The Endling

by

Charibdys

Ch. 4.0: A startling conversation

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The surgeon loomed over me, her disproportionately long black limbs making me feel like I was face-to-face with some sort of combat robot rather than a woman. Frankly, I thought 'the surgeon' sounded even more ominous as a name than 'the doctor,' but I thought I'd better not say that out loud.

"Why are you helping me? Do you know who I am? Where are we? Why were you locked up?" All of these questions tumbled out of me as though they were competing for a prize. And those were just the ones that happened to be first. I had a lot more. Thousands more.

She tilted her head thoughtfully. He hair shifted; it was long, black, glossy, and fell well below her hips, framing her, well, her groin area, which was just below my eye level. I tried to just look up at her, but honestly it was about the same kind of view, except when I managed to look past her chest I noticed there was some sort of speaker set into her throat. That modification explained why she didn't move her mouth when she spoke.

I really hoped there were clothes somewhere in this place.

"Let me answer your questions in order. Why would I help you? I believe you and I are the last ones alive in this facility as of now. I don't have any desire to remain here either. I expect you're scared of my appearance, but there are many things I can't do by myself. For example: I'm blind."

This was quite a bit to process already. I set the hatchet down and leaned against it, to try to let my shaking arms relax a little. “What exactly happened to everyone else? When I woke up— there was a body above me—”

“Hm. How should I know?” the surgeon said, with a slight toss of her hair. “I’ve been locked up here.”

“Then— how do you know everyone else is dead?”

“I heard them die. The snaps and the cessation of all movement. I heard your breathing, down the hall. But I expected you to be dying. It’s fortunate that you were not.”

Well… I didn’t really want to push that subject further. “What about my name?"

"The doctor never mentioned one. Call yourself whatever you want to."

"That's way too many options..."

The surgeon laughed again. My face heated from embarrassment.

"You have time to decide on a name when we've left. As for where we are... we're in a facility the doctor requisitioned for her experiments. I was bolted to the wall when I told her that I would no longer allow her to dispose of her experiments for any perceived imperfection."

"Were you working together?" I couldn't keep the suspicion out of my voice. The purpling face of the dead body above the table I'd woken up on kept floating back into my mind.

"Only out of the necessity of a shared goal."

"Did you kidnap me?"

"Ha!" Her laugh was as smokey as her speaking voice. "No. You were born here." Without waiting for an answer or even a reaction from me, she took a long step down the corridor. "Follow me."

How could I have been born in this cold facility? She said everyone else was dead... Yet again, her words left me dumbstruck. I picked the flashlight back up and followed her. We passed the doctor's body, which she just stepped over easily and without comment. I wasn't sure she knew it was there. I had to walk around it a bit more carefully, especially since I didn't want to look at it at all.

"Where are we going?"

"We need supplies before we go outside."

"Stuff like clothes?"

"Clothes. Water. A rebreather for you."

"A rebreather?" That was used for... scuba diving, or something, wasn't it? I cast through my foggy memories for the use of that tool. Swimming through caves? "Are we underwater?"

"Yes. And if you made it to the surface without drowning, the air outside would kill you."

"Kill me?!" I felt like a parrot, repeating everything she said, but none of this made sense! It was like I'd woken up on Venus. I remembered something about the air on Venus killing you, burning you, and crushing you to death all at the same time. "Where are we? Are we even on Earth?!"

She paused, and swiveled back to face me. Although I knew she couldn't see me, her gaze piercing straight through me was unsettling every time.

"Yes," she said. "We are on Earth. It's changed from what you remember. I'm surprised that any memories came through at all. Your programming was designed only for language and basic skills. We were going to teach you the rest from scratch."

Programming?! I felt the back of my head for a plug or wires. Nothing, just skin and hair buzzed short. But still, when I thought about it carefully, I understood concepts like 'family' and 'parents,' yet I had no memory of experiencing anything like that, and I didn't even feel an emotional connection, regret or longing or anything, when I thought about them. It was as though I had sprung from a void, programmed to know these things. "I'm not a robot, am I? Or half-half like you are?"

"A cyborg. No, you're neither." She turned to walk forward again. "You're the last human on Earth."

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