Walking through the ravaged landscape he looks to skywards.
How brilliant blue can turn to black,
The disembodied birdsongs of life
An innocent speck of a butterfly’s wing tossed this way and that by the onslaught of aural tides now faint but still rumbling in the distance
And then in front, only earth,dust and metal
But he remembers home
He remembers the love of his father
And that lies on the path ahead.
So he turns away from the clouds
Even though he knows he can fly further if he wants
Isaac looked at his son’s face.
His watery gaze stinging the burns
And again the picture
He switched the virtual frame off and the scene switched back to the view from the twelfth floor of Icarus military base where he had returned.He looked out to the land he had lain to waste but couldn’t give him back his son.
He closed his eyes
He could still see blood
He could hear the screams
He could feel the pain
They were all his own
And the deafening noise only dissipated a little when he opened his eyes again
How he tore through the city skyscraper to skyscraper
Trampling the earth
Exhuming ash and bodies with each colossal step of the 4th gen military robot he controlled
He had brought hell to this land.
To silence it so he might hear his sons voice amongst the wreckage
When all along he knew he was gone
Buried somewhere within that man made labyrinth of concrete rubble
He could hear his son’s cries but he knew they weren’t real
And how he had fired that final missile at the heart of the enemy base
And watched it flower into a giant mushroom
Sending seeds far into the sky
Maybe one of those fiery shoots would light a path to his son
But that path was no longer one he could see.
“Now I am become death,the destroyer of worlds..”
The only words that he could hear in his head though all the din.
As so he deactivated the robot and laid it to rest amongst its own destruction , disembarking to make his way quietly back to base by vehicle
“This is amazing!”
The little boy squealed with excitement as he climbed up the ladder on the outer shell to get inside the robots main body unit.
Isaac looked up and felt the warm light glistening from the armoured plate of the robot.
“How can this thing be so deadly and yet make me so proud?” the father wondered.
“Look at me!” beamed Jake popping his head out from the central unit metres above
“That’s why” thought Isaac
He had worked hard to get the unit to development stage.
Away from his family…Aria
But all that would change soon.
She just didn’t realize till now what he had been working on.
When Jake gets home and tells her about it – then she’d see.Shed look into their son’s eyes and she’d know that he was doing this for them
She would finally get it
He climbed on board.
Jake was already positioning himself in the copilot seat ready for a make believe mission.
“Wait for the best best bit Jake.Youre gonna love this….!”
Jake looks around
He stood and felt the weight on his feet
Around this much carnage it seemed strange to him that he felt little pain
He looked at his arms and legs,
Some bruises and scuffs
But he felt strong
He needed to get back
Back home to…..
Just coundn’t remember.
But echoes still rung inside him.
Hollowed out and devoid of feeling
But still there
Reminding him of something horrible
His head ached
His thoughts were scrambled but faint images of something
Eyes looking at him…no…talking to him
His father’s voice talking to him
He headed for home
“Im leaving.Im done.”
“Im sorry about your loss, Isaac…I understand. But this war is over now.Go to Titan.Take Aria and maybe you can start your life again.This place is done with all of us and its taken something from each one of us.Dont let it destroy whats left of your life.Go home..”
Her body seized up for a moment.
The current leapt along her spine for one agonizing moment before she could relax and breathe again
“Its ok.It will pass”
She opened her eyes,for a moment disorientated.
Then the lights and exposure and self consciousness came back with a sting
And a tear.
All this fucking technology but nothing can anaesthetize you from the loss of an unborn child
Her mobile alerted
The doctor glanced sideways and then carried on with the scan.
She took a brief glimpse at it.
It wasn’t him.Just fucking work.
She didn’t know if she cared whether it had been him or not anyway.
He had clocked out on them since they had found out she couldnt have children.
Too much damage from combat and radiation ,they said. but good insurance…great pay out.All the IVF you can handle. “Shame about the fucking eggs” she thought
“Listen Aria…we still have one sample that we can implant but I cant promise you anything.You should think carefully if you really want to put yourself through this again.You need Isaac…
“Well hes not here is he?”
“….I just want you to be ok. Im worried about you. If this doesnt work out you will need him”
“I don’t need anyone.I just need you to make sure your next implantation works.Ok.Now do your fucking job!””
“And though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,i will fear no evil for thou art with me..
He scanned the horizon
Few people cried,some laughed but most were silent
Sand swirls around him
Like mini typhoons left reeling in his wake.
Pixellated images seemed to focus transiently before becoming enmeshed in the haze again.
Smoke and fumes were the only reminder of life here
“Why” he thought “Why did you leave me to die?”
Driven only by his feelings, by questions.Carried on forward by that irresistible urge.Onwards
“When is he coming home?” asked Aria
“In a few days..just let him stay with me a bit longer”
“Youre in the middle of a war.Its not a fucking holiday”
“Yes but were in control.Im off duty.
I got a few days to get this project off the ground Aria .Once we unleash this thing Im as good as home, believe me
“You mean your killer robot?Congratulations” she quipped
“NO.For once just give me a break goddammit.This is the best thing for all of us.And whats more.These machines..they learn…We can teach them Aria…This is the first military combat unit that learns….It will pave the way for us to never have to send humans to battle again.Think about it Aria.dont you see…it changes everything!”
“Well nothings changed here.i want my son off that godforsaken pile of shit now Isaac.You can play with your toys as much as you like after that but Im not having him near those things I sent him to you because he needs to know that he actually has a fucking dad and not some video of you on a mobile.He came to see you …now you send him back!”
The intercom switched off.
Isaac stood staring at it.
“Damn that woman!”
He looked over into the overhead bay.There was a bridge connecting the lab to the central body unit of the robot..Jake was in the lab waving at him through the glass separation.
“How long have I been alive” he thought “surely I’ve been alive before I can remember”
“What was I then and why am I here now?”
This feeling Jake had-he knew somebody or something had put him there amongst so much devastation.
And yet when he looked up he knew he was part of this world.
A miracle had happened and he was alive amidst death.
Maybe he was God or Gods chosen.
But he glanced as a skylark flew above and he knew he wasn’t alone but part of something much bigger.
He met her on his secondment.He had big ideas and talked big.She loved that he believed what he said and knew she wanted to be with him.She needed him so she could believe those things too
But then war broke out and she was pregnant and he needed to prove something
The building came into view. He remembered it from his dreams. Although he couldn’t remember sleeping.
The journey back had been strewn with bodies, wreckage,armoured vehicles.
Uniformed soldiers saw him but said nothing.They seemed to know him but not care. They stood back when he approached. He saw their guns and their tanks and their robots and he remembered the screams. But he could still hear his fathers voice so he walked on.
His body tensed. He knew he was close.
He could see the Icarus base and the laboratories towering from behind.
This is where the devastation began.
He knew now what he had to do
And there he saw him. Out on the balcony looking out.
He couldn’t remember his face but he knew it was him. Their gaze fixed on each other. Isaac was standing on the edge of a platform.
“Jake?” he said,confused, “What are you doing here?”
The words matched the voice. It was him. But they weren’t warm. There was no love.
Jake pierced Isaac’s skull right through the centre.
Eyes fixed and looking back,glassy,sad.
Isaacs body slumped and fell limp and rolled off the edge and disappeared from view in the distance
Jake now looked up. The lab towered for kilometers into the sky.
He began climbing.
He needed to know if it was true.
Was he the reason for this misery and death everywhere?
Once he could see everything he might remember
From the top he looked out
The wind was stronger but the air was clearer.
No contamination by death and sulphur
It was quieter here.Peaceful.
He had always wanted to fly
Like his dad.
Now it was his turn
He stretched his arms and let his body go
No more rage.
He didn’t need to activate his wings.
He would let Earth call him back
No more fighting
He pivoted and hung in the air
The side of the building skimming by him ever faster.
He knew he could fly if he wanted
But he didn’t want to
He remembered his father’s voice.Those words uttered from his mouth when he was piloting him through his rampage
(‘This is for you Jake’ Issac had said from inside the control unit of the robot before razing the ground with fire)
Those words hung with him as he gently spun ,suspended in air, nestling into view of his own reflection against the fleeting shear glass surface of the skyscraper hurtling alongside him .He had never seem himself before
He didn’t recognise those mechanized titanium arms as his own, outstretched , missiles armed along those limbs,embedded with metal cables running from his axial core to his peripheries, wings still engaged,thrusters silent.the laser cannons implanted in his cranial control centre, like red eyes staring back lifelessly.
Still set to war mode from the murderous rampage he had just carried out before being abandoned by his pilot : Isaac,
Isaac,the father that wasnt his.That didnt need him anymore after he had served his purpose, abandoned amongst ruins ,defaulting to sentient mode and left only with the task of having to learn after being used to demolish half the city to avenge a dead son
He couldn’t cry of course only shed artillery
He was a military robot after all,
But he could take his life into his own hands once and once only before anyone could use him that way again
“Can we fly him daddy?”
Isaac disengaged the rocket boosters along the robots side arms before restoring the machine to terrestrial mode.
The huge wing like structures silently slid away from view.
“soon son…lets give him a name first”
The boy grinned…..”can we call him Jake?like me daddy!!”
“You got it..Say hello to your little big bro Jake”
Jake jumped into his dad’s arms
“How cool!I love it!!”
Isaac felt the warmth of his sons body.Even through the standard issue visitor uniform he could feel his son’s heart beating like a butterfly’s wings.It wasn’t about the robot.
He knew his son was just happy to be with his dad. He glanced over Jake’s shoulder and eyed the control panel.
The red light was still flashing on sentient mode.
He reached over and switched it off.