It’s been far too long since I’ve written anything for Be Kind Rewrite, so here goes! This week, I’ve written a short story in response to the Inspiration Monday prompt: it’s pronounced ‘Smith’.
Alas, it was written far too quickly for my liking, but I’ve hopefully tidied it up enough to remove any gratuitous spelling or grammar mistakes. Let me know what you think!
= S.M.A.I.T.H. =
It was with some curiosity, but greater trepidation, that Phillip agreed to take Walt and the Semi-Mechanic Automated Invention of Territorial Hazing on its first mission.
“I don’t like it,” Phillip decided, tightening his fingers around his rifle. “It ain’t normal to have Goddamned robots out here fighting with us. They’ve got no sense of right and wrong, no sense of mercy. Hell, we’ll probably all be dead within the week, fallen under Smaith’s friendly fire.” He spat the name like poison and glared at the machine in question. It pounded its mechanic feet with the rhythm of a swinging pendulum, never stopping, never stumbling as it guided the two men through the thick undergrowth.
And that was another thing! He and Walt were supposed to be leading this thing on its mission, not the other way around. When the heck had it taken the lead?
Phillip frowned over at Walter, seeking agreement, but found that his young partner was entirely content. His gun was resting amiably against his shoulder as he strolled along the path formed by the machine’s giant footsteps.
Walt glanced over to meet Phil’s increasingly irritated gaze, and shrugged. “Smith,” he said absently, stepping over a tree that the Invention had snapped like a twig.
“What’d ya say?” Phillip snapped. His boot scraped awkwardly across the felled tree’s bark and he stumbled. Ahead, the S.M.A.I.T.H. paused for a fraction of a second; its mighty head swivelled 180 degrees and its reflective red eyes locked onto Phil’s hunched form. The man froze beneath the terrifyingly blank gaze, but the moment was already over—the metal head completed a full rotation and the machine marched on.
“Creepy,” Phil whispered. Walt barked out a laugh.
“He was just checking you were alright. That’s his job—protect our side; completely annihilate the other.” Walter jovially nudged his mate. “Smith will make our job that much easier, eh?”
Phillip quirked an eyebrow. “Smith? Who the hell—?” His eyes flicked to the Invention and back again. “You mean that thing? The S.M.A.I.T.H.?”
“It’s pronounced ‘Smith’,” Walter corrected.
“But it’s got an ‘A’ in it.”
“Doesn’t matter. His name is Smith. The Corporal told me so.”
Phillip snorted. “‘His’ name? It’s not a ‘him’, Walt. It’s an ‘it’, and it’s creepy as balls.”
Walt shot him a slightly disapproving look. “Don’t talk about Smithy that way; you’ll hurt his feelings.”
“Smithy?!” Phillip promptly exploded. “Feelings? Do you hear yourself when you speak?!” Walt opened his mouth to protest, but his partner barrelled on. “It’s a robot, Walt. A mindless machine that would shoot us in the head and not blink an eye. You shouldn’t trust it to do our jobs; you shouldn’t consider it as a person; and you definitely should not be giving it bloody nicknames!” Shoulders heaving, Phil resumed his glaring of the Invention’s vast, metallic back.
Beside him, Walt dropped his gaze to the destroyed foliage underfoot. The odd trio continued on in silence for a full minute.
Then Walt muttered sulkily, “’Course he wouldn’t blink an eye. He ain’t got no eyelids.”
“GODDAMN IT, WALT!” Phillip shouted, throwing his arms into the air.
In hindsight, he should have toned the volume down.
Out of nowhere came a sound like thunder; Walt yelped and fell to the dirt, abandoning his gun in favour of pressing his hand against his shoulder. Blood oozed immediately through his quivering fingers. “Phil,” he gasped. His eyes were wide and frightened, and Phillip was reminded of exactly how young the lad was.
The two of them lay low to the ground as the cacophony of war filled their ears. “We’re outnumbered,” Phil growled needlessly. Of course they were outnumbered; this was meant to be a routine run with the bloody S.M.A.I.T.H., not an assault; they hadn’t even known that the enemy had broken through their defensive lines.
“Phil?” Walt quavered again. His khaki shirt was turning red, too red, and Phillip shushed the man by pressing his hand over Walter’s own.
“It’ll be right, mate,” he promised, flinching as the tree behind them spat splinters under the bullets’ force.
Walt offered a weak chuckle. “Yeah, we’ll be fine.” A shaky grin. “We got Smithy.”
Phillip subconsciously clenched his fingers, and Walter shuddered uncomfortably beneath the too-tight pressure on his wound. The older man quickly relaxed his grip and rested a cool hand against his mate’s clammy forehead. “Nah, Walt. I’ll get you out of this. Trust me. We don’t need any help from some creepy hunk of metal with a stupid name and a stupid—”
Screams sliced through the sound of gunfire, and Phillip flinched. Turning slowly, he could only stare, aghast.
Just as Walter had predicted, the Invention was completely and undeniably annihilating the enemy forces. The snipers in the distance, unseeable to Phillip’s human gaze, were swiftly silenced by a blinding green laser; simultaneously, a barrage of bullets emerging from within the S.M.A.I.T.H.’s wrists was spilling into the undergrowth, eliminating their attackers with sinister accuracy.
The Semi-Mechanic Automated Invention of Territorial Hazing was, quite literally, a killing machine, and Phillip was afraid.
But as Walt’s fearful shivering eased, comforted by Smithy’s presence, Phil grudgingly felt a sliver of gratitude. So long as he could get his partner out of here, nothing else would matter.
Amidst the sounds of chaos and panic, Phil vaguely acknowledged the sound of a rifle’s single gunshot. And then he was on the ground.
“Phil,” Walter rasped. Phillip hated the sound of panic in his friend’s voice; he tried to reassure him, but the words died in his throat.
Only then did pain make itself know, blooming from his spine and spreading to every inch of his body. He groaned, but stubbornly reached out to Walter; blood pooled sickeningly across the back of his shirt.
“S’alright, Walt,” he soothed through gritted teeth. For a moment, the two men made eye contact, each willing the other to hold on. Then Walt’s eyes fluttered shut; though his chest still rose with rapid breaths, his exhaustion was winning.
Phil huffed a sigh as he dragged himself closer to his fallen friend and rested a hand against his chest. The reassuring thud of his heartbeat pushed against his palm.
Distantly, he heard the thud, thud, thud of long, heavy strides.
Phillip jerkily turned his head. Towering above them was the Invention; its wrists were smoking slightly and a spattering of blood canvassed its mechanic face. Those depthless crimson eyes stared into Phillip’s own, watching impassively as his life bled away.
Phil coughed, clenching his fingers into Walt’s shirt. “Come on then, you bloody thing,” he grunted. “What are you waitin’ for? Get us back to camp.” He coughed again, cringing at the wetness spreading rapidly along his back. “For God’s sake, Smaith, help us!”
With cold brutality, the Invention’s hand reached out, gripped around Phil’s wrist, and pulled. The man’s eyes widened and he screamed as his frail body was stolen away from Walt and lifted into the air. The S.M.A.I.T.H. observed him, this tiny dangling thing, with the sort of curiosity a child would offer to a mildly interesting insect. Numbness spread along Phil’s limbs and each breath grunted from his lungs. Held aloft by a single arm, he was very much aware of his vulnerability; his panic was subdued only by the darkness leaching into the corners of his vision.
A new ache stabbed through him; it took him a moment to realise he’d been dropped by the metallic beast, and now lay crumpled beside Walt.
A whirring of mechanic movement sent a spasm of fear through him; the vice-like hands returned to his vision and he whined pathetically in anticipation of the Invention’s inescapable strength.
He was ignored. With an unexpected gentleness, the massive S.M.A.I.T.H. curled its prong-like fingers beneath Walt’s fragile form and, cradling him like a small child, brought him against the safety of its steel chest.
Phil shuddered weakly as a bleak blackness wrapped around him. Despite his efforts to keep Walt in sight, his head lowered against the earth. “Walt,” he croaked. “Smaith!”
Blood was pooling and the darkness was encroaching, but there was no avoiding the cold, metallic voice that screeched through the silence.
“My name… is SMITH.”
Those red, dispassionate eyes were the last thing Phillip would ever see.
- Love The Bad Guy