Phil was wiping the sleep dust out of his eyes with one hand and shaking out the last few drops of piss with his other when he saw something that made his stomach churn with fear. Stevie was cowered against a tree at the edge of the football field with a tall figure bearing down on him. Phil was not one for white collar fashion but he could pick that line of slim fit suit from a mile away – right now it was only a quarter mile.
His swooped his loose pants over his dick, probably staining the inside of his fly with a swansong spurt. He looked around the shrubs where he had just pissed and found a thick looking stick, but it was still very damp. Another lay next to it, not quite as large but a suitable replacement. He set out to save Stevie in a wide, arching run to sneak up on the robot and Stevie.
As he closed in on the pair he slowed. He was aware of the enemy’s capabilities. He was within ten paces when he heard the faintest crunch underneath his left foot. A small but sharp twig dug into the soft skin in the arch of his foot. Phil froze, desperately wanting to remove the stick but afraid to give away his only advantage. The robot didn’t seem to react. Stevie hadn’t sighted Phil yet, but it was likely due to the glare of the rising Sun behind him. Phil kept closing in. He was like a lioness as he inched forward ever so slightly before raising his weapon and charging.
The wood shattered like a vintage wooden baseball bat cracking its final home run. The robot staggered forward but only half a step. Phil had fully expected to knock him out – he had no other plan and now his stick was broke. In a panic he jumped on the robot’s back, slipping his forearm below his chin and locking it in crook of his opposing elbow.
“Phil?” Stevie asked, his voice more puzzled than grateful or panicked.
“Hit him!” Phil barked, not willing to exert too much energy on the order. The robot was yet to react, probably from the pain and the loss of oxygen.
“Phil it’s OK,” Stevie said, standing up slowly.
The robot slid his hand between Phil’s and his neck, instantly breaking the lock Phil was trying so hard to hold. The robot then began to lift Phil’s arms over his head and then lowered him to the ground. The escape was effective and oddly gentle. The moment Phil’s feet touched the ground he launched himself at the robot again but was deflected to the side. He tried again to attack but this time Stevie held him back.
“Phil!” he said, more forcefully this time, “It’s OK; he’s not here to hurt us.”
Phil couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Are you fucking insane?! These guys are the ones hunting us down!”
“Not him, though. He isn’t like the rest. He is on our side. Right?” Stevie said, seeking approval from the robot. The robot did not react.
“Our side?! These fuckers don’t have a side, Stevie, they are programmed to follow orders. He’s a fucking robot and he is here to fucking kill us!”
“If he wanted to kill us then we’d be dead. He would have killed me with my guard down and he would have snapped your neck while you still had your dick in your hand.”
“He wants us alive.” Phil retorted.
“Why?” Stevie challenged. “Look. Whisker what are the orders for us? Kill or capture?”
Phil scoffed. “Convenient. He’s just lucky I didn’t have a better weapon.”
“Phil, he let you hit him. He heard you coming – he saw your shadow for fuck’s sake.”
Phil looked down at his shadow; it stretched several yards in front of him. The robot would have surely noticed his approach well in advance. “Well,” Phil searched, “Well why did you let me hit you?”
“I felt I owed it to you,” the robot replied politely, “I have brought you some grief in recent times.
Phil scoffed again, but with less conviction this time round. In the last few months he had begun to understand the notion of experience and age much clearer. He had lost count of how many times he had been out-witted or acted with flawed logic. He looked to Stevie, “And you believe this shit?” Stevie nodded. Phil shook his head, “Well fuck me, then, but this is a big fucking mistake.”
“Look, it may be hard to believe but Mr Whisker, or Whisky, is here to help us.”
“I’m sorry - Whisky?” Phil mocked, his anger fuelling up again, “You nicknamed this fuckhead?”
“He spared my life, Phil!”
“Yeah, well he tried to fucking take mine!” Phil looked around in frustration and caught something in his peripheral. A shadow slowly bobbed at the robot’s feet. Phil traced it back to a skinny figure. Forest was holding a large stick in the air – and a damply familiar one if Phil wasn’t mistaken – he put a silencing finger to his lips, in effect kissing Phil’s morning piss. Phil was too angry to find any of this humorous. “Forest he can see your fucking shadow, you deadshit.”
Stevie let out hoarse laugh.
“Dude! What the fuck? I was just about to own this motherfucker!”
Phil shook his head in resignation.
“I was going to let him hit me as well,” The robot stated.
“Prove you’re trustworthy, yeah? I’m sure it fucking hurts when you’re a 7 foot tall robot.”
The robot raised his hand to the back of his head and showed Phil the blood on his fingers, “It hurts; just like the rest of them.”
“I’m sorry, did I miss something here?” Forrest asked.
“No nothing big, just Stevie trusts the Citadel robot who is here to kill us all.”
“I’m here,” the robot interjected, raising the volume of his voice without seeming to display any extra emotion, “to tell you that Citadel does not know where you are, but they are expecting you to turn up at your rally. There they will take you into the Towers and you will not be seen again. Ever.”
“Risk we’re willing to take.” Phil spat.
“Word.” Forest offered.
“Understood. What I am offering you is a way into the Towers to assist in the rescue of Walter Wallace.”
“We already got a way in.”
“Your previous endeavour into the Towers has been thoroughly investigated and is no longer an option.”
Phil was slightly taken aback. He had been relying heavily on that entrance. “Well if you want to help then make it an option again.”
“It is manned.”
“Then kill the man.”
“Ha! Fight the power!” Forrest added in triumph.
“There is a cleaner way; a smarter way.” Phil stayed silent waiting for the next bullshit sentence to leave the robot’s mouth. “I’m proposing that I be the one to take you into custody. I can escort you directly to Walter.”
“Oh isn’t that fucking convenient? What a flawless plan you have devised. We simply surrender ourselves first chance we get and then what? Wait, I know, we will ‘not be seen ever again’” Phil spat – literally this time – at the robot’s foot, narrowly missing.
“Phil.” Stevie said, sternly.
“What? You’re gonna buy this shit just like that?
“I trust this man-”
Stevie rolled his eyes. “I trust him, whatever the fuck he is, not because he spared my life once, not because he came out here alone, but because he is all we’ve got.”
“We can do it alone. If he is trustworthy then he can create some diversion, or tell us where Walter is. But I’m not going to let him bind my wrists to my ankles and fuck me up the ass.”
“Walter is on the forty-fifth floor. He is in a laboratory, hooked to The Machine with scientists conducting a range of excruciating tests in an attempt to extract some physical manifestation of his happiness. Take this.” He handed Stevie a small USB drive. “Sam Tank would kill me just for knowing that, let alone telling the enemy. I am reaching out to you because I want to rescue Walter Wallace and I cannot do it alone.”
There was a silence hanging over the group. Phil almost saw the robot breathing a little heavier. It was the same odd sense of emotion he had picked up when he faced the other robot at behind the train wreck in Newport Haven. “Sam Tank? The doctor guy? Don’t you mean Boss Citadel?”
“Boss Citadel is as good as dead.”
“He is mute and immobile. I personally broke both his legs as well as his jaw. Sam Tank and Boss had a falling out. Sam ordered me to do it. He watched it on camera to make sure I could be trusted. He may or may not be a doctor – I do not know for sure – but he is most certainly the enemy.”
“I’ve met him,” Stevie said, “He is bad news.”
“He’s the guy who told me to write the anti-Walter bit.”
“He must have wanted to start the backlash,” Stevie said.
“Never take Sam Tank at face value. He is many steps ahead of you.” The robot was blunt. “There is every chance that he knows my intentions, may have even put a tail on me. I made sure to lose one if that was the case, but I would never assume I had fooled him.”
Phil had lost his fire. The robot sounded honest. But he could not consider himself a valid sceptic if he was so easily swayed. The robot was programmed to carry out orders and if this was another order than every line of it was a simple equation that was calculated in an instant. “I don’t trust him, Stevie. I can’t. But I trust you and we are nothing without that.”
Stevie was frowning with concentration, looking at the ground just in front of him as if the answer was due to apparate any moment. Without saying anything he looked up at the robot.
“Do what you need to do on the day. I will find you when I can and I will have one agent partnering me. If it is not me taking you in then make sure you do all you can not to be caught.”