Jack again found himself sat at a bench in that familiar summer time scene. He tucked both hands underneath his legs while a figure approached along the wavy path. The man stood tall but slightly hunched. His wrinkled face smiled ear to ear when he saw Jack looking more like he did as a kid, very much how this man knew him.
“Grandad…” Jack said beginning to get up.
“Save your back son. I know I would, even in this crazy simulated thing,” Alan Robinson said. His west London accent sounded more prominent than his grandson’s mixed dialect. He offered a rough hand out, Jack shook it firmly and quickly. Both of their images flickered momentarily.
“Yeah, this system doesn’t like any contact. Apparently, it’s hard to simulate,” Jack said.
“This tech stuff passed me by years ago. I dare ask, but how’s that stupid war?” Alan eased himself down onto the bench. It would have been nice if the simulation simulated away the labouring years of working as a baggage handler, but they didn’t.
“It’s going ok for now. Where’s…”
“Your Grandmother? Arthritis is playing up so it’s just us fellas this time around which is nice. So you killing many robots?”
“I’ve done my fare share towards an Army of Earth victory sure,” Jack said and couldn’t help but smile at the man.
“Well it sounds like a hoot. You still hanging around with that Franco kid?”
“I take it he followed you up onto that rock?”
“Some things never change. Well it’s good to see you Jack. We’ve missed you out in the Sipson District,” Alan said, before Jack could respond he spoke again.
“I can see on your face this wasn’t just a usual catch up. Come on son, what’s on your mind? Your mother gave me the exact same look a thousand times.”
Alan had read his only grandson like a book.
“That’s what I want to know about. It seems I may have got myself involved in something that has given me questions about her. It’s called the World Force,” Jack said.
“Oh boy.” Alan sat forward and scratched his thin head of hair.
“That’s robot stuff, and there aint much I really know in terms of detail kid.”
“Well what do you know?” Jack asked.
“Ellen met your old man Clark over in New York. They had you in the wake of this World Force stuff, you know, a robot police force. You came to Sipson District to live with us and as far as I’m aware they did it to protect you,” Alan explained trying to cast his mind back to the past. A time and reminder of losing his only daughter.
“I’m sorry for bringing this up Grandad…”
“Everyone has a right to know their history Jack. Your mother, I always told you she was a doer. Never once did she ever give up on anything or anyone. She was also different from most people you know.”
“Now that I think about it, I have a feeling they were protecting me from something? I’ve only asked Clark once what happened,” Jack said.
“You’re calling him Clark these days, I’m guessing neither of you are on talking terms then?” Alan asked but deep down he already knew the answer.
“When I asked him what happened he was deliberately vague. I had just quit the academy and that chip on my shoulder back then was pretty damn big, so I acted out. I’ve got this feeling whatever they were protecting me from is what killed my Mother.”
“There’s probably some truth there. We were never given a real explanation, we were just given you. Ellen passing destroyed your father, it tore him up inside. It tore us all up.”
For some moments they sat in silence, apart from the odd chirping of artificial birds.
“Maybe flipping out on him all those years ago wasn’t a great choice. I can’t exactly call him and say ‘Hi Dad long time no see, I’m fighting in the war now and probably going to be in the World Force, what really happened to Mum?’”
“That’s a fence you’re gonna have to mend yourself son. But you needed to talk to someone and so you’ve come to ‘old man Al’ for some wise words. All the best do these days. If you really want answers, then your gonna have to reach out. You know, he had uncertainties way back when, just like you,” Alan said and placed a hand on Jack’s shoulder, again the whole world flickered. He slowly pulled away and sat back with a groan.
“Uncertainties? Like what?”
“He walked away from that World Force stuff early on. Got himself all bent up about chasing down the First, you know the robot?” Alan said and continued,
“He came to me and took some time out. Put himself back together, all I’m saying is that it’s ok to be unsure about stuff. There are always people out there to help, like me, always son.”
“What happened after he came to you?” Jack asked.
“He carried on like before. Then it happened with losing your mother and all. That’s what hit the man hard. He was just a kid at the time like you. He couldn’t carry on that robot crime stuff, but the other guy did. Big fella…”
“Sarge? Jones?” Jack asked.
“Yeah that’s the guy. He still sniffing around that robot crime stuff?”
“Sarge came to me with a plan on bringing the World Force back and is looking for a captain. He offered it to me and mentioned the past. I think I’m going to do it. This means a real job after the war, maybe a future instead of just surviving to feed my kids.”
“There it is then, your uncertainty answered. You’ll be following your parents’ footsteps, maybe even finish whatever they started. You’ve always been a bright kid Jack. Follow your heart son. Right now I gotta go, I’m taking your Grandmother out tonight and gonna try and get her mind of the arthritis,” Alan said and groaned upon standing.
Jack did the same and looked up to the man he just needed some clarity and advice from.
“Good to see you Grandad. You take care,” Jack said shaking Alan’s hand.
“You too kid, especially up on that rock. Get home safe, put things back together with your Dad and find the truth. Don’t be a stranger either, I’m just a call away.”
* * *
The low Cliffeville sun had disappeared nearly twenty minutes ago and now the sky sat between that still light phase just before dark. Rouge sat cross-legged atop of a blanket set down on the roof of her all silver trailer. Here she could see everything around. From the nearby Denny’s diner out front to the very distant background where the outskirts of Cliffeville city stood. At the opposite end on the other horizon lay the shadows of buildings that made up the universally famous factory district. She sat between two places that were opposite in nature, one of work and industry, the other of nightlife and people. Both of them to her seemed further away than they actually were, even out of reach or perhaps lost like her.
“I was insistent to the others that you are indeed fine, but they sent me up here anyway,” the Freak said and placed himself down beside her.
“Mainly because I’m the lighter of the robots around here, and this roof, well,” he added.
Rouge continued her stare forward past the diner.
“I see the uniform fits well. As a pot washer I firmly believe camouflage is somewhat overkill in terms of kitchen attire so I had no problem giving it over to you,” the Freak said continuing to fill the silence.
“Thank you,” Rouge said softly. She looked down at the borrowed dark camo uniform she received from the robot who sat beside her. She picked at the frayed and torn lettering that was once prominently shown on the front in a bright red.
“What does R.W.H mean?” she asked and turned to the balaclava, sunglasses wearing robot. He himself had commandeered kitchen attire in the form of faded whites and a dirty apron.
“That is indeed a long story.”
“I would like to know your story. It would take my mind off stuff.” She moved closer and gently leant her head upon the Freak’s shoulder.
“Well my story does go back some many years Rouge. There used to be such things called Freaks. Robots who had found misfortune in their lives, misused or mistreated. They were disowned by society, cast out and abandoned. Like me,” the Freak explained.
“And me,” Rouge added.
“A large group of us lived underneath the city of New York. We were known as the Freaks and of course I was their leader once. That was until a Warrior known as the Keeper came to the city.”
“A Warrior, like my guardian?” Rouge asked and sat back up.
“You see Rouge, long before now there were two groups of Warriors. Some were good and others not so much. The Keeper particularly unsavoury and the original leader of all Warriors. He aligned with the First and together they convinced my Freaks to rise up and rebel for their mistreat and misfortune. I was overthrown and forced to leave. Instead of joining the rebellion I opposed it because back in those years there were many different robot groups. Some were good much like the Robots with Humans.”
“R.W.H,” Rouge said and settled her head back on to the Freak’s shoulder.
“Indeed, a group which I led to help the humans and good Warriors fight robot crime. We fought many battles and had numerous trials and tribulations. You could even say this time was an adventure for certain robots. It was indeed a war and war only ever has a single outcome. Loss of life and of course the inevitable rebellion. The Keeper was defeated and he left the First in capable hands to lead the rebellion, in which he did. Nearly every robot on this planet followed him out. Few stayed behind like myself and F.G.”
“What happened to the good Warriors?”
“They all perished but one, your guardian survived an attack instigated by the First and a new keeper which he created with the help of a surviving Warrior known as Sculptor.”
“Tell me more about these adventures for certain robots,” Rouge requested, her voice sounding somewhat dreamy as she closed her eyes.
“I handed myself in to what was the robot crimes department of the New York police force. My ambition was to help them and prove that not all robots are bad. I like to think some people were convinced even for a little while. Those were the days. I’ve been in all kinds of political and protest factions. Some violent, some shrouded by anger or even anarchy. The R.W.H was my proudest creation. We helped the World force. Maybe those days can return.”
Rouge gently moaned in agreement and steadily dozed away into a sleep. The Freak didn’t dare to move but continued his talk even if she wasn’t fully conscious,
“Maybe you can join us, with a little honing of those combat skills you possess. That may help a young Maverick who is yet to realize her calling.”
Rouge was already dreaming, for once her mind wasn’t clouded by the various sedatives and medical procedures from before. She could see and feel. Then came the alarming realisation that her mind was trying to tell her something, maybe it was a warning.
He’s coming. Ryan is coming.
End of Part 7
Tune in Next week for another edition of Jack Thorn. Same Jack time, same Jack place… Remember if you enjoyed reading, tell a friend, leave a comment and share it around on social media…
Copyright 2004 – 2019 ‘Jack Thorn’ and ‘The Thorn Legacy’ Written By Lee Hall 2019 All rights reserved.