Iron Will

By David Whitaker

sfgenreThe day was uncomfortably hot, the sun’s rays scorching all they touched. Making his way along the overpass, GLD-14 kept to the shadows as much as he was able. Not designed to handle such extreme temperatures, he could only risk minimal exposure. If he courted the sun’s rays too much his body would overheat, his metallic joints expanding and grinding against one another, his CPU gradually frying inside his skull. The effect wasn’t fatal, but it wasn’t good for him either.

If his joints wore down and degraded too far he’d need to replace them, and spare parts sadly didn’t grow on trees. As for his CPU, it wouldn’t burn itself out due to the excessive heat but it would begin to function quite erratically, his behaviour becoming decidedly peculiar; the last time it had happened he’d only regained his senses a little after midnight, the built-up heat finally dissipating, and found himself standing waist deep in the water beneath the overpass some two kilometres from where he was supposed to be.

It had been more than a little embarrassing; he’d been late returning home, and the Master had been forced to give his legs a thorough cleaning so as to remove all the salt residue and prevent damage. The Master had said it was alright, that she didn’t mind, but GLD-14 still felt bad about becoming a burden; he was designed to help humans, not give them tedious and wearisome jobs to carry out.

Peering over the highway’s sidewall, he stared down at the water lapping gently at the overpass’ support pillars. At this section of the highway the water was barely three metres deep and GLD-14 could still just about see the concrete terrain below, its dull grey façade shimmering below the waves. In other areas however, where the land was lower, the water was maybe thirty or forty metres deep, and the ground beneath the highway was concealed far from view, vehicles and buildings swallowed whole. He wondered from time to time what it must have been like, when the city was alive with people, the vehicles marching along beside one another, the buildings heaving with activity. The Master spoke of it sometimes, but it was hard for GLD-14 to picture the world before; all he’d ever known was the abandoned city, the lapping water, and the relentless, searing heat.

Arriving at his destination, he turned his gaze from the world beneath the waves and instead studied the sea of green laid out before him. This section of the overpass, practically perpetually shaded by the exit ramp which coiled its way overhead, was where the Master had planted the first of the seed plots. The soil had been dredged painstakingly from below the waters, the Master hauling it bag by bag to the relative refuge of the shaded section of overpass, and then tilling it into rows, seeds sown meticulously along the valleys of earth. GLD-14, who to his regret had only been activated some years later, could only imagine the level of effort involved, the arduous toil required, but the cornucopia of vegetables spread out across the plot showed the Master’s labours had not been in vain.

Bending to inspect the quality of the produce, GLD-14 began the day’s harvest, eggplant, green beans, zucchini, and squash slowly filling a basket cradled tenderly in his arms. Where appropriate, he pruned and tended the plot, removing weeds, applying fertiliser, and watering the soil. Thankfully, the plot was reasonably healthy, and he was able to complete the work quickly and without any issues; he had thirteen more to inspect and he wanted to make sure he returned home in time for dinner so that the Master didn’t worry.

Tidying away his tools, he clutched the basket of vegetables to his breastplate and continued on his way. The other growth plots were located nearby, all situated along the overpass at one point or another; this section of the highway had originally functioned as a major interchange, meaning there were a number of exit and entry ramps weaving overhead to provide the all-important shade, without which the gardens would shrivel and die.

As he marched through the sweltering heat, he considered suggesting to the Master once more that they relocate to higher ground and cooler climes. It was a discussion he’d attempted to have several times already as the Master’s condition continued to deteriorate, however the Master was set in her ways and in her advancing age could be very stubborn. Every time GLD-14 broached the subject, she’d always bemoan his “defeatist attitude”, condemning it as the reason the world was in such a sorry state in the first place.

GLD-14 personally considered the poor stance toward environmentalism taken by mankind as a whole to be the prime culprit in the warming of the planet, the melting of the ice-caps, and the resultant rising sea level, however the Master was rarely swayed. She’d counter his calm assertions, contesting that if man put up more of a fight, refused to see the situation as hopeless or unsalvageable, then the world could be put right once more. In her eyes, it came down to iron will, gutsy determination, and an unstoppable resolve.

She’d stayed behind, and to her that counted for something. The rest of mankind may have “gone running for the hills”, but she would remain in the city, her home; the place where she was born, where she’d been raised, and to her mind god-willing, where she’d eventually die.

Not being geared toward spirited debate, GLD-14 could never bring himself to truly argue his case, his desire to aid the Master withering in the face of her unwavering tenacity to remain where she was through “hell or high water”.

Besides, looking at the vast rows of green stretching along the overpass, it was hard not to be impressed.

It was incredible what humans could achieve, if they put their minds to it.

Perhaps there was hope after all…

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About The Author

David Whitaker

davidwhitaker 200David Whitaker is originally from the UK though has travelled around a bit and is now a proud citizen of Australia, residing in Sydney. He has a degree in Journalism, however decided that as he’s always preferred making things up it should ultimately become a resource rather than a profession. His stories, covering everything from sci-fi to philosophy, have been published across the globe and links to each can be found at <http://wordsbydavid.com>

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Forager
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Ice, Forever
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Psychically Transferred Phantom Pains
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Selena Ops
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The Bucket List
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Tsnik
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The Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF) is pleased to welcome entries in the Norma K Hemming Award for works published in 2016 and 2017. Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming Award is now open for entries. The award is open to short fiction, novellas, novels, anthologies, collections, graphic novels and stage plays, and makes allowances for serialised work.  For more information:  <https://normakhemmingaward.org/2017/11/08/entries-are-now-open-for-the-2018-norma-k-hemming-award/>.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Concert: Palais Theatre, St Kilda Melbourne. 7-9 December 2017. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra will present the exclusive Australian premiere of Star Wars: The Concert Series with The Force Awakens at St Kilda’s newly refurbished Palais Theatre, featuring a full screening of the film with Oscar-winning composer John Williams’ classic score performed live to picture, led by conductor Nicholas Buc. For Bookings: <https://www.mso.com.au/whats-on/2017/star-wars-the-force-awakens/>.

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