Dear Lord, I hate the robots most.

Dear Lord, I hate the robots most

By Angie Weihs

 

OUTSKIRTS OF THE HIVE OF HELL

“If God wanted us to fly like that, he would have given us wings”, mumbles one of the unkempt TruBios. He stuffs his dirty face with another handful of fatty fries and stares at the solar powered sliders cutting across the sky.

Proud of their ancient motto: “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” TruBios wear bacteria buzzing jeans, tees and parkas; garments they had frantically saved from the worldwide clothing meltdown in 2020. The raw material drawn from a billion tons of designer fashion to JC Penny frocks was used for many 3D printing purposes like those annoyingly antiseptic spray-on suits they would never touch.

Before biting into animal protein nobody else consumes, they form circles praying to God to take the Cyborgs away from them. And it would be nice if all those stem cell enhanced freaks and artificially grown kids found a hole to die in.

“Dear Lord, I hate the robots most”, yells one of them. Yeah, of course, down with the robots! They took away their jobs in the first place.

Tiny drops of sweat on her leathery skin, one of the elders raises her hand, fingernails longer than sense, and points at one of the bigger government sliders, ”There they go again. Kicking the ass of the last Crecon who's still aware!” The Govs float majestically amongst thousands of small Creative Consumer ships zooming around an endless array of high-rises. Organic shapes of white 3D printed constructions contrast old-fashioned concrete skyscrapers all mutually augmented with digital layers of information. Most of the visual enlightenment stays hidden from any refusing to have a chip implanted in their brain.

“There!” She yells: ”The Gov lights up, I knew it. I can feel the devils.”

“Section 3, coordinates 47/18, subject CC 1988987” The Gov accelerates into the residential area of section 3.

 

SECTION 3

CreCon198898, a skinny teenage girl in a lavender body suit manipulates holographic computer files in a small 3D printed, sterile living space. Lines of code run down holographic screens. Fast and focused she inhales the presented information and scribbles her own equations on a paper slim screen. 

“Zia it is time.” Zia does not look up at her mother Amni at the door, a slim woman dressed in the same monochrome body suit with identification imprints and embedded wearable technology. Not looking at her didn’t mean that Zia wouldn’t have to hear her mom’s thoughts pushed to her via the slim silver band on their foreheads. She expects her mom to preach and yeah, there it is.

“The council does not encourage achieving more than your assignment. Autonomy is a privilege of level one. You need to abide to the rules.”

Like a maniac conductor Zia speeds up her computations.

Amni just stands there and stares. There’s no lunch to pack or books to stuff into a backpack. Food is created “fresh”, what ever fresh means when it is 3D printed from algal slush, and everything else is digital. The world of stuff is over. Zia has no clue what it means to impress peers with designer wear: all 5 sections, determined by their function and value for society, are stuck into special color body suits.

“Individuality is weakness.”

Amni denies to herself that she has these irresponsible moments in which she dreams of silks, satins and high heels and yes, dancing on poles. She met her partner Aris when she was a dancer. She lived in the outskirts then with the Naturals, a barely tolerated community only one step above the TruBios. The best way to survive was to sell yourself to carefree rebels who could pay with stolen goods or to high level business men, rich and influential enough to visit the low life sections without risking punishment. Having sex was considered animalistic and reducing your IQ. 10 years in jail was the friendliest penalty. One of Amni’s regular rebel customers had brought his nerdy brother to the outskirts. It was his birthday and it was meant to be funny. The regular introduced them and that was it. The joke became a crazy romance, which unearthed them both. That is until Amni got pregnant, a criminal act.

A warning shock on her wrist rips her from her daydreams.

Whenever she is plagued by this dangerous residue of wild and emotional times she quickly injects herself with an extra syringe of the popular drug Zens. Today though she’s pressed to get Zia to school in time. Amni excels in her role, she is the public example of immaculate behavior, the best citizen of all, a poster child for the ICOIC's adaptation of Zen via cutting edge chemicals. Her story of a rebellious woman resurrected to perfect functionality through chemically subdued emotions had become an amazing piece of PR in manipulating the population. Her fervent education had made the pharmaceutical company ICOIC equal to the ruling corporation Nanotech. She was content, how could she not be? She had been reward recently: her price possession was a syringe of a highly valued concoction of life extending stem cells.

“Zia…”

Zia gets up and stretches her boyish body. She found a zero day exploit in Section 1’s security code; soon everyone would have access to their catalog of banned games. For a second a little smile appears on her pale face.

“I am ready to leave, mother. I would appreciate your permission to say goodbye to Aris please.”

Amni is appeased by the polite approach and agrees with a nod.

Aris disconnects from the virtual worlds he is engaged in and directs his thoughts to his daughter: “My indicators predict that the ICOIC will lose the fight and the council will vote for self-conscious AI’s next week. I’ve hidden you from current tech but a free AI is limitless. Knows everything. It is almost certain that they’ll see your natural genius as a threat.”

“No chance to hack the Exodus list and get us in?”

“I have tried every option to get into their files; the security is so sophisticated it doesn't seem from this time and age."

Zia giggles. "Their brain is McKinnon. I always thought he looks like an Alien. Hail Solo!”

Aris smirks. He loves when his precocious daughter is a kid for a change. His eyes crinkle when he smiles; his crow’s feet are a tiny feature revealing his deep-seated rebellion. He is the perfectly styled nerd, but refuses the ageless face that is en vogue.

His crow’s feet grow deeper as his face lights up to a huge grin.

"Zia, we might have a chance! TrueBios just bombed a work hall and 50 of the accepted techs were killed. It’s not cool to profit from other humans disaster but this is it. I will apply for us to be assimilated as maintenance crew. I’ll have to re-appropriate Nano tech to get us up to speed with space ship tech but at least we’ve got a chance.”

Zia loves her rebel dad, he’ll be so totally Ninja and steal Nano tech from under the tight control of NanoCorp.

“But how would you convince Amni to upgrade? She preaches that Nanos ruin humanity. She is so stupid.”

”Never forget Zia that you and I live because she took all the blame. I can’t imagine how empty she must feel in this trance of emotion control.”

"If she would know that you hacked our Emocs would she rat us out?”

“I don’t know, Zia. I believe that there’s a remnant of her old self that would prevent that. When we get away from this planet we'll get your mom back.”

He acknowledges Amni who is gesturing him to let her go.

“Right now you’ll have to do your exodus to school.”

On her way to the door she turns around and shoots him another thought.

“Why don’t you contact Zapher?”

“It’s too dangerous. And don’t use names of rebels ever. Even if private quarters are off the surveillance grid I doubt…”

The calming pastel colors of ever changing fractals on the digital walls of the room are interrupted by a shrill beep followed by a threatening voice: “Do you yearn to be eliminated?”

RF44, a group of nerdy rebels managed to hack the net again. Images of a mass-produced Android Model 3 killing humans flood the room.

“Crecons wake up: Why do you think the ICOIC is leaving the planet with a million Crecons? Because they know that self-aware Androids will destroy us. NanoCorp officials are 70% Cyborg, they will thrive, you will lose. When AI rules you will be worth as much as lice…”

The beautiful pastels swirl back.

Concerned, Amni checks Zia’s emotion control, it’s still in the accepted zone.

“I am glad that you don’t believe the rebels. You are in such balance, I am proud of you.”

THE SLIDER

Aris stares at his screens where the probability of NanoCorp’s victory just jumped to 92%. They had moved swiftly and linked the RF44 announcement to the terrorist attack by the TruBios, associating the ICOIC with murderers and elevating the AI to saviors. The fight between the two corporations was over. The cyborg fraction, many of them married to Androids, will win.

"Damn. So smart and yet so gullible."

A metallic hum gets louder and stops in front of their cubicle.

He shoots Zia a last thought. ”I’ll get us in.” As Zia was too far away, Amni also caught it. About to enter the public space under official surveillance she chooses to be oblivious of their secret.

As their living space is programmed to respond to basic needs, the doors open when they come closer. Alerted Zia stares at the slider's graphics: two intertwined snakes winding up a silver post and holding a glowing cell; the ICOIC's logo. Two humanoid robots in black suits, augmented by a layer of holographic information, appear from the government slider. 

Zia and Amni step aside.

Zia’s mind raced. What provoked this intrusion? Was it her fault, the red flag word Zapher? If RF44’s propaganda was true they were screwed; they had been heard. “Privacy, your ass,” was broadcasted via screen hack a month ago. Swearing and roughness sadly is one of the rebels’ big problems. “By the love of AI,” the sophisticated population shakes their bold heads in disbelief. “How profane!”

The doors slide shut behind the robots. ICO665, its name on its digital field, explains their visit in a monotone and pleasantly soft voice.

“The child CC198898 is chosen to leave with generation space ship ICOIC 13 on 2045-4-13 at zero seven hours. Please provide her life tablet and congratulate her on her departure.”

Zia steps behind Aris. “Not without you.”

“You do not have the right to separate family units. If you want our daughter we will leave with her.”

“You are section 3 units and not allowed to join Exodus. You do not own sufficient life span and will only be considered for IQ enhancement in 2050. You would jeopardize the mission. Your child has been bestowed a great honor. It is time for you to rejoice.”

“Thank you for the information.” Amni’s voice sounds even more contrived than usually and harsh compared to the soft spoken robots. “We are aware of our specs. But may I remind you respectfully that we are a unit and as one member of our unit is of value to you we demand with all due respect, that you request our necessary upgrades and the approvals to join Exodus. I am a rewarded educator…”

“No exceptions. Deliver the child. Please.”

Aris steps in front of the females. “Amni, Zia, I resolve this.” He waits that the door to Zia’s quarters slides shut behind them.

CO666 links to the central. “Section 3, coordinates 47/18. Our order incurs resistance, please advise.”

The ICOIC logo shows up on all screen walls around them. A perfectly symmetric ageless male face with flawless skin appears. Below his face a banner reads: Viz Venotius, CEO, International Council of the Immortal Cell.

His honey smooth voice sings a magical mantra.

“Greetings units. The ICOIC extends a special honor to you. Your child is one of 144 womb grown children chosen to seed galaxy Venotia 7. Their genetic variations are an important variable in our quest to create a highly evolved yet peaceful society.“

Aris bends his head lightly to show subordination. “Chancellor Venotius, your presence in our humble quarters is a great honor.  We are extremely grateful for our daughter to be chosen by the ICOIC but it is against our society’s ethics, your own rules, to separate caregivers from their children. We have been outstanding servants to society, why the punishment?”

“The council congratulates you to the great honor bestowed upon your descendent. Thank you for serving the new world.”

“With deepest respect, sir, we decline.”

The recording shuts off. Aris hands contract to fists; he was not losing his daughter.

“Resistance against orders of the council is illegal. The council politely demands that you hand over the child’s life tablet and release her. Noncompliance is, unfortunately, futile and with our apologies, your arrest is imminent.”

Aris’ fingers rush over his computer screen calling the legal assistance for sector 3.

A warning flashes across the robots’ holo layer: subject non-compliance, force authorized.

ICO665 points his gun at Aris. “For the last time. Provide her tablet. Now. Be so kind. Please.”

ICO666 soft voice adds: “To assist with your decision please be aware of rule EI7: Humans are to be eliminated after prolonged non-compliance.“

There's no time to sort this out. Aris agrees. He pulls two tablets out of a metallic interactive amenity cube. Years of suppressed rage explode and override all rationality, in a desperately furious attempt he frisbees the unbreakable metallic tablets towards the robots’ foreheads. One is hit at its weak point in the middle of his forehead, a design flaw which hackers had recently discovered in the 600 series: a sudden high impact above the main control chip could disable these older robots models temporarily. ICO666 shuts off, the other avoids the blow and a brilliant beam hits Aris’ chest. He collapses on the floor.

On ICO665’s holo layer in red: Aris, Crecon 28998, eliminated. RIP. The courteous killer moves amazingly fast and silently, just emitting barely audible squeaks from his 3D printed joints. In a matter of seconds he enters the adjacent room, stun guns Amni against the wall and grabs the petrified kid.

When Zia sees her dad on the floor she screams: “Wake up mom. Wake the hell up!”

They exit. The metallic hum of the slider fades.

Amni stumbles into the room towards her partner. The pain slashes her emotional armor into bits; she feels naked, raw, a woman who is nothing without her unit. She will end her life, there is nothing left for her. She sinks down besides him.

“Amni.“

Aris is paralyzed but fully conscious. Amni pulls herself up and stares at him. She caresses the crow’s feet under his eyes and feels so incredibly stupid that she never saw any signs of his defiance. She missed out on a life with the man she once loved and the child she cherished. This sharp pain in her heart is scientifically irrelevant, why does it take her breath?

She touches her wet face. Her disbelief is followed by fear: CreCons don’t cry.

“My chest is exploding, I cannot control my emotions. Everything looks different, feels different…” A bright flash, pain, Amni shivers from the electric shock of her control unit.

“You have to manipulate your Emoc or the squad will be here in no time. There’s an encrypted file on my computer …”

With Aris guidance she hacks her emotion control. Torn by contradicting feelings she forces herself to pull her valuable syringe from the storage cube. She turns around to Aris to inject him.

“Do not waste it. My system is 80% damaged. Stem cells are too late for me.”

“What are we supposed to do?”

Aris points at his life gram, which projects 12 minutes to death. “There’s little time. It’s up to you to protect her.”

“You are not dying. You cannot leave me. We are specialized units. You compliment my knowledge. I’m not strong enough on my own.”

“Amni, calm down. You have to listen.”

He reveals to her that Zia is a biological genius well beyond anything produced by the multi-billion dollar government eugenics program. “She’s the perfect test subject. Who knows what experiments they’ll put her through.”

“Does Zia know all this?”

“She is aware of her capabilities and - she knows about Zapher.” The rebel Amni had written so much propaganda against, was his brother who had gone underground shortly after they met and had renamed himself Zapher.

“He is your only chance. Download my memory and skill set. My nanos will give you access to tech you need. You will find the info on the forbidden zone and Zapher’s hideout in my files. The decryption key is |-|4!1 5010.”

“You taught Zia, didn’t you? You couldn’t tell me, because I would have… I would have requested her re-education. I am a failure to both of you. Why did you stay with me?”

”How could I leave you alone in the hands of the ICOIC? I was waiting for the day to free you. Please Amni, you have to get going. Open the cube, I will guide you through assembling the transfer tech.”

”I cannot do this. I can’t empty you. You will be left with just your physical memories and skills, a ghost of yourself.”

“Amni, I will be dead in - 8 minutes. Make my existence count. I will be with you both forever. Hurry! “

Transferring nanos is a hack punished with on-sight extermination. She assembles the necessary tech, seemingly random pieces Aris collected for possible emergencies and which on their own did not raise any suspicion. Following his instructions she activates his ports and connects herself to three of them with trembling hands.

“Think of this as your second chance to have a daughter. This time you need your feelings. Their power will fuel your fight to get Zia back as much as you need the tech.”

His life gram shows 3-2...

”I never stopped loving you.”

ZERO.

She trembles as she siphons Aris’ knowledge from his dead body. In a couple of minutes all nanos would have registered his death and self-destruct.

 

UNDERGROUND TUNNELS

Amni slides down a metal post and lands in a dimly lit underground metal cage.

A bunch of rough punks and space-age nerds point all kinds of guns at her: contemporary wave guns, chemical weapons, even a 45 revolver. Dressed in an eclectic mix of retro leather, lab grown and plastic type materials, some fire and chemical resistant, they show no signs of wearable tech.

Amni’s suit is disabled. Nobody can be traced down here.

How did she know how to find them? Was this a government set up? They push her into an old fashioned but effective scanner, which looks like the hack of an old photo booth. No traces of explosives or bio weapons are found on her.

“Why shouldn't we shoot you, bitch?”

“Use your vocal cords. If you know what that is. We don’t have freaking implants. We don’t hear you in our fucking heads.”

“We might push you around but we don’t push info into your fucking brain.”

Roaring laughter.

Amni clears her throat. Her voice sounds brittle at first. “I am here to see Zapher.”

Guns rise simultaneously. At the mention of Zapher the mirth is gone.

“And who the fuck are you?” says the only punk who hadn’t laughed with the others, snake tattoos winding up his forearms.

She feels the self-confidence of Aris capacities and looks sternly into the man’s eyes, “Aris sends me.”

He silently motions to one of the nearby men who runs inside, a messenger sent by foot instead of light.

The guys are rattled; they all talk at the same time.

“Aris? So you’re the whore he left us for? The succubus who seduced him to raise an illegal human-grown child while everyone else has to beg for their lab baby? Did you ever wonder why they didn’t kill it?”

The messenger runs back and whispers to the tattooed man. “Well looks like it’s your lucky day whore, Zapher will see you.” They open the cage, push her down a long hallway that opens into a former subway station packed with a huge array of stolen technology with the logos of NanoCorp and ICOIC on many items, a makeshift laboratory.

Zapher, a physically stunning man, a muscular version of Aris just mentally a tad on the edge, rides on a mechanical thrown; he makes the chair jump, lift up, hover; an absurd techno dance, which stops right in front of her. Stares close up into her face. “Amni? Yes. It is you. Not a ghost. Not a hologram. I wished I could say you look well.” He shakes his head, the chair jumps back to where he started. “You guys never call, you guys never visit. Silence for all these years. What have I ever done to you? I am not happy, not happy at all.”

“Aris needed to protect us – and you. You kill innocent people. I would never have condoned such acts. I would have given you up.”

“Murdering innocents? We’re not morons like TrueBios. We only attack the leading corporations who made you their little programs. ICOIC Zen freaks or Nano freaks, it’s inhumane if you can’t think for yourself. We’re trying to wake you up. When did you ever make a decision of your own?”

“I guess I just did. I am here, am I not? I need your help. I need upgrades. And a hack into Exodus.”

Zapher laughs his particular sarcastic laugh. “Of course, deary, you want something. You’re not here for a Cappuccino. But you are class 3, you are not allowed Cyborgian parts. Why would Miss perfectly subdued want my evil stolen tech? With all that immoral blood on it?”

“Emotion control was my price to pay to keep my daughter. Now they kidnapped her to leave with Exodus - in six days. I have to get on the ship…”

"What is Aris going to do? Why did he send you?"

"The ICOIC killed him."

He jumps off the chair and walks up and down, the stalking quiet rage of a tiger in a cage. “Fuck. Aris is dead?”

He kicks the desk with his army boots. Screams. “Fuck. We never fought it out, Aris. Fuck. “

He points a gun at her. “He is gone. Forever. You tamed my brother. You took my brother away from me. I won’t help you. Ever. I hate you.”

He wiggles the gun frantically and then shoots one of 144 teddy bears hanging from the ceiling; the room fills with polyester snow muddied by dust and gunpowder.

Amni brushes the bits off. “You hate me, fine. We both hate the ICOIC. You have to help me. Do it for Aris’ daughter.”

Zapher’s voices vibes hysteria. “Oh, you’re funny. I don’t even know the kid. You never let me see my brother’s child. Get out off my sight. Before I lose it.”

He gestures his guys to take her away. They grab her by the arms and push her to the exit.

Amni furiously pushes them off and runs back to him yelling into his face. ”I need 20% physical enhancements and a chip in my brain. I need 70 life span units. You fucking need to do this”.

“Olala. chica. Gotten fierce? A true Desperada.” Grinning he tosses her a cowboy hat, which he grabbed from a junk-overloaded shelf.

”You are the only one I know outside the system, the only one who can do it. We saved 10,000 credits. I have a syringe of stem cells. They are yours.”

Zapher grunts.

“Please, that’s all I have.“

“You are seriously annoying. Put the hat on, c’mon put it on.” She does. “See? Fantastic. Okay then. I can get you the physical upgrades and the fucking chip. Only because you yelled so anti Crecon-like. By Jupiter, I hate those chanting ICOIC fucks even more than the Cyborg creeps.”

He stops. Ponders. Looks at her as if she is a danger to his health. “But Lifespan? You’re looking for Lifespan? Are you completely wacko? Life is the domain of NanoCorp. They’re ruthless. They protect their patent like the holy grail. Which it is. The holy union of nanos and stemcells… This stuff made them Gods. Even we couldn’t fetch a couple of those goodie bags. My attempt killed half my crew.”

His guys push her back towards the door.

“Your crew was killed, your brother murdered. You must want revenge. I do anything, please.”

“Oh yes, I will get revenge. Mother killed herself when gigolo dad left her with twins, fucking coward. Aris and I grew up in the slums with the fucking TrueBios. We made it out. We even survived getting degrees.” He grins with fond memories.

He slams his forehead against the wall. “Now Aris is dead because of you and your daughter.”

He wipes the blood from the scratch on his forehead.

“Ooops, a moment of enlightenment. Pain can do that to you. You might be lucky after all. I’ve got one deal for you. My girl Serenity gets you a meet with Cyme, NanoCorp’s leader. He’s a sex freak and paying big to get it up again. His sex bots don’t do it for him anymore. He needs to be fired up to climb those. As he despises low lives like the Naturals he wouldn’t touch their whores, but a CreCon educator with a dark soul, hell, that would be something! I figure he’ll pay well.”

“Strip? For chancellor Cyme? You are insane.”

“Of course I am, the only way to make it in this world. Insanity works since nobody expects it. So what do you say? You poison this creep and his fucking palace crew. That’ll give us a short window for Serenity to get life span for all of us. When I get my stuff, I’ll do your other upgrades.”

“Serenity does not exist, it's anti government propaganda.”

Zapher bleats like a sheep. “Baaaa. She exists all right. And her juicy sexbots.” He snaps his fingers and two gorgeous android robot ladies stilt by, curves clad in designer fashion, breath taking legs ending in breathtaking vintage heels…”

“They must cost millions, how did you…”

“Nanocorp is the ruler of the not-free world. I’m the ruler of the black market. Sexbots are the hottest item on my shelves. Did you have sex with Aris after the anti copulation law? Or did you believe that passion reduces your intelligence and gave it up?” He laughs out loud.

“Let me see: you never wondered why they allowed you to birth your illegal child. Bing, bing. Not a miracle. Must disappoint you. You didn’t win the prize. They experimented with your daughter. They all but drowned her with drugs and your kid became one of the valuable survivors of their test run. You think they gave her a seat in Exodus by chance? She’s a pampered lab rat. Number 44.”

Her heart rates drops. The room spins around her. 

“Aris was our best hacker. Was he too afraid to look for the truth? Or did he hide this from you?”

She sinks into a chair; he lied about so much, did he know this?

Zapher grins satisfied. That was almost too easy. He will destroy this chick - after using her.

His faint ranting enters her consciousness. “… millions of high IQ idiots… controlled by their jump suits… sedatives…. Fucking Nazi Cyborgs!!”

She jolts up. “Who the fuck cares? Tell me what to do. I’ll stab Cyme to death with a knife if I have to.”

“Please don’t make me like you.”

He continues to his guys: “Fix her up with a monitoring chip. Get Serenity on the black channel. Tell her I found the one, she will know what to do.” Back to Amni. You better polish up your dancer skills, you’ll be rusty after 13 years.”

 

UNDERGROUND LAB, two nights later.

Serenity, their beloved provider of sexbots, is allowed into the upper class sections. She delivers Amni to Cyme’s mansion. She cruises the neighborhood, watching the action via Amni’s monitor; waiting for her moment to get the lifespan Zapher is after.

Zapher’s crew observes the same show via holo screen: Amni checks on herself in a metal/acrylic bathroom. She looks amazingly sensual in her luxurious renaissance themed outfit.

A beep in her head: the sign that Zapher successfully hacked the mansion’s cameras, which will be off for just 5 seconds. She pulls a capsule out of the lipstick and squeezes it into a slim astral blue vent, which runs through all walls of the palace supplying high oxygen air making the Cyborg lungs more efficient. The virus will be delivered in 15 minutes, enough time for her to get out.

She lines her lips when the sliding door opens.

Three handsome bodyguards guide her to Cyme who approves of her looks with a satisfied smirk.

She steps on a sensual little stage they built for her, including red lights, pole and all… Her snakelike moves make him drool and he shivers lustfully when the first pieces of her elaborate outfit drop.

He can’t hold onto himself, steps onto the stage and hands her a drink. The androids join them.

Amni sips from the thin crystal - slap - one of the bodyguards smacks it into her face, it breaks, the drink spills... Cyme grins and pulls a small piece of glass from her cheek. He licks her blood.

Aghast Zapher and his guys stare at the screen where images are rushing in and out while she is pushed, beaten and smashed against the wall… Blood runs down her arms when the guys chain her to the bedposts.

Cyme, drooling with sadistic joy, jumps on top of her, ready to rip her remaining bloody cloths off. His sweaty face bobs above her… Slower and slower, till he falls on top of here. With her last remaining strength she pulls at her chains.

Zapher and his men are stumped. It’s over. They disable the security system for Serenity to get the tech.

“We win, she loses. It’s too bad really. She was a fighter. Lets thank her.”

Expensive French cognac bottles are raised. The dark yellow gold warms their bodies – they set the bottles down astonished that the screen becomes alive again. A new viewpoint shows the messy bedroom; dead bodies on the floor or hanging over furniture.

Amni’s monitor shows a female face bending down to her. A fist holding a syringe shows them a manicured finger.

“Damn. Serenity isn’t happy.”

 

SECOND REVIVAL

A couple hours later and Zapher’s guys are trying to save Amni, who Serenity saved with an antidote. Barely conscious she lies on a metal slab for the procedures.

Zapher runs her specs on his holo screen: it looks bad.

One of the medics shakes his head. “Count down is on, boss. Lift off is in 148 hours. I don’t know how well we can patch her up. Some upgrades might be temporary.”

Serenity oozes with sensuality on Zapher’s throne. “You better. I take care of my ladies, especially the brave ones. I want this woman on that ship. She will be an ally.” She runs her hands down her perfect body, caressing her perfect curves: “You’ve got a lot to lose if you don’t.”

She scrolls through hundreds of Exodus-accepted females. She points at the screen. “This one. Make her look like this one and get this chick over here and out of the equation.” The woman looks similar to Amni and is listed as an ICOIC scientist. They will have to also transfer her scientific knowledge, which luckily is one of the lesser tasks for the life-long hackers. They are long prepared for the procedure, having the same plan for the whole crew - 24 scientists from the Exodus list will be kidnapped, last minute to avoid them being reported, and exchanged with Zapher’s crewmembers.

Amni’s tortured body lifts up in pain when Zapher rearranges her broken nose and broken ankle. Her right hand is a smashed bloody mess.

Syringes splash the stemcell cocktail on countless of cuts and bruises. They connect her to various infusions and spike her with acupuncture needles.

A half tube closes over her. A low electrical current activates the needles.

The holo screen starts a count down. 144 hours to go in which she will endure 7 surgeries.

 

EXODUS. SHIP NO 12

Amni, toned, her skin immaculate, her features polished stands motionless in an upright holographic tube, scans run up and down, calculations show up. The fake identity works: the scan results read as accepted. Coordinates in the holo field request her to leave to her quarters.

A moment of doubt runs over her face when one of the robots pays attention to her: ICO666. She enters a long hallway leading to the labs. Her digital guide announces that she took the wrong way. She asks for permission to visit her work place first as work comes before comfort. It’s granted. As she suspected, the robot follows her. Her DNA code let’s her enter the lab. She hacks the security system and shuts down the surveillance of the room. The robot walks by countless chemical vials locked into acrylic drawers; genetic sequences of millions of people tested for the trip. It suddenly freezes, eyes glaze over white and it’s holo screen shuts down. Amni pulls her artificial hand out of its back, pushes it over, jumps on its chest, rips its “brain” open and removes the memory and recording chip. Never destroy any data that might one day be useful.

Her digital eyes scan her surroundings and reality is overlaid with holographic information and analyses; Zapher had made her a 70% Cyborg with full tech power and the entire emotional spectrum.

Love, hate and holy tech make for a trinity to reckon with.

Her security hack, masked as a localized system failure will be overridden any second. She activates a hover board to move the robot into a trash slot; non-repairable, meltdown required.

She manipulates the holo files like a maniac conductor. She rushes by dozens of profiles of lab kids and finds Zia in a virtual space, a re-creation of their former home.

Amni’s hack shows up on Zia’s screens walls like the hack of RT44 before her abduction.

|-|4!1 5010.”

A smile flickers on Zia’s pale face.

“Hail Solo.”

 

Copyright Angie WeihsWGA registration number: 1780582