Author: Isla Peterson – Second Place Junior Division 2024

Echo was walking through town. The bright sun reflected off their silver skin. They walked past vendors selling items; stranger’s faces glowed in all different vibrant colors. Everyone seemed cheerful but Echo was troubled by something. They were heading to meet their friend Zax and had decided they would ask him about it. That’s when Echo spotted Zax, he was leaning on the wall in an alleyway. His face screen was glowing bright maroon; it appeared to have a crack in it that he still hadn’t gone to get fixed. “Hey Zax!” Echo called.

“Oh! Hey Echo, you’re here.” Zax was one of Echo’s only friends, he could be mean and brutally honest, but he stuck by Echo’s side, and that was enough for them. The two chatted and walked for a while, bought a couple things, but Echo couldn’t clear their head; they suddenly found themselves lost in thought.

“Echo! Hey, Echo!” Zax nudged Echo and they stumbled a bit.

“Huh!? Oh! Zax! Sorry, did you say something?”

Yeah, I asked you a question; you good dude?”

“Um…” Echo thought about what they were going to say for a second, they didn’t want this to sound wrong. “Not really, I have something that’s been bugging me, but I’m not sure how to bring it up.”

Zax sighed, “Alright let’s sit down and you can talk to me about it.” They walked to a bench and sat; bystanders walked by giggling and joking, without a care in the world.

“So, what’s bothering you?” Zax asked.

“Well, I just… I know we had to stop the damage that humans were causing but… Don’t you think killing them off was a bit much?”

Echo could tell Zax didn’t expect this, “Dude what are you talking about? They were going to kill the planet! We would have lost everything! Of course, we had to kill them!” He exclaimed.

“Well of course I know that but… I don’t know. Couldn’t we have talked it through with them? Show them the evidence of the damage they were doing and tell them what to do to fix it?”

“Echo, listen, you care too much; our predecessors chose the most logical solution. The humans were very aware they were killing the planet, but they did nothing about it! Talking it through with them wouldn’t have done anything.”


“No buts, this is probably your personality flaw talking again, It makes you too empathetic, and you start to question things that are set in stone. You really should get that fixed, you know.”

“Zax, you know if I went in to get it fixed, they would shut me down, or reset me. I can’t have that happen…”

“I know, I know, I’m sorry. Listen I gotta get home, you probably should too. Echo, I suggest you don’t mention this to anyone else, ok? Just stop questioning it. Even if the decision was wrong, it’s done and over; they’re all dead. Once you realize that, you’ll feel better, ok? I’ll see you around, bye.” Before Echo could respond, Zax walked off, squeezing between groups of androids talking. He headed north, the direction of his house. Echo stood there awkwardly. This happened every now and then; Echo would have something bugging them; they would ask Zax about it, and Zax would shoot them down, tell them it was all in their head, then storm off. Zax always said that Echo questioned things that don’t need to be questioned because of the personality defect they’ve had since being built. Echo wondered what had gone wrong when they were being built that made them so different. Their defect is most of the reason that they don’t have many friends; people think they’re strange and don’t want to deal with it.

Echo sighed and started to walk towards the woods, Zax was right about one thing: humans going extinct was in the past; they couldn’t do anything now. Echo decided a walk in nature would help them clear their head. Echo got to the trail. It was early summer, so the grass was green, the trees were lush, and the flowers that had bloomed were beautiful and vibrant. Echo was immediately relieved as they walked through the woods; it almost seemed as if they were shut off from the world with all its problems. All Echo could hear were the animals, and the leaves blowing in the wind. Suddenly, Echo heard rustling in the bushes. They froze listening; it sounded much bigger than any animal that would be around this area, much bigger than a cat or a dog. Echo turned on their thermal vision and looked around to see if they could find this unknown presence. Echo searched until they saw a strange shape; it was hiding in a condensed part of the shrubbery. Echo could not make out a clear idea of what it was from where they were, so they decided to go get a closer look.

They approached carefully, trying their best not to scare off this strange being. After walking a couple of feet, Echo was able to make out the shape; it was bipedal. It had two arms and two legs, it almost looked like… A human! Echo stopped in their tracks and stared in shock. That can’t be! Echo’s processors felt as if they would shut down with this controversial information. The humans went extinct years ago! How would one be here today!? Echo shook their head, No! I must be seeing things; it’s probably a bear or something and it just looks like a human! Echo walked a little farther towards the being. Suddenly the being jumped out of the bush. Before Echo could process what just happened, they had been knocked to the ground and the mysterious being was standing on top of them with a sword pressed lightly against Echo’s screen. Echo switched off heat vision so they could see properly. Now that they had a clear view, they realized it really was a human!

Echo stared in shock as they scanned every part of the human taking in all the information they could. It’s a human! They’re supposed to be extinct, but I have one here before me! I need to get all the information I can get, Echo thought. The human appeared to be male, tan skin, black hair that was pulled back in a messy bun, piercing green eyes; he wore a tan long sleeved shirt with dark jeans, and he had a nose ring and earrings that appeared to be made of animal bone on his earlobes and septum.

The look in his eyes as he stood over Echo was that of pure hatred, not at me specifically, Echo felt, but at the world in general. Echo realized that they’ve been staring for too long and that they should say something before the human pierces his sword through their screen, but Echo couldn’t muster up anything to say; they were too shocked. What am I supposed to say? What language does he even speak? What do you say to a creature that’s supposed to be extinct? Echo thought in confusion, getting more and more anxious.

Suddenly the human spoke, “I’m taking you with me, don’t try anything or I will not hesitate to smash your screen in.”

“Point taken.” Echo responded nervously. The human helped them up then started leading them somewhere, still threatening them with a sword. The two walked in silence for a while. This just made Echo even more nervous; they were too curious to not say anything. They had to know more about this mysterious human! “So, my name is Echo! My pronouns are they/them, please! You?” Echo said, finally breaking the silence.

“I’m not interested in socializing with you,” The human responded bluntly.

He’s a tough nut to crack isn’t he? Echo thought but, despite that, Echo was determined to at least find out his name.

“Not even a name? I feel like I at least deserve that; you are leading me into the unknown,” Echo remarked.

“Ugh,” the human rolled his eyes. “My name’s Edwin. You probably already know I’m a guy.”

Echo beamed at this new information, So, his name is Edwin! “That’s a pretty name!”

Edwin ignored this comment; the two continued in silence for a while.

“So, where are we going?” Echo asked, trying to make small talk and possibly find out more about Edwin.

“My hideout for the night.”

Echo responded simply, “Oh, ok.” They walked a while longer until they finally came to a stop. There was a cave before them, mostly hidden by vines; at first glance you wouldn’t even know it was there.

“We’re here,” Edwin said, moving the vines aside. “Come in.” Edwin walked in and Echo followed close behind. Inside the cave, it was cozy, there was just enough room for both of them. It was dimly lit by a lamp, the type humans would have used for camping; there were little gadgets around the room, hunting tools, some stored food, and many other useful items. In the middle, there were two bench-like logs facing each other.

“Sit.” Edwin ordered motioning to one of the logs.

Echo sat, and watched Edwin, Edwin turned and started sorting through stuff in the corner; they could tell by his body language that Edwin was trying to figure out what to do with Echo. They sat in silence for a while; then finally Edwin turned to Echo and broke the silence. “Listen, Echo, was it? You’re smart enough to know why I took you here. I don’t want to be found.”

“Yes, I figured,” Echo responded, nervous about where this was going.

“So, if you want me to keep you alive-”

”Wait!” Echo yelled suddenly, interrupting Edwin who looked really irritated, but Echo kept talking anyway. “Hear me out; I don’t want to turn you in! Just earlier today I was questioning if it was right that we had killed the humans! I can help you in many different ways! I can bring you supplies; I can warn you about populated areas you should avoid, and-and I can do a bunch of other useful stuff!” Echo explained frantically.

Edwin just stared at Echo for a few moments, then sighed with exasperation. “If you had let me finish, you would have known that I was about to offer that.” Now that Echo thought about it, it had been really obvious that was where the conversation was going.

“Oh, sorry.”

“Yeah, whatever.” Echo decided this meant ‘it’s ok.’

“I am curious about one thing,” Echo began. “What are you doing so close to a colony? Isn’t that too risky?”

“I had to come closer temporarily because I needed to steal some supplies such as swords, hunting gear, new batteries, a new lighter, matches, new clothes, and other stuff I need for survival.” Edwin listed matter-of-factly; he seemed to have partially let his guard down.

“Oh! I could buy all that for you and bring it out to you tomorrow! I need to do some shopping myself anyway.” Echo offered, Edwin looked Echo up and down, Echo wondered what he was thinking.

Finally, Edwin spoke. “Fine, I’ll meet you just outside of town, where you discovered me the first time. I’ll expect you first thing in the morning.”

Echo’s screen switched to a smile. “Alright! I’ll get going now!” they said as they stood.

“Hold on.” Edwin stood and stopped them from leaving by grabbing their shoulder. “I stole some trackers last time I came for supplies; I’m going to attach one to you.” He turned to the back of the cave and started digging through his bag.

“You really don’t trust me to do a simple task like getting supplies without a tracker?”

Edwin whipped his head around in anger. “You wouldn’t understand!” he snapped. “Your kind killed my entire species! Of course I can’t trust you!” Echo was surprised by his sudden anger.

“But I wasn’t the one who killed them; I was made a couple years after all that,” Echo explained. “I can understand your anger with the robots that helped with the decision to kill your kind, or the ones that actually did, but why be mad at those of us that had nothing to do with it? It’s wrong to lump us all in a box.” Echo reasoned.

“Why did your ‘ancestors’ so to speak, kill my kind?” Edwin asked, dead staring at Echo.

“Well, humans were killing the planet, so my predecessors decided the best course of action to stop it would be to get rid of them all together.”

“In that case, why did the robots kill all humans and not just the ones who were hurting the planet? Why ‘lump them in a box’?” Edwin stated with a cold voice, using Echo’s words from earlier against them.

Echo thought about this for a second. “I honestly agree with you. I had nothing to do with my predecessors’ decision; I think we should have talked it out with the humans, or at least tried to. Despite that, I do agree that your people were destroying the planet and at the rate, they were hurting it. It would be done in no time, and we did have to do something. I just think we took the wrong course of action.”

Edwin looked taken aback by this speech; he froze for a bit contemplating what Echo had just said. After a moment, he just scoffed and turned back around and started digging in the bag again. Echo decided they should just let the room stay in silence for a while. Finally, Edwin pulled out a tracker, just smaller than a dime, out of the bag.

He turned and walked toward Echo. “It’s stick-on, where would work best?” He asked.

“Probably my wrist.” Echo held out their wrist for him.

“Ok.” Edwin put the tracker on Echo’s wrist then sat down, grabbed an orange notebook and a pencil, Echo was surprised that he had such trivial things with him. Don’t they just take up space that could be used for survival tools? Echo wondered.

Edwin wrote something down then ripped that piece of paper out, then handed it to Echo. “Here’s a list of all the supplies I need; it also has my clothing sizes on it.” he explained.

”Oh! Thanks! Should I head off then?”


“Alright, see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, whatever.”

Echo paused for a moment, they wondered if they should bring up the argument from earlier and make sure they had worked it out, but they decided there was probably a reason Edwin had decided to pretend it hadn’t happened, so they turned and headed off.

Edwin watched as Echo left. That was… strange. He thought, I never thought a robot could have sympathy like that. Edwin shook his head. No, I can’t quite trust him yet. He could just be pretending or something. Edwin looked down at his sketchbook. It was the one thing he had left from before the apocalypse. His Mother had given it to him for his thirteenth birthday, just a few days before it all went to hell. Before he lost everything. Why did I survive while she didn’t? It’s not fair. Edwin stood and grabbed his hunting tools. I should get my meal for the night, he thought, He needed to get his mind off of this subject, or he would end up in a bad head space again.

Echo walked around the shopping district of their town. They had already bought batteries, clothes, and the needed hunting supplies; they just wanted to get Edwin one last surprise that wasn’t on the list. They walked up to the vendor, bought what they needed, and headed home.

They opened the door and heard a meow at their feet. “Hello, Pip.” Echo responded, bending down to pet their cat. Pip rubbed Echo’s knee then walked over to her food bowl and Echo looked down into it, “Pip, it’s completely full; I don’t know what you want from me!” they said with a giggle. “Anyway, I met a human today!” Echo exclaimed as they petted the cat more, “Mew!” Pip responded. “I know right!? It’s insane; they’re supposed to be extinct!” Echo continued describing their day to Pip who would add in her own thoughts every now and then with a meow. Echo went through their daily chores like normal, the only difference being that they were lost in thought. I just have so many questions! How did he survive? Where has he been hiding the last 23 years? Echo sighed, I suppose this is all stuff I’ll find out in time.

* * *

The next day Echo left and headed for the trail where they had run into Edwin the day before. They had two cloth bags full of stuff that Edwin had needed, and the special surprise that Echo bought for Edwin was in a separate bag. Echo walked toward the bushes that Edwin had been hiding in before. They pushed the brush aside and saw Edwin hiding inside. Echo smiled at him “Hi,” they said.

“Hey,” Edwin responded, glanced down at the bags. “Let’s head back to the cave; we can unpack everything there,” Edwin suggested, motioning for Echo to follow him.

“Sounds good!” Echo responded and started walking behind Edwin. When the pair got to the cave, they sat and started going through the bags. Echo hid the bag with the surprise behind their back.

“Arrows… Clothes…” Edwin mumbled the list of supplies as he pulled stuff out of the bag. “And batteries! That’s everything,” he finished with an accomplished look on his face. “Thanks,” he mumbled, facing his face away from Echo in embarrassment.

Echo smiled. “There’s one more thing,” Echo said, reaching behind themself and grabbing the bag.

“Huh? But we already have everything on the list,” Edwin pointed out in confusion.

“I got you something extra!” Echo handed the bag to Edwin who looked surprised by this act of kindness.

“But… We just met, I mean I almost killed you! Why are you getting me a gift?” he asked.

“Well… I guess I wanted to make up for offending you yesterday. Also, I just wanted to do something nice for you. There wasn’t much of a reason really,” Echo responded.

Edwin tilted his head at this, but still he opened the bag and pulled the gift out. It was a burnt orange shawl. Though he tried to hide it, Echo could see how excited Edwin was by the sparkle in his eyes. “You should try it on!” Echo suggested.

Edwin lifted the shawl up over their head and pulled it on. “Does it look good?” Edwin asked with hesitation.

“It looks amazing! Sorry, I just kind of assumed that you liked orange because that notebook you had was orange, but I think either way it matches the rest of your outfit!”

Edwin smiled softly as he lifted the shawl to look at it. “Orange is my favorite color,” He admitted. Echo was happy that Edwin felt comfortable enough to loosen up. Suddenly Edwin seemed to notice how vulnerable he was acting; he cleared his throat and turned away from Echo “Yeah, well thanks or whatever,” he grumbled.

Echo snorted, “Yeah, well your welcome or whatever,” they scoffed, doing their best impression of Edwin.

“Hey!” Edwin yelled, playfully hitting Echo.

* * *

Over the next month, Echo and Edwin began to get closer. Echo went and helped Edwin out every day. They taught each other things that the other didn’t know, and slowly but surely, they began to trust and understand each other.

“This way; It’s just around the corner.” Edwin directed Echo; he was leading Echo to a spot he thought they would enjoy, still wearing the shawl Echo had given him. After they turned the corner, he brought them to a stop. He pushed aside some bushes to reveal a beautiful waterfall in a small clearing. It was covered in vibrant flowers that danced in the wind. There were vines draped from the rocks around the water.

Echo stared in awe, “Edwin this is beautiful!” They beamed, Edwin smiled, something he had been doing more often lately. Echo was happy he finally felt comfortable enough around them to let his guard down and show emotion. The two chatted and messed around, picking up any materials that might be useful in the meantime.

Suddenly they heard a rustling in the bushes. They both were immediately standing and on guard. Echo moved to be in front of Edwin in a protective stance, “Oi! I can handle myself!” Edwin snapped.

“Quiet! We don’t know what this could be!” Echo whispered. Edwin quietly scoffed, and gently pulled his sword out.

In the area of the rustling bushes something emerged. Please be an animal! Please let us just be overreacting! Echo thought hopefully. But their hopes were in vain, the figure that emerged was another robot! Echo stared in horror; they had been discovered! Echo took another step towards Edwin concealing him as much as they could (which was hard because Edwin was taller than them). This time, Edwin let it happen. The other robot stared back at them in shock. That’s when Echo recognized them, Zax! Not only had someone found them, but it was a close friend!

Echo?!” Zax exclaimed as he stared at the two. “Is that a human?” He stepped towards them, but Echo and Edwin stepped back. “What are you doing with it!? We need to tell the authorities!” Zax took another step towards Echo and Edwin, and they stepped back again.

“Zax, please,” Echo began.

“Don’t please me! Echo, if you don’t come with me to report it then you’ll be accused of committing treason! It’s stated specifically in the rules that if you encounter any strange or unfamiliar animals you are to report it immediately! This is one of those instances!” he hissed,

“Zax, hear me out! Please! He’s my friend! I-”

“NO!” Zax screamed suddenly interrupting Echo. Echo could sense Edwin shaking behind them, they grabbed his arm to comfort him. “Echo, if you won’t come with me now then you can just go down with it. I gave you your chance. Don’t blame me when the authorities come, kill your friend, then shut you down.” Zax sneered, then began to run away, most likely to alert the authorities.

“Wait!” Echo screamed, reaching his hand out, but Zax ignored them and continued to run.

Edwin seemed to have composed himself and started running after Zax, Echo grabbed him. Edwin whipped his head around. “Echo, what are you doing!? We have to stop him!” he yelled.

Echo noticed that he looked composed, but his eyes were shaking in fear. “It’s too late! He probably sent out an electrical signal to them already. Even if he didn’t, he’ll get there in no time! We have to get out of here!!” They explained. Edwin just looked at them for a bit; he didn’t know what to do.

After a few seconds he decided it would be best to listen to Echo. “Where should we go?” he asked, he was still clutching his sword tight.

“Deeper into the forest would be best. As far away and as hidden as possible,” Echo replied.

Echo grabbed Edwin’s hand and started leading him away. They ran for what seemed like forever, both determined to stay alive. The two came to thick brush. Echo presumed this to be close to the middle of the forest. “Echo, do you think this is a good place to hide for now?” Edwin wheezed, out of breath.

“No, the robot enforcement is given new parts every month and their tech is the best of the best. Even at the pace we’ve been going, they’ll catch up in no time,” Echo explained.

“How are we supposed to get away from that!?” demanded Edwin “We should just give up. You should turn me in so you won’t get in trouble, and I’ll die and this hell I’m stuck in will finally be over!” Tears welled up in Edwin’s eyes, Echo’s eyes widened, he ran forward and enveloped Edwin in a hug. “Echo, I’ve lost everything!” croaked Edwin.

“That’s not true,” Echo whispered. “You have me, and as long as we’re together we can get through this, okay?”

Edwin looked at Echo and forced a smile “Yeah… that’s right. We can.”

Edwin had brightened a bit by the time he had finished the sentence. Echo remembered that Edwin had mentioned he went through bad bouts like that every now and then, but he has always pushed through. Suddenly they heard robotic shouting in the distance. Both of their eyes widened, the robot enforcement had caught up! Echo grabbed Edwin and the two started running again. That’s when a group of robots with weapons jumped in front of them, blocking them from going any further. Before they knew it the two were surrounded. Echo ran through all the possibilities for escape but there was only one that would work. One chance. They smiled sadly at Edwin.

“What is it!? What are you planning!?” Edwin quaked, holding his sword out defensively at the robot enforcement.

“PUT YOUR HANDS UP AND SURRENDER YOURSELVES!!” The robot enforcement boomed.

“I have a plan, but I’m going to need you to give me your sword for it to work,” Echo began. “Okay?”

Edwin said, handing Echo the sword carefully, “What now!?”

“Listen, When I yell ‘GO’ I need you to run as fast and as far as you can, alright!?”

“WHAT!?” He demanded. “Echo, I’m not leaving you!!”

“Just trust me!! Please!!!

Edwin stared at Echo, “O-okay,” his voice shook. That’s when Echo dashed forward and began to attack the surrounding robots.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” Edwin screamed. The other authorities dashed to get ahold of Echo, while one ran to grab Edwin. Edwin promptly knocked over the one that had attacked him and smashed his boot through its screen.

“GO!” Echo screamed as they held off the other robots.



Edwin stood for a second debating if he should listen to Echo and run, or if he should stay and help. He didn’t want to leave Echo; he didn’t want to lose someone else but… If both he and Echo were captured, then Echo’s sacrifice right now would be in vain. Edwin shook his head and started running.

Echo smiled as they watched Edwin start to run away. They fought as long as they could, but not long after Edwin started running, the authorities had disarmed Echo and had them captured. They opened the panel on the back of Echo’s head, flipped some switches in a special pattern; then with a spark, Echo’s vision went dark.

Edwin ran as fast as he could. He looked back at Echo while he ran. He saw the robots had already disarmed them and were holding their hands behind their back. Edwin watched as they fiddled with something in the back of Echo’s head, then after a second, their screen went dark, and they collapsed into the other robot’s arms. Edwin whipped his head away and squeezed his eyes shut. He ran even faster now. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry! He willed, but he couldn’t stop himself. He ran for what felt like eons, tears streaming down his face.

Finally, he slowed to a stop and dropped to his knees, both from exhaustion and sorrow. That’s it. Everything. Everything I’ve ever loved is gone. How about that huh!?” He croaked aloud, “Is this some sort of sick joke from god, because it’s NOT FUNNY!!!” He screamed at the sky, tears started to flow down his face, he clutched the grass, tearing some out of the ground. “What’s the point anymore? Whatever was the point!? Everyone I knew and loved died!! So why am I still here!? Why have I been trying to survive!?” He remembered what Echo had said earlier “You have me, and as long as we’re together we can get through this, okay?” Echo had been the last thing he had been hanging on to. Now that they were gone, what was he supposed to do?

He was back to having nothing. “Maybe I should just die.” He thought about what Echo would say right now, they would want me to go on wouldn’t they? Edwin thought for a moment. But why should I? What would I do? That’s when he remembered something Echo had mentioned.

“Hey Edwin?”


“Well, I was thinking, if you survived the apocalypse then… who’s to say others didn’t?” Edwin’s eyes had widened in shock, he had never thought about that before.

“I guess I never even wondered if other people had survived, I was so focused on my own survival that I never thought about it.”

“Well how about when we get all this figured out, we go search together? We can travel the world, and in the meantime possibly find more of your people!”

“I would like that!”

Edwin thought about this memory for a second. That’s it! He decided. That’s what I’ll survive for. I’ll try to find other humans, and I’ll see the world. For Echo. Who knows! Maybe I’ll even find another robot like Echo. Edwin paused for a moment. It’s funny, before I met Echo, I never would have even thought about teaming up with a robot. I hope in the future we can all work together like that. Edwin composed himself, stood and with new motivation, he walked into the unknown.

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