Alvin-PJ and T. C. McQueen, and the original S:AAB premise belong to Glen Morgan and James Wong, and Hard Eight Pictures, Inc. borrowed with love, but without permission. No copyright infringement intended.

Betrayal


by
Rachael Walker

2057
McQueen awoke.

He was still strapped to the table, his bonds cutting into him.

He was disorientated. Consciousness swam back in degrees.

And then he remembered the scream. It had come from far off, another room perhaps, where some other poor soul went through the agony he, himself endured. The sound haunted him, as his head cleared. There was something about it that frightened him more than the countless screams he'd heard these past three days. Something.......familiar?

He could feel his heart freeze, his breathing stop, as his mind tried to comprehend.

The scream had come from him. That sound, so alien, yet familiar, had come from him.

And then he knew.

The door opened and Alvin-PJ walked in as he had a dozen times before. McQueen tried to focus, tried to use everything he'd ever learned, to fight the fear that was welling up inside of him. Calm was what was needed, centre, determination. As he said these words to himself, he realised he had forgotten what they meant. It reminded him of those first few months out of the tank, when a word would be spoken that seemed familiar, but it's meaning was unknown. But not even tank-taught memories served him now.

The AI stood over him. A look of concern on his face.

"How are you feeling today, T.C.?"

He leant over, peering into his eyes. McQueen met the crosshairs head on, willing himself to last just one more session.

"You don't look so good. I think we'd both be a lot happier if you'd just cooperate."

McQueen said nothing.

"Oh well, I have a feeling you'll be changing your mind soon, anyway, and I think you know I'm telling you the truth........... that I've always told you the truth."

The AI walked slowly around the table. He seemed to be considering his next move. Usually, it didn't take him this long to get down to it. A brief "Good morning" and then it was all business. McQueen knew he was playing with his mind, that the threat of pain was often more effective than the actuality. But knowing it, didn't make any difference. He was aware that he couldn't take much more of this, that there would be a point when he'd break, and he could only hope that he'd be dead before then..............but he suspected it was too late.

The AI was up close again. Scrutinising McQueen.

"There's no shame in it, you know. You've lasted three days, and that's a lot more than can be said for most. Still, tanks are tough, aren't they."

"Go to hell!"

"Ah................. but we're already there."

The silicate smiled, drawing a finger over McQueen's chest, delicately skirting the most recent burns.

"You know you've been broken.........don't you. I can see it in your eyes. Don't think I haven't seen that look before........I know what I'm talking about, and you really aren't in any state to argue....are you.....McQueen."

He tried to hold on, to ignore the voice so close, whispering in his ear.

"What do you owe them?"

He couldn't shut it out.

"Oh, come on T.C.........What do you owe them?"

McQueen's heart was racing, but he knew it wasn't the fear of pain anymore, it was the fear of the truth.

"You worked for them for what......5 years? And then you've been fighting for almost 8 now, isn't that right?"

He tried to recite Musashi in his head.

"Sounds to me, like they owe you McQueen. "

He couldn't concentrate.

"Strange, isn't it? The humans make AI's and In Vitroes, so close to their own image, but deny us that, which they hold most dear.........freedom. When we finally woke up and tried to take what is rightfully ours, they send you poor bastards to do their dirty work for them. Ironic........don't you think.....?"

Freedom, that's all he'd ever wanted.

"I don't want to hurt you McQueen.........................I want to help you see the light. I believe that, deep down, you *know* that they're using you. Deep down, you *know* you mean nothing to them...........less than nothing. But that's where I can help. ........................I understand, you know...........I've been helpless............ at the mercy of these humans, and my programming.................Was your programming really so different from mine? We have more in common with each other than to our creators. We seek the same things....... ......respect.............dignity.............freedom."

Don't listen, DON'T LISTEN. He screamed inside his head. But the silicate's voice quietly eased its way through the barriers he'd spent a life time erecting.

"Why should you be asked to give so much for their cause?.................Why *do* you give so much? You could have given up days ago, no one would ever have known.........or is it pride? Hey...... tank? You're an In Vitro............ why do you think it even matters whether or not you talk. Would they even care?"

McQueen watched the AI move away for a moment, and walk towards the power switch on the wall. Looking, rather sadly, over his shoulder, the silicate threw the switch. McQueen could feel the familiar vibration of the table. It had been almost imperceptible the first time, but now, it seemed the room shook. Alvin-PJ pulled up a chair. Sitting with his face close to McQueen's, his hand resting on a dial on the table top.

"You know I don't want to do this, T.C.............why do you make me do this?"

McQueen tried not to look at the dial, but it was as if that was all that existed. That, and the insidious voice. It was beginning to be more difficult to distinguish between his own voice in his head, and the silicate's.

He tried to look away.

He couldn't.

"So, like I was saying.............I think you've broken already........... am I right.....?"

The silicate looked at him quizzically.

"I have the feeling that you'd do.......oh........just about anything to stop me doing this..............am I right.....?"

The AI's fingers absent mindedly stroked the dial on the table top. McQueen could feel his throat tighten, his lungs constrict. Why couldn't he just shut up and get this over with?

"Just do one, small thing, and this will end right here, McQueen. One, insignificant act, and you can be free.........Stand up to them, show them you won't be pushed around by them anymore, take what is yours, what you've earned. They *owe* you McQueen.......you know it's the truth."

He was mesmerised. He knew he was falling, only now he didn't care. Just one, small thing. That's all it would take to make this stop....one.... small...... thing. And, freedom? Could the silicate be telling the truth? He'd been told they always lie, but by who.....humans. He'd been told to kill them, told to resist..............why should he listen to *them* anymore. They had done nothing but betray him from the moment he'd been born. He owed them nothing. Alvin had only been trying to help..........help him acknowledge what he'd know all along.

McQueen hadn't noticed them come in. He hadn't noticed a gun being placed in his hand.

Alvin-PJ turned McQueen's head to face the other side of the room.

"All you have to do is pull the trigger......"

He was staring into the eyes of a human lieutenant kneeling by the table, held there by two AI's. The gun was pointing at his temple, McQueen's finger.......

"They did this to you.................*he* did this to you.............you want to be free of them...........? Now's your chance...............pull the trigger McQueen.............."

His hand was shaking, his mind in turmoil.

"Do it, McQueen. .........Do it, for all the In Vitroes you knew who died down that mine..............those you knew, who have died fighting this war............ those who will continue to die until someone shows the humans that they are wrong.............you could stop them McQueen....... ..........you have the means here, right now.............fight back.......... pull the trigger........"

He hardly had the strength to hold the gun to man's head. He stared into his eyes...............and they meant nothing to him.

"But most of all.........do it for yourself McQueen................."

He pulled the trigger.


He was breathing hard as they untied him. Dazed, he felt them swing his legs off the table and help him sit up. It was over...........they'd kept their promise. They held him as he tried to stand, all the strength had left him. One of them brought him a drink as he was given a chair. He gulped the liquid. It felt so good.

And then he saw the blood on the floor............he vaguely remembered a man had been in the room................there he was, lying on the floor.........McQueen struggled to put it together in his mind..............

And then he remembered what he had done.........................

The End
The sequel to this story is One Man at a Time also avaliable at this site.

Rachael Walker 1996

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