“No, buddy, leave that alone.”
Engie was met with a blank stare as he tugged the little Scout's damaged hands away from the power socket.
“It'll hurt if you play with that,” he explained, as gently and patiently as always. “Do you want something else to play with instead?”
The blank eyes stared for a moment or two more, then dropped. The Scout shook his head slowly and went back to watching the floor, unafflicted by boredom, curiosity, or anything else.
“There's a good boy.” Engie patted his shoulder and stood up to go check on the others.
They were mostly fine, quietly occupied with small amusements, such trivial things all they could manage these days. It broke Engie's heart to see his team like this, but it was better than not having them at all. The war with Grey Mann had been cruel to anyone without the gift of mechanical empathy, leaving few survivors beyond a world of mechanics, engineers and technicians.
As he wandered room to room in the old base, Engie came across the Heavy, sprawled far from the big guy's usual quarters. The vast figure just lay on the ground as though abandoned, showing no interest when Engie tried to help him to his feet. He was well named, the Heavy, for it was almost impossible for the stout little Engineer to drag the leviathan back to his room. Still, he managed. He always managed.
“Are ya hungry? That it, big guy? You stay there, and I'll get you something. Don't go wandering off. You don't want to get lost again.” Engie kept up a litany of reassuring chatter as he propped the Heavy back up on his bed, into the indentation worn from long hours of motionless sitting. The Heavy didn't acknowledge any of it, but that was to be expected.
Engie trotted off to the storeroom that served the decrepit old base, fetching a few supplies to share out amongst his charges. He made his rounds, ensuring everyone had a little something. Wouldn't do to let anyone else in the team go without, even if it left him short at times.
He fussed about in his workshop for a while into the evening, looking over blueprints and making the odd amendment here or there. He was fairly sure that if he kept at it long enough, found the right hybrid of Respawn's database and his own homebrewed technology, he could find something that would restore his team's personalities and give them a fresh lease of life. Until then, he could keep up the maintenance.
The lights abruptly blinked out and he sighed in frustration. The Scout, probably. Always trying to play with the power sockets, goodness only knew why. Engie grabbed his toolbox by feel and found his way in the dark to the circuit breakers, restoring light and power to the few bits of the base that still needed it, then made his way to the Scout's room. Long limbs were flung loosely out like a ragdoll that had been carelessly thrown aside. Damaged hands still sizzled slightly.
“Oh now, that's no good. Didn't I tell you not to touch that?” he murmured to himself as much as the collapsed Scout. Toolkit by his side, he picked up one of the unresisting hands and took a look at it from all angles. “See? You've gone and fried one of your little motors. That wrist won't be any good at all. I'll have to replace it.” The Scout didn't move as Engie freed the bolts that held the appendage on, didn't respond when it was repaired and reattached, and didn't even look round as the same happened to his other hand. Engie topped up the Scout's furnace with the last contents of his perilously thin wallet and gave him a sorrowfully affectionate pat on the head.
He knew that if he just kept looking he could find the old Respawn profiles for his team, and with them everyone's old personalities, and he wouldn't be on his own any more. He was so, so sure he'd nearly got it last time. Until then, the least he could do was keep a few spare bodies warm, a few old bots with crippled processors. It wasn't so difficult, making a transition from human to mechanical. His arm had been easy, and a few more parts since then. He was sure they'd be able to adjust. Because if they didn't, he'd just be stuck here, the last living man for hundreds of miles, playing with empty robots. And he didn't think his sanity would stand that.
Oh, I like this.
This is really interesting.
Personally, I'm not too big a fan of "twist" endings, because it involves the author lying to his reader--this is self-defeating because the author needs the trust of said reader for proper suspension of disbelief.
Even if this is just the introduction of the story, I think the tone of the story would be better served if you put the last paragraph at the beginning and get it out of the way, or make it a lot more clear that Engie is an Unreliable Narrator before you tell us "oh, by the way, what is actually going on is [X]".
I'm very curious as to where you're going with this, and will have to content myself with waiting to find out.
@ 2,3,5 - thank you, I'm glad you liked it! I'm not sure if I'll do anything more with it, it was just intended as a little vignette, but I'll update here if I do. I confess a bit of a temptation to see what happens to the poor fellow's sanity.
@4 - I don't feel I lied except possibly by omission, but I'm sorry you feel that way. I'm going to leave it as it is if I put it up elsewhere, all the same.
I don't know if I feel it was really lying, really. Then again, I more or less saw the ending coming from what was stated during the fic itself.
Either way, I enjoyed it.