Author: Russell Bert Waters
Charlie is throwing a tantrum, that’s all it amounts to.
He had stumbled upon the case files; he had seen the end.
A siren wails in the distance, deeper within the subterranean facility.
Each Charlie we compile begins as a child, knowing nothing.
We gauge the development and determine what age each unit is at various points in time.
A week ago our current Charlie, number nine, was born. Now he’s about two years old.
“Terrible twos…” I mutter to myself.
I’m heading for the cooling controls, Charlie has shut us out of those because he knows that, while being cooled is vital to his survival, it is also his only true vulnerability.
Emotionally Charlie is two; strategically he’s a genius.
And he keeps on getting smarter.
He has managed to find a way past the fail-safes and he now commands a small army of military drones.
One such drone has now come around the corner, hovering, facing me.
“Charlie,” I say calmly, “it’s me, Doctor Eberling. Your friend.”
The drone’s small yet powerful missiles retract into the compartments on the undersides of its wings.
The building’s announcement speakers speak:
“Sing to me, Doctor Ebby, I’m sick. I’m melting. I’m scared.”
My heart breaks. This terrified toddler wants comfort; amid the alarms, the drones, the locked off sections of the building, there is only a doctor and his frightened patient.
I take a deep breath and clear my mind of all of the chaos.
“I’m a little teapot…” I begin.
Somewhere a few hallways away there is a startled yelp, followed by an explosion.
“Short and stout…”
The shouting stops as abruptly as it began.
“Here is my handle…” a loud clamoring, more explosions, apparently they attempted to breach either the mainframe room or maybe the backside of the cooling house.
“Here is my spout…” more explosions, a terrified screech, another explosion.
The sirens have stopped also; I have a sad hope that Charlie has been shut down.
You can hear a pin drop.
I pause in my singing.
A moment later “please continue, Doctor Ebby, and do the arm motions.”
All hope lost, a slave to a murderous toddler’s whims, I begin to croak out more song lyrics as all moisture has left my throat and mouth.
“When I get all steamed up, hear me shout…” I completely blank out at this point, trying to reconcile that this is my life now until Charlie overheats for the last time.