To End Alone

Author: R. J. Erbacher

Please! There had to be a way to save him.

Widge was hit bad. The blast took out most of his right midsection including a portion of the flexible titanium rod that was his spine. He couldn’t stand. Cerulean cream-colored liquid leaked from a variety of tubes and pumped out of others. The ends of wires crackled as the fluid sparked against the electric charge. If only Charlie could hold him together with sheer will power, and love.

“C’mon Widge, you’re smart. Think of something!”

Widge’s words came out garbled yet understandable.

“You could pull my memory drive, use it in another unit. But a lot of my idiosyncrasies would get lost in the reboot.”

Charlie had practically rebuilt Widge from scratch. An older model that he’d tinkered with for years perfecting him into not only a valuable weapon and soldier but a friend as well. And most parts for him were long obsolete. Besides, there was no way he could duplicate the humor, intensity, and charisma that were never originally programmed into these prototypes. But now he was permanently failing on this battlefield, too heavy to move and no tools to minimize the impairment.

Widge coughed out a wet mist and continued. “I’m sorry but anything you transferred into another AI just wouldn’t be the same…me. By the way, my proximity sensors are picking up two invaders, five seconds out.”

Charlie, still cradling the massive weight of Widge in his arms, brought up his weapon as the first steel- encrusted alien jumped over the ridge. A perfect blast hit the enemy center mass and knocked him back into a devastating deployment of shredded metal armor. The second moved more cautiously and blast-fire was exchanged between the two foes, Charlie feeling one shot too hot and too close for comfort. Finally, he nailed his target, blowing off the entire head, the rest of the bulk collapsing into a lifeless jumble.

Charlie saw Widge’s arm sticking up but missing the hand. He’d sacrificed the appendage to deflect the shot meant to hit him.

“Dammit Widge, what did you do?”

“Saved your ass again. At this point, it was probably a moot gesture.”

It wasn’t the first time Widge had saved his life. Charlie had stopped counting after the explosion that Widge had shielded him from; tore up his back terribly. It took Charlie nearly a month to repair those wounds. This war had damaged them both.

“What am I going to do Widge?”

“Well, you can’t stay here dipshit. Get out while you can, back to the base. I’m beyond saving. We both know that.”

“I’m not leaving you!”

“That’s not a wise de-de-de-de-“

“Widge?”

For more than ten years they had been partners. Fought side by side. Clung to each other during the repeated shellings because there was nothing else to do and if they were going to get obliterated it seemed rational to be holding a friend then to end alone.

Charlie looked down at the mouth frozen in mid-speak, eyes gazing at nothing. Charlie dropped his gun and put his other hand on Widge’s shoulder.

Sometime later the crunching of approaching boots came over the din of distant firing. The enemy soldier marched over the hill and saw the weaponless two lying in a depression. One was already gone. He sighted on the other and blasted it.

Charlie erupted into a fountain of blueish spray and short-circuiting electrodes.

The guy disconnected and removed his armored helmet, revealing a three-day growth and scarred cheek, as to more closely inspect the hugging dead forms.

“Fucking robots,” he quipped and moved on.

4 Comments

  1. SimonJM

    Smacks of an AI capability a bit too good to be allowed! 😉

  2. Jae

    An excellent volte-face telling of a classic theme.

  3. Hari Navarro

    Who knows maybe even now drones let out a little sigh at each and every one of their comrades passing. Great emotive flash R.J, sentimentality without the rotting teeth. 🙂

    • rjerbacher

      Thank you Hari, always appreciate your comments and feedback.

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