The students zipped up their book bags and began to shuffle out of the classroom. One by one their tired faces disappeared through the doorway.
Miss Summerall sat at her desk in the front of the room, her hands clasped together as she waited for the last of her students to scamper out and away into the night. The cold, brisk air outside began to replace the warm within and she felt a shiver rise, but suppressed the urge and instead gave a smile to her final departing student.
In the corner, hidden in a dark shadow, was her Automaton. It stood tall, well over seven feet, topped off with a round cranial piece that displayed two tiny lifeless eyes. It stared straight into nothing, like a soldier with impeccable discipline. Its massive steel arms hung at its sides like dangling skyscrapers. Its legs, oversized, looked as though the floor itself would not be able to sustain such weight.
Summerall stood and walked over to a coffee maker sitting atop a counter. She poured herself the last brew of the day. Her mug filled and she set it on the table to cool, steam dancing into the cold, windowless room.
Over to the Automaton, she pressed her palm to its frigid, blue painted chest and thought for a moment that she might be able to feel the soft thud of a beating heart.
Absurd, she thought to herself, laying her head to rest against the chest piece. Could she hear its heart beat? No, not even so much as a gear turning.
Her fingers slid down the machine's arm until she touched a switch, which she flicked to the ‘on’ position. At first, nothing but a blinking yellow light on its wrist.
After a few moments of silence, she felt the life enter the Automaton and soon she could hear the gears begin to turn as a muffled cough burst forth from the catalytic converter. The engine sputtered and a small cloud of black smoke spewed from the exhaust, located on the machine's back, below where a human’s shoulder blade would be.
She waited as she did every night for those two dim eyes to wake with brilliant neon light. When they did, the head of her Automaton tilted down slightly and looked at her. She smiled and walked back over to her coffee, which had cooled enough to drink.
With her lips around the edge of the mug, the liquid flowed down through her esophagus, warming her gut in a similar way to that in which her Automaton’s fuel created combustions that heated the working internal parts. In that way, and only a few others, the two were similar.
The mug, emptied, was washed, dried and set into the pocket of Summerall's bag. Turning the lights off, the room glowed orange from the two hovering eyes. The teacher then exited the classroom, her behemoth companion following slowly behind. With a click she locked the door behind them.
Walking down the street, Summerall's breath was seen in rhythm as she exhaled. Her pace increased; it seemed the night grew darker the further the two walked. The loud thuds of the Automaton’s metal feet were heard behind her. She turned around once to meet the neon gaze of her protector - it stared back without emotion.
Up ahead, she could see the street sign that read the name of the road on which she lived. She would be home soon.
From behind, a startling noise made Summerall’s heart leap into her throat.
Her Automaton’s eyes grew bright red, and a loud alarm sounded from a speaker hidden within its cranial piece. Before she could catch a single, frightened breath, the behemoth had her pressed against the ridged brick of a building. The beeping of the alarm was too loud, Summerall ducked and pressed her palms to the sides of her head
The Automaton was in action. The head began to jerk back and forth as its eyes scanned the surrounding area. A shot was heard, followed by a metallic clank. A metal dart slammed into the shoulder plate of her Automaton.
Summerall looked up and saw her Automaton fall silent. It slumped over, arms swaying, and powered off. The eyes simmered to black as the last gear halted.
On instinct, she tried to make a run for her home but was grabbed around the waist by a muscular arm that threw her to the ground. She gasped and lost her breath, her lungs tight and desperate for air. The hands, large and coarse, began to undress her. They threw her down when she tried to stand and slapped her if she made a noise. The sound of a belt buckle being undone was heard and she knew for certain what was about to happen.
A shorter, haggard looking being stood off to the side, grinning and looking around nervously as though somebody may spot him and his accomplice.
A sharp and deformed laugh was uttered from the mouth that was pressed against her cheek. Summerall stabbed her bony finger into the nearest eye socket and jerked her body out from underneath of her attacker. Lunging toward her Automaton, she reached for the dart. With a yank it broke free and the eyes of her machine beamed to life.
A massive jet of combusted fumes gushed forth from the exhaust and the machine turned around with impossible speed. The Automaton's eyes burned a color of red so thick and full of rage, the night was lit with crimson.
The face of her human attacker twisted in fear and before a step could be taken in escape, a colossal, steel hand grabbed his entire head and squeezed.
Summerall turned away with a short gasp, but could hear the shatter of skull and the splashing of blood on concrete, followed immediately by the smacking of a lifeless body hitting the ground.
The second attacker let loose a horrible scream of certain death before the Automaton took a single step forward and grabbed one of his fleshy arms, which tore from its socket like paper from a notebook.
This second assailant fell to the frigid sidewalk, his whole world drenched in red light, and watched himself bleed with wide eyes of anguish and sorrow. His last cry of agonizing pain was met with swift mercy as the Automaton raised a shining, metal boot that came down like a boulder atop his head. The night was once again silent, except for the slow rippling of blood that ran like a stream into the storm drain.
Summerall lay on the ground, behind her protector. She was crying. The Automaton glanced at her and then looked down at the aftermath of its attack.
Tears rolled down her face and her heart felt as though it may burst through her chest. She knew what had happened but she knew not why. Automatons were meant to protect but were not programmed to kill or harm humans. Even during extreme events of danger, machines such as this were merely permitted to disarm and subdue.
Not only had her’s killed, but it did so with passion, and… anger.
As she lay weak on the ground, her savior stood over her, but this time with a different set of eyes. Instead of being lifeless and dim, they were bright and aware. For years those neon eyes had shown her nothing, but right now she felt a presence behind them. A presence of consciousness. The Automaton stared back at her, unblinking, with fear and uncertainty.
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