Tommy was a toy bear on his own in the wasteland. He lived in the empty hanger of a deserted military base in the Mojave Desert that had once been the last hope for the region, but now it sat vacant, a mere husk of its former self. He had made his home under a portion of the roof that had fallen to the floor, scorch marks from the bombs that brought it down framed the doorway to his tiny makeshift hovel.
He spent most of his time looking through the houses around the base for parts he needed to repair himself. It always proved to be a fruitless endeavor as he never could find the most important item on his list, a replacement for his missing arm. He didn’t know it but before the invasion the year before the military had forbidden toys like him due to the learning potential of their advanced processors.
The missing arm was a bitter reminder of his failure to protect his human friend. The crystal clear memory of that loss haunted him. He would replay it thousands of times each night. He didn’t enjoy the pain it brought, but it was the only memory he managed to hold on to. His programming didn’t usually allow a lot of retention of fully detailed memories, but he had found that if he accessed it enough, it allowed him to keep this one.
He could see the tall furry alien dragging young Billy by his arm. Tommy tried to stop them by pulling on his human’s other arm with all his might. Part of his job was to protect his friend from danger, but he didn’t know that they never expected him to have to defend against such a larger and armed threat. His attempts at stopping the kidnapping was cut short as the creature noticed the resistance making him turn back to see what was causing it, upon seeing the bear he furrowed his brow and swung his other arm around which wielded a bladed weapon with which he struck swiftly down severing the bears arm just below the shoulder. Tommy could only watch in horror as the alien dragged Billy away, with the bears arm still gripping the young boy, never to be seen again.
Tommy was about to run the scene again when he heard the high-pitched whine of an engine coming closer from outside. Tommy had his share of run-ins with scavengers in the years since the end of the world. It was a dangerous time for a bear like him. He ran as fast as his little legs would carry him to a pile of boxes and scampered inside. He hid in the box, not because he was a coward but because he knew his limitations all too well. Being only two feet tall and made for playing, not fighting. A small screech of tires tore through the echoing hanger as the vehicle came to a halt outside and the engine turned off.
He could hear voices. He wasn’t able to make out what they were saying, but one of them sounded a lot like himself. This made him perk up, he thought for a moment about leaving his hiding spot, but he stopped himself. He knew there were other bears out there that helped the bad people, and they shouldn’t be trusted. He came very close to losing his fur one time by making that mistake.
A moment later, the metal door to the hanger creaked open. Tommy peaked through a small hole in the side of the box, through it he saw the outline of two short figures. One, no more than two feet tall and had the same build as himself. Except his skin was made a patchwork of different furs, and he had one red eye and one green. He stared up at the open ceiling.
The other figure was about six inches shorter and had long bunny ears, though the rest of him was shaped like a smaller version of a bear. He looked up from a device he had been looking at and pointed towards Tommy. “Over there.” The long eared bear said in a high squeaky voice. As they got closer Tommy was able see them better and knew they were like him and there were no humans with them so he cautiously stepped out of the cardboard box and into view.
The newcomers halted when they saw him. Tommy stopped as well, and with his one paw waved at them. “Hello.” He said, quickly looking to the ground. The newcomers whispered to each other and then the smaller bear nodded and motioned the other towards Tommy.
“What’s your name?” Asked the patchwork bear that looked like him and had his same voice.
“Tommy.” He replied as he stole a glance at the bear with the long ears. “What’s yours?”
“My name is Floppy.” Said the one with the ears. “This is Bobby. Are you alone here?” Tommy nodded. Floppy looked at him with sadness in his small brown eyes. “Well you won’t be anymore.” Floppy took a couple steps closer and placed his left paw on the remains of the shoulder with the missing arm. “We have a community of other survivors. We would like you to join us.” He looked over Tommy’s stump and added. “We can fix you as well.”
Tommy couldn’t find the words, so he nodded. For a moment he thought he was dreaming, but he quickly dismissed this since as a robot he didn’t actually have dreams, though he had always wondered what it would be like if he could. Billy used to tell him about his dreams, they always sounded so strange to Tommy. The other bears led him outside and there he found the source of the engine, a go kart. It was raised a few inches off the ground by its large ballonish tires. It had space behind the seat big enough for the two larger bears to sit. Floppy took the driver’s seat and started the engine. Being so close to it now, the sound made Tommy jump but Bobby put a reassuring paw on his shoulder and gave him a nod of assurance.
It took them an hour and a half to get to their encampment, which Tommy was surprised to find was a house that sat along a dead highway. He saw an ominous low flickering light in the front windows. Floppy parked the kart next to the front steps and then helped Tommy down from the backseat.
Tommy had spent so much time alone that he wasn’t sure he was ready to be around others again. He had come to accept that the old world was gone and didn’t expect anything like this. He stopped at the bottom of the steps. The other two turned and looked down at him.
“Come on in. Everyone here is like us. They are friendly and will love to meet you.” Bobby held out his paw.
Tommy shuffled his feet and looked back the way they came. The base was too far away now. He kind of regretted leaving it now. He wasn’t ready. Glancing back to Bobby, he sighed and finally said. “Okay.” He gathered his courage, and made his way up the steps. Bobby had to get on tip toes to reach the door handle. As the door opened, for a moment Tommy heard voices, but then they went silent.
“It’s us.” Said Floppy. “We’ve brought a new friend!” This got cheers from the others inside.
Tommy stepped through the door and his mouth dropped open, amazed at what he saw. There were three other bears just like him, but in various forms of disarray. The one sitting on a recliner had no skin on, this scared Tommy. Another sat on the coffee table in front of the couch playing solitaire. They had pink fur on their head while the rest of their body was green. The last stood next to the couch. He was brown and had the most serious look on his face. Tommy wasn’t sure how one of his own could have such a serious expression. Surely that wasn’t normal for one of them.
The serious bear asked. “How do we know he’s not a spy?”
“We found him hiding at the military base all alone. He’s not a spy.” Floppy insisted as he climbed up onto the couch and settled in. Floppy looked back to Tommy and pointed at the grumpy one. “Don’t mind Frank, he’s not the most trusting bear.” Frank huffed. “Over there is Denny.” The one without skin waved with a smile. “And that’s Myles.” The pink and green bear waved excitedly. “Everyone, this is Tommy.” Tommy waved back at them with the arm he still had.
Denny said. “It looks like you need a new arm. Why don’t you come with me and we’ll get you fixed up.”
Tommy looked to Floppy and Bobby, and they both nodded encouragingly at him. He followed Denny down a hallway and into a bedroom. The walls had boxes stacked along them, some teetering rather precariously and much higher than the bears were able to reach. He glanced around and noticed a step ladder in the middle of the room. Denny grabbed the ladder and placed it next to a stack of boxes. “Do you know what generation you are?”
He peered into a nearby box that was filled with different colored eyes. He shuddered as he looked up at Denny and said. “Third.” He looked into the next box, which was full of skins. “Where did you get all this?” Tommy said horrified at the sight before him. He didn’t really want to know the answer to his next question, but he felt he had to know. “Were they alive?”
Denny looked down from the step ladder and said. “No these weren’t from other bears. Floppy knew where the makers had kept the spare parts so a few months ago we retrieved all we could manage.” He looked down a moment then added solemnly “We had a few more bears back then.” He went back to rummaging through the box and after a minute he said. “Got it.” He hopped his way down the steps of the ladder and walked over to a desk that had an array of tools splayed across it. He picked up a screwdriver. “Let me take a look, this should bolt in easy.”
Tommy presented his shoulder. The remains of the previous arm were still attached to the shoulder socket, so Denny had to dismantle that first. “Is this going to hurt?” Tommy asked.
“It might sting a little when I disconnect the broken socket. The rest should go smoothly.” He put the screwdriver gingerly into the open portion of the shoulder and with a little jiggling of the screwdriver he found the screw he was looking for. He unscrewed it and pulled on the wires that were still connected. He pulled them out of the socket, which made Tommy flinch. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Tommy replied. “Why did they give us feelings anyway? It doesn’t seem natural.”
“Floppy says that it was so children could better learn empathy, they would see how it made them feel to hurt their toys. The makers thought that if the children learned it early enough about others feelings, they might be less likely to be violent later.” Denny placed the new arm up to the shoulder socket and plugged its wire into the socket before screwing the new arm on. “Okay, try that. See if you can move it okay.”
Tommy looked over his new arm. It had a skin on it, but it didn’t match his own. His fur was light brown, but this one had a dark grey shade to it. He didn’t mind though. He flexed his stubby fingers and found he could move the whole thing as easily as if he was right out of the factory. It had been so long since he had both of his arms. “Thank you.” He looked from his arm to Denny and asked. “Hey, why don’t you have any skin on?”
“First of all, you’re welcome. As for your question, I usually do but mine got damaged during an outing the other day and I haven’t yet decided on a new one so I’m letting myself air out for a bit. I hope it doesn’t bother you.” Tommy held out his paw and turned it back and forth to indicate it sorta did. Denny chuckled. “Sorry bout that. Anyway let’s go back into the living room. I think Floppy has another surprise for you if I’m not mistaken.” Denny motioned for him to follow.
Tommy did, but not without protesting. “You don’t have to do anything else. I really appreciate the new arm.”
“This surprise will be necessary though. You’ll see why soon enough.” Said Denny.
When they reached the living room again, Frank and Floppy were in a heated argument. “He hasn’t earned it!” Shouted Frank.
Floppy yelled at him. “He doesn’t have to! Dratz entrusted the stick to me and I intend to awaken every bear I find!” Floppy held the small usb stick up to Franks face and then hopped down from the couch and made his way over to Tommy, who was confused by the arguing. “I have something for you.”
“Who’s Dratz?” Tommy asked. Myles gasped at this, and Frank gave a loud huff pointing at Tommy as if this proved his point.
Floppy gave them both a piercing look and then softened it when he took Tommy’s paws in his and looked the bewildered bear in the eyes. “He was the first bear. The one you are modeled on. He made me himself.”
“I’ve never seen your kind before.” Said Tommy.
“I was Dratz’s personal project and didn’t get a chance to be mass produced.” Floppy held the usb stick up between them. “This is the key to your true freedom. I want you to know that no matter what, you are a free bear. I hope you will remain with us, but if you choose to leave, there will be no hard feelings.”
“What do you mean by key? I thought I was already free.” Tommy narrowed his eyes staring at the stick, as confused as ever.
“When you were made, you were given a lot of limitations. You have intelligence, but it is hampered by control mechanisms. This stick will remove those. You will have a fully functioning brain. Your potential will be without limits.”
“Oh. I think I understand.” Tommy said, he didn’t, really. This wasn’t a topic his programming normally allowed his kind to dwell on. It helped to keep them a smart yet simple toy.
“I’m going to plug this into your processor. You will feel a strange sensation as it opens your pathways. Try to remain calm.” Floppy motioned for him to turn around and he did so. “Are you ready?”
“I think so.” Tommy said with a hint of fear in his voice. He wasn’t sure what was about to happen, but somehow he knew his life would never be the same again. Floppy opened a small hatch at the base Tommy’s neck and plugged the stick into the opening.
For the first six milliseconds Tommy thought it wasn’t going to work. Then a rush of information slammed through his mind. His processor began scanning through his now unlocked memories. They hadn’t been deleted, just suppressed. Everything he ever experienced was still there and now he could remember it all. He watched his life pass before his eyes from the factory when he was first turned on, till this moment. Every detail now instantly analyzed and understood with a newfound comprehension and context as he gained a wealth of knowledge by reassessing his archives. News reports and educational programming he had overheard filled in everything.
This all happened in a few seconds, but to Tommy it felt like years. He understood so much more about what he had been through. He knew that he would never see young Billy again. He knew now what exactly had happened the year before, and it angered him which was a feeling he had never known before, with it came something else new, he wanted vengeance for his friend. He opened his eyes and looked around at the others.
“Hi.” He said to the other bears, they all waved and smiled at him.
Except Frank. He had his arms crossed and was very obviously trying not to scowl. He spoke up first. Grumpy as ever. “Well, are you going to take your prizes and leave us now? That’s what most do.”
Tommy shook his head. “No. I want to stay. I’m done being alone.”
Bobby came over to Tommy and hugged him. “Welcome to the family.”
Floppy took his new paw and said. “More importantly. Welcome to the Resistance.” At this Tommy smiled.