“A large, clean, white box sits in the middle of a deserted, gray street. It lets out a wail, and my hinges squeak towards it. I open it, and inside is a wailing child, but where a second tiny arm should be, a clean stump is there instead. I turn away. The government will hunt and kill her for her imperfection.”
A large, clean, white box sits in the middle of a deserted, gray street. It lets out a wail, and my hinges squeak towards it. I open it, and inside is a wailing child, but where a second tiny arm should be, a clean stump is there instead. I turn away. The government will hunt and kill her for her imperfection. It is a crime to be less than perfect. You could pollute others. I run the calculations through my computing system. Her chances without me lie at 0.06%. It isn’t worth it. I could be stripped for spare parts if I’m found! I take one last look at the box, and my sensors pick up a tablet. I pick it up and read.
This child is Lilli Morris. If you take her, you will receive a payment of 1,000 sars a month. At age 14, deliver her to lab 3.51. At that time, she will be perfect as a test subject for our weapons. Make sure she is fed and raised the way a rebel child is. This will be immensely helpful to your beloved government. Failure to do so will result in death. A tracking device has already been planted deep into your system C-13. Remember the reward will be extensive.
Jessica and Harry Morris, Chemical Weapons Department
I do a scan of my anatomy and locate a tracker right next to my motherboard. Any attempt to remove it would cause me to shut down. I do a second scan and find that the tracker has explosive content, a kind that could be remotely controlled. Well it seems I have no choice. I scoop up the child, and the box and creak away to my workshop.
She peered out of the open window, looking down at the uniform, bleak buildings. No one would notice a girl leaning out the window of an abandoned church. Maybe before they would, but not now.
It was rare to see anyone looking from their screen, treacherous even. With each country’s government controlling all media and personal devices, there were hardly any independent thinkers left. And those few were forced out of society, usually they formed some sort of underground society, but those never lasted for long. She sighed and slipped on a pair of worn leather gloves and slung a bag with many pockets over her shoulders. She climbed out of the window and jumped down onto the neighboring roof, landing on practiced feet. She sprinted as if afraid of something towards the horizon. She stopped on one roof and ran to the side of the building. She grabbed the handle of the fire escape like she had done a thousand times. She swung down and climbed wearily down the metal ladder. She slipped off one of her gloves, revealing a robotic prosthetic. A metal device clicked out of her arm, and she inserted it into the lock. The window slid open. Catlike, she crawled into the drab, gray apartment. There isn’t much risk of getting caught here, she thought. At this time, all the inhabitants would be enthralled in social media, sucked into a world of machines and pixels so distant from reality that there was hardly need for sneaking. They were all so enveloped in worlds of celebrities and surveys, game shows and contests that they were hardly human anymore. However, the government cameras could be anywhere, so one could never be too careful. She snuck into the kitchen area and opened the fridge. She had to take small pieces of different things, lest the inhabitant should notice. She checked to make sure everything was in its proper place. Then she slipped out of the window, unnoticed, using the silver instruments to lock the window again. She ran along the roofs and went down yet another fire escape, this time to ground level. Checking over her shoulder, she loosened a pothole cover on the street and went down a rickety ladder and called out “Independent.” Suddenly lights turned on throughout the dark hallway, and a door slid open. The creak of hinges echoed through the hallway.
“C-13,” the girl called.
“Hello, Lilli Morris, how is your prosthetic arm doing?” a robotic voice responded.
A robot stepped into the light. The robot had a metallic body dotted with rust, and as it walked towards the girl, it was clear its joints were the cause of the creaking.
“Fine, fine. How many times do I have to tell you, just call me Lilli!” the girl protested in fake annoyance, “and grease your hinges, they’re all creaky!” Suddenly, Lilli’s voice turned serious. “Have you received any information about them?”
A hint of desperation was in her voice.
“Lilli Morris, are you 100 percent sure that you want to hear the information I have received?” The robot paused. “All indicators show that they did abandon you,” C-13 said, a hint of compassion crept into his robotic monotone.
“No, I want to hear!” Lilli declared stubbornly.
“If that is what you absolutely want, then come on,” came C-13’s reply.
A sliding door opened onto a makeshift garage of sorts. An entire wall was crammed with monitors and keyboards and complex hacking equipment. C-13 flicked a switch, and with a buzz, the monitors came alive.
“Here is the information I have on the whereabouts of your parents.”
Lilli held her breath.
“They are working for the government in their secret base located in sector 15, Lab 3.51. They are both working as scientists, developing chemical weapons and poisons for the conflict between the United confederation of 50, and the Rebels.”
“Wait, they’re working for the government?” Lilli exclaimed, shock embedded in her words. She knew of the horrors the government had inflicted upon anyone who was different. “No, that can’t be! They’re probably being held against their will,” she said defiantly. “I must find them!”
“My calculations indicate that due to your stubbornness and desire for human contact, I cannot do anything to stop you,” C-13 pronounced sadly. He handed her a nano display. “The coordinates are here… Goodbye, Lilli Morris,” C-13 said sadly.
She ran out, and C-13 looked at her, a flicker of regret crossing his robotic gaze if that was possible. She ran to the fire escape and swiftly climbed up. She ran along the roofs and slid down into the open window of the abandoned church. She shoved a few belongings and some food into a bag then picked up a small hologram. She fingered it gently, running her fingers along the display disk, staring down at her parents. Lilli slung her bag over her shoulders, ran up onto the roof, and broke into a steady run. No one cared enough to see the girl running across the horizon.
She stopped for a moment, taking a break from the steady jog she had maintained for the past hour. She leaped down into a alley and a voice greeted her.
“Another useless human lifeform. What a waste of space.”
Into the light emerged a faded, gray humanoid robot with aperture eyes and a disapproving frown. One of the robot’s legs was longer than the other, and the resulting limp echoed around the alley. Step, thunk. Step, thunk. Step, thunk. To Lilli’s surprise, the robot flickered. Noticing the look of shock on Lilli’s face, the robot explained.
“I used to be able to turn invisible. However, I am in low power mode, so it comes on and off. The human who made me didn’t put the right protection on my motherboard, so I caught a virus and have a personality glitch. Apparently, I’m an ‘Insufferable Pessimist,’ and I have a ‘misplaced sense of superiority.’ So this genius decided ‘let’s chuck him into the not yet finished garbage chute,’ which is basically a free fall,” he gestured to his creaking leg. “Anyway, my name is P4-94. What’s your name? It’s not like it really matters. It’s not going to delay the inevitability of the pathetically imminent death that is the fate of all humans.”
“Lilli,” Lilli responded cautiously, annoyance seeping into her voice. “Hey, do you have hovering capabilities?” she asked, a hint of an idea wandering into her mind. “Oooh, and do you have GPS?”
“Why would you care?” the robot responded.
“Oh, well, that leg looks like quite a drag.”
“Well I think I just might be able to fix it.”
The robot scoffed, but the apertures of its eyes widened with hope.
“You see I’m fairly confident I can fix it but only if you promise to take me to a location I have interest in going to.”
The robot scoffed again. “Fairly confident?? I doubt your imprecise human fingertips could handle a task half as difficult as my leg.”
“Have you got any better options?”
“Well, I suppose not. How far away is this ‘location’ of yours?”
She pulled out the nano display.
“That’s quite a destination. I have a deal for you. If you fix my leg, then I will take you to your destination. However, if you leave me in worse shape than I’m in, I get to strip your nano display for parts. Does your tiny human brain comprehend?”
“Yes and deal. What model are you?”
“I am a T-498jh_ladfnvK humanoid model. Roughly 367.492% better than the average human.”
“Alright, P4-93, let’s fix you up.”
She rolled up the sleeve and adjusted her prosthetic. She wiggled her metal fingers and opened her bag. She laid out an array of tools. She grabbed P4-93’s leg and sprayed it with black liquid. She adjusted and readjusted, drilled, and turned. When she finally stood up, the robot’s leg was gleaming.
P4-93 sighed. “Well you managed not to implode the entire block, so I suppose that’s an accomplishment.” The robot took skeptical steps. “Well it does seem to hold up,” P4-93 admitted.
“So,” Lilli pushed. “We had a deal.”
“Ah, well, we are only blips in history, less than milliseconds in the time of the universe so I suppose if this implodes and becomes a disaster of epic proportions, it won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Insert your nano display here.”
Lilli’s heart leapt, but she remained calm. She carefully inserted the nano display, taking care to memorize the coordinates to her future.
It had been three days since they had first met.
“How long till we’re there?” Lilli asked.
“I told you five minutes ago! Is your tiny human brain so miniscule it can’t retain a simple thought?”
“Oh be quiet,” Lilli responded halfheartedly, but she was used to P4-93’s constant criticism of her human functions.
It was hopeless arguing with him. She might as well rest while she still could. They were flying through deserted streets, and there was hardly any chance troopers would find them.
“This device is not meant to produce laughter,” C-13 said as a small, feathery machine tickled me.
“It’s tickly,” I laughed, practically rolling around on the floor in mirth.
“Come on now. It is time for sleep. You know it is scientifically proven that having 10 hours of sleep will help you function at your best.”
“Okay, okay, I’m coming,” I said, my eight-year-old face scrunching in annoyance.
I jumped into a small bed pod and landed on an old mattress.
“Have a good night, Lilli Morris.”
“Lilli, Lilli, wake up.”
“What?” she said groggily
“Troopers!! Lot’s of them!” P4-93 screeched.
“How did they find us?! We haven’t had troopers on our trail this entire time, and you scanned this neighborhood!!!”
“The only possible explanation is a tracking device. Oh well, your miserable existence will finally be ended, and your soul will float aimlessly through the cosmos for all eternity.”
“Shut up! Nobody’s dying! Quick, turn invisible!”
“It will do us no good. Woe. WOE!”
Lilli watched as a net fell over her and P4-93.
“Any attempts to resist will lead to immediate incineration,” a trooper shouted through a megaphone.
Lilli stared at the net encircling them and rolled up her sleeve, revealing her prosthetic, gleaming wickedly in the gray light that mingled with the flashing lights of the troopers vehicles. Shink. Blades zipped out of Lilli’s arm, and she grimaced. A certain determination filled her, and she slashed through the net in a singular motion. She advanced towards the guards.
“STOP RIGHT THERE.”
She kept going. She leapt forward, memories pushed themselves up from the darkest parts of her mind, kindling the already roaring fire that consumed her.
“GO AWAY! STOP! DON’T TOUCH ME! You’ll spread your imperfection. Don’t you see you’re ruined.” the little boy yelled.
I crumpled. I just wanted to be friends. I looked down at the stump that had always been a part of my life. The little boy said I was ruined. Am I ruined? Am I diseased?”
“Lilli! I told you stop trying to play with other children! They’ll only hurt you,” C-13 chastised.
“Okay,” I sniffed, and I let myself be led back to the only place remotely like home.
Lilli stared down at the red stains on her arm and then shifted her gaze to the trooper on the ground before her, a halo of blood framing what used to be a face. She froze, shock running through her. She felt a net enclosing around her once more, this time feeling the cold, metal links that made up the nets for those who were dangerous, rebel imperfects. The bulletproof links showed who she really was. A murderer.
She stared at the bars encircling them. She sighed. She had only made their situation worse, and P4-94 knew it too. But underneath her anger, she couldn’t stop thinking about the trooper’s wide, surprised eyes, disbelieving, not comprehending her blade slicing through him.
“What is it with you humans? Always killing each other!!” P4-94 said half-heartedly.
“Not now, P4-94,” she murmured, both menace and defeat in her voice, and even the robot knew to back off.
“Alright, on your feet,” a trooper yelled, smacking the bars of their cage. “You are being transported to a laboratory to be tested upon. Any attempts to resist will lead to sedation.”
She sighed. She couldn’t do anything. They had bound her arm, so she couldn’t use any of its features. Lilli and P4-94 were shackled and led in a line of other shambling convicts. They were led onto a transport plane and were placed in cold, metal seats with built in shackles. The plane lifted off, and the prisoners sat in stifling silence, the only break being the shift of bodies when the turbulence got bad.
It went on like this for hours when finally, a voice called, “Alright, get up!” and the seats lurch forward, causing yelps from all of the human passengers. Lilli could tell P4-94 was scoffing at their “weakness.” Troopers quickly filed in, each one taking a prisoner and leading them in strict lines.
As they walked outside, Lilli finally realized it. She might never meet her parents. She stared sullenly at the brick building she was being marched towards, and she glanced up. There she saw it. Large pristine letters reading Laboratory 3.51. That was her parents’ laboratory. She really was going to see her parents! But why was she going there from jail? It didn’t matter, she concluded, and she gestured discretely to P4-94. He looked up, and she could tell he recognized it. She marched forwards happily. She couldn’t wait to see what was inside those doors. Her parents! Someone who understood her. People who loved her. The doors opened smoothly, and she craned her neck, trying to get a good view. She was marched towards a long line of people in front of a large glass tank. Their grimy faces and angry eyes gave them away. They were rebels. They looked terrified, but she hardly noticed. She stood in line, her eyes seeking out anyone who looked remotely like her, and then she saw them. A man and a woman, with the same charcoal black hair as her, in immaculate lab with ID cards. Dr. Jessica Morris and Dr. Harry Morris. They walked up to the tank and opened it. They gestured for the person in the front of the line. A young boy, no more than ten.
“No need to be afraid,” Lilli’s mother cooed as the boy took a few shaky steps towards the tank. “There we go,” Lilli’s mother said, and slammed the door shut.
Lilli heard a lock clicking into place.
“Clear. Release the gas.”
Lilli’s father pressed a button, and green gas filled the tank. The boy screamed in agony, and through the cloud of gas, she saw his skin melting off of his bones, his blood bubbling, and pooling at his feet, his voice fading into gurgling. What used to be a human body was flailing around in a desperate attempt to escape this horror. Lilli couldn’t watch. Why weren’t her parents doing anything? This was clearly some horrible mistake. She turned to them.
“Great results, the increase in acid is definitely working!”
“Yeah, this is a sure success.”
Lily gawked. She had been frozen, but now she jerked into motion. She sprinted towards her parents.
“MOM! DAD! It’s me, Lilli! what is going on?!” she exclaimed.
“Troopers, get her back in line,” her mother ordered, recognition flashing through her cold eyes.
“I’M YOUR DAUGHTER!!” Lilli screamed.
“You’re no child of ours,” her parents spat.
As troopers dragged Lilli back to her spot in line, Lilli’s eyes filled with hatred. Her mind was racing. White hot rage consumed her.
“P4-94 get ready to run,” Lilli hissed, and with one quick motion, she ripped off her prosthetic, revealing a small button. P4-94’s eyes widened. Lilli pressed it and threw it towards her parents. She grabbed P4-94 and ran, glancing behind her to watch her past go up in flames.