I don’t know whether I should be grateful that I know my purpose in life or whether I should resent my pragmatic existence and creation. You see, scientists made me to protect Earth’s civilizations from an extraterrestrial foe that they provoked.
I have not been given a name, I am simply called The Warrior. Defined by my job. I guess that isn’t all that different from many others, but I wish . . . well, what do I wish, that I had love in my life? Who would love me? I am the only one of my kind. The government has refused to allow them to create another of my kind out of fear that we might procreate and take over the world I have been assigned to protect.
For decades the humans have wondered about the worlds beyond their own, but their introduction to life beyond was less than ideal. Fearful creatures, once the humans detected life elsewhere, they were eager to connect with it, but determined to be prepared for any unpleasant complications. They created a complex machine, capable of traveling farther than any before, transporting their envoys beyond their solar system. They also equipped the transport with a number of weapons, in the event the contact provoked any hostilities.
No one knows for certain what happened. Radio contact was broken when the ship entered the foreign planet’s atmosphere. And there were no survivors. From either side. Except The Assassin. Humanity’s best guess was that the aliens provoked the ship and they deployed the master weapon. Or perhaps there was some technical error that caused the weapon to deploy or the ship to explode. All that is known is that humanity’s first contact with intelligent life resulted in the destruction of the envoy and that civilization.
My existence was deemed necessary when The Assassin sought refuge and revenge on this planet. His entrance into our atmosphere was noted by the scientists at NASA, but they figured it was an asteroid and as his ship crashed in a remote area, no one cared until he and his destruction were first witnessed a few days later.
The first survivors experienced difficulty describing him. That’s the problem with language, it can only express what is familiar enough to have required the creation of a word. Faced with the extraterrestrial, they said he was like a large warthog, but that he carried himself with a self-awareness connected with humanity. Most were overwhelmed by his fury as his tusks tore through everything in their path. One, who had come face to face with him, but who had been spared said he had looked sad, tortured. But humanity scoffed at him, scorned his delusion.
And so I was created. They chose a panther form as the natural enemy of the warthog. They imbued me with intelligence and knowledge of all the data they were able to compile on The Assassin.
While I was being created, The Assassin continued stalking humanity, a terror in the shadows, the scientist’s nemesis in the night. Although his original attacks appeared random and unorganized, as time went on, the attacks became more focused. He no longer attached civilians, but began targeting the scientists and politicians connected with the destruction of his planet. No one knew how he knew who to target, but after the first few targeted attacks, the scientists recognized their danger and fast-tracked my creation while endowing me with all the abilities they wish they had themselves.
When I was complete, they released me outside a top-secret facility which they expected to be the focus of his next attack. The first night I scented him, so I knew their assumption was correct. But he must also have scented me and he did not attack, but rather slipped in and out of the fringes of my awareness. This game has continued for the past few nights. Once I came across a burrow that smelled strongly of him, but that is as close as I have been.
Tonight I feel that I am closer. I can scent him on the air, as I leap from tree to tree, aware that he can scent me too, and cautious not to be caught unawares.
I can hear your thoughts too, says a voice in my head that is not my own. Yours are less muddled than the earthlings, focused on your task. Who and what are you?
Assassin? I think reflexively, crouching in the tree, willing myself to be still and blend into the darkness.
Is that what they call me? The voice asks. My people called me Abednego. What are you called and who are your people?
I am The Warrior. The humans created me to defeat you.
They have bastardized you as much as me. Do they never consider that we might have our own thoughts, feelings? Or do they simply not care?
I experience an uncomfortable sensation as I have wondered much the same thing. I try to focus on the task of finding him.
But you are wondering about the justice of your purpose.
I try to ignore the voice in my head, but I couldn’t simply close my ears. I would have to close my mind.
And you don’t want to do that, the voice continues. If you did, I would have killed you unawares before now. But you are not like them.Created to kill, but innocent. What do they call that? Irony?
You aren’t innocent, I thought, trying to lash out with anger.
No, but I was once. And then in my mind I saw images of his world in its final moments and his view of its destruction from his ship. Before I could react, I could sense he was gone.
The next day I reported back to the humans. I could sense their displeasure and disquietude at my recounting of the previous night’s encounter.
As the days progressed our encounters remained elusive, but became more intimate. He shared stories with me about his planet and his family. I occasionally glimpsed flashes of ivory tusks in the moonlight.
I think I am going to call you Jacob, Abednego decided one night.
I was so pleased to have a name that I forgot to ask him why. The next day I tried telling the humans to call me Jacob, but they refused.
Why won’t they call me Jacob, I asked Abednego that night.
Because if they allow you a name, it makes you an entity independent of them and their will. They want you to be a tool and they don’t want to question the consequences of their choices.
I didn’t know what to say to that. It felt true. And I resented that. Why couldn’t I be someone too? But at the same time, did I really want to be more? I knew my purpose. I knew why I was on this earth.
You do. Your purpose is to kill me.
It was true. And it was comforting to know my purpose. But the more I got to know Abednego, the less I wanted to kill him. I didn’t want to lose his voice in my head. It had grown to be a part of me. I still sought him out every night, but he remained elusive.
That was until the night he completed his mission. I awoke and instinctively, I knew it was later than usual, but my keeper had not come to get me for my daily briefing. Getting out of my quarters was difficult, but I was both agile and clever and there was no one there to stop me, so by the time the moon was high in the sky, I had escaped and had investigated the premises. They were all dead or had fled.
I was free. I could do whatever I wanted. I sought him out. What else was there to do? He was my purpose. And didn’t he deserve to die for what he had done to the humans? But the humans had done it to him. And who had his people done it to? Who was right?
I prowled the forest seeking him out of habit and answers out of need. Complex questions whirled in my brain and I tried to process them and then I retreated from them, seeking the comfort and certainty of my purpose.
My turmoil was interrupted by his voice. Your purpose is to kill me, and for the first time Abednego appeared before me. His stillness was an invitation and a chill pervaded my frame. I could hear the whirlwind of his thoughts. He had completed his purpose. There was nothing left for him. And there was emotional conflict there. As if he sensed my intrusion into his brain, he consciously pushed back with a command. So kill me.
And I wanted to. It was what I had been created for. It was my purpose. It was what he wanted. It was what he deserved. I paced around him for a few moments that felt like an eternity, snarling, unsure of whether it was at him or at myself.
Kill me, he insisted as sobs began to shake him.
No. And I raced into the night, blending into the shadows, leaving his voice and my purpose behind me.