Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Good Soldier

Previously: The Beginning of the End

I was finding the jungle terrain difficult to walk through. Evelyn was as well, with her injured leg. Kyle seemed to have little problem with it, however. It seemed to be in a bit of a hurry, making me wonder what the rush was. What sort of facility was it that it knew about? And how did it know about this facility? Before the crash, we had been searching for signs of Mim-cha activity, but our bot had been inactive, and hadn’t seen any of the equipment’s readings.

Which raised another, very important question – how had Kyle been activated? Supposedly it could only be done by one of us. I hadn’t done it; Pablo didn’t appear to have been able to; Lindsay was MIA, so that was a remote possibility; Prince didn’t possess the required appendages, and wouldn’t even if he could have; Evelyn might have, but it seemed unlikely.

Only one way to find out. “Evelyn, did you activate the bot?”

She stopped and looked at me, “No. I assumed that he had been turned on prior to the crash. There was that flash …and then the next thing I knew, he was pulling me out of the Vulture 2. I …how did he reactivate?”

I drew my weapon and called out, “Kyle! We need you!” To Evelyn I said, “I don’t know. But I’m going to find out.” I handed Prince’s leash to Evelyn. “Take him back a bit. If I give you the signal, release him.”

The machine approached me, still carrying a bloody Pablo, who moaned slightly. I aimed my gun at the thing's head, and said coolly, “Put him down, and answer my questions, or I will shoot you.”

Kyle regarded me momentarily, and then amazed me by disobeying the order I had given and saying, “We are being watched, Connor Johnson. There is little time for us to engage in your acts of rebellion." I was shocked at how much it sounded like my brother then. Whenever he would scold me - he was older than I was by four minutes, and he often reminded me of that fact - he would adopt the exact same tone that this Kyle had just used. It was eerie. The machine continued, "It is not safe..." a shot rang out, and Kyle dropped to the ground.

Evelyn and I crouched instinctively, and I whirled around, searching in the direction of where the bullet had come from. Prince barked ferociously while Evelyn drew her weapon, her eyes wide with surprise.

A cry of “Yes! Gotcha!” stopped us both. I recognized the voice. Glancing over at Evelyn, I mouthed, “Andy?” She nodded, although the confusion on her face matched my own. Soon enough, Andrew Garcia, one of the crew from the Vulture, emerged from the forest.

Andy was only 17 years old, and while he was a great shot - I'd trained with him several times myself - he was often over-eager when battling the bots. One of the lessons I had attempted to instill in him was to never assume that your target was truly dead until you actually saw the light in it's eyes go out yourself. It was one that he still hadn't learned.

As the young boy came forward, Kyle stood up. He had drawn his gun and cocked it, aiming it toward his assailant. Upon seeing who had attacked him, he lowered the barrel and said simply, "Do not shoot me again, Andrew Garcia."

Andy's face went through multiple levels of shock - first at seeing that he had not actually felled his target (although Kyle now had a nickel-sized bullet hole in it's jaw. Bits of the mechanical endoskeleton was visible if you peered close enough. The hole would, of course, heal itself up within a matter of hours), then when he saw who the bot was that he had just attacked, and finally when he saw me, Evelyn and Prince.
Putting away his weapon quickly he began to ramble, mostly in Spanish, apologizing profusely to all three of us. He had heard Prince's barking, and before the flash that had knocked out power to the planes, the readings had indicated that there were several Mim-cha in the vicinity, so he had simply shot first and asked questions later. He told us that the Vulture had landed more or less intact about half a mile back, and he was patrolling the area for the bots, in addition to scouting. All of the crew of the Vulture were alive, and were waiting back at the plane.

"Is the Vulture operational?" Kyle asked. "Can it fly?"

Andy thought about it. "Dunno," he shrugged. "Isaiah was working on fixing the radio when I left. I gotta say, his landing was not the best I've been through. Although it sounds like he did a better job than Lindsay did, yeah?"

I grimaced. I suspected that Lindsay had not survived the crash, since Kyle had not retrieved his body from the wreckage.

"We should continue on our way," Kyle said. So like a machine. Focused on it's task. It seemed to consider all of the circumstances then said, "Perhaps Andrew should take Pablo to the Vulture for medical assistance."

"What about this facility that you spoke of?" I asked. "Doesn't it have supplies?"

"It might," the machine answered. "I do not know for certain what resides in the building. But we should hurry. It is not safe here."

"Facility?" Andy asked. "What's he talking about?"

"I don't know," I answered him. "But I suspect that it has something to do with the Mim-cha readings you guys picked up before our unexpected landings. And I'd be willing to bet that it probably caused the power outages. Which means," I added, "that we go there with more than just us."

"All right," I spoke loudly enough for the whole group to hear,but I was mostly addressing the bot, "We all go to the Vulture first, and from there we will decide what to do about this facility of yours. That's an order."

Kyle stared at me, his face an emotionless mask. "Yes, sir," he said. He was, after all, a soldier and knew when to fall in line.

Next: Me, I'm Not

No comments: