“For Alice,” Ecco said, and it was the truth.
He said it to the man Decker, standing there quivering in his fragile meat body, and contempt washed through him. This man thought he loved Alice, and because of that he was wallowing in misery, wasting away. Drama queen.
That wasn’t love. Love saw a goal, a target, and it went after it. And got it.
And the thing of it was, if Alice was here, she’d be on Ecco’s side. She’d be rooting for him to rip into Decker, take him out of misery. He imagined her cheering, and it was almost as good as the real thing. Made him smile.
Decker finally got his gun up. Click, empty. If Decker had been counting, like Ecco had, he’d have known that.
He stepped forward and threw the meat man like a stray cat. Into the street, toward the guns scattered there. Let him have a weapon, it’d make this more fun.
Ecco had waited so long for this moment. Gotta have patience, Weedly kept telling him. Toy with him. Pick off the friends. Strip everything away until he is raw, defenseless.
Which was enjoyable, he had to admit. But nothing compared to this. This was going to be the memory he replayed and savored for years to come.
Decker had his dead friend’s gun now. He was fast for a meat man. Adorable.
The shotgun blast winged him, chewing into his side. His nanobots jumped to work; knitting together what was broken, dissolving the bullet fragments, adding them to the metal already in his body. Recycling at its best. Bless those little critters.
Decker ran. He left a trail of terror-smell, and Ecco inhaled deeply, pulling it through his nostrils as he followed.
As he walked he revisited the images Weedly had shared with him. Not his own memories. Visions of Alice, an older Alice than he had known, walking with Decker. Being with Decker. Laughing, smiling, looking at Decker the way she’d never looked at Ecco.
He would have killed himself, to see her look at him like that just once. But he hadn’t killed himself–she’d taken care of that.
Alice hadn’t understood him. She hadn’t realized that he’d never hurt her, not really. He would have been the last person to hurt her.
Like Decker would have hurt her, eventually. Ecco had saved her from him. Maybe someday she would see that.
Happy rage surged through his body, and he wanted to leap forward, end this meatworm right here and now. But he forced slowness. He had to savor this. Make the memory as long as possible.
Decker pulled out a grenade. Was he going to try that again? Ecco choked back a laugh. This was the best day.
The grenade wooshed through the air. He reached out and caught it, just for show. Ta-da. Weedly would be proud.
The shockwave crackled through his body, zapping through every wire, every circuit. He could feel his brain sizzle. It hurt, a lot.
He collapsed, writhing, but with the last ounce of strength he could muster, he lifted his head and grinned at Decker through his fading vision. Because even as the implants keeping him alive sputtered and died, he could feel the nanobots swarming, the healing begin–
But then they stopped.
A chill went through Ecco. Come on, guys, he thought. My critters. Keep going. Fix me up.
The chill turned to panic. Weakness oozed through him–his cerebrals shutting down, leaving his meat body to wallow dying on the gravel. What was happening? This wasn’t how the memory was supposed to go.
“Ecco, man, I appreciate you. You know that? I appreciate you.”
Ecco looked up. Weedly crouched above him, peering down through those black glasses. Relief sparked. Weedly would fix him. Get him back on his feet.
“Help,” he gasped.
“Catching that grenade? You knew I was going to comment on that, right?” Weedly chuckled. “I love it.”
He was dying. Did Weedly realize that? “Please.”
“Okay. This makes me sad.” Weedly grimaced. “Here’s the thing. Ecco. The plan’s actually different now. I need Decker to be alive a tad longer.”
No. He didn’t mean that. “You said… I could kill him.”
“Yeah. It tears me up inside. Seriously, I feel terrible.” Weedly reached down and patted his cheek. “But you gotta realize, Ecco, we’re working for a plan here, and it’s bigger than you, it’s bigger than me…” He stopped, mouth pursed, and then shook his head. “Well actually no, it’s not bigger than me, obviously. But it’s big, right? And you, man, you’ve set it in motion. And I’m grateful.”
Ecco looked past Weedly. Decker stood upright, legs wobbling. He took a step, then another, using the shotgun like a crutch.
Ecco’s neck gave out, and his head sagged onto the ground. He screamed inwardly, raging with strength he didn’t have. The memory didn’t go like this. It couldn’t go like this.
“You said… immortal,” he wheezed.
“Yep. And your legend will be,” Weedly said. “I’m writing a song about you right now, cross my heart.” He leaned closer, and his smile widened. “I’m gonna promise you something, though, and I’m not breaking this one. Someday our friend Decker is going to wish he died right here, tonight. Because everything you’ve put him through is a foot massage compared to what I’ve got in store for him.” He swiped his finger across his chest. “Cross my heart again.”
Then Weedly was gone, and Decker stood in his place, looking down with a face carved from ice.
Ecco moved his mouth, trying to speak, pass on what Weedly had said. One last taunt. But his voice wouldn’t come.
Decker swung the shotgun barrel to point into his face. Ecco stared down the dark hole, smelled the scent of old oil and dirt and death.
And then darkness ripped through his brain and shattered his thoughts into oblivion.
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