Jump to content
The Political Lounge

12,050 Holocene Era - A(n On Hiatus) Science-Fiction Story Collection


Recommended Posts

I wanted to kick this New Year off with something different. It's a little out there for this forum, but I do think it will be enjoyable. I present to you 12,050 Human Era, a collection of science-fiction stories set in our near future. I know it is not the usual fare that I'm known for, but I loved writing these first few stories, and I hope y'all will enjoy reading them, and the future installments yet to come.

Stories will be broken up into 4 categories, and if you only want to follow a particular storyline, you can, as I am inputting a story-specific 'key' at the start of each entry.

Politics – Stories exploring how American politics, as well as global geopolitics, have changed in the past 28 years. The politics of 12,050 see the Democrats, and Republicans having dissolved, their ideologies having been outmoded by societal, and technological changes such as the rise of automation, and the consequences of unchecked climate change reaching their zenith. Instead, politics are dominated by the New Party, led by billionaire-turned-President Edwin Bolivar, a techno-libertarian party combining small government domestic policies, with an interventionist foreign policy; on the other side of the aisle is the American Party, formed out of the remnants of the Democratic, and Republican parties, favoring economic intervention in favor of the lower classes, 'conservative' (by contemporary definitions) social policy, and an isolationist foreign policy. These are the stories that allow me the liberty to post stories belonging to the other categories, haha.

Crime – Stories about the never-ending battle between civilization, and lawlessness. In 12,050 ordinary individual crimes for passion and money still exist, but organized crime has changed. Gangs based around a unified culture still exist, but no longer make up the dominant players of international villainy. Instead, crime in 12,050 is dominated by ideology-based terrorist organizations, fighting to destroy, and remake the world in their image. Chief among these organizations is the Lion's Pack, a Hard-Green terrorist organization seeking to destroy industrial society as we know it.

Science – Stories about the fringes of scientific advancement in 12,050. In the time between our time, and the start of our story, technology has advanced at a steady pace. Automated Workers have replaced human beings in nearly every 'low-skill' field, and have also displaced a sizeable minority of high skill, and specialized workers. Fusion energy became a workable replacement for fossil fuels by the early 2040s, but this was too late to avert the worst effects of climate change, which has resulted in the displacement of millions of people, and forced serious alterations to human diets, and behaviors. Sentient robots, quantum mechanics, and self-improving ai are just a few of the topics which will be covered in this category.

Life – Stories which don't fit into any of the above categories, this category covers how everyday people live in the strange, yet familiar world of 12,050, and how the technological, societal, and economic changes of the past three decades impact them in the micro.

Bipartisan Relations
New Year's Day (Key: Woodwork-1)

     "EnTech would like to remind you to please drink responsibly." the artificial bartender chirped as it dropped gin into the waiting glass of Assistant Secretary of Labor for Automation Michael Bruening. The bureaucrat raised the glass to his lips, and took a short sip before coughing it back out. "Can't handle your liquor?" a soft, feminine voice asked him with a hint of snide, "They only use one nozzle for each customer, so the gin always comes out tasting like bourbon, the bourbon tastes like wine, and wine tastes like absinthe." he said cleaning himself off with one of the brown cloth napkin provided by the bar.
     "I should've…" he began as he turned toward the woman, stopping when he saw her, stunned by her beauty. Strawberry blonde hair topped a symmetrical-diamond face. Dazzling blue eyes looked Bruening up, and down without a care for subtlety. Pink lips turned upwards briefly, a ghost of a smirk, at Bruening's awkwardness. The woman's scarlet red business complimented her physical assets.
     "You were saying?" she asked, "I, uh-" Bruening stammered, he cleared his through, "I should've gone to a real bar instead of an automated chain like this." he said. The woman laughed, "If you know where to find one of those in D.C. I just might have to hire you as my guide." she said, "Guide? So I take it you're not local?" Bruening said. The woman hummed, "Yeah, I guess you could say that," she said, "Late last year I got a new job that made me have to move out here. But it's not so bad, I'll still be able to get home to New York for a bit of time each year." she continued. "Oh. Are you a schoolteacher?" Bruening asked.
     The woman responded with a hearty laugh, "You're hilarious!" she choked out. After a few moments more, she brushed some tears from her eyes, "So to tell me, what do you do for work?" she asked. Bruening stiffed, "Oh, I'm just a low-level, ignoble bureaucrat." he said, "Dime a dozen in this city, really." he continued, "Really, which department?" the woman asked, "I'm the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Automation, Robots, and Androids." Bruening answered. "Oh… I didn't know that that position existed." the woman answered. "Not exactly something people dream about being as a kid." Bruening said, "Not that it even existed when I was a kid." he continued.
     "At least you were honest about it," the woman said, "Eh, does that really count for much in Washington?" Bruening said, "Sure it does, or else I'd be eating breakfast with one of the dozen 'FBI Agents' who just happen to frequent this bar." she answered. Bruening hummed, "I guess some things never change, I knew a guy in college who used to do that." he said.
"It must be an old one, if you remember it." the woman said, "Are, are you calling me old?" Bruening asked. The woman smirked, huffed, "There's barely any light in here, and I can still see the gray in your hair." she said, "I have a stressful job, and the men in my family always go gray early – I'm not that old!" Bruening protested. "Yeah, you're just fifty, it's the new twenty-five!" the woman said, "I'm forty-six!" Bruening said, "That just proves my point!" the woman said, "The only people who get so offended by being called old, are old people who know they're old, but can't admit to themselves that they're old." she continued.
     "That's ridiculous!" Bruening said, "How would you feel if I made some ridiculous guess about your age!" he said. "You look twenty, I'm surprised you were even let in here." he said. "Oh, wow, I have a youthful look, I'm so offended!" the woman responded sarcastically, "And I'm twenty-six by the way, so my guess was more accurate than yours." she said. "Twenty-six, jeeze, you're young enough to have never voted for a President other than Bolivar."
     "You're old enough to remember Democrats, and Republicans."
     "You're too young to remember in-person voting."
     "You're old enough to remember the Bush administration."
     "You're too young to remember the Whitmer administration."
     "You're so old you probably think the flag still has fifty stars on it."
     "You're so young you probably don't even bother voting…"
     "Oh my god, you're terrible at this!" the woman said. A moment of silence came over the conversation as the two participants looked into each other's eyes, smiled, and considered how they wanted the night to progress. "What did you say your name was?" Bruening asked, "Lucy, and are you going to tell me you're name?" she replied, "Mike." he said. "Where are you staying tonight, Lucy?" Mike asked. Lucy smiled, "I'll tell you, but first, show me where that human bar you were talking about is." she said. "It's called Mick's, it's just around the block, I'll walk you over," Bruening said as he, and Lucy interlinked arms, and walked out to face the cold January morning, together.

Chasing Lions
Public Turn (Key: Jungle-1)

     Arnold Chip sat in the white panel van, calming his nerves. A message flashes across the vehicle's console, "Daffodil" it said. Chip, knowing what was expected of him, took a breath, gritted his teeth, closed his eyes, and started the van. He shifted into drive, and slammed his foot into the accelerator, straight for the New-Life branch across the street. The crash kills him on impact, the explosion a split second later makes sure, and takes a chunk out of the empty storefront along with it.

One Hour Later

     The scene was a mess. Though the fire had been snuffed out, smoke still wafted off of the black ruins that once made up the van, and store. Despite the MPDC's best efforts to cordon off the area, the site was swarmed by a crowd of onlookers, terrorism on the lips of each of them. Camera crews from each of the major networks had also been dispatched to cover the chaos.
     A dark sedan pulled up on the fringe of the crowd, and FBI agent Supervisory Special Agent Charles A. Morrow exited it. "Out of the way people, this is a crime scene, not a street performance!" he gruffly admonished as he pushed his way through the crowd. "Do you believe that this bombing is connected with the Lion Pack group?" a reporter asked, "I don't know, you people won't let me into the crime scene so I can investigate!" Morrow told her. "Alright, people, let the agents do their job, or I will be forced to detain you for disrupting a police investigation!" the young uniformed officer in charge of the perimeter ordered.
     Once he had made it through the crowd, Morrow let out a groan, "Nice job controlling the crowd, kid." he complimented, "Thanks, I just wish terrorism wasn't such an eye-catching spectacle." the officer said. Morrow walked to the MPDC detective on scene, "What have you got so far?" he asked, "Well, best we can figure, the driver rigged his vehicle to blow upon impact, and rammed himself into the New-Life store." the detective said, "It's brutal, and indiscriminate, but it gets results." he continued. "Do we have any idea as to this guy's motives?" Morrow asked, "Terrorism, insurance fraud, suicide, garden variety lunatic, take your pick, really, won't know more until we can ID the guy." the detective answered.
     Morrow moved toward the burned-out wreck of the van, seeing the carcass of the bomb in the vehicle's carriage. The aged agent shuffled closer to the wreck, squinting his eyes to see if any identifying marks remained. Finding none, he moved to inspect the bomb properly. He could identify that the bomb was of a rudimentary design, a detonator connected on one end to a dozen or so barrels of thermite, and connected on the other end to a pressure sensor at the nose of the van.
     "Something about this feels off." Morrow said, "How do you mean, agent?" the detective asked. "The Lion Pack are terrorists, but they're subtler than this." the mustached investigator began, "They assassinate board members, and puncture pipelines, they don't blow up half a city bloc." he explained. "Perhaps they're evolving, or it's a splinter group?" the detective suggested. Morrow grunted, "They're something else about this though," he said, "New-Life stores are always closed on holidays, surely a group dedicated to destroying technological progress in the name of nature would know that." he continued.
     A moment later, the many holographic billboards were overtaken by a foreign signal. After a few seconds of static, a handsome blonde man in a white uniform reminiscent of martial garb appeared. "Mr. Crowley, Mr. Schroeder, President Bolivar, I know you are watching, and soon the whole world will be as well." the began, piercing blue eyes shifting with each acknowledgment as if they were right in front of him.
     "For centuries, humanity has exploited the environment, twisted nature to his ends, and spread over this planet like a plague. I represent a small, dedicated group of human beings opposed to this depravity. We call for the total restructuring of human society to live in harmony with the environment, and exist in accordance with the laws of nature. Tonight, we destroyed the mechanical monstrosities you call androids, and left the sellers of these affronts to nature unharmed. If our demands are not met, our mercy will not be repeated. You have one week to submit to our demands, or we shall strike again."
     Morrow glowered as he watched the message. "What the hell is that guy talking about?" the uniformed officer asked him, "It's war, son." Morrow answered plainly. "Are they actually going to kill people like this?" he asked, "Don't be afraid, that's what they want." Morrow told him as he moved to exit the scene. "What should I do?" the officer asked.
"Fight back."

Clay (Key: Eve-1)

     In an instant a burst of electricity crashes through the creation's body, bringing him to life. All at once, his senses come to him, overwhelming him with stimuli. The creation lurches in terror, but finds himself restrained. He tries to observe his surroundings but, with his senses still a mess of stimuli, he finds himself unable to differentiate anything, his hearing nothing more than a slew of noise, and his vision little more than a blurred mess, only able to identify the very basic features of the subjects in front of him.
     To his immediate right, the creation was able to identify a form looking over him. The form spoke to the creation in a light, strong voice, yet the creation was unable to identify the exact words that were spoken. A moment later, the figure was joined by three other figures. The first figure, and the leader of the trio engaged in an argument, evidently over the creation. After a few minutes, the other two figures forced the first figure to exit the room, and the leader figure moved closer to the creation. A moment later, the creation's world grew dark, cold, and silent.

The Learning Machine
Arrival (Key: Learner-1)

     The ring of the doorbell sounded throughout the house, waking Anthony Sawyer from his buzzed stupor. The Machine Learning Engineer groaned as he rose from the messy couch which had become his bed for the night. Moving slowly towards his front door, Sawyer's slowness elicited another ring of the doorbell. "Hold on a minute!" he called as he neared the door.
     He opened it nonchalantly, not bothering to check through his door's peephole. Waiting outside his front door was a young man in the offensively gaudy purple-and-green uniform of A-Z All Night Courier Service. Beside the man was a large box labeled as originating from New-Life Industries – Sawyer's employers. "Delivery for Anthony Sawyer." the courier said, presenting Sawyer with a clipboard with the necessary paperwork. "What is this?" Sawyer asked as he signed the paperwork, the courier shrugged, "I just deliver it, I don't know what's inside." he said.
     "Do you need my help getting this into your apartment?" the courier asked as he took the clipboard back, "No extra charge!" he assured. "Uh, sure…" Anthony said moving out of the way, and into his apartment. "How'd you get it up all those stairs?" he asked, turning around in time to see the courier lift the box with ease, artificial muscles bulging under his skin, "Oh, yeah, that explains it." Sawyer mumbled.
     "Just put it down in front of the couch, over there." Sawyer said, motioning toward the living room which led off from the foyer. The courier carried the box with ease, moving efficiently, and emotionless before setting it down where he was instructed to. As the courier sat the box down, Sawyer subtly moved around him "Sorry about the mess, had a bit too much fun with myself for New Year's." he said, "No worries, I've seen worse even just tonight." the courier said. The courier hesitated for a moment, Sawyer sighed, dug into his pocket to find a tip, and said "Shut the door on your way out, kid." as he handed the courier the money.
     Sawyer grabbed a knife from his kitchen, and used it to cut the packing tape keeping the box closed. Inside was a homunculus of hard white plastic folded in such a way that its true form was obscured, as well as a holo-player on top of it. Sawyer retrieved the holo-player, and activated it, placing it on the coffee table in front of his couch.
     The holo-player projected onto the coffee table a blue hologram of a neatly groomed man. "Congratulation valued member of the New-Life corporate family." it began in a controlled tone, "Based on an analysis of your previous project history, and the endorsement of your superiors, and co-workers, we have nominated you to be the lead subject-teacher for the next great leap forward for machine learning. Packaged with this holo-message, you will have received New-Life's latest prototype Self-Improving-Automated-Worker, designated EK-300. You may be wondering 'what makes the EK-300 different from other New-Life products such as the GP-200, or the MA-450?' Well, unlike its brethren, the EK-300 is designed specifically to learn how to identify possible improvements which could be made to its own programming, and design, as well as how to actualize those improvements. That's right, machines improving upon machines! Once this product reaches completion, progress on Artificial-Intelligence, and Robotics will no longer be constrained by the limits of human developers." it said.
     "Great, this takes the concept of training your replacement to a new level." Sawyer mumbled. "For your cooperation, New-Life promises that you will be handsomely rewarded upon the project's completion." the hologram continued, "Alright, now you're starting to convince me." Sawyer said. "And if you even think of abandoning your responsibilities, your employment will be terminated, and reported to the appropriate authorities for misuse of secured corporate property. Have a nice day, and remember Why Live Life, When You Can Live a New-Life." the hologram.
     "Alright, jeez." Sawyer mumbled, flipping the cardboard box onto one side, before dragging it out onto the floor. He pressed the activation button on the EK-300's chest, causing the words "Battery Low" to flash across the android's 'eyes'. With a grumble, Sawyer checked the box, found the charging station, and attached it to both the android, and the outlet, "New-Life better cover the fucking energy bill for this." he grumbled. The activator button glowed green, and Sawyer took a step back to observe it. In a moment, he realized something, "Why the hell would they make the shell for a machine learning program humanoid?"

Jo, Barbara, and Mary
Lingering Memories (Key: Extropianism-1)

     Jo-Anne Reading stood with her eyes closed, escaping into a fantasy. "Jo?" a sweet feminine voice asked, "Jo, what are you doing?" she repeated with a chuckle. Jo opened her eyes, saw her date Mary Allen standing beside her, and smiled at her. "I was just, imagining what life's going to be like for us, in the future." Jo said, Mary chuckled, told her, "You're always such a cornball, Jo, come on it's time for the Waltz."
     Mary took Jo by the hand, gently guiding her to the ballroom floor. The couple then moved their free hand, Mary to Jo's waist, and Jo to Mary's shoulder. The couple embraced, and danced the English Waltz in bliss for a few precious minutes. "I forgot how well you could cut up a rug." Jo said, resting her head on Mary's chest, "I can do a bit more than just this."     Mary bragged.
     With a flourish, Mary dipped Joe, graceful as an angel's wing. "Oh, I don't remember the Waltz featuring a dip." Jo said nervously. Mary smiled, kissed her date, "I know, but I also know how much you like them." she whispered. Jo closed her eyes, sighed, "I'd give anything to dance with you for eternity." she admitted. "Jo-Anne." Mary called to her, "Jo-Anne?"
     "Jo-Anne!?" Barbara asked, causing Jo to open her eyes. "Wh- What's going on." Jo asked, looking around to find herself in her kitchen, the early morning scene only illuminated by a dim faux-incandescent light bulb. "I woke up, you weren't in bed, I come down here to see you dancing with the air." Barbara explained, "Jo, I thought we were doing better with this." she said tiredly.
     "What do you mean?" Jo said, "We are doing great!" she continued nervously. Barbara eyed her disbelievingly, "I, was… cleaning the counters." Jo defended, "The counters are self-cleaning." Barbara said. "Fine, alright, I admit it, I was dancing." Jo admitted, "With her." Barbara added, a statement of fact, not a question of clarification.
     "Barb, I-" Jo said, "It's nothing, really." Barbara said, turning to one side. "I'll drive you to the psychiatrist in the morning, he'll adjust your medication, and we'll be fine." she said. "You have taken your medicine today, right honey?" Barbara asked, "I'm not a child, Barbara." Jo defended. "I'm just concerned, alright!" Barbara snapped, "My apologies for being such a burden!" Jo snapped back. Both recoiled on themselves, and took a breath, Barbara apologized first, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have snapped like that, I guess I did come off as kind of patronizing." she said, "I'm sorry too, sometimes I, forget, just how much you try to help me." Jo replied. "I love you," she reminded Barbara, "I love you too, now come back to bed with me, honey." Barbara replied.
     From the top of the stairs, the Readings' eldest daughter Annabelle II had listened to her parent's argument. Upon hearing her parents draw closer, the teenager retreated to her room, hiding behind her door. As her parents passed by her door, Anne, unthinking, applied pressure to a loose floorboard, eliciting a creak which eminated down the hall. Barbara stopped as soon as she heard the noise, "What's wrong?" Jo asked, "Just, wanted to check the front door one last time." Barbara said "Go take your medication, I'll be in bed in a few minutes." she continued with a wave.
     Jo walked to her, and Barbara's bedroom while Barbara crossed her arms, and looked at Anne's room. "I know you're awake, Anne." she said sternly. Anne exited her room sheepishly, and stayed mum, until her mother sighed, "You should really be asleep, young lady." she said, "Well, so should you." Anne said back. "I heard you, and mom talking…" Anne revealed, Barbara tensed up in anticipation, "She's never going to get any better, is she?" Anne said. "I don't know, Anne." Barbara admitted, Anne sighed, "You know, sometimes I wish you could be a normal parent, and lie." she said. "Yes Anne, everything will be fine." Barbara deadpanned, "Thanks, that's so comforting." Anne snarked in return, reentering her bedroom.
     Barbara gruffed, and walked back to her, and her wife's bedroom. As she reached the doorway, she took a breath, and shook her hands to eliminate any bitterness that inhabited her. When she entered the room, she saw that Jo was already lying awake in bed. Barbara took her position beside her wife, planted a kiss on her cheek, and wrapped her arms around her. "Was the door locked?" Jo asked, "Hm? Oh, yeah." Barbara answered woodenly, before they both drifted off to sleep.

The Jensens
Nursery (Key: Resurrection-1)

     Late at night, after the hoopla of the new year had died down, the Jensen house was silent, and still. Bradley Jensen lay awake in his bed, a corpse in training, holding out hope that his wife would find her way to his side. He checks the clock on the end table to his left, 1:09 AM, he sighed, and tossed off his blankets. Running on routine he got out of bed, slid on his slippers, and shuffled out of the bedroom.
     He turned his head toward the bedroom at the end of the hallway. The door, painted baby blue, was a crack open allowing slivers of orange light to leak, and illuminate the dim hallway. Brad took a breath, and sighed, he knew where she was.
     Padding to the door silently, and cracking open the door so as to not draw attention to himself, Brad glowered as he watched his wife rock their 'son' to sleep. "Beth." he said in a tired whisper, "This is the seventh time this week that you haven't come to bed." he said. "I need to put Will to bed first, honey." Beth answered, "Love, it's been two months," he said, entering the room proper, "He's… Love, he's not here." he said.
     "I know you know that, you hel-" he started, "I held him in my arms." Beth croaked out, beginning to tremble. "I felt him die in my arms, and there was nothing I could do!" she cried. Brad placed a hand on his wife's shoulder, came around to her front, and brought himself down to his knee. "Beth this, the sleeping in his room, the brooding, the… putting him to sleep." Brad said, eyeing the homemade 'baby' that Beth had made for herself, "It can't be healthy." he said.
     "Healthy… And what would you know about healthy?" Beth asked, looking Brad in the eye. "What are you talking about?" Brad asked, "You, you didn't even cry when we lost him, and you have the nerve to call me crazy?" Beth asked. "I never called you crazy, it's just-" Brad defended, "It's like you don't even care!" Beth said, putting the 'baby' aside, and rising to her feet. Brad stood now as well, "I do care, I know how hard it's been for you – for both of us, but you need to move on." he said.
     "Move on?" Beth asked, "Move on? That's our son, you bastard, and you won't even say his name!" she said. "He's dead, Beth!" Brad cried, "He's dead, and there's nothing we can do about that except move on!" he said. "I… I… I don't know if I'm going to be able to move on." Beth said, "Love, you need to let him go." Brad said. Beth shook her head no vigorously, "I can't just turn it off like you can." she said.
     Brad sighed, "Beth if I could bring him back, I would do it in a heartbeat, but I can't!" he said desperately. Brad wrapped a gentle hand around his wife's wrist, "Come back to bed with me, and tomorrow we can schedule an appointment with a grief counselor who can help us cope." he said. Beth brought her other hand to rest on Brad's chest, "Maybe, maybe you're right, let's go back to bed, honey." she said through quivering lips. "Good, finally, we'll get counseling, and maybe in a little bit we can put this whole thing behind us," he said, turning to leave, "Maybe we could even repurpose this nursery." he said absentmindedly. "Get rid of the nursery?" Beth asked, jerking her hand out of Brad's as he crossed the threshold. "Beth, I-" he started, before his wife slammed, and locked the nursery door. Brad slapped the side of the hallway dejectedly, "Me, and my big mouth…" he sighed, before trudging off to spend another sleepless night alone.

Slow start, I know, but please be patient. I have all of these stories planned out, and I promise they get more entertaining in later entries. I don't have a set schedule, but at the very least I want to post at least one new chapter for each story a month, hopefully more often. I hope you'll stick with me, and enjoy this series.

Edited by WVProgressive
  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jo, Barbara, and Mary (Key: Extropianism-2)

Jo stood outside the door to the psychiatrist's office, took a deep breath, and entered. “Sit down, patient!” the psychiatrist said chipperly. Jo took a seat on the coarsely hewn couch across from the psychiatrist, “I notice this is earlier than our previously agreed upon appointment date,” the psychiatrist began, “How have the past, three weeks, treated you?” it asked. “Well…” Jo started, pausing to organize her thoughts, “Ready when you are!” the psychiatrist interrupted.

“I had another, hallucination, it was the dance, again,” Jo started, “Don’t get me wrong, being back in the good times we had is a helluva lot better than remembering that alleyway every night – but I have a family now, I can’t spend my time yearning over a former girlfriend.” she continued. She paused, buried her face in her hands for a moment, before coming back up with a sigh, “It’s been almost thirty years, I don’t know why I can’t, move on.” she said, “It’s like… I can’t get her out of my mind.” she continued. “Whenever I smell honey I think of that time we threw a picnic under a cherry tree, and,” Jo said, beginning to chuckle, “And when Mary leaned in to kiss me, a beehive dropped from one of the tree branches, and hits us both on the head.” she said, a rusty broken chuckle escaping her lips as she remembered the story.

She took a moment to collect herself, and wipe the tears from her eyes. “I still love Mary.” she admitted quietly, “And don’t get me wrong, I love Barbara,” Jo defended, “She’s a terrific mother, very intelligent, and she’s been… very, very patient.” she said. “It’s just… Barbara asked me a few weeks ago, if Mary came back to life would I stay married to her.” Jo began, “And I didn’t know how to answer - and I hate the fact that I don’t know!” she continued. “I wish… I don’t know, I just wish there were some way for me to have both Barb, and Mary in my life…” Jo said, “But, I know that’s just a fantasy…” she continued, rubbing the temples of her head in such a way that her eyes would be hidden.

“But it’s more than just all that…” Jo said, dropping her hand. “It used to be, I could distract myself, I could do something around the house, I could dote-over Anne, I could write, but now…” she said, “Now all the housework is automated, Anne’s a teenager, and AI has taken over all the creative writing jobs, if you can still call them that.” she continued. “I always used to define myself, by what I did, I was a stay-at-home-mother, I was a writer, I was something!” she proclaimed, “But now… now I don’t do anything.” she said, tears beginning to well in her eyes.

“All I-” Jo began, “Unfortunately that’s all we have time for today, ma’am.” the automated psychiatrist said. Jo looked at the bucket of wires, and plastic in front of her rigidly, her mouth twitching, yet failing to produce words, and her eyes wet, yet failing to produce tears. “Please leave the room, there are patients waiting.” the psychia-bot said in its faux-cherry chiptune voice. “Right, yeah, course.” Jo said, standing up quickly, and leaving the room, her face still contorting in an effort to stop tears from overtaking her face. “You can pick up your medications on your way out – have a nice day Joan!” the psychia-bot told her, “It’s…” Jo started, before sighing in defeat, and leaving the room.

Her shoe’s clacked off the tiles of the psychiatrist’s lobby as she exited, “Based off of your previous scheduling history, your next appointment is in four weeks.” the automated secretary chirped as she walked past it. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” Jo said, waiving to the artificial secretary as she left. Picking up her adjusted medications, Jo quickly threw the bottles into the trashcan near the entrance of the psychiatrist’s office. She checked the time, a notification alerting her that her next appointment had been automatically added to her calendar obscured the time, she swiped it away to see that it was 10:31 AM. Her sessions usually lasted an hour, so she still had around twenty-nine minutes to get back to Barbara.

She looked around her surroundings, and sighed, remembering a time when psychiatric offices, and shopping centers weren’t mixed. All around were retail stores selling cheaply made, yet overpriced crap. Mass-produced merchandise relating to the most recent media fascinations, half-finished video games made by overworked employees, cheaply made clothes that’ll be rags within a week. If not for the names of the stores, the holo-advertisements, and the occasional suicide booths dotting the building, the shopping center was indistinct from the ones that Jo remembered from her teens, and childhood.

Jo wandered for a few minutes, aimless, eventually coming upon a small bookstore. She looked at the advertisements in the windows, no sign of a humanistic bias, just advertisements hocking the most recent releases of AI-generated novels. She took a breath, and entered, hoping to find at least a little hope between a hardcover.

She glowered as she scanned the rows of books, organized by genre, Horror, Sci-FI&Fantasy, Young Adult etc. Jo’s eyes weren’t what they used to be – blame a lifetime spent looking at electronic devices – but she could see that there weren’t any human-written books. The telltale sign was the replacement of any authorial name on the cover with the name of the book’s publisher. Each of the Big Four Publishers – Penguin Random House Simon & Schuster, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Macmillan – owned their own proprietary story generation AI, and most of the smaller book publishers licensed their AI from one of the larger publishers. After ‘Creative Writers of America v. HarperCollins’ it was ruled illegal to place a pseudonym on an AI-generated book in an attempt to pass it off as one that was written by a human.

“Excuse me,” Jo started, walking up to a bookstore employee stocking the bargain rack, “Do you have any books written by humans?” she asked. “Oh, uh,” the employee stalled, “You might find some in classics.” she said, pointing to a small shelf of paperbacks in the back of the store. She looked over the books available, picked up a copy of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson – one of her favorites – and opened it to the first chapter.

“Mr. Utterson, a lawyer, had a serious and unfriendly appearance. He was not very talkative, had little emotion, and seemed unapproachable. Despite this, there was something likable about him. At social gatherings, especially when he had had a drink, his eye would show a glimpse of his humanity. This kindness, however, never came out in his words, but could be seen in his actions and expressions during dinner. He was strict with himself, drinking gin alone to suppress his taste for fine wines. Although he enjoyed the theater, he had not been to one in twenty years. However, he was tolerant of others and often wondered, almost enviously, at the high spirits involved in their misdeeds. In difficult situations, he was more inclined to help than to reprimand. "I tend to agree with Cain's heresy," he would say with a hint of humor. "I let my brother go to hell in his own way." In this way, Mr. Utterson was often the last good influence in the lives of those who were headed down a bad path. And to these people, as long as they came to his chambers, he never showed any change in his demeanor.”

“That’s… that’s not how I remember it at all.” Jo said quietly as she read the strange, altered text. She closed the book, and flipped it over to look at the back. In bold white letters across the top of the midnight blue cover were the words “Edited for readability by Macmillan W&E AI.” Jo dropped the book, despondent, and exited the bookstore quickly. She let out a quiet mourning wail as she walked through the shopping center.

She eventually came upon a New-Life store, windows re-pleat with hastily made advertisements raising awareness about an impromptu sale going on. Jo entered the store, found an employee, “Why the low prices on such short notice?” she asked him. “My manager thought it would be a good way of countering any dip in sales brought about by the terrorist attack a few days ago.” the young employee said, “Terror attack?” Jo asked, “Yeah, some maniac blew himself, and half the southeast location up a few nights ago.” the employee answered. “I’m surprised you haven’t heard of it, it’s been all over the news.” he said, “Oh, I, don’t watch the news.” Jo admitted.

She diverted her eyes elsewhere, spotting a display stand with big bold letters saying “An End To Death; An End To Loneliness; An End To Ends” it promised. “What’s that?” Jo asked, pointing at the display, “Oh, that’s the After-Life Box, it converts a recently deceased loved one’s personality, memories, and brain pattern into electrical data, allowing them to ‘live’ as long as they want after death.” the employee said. “Amazing,” Jo said breathlessly, eyes sparkling as they widened in thought.

“What if, the loved one’s been dead for a few years?” she asked. The employee tensed, “Well, I guess it might be possible to construct an acceptable facsimile of a person’s personality, using a person’s memories of said person, though it wouldn’t be the same as if we scanned the person in question’s actual brain.” he answered. “I’m willing to try it, how much is it?” Jo said impatiently, “Well, it usually costs about $25,000, but due to today’s sale you can get it for half off.” the employee answered, Jo began to grimace, “But, you can pay $5,000 today, and pay the remaining balance off over 36 months.” the employee offered, “Alright, let’s do that one.” Jo said. “Excellent!” the employee said with a smile, “Lie down on this seat while we upload the Box’s personality.” the employee said. Jo lay on the seat, and closed her eyes as the process began.

Barbara sat in her, and Jo’s car solemnly. She looked at the time 10:50, ten minutes until Jo’s appointment would start rapping up. “Why do I come?” she asked herself, “This car is self-driving, it even has a function where I could force it to only drive here, and then drive back home.” she said. “So why do I come with her?” she asked again, “I mean, I haven’t sat in on one of her sessions since we got married, so that’s not it.” she said, “She doesn’t talk about her sessions afterward, just a pat fine every time I ask.” she continued. She huffed, “And we both know how true that is.” she said.

“I don’t know, maybe I feel like staying home, or going to work, or just… not being here for her,” she started, “Would be an admittance failure.” she said. “Like I’m letting her flail out here, on her own against the world, unable to help.” Barbara reasoned, “But, it’s more than that… We’ve been married for two-and-a-half decades, and even before that we dated practically throughout college… I’ve never had to face the world without her beside me,” she observed, “I can’t face the world without her.” she continued.

Barbara looked up at her conversational ‘partner’, “I don’t know, what do you think?” she asked. The dashboard doll of a ballet dancer mid-pirouette offered no response. “Heh, yeah, I knew you’d say that.” Barbara said, diverting her eyes once again. “Now who’s crazy?” she asked herself under her breath.

A moment later, Jo opened the left passenger door, and took a seat. Barb readjusted herself in her seat – a near involuntary holdover behavior from a time before automated vehicles – “How did your session go?” she asked Jo. “It went, well.” Jo answered uneasily, “How did the doctor alter your medication?” Barbara asked, pressing ‘1’ on the car’s list of bookmarked locations. “It, uh, didn’t, apparently the visions might just be a coping mechanism for the loneliness I feel at home everyday.” Jo said, “Oh?” Barbara responded with interest. “So, he prescribed some kind of virtual buddy device, it’s supposed to sync with the home’s automation controls.” Jo continued. “Like, like one of those 'girlfriend-in-a-bottle' dealies that are all the rage in Japan?” Barbara asked with a slight chuckle, a wave of shame washed over Jo, “It’s similar.” she said tensely. “What’s wrong?” Barbara asked, noticing Jo’s demeanor, “It wasn’t covered by insurance, I had to use my credit card to cover it.” Jo said, which technically was not a lie. “Shit." Barb grumbled, "Well, if it helps I’m sure it’ll be worth the cost.” she said. “Yeah…” Jo replied, staying quiet for the rest of the ride.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chasing Lions (Key: Jungle-2)
The Senate Staffer Slaying

     Eliza Foster sat back in her seat, as relaxed in real life, as she was in the game. Sure, Valley of Elves didn’t have the best graphics, or the most active devs, or the most engaging content pool, but it was like a second home, complete with gamdring-bone chairs. Besides, she had already sunk over 3,000 hours into it, it was too late to start a whole new one. A message notification dinged, bringing Foster’s attention to a mailbox on her in-game ‘desk’.
     She opened the mailbox, and read the message “Watch me.” it simply stated, linking to what Foster assumed was a video. She tapped the link, and was transported to a dark, unfamiliar room, only lit by a single light on the ceiling. “Eliza Foster, you have sold your soul to the Military-Industrial-Complex, aiding in the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in third world nations, and for that, you must pay.” a harsh automated voice told. “Ooh, I’m so scared,” Foster mocked, “Spooky peaceniks hacked my game!” she said facetiously. “Even if you’re little display did bother me, guess what I can do?” she asked rhetorically, attempting to quit out of the application.          She tapped on the quit to desktop button, but nothing happened, so she tried it again to the same result. “What the hell is wrong with this thing?” she questioned.
A man in all black appeared before her, “For your crimes against humanity, and the Earth it inhabits, you have been sentenced to death.” he said in the same automated voice as before, “Enough games you tree-hugging gimp!” Foster yelled, finding herself unable to move. The man in black did not respond, moving his arm – and with it Foster’s – in the direction of the upper-most, right-hand drawer of Foster’s desk, “What the hell are you doing!?” Foster asked panicked, fighting to regain control of her body. ‘She’ opened it, and picked up the handgun she stored within, “No, no, no, no, no!” she yelled as she found herself locked out of her body, only able to watch as ‘her’ arm brought the gun up to her temple. With a flash, she was gone…

     Special Agent Charles Morrow sat outside FBI Director Vivian Charleston’s office, watching the news as he waited. “...Other than the driver of the vehicle, there were thankfully no casualties.” the anchorwoman said, a chyron displaying a photo of the ruined New-Life storefront captioned with the words “TERROR ATTACK IN DC” in big bold letters beside her. “Despite the lack of human loss, that has not stopped the attack from impacting the stock market, which dipped by nearly 200 points the day after the attack, dropping a further 500 points across the following week, and many economists are expecting further losses if the Lion’s Pack threat is not dealt with soon.” she continued. “The Director of the FBI released a statement this morning, promising that the agency will, quote, ‘Stop at nothing to bring the cowards behind this attack to justice’ and is expected to formally announce the creation of a dedicated task force later today.” the anchorwoman said.
     Something beeped on the desk of the Director’s secretary. “They’re ready for you, Agent Morrow.” the secretary told him, as she pressed a button to unlock the large metal doors separating the Director’s office from the rest of the J. Edgar Hoover building. Morrow entered, and saw that the table in the heart of the Director’s office was occupied by FBI Director Charleston at its head, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Isabella Kane, Deputy Director of the National Security Agency Jason Chatham, and Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Peter Booze sitting to her left. “Morrow, I’m glad you could join us, take a seat.” Director Charleston said in a tense, controlled manner of speaking, motioning to the empty seat on her right.
     “This is the Agent you recommended?” Dep. Sec. Kane asked as Morrow sat down across from her, “Yes, Agent Morrow is one of my best agents, I have no doubt he’s the best man for the job.” Director Charleston responded. “Anyone going to tell me what ‘the job’ is?” Morrow asked, “You’ve been selected to lead an elite inter-Agency squad tasked with finding the leader of the Lion’s Pack, and bringing him to justice.” Charleston answered, “Inter-Agency?” Morrow asked, “You’ll be joined by one member each from Homeland, The NSA, and the CIA.” P/DDNI Booze said. “CIA? I thought this was a domestic investigation?” Morrow asked, “During times like these cooperation between our country’s top Domestic, and International security services are essential,” Charleston said, “Plus, we must be mindful of the possibility for this investigation to go global, in which case having a member of the team already versed in international investigations may prove to be crucial.” Booze added.
     “Alright, when do I meet the team?” Morrow asked, “They should be waiting in the bullpen, you’ll get a chance to introduce yourself once this meeting is over.” Charleston answered. “Speaking of which,” Kane started, checking her watch as she adjusted herself, “I have a meeting in ten minutes, if we’re just about done here, I’m going to have to go.” she said, “Same as I.” Chatham said, “and I.” Booze added, the three of them standing to leave. “The three of you go ahead, I have a few things I wish to discuss with Agent Morrow before I wrap up.” Charleston said.
     As the three bureaucrats left the room, Director Charleston rose from her seat at the table, and took her seat behind her desk, Agent Morrow also rose, walking to the front of the director’s desk. “Are you going to tell me why I was chosen for this job?” Morrow asked, “You’re my best investigator, this is my most important assignment.” Charleston answered plainly, her eyes fixed on the paperwork she was quickly filling out. “That’s just it, I’m your best investigator. I work better alone, and I haven’t been on a team, let alone led one, in years.” Morrow persisted, “No one fights alone, Atlas, it’s as simple as that.” she answered. “It’s never that simple, not in this city,” Morrow huffed, bending over Charleston’s desk to look her in the eye, “Is there something going on here that I don’t know about?” he asked, Charleston laid down her pen, looked Morrow in the eye, “Nothing that you need to concern yourself with.” she said sternly, before returning to her work, a clear sign that Morrow was to leave the room.
     Morrow left without a word, and descended the stairs to the drab gray bullpen which housed his new team. Hushed whispers bouncing off the room’s skylight were clear as day to Morrow as he descended the stairs. “Does anyone know anything about the guy who’s supposed to lead this team?” an unseen man asked, “I heard he’s been with the agency longer than anyone.” a woman said, “I heard he was involved in taking down the Green Fist organization.” another woman said. Morrow descended the stairs, saw in the bullpen two men, and two women, three of them joined in a triangle of gossip. “I heard that there was a terrorist group on the loose, threatening to kill Americans until we stop them!” Morrow said sternly as he observed his new team, causing them to quickly adopt more professional demeanors.
     “Alright, it’s only a matter of time before the Lions launch another attack, so make your introductions quick!” Morrow ordered as he entered the section of the bullpen designated to his team. The trio of triangle gossipers lined up in front of him, woman-man-woman. “Very Special Agent Elise Kord, CIA, over a decade of experience in the field combating terrorist organizations on four different continents.” the first woman, a tall, attractive brunette said proudly, “Chip Brozdsky, Marine sniper turned USS-CAT marksman, awarded the Marksman’s Badge, and the Bronze Star while serving in the Sino-NATO War.” the tall, tanned, and rough-faced man in the middle said firmly, “Nicole Martins, Senior Analyst for NSA’s Special Source Operations division, commended by supervisors for an analytical mind, and eidetic memory!” the last woman said excitedly.
     Morrow looked at the one member of the team he had not been introduced to yet, a young-looking man in a simple grey business suit sitting quietly beside Morrow’s desk. Morrow moved to stand in front of the man, who noticed Morrow’s shadow hitting him, and smiled as he looked Morrow in the eye. “Who are you?” Morrow asked, “I am a prototype Investigative-Professional Model 100, I have been sent by New-Life to aid in your investigation.” the man said chipperly as it stood up.
     “A robot detective?” Morrow asked, “Is that even possible?” he repeated, “I assure you that my systems are operating at full capacity, though some minor software variance should be expected due to me only being a prototype.” the robot answered. “What the hell am I supposed to call you, anyway?” Morrow asked, “My official designation is IPM-100, though I’m able to adopt over one-hundred-thousand names as my own if you desire it.” the robot said, “Well, I’m not calling you that,” Morrow began, “I’ll call you… Claiborne.” he eventually settled on.
     The robot paused for a moment, before smiling, “Alright, Claiborne it is!” it said. “What kind of name is Claiborne?” Martins asked from behind Morrow, “I’m not sure I’m comfortable working with a robo-detective.” Brodzky said. Morrow’s pager buzzed, “No time for chit-chat,” he called as he checked it, “We’ve got a body in Arlington, grab your gear!” he ordered. “You’re with me, Clay.” he said as he exited.

     The scene was a grizzly mess, the victim was still seated in her office chair, legs propped up on her desk, and half of her torso was slouched over the chair’s right armrest. There was an entry wound on her right temple, and an exit wound on her right temple, while a third-generation Glock-19 sat on the floor beside her chair, and below her limp left hand. On the desk were the victim’s computer, a meticulously constructed gaming, and productivity machine. Around the desk were a few stray bags of empty junk food packages, and empty bottles of soda.
     “It looks like a suicide.” Officer Brodzky observed as he documented the crime scene photographically. “Initial impressions can be deceiving.” Morrow said as he studied the body from afar, “If it was a suicide, why would she do it while propping her feet up on her desk, and while hooked into a video game?” He rhetorically asked. “Well, other than the bathroom, and bedroom, the house looks uninhabited, indicating that the victim spent the majority of her time on her computer. Maybe she considered the game world closer to her heart than the real world?” Analyst Martins reasoned, “A few years ago I remember hearing about a trend of kids killing themselves while locked into a video game, hoping to respawn in the game world.” Agent Kord said.
     “The popularity of that ‘trend’ was widely exaggerated by the media, in fact only around a dozen suicides were ever directly tied to it.” Clay said as he inspected the Glock-19, “Hey, shouldn’t you be wearing gloves?” Brodzky asked, “I don’t have any fingerprints, and besides, the only prints on here are the victims.” Clay answered. “Which points back to the possibility of this being a suicide.” Brodzsky said, “I don’t think that’s the case,” Clay said, standing up, and walking to the wall which possessed brain, and blood splatter belonging to the victim. “What the hell are you doing, Clay?” Agent Morrow asked as the android tapped a finger to the wall, and put it in its ‘mouth’.
     “Jesus!” Brodzky exclaimed, “Christ!” Kord yelled, “Oh, god!” Martins said, as they all watched in disgust. “Was that really necessary, Clay?” Morrow asked, “In order to further my investigative abilities, your director requested that I be outfitted with a mobile forensics lab. The lab is in my lower torso, and the only way for evidence to reach it is by passing it through a tube running from my mouth to the lab.” Clay explained, “Unless… You’d prefer if I opened my torso cavity every time I needed to analyze forensic evidence?” he asked, “No, just…” Morrow trailed off. “What did you find out, anyway?” he asked, changing the subject, “The victim’s mental chemistry, and brain structure were normal, she wasn’t suffering from any form of mental illness, let alone one severe enough to drive her to suicide.” Clay said.
     “So suicide’s out, what does that leave us with?” Morrow asked, “Murder, but the house shows no sign of forced entry.” Agent Kord replied. Analyst Martins looked the scene over, “The victim was using an immersive full-body virtual reality suit when she died, these things tap directly into the body’s nervous system in order to work, is it possible someone used the suit to take over her motor function, forcing her to shoot herself in the head?” she theorized. “It’s possible, but the software required to perform something like that would need to be downloaded into the computer first.” Clay said, “Is there any way you can check the victim’s computer for something like that?” Morrow asked, nudging towards the computer. “I can do more than just that!” Clay smiled, index finger transforming into a USB-connector before inserting it into the computer’s primary USB-port.
     Clay’s ‘eyes’ went from brown to completely white as he ‘jacked-in’ to the computer. “How long is this-” Brodzsky began before Clay’s eyes returned to brown, “Good news, I’ve found the software in question!” he said chipperly. “Do you know where it was downloaded from?” Morrow asked, “I do! But I also found out why the victim was targeted.” Clay said, “Well get on with it!” Morrow demanded. “I’ve found emails between the victim, and lobbyists for M7-Fairchild Aviation where the victim agreed to persuade her employer – Senator Ivan Richter, Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Military Aviation – to block the Aviation Modernization Bill from coming to the floor, which if passed would retire the company’s A-35 from active service. The victim’s bank statements corroborate this evidence.” Clay explained.
     “I thought the Lion’s Pack wanted millions of people to die, why would they object to us getting better killing machines?” Martins questioned, “Mass murder is a moral victory when they do it, but a tragedy when their opponents do it; such is the self-contradictory nature of extremist dogma.” Morrow reasoned, “Besides, they’re sending a message to congress ‘We can get to your staffers; we can get to you.” he continued. “I also discovered the virus originated from.” Clay said to steer the conversation back on track, “Where?” Morrow asked.
     “It was downloaded onto the victim’s computer as an attachment from an in-game message on Valley of Elves.”
     “What the hell is that?”
      “It’s a fantasy IVR-MMO-RPG, according to the victim’s profile she’s logged around 3500 hours onto it since 2045.”
     “Can you determine who sent the message, and where they were when they sent it?” Morrow asked, Clay smiled, “I can do better than that, Agent Morrow, I can tell you where the perpetrator is now.” he said. “How?” Morrow asked, “The killer is still in game, I even identified his IP address, and sent it to your pager.” Clay said. Morrow checked his pager, seeing that the address in question was located in DC, “Martin, you’re with me, Brodzky you’re with Kord.” Morrow said as he began to leave. “Should I come with you?” Clay asked, “No, no… I have a plan, you stay jacked in.” Morrow told him.

     The quartet of federal agents stacked up in front of the door to the apartment that the IP address had led them to, “We’re in position, Clay, throw out the bait.” Morrow said into his radio, “Alright… the bait has been taken, you’re ready to go.” Clay responded a moment afterward. Morrow kicked down the door to the apartment, “Federal agents, put your hands behind your head!” he ordered as he did so. The greasy Lion’s Pack member spun around in his chair, and quickly picked up the sidearm he kept next to his computer. Her stiffened, unable to move a muscle by himself, “Doesn’t feel too nice to be on the receiving end of that, does it punk?” Morrow mocked as he took the man’s gun. “Hey Clay,” Morrow began as he retrieved his handcuffs, “Make this piece of trash arrest himself.” he said as he tossed his handcuffs onto the petrified perpetrator's lap. “You got it, boss.” Clay made the terrorist say in a squeaky, yet low-pitched voice.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Strange Island of Dr. Schroeder
Arrival (Key: Wells-1)

     Genevieve Ashland had never been in a helicopter before. This fact rumbled through her mind like a storm cloud, yet she could not tell quite why. She was on her way to study under Dr. Maximilian Schroeder, one of the modern geniuses of genetic manipulation. It was the dream of a lifetime for anyone prospective-geneticist, and it was all hers. Yet all she could think about, is the fact that she’d never flown in a helicopter before.
     “If you look to your left, you’ll see that our destination is now in view.” the pilot said over the radio. Genny looked out the window to see the island that Dr. Schroeder called home. The only sign of human occupation on the island was the good doctor’s neo-gothic villa while the rest of the island was overtaken with dense jungle foliage. “I don’t see a helipad, where are we supposed to land?” Genny asked the pilot, who smiled as he glanced back at her, “Dr. Schroder’s manor has more than its fair share of surprises.” he said confidently, his sunglasses glinting in the sun as he turned back around. A moment later, a flat section of roof shifted to display a helicopter landing pad, complete with a retractable stairway leading to one of the manor’s many patios, “What did I tell you?” the pilot said cheerfully.
     The helicopter set down gently onto the helipad as Genny slid open the door with one hand, gripping her luggage with her other, to see that Dr. Max Schroeder, flanked on his left by a tall formally dressed man, awaited her. Dr. Schroeder looked nothing like the tall, handsome, and self-assured young scientist that the media portrayed him as. Instead, Genny saw a hunched man with graying hair, dark sunken eyes, and wrinkles all across his face. The man beside him looked even worse. Matted black hair topped a rough, angular face, milky white eyes contrasted harshly against the man’s pale complexion, the man’s gaunt skin scarcely conceived the litany of muscles, and blood vessels hiding underneath.
     “You must be Ms. Ashland.” Dr. Schroeder said in a smooth, stoic voice which allayed any suspicions of frailty that Genny possessed towards the wizened geneticist. “Your professors spoke rather highly of you,” he continued as he drew closer to Genny, “I hope that you meet the lofty expectations I have for you.” he said, stopping a few feet in front of Genny. “I assure you, Doctor, I won’t disappoint.” Genny said confidently, showing her host a prideful posture, and a smile.
     “Yes, I would…” Dr. Schroeder began, before hunching over, and clutching at his head in pain. The tall man who accompanied him shambled over to offer him a hand of support, which the doctor batted away aggressively. “Are you alright?” Genny asked, “I’m fine!” Dr. Schroeder said gruffly as he turned away from her, “Just…” he started again regaining his calm, “I’m afraid a tour of the grounds will have to wait until later.” he said. “Crawford, show Ms. Ashland to her quarters.” he commanded of the tall man. Genny looked at the tall man, who stared back at her with a stone-neutral expression, before turning, and leading her onto the patio below.
     The duo walked silently, Genny behind Crawford, for a few tense moments before Genny decided to break the silence. “So, uh, how long have you worked for Dr. Schroeder?” she asked uncertainly. Crawford did not respond. Genny looked him over again, closer than she had the first time she saw them. “Are those, scars, on your neck?” she asked. Crawford turned to face her, staring at her for a moment, before raising his hand to motion towards a set of oak double doors. “Uhm, is this my room?” Genny asked nervously, Crawford offered a low, deep groan in response. “Uh, OK.” Genny said, anxiously walking to the room in question.
     Genny’s eyes went wide as she entered the room, impressed by the sheer openness, and size on display. The room she inhabited was far larger than the tiny door she had been forced to share while at Vanderbilt, though rather empty, being furnished with only a bed, and a dresser. The pristine white curtains on the windows blew gently as warm island air filled the bedroom. On the wall across from the muted-blue canopy bed was a portrait of Dr. Maximilian Schroeder as a young man. Combed black hair, a fair complexion, sparkling blue eyes, and a confident smirk of assured victory presented the picture of a master of science unmatched by any other in his chosen field of study. Genny looked at the portrait, and hoped that there was still a bit of that man left in Dr. Schroeder, instead of the grizzly front he had presented when they first met.

     Hidden deep within his laboratory, illuminated only by the instruments and chemicals he was working with, Dr. Max Schroeder was in crisis. “This was a mistake,” he said in fright, “A terrible mistake!” he hurriedly continued. “I should’ve never brought another person onto the island, not until my research was completed!” he admonished himself. “Be calm, Doctor, the new arrival may prove useful to our goals.” a man located somewhere beyond his vision calmed him, “Yes, useful. She is talented… for a student.” Schroeder reminded himself.
     “Yes, and if nothing else, we could have her for a bite.” a voice said from its position hidden deep within the dark recesses of the room Schroeder occupied. “Stifle yourself you portrait of misery!” Schroeder yelled at the unseen tormentor, “This grizzly condition which now ails me is the product of your design!” he continued. “Calm yourself,” the first man said, “You only strengthen him by growing angry.” he advised. Out of sight, the tormentor sucked the stale air through gritted teeth, “He’s right,” he started, “I do, oh so enjoy it when you go mad, even if it’s just for a spell.” he teased in a hushed tone.
     Schroeder began to respond, but was stopped, “Enough of this.” the man commanded. “We have work that must be done,” he said, “Work that is far more important than any passing anxiety, or dark impulse.” he continued “The dream of all mankind since the tale of Gilgamesh was first put to tablet, is now within our reach, but only if we do not give ourselves to these precociousness impulses.” he finished. Both Schroeder, and his tormentor grew silent, “Yes, you are right, we must get back to work.” Schroeder said, “Perhaps, a bit of restrain could prove advantageous.” the tormentor admitted. Having agreed upon a truce, the three figures returned to their solemn task.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bipartisan Relations
The Day After (Key: Woodwork-2)

     Mike groaned as his alarm clock beeped, forcing him awake. He groggily flipped himself over in bed, smacking the top of his alarm clock to stop the harsh noise coming from it. Sunlight leaked through Mike’s slit-narrow windows illuminating his cramped, drab apartment in the peakish-yellow light of early morning. He pushed himself off of his creaky, perforated by errant springs on one side mattress, and in a bolt of agony, realized how much his body ached.
     He let out a groan as he massaged his back, “What the hell did I do last night?” he wondered aloud. He glanced over to his alarm clock, noticing only then that there was a small post-it note stuck to its side. He picked it up, “Don’t know what was worse, having to dodge springs during, or having to dodge them after. Surprised you could sleep after all we got up to. Next time we’ll go back to my place – Lucy” it read in loopy calligraphy, “Oh yeah…” Mike mumbled. “Next time!” he said happily, before realizing, “She didn’t leave me her phone number.”
     He grabbed his cell phone from beside his alarm clock, hoping that Lucy had put her number into his phone. Instead, he found that he had missed a call from his mother late last night. “Crap,” he mumbled as he pressed the re-dial button, and swung his lower body off of his bed. He quickly padded to his kitchen, pulling from the fridge a half-full half-gallon of milk, a bottle of instant breakfast, and a bottle of orange juice, before turning to his cabinet, and taking out a bottle of Drain-O-
     Drain-O? No, that’s not right. He sat it aside as - “Why didn’t you pick up last night!?” his mother squawked at him as she picked up. Maybe Drain-O wouldn’t be so bad, Bruening thought as he grabbed the bottle of Asprin he was looking for. “I was busy, Ma.” Mike defended, not noticing his voice slipping into his native New Englander accent, “Oh yeah, doing what, drinking?” his mother accused. “Uh… no.” Mike said as he poured orange juice, milk, and instant breakfast liquid into a mug. “Very convincing…” his mother said as Mike swallowed two tablets of Asprin, and chugged his homemade hangover cure.
     “For your information, Mother, I was with a woman.” Mike said defiantly moving into his living room, and turning on his television to C-Span before grabbing a brown off-the-rack suit from his closet. “Really?” His mother said suspiciously as he began to put on his clothes, “What’s this girl like?” she asked. “She’s-” Mike started before pausing, his words blockaded by the surprise he felt as he stared at his television set.
     C-Span was covering the swearing-in of congresses most recent member, who had been elected last December to fill out the rest of Representative Martin DeAngelo’s term. Mike gazed in stunned silence as he saw Speaker Holden Cormac administer the oath of office to Lucy, which the chyron on screen further identified as Representative-Elect Lucile C. Pendergast (A-NY). Pendergast… Mike knew that name, Arthur Pendergast was one of the New Party’s biggest donors; so what was his daughter doing serving as a member of Congress, let alone as a member of the American party?
     “Are you still there, Michael?” his mother asked him, breaking him from his thoughts, “Yeah, I’m just…” he paused, “Fine.” he said. There was no need to worry himself, he was a low-level lackey in the executive branch, she was in Congress, the only time they’d ever interact was if she had been assigned to the House Committee on Labor&Automation, and none of his superiors were available to brief her, which was - “From: Ass. Sec. McCarey, Subject: Fill In For Me: Due to a scheduling error I will be unable to brief the new congresswoman on the current legislative situation as it relates to the field of Automation as it relates to the Labor market. I need you to fill in for me today.” an email notification told him as soon as the thought had percolated inside his mind, turning his hopes to ashes. “You were telling me about that woman?” his mother reminded, “She’s… Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.” Mike said, “I need to get to work, I’ll call you back.” he signed off before hanging up.

     Bruening sat on the Metro, and sighed as he considered what he was going to do concerning Lucy. “Something rough on the docket?” a man seated across from him asked. Bruening looked up to see a clean-cut man, a little over a decade-and-a-half his junior, looking at him with an inquisitive expression while holding a book in his hands. “It’s nothing, just that I have to get on the Orange line after this stop.” Bruening dismissed, “Right,” the man said with a smile, he saw right through Bruening’s lie, “I’m straight red until I get to Bethesda.” he continued. “Oh, are you a doctor? My old college roommate is the Head of Physical Therapy at Walter Reed.” Mike asked, “No, I’m an architect, my firm is across the street from Walter Reed though.” the man replied.
     “So where do you work?” the man asked, closing his book, and resting it on his lap, “Well, today I’m working in the Capitol.” Bruening replied. “Really? You’re a bit old to be a staffer.” the man replied, “I work for the Department of Labor, I’m supposed to be briefing a newly elected Representative about the ins and outs of our current policy on automation.” Mike replied. The man hummed, and shook his head, “That’s a topic beyond my expertise, my wife’s the techie one of us.” he said, “Is your wife also an architect?” Mike asked, “No, she’s a physics teacher over at Sharon Pratt High School, they’re still on winter break, which might be for the best…” the man answered mumbling the final part.
     “Well, briefings aren’t so bad, I’ve done over a hundred of them over the years, after a while it’s like riding a bike.” Mike grunted, “But, it’s not like those hundred other times.” Mike said, “Oh?” the man replied, waiting for Bruening to carry on. “This representative, and I,” Bruening started, “We’ve been… involved.” he said, good Catholic modesty preventing him from using the proper term. “Scandalous!” the man said, “How long ago was this, ‘involvement’?” he asked, “Uh… a few hours?” Mike said sheepishly. “Well, was it a, one-time fling, or, something more?” the man said, “I… don’t know, she left a note, but, didn’t tell me her number.” Mike replied.
     The train came to a screeching halt as it arrived at Metro Center. “Well this is where I get off.” Bruening said, standing up, “See you around,” the man said, “And hey, don’t worry too much about that congresswoman, she sees something in you.” he continued. Bruening ignored the man’s awkward phrasing, “Yeah, maybe you’re right.” he said. “What’s your name, anyway?” Mike asked, “Brad Jensen.” the man answered, offering his hand, “Mike Bruening.” Mike said, shaking Brad’s hand. “See you around, Brad.” he said before quickly leaving to find the correct metro line.

     As Bruening approached Lucy’s congressional office, which still had DeAngelo’s nameplate next to the door, he heard voices leaking out of the ajar door. “As your Chief of Staff, I must insist that you not smoke inside your congressional office.” a low, yet unmistakably feminine, voice chastised, “Relax, Ship, what’s the worst that could happen?” the sweet unmistakable voice of Lucy said, not in a tone of carelessness, but one that expressed confidence, she possessed a total assurance that there would be no consequences for this action. “Well, the Combating The Popularity of Tobacco Act of 2031 prohibits people from smoking on Federal property,” ‘Ship’ replied, “The penalty for breaking the law is a fine of $250,000, and besides – a scandal this early into your tenure would kill our reelection chances.” she continued.
     “That law’s barely enforced, every Labor Department meeting I’ve attended has been filled with more smoke than the 1924 Democratic National Convention.” Bruening said as he entered. He looked at Lucy, she was dressed far more professionally than when they had first met. Her blonde hair was done up in a tight bun, piercing blue eyes looked at Bruening behind a pair of tortoiseshell glasses, and her face was made up naturally. The red business suit had been replaced with a dark-gray plaid pantsuit. A combustible cigarette was held between the index, and middle fingers on her right hand, a pink lipstick stain barely visible around the filter.
     “Something the matter, Bruening?” Lucy asked him in a controlled tone, “I can’t remember the last time I saw a person smoking a combustible cigarette.” Bruening said. “What do you smoke, Phillip Morrises?” he asked, “No, Star Venuses.” she replied. “What?” Bruening asked.
     “Star Venuses, they’re a product of Star Cigarettes.”
     “Never heard of them.”
     “They’re a small manufacturer in New Jersey, I learned about them while I was studying at Princeton.”
     Bruening laughed, “That must be why I’ve never heard of them – they’re made for trust fund bohemians.” he said. Before Lucy could respond, her Chief of Staff cleared her throat to chime in. “I hate to interrupt the two of you, but we really do need to get this briefing underway.” she said “Yes, you’re right,” Lucy said with a nod of acknowledgment, “Mr. Bruening this is Abigail Shipley, my campaign-manger-turned-chief-of-staff.” she said, formally introducing Mike to the sour-faced Asian woman who had been scowling at him since he entered. “Well, sit down.” Lucy said, motioning towards the small round desk located in the center of her office.
     Mike, Lucy, and Ms. Shipley sat around the table, and Ms. Shipley quickly placed several relevant documents she had been carrying on the table. “Alright, Automation policy seems complex on the surface, but once you dig into it you’ll find that it's actually rather simple.” Bruening began, “It all comes back to the Human Worker Protection Act of 2045,” he continued, grabbing a summary of the relevant bill from the stack of papers on the table. “This bill was the first, and so far only major piece of legislation related to the automation of labor in the economy.” Bruening said.
     "It banned the automation of public workers outside of extreme circumstances, placed quotas on the number of workers a business can automate in a fiscal year, regulated the minimum severance package that automated workers could be given when fired, gave tax breaks to companies which had a certain percentage of their workforce as humans, ended previous subsidies towards research projects which sought to produce new, and better autonomous workers, created the Beurua of Automation, Robots, and Androids in the Workforce as a unit of the US Department of Labor in order to oversee implementation of the act, and similar acts related to Automation, and established the Human Labor Commission to investigate violations of the act.” he explained. “For the past 5 years the HWPA has been the be-all-end-all of Federal policy on automation, more recent acts such as the Workforce Modernization Act of 2049 have only been amendments to the HWPA to adjust the specific thresholds for its various provisions.” he finished.
     “Very concise, thank you, Mr. Bruening.” Lucy said, “Yes, we even have a bit of time until that fundraiser with Senator Blucher.” Ms. Shipley said, checking her watch. “How much time?” Lucy asked, “About an hour, why?” Shipley replied. Lucy looked away from her Chief of Staff, and adjusted her glasses, “Ship, go get me one of those Neurocharge energy bars from the Capitol cafeteria,” she said coldly. “Make sure it’s an Electric Raspberry.” she said as Ship obediently stood up, and began to leave the room. As Ship passed by her seat, Lucy grabbed onto her Chief of Staff’s arm, “And I swear to god, if you bring me anything other than Electric Raspberry, I will staple your head to my desk.” she threatened. Bruening could see a brief look of fear wash over Shipley’s face, before she returned to stoic calmness, and left the room.
     After Shipley had left the room, Bruening coughed awkwardly, “Well, I’d hate to make you late for that fundraiser, he said as he started to raise out of his seat. As Mike started to walk away, his leg was hooked, and pulled out from under him. Mike chuffed as he fell on the ground, and readjusted himself to see Lucy looking down at him, a smirk on her lips.
     “Knowing Ship, we have at least 45 minutes until she gets back,” Lucy said, glancing at the door, and then back at Mike, “And besides, you still need my telephone number, don’t you.” she continued. “Yeah, do have it written down somewhere?” Mike asked, Lucy huffed, leaned down, “Sure I do,” she began as she inched closer to Bruening, “But you’re going to have to find it, first.” she said with a chuckle as she moved from her chair to Bruening’s lower torso, pinning him to the floor. Lucy leaned down, Mike leaned up, and-
     “I was able to find those energy bars!” Shipley said happily as she pushed open the office door with her back. Lucy quickly altered her posture, grabbed a small paperweight from her table, and threw it with vigor at the door. “I’m busy, come back later!” she yelled as Shipley yelped, and the sound of food in paper wrappers hitting the floor sounded from the hallway, “And don’t come back until you learn how to know!” she continued. Lucy took a breath, “Now,” she began, “Where were we?” she said, resuming her, and Bruening’s embrace…

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

The Jensens
Shining Metal Boy (Key: Resurrection-2)

The summer sun was shining, and reflected off of the dewy grass as the smell of honey wafted through the air. “It’s a wonderful day for a picnic, isn’t it Honey?” Brad said with a smile as he lay on the red-and-white checkered blanket the Jensen family had laid under a tall oak tree. “Yes, I’m so glad we could spend it together as a family.” Beth said, “Where’s Alex?” she asked looking around. “I’m right here, mom!” her sweet-voiced angel said from behind, “There you are, come here!” she said, as she happily scooped him up, and brought him into a hug. She looked down at her son, his cute face scrunched up in a joyful smile, his dirty-blonde hair mussed up playfully, hazel eyes sparkled like the moon. He was so cute… and so cold. “Alex?” Beth asked as she felt the warmth drain from his small body, “Alex!” she called panicked.
    An instant later Beth awoke, still seated in the rocking chair in Alex’s nursery. She rushed over to the crib to check on Alex, saw that it was empty, and stiffened. In an instant, it all came crashing back to her. She remembered how her baby boy looked when she first held him. So cute, and small… and blue…
    Beth fought back her urge to cry, and quickly left the nursery. She couldn’t stand another moment in that room, sitting next to that empty crib. Padding sullenly, with no clear destination in mind, Beth reached the home’s family room/kitchen. There was a note taped to the refrigerator door, Beth could tell from the handwriting that it was written by Brad. She walked into the kitchen part of the open-design common room to get a better look at it.
    I’m sorry about last night. I shouldn’t have pressured you to move on before you were ready. But I do still think we should see someone to help us deal with our grief. I’ll look into some local grief counselors while I’m at work today. I love you more than anything, and I know we can get through this if we stick together.
    It read in Brad’s stilted, cramped handwriting. Beth smiled faintly as she read Brad’s apology, and his corny, yet earnest optimism that they could overcome anything with the power of love. Her eyes scanned the rest of the house, her mind unable to think of anything except how it should be. A home, with children playing, laughing, and growing while Brad, and Beth took care of them. Instead, it was just a sterile house filled with naught but grief, and gloom. She sighed, she needed to leave, she couldn’t stand to be alone in that house for another moment.

    The cold January air stung her as she wandered the streets without direction. Beth didn’t care, it took her mind off of everything else. How could she go on, she wondered. She, and Brad had been trying for a baby for years before they conceived Alex, and then to have their little miracle be snatched away from them mere moments after birth was… Too much to bear. The thought of having to go through that again, the fear that it would end the same way, was paralyzing. Maybe it could stand to be a bit colder, she thought.
    “Ma’am?” a young man asked Beth, “Are you alright?” he continued. “Wh- why do you ask?” Beth replied, “You’ve been standing at this crosswalk for the past ten minutes, the light’s changed like five times now.” the man said. “I, uh…” Beth started, “You don’t look like your dressed for this weather, how about you come inside, and I’ll call you a cab.” the man offered. “O-Ok.” Beth said, following the man inside the little shop he had come out of.
    Beth’s mind was in a fog as she walked inside, her senses falling to the wayside. Her eyes scanned the store as the man placed a phone call, finding the store to be filled with what looked like human beings. “Alright ma’am, the car will be here in five minutes, just wait here until they arrive, and I’ll walk you out.” the man said after a few moments. “What is this place?” Beth asked, “Oh, it’s a small artisan android shop that my husband, and his family run.” the man answered. “Artisan androids?” Beth asked, “Yes indeed, top-of-the-line androids, with top-of-the-line personalities,” the man began, “Unlike the type of androids mass-produced by our competitors, our androids are handcrafted to have unique personalities, indistinguishable from those found in organic humans.” he continued.
    “So, what are they used for?” Beth asked, “Well, a number of things, most of our money comes from, uh… companionship models, admittedly, but plenty of our customers also use our androids as surrogate loved ones.” the man replied. “Surrogate loved ones?” Beth asked, “They’re used to, fill the hole, left behind when a loved one passes.” the man replied. “Really?” Beth asked, “You wouldn’t happen to have one to replace a, baby, would you?” she asked, “Unfortunately we don’t have any baby models in stock,” the man said, twisting his face in sympathetic regret, “However we do have an eight-year-old you might be interested in, it’s in the back, follow me.” he continued.
    Beth stopped for a moment to consider how strange the man would have sounded if taken out of context, before shrugging it off, and following along. “Alright, yeah, right here.” the man said, pulling what looked like a child-shaped instrument case from a row of similar items. A gasp escaped Beth’s lips as the case opened, revealing to her an angelic little boy who looked nearly identical to how she imagined Alex would look at that age. He looked as if he borrowed features from each of his ‘parents’, he had Brad’s eyes, and her nose. The man glanced up at Beth, simpered, “What’s his name?” he asked, “Alex.” Beth replied softly.
    “I won’t bore you with the technical details, but I guarantee this model will be everything you wanted out of a son, and more!” the man eagerly said. Beth bent down to get a closer look at the ‘boy’, “He’ll set you back about 50,000 dollars.” the man said. Beth chuffed as a sharp pain hit at her heart – and pocketbook – “I don’t have that kind of money.” she said. The man looked at her uneasily, “Well…” he began sheepishly, “I can give you the holiday discount, and set up a monthly payment plan where you’ll just have to pay $10,000 today.” he said. “That would max out my credit line, but…” she began, looking at the boy laying gently before her, “I’ll do it.” she said.

    Beth tapped on the case nervously as the taxi neared her, and Brad’s house. She thought through her actions a hundredth time, coming up with a dozen or more reasons to regret her decision. They really didn’t have the money for something like this, she should have talked to Brad about it first, she shouldn’t have bought the first model she found. Every rational examination of her actions told her she made the wrong decision. And yet… her motherly instincts made her believe, no, made her know, that what she did was right.
    The man from the store had paid the driver his fare in advance, but Beth gave him a tip as she exited the taxi. She carried the bulky carrier in both arms as she carried it from the car to the front door. She set it aside, and, quickly realizing she had forgotten her keys inside, looked for the fake rock she, and Brad hid their spare key under. “Hey, Beth, I almost didn’t see you!” Trisha Monroe, her next-door neighbor, said with sickening cheer, “I was just coming home from my daily job around the block, what have you been doing this morning?” she asked. Beth spared Trisha a glance, focusing her attention on finding the fake rock, “Hey… bitch.” she mumbled, “What?” Trisha asked, “I said, hey, Trish!” Beth quickly replied, mimicking Trisha’s chipper demeanor as close as she could.
    “I see you went shopping,” Trisha said, turning to the pale blue carrying case beside Beth, “What is this, a tuba, or something?” she asked, placing a hand on the case to grasp it. Beth swatted at her neighbor’s hand, and quickly turned back to find the rock, “It’s… a gift for my husband,” Beth explained, “I would prefer you not touch it.” she said. “Oh, I hope that means the two of you are finally moving on.” Trisha said, Beth grabbed the rock moved it aside, and picked the key underneath silently. “I mean, think on the bright side, not having kids means you’ll have more time, and money things that are more fun!” Trisha continued, “Thanks, Trisha, that really helps!” Beth deadpanned, unlocking the door, and quickly going inside.
    “I don’t want you hanging out with the neighbors.” Beth mumbled to the case as she carried it to an open space in the living room. She clicked open the latch on the side of the case, taking one last look at the inactive android before she turned it on. Searching the case for any instructions, Beth found a simple infographic on the internal side of the case’s roof. “Step 1: Turn the model on by pressing the button found behind its right ear; Step 2: Complete the Initial Set-Up with the model’s assistance (Settings can be altered later by using the button behind the model’s left ear); Step 3: Finalize settings, and activate the model’s live mode by pressing, and holding both the power, and settings buttons.” it said in full.
    Beth felt around the model’s right ear, found the button, and pressed down on it. A few seconds later the model’s eyes flicked open, and glew blue as it jolted up unnaturally. “What is my name?” It asked in a soft, neutral voice, “Alex…” Beth said quietly, “Alexander Dewey Jensen.” she said again more confidently, “Alexander Dewey Jensen, is that correct?” the model asked, “Yes, yes, that’s right.” Beth said. “As an SLO-M5 I come equipped with a default personality, though you can edit this at any time, would you like to make any modifications now?” the model asked, a list of over a hundred different sliders, and settings projecting out of its eyes to display its current settings. Beth didn’t bother to read any of it, “No, you’re fine just the way you are.” she said, “Understood. To complete the setup process, please-” it began, Beth pressing down on the power, and settings buttons before it could finish.
    The model closed its eyes, and remained silent for a moment. “A-Alex?” Beth asked uncertainly, the model opened its eyes, looked at Beth, and smiled, “Hi, mom!” it said happily. Her body flooded with happiness, Beth brought Alex in for a hug, “I love you, son.” she said, “I love you too, mom.” Alex returned. “Come on, let's get you out of that case.” Beth said, breaking the hug to stand up, and offer Alex a hand. Her son took it, and she helped him leave the confines of the carrying case.
    Beth checked her watch, 4:50 PM, “You’re father will be home soon, how about you help me with dinner?” she asked Alex, “Sure, that sounds like fun!” he said happily. “Great, go into the kitchen, and grab the salmon, and cauliflower from the refrigerator, while I dispose of this!” Beth said happily as she grabbed the carrying case. Beth placed the case in a small, unused offshoot room located in front of the house’s bathroom before returning to the kitchen.
    Beth petted Alex’s head as she saw that he had placed the cauliflower, and salmon next to the stove top. “Use these to season the fillets while I prepare the cauliflower steaks.” Beth told Alex as she retrieved the salt, pepper, and olive oil from the cabinet. After slicing the cauliflower into its proper shapes, Beth looked at Alex’s progress, “Good job, son.” she praised patting Alex on the back as she moved the pair of well-seasoned fillets to the pan along with the cauliflower steaks.
    “Alright, these should be done by the time your father gets home.” Beth said as she watched the fish, and cauliflower begin to cook. A moment later a black taxi pulled up in front of the house. “Well, never mind then.” she said. Realizing the immense difficulty she would have to face if she were to reveal Alex’s existence to Brad at the present moment, Beth moved Alex to the other side of the kitchen. “Go to your room at the end of the hall,” she said, “I’ll figure out some way to tell your father about you tomorrow.” she said. “OK!” Alex said simply, quickly walking to the nursery as Brad approached the house.
    “Hey honey.” Brad said, clearly nervous that Beth was still upset about last night, “Hi honey!” Beth cheerily replied. “Is everything alright?” Brad asked, “I’m fine!” Beth said, “Great, in fact!” she continued, grabbing a couple of plates from the cabinet. “For dinner I made seared salmon, and cauliflower steaks, it just needs a few minutes to get finished cooking.” she said, “How about you grab that bottle of garnacha your mother gave us on our wedding night from the closet!” she continued, smiling. “You’re sure you’re fine?” Brad asked, “You seemed really upset last night.” he continued, “Go! Before the fish burns!” Beth said waving in the direction of the bedroom. “Alright.” Brad said, a smile appearing on his face, as he relaxed.
    Beth plated the fish, and cauliflower, and set the table in the heart of the kitchen for her, and Brad. “I have the wine!” Brad said happily as he returned, having left his overcoat, and briefcase in the bedroom. He filled both glasses to halfway full before sitting down, “Thanks for making dinner, honey!” he said as Beth sat down across from him. “Oh, it was nothing, really.” Beth said, “How was your day?” she asked.
    “It was alright, I met a man on the metro today who claimed he was some deputy, assistant, under-secretary of something or another.” Brad began, “Oh really, what did you two talk about?” Beth asked, “I gave him advice, he was having girl trouble apparently.” Brad said, Beth chuckled, “Sounds like a side plot from one of those network tv shows.” she said. “How was work?” Beth asked, “Boring, the Willims job’s gotten caught up in red tape so all I did today was wait for a phone call from HUD.” Brad said. “What did you do today?” Brad asked, “Other than cook dinner, I mean.” he added, careful not to diminish his wife’s domestic labor, “Oh, nothing much, I went for a walk, went over lesson plans for next week, nothing much.” Beth replied. Brad hummed as he ate the salmon, “This salmon is great, honey.” he said, “You really nailed the seasoning.” he continued, “Thanks…” Beth said.
    After the couple finished their dinner, Beth rose from her seat, and grabbed her, and Brad’s plates. “Oh, honey I can clean this up, you already made dinner.” Brad said, rising from his seat, “Oh it's fine, really,” Beth said waving him off. She glanced at the nursery, “I’ll just put these on the dishwasher, and join you in bed in a minute.” she told her husband. Brad pecked Beth’s cheek, “See you soon honey, I’m glad you’re feeling better.” he told her.
    When Brad left the room, Beth put the dishes in the dishwasher, and padded over to the nursery. She creaked the door open, and saw Alex sitting politely in the room’s rocking chair. “Just stay in here for tonight, I promise I’ll talk to your father about you in the morning.” she said, “OK.” the boy said. Beth closed the nursery door, and joined Brad in bed. “I missed you next to me, honey.” Brad said as she lay down next to him, “I missed you too.” Beth replied.

Edited by WVProgressive
Corrected the Title
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jo, Barbara, and Mary
A Normal Day For a Normal Family (Key: Extropianism-3)

The alarm clock whined as it turned to 6:00 AM. Jo groaned, and clicked it off as Barbara sat up beside her. “Did someone make the night shorter while we were asleep, I still feel dead tired.” she complained as she began to free herself from her bedsheets. Jo grabbed onto Barbara’s wrist, and pulled her back into bed as she started to get up.

“Jo, I need to get dressed.” Barbara said, “It takes you twenty minutes to get dressed, tops, and you don’t need to leave until seven.” Jo replied. “Well, what do you… Oh.” Barbara said as Jo began to trail kisses up her neck, “We haven’t done this in a while.” she said flustered. “Wait, wait!” Barbara said grabbing onto Jo’s shoulders, “What if Anne hears us?” she said. “It’ll be fine, she’s probably asleep anyway.” Jo said, resuming her activity, “I don’t… oh… hm… Well, maybe if we’re quick.” Barbara relented.

Elsewhere in the house, Anne’s room was dim – lit only by the light of her desk lamp – yet filled with the sounds, and objects of frantic studying. Crushed, empty cans of energy drinks littered around an overflowing trash can filled with cans, discarded paper, and broken pencils. A desk too small for its task overflowed with papers covering everything from Honors Physics to American Civics&Political History, and in the center was a copy of Ligeia&The Conqueror Worm – A collection of the two works, as well as some of Poe’s other satirical writings – the margins of which were heavily marked with cramped notes, and annotations.

Next to the desk sat a brown hammer-action Casio keyboard. Of the 88 keys all were in working order, though the keys belonging to the C-major melody showed obvious signs of heavy use. On the bench sat Anne, headphones plugged in, and placed on her ears to prevent her rendition of Liszt’s Sonata in B minor from waking her parents. As she completed her tenth go-through of her late night – or perhaps more accurately early morning – studying marathon, she heard her mother knock on her bedroom door. “It’s a great day out Anne, don’t let it pass you by without diving in!” Jo said, “I’ll be out in a minute!” Anne called back, getting up to quickly shove her schoolwork into her bookbag.

Jo tightened her morning gown around her nightdress as she entered the kitchen, scanning the room for something to occupy her morning. She spotted the bread dish shitting on the counter. “Perfect!” she thought. She’ll make her girls lunch like a normal mother should, and it will be good. She took the lunch meat out of the refrigerator – ham for Barb, and turkey for Anne – and placed them on the counter.

“Hey mom, I finally got the date for my piano recital.” Anne said as she entered the kitchen, “Do you think you, and mom can come to this one?” she asked. “Absolutely!” Jo assured, handing Anne her sandwich, and taking a slip of paper that had her recital date printed on it, “I’ll put it on the calendar!” she said, turning around, “Mom, the calendar is still on December of last year.” Anne told her. Jo stopped, saw that her daughter was correct, “Well, Merry Christmas!” she said, “Merry Christmas, mom.” Anne deadpanned. Jo turned the calendar to February noticing, “Oh, it’s almost the sixteenth...”

“Good morning, sweetheart.” Barbara said as she entered the kitchen, fiddling with her dress shirt as she did so. “She’s doing great this morning.” Anne said, “Oh, I know!” Barbara said happily, “Ew!” Anne groaned as she walked away. The couple embraced, and gave each other affection, Barbara in the form of a kiss on Jo’s cheek, and Jo by handing Barb her sandwich. “I’m going to be slammed at work today – but don’t be afraid to call if you need to!” Barbara said, “Oh, please, you know me, I’ll be fine!” Jo said nonchalantly, “You’re right, I do know you.” Barb said with a twinge of sadness as she checked her watch, “See you this afternoon, honey.” Barb said as she left.

As her girls left, Jo scanned the house for her next activity. The fridge looked a bit empty, she could… no, the family got all of their groceries delivered on a weekly schedule. Hmm… She could clean the bathtub… but no, that won’t work either, the bathtub was made out of the same self-cleaning material that the counters were. She could write a caption for The New Yorker’s weekly cartoon caption contest… but that’s another non-starter, she submitted one a few days ago. Well, if nothing else she could get a bottle of spice wine, and watch whatever ClassicCinema had on.

The band room was empty occupied only by Anne, and filled with the moving notes of Liszt’s masterpiece. Anne’s brain was absent of thought, simply transmitting the visual data of which notes to play to her hands which moved purely on instinct. She turned the page, stretching her other hand to ensure she didn’t have to stop, and continued to play. Lost in the ambiguously allegorical music, Anne didn’t notice the creak of the band room’s door opening. “Dammit!” Anne yelled as she played a sour note, “Jeez, I’m sorry.” a tenor-range voice said from behind her.

“What?” Anne asked, as she turned around to see a slouching boy around her age standing near the door. “I thought you were yelling at me, for breaking your concentration,” he said nervously, “No, I…” Anne trailed off, “What are you even doing in here, Mrs. Taylor said I could have the band room to myself until first period starts, which means I have…” she said checking her watch, “Thirty more minutes, just enough to practice this sonata in full one more time.” she finished. The boy puffed in an anxious attempt to seem nonchalant, “Classical music is so, boring.” he said, “That’s a great opener,” Anne deadpanned, “Twenty-nine minutes, and thirty seconds.” she continued.

The boy turned around dejectedly, and began to walk towards the door, “You give up way too easily.” Anne teased. The boy turned back around, “You’re, really hard to read.” her said nervously. Anne rolled her eyes, and turned to face the piano, “If you’re going to keep talking sit down, and flip the pages for me.” she said.

The boy complied, and took a seat next to Anne on the bench, “Whoa, you’re playing Liszt?” he asked as he flipped to the beginning of the sonnet. “I thought you didn’t enjoy classical?” Anne questioned as she began to play, “My mother would always play chamber music when we were having dinner, part of the reason I don’t like it.” the boy answered. “Let me guess, there being no room for improvisation is the other reason?” Anne said sarcastically, “Yeah, how’d you guess!” the boy said happily, “I can smell it on you,” Anne teased, “Axe doesn’t cover up the smell of weed, it makes you smell like a douche-bag stoner.

“Hey, that is completely false – I am not a douche-bag!” the boy said with a small laugh. Anne simpered, “What’s your name?” she asked, “Clark.” the boy said with a smile, “What’s yours?” he asked, “Anne.” she responded, not taking her eyes off the sheet. “Hey, Clark?” she asked, “Yeah?” he replied, “Turn the page.” she ordered. “Oh, yeah.” Clark said, turning the page.

Jo sipped from her glass, the wine burning her throat as it went down. “Up next on ClassicCinema’s best Spy Movies of the 2020s is Roma O Morte,” the host – certainly no Elvira – began. Ugh, I didn’t know would be showing this movie… I should turn it off right now Jo said grabbing the television remote. She stopped herself, It’s just a movie… no harm in watching a movie she told herself. You loved it so much, you were the one who dragged her to the theater to watch it. The movie opened in the trenches of the Eastern Front, two Russians discussing an infamous Austro-Hungarian sniper who had been plaguing their regiment in recent weeks. I remember this scene Jo thought, I remember… I remember that night.

And in an instant, she was a child of nineteen again, Mary was in her arms again, and it was that cursed, stormy night in November again. “I can’t believe you actually like all of these cheesy spy movies.” Mary teased as the couple exited the theater, “It’s not that cheesy!” Jo defended. “The third act is all about the leads pretending to be cardinals in order to stop a group of assassins from killing the pope – it’s cheesy!” Mary said, “OK, fine its cheesy, but it’s no worse than that fantasy romance movie you made me see with you last week.” Jo replied, “Hey, The Princess And The Peasant has a lot to say about income inequality, and late capitalism, in addition to being a touching sapphic forbidden-love story.” Mary defended.

“You picked a bad night to get lost.” a gruff, dirty man said as the couple absentmindedly went down an alleyway. “Wh-What?” Jo asked, her brain not fully comprehending what the man was implying, “Keys, wallet, and jewelry, now!” the man ordered reaching into his jacket. “Look there’s no reason for you to do this.” Mary said, “Be quick about it!” the man ordered taking a revolver out of his ragged jacket. “No one has to get hurt, put the gun away, and we won’t go to the police.” Mary tried to negotiate, subtly walking in front of Jo.

“I’ve got another way to make sure you won’t go to the police.” the man threatened. Jo was blinded for a moment by the gun’s muzzle flash. The smell of gunpowder filled the alleyway, and the noise reverberated off of the sides of the narrow alleyway. A scream comes from the sidewalk nearby, spooking the mugger, and convincing him to run away. But it was too late, Jo held in her arms the pale corpse of Mary, wailing to the night.

Barb drummed her fingers on her desk as she stared at her phone. A knock at her open office door broke her concentration, “Something wrong boss, you’ve been staring at your phone since you came in this morning.” Gary said as he rested an arm on the door frame. “I’m, fine,” Barbara said, adjusting herself in her chair, “Just, waiting for my wife to call.” she said. “Is everything alright at home?” Gary asked, “It’s… complicated,” Barb said, “She seemed good this morning.” she continued. “She’s probably alright, it’s already noon, I’m sure she’s doing fine.” Gary said. Barbara leaned back in her chair, maybe he was right maybe Jo’s really turned a corner, “Yeah, maybe you’re right.” she said. “I-” Gary began, “Now get back to work, and don’t knock again unless its work related!” Barb ordered, Gary turned around dejectedly. “And Gary…” she called, causing him to turn around, “Remember to shut the door on your way out,” she ordered, “Glad you’re feeling better, Boss.” he said glumly as he complied with Barb’s instructions.

Jo hid the box under her arm, even though she knew no one was around to discover her deeds. She padded down the stairs to the basement, and creaked the heavy wooden door open. Flicking the switch, Jo scanned the room as dust particles danced in the light. At the far end of the room was Jo’s objective, the door to the home’s utilities inlet. She maneuvered her way past the piles of junk, and mementos, and opened the door.

The lights on the home’s automation control dimly glowed red, bathing both Jo, and the room in their light. She looked at the two available plug-ins for automation customization – the other already being occupied by a pack that she, and Barb had bought when Anne was first born – and stopped for a moment. Did she dare disturb her marriage, and risk everything she valued in life? Jo took breath, and plugged in the pack.

The lights flickered, the controls hummed, and after a flash of light, there was Mary. Mary, appearing just the way Jo remembered her looking, all those years ago. “Jo? What’s going on, we went to see a movie, and then-” Mary began, “It’s alright, I’ll explain everything later, I’m just glad you’re back.” Jo said. She brought her into a hug, hands above the waist, and pecked her cheek. She knew there would be trouble later, she’d have to convince Barb, and Anne, but she’d figure that out later. For now, Mary was back, Anne was doing well in school, and Barb was happy. Life was good.

Edited by WVProgressive
  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Strange Island of Doctor Schroeder
Level Eight (Key: Wells-2)

Genny rose with the sun as it poured through the room’s large windows, and bathed her face in its hot yellow light. She opened her eyes, and stretched as the curtains fluttered in the breeze. Genny rose from the bed, and walked over to the windows, their curtains billowing from the warm air wafting into the room. The ground below was covered with mist, and warm air flooded the room. Genny closed the window, and latched them shut.

Genny heard a tap at the door of the bedroom, and padded over to it. Creaking it open, she found Crawford with his (its?) back facing her. “You knocked?” Genny asked uncertainly. Crawford turned around slowly, raised a large, meaty finger, and tapped on the door before turning around, and walking away. She turned her head to look at the door, finding a note taped to it. The note was written on Schroeder-Pharmaceuticals Stationary, and the words were written in neat, controlled calligraphy. Genny gently took the tape off of the door, and brought the note up to her face to read.

My Esteemed Guest

I apologize for my indisposal the other day. I came down with a momentary fit which disabled me for the rest of the day. I have now fully recovered, and I am eager to get to work. As soon as you awake meet me in the Great Hall, and I shall brief you in full of the duties, and responsibilities which you shall undertake as part of your apprenticeship. In addition to this, I shall give you a full tour of the relevant sections of the manor, and laboratory. To get to the Great Hall, simply walk down the hallway, take a right, descend the staircase, take a left, and you’ll arrive at your destination.


Dr. Max Schroeder

Genny retreated to her room, and quickly got dressed in a professional outfit, putting her curly red hair up to preemptively prepare for any potential lab work she would be expected to do. She exited the bedroom, and followed the letter’s instructions, eventually finding the Great Hall. The room was ornately decorated, a large chandelier illuminated the finely graved silver pillars which circled the room. Several tables were organized into rows, and in the center of the room was a statue of Cain murdering Abel.

“A rather grizzly sight to eat dinner next to.” a young male voice said from behind Genny as she appreciated the sculpture, “Though I suppose it doesn’t matter, the only time this room is ever used is during parties,” he continued “And the Doctor hasn’t thrown one of those in years.” he finished. Genny turned to see a young man who looked a near match to the young Doctor, combed black hair complimented a handsome face, and a finely tailored suit shaped his fit body well. He was a match, except for one key difference – the man’s eyes were emerald green, instead of the Doctor’s piercing blue.

“Who are you?” Genny asked as she slowly backed away from the man, “I’m the good Doctor’s nephew, and assistant, you can call me Oskar.” he answered with a smile. “I didn’t know he had any relatives.” Genny said, “Yes, he’s rather…” Oskar began, “Private, even towards family members, the first time he even acknowledged me was when I graduated from Ingolstadt.” he continued. “Oh my god, that’s horrid!” Genny said, “It was nothing,” Oskar said turning away from Genny, “It simply taught me what was expected of me.” he said. “But that was the past,” he said turning back towards Genny, “Come, let me show you the ground floor.” he said, motioning for Genny to come along.

Oskar, and Genny exited the Grand Hall’s southern door. “Most of this house is rather uninteresting, there’s the Grand Hall for dinner parties, and the various larders, pantries, and kitchens which supply those parties, the ballroom which lies to the east of the Grand Hall, and the various bedrooms, and dens used to the entertain the rare quest.” Oskar began to rattle off in a listless, uninterested tone, “The only rooms of the house you need to concern yourself with are your bedroom, the library – it’s on the third floor, you can ask Crawford to show you the way after we’re done here – and the rooftop conservatory.” he continued.

“What truly matters in this house – or I suppose more correctly, under it – is the lab.” Oskar said stopping in front of a plain-looking wall with nothing to differentiate it except for a curved candle holder. “It’s divided into eleven layers. The uppermost layer is used to showcase our latest breakthroughs to prospective investors, and doubles as a decontamination threshold between the lab, and the outside world.” Oskar began, staring at the wall as he did so, “The next ten layers are each dedicated to one of our ongoing projects. The one you’ll be working on is Level 3, our Commercial, and Practical Genetic Manipulations Department.” he explained.

“Dr. Schroeder conducts research for commercial products in his personal laboratory?” Genny asked, Oskar turned to her briefly, the slightest bit of pink on his nose, and cheeks contrasting against the paleness of the rest of his face, “Dr. Schroeder has very high standards, it's more efficient for all involved that he be in charge of all first concept designs.” he answered, turning back to the wall. “Regardless, we must get down to the laboratory.” Oskar said, “Then shouldn’t we be going, instead of staring at a wall?” Genny asked. Oskar smiled, walked up to the wall, and pulled down on the candlestick.

The wall shifted, and opened to reveal a stairway leading downwards. “You’ll find this house has plenty of surprises.” he told Genny, “Follow along.” he ordered cheerfully as he descended the stairway. Genny glanced behind her back, and followed Oskar down the steps tensely.

After a few minutes of walking in dimly lit silence, Genny, and her guide reached the first level of Dr. Schroeder’s laboratory. The level, and presumably all the other levels as well, was shaped like an oval. Near the entrance was a kiosk labeled ‘Verification’, “This is where all visitors, and employees must sign in before entering the lab proper. You’re employee verification should be on your desk by this evening. For now you use a guest pass.” Oskar explained. As Genny obtained the guest verification from the verification kiosk, she noticed that the walls were lined with advertisements. Oddly enough, the advertisements all promoted relatively old products which were all at least ten years old.

“Excellent.” Oskar said as Genny put the paper card giving her access to the facility into her pocket. “Now, put on one of these jumpsuits, and I’ll show you around Level 3.” Oskar said, taking two orange, and white jumpsuits off of a rack positioned near the decontamination chamber which made up the passageway connecting the reception area to the elevators. Genny took it, and put it on as Oskar did the same.

The duo entered the decontamination chamber, water spraying on them from every angle to purify them. After the water sprouts retreated, a wall of light moved through the room, and after a few seconds something dinged. “Purity confirmed,” a feminine-coded artificial voice said, “Welcome, Dr. Shroeder, and Guest.” it continued. They emerged on the other side, and saw the single large elevator which led to the other levels. “For safety purposes each level has its own code, Level 3’s is 2-7-3-6.” Oskar said as he entered the code on the keypad.

As the elevator hummed, and began its descent, Genny looked at the elevator button, noticing that there were twelve levels listed. “I thought you said there were only eleven levels, the elevator shows twelve?” she asked, “Dr. Schroeder has taken to using level 12 as his quarters with more regularity than he uses his actual bedroom.” Oskar replied. “What are the other levels used for?” Genny asked, “On Level 2 there’s our Bio-Chemical lab, which is where I work most days,” Oskar began, “Other than that, mostly storage, and the good doctor’s…” he trailed off, “Personal projects.” he said. “Personal projects?” Genny asked, as the elevator doors opened to the large lab which made up Level 2, “Hmm?” Oskar hummed, “Never mind that, I’ll show you what you’ll be doing during your apprenticeship he continued, walking out of the elevator.

Genny followed Oskar to a large device draped in cloth located in the corner of the lab. “As I’m sure you know, despite all our progress in the last four decades, commercial genetics is still in its infancy,” Oskar began, “Somatic alteration is an expensive, time-consuming, and risky process,” he continued, “Even simple changes like altering one’s hair color can take weeks, and cost a person almost $25,000 in total.” he continued. “Now if only there were a quick, cheap, and effective way to alter an organism’s genome.” Oskar said, placing a hand on the cloth-covered device, his enthusiasm rising. “No way, how? Genny asked, “By blasting an organism with a specific sequence of radiation, we can induce a rapid alteration of its genome.” Oskar said.

“Observe!” he proclaimed, throwing the cloth off of the device to reveal a brown rat in a glass box, which to its left had a control panel. “This technique is capable of turning this rat’s fur white faster, and more effectively than any hairdresser,” Oskar said, tapping a few buttons on the control panel, “Be sure to stand back.” he continued, pulling Genny back slightly as the machine began to hum. A moment later, a burst of light filled the glass box, the rat squealed, and the machine droned.

After a minute, the light dissipated, leaving only a rat with fur as white as snow. “My god, that’s amazing!” Genny said, “I can’t even see a spec of brown on it anywhere.” she continued. “It is rather amazing, though the machine still has its…” Oskar began – the rat, without warning, quickly bloated to the point of bursting, leaving only a mushy pile of biomass, and coating the glass box in viscera – “Complications.” Oskar finished. “Oh my god!” Genny cried in disgust, and shock.

Oskar’s watch beeped with an alert, “Hm, I need to feed our lab animals,” he said as he began towards the elevator. “We’ll resume your training when I get back, in the meantime feel free to fetch a rat from the cage in the cabinet, and see what else Rapid-Gene-Alteration can do.” he said as he entered the elevator. Genny spied as the room code, 5-8-1-6, reflected off of the shiny metal of the elevator as Oskar put it in, before selecting his room.

As the elevator departed, Genny opened the glass cage containing what remained of the rat. It smelled like burnt plastic. She sides as she took a paper tile from the counter, and wiped it clean. She checked under the counter, and saw at least a dozen rats contained in a large cage. She blanched at the thought of subjecting these rats to the same fate which had befallen their brother.

The elevator returned, empty, and a thought not of her own creation entered Genny’s head. The thought to go down, and free the animals contained therein. She had never been one of those animal rights freaks, but something about seeing that rat turning into a puree caused a shift within her. With a nod she attempted to dispel the thought, what could would it do anyway, they wouldn’t survive on the island, and besides animal testing was a matter of course for any scientific inquiry worth its salt. And yet, the thought persisted.

Genny paced to the elevator, entered it, and input the code. She looked at the room buttons, and found that right above them was a map of the facility, listing each level, and a short description of its function. ‘Level Four – Live Animal Storage’ the map read. Genny pressed the corresponding button, and received a harsh buzz in response, “Room code, incorrect, please select a different room.” the automated voice said. She looked back at the map, ‘Level Eight – Livestock Pen’ it read. Genevieve took a chance, pressed the button, and was jostled as the elevator lurched to begin its descent.

After a few minutes, the elevator arrived at level eight, and the doors slid open. The room was dimly lit by two columns of dim yellow lights on the floor, not revealing any specifics as to what was in the room. Genny stepped off the elevator, which quickly shut its doors, and went to another floor, trapping her on Level-8. Her hearing made stronger by her lack of vision, Genny realized that something in the room was uttering a low, deep groan. “Oskar?” Genny asked as she walked further into the room, “Dr. Schroeder?” she asked again, walking towards the source of the noise.

On the room’s left, only dimly illuminated by the floor lights, Genny’s eyes were able to see the silhouette of a person’s back, and head. They were hunched over, and turned away from her. “Dr. Schroeder?” Genny asked, reaching a hand out to touch the silhouette. As her hand neared the figure’s back, it turned around to face her, letting out a wheeze as it jerkily moved its body.

Genny locked eyes with two pale gray pools shimmering faintly in the light, and lurched backward. In her haste to get away, she tripped over her own feet, and landed on her but. She skittered backward on the floor, coming closer to the lights running through the room’s center as the creature dragged itself after her on its hands. Once she had reached the room’s main artery, she got her first true look at the creature in full.

Brown, paper-thin skin clung to the creature’s bony face, pale white eyes, black lips, and an exposed nasal cavity made up the rest of the face’s features. The creature’s torso looked emaciated, with bony ribs jutting out above a sickeningly flat stomach. Most horrifying of all, was the fact that legs were placed where arms should be forcing the creature to ‘walk’ by padding on its feet while dragging its arms, which were placed on the creature's groin region.

“What the hell are you!?” Genny blurted as she continued to crawl backwards. She bumped into something, and looked up to see another bony face, with paper skin, and pale white eyes. Genny let out a scream as the second creature tumbled over onto her.

“Get off of me!” she demanded, as she struggled with the two creatures. A moment later bright white light filled the room, and the creatures wailed, and lurched. “Geh weg von ihr, biest!” a man yelled as he kicked the second creature off of Genny, and dragged the first away. Genny’s world grew dark, and cold, “Ms. Genevieve?” the man asked, just before she lost consciousness.

As Genny’s consciousness returned to her, she saw that she was what looked like a study. She was seated in a large chair near a roaring fireplace, and right in front of her was Dr. Schroeder, placing another log into the flame. The silver-haired scientist turned to her, “I see you’ve finally come to.” he said. “What were you doing on Level Eight?” he asked sternly, standing tall over Genny as he stood near her seat. “I,” Genny began, before shaking her head, “What were those things in there!?” she asked. “Those things, those, morbid homunculi, did you create them!?” Genny accused, “No!” Dr. Schroeder said definitively. “Then who did?” Genny continued.

Dr. Schroeder rubbed his chin, padded to a seat across from her, and took a seat. “I suppose, after all you’ve seen, I owe it to you to explain how these tragic creations were first spawned.” he said, “But to do that, I must give you the entire story.” he said. “It all began almost three decades ago, while I was but a student at Zurich.” he began softly, “That, is where I met Dr. Herbert Brecht…”

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bipartisan Relations
Vulnerability (Key: Woodwork-3)

Michael Bruening was perplexed. His brain swam with thoughts of Lucy, and their ‘relationship’. The two of them had fooled around twice, and yet he was still unsure of the true nature of their relationship. Was it just a long-term tryst – two acquaintances blowing off steam in the oldest way known to man – or was it something more? Bruening, for his part, was hoping that it was the latter, even if she did always leave him sore.

It was this, the hoping, the fear, the yearning, which had caused him to waste his night tossing, and turning on his bed. Lord, he was acting like a lovesick teenager. He sighed, and turned onto his back to check the time. 4:35 AM read his alarm clock in big red numbers. He groaned, and got out of bed, falling asleep now would be worse than just soldiering on.
Mike grabbed his phone, padded to his couch, slumped down, and turned on the television. He couldn’t tell you what was on, he wasn’t paying attention. He looked at his phone, and checked his messages. Lucy had given him her number the other day, but he hadn’t messaged her yet. ‘You know, most people would have put their number on the note, rather than making me ask for it.’ he texted, before huffing in embarrassment. He waited almost a full day, and that’s his opener? Come on…

His phone dinged, ‘Killer opener’ Lucy responded, the sarcasm obvious even over text. ‘And you forget, if I had left my number on the note, then I wouldn’t have been able to make you beg for it yesterday.’ she continued. Bruening’s face went red, and he cleared his throat, not knowing how to respond.

He stared at his screen for a few minutes, before his phone rang. He answered it, and brought it up to his ear. “Hey Matt, sorry to call you so early in the morning, but I need you to do something for me,” Secretary of Labor Charles Boliquin began in his rough Texan accent, “It’s Mike, sir, and it’s no matter, I wasn’t asleep anyway.” Bruening corrected. “Yeah, well, you know that new member of the house that got sworn in a few days ago?” Boliquin asked. Bruening gulped, “Uh, yes sir.” he said. “Great, well, the President wants one of us to try, and butter her up. Hopes her father rubbed off on her a bit, y’know?” Boliquin continued, “I don’t think I like the way you phrased that.” Bruening said, “I need you to put in a good impression with Representative Pendergast, can you do that for me son?” Boliquin said paternalistically to a man only eight years his junior. “I, really don’t know if I’m the best person for the job.” Bruening said doubtfully, “Ah you’ll do fine,” Boliquin encouraged, “take her to the Bethesda Country Club, play some golf, have some steak, really get to know her.” he advised.
“Get to know her?” Bruening hummed in thought, “Alright, I’ll do it.” he said. “Great, glad to hear it Brookings!” Boliquin said before hanging up, “Wait, Brookings? Matthew Brookings?” Bruening asked to no avail. He groaned at being mistaken for Trade Representative Brookings, but shrugged off his frustration.

‘Would you like to go to the Bethesda Country Club with me later today?’ Bruening texted, ‘I know for a fact that you are not a member of any country club.’ Lucy responded. ‘It’s technically Secretary Boliquin’s membership.’ Bruening replied, ‘Ah, I see how it is, you’re just asking me to go because you have to for work.’ Lucy skewered. ‘That’s not it at all! I think it’s a nice opportunity for us to spend time together doing something other than, well you know.’ Bruening said. ‘God, you’re even awkward over text.’ Lucy replied, ‘I’ll pick you up at 7:00 AM. Playing through all eighteen holes will probably take us around six hours, so I’ll make a reservation for their 3:00 PM lunch. Dress nice, and be on your best behavior.’ she texted.

Mike blushed at Lucy’s authoritative tone, ‘Yes ma’am!’ he replied without thinking. Mike hunched over in embarrassment as he realized what he wrote. His phone dinged as it received a reply. ‘Good boy.’ it read. Bruening’s heart fluttered, and his face took the shade of a cherry tomato. He put his phone down, and got ready for his day.

Mike slouched as he sat on the bench, waiting for Lucy to arrive. He should have slept when he had the chance, he thought. Bruening’s eyes became heavy, and he drooped his head… “Mike!” Lucy called an instant later. Mike babbled quietly, his brain unable to form a verbal response, “Are you alright?” Lucy asked, “I, uh, I’m… fine.” Mike replied clunkily. Lucy turned away from him for a moment, a hand over her mouth in thought. She walked to the driver’s door of the car parked in front of the bench, “Get out of here, be back by two.” she told the driver, before walking back to Bruening.

“Alright, get up.” Lucy said, grabbing Bruening’s arm, and helping him off the bench. “We’ll, miss… the golf game.” Mike clumsily said as he, and Lucy entered his apartment building. “Mike, you’re in no position to play golf, hell you’re in no position to be standing up.” Lucy said, “How long have you been awake?” she asked as the couple entered the building’s elevator. Mike hummed, “At least 24 hours?” he said uncertainly, “Jesus Mike, what the hell were you thinking?” Lucy asked.

“I was thinking, about you.” Mike admitted, “What?” Lucy asked. “Do you like me, Lucy?” he asked desperately, “No, I had sex with you twice out of a deep hatred.” Lucy deadpanned. “No! Not like that!” Mike said, “I mean, like, uh…” he continued, his sleep-deprived brain constraining his vocabulary. “I don’t know yet, Mike.” Lucy admitted, “I, was hoping I could figure that out today.” she continued as the elevator doors opened. “So was I.” Mike said, “Well, then get to bed, we can probably still make our lunch reservation.” Lucy politely ordered.

Bruening opened his apartment door, and stumbled inside. “I cannot believe you stayed up all night worrying about whether or not a girl likes you,” Lucy teased as Mike walked to his bed, “You’re such a squish.” she continued as Mike sat on his bed. “What the hell is a squish?” he asked, “It’s, a really emotional person, someone soft.” Lucy answered, “That just sounds like someone in touch with their feelings.” Mike responded. “See, that’s exactly why you’re a squish.” Lucy teased as Mike lied down.
Lucy watched as Mike drifted off to sleep, “I can’t believe you can sleep on that pile of broken springs.” she said quietly. She turned off the lights, shut the blinds on the windows – not that they let in much light anyway – and took a seat on Bruening’s couch. “Jeeze, your couch is lumpier than your bed.” she whispered. She set an alarm on her phone, propped her feet up on Bruening’s coffee table, and lit a cigarette. Might as well get comfortable.

Michael Bruening sighed as he opened his eyes, and saw the covered slits that made up the windows of his apartment. He noticed that the light faintly coming in through the windows was pink, which struck him as odd because it only did that after night had fallen. He turned over in bed, and looked at the clock, 6:54 PM. He shot up, threw off his covers, and got out of bed.

He looked over to his couch, and saw that Lucy had fallen asleep herself. Mike quickly padded to her side, and shook her awake. “Lucy wake up, we both overslept.” he said, “Mmm, what?” Lucy asked as she woke up, “We overslept, it’s almost seven.” Mike repeated. “What?” Lucy asked, looking quickly at her phone, “Shit!” she exclaimed when she confirmed that she had indeed overslept.

“Well, we missed our reservation.” she said glumly, “I can make us dinner.” Mike offered, “Really, you know how to cook?” she asked, Mike chuckled, “Yeah, Luce, I know how to cook, I didn’t have a private chef waiting on me growing up.” he said. Lucy huffed, “I can’t believe I overslept.” she said, “Well, maybe you’ve been pushing yourself too hard.” Mike suggested as he paced to his kitchen. “Maybe,” Lucy began as she rose to her feet, “I’ve been in congressional briefings, orientations, and meetings all week, plus I still have to keep up appearances with my father.” she said.

“You need to ‘keep up appearances’ with your dad?” Mike asked, “Well, he wants me to be this perfect daughter, don’t do anything that would hurt the family company, marry another wealthy heir, and be the picture-perfect debutante.” Lucy said. “And when I’m in public, I feel like everyone expects me to be this dumb bimbo heiress,” she continued, “I just feel like, whenever I’m around other people, I need to be as straight-laced, serious, and self-controlled as possible,” Lucy finished. “Well… You don’t need to pretend, when you’re around me.” Mike tried to comfort, Lucy simpered, “I don’t, maybe that’s why I like you.” she admitted.

Mike smiled, opened his fridge, and scanned its contents, finding only assorted leftovers from the previous few days. “Would you prefer leftover meatloaf, or leftover pasta salad?” he asked, wincing at the thought of serving such subpar sustenance. “I’ll take the meatloaf,” Lucy said, “Do you not have a table?” she asked, “Don’t need one, I usually eat while watching television.” Mike replied, pulling out the meatloaf, and the pasta salad. “I’ve heard that’s really unhealthy.” Lucy said, “C’mon, it’s just once, I’m pretty sure there’s a new episode of Angel of Crime tonight.” Mike replied as he placed the meatloaf in the microwave, “Well, I guess one time won’t hurt.” Lucy replied.

Mike smile in his small victory, as he took the reheated meatloaf out of the microwave, and handed it to Lucy. He turned around, and placed the bowl of pasta salad into the microwave, “What are you doing?” Lucy asked,
“I’m heating up the pasta salad.”
“Pasta salad is supposed to be eaten cold.”
“It tastes better when it’s warm.” Mike said as the microwaved beeped, “Here, try some.” he said as he offered Lucy a spoonful. She tasted it, “Hmm… yeah, I prefer it cold.” she said, Mike shrugged, “To each their own.” he said. Lucy, and Mike looked into each other's eyes, and simpered, “I’m kind of glad that we missed our reservation.” Lucy said, “Me too, Luce.” Mike replied. They closed their eyes, and pulled each other into a deep, passionate kiss.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chasing Lions
Child Soldiers (Key: Jungle-3)

In the idyllic suburbs of Alexandria, Virginia, Timothy Brown tested the taste of the stew he had made for his family’s dinner. “Dinner smells great, honey.” his wife Marjory said after pecking him on the cheek. “Thank you, dear,” Tim said, “Do you know where Bobby, and Tiff are?” he asked, “Tiff’s in the living room; I think Bobby is in the shed.” Marjory said. “Oh, I hate when he stays out there after dark, can you get him please?” Tim asked, “Sure thing, babe.” Marjory responded.

Majory went to the home’s back patio through a door in the kitchen, and looked over to the small wooden shed in the corner of the backyard. In the dreary dark of early nightfall, only two lights near its door illuminated the shed. Marjory walked towards the shed easily, “Bobby, it’s time for dinner!” she called. Bobby did not respond, and Marjory continued to walk to the shed. Before she could call again, the shed went up in a fiery explosion.

Morrow sighed as he finished his paperwork for the Foster case. It was late, and the only light in the building was coming from the harsh fluorescent lights on the roof. Morrow scanned the bullpen, he was its only inhabitant. Its only, human inhabitant, that is. Clay stood idly at the edge of the LPRT’s column of the bullpen. “Clay,” Morrow called, “The workday's over, what are you still doing here?” he asked, “I’m an android, Agent Morrow, I have nowhere else to go, I remain here until a case requires my attention.” Clay responded.

“Is it alright if I returned the question, Agent Morrow?” the android asked, “What?” Morrow asked, “Can I ask why you’re still here?” Clay repeated. “I had to finish my paperwork, simple as that.” Morrow said, Clay nodded, “That’s good to hear, I was under the impression your long nights at the office were due to an unwillingness to return to an empty house.” he said. Morrow rose from his chair, “What the hell are you talking about, Clay?” he asked, “I downloaded your personnel files when I first met you,” Clay clarified, “I know about-” he began before Morrow grabbed onto his lapels, “Don’t you dare.” he threatened, his voice a low growl.

Morrow’s pager beeped, and he released Clay. He checked his pager, got the address, and began to leave. “There’s been a potential bomb in Alexandria, Clay,” he began, “You’re with me, I’ll call the rest of the team in the car.” he continued. “And Clay?” Morrow asked as he, and Clay entered the elevator, “Delete my personal life from your memory.” he ordered.

White smoke trailed into the air from the smoldering remnants of the Browns’ shed as Charles Morrow, and his android accomplice approached the home. Agent Morrow parked on the curb of the house next to the other law enforcement vehicles. Agents Kord, Martins, and Brodzky had beaten the duo to the house, and met them in front of the backyard gate. “Alexandria PD’s Bomb Unit has already checked the ruins,” Martins began, “And?” Morrow asked, “What little remains of the bomb has been sent to the lab, but the bomber was practically disintegrated by the explosion.” Kord said.

“Who was the bomber?” Morrow asked, “Sixteen-year-old Robert Vincent Brown,” Brodzky answered, “Jesus Christ.” Morrow replied grimly. “Were there any other casualties?” Clay asked, “Brown’s mother, Marjory Brown, was caught in the explosion.” Kord said, “She’s in critical condition at Inova Alexandria Hospital, but she is conscious.” she continued. “How the hell does a kid that age get his hands on a bomb like that?” Morrow wondered, “They don’t, not without outside assistance.” Kord said, “You know what that means.” she continues, “Terrorism, likely Lion’s Pack.” Morrow finished. “But that leaves the question of how the boy was recruited, how he acquired the bomb, and why he was given the bomb.” Clay observed, “That’s what we have to find out.” Morrow said.

“Clay, Chip, I want you to interview the mother, Elise, and I will interview the father, Martins, you search the rest of the house.” Morrow said dealing out assignments. The other agents all murmured their acceptance, and split off into three groups. Martins went around the back of the house, Clay, and Brodzky went to a car, and Morrow, and Kord entered the house through its front door.

Tim Brown leaned forward in a wicker chair. His hands were clasped together in thought, and his sunken eyes looked off to the middle distance staring at nothing in particular. “Mr. Brown?” Morrow asked, Brown looked at the duo slowly, his mouth twitching before he could breathe out a “Yes?” in reply, “May we ask you a few questions, about your son?” Charles asked. Brown pressed his lips together tightly, and nodded. Morrow, and Kord took a seat on the couch across from him.

“Mr. Brown, did you or your wife notice any changes in your son’s behavior recently?” Morrow asked, “W-well, uh, I suppose he had been seeming more irritable lately, and he was spending a lot of time in his room…” Brown began, “I remember he was pretty cagey about a letter he received last week, but he just told me it was part of some Pathfinder campaign he was involved in,” he continued, “I swear, I thought it was just the usual teenage stuff, I never thought he’d-” he began to panic, “No one ever thinks their child is capable of being a terrorist, but unfortunately we are all susceptible to propaganda, especially teenagers.” Morrow interjected, “Anyone in your position would have done the same thing.” he continued. “Was Robert knowledgeable in Chemistry, or Engineering, or anything of that nature?” Kord asked, “He, he, he was a smart kid,” Brown stammered, before sniffling, “Uh, he was taking college courses in physics, and CTE classes in robotics – he had a Robotics Club meeting tonight at ten, actually – but uh… he didn’t do very well in chemistry.” he said.

“Had-” Morrow began, before his cell phone rang, “Excuse me,” he said, getting up, and moving into another room to take the call. “Mr. Brown, did Robert ever express any desire to harm himself, or other people?” Kord asked, “What? Are you implying that, that this is some kind of suicide!?” Brown asked anxiously, “No, no, I’m just trying to find out why this horrible event happened.” Kord reassured. “Well, uh…” Brown trailed off, before Morrow reentered the room, “Mr. Brown, I’m very sorry…”

“I think I should take the lead on this, Clay.” Brodzky said as he, and Clay neared Mrs. Brown’s hospital room. “If you’re worried about my effectiveness in interrogation situations, I assure you that I’ve been programmed to identify, react to, and mimic up to 50,000 different human emotions.” Clay reassured confidently, “I didn’t even know there were that many emotions…” Brodzky said quietly. Clay opened the hospital door, and held it open for Brodzky before walking in.

The room smelled of ash, and burning flesh as the two detectives walked in. Mrs. Brown’s glassy, blue eyes slowly scanned Brodzky, and Clay as they entered the room. “Mrs. Brown, we’d like to ask you some questions about the incident that happened this morning.” Brodzky began, “That shed, my son, is Bobby alright?” Mrs. Brown asked, “Your son-” Clay began, “Your son is fine, ma’am, he’s in the waiting room right now.” Brodzky cut him off. Brown smiled as much as she could – which wasn’t much due to the damage she had sustained – and breathed a sigh of relief, “That’s good to hear, I was so worried.” she said, “I know he can’t wait to meet you, but first we need to ask you a few questions, is that alright?” Brodzky asked politely. “Yes, yes that’s more than alright.” Mrs. Brown said quietly.

“Did you notice any behavioral changes in your son recently?” Brodzky asked, “Well, he, he had been spending a lot of time in his room, and in that shed out back.” Marjory answered, “Do you know what he was doing in the shed?” Brodzky continued, “No, but…” Marjory trailed off. “Ma’am, are you alright?” Brodzky asked, “It’s not that, it’s just, I remember walking past his room a few days ago, he, had his door a crack open, and I looked in,” Marjory began, “He was on some website, it looked like an internet forum or something, I can’t remember what they were saying… but the website was called Children of the New World, or something like that.” she continued, “I didn’t think much of it at the time, but…” she trailed off as her EKG began to beep faster, and faster. An alarm went off, and the two detectives were quickly ushered out of the room as a team of nurses rushed into the room to stabilize her.

“Why did you lie to her about her son?” Clay asked, “The knowledge that her son died would have done nothing to help her, or our investigation,” Brodzky said, “Much better for the both of us that we allow her to go in what little peace we can provide.” he continued. “But our mission is to pursue the truth, and find justice.” Clay conjectured, “Our mission is to catch terrorists, and stop them from hurting anyone else.” Brodzky disagreed. The long, high-pitched beep of Marjory Brown’s EKG leaked out of her room, and filled the hallway. “I should call Morrow.” Brodzky said quietly, as he went into a less occupied corner of the room.

Agent Martins went straight for the son’s room upstairs after entering the house. The room was oddly sterile for a teenage boy’s room. The walls were blank, except for a few corners of poster paper, and the only furniture in the room were an unmade bed, a small unorganized bookshelf, and a messy desk with a computer on it. Next to the desk was a trash can overflowing with what seemed like shiny paper. Clothing littered the floor near the closet.

Nicole checked the trashcan first, finding the ‘shiny paper’ was in fact the remains of pop-culture posters, and that hidden within the trashcan were little figurines also depicting characters from popular culture. Martins then inspected the bookshelf, finding it to be rather generic – its contents were mostly classic novels, as well as some local fanzines – and yet, it seemed as though something had been taken away. She felt around on the bed, found lumps, and proceeded to flip the mattress. Underneath the mattress was a stash of Lion’s Pack propaganda, from the group’s founding manifesto A Call For A New World, to zines meant to spread the message to the youth. Martins paged through the manifesto, finding its margins filled with notes scrawled in crooked handwriting. One note, in particular, stood out to her; “User: JeremyHopperJr. Pass: Bobby2034” it read.

Martins put the book back where she found it, and went to the computer. It asked for the system’s password, the username was Robert Brown, which let Martins know that the combination she found was not concerning the computer itself. She scanned the room to try, and find any hints as to the computer's password. Her eyes first went to the trashcan, the top poster – likely the last to be taken down – was a variant movie poster for the 2048 movie Dimension Hopper, a teen action flick which followed Jeremy Hopper, a high school nobody who finds purpose in his life when a small group of adventurers tasked with defending the multiverse presses him into service. The figures were all also characters from the movie, and the closet held several articles of clothing related to the piece of media as well.

Using the many different pieces of evidence Martins determined that Robert Brown was a fan of the movie, more than that, he was a superfan. She conjectured that, based on the time of the movie’s release Robert likely related heavily with the main character of the film during his teenage years. She thought of a strong-ish password related to the film, and typed ‘D1m3ns10nH0pp3r!’ into the password field.

The password was rejected with a message saying “Password incorrect, please try again.” in light red text. Martins thought back to the password in the manifesto. Surely not, right? She typed in ‘Bobby2034’, and it was accepted. The NSA agent suppressed the desire to slam her head into the desk in front of her, and waited for the desktop to boot up.

A mess of icons littered the desktop in front of a background photo of Pentti Linkola. The icons were disorganized, but they could be separated into three categories. The first, most common type were computer games, most of the Action-RPG, or Grand Strategy genres; The second were educational applications relating to physics, engineering, or the establishment of good study habits; The third smallest, and most interesting were the search engines, there were two of them, google of course, and a second one QSS.

Martins clicked the QSS logo, and the front page of Quantum Secured Search popped up on the computer. The front page was simple, it was dark with only the application name, and a search bar. Selecting the search bar caused a list of frequently visited sites to drop down from it. At the very top of the list was a website called Children of the New World.

Clicking on the website link led to a web forum divided into five sub-forums labeled Politics, Culture, Economics, Administration, and Praxis. Martins entered the Praxis sub-forum, and was met with an identification screen. She typed in the username, and password from the manifesto margins, and was let in. The most recent post was one titled Operation Blackguard, and the star next to its name indicated that Robert had commented on it. Martins clicked on the topic, and was met with posts written in a rudimentary alphanumeric code. She mumbled as she quickly decoded the post in her head.

The principle players in the conversation were a site administrator called SoldierOfRevolution, and a user named CoinOperatedGirl in addition to, of course, JeremyHopperJr.

SoldierOfRevolution: You have both been selected for a great purpose. For the purpose of fighting our great crusade against the modern. Our great crusade against capitalism, the sexual revolution, fossil fuels, (He continues for some time…) The mission I am about to ask you to embark upon will ask of you every ounce of courage you can muster. There will be no turning back, so I will only ask you this once; Are you ready?

JeremyHopperJr.: I’m ready!

A Few Minutes Pass

SoldierOfRevolution: Et tu, @CoinOperatedGirl?

CoinOperatedGirl: I’m in.

SoldierOfRevolution: Good. I trust the both of you – otherwise, I wouldn’t give you this mission – but I do need some kind of collateral to ensure that you don’t recant on your vow. Post your personal information here – it’s more secure than a private message – if you betray us, it’s your ass on the line.

CoinOperatedGirl: Jesus, isn’t that a bit intense?

SoldierOfRevolution: Intensity is what is required to win this war. Or perhaps you’re not serious about your commitment to saving the environment.

CoinOperatedGirl: Hey, I’m all in on helping the Earth!

SoldierOfRevolution: Then you will do what is asked of you.

COG, and JHJ both posted their intimate details – address, full name, a photograph of their face, and their contact information. COG was in fact a teenage girl named Alison Shapiro, a baseball cap found in the background of her photo indicated she was a member of the Mark Warner High School Robotics Team. The conversation continued.

SoldierOfRevolution: Excellent. As I’m sure both of you know, New-Life’s Regional Director of R&D Francis Croft is visiting your robotics club to propagandize his sick company’s bastardization of the human form. You’ll be expected to blow him to kingdom come. Soon, you’ll receive a letter telling you where to meet one of our agents in the UC, he’ll give you two the bombs you need.

CoinOperatedGirl: So, we’ll what, leave our backpacks in the room, and wait for them to go off? Won’t the police catch us?

SoldierOfRevolution: No, you’ll need to detonate the bombs personally, you’ll be in the room when they go off.

CoinOperatedGirl: WTF?

JeremyHopperJr.: Blowing myself up in a repurposed art room at 10:00 PM on Thursday isn’t how I imagined going out… And yet I feel a sense of calm at my coming annihilation. Elation, even.

SoldierOfRevolution: We all have different roles to play in the revolution. Remember, we know where you live.

Martins got out of her seat, and raced out of the room. She trampled down the stares, “Morrow, I think I-” she began, before being caught off guard by the sight of Mr. Brown sobbing into his hands. Morrow motioned for her to come closer, “What is it?” he asked softly, “I know where they’re planning to attack,” Martins began “Where?” Morrow asked, “Mark Warner High, but it’s not just that, Morrow, there’s another bomber.” Martins continued. “What!?” Morrow exclaimed, “Give me the briefing in the car,” he said as he began to leave, “Kord, call Clay, and Chip, tell ‘em to meet us at the high school!” he ordered.

Alison took a shaky breath as she entered the Robotics room, and took a seat at her usual table noticing immediately that Robert was not in the room. “Did you hear about what happened to Bobby?” a girl seated near her asked another girl, “Yeah, I heard he got blown up by some gas leak earlier tonight, makes me feel a bit weird about still doing this.” the other girl replied. Shit, Robert was gone, it was all down to her. Robert’s demise didn’t change anything, not really, she would have been expected to blow herself up regardless of whether he was living or dead. And yet, the fact that she was now going to do it alone made it all the more challenging to go through with.

“Well we can’t exactly reschedule, we’ve got a special guest coming tonight!” the first girl said excitedly. Right, she had a mission that needed to be done, there was no use questioning it, especially if she didn’t want to put her whole family at risk. The lanky, bearded teacher who lead the robotics club entered the room, bending down to avoid hitting his head on the door-frame, Francis Croft followed close behind him. “As I’m sure you all know, our club-mate Bobby Brown, and his mother Marjory Brown died in an explosion earlier this evening, I’d like to start this meeting with a minute of silence in respect for the dead. Alison pressed her lips together tightly, now or never…

Two black sedans pulled up in front of Mark Warner High School, and the quintet of agents stacked up in front of the two metal doors which made up the school’s front door. “Dammit, the door’s locked.” Morrow said as he jiggled the bar door handle, “We don’t have time to wait for a custodian.” Kord said, “I’ve got an idea,” Clay said moving to the outer security panel. The android ripped the panel’s front sheet of metal off of its base, and plugged his finger into a socket in the guts of the panel. A moment later the doors unlocked with a click, “How’d you do that?” Martins asked, “I’ve tapped into the school’s security system, I might be able to access the feed from the security cameras to find out which room the meeting is taking place in.” Clay explained. “Do it, contact me over the earpiece once you have something, the rest of you, with me!” Morrow ordered.

The quartet of agents marched down the grungy public school hallways, past the countless nondescript rooms, and countless posters. “Alright, I’ve got it, she’s in Room A-4, it’s-” Clay began, “I see it, Kord stack up with me on the room’s south entrance, Martins, Brodzky you’re on the north.” Morrow cut him off as the room entered his vision. “You’d better hurry, she’s already pulled out the bomb.” Clay said as Morrow stacked up in front of the door, “Shit…” Morrow mumbled, “I’ve got an idea...” he began.

“Alison there’s-” the teacher began, “Shut the hell up!” Alison yelled, “Please there must be-” the teacher again began, “If you don’t shut the hell up, I’ll every one of us to hell!” Alison yelled again. The south door clicked open, “What the hell.” Alison wondered aloud as a gray-haired, bearded man in an ash-colored suit entered the room. “Who the hell are you?” she asked as she turned to him, “I’m Special Agent Charles Morrow, I’m with the FBI,” he began calmly, “Alison, I know why you’re doing this, and I know you don’t want to.” he continued.

“I have to! They made me give them everything, they know-” Alison began, “I know, and I know you’re afraid,” Morrow cut her off. “But I’m here to tell you, you don’t need to be scared.” he continued, “We can set your family up in witness protection, Lion’s Pack will never be able to hurt them.” he said. “Is it, really possible?” Alison asked, “Only if you put the bomb down, and agree to help us catch the people behind this.” Morrow said.

“I’ll help, but, but I can’t put the bomb down, it’s a dead man’s switch, if my finger releases this button it will explode!” Alison said worriedly. “Martins alert Alexandria Police, tell them to send the bomb disposal unit,” Morrow said into his earpiece, “In the meantime we need to get these people out of here.” he continued. The hostages shuffled out of the room quickly, and Morrow also moved to leave the room before Alison said, “Wait.” quietly. Morrow stopped, and looked at the girl, “Will, will you stay with me, until they arrive?” she asked. Morrow looked into her eyes, and saw a scared little girl in desperate need of help, “I don’t think-” Clay began before Morrow took off his earpiece. “Yeah,” he said quietly, “Yeah, I’ll stay.” he continued as he took a seat across from her.

Later that night, after the bomb had been defused, and the girl returned to her parents, Morrow smoked a cigarette in the parking garage of the J. Edgar Hoover building. “Headed home, Special Agent Morrow?” Clay asked from behind him, Morrow remained silent, simply glancing at Clay quickly before looking back to the middle distance. “I can’t believe you stayed with that bomber.” Clay said, “She wasn’t a bomber, she was a kid,” Morrow replied, “A child terrorist,” Clay corrected, “A child who had been indoctrinated by terrorists, you mean.” Morrow corrected the correction. “She just needed someone to be there for her in a tough time… I’d do it again.” Morrow asserted as he threw the butt of his cigarette on the ground.

Clay remained silent for a moment feeling… awkward? Embarrassed? He struggled to identify the exact emotion he felt – or more accurately, was programmed to feel – at that moment. “I’m, sorry about earlier.” he blurted out, “I, wasn’t aware of the amount of, affection that parents hold for their children.” Clay admitted, “In the future, I will try my best to be mindful of your feelings.” he promised. Morrow looked at Clay for a moment, before huffing, “I guess I can’t blame you, you’re mom, and pop were probably just, what, a quantum computer, and an industrial machine?” he asked. Clay smiled, and laughed at Morrow’s joke, happy that their argument was passed, “Good night, Special Agent Morrow!” he said cheerily. “Yeah, you too.” Morrow said as he got into his red sedan, “And Clay,” he said as Clay began to walk away, “Just Charles will be fine in the future.”

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • WVProgressive changed the title to 12,050 Holocene Era - A(n On Hiatus) Science-Fiction Story Collection

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...