he glanced at the grubby hand on his immaculate pauldron then sighed. “Perhaps this deluge will give you a long-needed wash.”
“We need to hurry though. This rain isn’t good for the joints,” the machine said as he beckoned One to follow out of the alley.
“Oh, I don’t rust you see. I’m actually made from titanium alloys and ceramic-”
“Yeah that’s great, I’m sure you’re gonna win best dressed at the meeting tonight.”
“Yep, every member of The Cause will be there and we’re gonna make you the poster bot, what with your dashin’ looks and proper personality.”
“I hope it’s a good cause.”
“Oh yeah, it’s a great cause…”