Artificial Intelligence
A Fan's Novel

Adapted from the film A.I. by Bryan Harrison

 

 

Chapter 2

Mecha

1.


The night was arriving quickly. The scattered beams of light that broke through the overhang of trees and vines slowly departed. They would not return until the next morning. As the darkness grew the forest came to life. Things cried out, lonely sounds, angry sounds. To David they meant nothing. All he knew was Mommy was gone and he must find a way back to her.

Animals that scavenged under cover of darkness; busy, snuffling things, nosed their way past him. He is not food. He is not danger. He is not even alive. Not on the outside anyway. He is Mecha now. Before tonight he may have been a boy, his mother may have loved him. But tonight that illusion came to a crashing close. He wanders alone now, a sad little figure roaming the dark wilderness with a toy teddy bear struggling to keep up beside him. He has not cried in some time. He stopped actually after Mommy’s car sped from the forest and out of his life. The crying is after all a programmed device. After some time his logic takes over. He knows that he cannot follow her. She said that they would ‘destroy’ him. He knows ‘destroy’. He does not know they. But that does not matter now. He knows that she would not take him back even if he did find a way home. All this, his creators would expect his advanced logic circuits to tell him. But there is a piece of reasoning that comes from someplace new in his head. It comes from the same place where Mommy’s eternal image burns inside. It is something not quite planned. Or expected.

“If I am a real boy, then I can go back.” David spoke this to Teddy as they coursed slowly through the dark forest. “And she’ll love me then!”

Teddy filtered this through his own old-fashioned reasoning device as he struggled through the brush and over the moss covered ground. “How” is what he finally asked when he could make no sense of David’s idea.

David was quiet for a moment as he thought of a response. Something flitted by him then, some flying thing. It zipped quickly to and fro in the darkness. It would have gone undetected by Orga eyes and ears. His night eyes traced its progress until he could see it no more. These living things! What was it they pursued? If he could only understand, then maybe...

“The Blue Fairy made Pinocchio into a real boy,” he said to Teddy. “She can make me into a real boy too. I will find her. I will become real.”

This logic sounded reasonable enough to the toy bear. “Where is the Blue Fairy?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” David answered. “But there must be someone, somewhere in the whole world who knows where she lives.” This piece of reasoning sounded good to both of them, though for different reasons; Teddy, because it was consistent; David, because his new mind was already engaging in that all too human trait of self-defensive reasoning. He simply had to find the Blue Fairy. If he did not find her then he could never be a real boy. If he could not be a real boy, then Mommy would never ... His mind wouldn’t finish that thought.

They walked quietly then for some time. Occasionally there would be the sound of clanking metal in the brush beyond, but neither of them saw whatever might be causing the sound. It did not matter anyway. David was more concerned with figuring out a way to find the Blue Fairy. How on earth would he go about this search? He’d never even been away from Mommy’s house since he been;… ‘born’? Should he just approach people and ask if they knew? Mommy had told him to stay away from Orga, that only Mecha was safe. But what if the Blue Fairy was Orga. What then? Would he be safe approaching her? He realized that this was going to be a complicated task.

Then he saw the light.

It was a dim glow growing against the leaves of the trees and bushes at first. Then it grew slowly in brightness, casting shadows about them. And something else was happening; some new growl had started low in the dark. It grew slowly with the light, describing some unknown menace. What manner of animal could this sound announce? An Orga child would have been terrified, would have fled in fright. But the night animals here have shown no taste for Mecha, so David became only curious. The sound grew in intensity. It was coming closer. Teddy too had noticed it.

And then finally, they saw the thing.

-2-

The dead of the forest is home to the decaying remnants of what was once the outskirts of a glorious civilization. Shanties and ghost towns line the long empty roads; places the Swinton’s and their peers would never acknowledge or even know about. Those buildings are not empty though; they are alive with small societies of forgotten people trying to eke out existence on the meager subsistence the forest allows. They construct their own lives, away from the laws and hypocrisies of the mainstream of America, or what remains of America. They are undesired, and un-desiring of the way of life that has been denied them. Nor are they alone, these Orga that occupy the fallen halls of broken townships. There are others. They roam the forest too.

They were there that night.

They had seen him earlier, this little one wandering aimlessly with his toy. He was Orga, wasn’t he? Certainly he must be, from the look of him. Was he lost? Where were his mother and father? Certainly he was too young to be alone in the forest, and the toy was obviously insufficient to protect him against the threats that face little boys in the wild. It was all too well known how the Orga cherished their children, being allowed so few. Perhaps he was an illegal child? Many of the parents of unsanctioned children fled with their offspring from the new cities and centers of commerce. This was all possible, yes, but the watchers did not talk to the little one, or follow him. There would have been nothing to say. So they watched him pass and went about their own business. Occasionally one of them would make a noise while moving, or perhaps a piece of one of their bodies would fall off and clunk to the ground. But the little one and its toy did not seem to notice; or not to care.

The forest was safe. It was well away from the centers of Orga population. So they could stay here safe from detection, which could lead to destruction. But here there were no replacements for broken limbs, missing eyes or malfunctioning ears. Old batteries were running low. There were those among them that had been built before the self-lubricating joints and epidermal coatings had become commonplace. They needed oils. They needed flesh. Some required a faceplate and even legs with which to run, because that is what their existence had become; a constant flight, a flight for survival.

In the dead of the forest they too heard the moan of some night beast approaching. Fascinated, they gathered from their dark hiding spaces to see what this was, and they too witnessed its arrival.

-3-

“What is it, David?” Teddy asked the boy, who was taller and could see easily over the brush. But David did not know. It was the source of the light though. Its lights penetrated the gloom and the shadows it cast grew against the trees behind them. It came closer getting louder until at last it stopped just meters away from where they were standing. This was no beast. It was a vehicle of some kind. In the light David could now see that there was a pathway of worn earth that the thing rode on, and before it, a shallow pit.

Then, as they watched, the back end of the vehicle began to rise slowly and things began to crash down from the mouth of it. Was this garbage? Was this where the garbage from the Orga houses was left? Somehow it did not seem a right place for it. The pile grew noisily. A glittering metallic din filled the forest as the vehicle emptied its belly. When it was finally done, the thing started to back away, its groaning engine complaining as the gears changed. It had moved back some distance when David and Teddy stepped from the trees to observe the contents of the pit in the dwindling light. There were arms in there. There were legs in there too. And faces! Faces? Wires wound through the mess like veins. What was this?

Then, as if in answer, they arrived.

They came from the forest quickly, leaving the safety of their hiding places. Running. Jumping into the pile of metal debris. Some of their old and deteriorating bodies were whirring and clanking as they ran to beat others to the treasure. Some of them weren’t designed to run, so they lumbered to the pile resentful of their better-designed companions. A few dragged themselves with worn and rusted arms. There were those who had been purposefully damaged by wandering Orga boys with nothing better to do. There were those who had been discarded after being damaged in the line of some duty to ungracious masters. One had even been left here after saving an Orga girl-child from a fire. Its one reward had been to escape the salvage pit and roam the wilderness, damaged beyond use.

They were the new slaves of mankind; those designed and ‘built specific’ to fill the niche in humanity that humans did not anymore. They were Mecha; the robot class; custom built and disposable.

None of them noticed the small Orga-like boy and his furry friend watching the struggle for parts in the pit. Nor did they notice the other who had followed them. He was slim and quick footed, his features handsome and smooth. He needed nothing from the pit.

-4-

Joe's trek had been halting and slow. He’s had to stop and hide every time he saw Orga cruisers moving through the street. Many of the drivers of the vehicles had been ‘drunk’ and yelling about the ‘Flesh Fair’. Joe was not completely aware of this fair. He had heard tale of it, but was not sure what manner of Orga festival it might be. It did not seem like a thing for Mecha. In his flight he’d seen a group of young Orga jump from a cruiser and topple an old silver robot that had been replacing broken street lamps near the outskirts of the city. The laughing boys had kicked the fallen robot and broken bottles against its cowering, dented body before jumping into their cruisers and fleeing. Joe did not go to assist. This looked like trouble. Bad trouble. He had bad enough trouble of his own. ‘Check’ that. Time to go. He’d fled into the dark as the fallen Mecha’s alarm went off to alert its owners of a problem.

Eventually he’d made his way out of the populated areas. Around him now was dense forest and wild things that screeched in the night. He had heard tell of a place where runaway and discarded Mecha roamed freely; a place where desperate and diseased Orga occupied old deserted towns. Illegal children and criminals supposedly hid there too. He would find this place. Perhaps one there, one programmed to be smarter, would know what he should do.

As he climbed an incline Joe had seen lights moving slowly through the forest. In the distance the moon was rising slowly. He watched it a moment and thought something strange in its ascent but he turned when the thing in the forest took his attention. He watched as the vehicle made its way into a clearing near a pit and then dispose of some litter. Then he saw them. The Mecha; the ruined leftovers of his own simple predecessors. He had seen ones like this before. The sight would savage his heart, had he such a thing. They were the derelicts; the abused and rejected; the ones whose only purpose in life had been to serve ungrateful and arrogant Masters; Masters who cared not for them; who discarded them not because it was more merciful than salvage but because it was cheaper. Easier. Just dump the old Mecha beside the road, ‘go on now, we’ve no use for you anymore’. What was their offense? Had something been broken; a programmed gesture taken as an offense?

The image of Samantha Bevins murdering husband came into his mind.

Joe was not programmed to think deeply, but somehow he knew that he was one of them now; that he belonged here. Gigolo Joe what do you know? That you have now no place to go?

Very ‘dark’. Very ‘dismal’.

But what was the Orga boy doing among them?

-5-

David moved closer to the pit.

“Come away, David,” Teddy warned. He didn’t like this place, it was wrong. But David ignored him, as all boys tend to ignore the rational call to safety. The Mecha boy stood at the lip of the pit, lost in the spectacle.

One man had no jaw. He took one from the pile. It did not fit. He took another from the face of a dead woman. It clicked right into place. Another man, in an odd looking white hat that mushroomed at the top, was burnt apparently in half, his metal skeleton had been blackened by the flame. He rummaged through the pile in search for something that he could not seem to find. A woman with wide mechanical eyes and a glossy lopsided face, knelt with her hands deep into the debris. What was she looking for?

A dark skinned man pulled a hand from the pile. He wore a coat like the men that had come from Cybertronics to fix him. The dark man placed the hand against his arm where his own hand should have been. But the magnetic mate-seeking wires of the hand flared and moved away from the opening. He picked up another and placed it again at his arm. This time the wires took and nestled themselves into the opening there. Another man with some kind of electric extension where his hand should have been touched the newly joined wrist and sparks flew from it. This secured the hand in place. The flesh of the hand was light. The flesh of the man was dark. Both were torn and wrecked. Together they could function newly. David remembered this. Eventually he would understand it.

Then the man with the new hand looked up into the night. He stood gazing that way for a moment. Then all the Mecha looked up. David followed their gaze. There was a man standing there watching them. Was he Orga? He was dressed very nicely, like the way Henry dressed when he had taken Mommy to the ball. What was he doing there?

Suddenly from behind the solitary figure on the hillside the moon appeared. Its glow was intense and it rose quickly; too quickly. Its light filled the forest with an eerie silvery glow. The Mecha gazed silently.

“Moon on the rise!” the man with the new hand shouted and the Mecha in the pit leapt suddenly into action, dashing into the shadows created by the light from above. They jumped from the pile and scattered in all directions, back into the sanctuary of trees and forgotten shanties.

David looked up at the moon and saw finally that it was wrong. The man on the hill turned and stepped back. The moon was too big. It had a light on the bottom and a cage below that. A cage? And there were men... no not men; they were Mecha, in the cage. This was no moon! What was going on? David watched the fleeing robots anxiously.

The one who had dragged himself here was picked up by another and was being hoisted out of the pit. He looked at David as he was rescued taken away by his fellow refugees. This was no Orga boy, he realized, this was one of them. “It‘s the Flesh Fair,” he explained quickly in a gruff voice. “They destroy us on stage! I know, I’ve been there,” he said nodding to his missing lower half. Then he was gone, hustled off by his mechanical comrade.

David watched the spectacle of the moon in confusion. ‘Destroy us on stage?’ He knew ‘destroy’. “What do we do?” he said to anyone near.

“We run now!” Teddy advised. And they did. The wet and mossy floor of the forest was slippery underneath them as the light of the moon grew, trying to envelope them and deny their escape.

-6-

“Any old iron?” the voice from the moon called out. The sound reverberated through the forest below and out over the hills that led to Barn Creek. Spotlights burnt down from the false moon, forcing their way into the density of trees and brush. Things were moving in there. The things that had come for the goodies his men had left.

“Any old iron?” the voice queried again. The accent was not from around these parts. Those Orga that lived in the forest puzzled at the sound. Was that a Brit? An Aussie? But many already knew that voice. “Expel your Mecha!” the voice demanded. “Purge yourselves of artificiality!” it insisted. Commanding.

The man behind the voice scanned the ground beneath him. There were things moving indeed, but were they Mecha? These trees were full of old hovels where the victims of the modern age made their makeshift homes. “Come along now!” he bellowed into the microphone from his throne in the metal basket of the Moon Balloon. On the metal banister of the basket, an array of equipment was analyzing the dark forest below; scanners, spotlights, monitors. Young uniformed men manned these instruments. “Let some‘a them Mecha loose to run! Any old unlicensed iron will do!” He yelled. He knew the poor ones kept the old discards for working and doing chores and whatnot. But Orga hands were designed for that. God had made ‘em that way. And if it was good enough for God...

Below him the forest bristled here and there. Not much it seemed. Not enough for sure. This was not good, not a good thing at all! He had a show to put on tonight; more than a show... it was a mission. A calling. It was a good old time revival. It’s time that Orga kind got some good old rejuvenation. Enough of the simulation!

“Hey see that?” the man behind the voice pointed down at a clearing of trees where the beam of light fell upon some moving figures. One of his men aimed the spotlight in that direction. Ah, there we are. The man behind the voice tipped back his large black hat. A thin smile broke on his rugged face. They had already bagged a couple of strays and had them in the cage beneath. This night might turn out OK after all.

“What’s that over there?” he said pointing. There was a man running beneath them. He looked odd in the forest; dressed with some flamboyance, as if to a dinner party. “Is that a human thing?”

His aide checked the infra-scanner. “No, he’s scanning cold. No expiration date. No I.D. But he looks like a late generation lover Mecha”

Well, that would be a relief from all this antique iron, the black-hatted man thought. But what would a new model be doing loose and unregistered? He smelled trouble. He’d been at this mission for years now. He knew the ropes.

“You are certain he’s not a man. I wouldn’t want a repeat of the Trenton incident.” He said, grimacing at the memory.

The aide turned, “Sir, it’s a free range Mecha running hot.”

Good enough. “Let’s reel him in boys!” he grunted, fastening the command console to the saddle before him. “Sick the hounds on the rest.” The floating Moon Balloon was a sudden flurry of activity as the men went to their duties. There was a good catch down there and they had a big show to put on.

-7-

The hounds waited in the brush. Their breath was calm. Their posture bent, prepared for the chase. They’d been through this hundreds of times in the remote hiding places of Mecha throughout the world. As usual it was quiet at first. Only the boss’s voice could be heard in the distance, booming from the black sky. The Moon Balloon was corralling the hapless Mecha right at them. Worked every time. It would take a few minutes to get the robots headed in the right direction, but the hounds were patient. They were ready. They’d been trained for this. They had nets and magna-tags for the hunt. When they heard the crash of robot feet trampling through the brush, they started their engines.

-8-

David ran faster than he had ever run. He wasn’t good at the ‘running’. It required certain motion capabilities with which he was inadequately equipped. He didn’t know this of course. He only knew that he had to slow down to turn corners, and focus on where he was going before he changed direction. He was not tired, he did not get tired like Orga, but he was confused. What was happening? Why were they running and where were they running to?

Behind them he could hear the man in the sky yelling. “Let them loose now. C’mon... let the Mecha run!” His voice echoed through the forest penetrating into the dark corners of safety the Mecha sought. Who was he talking to?

“David! David!”

David stopped and saw Teddy’s furry head just above the line of brush as he struggled to catch up.

“I cannot run as fast as you, David,” Teddy explained logically when he caught up to the boy. “You must carry me!” David lifted Teddy in a tight embrace and then ran again, catching up to the herd of fleeing Mecha as they were stampeded towards a trap.

-9-

She didn’t have a name. She only had a function. Built specific to that function, she had outlived her usefulness and been abandoned here with the others. She could not hide her Mecha nature like Joe or David, for although her face was human and tenderness was written into every feature, her metal infrastructure had punched through her skin in places, and the crown of her head had been knocked off ages ago when she had fallen from a transport van. As time wore on, and the oils and devices she needed for repair had been unavailable, she had deteriorated. Her arms, de-fleshed in time and disrepair, had become mere robotic bones; her frame, a mass of metal joints and pulleys, covered by a thin brittle layer of ‘skin’. Only her faceplate, in its fixed expression of gentle concern, displayed her true, programmed nature.

She was discarded property. Nothing else. Then they had taken her in, those that lived among the trees and forgotten dwellings that lined the abandoned trails, once busy thoroughfares. They were another family of discarded beings, these Orga. She had cared for their unlicensed children. She had prepared what meager foodstuffs the adults brought home from scavenging or hunting or occasionally shopping with the small amount of money those healthy enough to work secured. She had nurtured and trained and scolded all the little ones of the shanty while the adults fought the daily survival battle. But in the end she was still just property, just Mecha.

When the voice boomed from the sky, the Orga had gazed up in fear. It was a foreign voice. Was it the Federals? Bounty hunters? ‘No’, one of them pointed out, “it’s the Flesh Fair.” Perhaps it was time to let her go. Once again she had outlived her usefulness. The little ones clung to her aging, deteriorating frame, but were forced loose by anxious adults. “Run,” they told her as the little ones cried. “Run!”

-10-

Joe ran, navigating the thickly brushed forest floor with great difficulty. His legs whirred in their frenzy. Behind him the man’s voice boomed out strange things. He talked about ‘artificiality’ and ‘simulators’. Was he referring to the rejects? To Joe it all sounded like ‘bad trouble’. He followed the trail of the abandoned robots. They lived out here so He assumed they’d know where they were going. But the Mecha had scattered in different directions. Which to follow? ‘Check’ that! ‘Modify approach’!

He turned to see where the ‘Moon’ thing was going. He would run in the opposite direction. But when he turned what he saw was an object flying from the bottom of the craft. It hissed as it whizzed through the darkness at him. Then he was enveloped in it.

-11-

David stopped at the clearing with the fleeing herd. There were strange things in the trees before them. The things hummed low, feral, metallic snarls. They were lit up in an assortment of colors and flashing lights. In the midst of these lights there was formed the faces of wolves that bared their fangs and had wildfire behind their eyes. But above them the helmeted heads of Orga men were plainly visible... until the headlights came on.

The engines on the hounds roared as their wheels threw dirt and mud in an arc behind them. The Mecha turned and ran. They quickly passed the little Orga-like Mecha and his Supertoy. It was each for his own now.

“Shake down shantytown!” The man in the black hat yelled as he saw the hounds pursue their game. He knew where the Mecha would go. The Orga in the shanties would be hiding inside by now. These types were easily cowed by such displays of power. He knew that too well.

And the chase was on! Shacks were raided. The hounds knocked over flimsy dwellings in their pursuit, heedless whether Mecha or Orga made their home there. This was a holy mission; sort ‘em out later. The hound heads at the front of the cycles spat magnetic tags from their mouths, the tags attached to the Mecha and then secured them to any metallic surface near. The hounds pursued their prey through the rusted remains of old passenger trains that had been derailed and turned into makeshift dwellings. The sides of the train now sported struggling Mecha as the chase sped by. Soon the rest were caught up in the nets. The night was filled with the electronic wine of the hounds’ engines and the sound of the magna-tags hitting their marks. The cries of angry Orga were added to the violent sounds of the hunt.

David had managed to run in a direction away from the frenzied escapees that drew the hounds into the shantytown. For a moment he could hear the hounds’ snarling engines going in the opposite direction. But where should he run? Where to hide? He scanned the darkness with his night eyes. Then he saw the woman... no, she was Mecha… her head was opened at the top and her arms were like bones. He saw her run into an old dark shack at the edge of a cluster of trees. Surely this was sanctuary! He followed quickly, carrying Teddy with him through the overgrown field and up the creaking stairs into the old building.

Inside the shack the sound of the pursuit reverberated hollowly against the walls. He heard one of the cycles passing by. Had they seen him come in here? David had not known such fear before. He backed away from the door and the sound of terror outside. He didn’t want to be here. He wanted to be home, with Mommy. Safe. He wanted to hear her voice reading stories and be tucked into his...

He bumped into something behind him and turned quickly. He saw her standing in the darkness. Her face was kind and understanding, the kind of face a child would never fear. And there were others beside her; strange looking Mecha. One was a large metal cylinder with a head and face protruding out from its side. The face was sad and old looking. The others were beaten, dented robots; shadows of their original selves, huddled in the dark of the room.

The Nanny was surprised to see an Orga boy here. “What’s you’re name little boy?” she asked kindly.

“My name is David,” he replied.

“Hello David,” she said cheerfully. “How old are you?” Her voice was calm and calming. David found himself ignoring the sounds outside as he spoke with her. But he did not know the answer to that question. He did not know his birthday. Or was it his build-day? It was from… the ‘before’ time.

“I don’t know,” he said finally.

The Nanny knelt down to the poor frightened Orga boy. She could not feel the way he could. She was built long before the idea of a sentient robot like David was even considered possible. But she knew his fright and was programmed to calm the little ones. “Do you need some one to take care of you?” she asked. “I have many good references.”

David thought about this. She had many ‘references’. References come from experiences. Had she been many places? If she had been many places, then maybe... “Do you know where the Blue Fairy lives?” he asked excitedly.

Then, with a crash and flash of feral lights, the real world found them, its glowing fangs and roaring engine smashing through the wall of the shack. David was reduced to frightened child again. He turned and backed up to the Nanny who wrapped her remaining arm protectively around him.

In his headlight the hound saw the Orga boy hiding among the bots. Why the hell was this kid running with the fiber heads?! Maybe the brat was an illegal and thought the hounds were kid catchers? He didn’t want an Orga in the net, especially a kid! He was sure that the boss would chew him out on that one. But if he waited to shoot they’d all scatter. He triggered his handle and shot the net. It hissed through the shack and fell over the trapped Mecha, wrapping them tightly. ‘Let the kid loose later’, he thought. ‘But definitely before the boss sees ‘em’. Illegals weren’t his business anyway.

David watched stunned from the net as the hounds swarmed into the hut. They smashed right through the wall sending dust and shards of wood everywhere. The men who rode the noisy machines yelled angry words at the Mecha. They jumped off their cycles and pulled on the net until it came out of the hole in the wall. David was hustled and bustled wildly as the net was yanked from the hole. The noise, the pushing and punching as they were pulled from their hiding into the clearing was something he had never experienced. Were they going to destroy him now? Inside his head a memory of Mommy’s tender touch took him away from the madness of the moment.

Why did you leave me? Why?

Outside in the overgrown field they were laid down on the dirt and the men who had captured them stood off their cycles. The others chased after more running Mecha, the noise of their engines and yelling faded into the darkness with them. One of the riders walked to where David lay tangled in the net with the others. He knelt beside them. His face was covered in a helmet and his voice was crusty and mean.

“Hey, kid, what the hell you doin’ runnin’ with the dang robots?” he asked. Then he eyed Daivd carefully. This kid looked too well fed to be a vagrant; clothes way too clean. What if they had caught some upper crust kid in the net? There were plenty of gated towns about. Oh damn! Johnson was always bringing up Trenton and the lawsuits. He’d be out of a job!

One of the other men was standing astride his hound-cycle, talking into a box in his hand. “Yeah, we got ‘em tagged and ready, Come and get ‘em,” he said.

“Hey, come help me get this brat outta here,” the man crouched near David said as he began untwisting the folds of the net. He freed Teddy and tossed the Supertoy to the side. But Teddy jumped up quickly and ran back at the man, growling and commanding him to stop what he was doing. The man laughed. His little girl had had one of those. Probably somewhere in the closet now with all the other things she had gotten tired of. He grabbed the Teddy by the scruff and held the struggling thing while he tried to free the boy with the other hand.

The Moon Balloon was coming now, it’s light growing on the ground around them.

“Did ya scan ‘em?” the other asked.

“Oh this one’s real. He‘s got a Teddy too. Take a look for yourself.”

“Scan’em!” the other ordered, annoyed. “Always scan ‘em! Johnson’ll have your ass if you let a Mecha loose tonight. Not many around. Barely enough for a good show.” The man who knelt next to David muttered something angry that David couldn’t hear.

“Why are you doing this?” David asked innocently.

“Shut up kid,” the man replied angrily. Teddy made a growling sound as the man placed a small metal device next to David’s head. He was quiet for moment while he read the meter and then made a gasping sound. “Damn!” The kid was cold. Fiber. “Damn!”

“What,” said the other man, coming quickly. “What’s wrong?”

“You gotta see this one! Hell. This is the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.” The other riders walked over and gazed down at the boy in the net. They looked at the device that the man held to David’s head. David could not see their faces through their masks, but he heard the grunts and whistling sounds; the sounds of disbelief. “Johnson ain’t gonna believe this one!” they laughed. One of the men reached down and pinched the flesh of David’s cheek and made whistling sound with his teeth. “This is too much!”

David did not understand what the men wanted. One had pulled on his face. There was pain in his touch. Were these the Orga that Mommy had warned him about? Was this part of destroying him? The Nanny freed her arm from the tangle of Mecha in the net and wrapped David up protectively. She began to whisper softly into his ear. “It’s OK. The bad men will go away. Don’t be afraid, David.” Her voice was tender, motherly. David pressed back against her, away from these rough men. She was not Mommy, but she was all he had now. She grasped him tighter and the words she spoke calmed him.

“Ain’t that sweet,” one of the men laughed. “You’re gonna be one hell of a show, little Mecha!” he said. “Hope you enjoy your moment in the spotlight, however short it is!” The men laughed again and then the ground lit up all around them. The Moon Balloon hovered above. Dangling beneath it a metal cage was already filled with other Mecha. There was a funny looking one with a dark faceplate and there was the nicely dressed man from the hill. Was he Mecha too? David could feel the men struggling with the net. What were they going to do? Then he understood. They were going to take them all away in the balloon.

“Teddy!” David yelled frantically. The man who had taken Teddy held the toy up for David to see.

“You want this, Mecha?” he asked.

David nodded. “Yes please,” he said politely.

“Why?” the man snorted.

“He’s my friend,” David said. The man in the helmet seemed to consider it for a moment. Why the hell would someone build a little kid robot in the first pace? He shrugged. “Hell, it ain’t gonna do ya no good anyway. Here,” and he pressed Teddy against the net. David grasped Teddy’s furry arms tightly and then they were being lifted up into the night sky. The weight of all the Mecha pressed against one another forced him tightly against the fiber of the net. Below he could see the trees receding into darkness as the men mounted their hounds and rode off. He saw other nets of Mecha being readied for hoisting. Orga were down there too; haggard, hungry looking faces. They stood by passively watching the spectacle; used to being powerless; used to being abused.

The Nanny sensed David’s fear and she began to sing to him. David did not know ‘lullaby’. He did not know ‘French’. But the words calmed him all the same. He grasped Teddy tightly through the net as the forest shrunk in the darkness below. Where were they going?

Suddenly Teddy slipped. David grasped harder as he felt the little bear’s furry paw give. This was his only friend! Teddy was the last thing that connected him to his old life; to the life he had once led. He could not loose his friend. He squeezed with all his considerable Mecha strength, but his hand was not strong enough to secure the grip through the fabric of the net.

Teddy felt David’s hand loosing his grip. He knew the distance to the ground beneath was far. More than he’d be able to take. “David,” he said, “I will break!” But even as he said this he saw that the little Mecha could not get a strong grip on his furry paw. Teddy had no emotions like David, none of the Mecha in the net did. But Teddy knew goodbye. He took one last look at the boy who was his friend and charge as he struggled not to loose his failing grip. Some new sensation played inside his processor; a flash of something new and bright. Just for an instant he saw it and then he was airborne, falling through the dark. He watched the balloon and his young friend recede into the night sky. The air rushed by his ears as he fell. Then he felt the crash of tree branches and there was darkness.

David watched in shock as his little friend fell into the black below. His mind was freshly assaulted by the sensation of loss, this dark feeling that the men and women of Cybertronics had not considered in their calculations. He was alone now, utterly alone. Mommy had left him in the damp forbidding forest. The same brutal forest had swallowed Teddy as he watched helplessly from above. His mind was confused and lost. Why was this happening? He struggled to understand but the pain in his head was not calculable. The Nanny held him tightly as she sang, but this no longer consoled his tender new emotions.

“Teddy!” he called out. But the forest was silent beneath them. Teddy was gone. The pain inside was a hard, unforgiving thing.

Mommy, why did you leave me?

He laid back into the net and the Nanny coddled and caressed him to no avail. In the distance he heard the sound of thunder and metal; the sound of people yelling and screaming. Chants arose from those screams, unsettling chants. This was the place that the balloon was slowly heading. It was the place where Mecha provided another service for grim Orga appetites.

The night lit slowly as they moved closer to the noise. The lights were yellow, then blue, then red; gyrating violently, faster and faster. Rockets went off in the sky. The multicolored trails of their explosions arched and fell around the caged Mecha, embracing them, welcoming special guests to the ritual; the sacrifice to the callous Orga gods of anger and fear.

Among the condemned, a new robot, a little boy of their kind, struggled with a sadness and desperation the rest would never know.


 

 

 

 

Maintained by www.comeawayohumanchild.net