Chapter 1: Prologue
When you stand far enough at the shore, you convince yourself you can see it - the rise of smoke, off in the distance. There are cities out there, places you can’t reach, but you still maintain the illusion of them being the slightest bit accessible. There are things out there that you sometimes fool yourself into believing that you can simply hold onto, draw close and keep safe.
It’s only unfortunate that that, precisely, is what it is not - believable.
You can do nothing. And you are left alone...
There are years added onto him as he leans forward, sinking to sit in the sand. He wants to be alone - you allow him that privilege. For now. But for the purposes of safety, you keep where you are, your quietly unseen vantage point. You survey the other - you survey the horizon.
It’s been anywhere from several days to a few weeks. You’re not sure which - internal tracking has gone a bit off-kilter. But your guess lands on ‘several days’ from the estimates you’ve made, marking scores on the sides of trees, on the sides of your housings, anywhere you can make them. You’ve re-found a few, though they may have been added to by the fauna that might still be wandering within the area.
There is a minute connection , somewhere across the seas - it fades, nearly instantaneous. Just as you go to reach for it again, Jake stands, having either sat there for a few minutes, or a few hours. Hours, you estimate, processing the atmosphere, the slow darkening of everything around you and him both.
You rise as well. And suddenly, he is your only focus, as it should be.
He’s not saying a thing - which is comforting, considering your own ‘vocal’ range is limited and strained. He barely reacts to your presence, minus a slight cast of gaze to your presence. Emotions: irritability. Slight patterns of comfort masked beneath, if at nothing else than the fact that he still had another presence on this island.
You escort him to his room, and linger for a few minutes, before retreating to the foot of the stairs. You listen to echoes of breath, of pacing and clattering, of rustling and crashing. He picks up a computer and hurls it at a wall in frustration.
... you remain. As you always will, so long as you can help it, ever-faithful.
But he so wanted the same from the others - and it is there that you disappoint, in simply not being as he wants.
You wait until he settles, resting the night, moving a little further upward, sitting sentry just below the threshold to his room.
The earth spins eternally quiet round the sun, for there has been not a noise since then. And together, you and he make the exception.
Chapter 2: Day 2
It has been a few weeks since the broadcasts - a week since they ceased. A week since he grabbed you, the planes flying over, one brushing much too close before skittering and descending into the sea. Several days since you stopped hearing from anyone. A couple days since those bruises faded from how tightly he held you, something akin to panic almost registering in metallic limbs and expression as he stared at burning wreckage that stood where you did minutes ago, trees thrashed to pieces in the wake of the avian monstrosity.
A day since you more openly contemplated upon ‘him’ rather than ‘it’.
You fear you’re losing it, even with this development aside.
Of course you’re used to being alone - but this is different. Cut off on an island, at least you had your computer, the news, friends, you had friends, and you haven’t heard from them in ages. Isolation, complete isolation, hits you hard - leading back around to the tin can sitting outside your room, upon your steps.
Once you’re fully awake, you get out of bed, heading out towards the stairs. The blasted thing is active, standing to attention, and you wearily wave at it to just... to just hold it, to just ease up, let you be for just a minute. You really want to wrestle. You’re going to settle for killing things. And you know he’s going to follow, and you’re just... you’re just going to have to live with that.
The jungle is quiet, quieter than usual. You don’t even have the planes anymore, and the worry is setting in on how you’re going to get supplies. You’ve amassed as much as you can, and at least it’s only one mouth to feed. You suppose you have plenty of food resources, readily available, and you eye them across your ‘front yard’, as it may be. It’s a bountiful supply, made by wasted piles upon piles of resources, resources you could have used for something, to move anything, to get you anywhere. Maybe you could have moved yourself, moved someone else, done something, anything, things you’re only thinking of now when they’re not going to do a damn thing to help.
But at least you have food.
You pull out the gun, with the original intention of hunting down some of the local monsters, if they’re still even around, you haven’t seen one, it’s been too long and you just need to hurt something and the damn robot is entirely out of your abilities...!
As you load and aim, your mind goes blank, and all you see is static.
The gunshots alert you, darting outside the doorway to watch a spray of strung seeds and pulp, almost grotesque, sprayed across the jungle floor. It’s not this that concerns you - it’s the sudden screaming that’s coming from your charge as he tears bullets into the surrounding flora.
It’s an ungodly noise, high and endless, and you wonder how conscious he is of it, how truly aware he is of you stepping in, grabbing onto him. He’s screaming, he’s screaming without any sign of stopping, he’s screaming and as brilliant and advanced as you can be, your processing is firing rapidly into bewildered, systematic queries as to why and how and what you can do about it, when you know there’s nothing because the boy was long, long broken before you even graced his presence.
You hold him gently to the forest floor as his throat becomes hoarse, as he chokes off into whimpering silence. You stroke, gently, through charcoal hair. It’s only another day. His chest heaves to catch up, and finally, you get up, helping him up as well. The heaving turns to coughing, throat dry and strained. It’s only another day.
You take him to get a drink of water. And with shaking hands, he holds on, following, the pieces temporarily coming back together.
It’s only another day, out of possibly, infinitely more to come.
Water is a bounty on this island, and not merely that which springs from the sea. Plenty of little watering holes, tucked away, minuscule cascades giving their hushed roar. He leads you to one near by, the damn machine working his (IT’S) miracles again. You descend to your knees to drink from the edge, scooping the crystal fresh water into your hands. A splash over your face washes off the bits and strings of pumpkin pulp, and from there, coming to your senses, you begin to strip.
Again, as always - the blasted machine seems to be watching. It’s not something that should bother you, you feel, and yet it does in moments like this You give it the cold shoulder, shucking aside clothing, shimmying out of boxers, gently putting aside glasses before diving in. Below the shoreline of the lake, you see bubbles float in front of your face, from the exhale you give, staring into blurry darkness. It’s gone - it’s only you down here.
Once you exhale, it’s a waiting game - it’s seeing how long that air can stay inside you, escaping in slow pants as you rise up, drawing back in with a deep breath. You blink the water from your eyes, giving your head a good shake, like a waterlogged mutt. When you look around, you have the distinct feeling of something missing. A few seconds of floating on your back, and you realize.
The tin can has disappeared again. Undependable as all hell. You straighten yourself out, treading water and looking around to make sure you didn’t just lose track of it moving around the lake. No such luck - it seems to have wandered off entirely to wherever the hell it tended to go in these sorts of moments. It leaves you oddly apprehensive; you finish washing yourself off and drag yourself out onto the shore, drying off with your cast-away shirt before cautiously sliding on your remaining dry garments.
Sometimes it’s astounding how quiet the island has become. You still have not adjusted. Your footsteps are slow, crunching foliage, vines, dirt underneath, as you wander in the vague direction of your home. You cast glances at shadows and stillness, as if expecting something, anything. The tin can has yet to get the drop on you, nor has anything else. You stop waiting, and watch your feet. You watch the shadows around them as the day continues, only lonelier in the rare moments of solitude such as this.
You are losing any idea of what to do with yourself.
In the tepid atmosphere, your shirt is becoming slightly more dry. You pull it on over your head, feeling the slight, damp texture of it against your skin. You look up, you stare at an endless sky, unbroken by anything in days.
And suddenly, it sounds.
It’s a scream, it’s an endless cry that jars everything inside of you. You just barely manage to take cover, ducking and curling, as the high-pitched clicks and bellows fly past you, screeching, a splash of something damp hitting your face, a blur of metallics following it close and suddenly, fluidly skating backwards, grabbing you, lifting you, pulling back. The monster is still screaming, blood red and staining the forest floor, claws and teeth gnashing as it whips and writhes in pain, soft underbelly gashed by a blade. It strikes at everything, trying to let out it’s pain, and you watch, captivated as it lashes about, watching it slowly fall. Some part of it hurts to watch, for reasons you don’t understand. You want to touch it. The machine holds you back sternly, and slowly, the monster passes, shrieks dropping to low, miserable growls and whimpers. Slowly, it ceases, hitting the ground and stilling from even the vaguest of tremblings.
It might very well have been the last one on the island. What the fucking hell was the robot thinking?
Finally, he lets go of you, and you watch him incredulously. He takes one of the pumpkins, detaching it from the vine, and using brutal, steeled hands to snap off the stem, digging at some of the gourd’s shell, creating a hole, emptying the seeds. With almost grim determination, he moves to the beast, stopping at it’s abdomen. Measuring up his fist evenly with a point at one of the slashes, he takes a swing, cracking the exoskeleton, pulling it away, then tearing at flesh. Every strip he takes, he puts into the pumpkin, and you understand.
Food. He... it was finding you food, to better wait out eternity.
God, this thing was a puzzle, but strike you down if it wasn’t useful sometimes.
The sun sets on you and it, working to strip what you could of the monster. Over an open flame, you curl up for warmth and roast and dry the meat, to hopefully better preserve it for some time. At some point, you find it close by your side, staying close, though it’s cold metal doesn’t help. You huff irritably at it, tossing a stone against the metal paneling of it’s breast. But God help you if you chase the thing away - you don’t want to be alone again. You try to hide the shaking, and wait until your eyes begin to feel heavy, struggling to stay open. You get out your computer, and wait to see those names flicker on, wait for a single line. He’ll be there all the while, waiting for you to stop, waiting to carry you back home, to stand sentry again, to let another day pass by.
Chapter 3: Day 3
I will never do html on here again.
In other news, this is now part of a series, as a surprise to even myself. But my mind's been carrying me on an interesting direction in this, and I hope you all enjoy the more strongly AU aspect!
You wake to something cold pressed against inches of bare skin between cloth. A shudder and a start - your body jerks back, hands pushing at something lying almost on top of you. Your computer headset is askew, and you’re a little disconcerted at first by the lack of view, the sight of just bright light and words, jumbled up while you’re half-asleep. You’re still shivering, cold, soaked, all sorts of things, and the insistent orange blinking in your vision is only -
- you stop. As your brain regathers everything, the presence at your side startles as well, lifting you up - a disconcerting feeling in your limited vision. Limbs flail and you holler at it as it removes the computer on your head, apparently giving a bit of a full-body scan. You give fruitless blows against the unyielding metal of it’s body, screaming at it, at the stupid piece of shit that can’t understand, is only becoming more concerned in it’s own emotionless, busybodied manner, trying to steady an arm with one hand, the other holding the computer, the computer, the DAMN COMPUTER THAT WAS TALKING TO YOU AN INSTANT AGO!
The gun is drawn again, and you’re let go, hands raised in defensiveness. You take the computer from it, and it pauses, watching you as you race to replace it, eyes scanning quickly over...
... over a mess, that makes your stomach churn.
-- timaeusTestified [TT] began pestering golgothasTerror [GT] at 0:00 --
TT: W̴hęr͡e͘ ̴am̛ I?
TT: ̶W̛ḩat͝'̛s͏ ͟going ͢o̢n
TT: J͠ak̡e͝,͡ h͡élp͞.
TT: J̀͞akȩ̛̕, ҉͜r̴͝è͟s̕po҉̷n͜d̛.̸̧
TT: Ŕe̸͜͢ś̵p̨͝o͘nd́͠ ̨̛J͟҉ąk͟e?̵
TT: Wher͘e̕ a̕m ̷͡I ̶̧͞ à̢r̴̢̡͢e̷͟͝ ̛́͏̷̛y̸͜͞o̶͞u̶̢ y͠͏̕ơ͘u̸͟͡͠ ̢͟͡͠͡y͏̸ǫ͘ư̢̕ ̵͏y̶ò͟͠u͟҉͡ ͏̶r̀͟e̷̕b̧̛͘ơ͏͘͠͡o̴̵͟t̴͘̕
TT: Jake, where are you?
GT: Jesus christ strider where the hell do you think!
GT: That's a question you need to leave right in my end!
GT: Where the hell have you been ive been here with your damn robot and i just...!
G T: Oh hell!
GT: Are you alright?!
Something's wrong, you feel it in your gut. And you should know it, yet you don't want to believe it. It's been much too long, and you want to believe, don't want to give up on that. If you were to lift the skulltop just a few inches, you could look to the horizon and dream, dream again, imagine the smoke, imagine people across doing the same, imagine how dark it is there, how dark and different but not empty.
TT: I'm fine.
TT: Are you alright?
GT: By the dickens what sort of question is that what do you think?!
GT: Though admittedly from those ghastly reports better than you on the mainland!
GT: Strider i'm worried about you.
GT: Are you quite absolutely entirely PRETTY DAMN CERTAIN youre alright?
Because that's all that's echoed in your mind, and it's back again, hearing each broadcast and worrying where he was, what was happening, what was going on, where were they where was he and you try to hold back the headache and static and absolute terror filling you.
(The thing was fussing at you at for a minute, it tore, because it was all you had left, but if this was all true, you were fine, fine as ever, fine as you could never be. For a minute, your hand relaxed, doing nothing but shake gently against the metal man.)
TT: I'm fine.
TT: Are you absolutely certain you're alright?
GT: ... you are frightening and quite justly upsetting me.
You sit down, because you can't stand for this, literally. You feel shaky. You fumble for last night's bounty, and your hand is guided to a piece which you take, chew on as you brace yourself.
GT: Which is why im going to try and not be so sorry to do this old chap.
GT: If you get this message i suggest you give yourself a damn good kick for putting me through this!
TT: It seems you think I'm yanking your chain, English.
TT: Unless I'm misinterpreting your statement.
GT: No im afraid your not.
GT: And ill have to give that machine of yours a strong handshake.
GT: You really gave me one hell of a start!
GT: Talk about adventure!
GT: Id almost say it was too damn much.
GT: Hell i think i do anyway!
GT: Im torn to friggin pieces!
GT: Like i didnt have enough of your wank in the tin can now ive got to deal with you pestering me through this thing!
GT: YOU KNOW WHAT I DONT EVEN HAVE TO TRY TO NOT BE SORRY!
GT: I AM DAMN WELL PLEASED IM ENDING THIS AND ENDING IT NOW!
The computer is thrown again, this time with a few shots thrown in, cracking plastic, grunts of frustration, getting up, growling, angry kicks thrown at the scenery. The thing stands by until you settle again. It gathers broken pieces when you drop to the ground, and throws them together in a pile at your side. At your other side, it sits. You would cry, but it would only break you more. You do anyways, tears falling into the palms of your hands. It keeps a hand on your shoulder, and waits for that to subside.
The pumpkin does not stand up well to your climate. Your charge is quick to remove the meat before anything happens to it, paranoid about everything, always dreading the worst. Then again, you do little else either.
You drag away the carcass and remains of last night's kill, in case any creatures are still around to scavenge. When you return, you are assailed by your charge.
You can't say you didn't expect this. You can't say this doesn't seem... gratifying? There's a rush of old programs refreshing themselves, limbs snapping to block the swooping punch that comes in towards your face, more limbs emerging to grab him, grappling him into a chokehold before letting go and flashstepping to a safer distance from him, waiting for the next move.
He breathes, and you listen - listen to each sound, anticipate it, anticipate the noises that seems to synchronize with every internal whir of every one of your parts, his deep inhalations, gusty exhalations. He runs at you again, and it doesn't take long before you have him pinned to the ground with every one of those limbs. He doesn't even draw his guns in this fight - he is already done. You shunt aside your automatic programmings that tell you to return to your lurking - you've neglected them for ages, except for the occasional revertion. You let off of him, and he stares at the sky, breathing, living, barely.
Chapter 4: Days ???
After so long, even with the separation of light and dark, the days run together. Between the stretches of indistinguishable time, you build landmarks. You build milestones. Such as the moment where he disappears, and you have no idea how you lost him. You’ve done something wrong, and no one can fix it.
You capture his return, and while your slightly off-kilter timing interprets a day, you find yourself doubting it more than usual once seeing the state of him, blood leaking from a few cuts, and silence dragging on. You fear, as you wash him off, that you will never hear him again - you wonder what in your software causes this sort of fear. You can only attribute it to a level of adjustment, in programming. It is what you’re used to - you are calmer, and more able to function with those screams, unearthly and terrified, than you are of this.
It only takes a few more days (months?) before the silence breaks - he destroys the skulltop, howling at hounding words that are never what he wants, splintered orange on a display. You hear him, and you both rejoice it and fear it. It is noise, but not a single word - only angry snarling to himself, like a beast pacing it’s cage. You cannot get close - you cannot touch him, not when he doesn’t want to be touched, not when he screams about something you cannot help. You are just as guilty as those now-destroyed words, for not being what he craves so much. As he pushes and kicks and screams, you hypothesize at how long he can be alone, allowing yourself to lurk. You hope so desperately to not get a single calculation wrong, so you may be there when you’re needed.
As it turns out, eventually, you don’t need to keep calculations. It is too easy to know, when your next milestone is the moment his regret sets in. You’re greeted by a blow aimed for your opticals, and you dodge it, as he strifes, he bolts - and when you finally manage to pin him down, there’s a jolt in the back of the mind that fears you’ve killed him, the way he lies there, soft and easily broken, and for once not jumping right back up. You pull off, and you’re firing into fears of breaking some sort of express rules written into you on what you can and can’t do, what you’ve been made to do and what goes too far.
You wonder what would happen if you lost him, and had nothing else to attend to. And that first milestone resurfaces, and you realize that may be what you’ve been fearing. That, you can find justifiable, perhaps - what machine doesn’t foresee the day it isn’t needed, or the day it fails?
Or you are the only one?
You sometimes like to convince your programming how true that is - because to be different and separate would put so much at common with your charge. Perhaps if you had that, you would be more of that thing, that inseparable, distant thing that he needed.
It is not in your programming to please - your duty is to protect. But you can take that at liberty to protect any of these broken pieces of him, in whatever way you see fit.
He stares, green eyes wide and non-operative, gazing into blue. Gently, you ease away, allowing yourself to accept that as the end of the strife. You don’t lurk. You pick him up, and carry him back towards the home.
He clings in a way you didn’t think he ever would, finding comfort in the way the sun and movement has warmed your chassis, listening to a whir of machinery that seems to calm him.
Neither of you knows what day it is. It is not important. The world has ceased turning anyways, and the both of you are left in the still wreckage.
Chapter 5: Day 1
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Slowly, you blink. Slowly, the light sets back in to your eyes, reflected on metal, cool to the touch, ever-familiar, and providing more comfort than any such substance should. You, Jake English, find yourself relaxing against it, staying quiet. There is no way to tell if the machine is awake or not, and you couldn’t care less. Not right now, when the only important point is that he is here..
It was too easy to lose track of the days, of the broadcasts, of the faux messages in that blaring sunset of a color that only made you ache. Now, you’ve destroyed it - and along with it, any means of ever contacting those connections you pretend to feel, so far away.
Eventually, you lost track of how many times you’d referred to the heap of metal at your side with more human terms. You lose track of how quickly you’ve devolved to it’s levels. It had one purpose, and you’ve lost track of what that was, what you intended in constantly fighting it, to somehow make it understand the pain you were feeling, that you could not phrase.
You realize that you lost track of the last time you spoke any actual words - you have not needed to. You have been understood regardless.
Your name is Jake English - today you awake, sick of trying to make unyielding metal feel. Today, you... just want to pretend. Just for today. For however long you both want ‘today’ to last, until the next memory, the next moment.
You are very tired of being alone. It took you sixteen years to deny it, and countless stretches of blank time to come to the realization. Eventually, a man must simply take what he gets.
What you have is a metal machine that looks like a very dear friend you have never been able to touch; the machine is not warm as you might imagine him to be. But it is more present than you have ever seen him to be. It cannot talk, but it can ‘listen’, which is more than he’s done in so long.
When you begin to move, he moves with you, an automatic reaction to follow and guard. And what else are you supposed to do but let him follow? You’re tired. You’re done.
You’re waiting for today to end, yet hoping it never goes. As long as it goes, you can pretend: as soon as it ends, you can know how much more you want of it.
As your charge moves, you watch him - you wait, you scan. You read him, and you feel: the slope to his shoulders, the look in his eyes. Ease. Dropped tension. He walks, slowly across your base, your shelter, out from the brush, out in the open. Both of you pass charred ground and trees, loping over scrap metal, over charred remains that he doesn’t take a second look at. He heads out from the jungle, and out towards the shore, sitting down. You stand the back, ready to leave him be - until he begins to speak.
“Damn good-looking day, isn’t it, old chap?”
You can’t respond - but if he wants to speak to you, you won’t deny him that. You tread cautiously out onto the sand, standing by him, listening. His voice is hoarse, from lack of practical use, from strain in primal screams. You don't give any recognition of what he said, but he continues regardless.
"We're all that's left, mate - you and me. Right damn sick of Strider not sending us out any message, what with how splendid he usually is on contacting us! You'd think he fanagle some sort of solution!"
He tries his best to give a bark of harsh laughter - it sounds more bitter than he likely intends, rasping, angry. He quiets for a few minutes afterwards, and you worry he won't go on. You look to him - he watches the imaginary land, that lies between the endless sky and sea in front of him.
"... I wonder if he's even out there, my fine metal friend. Pardon me for questioning his fine skills of bedazzlement, but it seems too likely."
Even if you could speak, you could not assure him otherwise with certainty. That's fine - it's not an answer he wants. He only wants to speak - you only want to to protect, every little broken piece. He breaks wistful gazes for a minute, to look at you - eyes a deep grain, like his seas stained by the reflection of clouded skies. You want to take him, to do something that's not quite what's been programmed, too tender, just perfect. You only continue to stand there.
"... I think we'll be just fine, old boy. Just you and me."
In the night, everything will blacken, and you both will retire - but the next day will only be a part of this one. They will continue to run together, eternal day, until the dark settles with every decision you both are making, settling into thought and consequence.
Until then, endless day.
Last chapter for Jake and Brobot in awhile. I should hopefully start soon on the next part to the story, before we head on back to them. Thank you all for being patient! I know this isn't the most practically posted/phrased story, and I've been flattered by how much all of you are enjoying it. I hope to continue to please!