Author: Sam Davis

The wind swept down the valley, once dotted with trees but now covered in soot and ash, and rolled through the trench causing Elijah to pull his coat tighter around him. It didn’t help much, it really never did when winter set into southern Kansas. It was barely dusk and already the freshly churned soil next to the trench already had a light crystallized dusting accumulating atop it. There was a crisp crunch as familiar footsteps approached behind Elijah.

“Smoke, comrade?” Alexa proffered an open pouch of rolling tobacco. The pouch was nearly empty and the papers had long since disappeared, though that didn’t matter much as most of the troop preferred the dried corn husks Alexa had scrounged up as an alternative.

“God yes!” Elijah’s teeth chattered together as he spoke, giving each word a staccato clatter that was eerily reminiscent of ‘them’. As if they weren’t cold enough already, everyone froze. “Sorry, sorry, it’s just so damn cold” Elijah laughed nervously “I’m obviously not one of ‘them’ guys, don’t be crazy.”

“Ah hell, who knows,” Sasha said stirring the pot of gruel over the small fire. “Maybe the robots are our friends” With the absurdity of that statement the tension amongst the group broke. Alexa shook her head, Grigory who was ever quiet even broke a grin, and Elijah’s shoulders sagged with obvious relief. There were rumors that ‘they’ had a new model, one that looked like people, flesh and blood. Of course, that was pretty common scuttlebutt. Every few months Intelligence would send out something official that would explain how that is perfectly impossible.

“Ahck! We will kill them all. Not one of their steely hearted chassis shall survive!” Anichka spat which somehow did not disturb the smooth femininity in her voice. There were general murmurs of agreement but everyone was too cold to do much more.

Sasha rummaged in her pack and paused for just a moment before pulling out a can of beans. “I had been saving this for a special occasion but what is more special than another night on this godforsaken tundra, eh?” With a practiced flip of her wrist, the can was open and its contents poured into the pot.

A slow hour passed as each of them eagerly waited for their dinner to finally be ready. Soon they were shoveling the best meal they had had in months down their throats. The only sound was the clink of metal on metal as spoons searched the bottoms of bowls for the last morsels.

Elijah sighed happily, closed his eyes, and died. Suddenly three sets of eyes fell upon Sasha, accompanied by three red dots that danced across her chest. Unperturbed she continued cleaning her bowl. “Huh, ya know, I guess Elijah was right, comrades. He really wasn’t one of ‘them’. I did expect there to be a few more though.”

Anichka was the first to speak. “You were right as well. Robots are our friends.”