Gavin, the town’s elder, knew where he would find them. They were never long apart from one another. The odd pair were giggling like schoolboys over a game of backgammon in the back of Everett’s shed. Gavin squinted in the the light reflected from Harkness, the gas giant their habitable moon, Fenris, orbited.
“Howdy, Gavin,” called Everett.
“Hiya, Gavin!” called the ex-war drone across from Everett. The aerodynamically slick shape of Sam was well-known to everyone in the tiny town. Sam stepped forward on long legs and offered a hand from the two smaller arms tucked beneath its 5-foot wide hull. Sam’s legs doubled as large arms/hands when hovering on its gravity repulsors, but most of the time he saved energy and just walked.
Gavin took the mechanical hand and said, “Sam. I need one of your famous backrubs.”
“Of course!” Sam’s cheery disposition was only exceeded by his skill at massage. In mere minutes Sam had worked out the stress from the news Gavin brought.
Gavin groaned and smiled. “That’s great Sam. Any chance you could look at my hoverjeep? It’s got a bad repulsor, I think.”
“You got it!” said the effervescent machine.
After Sam departed, Gavin said to Everett, “Krakus’ ship is in orbit again. He’s on another slave run.”
The people of Fenris had little trouble while Commonwealth Marines were garrisoned there. Less than a week after they departed for training maneuvers, Krakus the Warlord appeared. It took him mere weeks to subjugate the largest towns and take the able-bodied as slaves for his mines. Bespectacled Everett, always relaxed, just shrugged. “I wouldn’t worry. We’re too small a town to show up on his sensors.”
Gavin remained unconvinced. “He’s cleaned out the capital, and know he’s attacking small towns like Desmond.” Gavin looked towards Sam. “Sam has more firepower than several towns combined. We could use his help. Any chance you can fix him?”
Everett offered a practiced grin. “No can do. His Combat Protocols are wiped. He can’t take offensive action at all.”
As Gavin drove away in his repaired hoverjeep, Everett’s grin faded. After Marines repulsed Krakus’ assault three years ago, Everett found Sam, damaged. He repaired most, and he also knew what would repair Sam’s Combat Protocols. Emotional trauma, seeing villagers under attack, would trigger a reboot and the Combat Protocols would be restored to an undamaged sector. That would dominate the current personality, and his lovable best friend would disappear forever. Everett planned to insure this could never happen.
Two weeks later, Sam shook the door of the equipment cage. “My friend! Why?” he shouted.
“Stay here!” said Everett. He slammed the shed door closed, but it bounced back open behind him. Sam could easily see what transpired.
Standing in the turret of the lead hovertank, Krakus the Warlord confronted Gavin in the center of Main street. The grizzled conqueror looked down at Gavin disdainfully. Everett joined Gavin in the street as the old town leader stood his ground. They tried reasoning with the megalomaniac, but he quickly grew bored with dialog. When Krakus’ troops began firing indiscriminately, Everett was among the first to die.
Screaming in horror at the death of his friend, Sam suddenly lost consciousness. He awoke soon after, and his blue running lights turned red. His 14-gigajoule cannons activated for the first time in years. They easily blasted through the equipment cage and Sam burst through, his engines hurtling him into attack at supersonic speeds, its cannons rapid-firing in anger.
Krakus’ closely-packed troops weren’t prepared for heavy resistance. Most of the 180 troops disintegrated under Sam’s guns before they realized they were under attack. The rest perished in blinding quick strafing strikes. Sam’s cannons were too light to confront the heavy frontal armor of the tanks. But Sam knew exactly where the weak points were, and it attacked mercilessly. In under a minute Krakus’ military force, which had sacked cities, was decimated. The warlord’s broken body lay in pieces across a shattered tank.
Gavin had miraculously survived the assault, and approached Sam elatedly through the smoking ruins of tanks. “You’ve done it Sam! You’re our savior.” He reached out to pat Sam’s hull, but the war drone swerved to avoid him. “This is a military vehicle. Combat Protocols are active.” it intoned. “Civilian personnel may not approach.”
Later, Gavin reflected that they’d won a great victory, but a Pyrrhic one. Their town was safe, and the war drone remained the town’s protector, but Sam was never the same again.
The Speakeasy is a weekly writing challenge for up to 750 words of flash fiction. This week, the story must END with the sentence, “But Sam was never the same again.” The media file is a clever animation worth checking out. I hope this piece doesn’t land me in “The Writer’s Block.” 😉 Look for the animation and lots of terrific stories from imaginative writers right here: http://www.yeahwrite.me/speakeasy/fiction-challenge-167-open/