Steven Taylor, Flight Red 50, missing in action, presumed dead. That’s what the announcement back on Earth would say Steven mused as he sat on top of the large wooden climbing frame that took up most of the space in his prison cell on the planet Mechanus. He looked over at his panda bear toy mascot and frowned.
“Steven was a brave man, good-looking, talented, and professional.” He glanced at Hi-Fi and smirked. “Don’t give me that look, panda, it could say that. People get upset when people disappear, there’s bound to be kind words. Steven was a good man who leaves behind his mother, step-father and two step-sisters, oh and a dog called Charlie. He also leaves behind a girl who dumped him for his superior, but he’s not remotely bitter about that.”
His playful smile quickly turned into a solemn frown.
“Really though, they’ll have given up on finding me by now, Hi-Fi.” He looked closer at the panda bear and examined him closely, glancing for signs of expression in the bear’s old worn out face. “Nope just as I thought, you never have been much of a talker.”
He nestled the soft cuddly toy onto his chest and then lay back onto the frame, closing his eyes lightly. Hi-Fi moved up and down with every breath from Steven’s body. “I suppose I’ll never know who won the wars.”
Just as Steven was drifting off to sleep, there was a humming noise coming from outside the cell, and then a sound of intrusive mechanical whirring. He woke up suddenly, startled at the noise, and watched helplessly as Hi-Fi plummeted from his chest onto the floor below. It was a huge drop from the top of the frame, and Steven screamed lightly, rushing from his position to retrieve Hi-Fi from the floor.
When he reached the bottom of the frame, he gasped, noticing the position the bear had landed in, flat on his face with arms stretched wide. He carefully scooped up the toy into his arms, examined him for damage and then when he’d concluded the bear was healthy he squeezed him tightly, not wanting to let go. “Don’t go falling off things, you know I get worried.”
The hum of the Mechanoids outside the door grew louder, continuing to work and build even though it was obvious to Steven that nobody was coming. He shuddered at the idea of the self-upgrading, self-repairing machines continuing to work, and hum, and whir long after he had died, forever and ever. It was the endlessness that was frightening. It was the thought of a life trapped alone with mechanical captors that scared him most. Nearly two years had passed and the days had little to offer in the way of excitement and variety. Waking up was followed by a general wash and clean up, some breakfast brought by the droids, and then some exercise as he did his sprint around the room and then some press ups. Keeping a routine of exercise kept him busy and focused through the long days and kept him fit and healthy- and if there was something he really needed at this time in his life it was strong health. A rescue was not impossible, an escape was unlikely but he didn’t give up hope in an opportunity occurring in the future, and he wanted to be ready.
The nights were the loneliest of course, filled with thoughts of Earth and his family and friends and a life he had left behind- and a life he would never know.
He shook his worries away for a moment and peered out of the slats at one of the large Mechanoids that was patrolling outside the cell, swivelling sideways and clicking and clunking as it did so.
“The fat darlings are busy bees this evening,” he said to Hi-Fi as he placed him inside the bed covers, wrapping him up tightly. “Probably won’t get a wink of sleep tonight. Wish someone would programme them to work nine until five.”
He looked at the panda toy curled up in the blanket and smiled. “Sorry I’m being stroppy, I’m so restless. I had this dream last night, did I tell you about it? No, I guess I didn’t. Well, I was twenty-one you see, I was on an assignment in the space corps, and on the way back to Earth I suffered total engine failure. I got inside the escape pod and jettisoned myself, and for days I floated through space in this tiny little capsule aimlessly waiting for a rescue. And you know what? It came. I was rescued, Hi-Fi. So why can’t I be rescued here?”
Steven finally climbed into the bed beside the panda toy and wrapped the covers around him. The chill in the room was always high, kept fully air conditioned by the Mechanoids due to the hot climate of the planet, though it made the cell prone to feeling freezing at night. He’d asked for it to be turned off of course, but without the right instruction codes, Steven was unable to communicate with the machines at all. The few times he’d gotten near enough to tamper with their systems had sent them into a frenzy, their self defence mechanisms whirring into some kind of red alert and zapping Steven with a minor electric shock. He’d attempted it several times even after the electric shock, but the more times he did, the more the machines understood he was a threat and the stronger the shock he received.
“Oh Hi-Fi, maybe it would be better if I were a Mechanoid myself then I wouldn’t have to feel this loneliness, wouldn’t have to feel anything. I thought I was good on my own but that was only when I needed space from all those people. Now there’s no one to need space from is there? I envy you old friend, your mind and soul is only stuffing, and your heart can’t ache for company.”
He glanced up at the ceiling above him, placing his arms behind his neck and sighing loudly. “Eternity.”
He closed his eyes and for a while there was no pain, no panic, no utter boredom or wistfulness, not anything. But there was an escape, until morning at least.
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