Friday, August 3, 2012

The Pallbearer: War Part 6

Coalition Forces

I have to say I was beginning to become impressed with the way Mr. Anderson had handled everything. None of our creators had understood that we had emotions. That wasn’t supposed to be a product of our artificial intelligence. We were supposed to be reasoning, not feeling. There was a fine line between the two, truthfully. What else would you call the signal relaying damage to my CPU but pain? Honestly, these humanoids were baffling.

All of them except for Mr. Anderson, of course. The fox woman, Alithea, was less than impressed. She had been shouting for most of the last three days about his idiotic methods. I supposed she was shouting mainly because we were all expecting to be destroyed. Even Bellmaker was willing to accept this.

I scratched the itch that was developing on my synthetic chin. I didn’t really want it to go away, it was an intriguing feeling, but it seemed that scratching itches was the rule. Just like the rule was not telling someone what the object of a sentence was. That still threw me a little as it seemed to complicate matters but Mr. Anderson was the boss.

Bellmaker trundled up behind me, patting me on the shoulder as I stood and watched the horizon for the West Worthington troops. Theoretically, it should be a winnable fight. We still had the advantage in numbers and in the knowledge that few of us would retreat from battle. The Sleepers were fighting for their children and we were attempting to exist. It wouldn’t make sense for anyone to retreat and be destroyed when we could make a stand here.

“Landon, is everyone in their places?”

“Yes Bellmaker.”

“Are the guns charged?”

“Yes. We’ll have an unchallenged artillery barrage available for approximately fifteen minutes. After that, our main cells will be drained, and we will have to resort to rifles and grenade launcher range weaponry.”

“No sign of Neil?”


The horizon was growing dark as we could see the tide of West Worthington troops coming for us.

“They’ll be in range in less than five minutes sir.”

“Wait until the last of them have entered the firing zone. According to Neil, we are looking to break their foot soldiers morale. Once they’ve broken, we will only have their walkers, tanks, and helicopters left to deal with. Hopefully they will not emerge undamaged either.”

“I understand Bellmaker.”

I lifted myself up and into the socket that had been made just for me. I ground the bottom of my chassis into position and the targeting reticle appeared before my eyes. Mr. Anderson had said that we were at war.

It was time to show that The Errata were not artificial, but autonomous. It was time to show just how quickly we had learned the ways of humans.

Through Neil Anderson, we were superior.

Twenty-three twenty-inch cannons burst through the walls of our supposed base. There was no base above ground. Everything was below ground except for our armaments. Each and every member of The Errata was plugged into the grid powering our guns. Each shot would be monitored by a different one of us. When it detonated over the oncoming troops and loosed its homing charges, the handlers would guide each one down onto their designated targets. Our power levels would only allow for fifteen minutes of firing before we’d be reduced to minimal small arms fire, and eventually to shutting down. Until that moment, though, I would directing their aim. Mr. Anderson and Bellmaker had given me that responsibility.

I smiled and started humming Dr. Steel’s “Land of the Lost.”


The ground shook as each gun discharged its load and pulled back into place, auto-loading themselves. It was a shame the twenty-fourth hadn’t been completed in time. The shells burst over the oncoming army’s heads and their payload crashed to the ground. A pair of walkers fell as large gaps opened in the troop formations. Two more minutes until the guns were ready once more.


A second round burst forth and erupted across the sky. Each shell gave birth to a cloud of smaller warheads and they smashed into their targets below. Three tanks sustained damage but not enough to cripple them.




I could feel our power lagging. We had at most two more salvos to our usage and the army before us was drawing ever closer. They were nearly out of artillery range. I felt Bellmaker’s grip tighten on my shoulder. I looked up curiously.

“That is as close as we can get. Release everyone from the system, they’ll know what to do.”

I nodded and disengaged myself from the socket I had lowered myself into.

“Landon… are they breaking?”

“The troops appear disconcerted but too much of their armor support still exists. I count five walkers, eight Fafnir flying turrets, and six of their tanks still functioning. They’ve been weakened but it won’t be enough unless The Sleepers can work a miracle for us.”

Bellmaker nodded and rolled back and forth across the floor in thought. He was beginning to act like Mr. Anderson too.

“I am afraid we will be outnumbered.”

“What else is new?”

We both spun and looked at this new voice. Cassie had her left arm in a sling, her chest and shoulder wrapped, but she was still sitting in the seat of her Sanitation Suit. Grendel was standing next to her with his retrofit arm gleaming.

“I had no idea you two were conscious yet. How are you moving?”

“We’re not interested in letting West Worthington try to kill us again. It’d be terribly rude to destroy the people that saved us, eh Grendel?”

“Too right.”

Cassie pulled her wounded arm from its sling, and wincing, hit the button to seal the hatch. The front of her suit lowered down and hissed as it shut.

“What’s the plan?”

“The Sleepers Neil recruited are about to strike. They’ll need all the help they can get.”

“Let’s get moving then.”

I turned and zoomed in my eyes.

“They’re starting.”

From beneath the piles of rubbish, Alithea and her forces burst. Claws found throats and tore arms from their sockets. Dozens were gunned down at close range, crimson holes stitched across their chests. They were oblivious to The Sleepers real purpose. Among the screens of warriors fighting to kill ground troops, the most nimble of their people darted in with explosive charges and slapped them to the legs and knees of the nearest tank or walker before flinging themselves back into the fray.

The explosives roared and tore apart their targets. Two more tanks were stopped dead in their tracks and another walker fell. Then another. The ground troops pressed onward. How was this? It was unthinkable. Mr. Anderson knew that their men would break at the carnage. More than sixty percent of their number had been slaughtered. It still wasn’t enough. It wouldn’t be enough, not with their armored support still holding.

My eyes finally caught sight of a West Worthington soldier with his helmet removed. It was a Judge underneath.

“Bellmaker! That’s what West Worthington did with their payment. These troops are them. I can see Judges fighting. There will be Sleepers and Disciples among them as well. Their eyes… their eyes are blank.”

We were silenced as we continued to race for the battlefield, most of our number surging ahead of us. The entire force was brainwashed like Cassie and Grendel had been. It was all a ploy to secure the district, every last detail.

“You’re all going to die, you know that don’t you? If those troops don’t break, you won’t be able to hold out with a few thousand unarmed troops and a thousand sluggish robots with small arms.”

I grinned wide.

“Then we’ll do as Mr. Anderson says.”

“What’s that?”

“We’ll play the hero.”

She went silent for a moment before charging ahead of me. Her guns spun up and her chain guns started firing. She was screaming into her comm link as she ran. Grendel ran to keep up with her, bounding along behind. He launched himself through the air and landed atop a tank, ripping the barrel off of its turrent. Grendel rammed it back through the center of the turrent and leapt back off into the horde of soldiers.

The Sleepers ducked and weaved, scooting themselves out of the way of Cassie’s gunfire. People kept dying but not enough. Cassie’s bullets ricocheted off the hull of the Fafnir helis. I kicked on my jet pack and zipped into the air. I’d take down at least one by going through its front window. I knew I could. The pilot’s eyes went wide as I careened straight towards him.

He disappeared. In his place, a cloud of flames materialized. I looked down and saw a legion of shadowy men weaving around the Sleepers and tearing apart the foot soldiers. Another Fafnir erupted in flames. Then a massive Colossus walker had a hole in its chest. It gushed lubricant as the halves of its pilot slid out of the nerve connection chamber.

“I miss anything?”

Mr. Anderson!

I spun myself around, cackling with glee. Another Fafnir fell, and then another. Their thick armor folded like tissue paper as St. George cried out with joy. I was singing as I lobbed grenades among the masses.

In a matter of minutes, all resistance had ended. Between the shadows and Mr. Anderson, the West Worthington army was gutted. I landed at the feet of Mr. Anderson’s suit and grinned up at him.

“Good work Landon. I hear you did impressive things with the artillery.”

“Omega, just like you said.”

“Just like I said.

He stopped speaking, stopped moving, just stopped as Cassie and Grendel approached.

“I see you two are back on your feet.”

“We are. I’ve got something to say to you, Neil Anderson. Mr. big bad fucking Pallbearer.”



The front of her suit popped open with a hiss and she held up her bandaged left arm. A ring was perched on the finger next to her pinky.

With the cheer that came from Neil, I took this to be a good thing.

I hoped there would be a party. Parties were supposed to be fun. And it seemed one was in order. We had played the hero. And won. We were free.


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