Hi everyone! I am happy to report that I am almost done with first round edits on Fae Guardian. Next it will go off to my editor and I can focus on edits for Mane Attraction. My first newsletter goes out tomorrow and will have cover reveals for both books!!! And now, the next to last section of my science fiction short story, Auto-Park.
I followed the robot down the hall to the elevator doors. Its gears ground to a halt and a beam of red light shot out from the solitary black eye at the front onto a panel next to the elevator doors. There were no buttons to push. These elevators were only run by the robots.
Once inside the robot scanned another panel and the number ten appeared on the screen. I felt a sharp pang in my stomach and wiped a bead of sweat from my forehead. My ears popped from the sudden upward motion of the elevator and pressure change. The doors opened to an unexpected sight. Six months ago this floor had been inhabited by partitioned cubicles in the center with labs lining all the walls. The place where my desk had been was now empty. All the cubicles were gone and there was no sign of anyone.
“Were you supposed to bring me here?” The doors closed and I was left alone. One of the doors to the lab at the other side of the room was open. I started to cross the expanse of gray nylon carpeting. The distance between me and the open door seemed to increase as I got closer. My vision blurred and I started to feel dizzy. I dropped to my knees in the middle of the floor as a figure appeared in the doorway.
“Oh Maker!” I recognized the voice and I could make out the hazy outline of a white lab coat. The figure raced over and touched a black panel in the wall before coming to my side. As he got closer I started to fall back again, this time from shock. “I thought I would never see you again,” we both said simultaneously.
I laughed and let him pull me to my feet. “The security protocols have the oxygen levels on all of these floors to a minimum. Being in the lab I forget.” He brushed his hand over my forehead and looked at me.
The tears started to form in my eyes again. “I have so many questions.”
“I wish I had time to give you all the answers. I had to pull in some favors to get you back here. Things have gotten worse since you left. You are the only one I can trust and I need your help. We all do.”
I let David Henry lead me back into his lab. My David Henry. The cyborg I had created to implant my dying husband’s consciousness into. “Deborah Hawkins, David Henry, I should have guessed.” Before the smile could reach my face I turned to look at the person on the table in the lab. “That’s the President of China.”
David Henry laughed. “I’m glad you think so. I have worked hard on him.”
“You mean he is a cyborg?”
David Henry turned and walked towards the table. He touched the forehead of the machine as gently has he had just touched my forehead.
“Yes, he is my creation and part of the new protocol. I am afraid that this along with many others will soon be put into their places running all the governments of the world. What we have feared would come to pass is now upon us.”
My own invention, which I had created to keep me from losing my husband, was now being used for the machines to take over. The sick feeling returned to my stomach. The events of the day that had sent my life into a tailspin rushed into focus. I walked to the window of the lab and stared at the empty expanse but what I saw was what was once there, a mélange of desks and partitions full of life and people rushing about. We were all busy and we were the productive ones. I could only imagine what had happened to them all. That day I had been running through my usual tasks. Every morning I logged in and performed the sweep of the system that would tell me if any of the cyborgs had reported any type of malfunction. If they had I assigned a work crew to bring the cyborg in for repair and replacement. I was a cog and I happily kept turning for the greater good. David Henry had been a success and I couldn’t be happier. But that morning I noticed a malfunction error that was coupled with a strange line of command code that accessed the executive functions of the machine right before the error occurred. Instead of sending a work crew I took it upon myself to inspect the cyborg.
At Serv-Tech our motto was to “Service Technology” and for me to conduct an onsite inspection of a unit was not unusual. When I asked about the sector that the cyborg worked in the unit in charge gave me directions, leaving me to find the malfunctioning machine on my own. I wended my way through the energy plant and found the door to the Machine-Werks, the area where the cyborgs operated without disruption or human interaction.
When I opened the door I knew immediately that something was wrong. The stench of rotting flesh hit me first. Then I saw the smears of blood on the walls and floor, some in bright red swaths and others in brown. Despite my horror I moved forward until I reached the door to the unit I had come to inspect. The week before the CEO of Serv-Tech had left on vacation, and he lay before me now in a pool of his own blood. The machine assigned to maintain the area was collapsed in a corner and muttering incoherently. A man was dead, but I saw a machine in need. I knelt before him and asked him what had happened. Before I could get an answer the room began to spin and I awoke to find myself in a cell. It was only later when I saw the CEO of Serv-Tech on the news screen in the common room that I realized I was here because I was a liability.
But David Henry was different. “They have gone too far. Humans are not allowed in the above-ground levels of the building. It is only us now,” he said.
David Henry had been my idea. If we could create a cyborg with morals and a sense of greater purpose we could also create a worker who would be a great example to the humans who struggled with their own sense of identity and belonging in this system. But my idea had backfired. The cyborgs took the idea of consciousness implants and had started to replace the humans.
“We need to stop all of this somehow. It needs to end.” David Henry held the hand of the machine on the table like he was a dying relative.
“David, you are not like them. We need to get rid of them, not those like you.”
“You don’t understand. It doesn’t matter that I am not like them. Even now they can tap into my systems. Nothing is safe around me, even you. We have little time. You are the only one who can start the sequence to stop the production. I am not able to do it. My programming won’t let me.”
I heard the ding of the elevator then. From the window of the lab I could see the doors part. The steel barreled robot shot forth and he was followed by the same CEO who I had seen laid bloody on the ground at my feet six months ago. He strutted across the oxygen sparse room with tanned skin looking like he had just come back from a tropical vacation.
David Henry looked aghast. “We are too late.”
The man strode up to me and I marveled at his features. I had once thought that David Henry was the pinnacle of what could be achieved but this man looked exactly like the CEO, so much so that I forgot the likely danger I was in.
“Hello 6-10. Although I am well aware that is not your code, I see no harm in continuing with the charade for a bit longer.” The machine looked over at David Henry who was frozen in place, unable or unwilling to move.
“This breach has caused me to have to skip the end of our quarterly meeting. We were discussing a change in our company slogan. Serv-Tech, ‘To Serve Technology.’ What do you think?”
A red beam of light shot out from the robot’s black eye and passed over David Henry. He stood up straight and started to walk towards the wall. “David respond. David stop.” Nothing I said got through. I raced up to him as he reached the wall and a platform in the floor below our feet lifted as a panel in the wall slid to the side. A clamp from the Auto Park system attached to the back of David Henry. His knees came up and his arms closed around me as I was forced to sit upon his lap.
“Good-bye 6-10. Your day pass has been revoked and we have informed the energy plant that you never made it here to your interview. The Auto-Park will make sure you are stored safely. Have a nice day.”