Metal Armor [Short Sci-Fi Story]

When you first sign up for the procedure, you’re given a presentation, and it’s clear the presenter has given it many times before, to the point that they wish someone would just make a video for us to watch. The transfer from human to android body is easy and straightforward, as they explain it. But hell if I know how they do it. I know how to drive a car, but I’m not a mechanic.

The idea was the brainchild of one Carissa Blaine, who was somewhere between a neurologist and a mechanical engineer, who made the leap that so many other had been straining for over the years. She was building on the knowledge and mistakes and science of those who’d come before her, of course, but still, her name is a household one for a reason. And I’m sure her funding shot through the roof when they realized it would work.

When they realized existing as a being of metal and plastic would let you walk right by a zombie.

For a couple years now, after the disease that left us scrambling metaphorically and literally, we’d managed to survive in decent numbers, just perpetually on the run, always with a gun in our hands. We lived in bunkers and skyscrapers and when any adult and sometimes the odd teenager would be seen exiting the safety of a barricade, it would always be with a weapon in their hand to help cull the herd as best we could.

Everything changed because of Carissa Blaine, and that’s why I was here. Ryan and I had been military before it hit, him Army and me Marines, and we were called to the front lines once again when this unprecedented war hit our planet. There was still no cure or vaccine, and the scientists were conceding by this point that they didn’t know if they’d ever figure out how to create one. So, androids it was.

Then Ryan was gone and, yeah, I’d spiraled a bit, I’m not ashamed to admit. Looked for answers at the bottom of a bottle for a few weeks, barely got out of bed. It had just been bad luck out there in the field with our guns in our hands and as much ammunition as we could carry. That’s the worst, when you don’t even have anyone or anything to blame but fate, when you’ve got no one to punch or scream at or punish for incompetence. You’re just left with emptiness and the hot burn of survivor’s guilt.

After the presentation, I and all the others proceeded to what seemed very much like a doctor’s office to me, complete with a lobby, receptionist, and magazines to leaf through. My name was called eventually and when I first saw the creation, my doppelganger, it was surreal beyond belief. It lay there in a horizontal chair like I’d expect to see at the dentist’s office, with another empty chair next to it, in which I lay down.

There was a lot of explaining of things I already knew, the piles of paperwork already done with, and then I was hooked up, transferred, and woke up with the similarly surreal experience of looking through my new eyes at my corpse.

We were only the first of many. Civilians signed up one after another to become immune to zombie attack (and effectively immortal), though many recoiled at the idea of becoming an android. There was no undo button on it, of course. Even when we won the war, even after a hundred years, if our innards were properly maintained and we lasted that long, we’d still go on as beings of plastic and metal, no matter how much we looked like a human being. Though I highly expected for the military to make use of me in the field in such a case, so I was in for far more than a boring life if we vanquished the last of the undead.

That first day, I put on my gear as I always did, the only difference being that I skipped the protective layers this time. Armed and ready to go, I headed out into the world with a cloak of invisibility around my shoulders. Though I’ll admit, that took a while for my instincts to catch up with. My feet itched to run from a horde I came upon and an icy finger trailed down my spine the first time I brushed up against one. But it leaned toward me on instinct and then just…moved on.

Wandering the streets, it was utterly weird, dreamlike, though I’d never had a dream like this. Any nightmares that plagued me always consisted of me or someone I cared for being on the wrong end of a pair of teeth and a jugular being torn out. This was peaceful in a strange way, as if I were just going for a walk among some exceedingly monstrous company.

Making my way into a park, overgrown and choked with weeds, that’s where I found him.

No bite mark, it had been stray spittle that had gotten Ryan. He looked just like any of the others, all pallid skin and drooping, grey eyes, in a calm state since he was undisturbed with the lack of prey nearby. The only difference was his thin Kevlar armor, useless as it had ended up being. I blinked back the tears threatening to fall and took the syringe from my pocket. The deadly (or would it be undeadly?) cocktail was usually in a dart to be shot from a gun, of course, but I’d requested just a single syringe.

Walking up to him, I situated myself in his line of sight, so I was able to meet his vacant gaze. Reaching out, I put my hand on my shoulder. That roused him a bit, his eyes searching for any prey, or to determine if he’d just been brushed against by another of his kind.

“I’m sorry,” I muttered. Staring at him, I admitted, “I thought about just coming back out here to join you. But I knew that wasn’t what you’d want. I knew what you’d want. I just wanted to be the one to do it for you.”

With that, I pulled the top off of the syringe. Then I injected the contents into Ryan’s neck, prompting another flinch and curious exploration with his eyes and nose, and recapped the syringe. Then I tossed it aside, some part of me recognizing the oddity of not caring about the world I was in, that I was disposing of a used syringe in a children’s playground. But not as if we could reuse it back at the bunker, and I doubted anyone else wanted this kind of up close and personal kill with a zombie.

He stumbled then, and I caught him, the burn of tears sharp behind my nose as his weight grew heavier in my arms and I slowly lowered him to the ground. There was no violent twitching, no struggle to survive. He just drifted away. And I knelt there beside him, blessing Carissa Blaine for coming up with a way for me to say goodbye. And at the same time cursing her name that she hadn’t been smart enough, fast enough, to achieve her landmark invention just a few months earlier.

I knelt there for a while, staring at Ryan, knowing he would start to decay now, and this was the last time I’d see his face, as horrid a sight as it was. Then eventually I pushed myself to my feet, took a breath, and drew the gun holstered at my side.

Republished with permission from the author, karenvideoeditor. Image created using Stable Diffusion.