Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Walter Wallace - Chapter 40

The robot was pointing the gun directly at Phil’s chest. His blood froze up and his focus narrowed in on the small black object. The concept of death campaigned for acceptance in his head but he could not bear the idea of being stripped of life just as his moment in life was on the horizon. All those psychedelic trips that helped understand death and accept its inevitability seemed childish now. All those movies where the sickening happy ending felt cheap and obvious – where he would have preferred a sweet irony or a true sacrifice – all this meant nothing as he learned how much he truly valued his own life. He couldn’t die now, someone would save him.

“Don’t even think about running this time, Phil.” The robot said. Phil remained rigid. “That’s right, I know your name. I know a lot more than that actually. Maybe since we are getting to know each other I should refer to you by your nickname, Hippy Flip.”

Phil was struggling to remain composed but this revelation snapped his brain into gear. “How do you know my name?” he said automatically.

“I studied the tapes of you parading through the towers. Nobody thought you were much of a threat; just some punk kid having a laugh but I knew better. Such a security breach would require more planning, more skill, and therefore more motive.” The robot spoke with a sense of pride and victory. Phil found this didn’t fit with his understanding of robotics but it certainly fit with his current situation. The longer he talked the longer Phil could live. “I found your contact at the public records office – some deadbeat stoner type – he told me your name and your website.”

As the idea of imminent death grew old in his mind, the idea of avoiding it became his new focus. His vision expanded beyond the gun. The emotional robot wore a clean cut suit, collar open. His shoes were dressy but scuffed with dirt as though he had been running. His head was shaved and his eyes never averted from Phil’s. Remembering the news reporter who saved him from a much lesser adversary, Phil glanced over his shoulder to see where the crowd was and wheth-

“Nobody can see us.” The robot said, reading his instinct and betraying a strong tone of ascension. “You really have no idea what you’re dealing with, do you? You think you can take down Citadel? The trains were a good start but you moved false when you lingered, couldn’t help admiring your work, could you?”

Phil raised his eyebrows in disbelief, his mouth slipping open a little and if not for the gun he would have liked to have completed the slapstick gesture by slapping his hand on his cheek. But his hands were still raised above his head, fatiguing slightly, and his mouth had better uses, “Me?! You think I did this?”

“Don’t bullshit me, you little weasel. I’ve already investigated the train and it quite clearly was no accident. The driver was collapsed on the floor and crushed accordingly. I also found the shell of a used firecracker that had been coated in some sort of knock out agent – made my head spin just to smell it – and who do we know that is clever enough to sneak into restricted areas? Who do we know that is wise to drugs and toxins? I also found your little manifesto Phil, or should I say Unston.”

Unston? Who the fuck is Unston? This robot was so smart he had come full circle and returned to idiocy. Not in his wildest dreams could Phil imagine deciphering such a complex proof, he had barely gotten passed a fat security guard, let alone board the crumpled tin can. Now all he needed to do was find a way out and tell the masses. He instinctually turned wishing to see the public news reporter who could help him do both.

“I told you already that you won’t be escaping. It’s getting late and pretty soon we will be able get you into the van for a little more questioning. We’ve got ways to make you tell the truth.” The robot eyed Phil with intent beyond duty. It was as if he hated Phil. But surely hate would be a pretty useless emotion to teach a robot.

“Are you even a real robot?” Phil asked, almost afraid to hear the answer which could demystify the magnitude of evil which he had envisioned inside Citadel Towers.

The possible robot snickered, “Stalling are you? No matter, we have plenty of time.” All Phil understood was that the question was avoided - probably meant he was a robot. He breathed a sigh of relief and then felt a little guilty. He had become like the environmentalist who would gladly see the world burn and celebrate his ‘told-you-so’ moment, Phil had managed to brainwash himself into wanting Citadel to do more evil to prove the point. But there were hundreds dead from the train disaster and killer robot henchman that might not be robots are still definitely killer henchmen. His focus, which again stood to attention, should be on breaking that distinction down another notch to just ‘henchmen’.

He tried to find a clue out of this mess, adn then the echo amplified in his head: pretty soon we will be able to get you into the van... So the robot didn’t want to use the gun just yet. Phil had some time. But he was angry and obviously didn’t like Phil so he would probably hit him. Phil thought it best to stay quiet then...but then again he could take a few shots and maybe find some sort of escape.

Beyond the robot, some 200 yards away he could see the crumpled up back end of the train as it zig-zagged, carriage to carriage, out of the terminal. He couldn’t see any activity around it and supposed most the bodies had been exhumed. More immediate though, he noticed an entrance into the terminal. He couldn’t imagine what was inside or whether it was structurally sound but it was probably a little safer than his current predicament so he set about planning his escape.

The robot was distracted a moment and look irritated as he spoke in muted tones into a walkie talkie, “Repeat: bring van around back. Simpson and Station.” Phil allowed his arms to sag further, until his hands were level with his head. He then closed his eyes and performed some long rotations with his neck, imagining his yoga teacher doing her finest downward dog. And then it came.

The blow to his belly doubled him over, he felt as though he could never breathe again. He fell to his knees and used all the will power he could muster to not roll over and cry for his mum. He started to crawl forwards, on hands and knees. The robot circled around the back of him, “You think this is a game?” he said. His temper rising, notably. Phil struggled into a kneeling position, back to the robot, and shrugged his shoulders in contempt. He then made to stand up, purposefully sticking his ass into the air as he did so.

The second strike was not so unexpected, but the incredible force that the kick applied to his left butt cheek stole all feeling from the point of impact down, he was sent sailing forwards, away from the robot and towards the door to the terminal. He added a few extra rolls and tumbles, like a fairway drive that gains an extra few yards from a lucky bounce. Again he struggled against the pain to lift himself up again, positioned on one knee and head down like a sprinter on the starting blocks. On your marks. The robot chuckled with a hint of genuine enjoyment. Set. Phil tensed up his whole body, his ass throbbing and his lungs still lacking a clear airflow. “Are you really so bold and stu-” GO!

Phil sprang up like a jack in the box and pain shot down his leg and up his back. The robot had clearly underestimated his ambition and was slow to react. Phil too underestimated, and the shot from the starting gun exploded on the frame of the door as he barged through it. His ears rang out and deafened his reality as he bolted through the rubble of the terminal towards an opening in one of the train carriages. He felt another kick, this time in his right butt cheek and it sent him sprawling in through the carriage doors. He was stopped dead by a pole which was more often used to support standing passengers rather than break collar bones.

As he dragged himself to his feet for a third time he began to doubt the merit of his ‘take a hit or two to escape’ plan. He pulled himself up using the pole and his good arm and turned to face the robot who stood outside the carriage, looking a little crazed and thirsty. “You want more, you little cunt? I could do this all day. Place is empty; not safe. Nobody here either. You’ll just be another body they drag off the train and throw in with the rest of them.”

“HEEELLLP!!” Phil screamed in pathetic desperation.

His voice echoed through the vacant building and was chorused by the manic laughter of the robot. “Don’t you listen?” he yelled back, “I said nobody is here.” He raised his pistol and fired three shots into the air to prove a point. He smiled and redirected it at Phil’s head.


Phil wasn’t dead. He opened his eyes and saw the robot staring upwards in fear. A huge metal support beam had given way – possibly from the robot’s shots, it fell and slammed onto the top of the carriage. The robot cowered as it narrowly missed his head. The gun was knocked out of his hand.

A different robot spoke, “Stand clear, doors closing.” The hydraulics sparked into action and the doors began to slowly shut. The robot went for his weapon and Phil ducked as three more bullet holes impressed themselves onto the exterior of the door. He hobbled down the other side of the carriage in a pure panic where the opposite the doors on the opposite side had been bent into a small opening. He squeezed through it as another shot whizzed by. The robot had jockeyed his position while still outside of the train. He assessed his situation and jumped like a cat onto a nearby bit of rubble and made to climb over the carriage.

Phil ran as fast as he could towards the far exit as bits of roofing and debris began falling around him. The pain in his legs beckoned him to fall over but he pushed on. He was only a few more steps from the door when he heard a heavy growl of pain. He turned and saw the robot pinned under another large support beam. He was aiming the gun at Phil. The empty clip was clicking, taunting the robot into a rage. He reached for his walkie talkie and screamed into it. “Whisky! Suspect exiting! No Escort!” Then in an act that dispelled all of Phil’s doubts about the robot theory, he began to raise the beam like a bench press to free himself. Phil regained his priorities and made for the door.

He braced himself as he exited into the fading twilight, expecting to meet the second robot, but to his surprise the only person waiting was the fat security guard whom he had evaded the whole afternoon – and he was definitely not a robot.

“Oi! Get away from there!” he screamed and hurried over to drag Phil away from the building as it continued to crumble. They had made it about 100 yards from the terminal when they turned and watched the remainder of the roof collapsed inward, smoke and dust shooting into the air for the second time that day and leaving nothing more than a pile of rubble at the base of the hill and half a train sticking out the end.

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