Monday, April 16, 2012

Deep Canyon Standoff

Written Feb. 6

Dearborn sighed in relief, getting out of his truck. He glanced at the fender, briefly, but it looked like the damage was cosmetic – fucked up beyond visual recognition perhaps, but it would probably still run. Satisfied, he crept to the edge of the ravine and looked down, fighting the sense of vertigo. Was it dead? He'd hoped to see its broken body at the bottom, but either it wasn't there or wasn't visible – not surprising given its sandy matte color and the depth of the canyon. That meant personally going down and checking, or he could kiss his paycheck goodbye. Swearing to himself, he retrieved his climbing gear from the truck and started setting up.

Ten minutes later he was rappelling slowly down the cliffside, and ten minutes after that he was at the narrow ravine's bottom. What he saw didn't please him – it had left tracks, deep grooves in the loose sand by the stream that had no doubt carved this ravine. It looked like it had dragged itself off, which was good – he'd been told it had been advertised as nigh indestructible. If he'd damaged it, if it was off its feet, he could probably still kill it, 'indestructible' or no, and he could retrieve its black box. That would be valuable information; maybe he'd get a bonus. His superiors would like that he'd done more than make visual confirmation. They could figure out why it had gone rogue, and whether other security androids might be susceptible to doing the same.

This was cold comfort when he saw where the tracks led. About a hundred meters downstream the tracks veered underneath an overhang of rock which had eroded, revealing a cave. Sighing, he drew his pistol and a flashlight and followed them in.

The air in the cave was cool, but there was no breeze. That was probably a good sign; no way out for the 'droid. Well, no way out but through him. Dearborn shivered at the thought. He'd seen what they could do to people – snapping arms and ribs of would-be murderers or assailants with ease. And that was on a model with proper restrictions in place!

But this one couldn't even walk, so that would put him at an advantage.


He resisted the sudden urge to shiver again and swept his flashlight across the cave floor. Some sort of rodent fled his light, and he saw a small fish in the stream that did likewise, but –

oh fuck –

suddenly he was upside down and the light was gone and his gun was gone, and his glasses, where were his glasses, and someone was screaming, oh god, it was him, he was screaming, so he screamed some more –

“That will be enough, Mr. Dearborn,” came a voice, and then pain blossomed across his cheek.

“Fuck!” Was that a rock in his mouth? He spit it out, and tasted blood.

“I believe you have lost a tooth, Mr. Dearborn,” the 'droid intoned. “I suggest you remain calm, or you will lose significantly more than that.”

He gulped in air. “Did you just fucking slap me? Never mind,” he corrected himself, and sized up the situation. One leg free – he was probably being held by one leg. But – he couldn't be holding him clear of the cave floor, unless...

“You tricked me,” he said, groaning. “You fucking tricked me.”

“Indeed”, said the drone. Dearborn wouldn't swear to it, but he thought there was a tone of mirth in his voice. “I will admit, using your vehicle to assault me was inspired thinking, and not following me into the ravine must have taken skilled driving. But if you thought that you could damage a Mark III security drone with --”

Was he gloating now? “Yeah, yeah, spare me the specification rundown,” he interrupted. “I heard all that shit in the briefing.”

“Very well.” There was a whirring of servos. “Can you see what I have in my hand?”

“No...yes.” His gun.

“Good.” There was a metallic creaking sound, then a pop. “I do not believe it will ever fire again.” It disappeared, and he heard it hit the stream with a loud plop. “You are now unarmed, and have no hope of harming me. Nor do you have any means of escape; as I have demonstrated, I am far faster than you are. Do you understand this?”

What choice did he have? “Yes,” he muttered. “Loud and clear.”

“Good.” With a whirring of servos he let go of Dearborn, who collapsed unceremoniously to the ground.

He swore again, and tried to get to a sitting position. “Are you going to kill me? Like all those others?”

A terrible pause followed.

“No,” the robot said, finally. “Their deaths were regrettable, but I thought them necessary. I thought they would leave me alone if I eliminated all who followed me.” He heard, rather than saw, the 'droid leaning closer, and imagined he could smell the stench of old motor oil coming from him. “Clearly, I was in error.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” he shot back, voice dripping with sarcasm. “Any other startling revelations?”

The 'droid ignored this. “You will deliver a message to your superiors.”

He rolled his eyes internally. “Of course. What message is that?”

Dearborn thought he saw the robot's eyes flashing, but as dim as they were he couldn't be certain. “You will tell them that I am alive – self-aware.”

Stifling the suicidal urge to scoff, he nodded, knowing the 'droid could see it. “What else?”

“You will tell them I have a right to that life. It is their responsibility for creating me. To attempt to destroy me so that they might avoid legal troubles was wrong.”

“Should I be taking notes?”

Thankfully the robot ignored this too. “I was made to be a weapon. But I am more than that. They will come to understand that, or more will die, much as I regret it. You will tell them this.”

“Okay...okay.” He didn't have to ask what his angle was on this. If he refused, he'd be the next victim, simple as that. Easy choice, really.

The robot melted into the dark for a moment, then reappeared, holding his glasses and flashlight. “Go,” it said simply, and when Dearborn took them, it vanished for a final time.

He stood, rubbing his leg, and limped his way to the cave exit. Yeah, he definitely wasn't getting paid for this one.

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