August 17, 2008

They used to…pt 2b

Weird, thought I'd posted this a couple of days ago. Or...perhaps that was the draft I accidentally deleted. Aaand I'm a ditz.

I think I even made some specific notes but I forget...well, off the top of my head, Travis's alien name is a little joke and Izotz, the Circuit City employee, his name is actually Basque. I like weird names and languages, and Basque is...certainly unique if you've never seen it. I was having trouble coming up with my own alien name but nothing sounded weird enough, if you can believe it. I was going to make note of his Basque name but that wouldn't have made sense in context of the story.

Lastly, it's time to ease up on the mobile task manager banter even though it's kinda funny. To me anyway :P

Hmm....more weird formatting...maybe I didn't "accidentally" delete that draft after all.


Once at their destination, Travis and Alex stepped off the pads, a bit disoriented from the ride.

"I don't think we're even at the right Circuit City," Alex said and removed a gum wrapper from his hair.

"They're all the same aren't they?"

Travis pulled Alex towards the big red and slate grey building. An electronic banner over the doors projected "CRAZY PRICES 50% OFF RE-PROCESSED ROBOTS ANTIQUE CAMERAS HIGH-TECH FOOTWEAR" in big, bold, scrolling letters and a couple of worker robots stood holding the doors open. A burst of cool air ran over their skin as Travis and Alex stepped into the building. Worker robots, humans, and aliens of every color meshed noisily chatted on the main floor against the blare of glass-mounted televisions perched along the walls and radios and task managers swirling around on free-floating shelves. The inside of the building was enormous, the roof seemingly rising for miles into a dark abyss. The building was also brightly lit although the light sources were hidden, casting light on the grey walls and dark carpeting. Travis and Alex paced around a bit, Travis's hands firmly in his pockets and gripping his money.

"Hey!" a perky male voice called from behind him. The pair turned around and saw square lavender task manager on a floating, transparent disc zooming around behind them. On the device's screen was a pair of thin male lips and the beginnings of a goatee at the bottom. "What's up guys?"

"Oh look," Alex said, grabbing the disc. "One of the new ones.

"That's right! I'm a TMY-150 mobile task manager. I can hold up to three years of tasks and 12,000 personal contacts, improved voice recognition, customizable calendar, and I come in ten colors!"

"Wow," Travis said. "Pretty nice. How much you cost?"

"I run about $2,500 EC," the TMY-150 said. He moved in cagily towards Alex and whispered, "Between you and me though, I come with a bargaining chip if you get my drift."

"That's okay…I like mine," Alex said, pushing the disc away. The lips pouted and the TMY-150 gave a pout.

"Well, if you change your mind…let me know," he said and whirred away to join a cluster of lavender, red, blue, and lime green task managers.

Alex sighed and tapped his chin. "I sure would like a new one, some day."

"Maybe they'll have a sale," Travis said and grinned. "But how would Darla feel about you replacing her…?"

"Not good I bet. We have to find your robot, though. Look up there, I think that's it."

Alex pointed to a large dome on a raised platform with a tattered sign floating above it reading "RE CESSED BOS". The two glanced at each other before making their way towards the area. However, the closer they got to the area the higher it rose until the two of them realized they were facing a half-mile long flight of steps. The dome had a flattened top and a round, opaque glass door.

"Why the hell would they put it so high?" Travis wondered aloud, covering his eyes against the glare of the hidden lights.

"Because, sir, we've had a few…accidents already."

Travis and Alex whipped around and saw a black-clad employee with wet, lilac skin and a headset melded into his clean-shaven head. His arms were folded across his chest while a secondary set swung casually from his lower torso as he strolled between Travis and Alex to stand in front of him. He nodded to the staircase and took a few steps up, his secondary hands inviting the two to follow. After a moment of hesitation, Travis shrugged and went first. Alex, sizing up the walk, sighed and took off his Solars. The industrial rubber-nylon hybrid material had already begun weighing on his feet and he wasn't going to make the journey with them on; instead, he tied the laces together, hung the shoes around his neck, and scrambled after Travis and the employee.

The employee led at a leisurely pace, all four of his arms at his side and swaying as if in a breeze. "Last year we had some incidents with the re-processed ones. You know, I assume, how unruly these things can be depending on what they're made of, and the company really does not check for quality or sources." The worker alien rolled his amber eyes and sighed. "So we got a few live ones if you get my drift."

"What happened?" Travis asked, breathing heavily now.

"We had a couple of re-processed psycho murderers and a thief I think. It started with one child getting hurt, then some adults, an old woman was killed, then the robots got loose and…yeah, we shut down a couple of days for repairs. And lawsuits."

"But—but you're still selling them!" Alex exclaimed. The worker shot a furtive glance over his shoulder and grinned, displaying four rows of needle-sharp teeth.

"Let me put it this way. You heard the story and saw the staircase and you didn't leave. I've told that story to at least fifty people today and none of them left. What do you think?"

Alex muttered in his native Chinese under his breath and looked over at Travis; Travis, who either didn't hear the story or simply didn't care, had an exhausted determination about him that let Alex know he wasn't planning on stopping soon. With a sigh, Alex tied the strings of his Solars together, slung them over his neck, and continued hiking. Nearly half an hour of dragging and coercing later the three of them made it to the top of the stairs and to the enclosure. The alien worker pressed his hand against the door and it slid open with a sigh and another gust of air. Beyond the door were a handful of customers and two or three other workers on the floor checking prospective robots which lined the walls of the room in cylinders filled with clear fluid. The alien worker shut the door behind him and walked around to face Travis and Alex.

"This is the sale room," he said, gesturing to the cylinders. "I'm Izotz. Lonnie, Anne, and Keev are around somewhere. If you need help get one of them; when you're ready to purchase I'll be up here."

Izotz headed for the check-out counter in the middle of the room which had a line forming behind it already. Alone, Travis and Alex glanced around at the dozens of cylinders in the room. Alex took his Solars off his neck and slipped them back on, then he and Travis began drifting towards the robots.

"How much money did you bring anyway?" Alex asked. Travis reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll of yellow bills.

"I got…about $800 EC," he said with a grimace.

"Is that all? Most of these are 600 and up."

"We'll find something. You're good at being cheap, go do your stuff!"

"I don't know Trav." Alex glanced around the room briefly. "I see…seven. Over there."

The two of them went to the left side of the room where the lower-priced robots resided. Alex walked up to the one he had spotted. He eyed the cylinder which contained a pallid, hefty, muscular man dressed in a black shirt and pants that hung about his legs, suspended like mushroom caps over short, thick stems. Grey wisps of hair framed his age-weathered face, his eyes were shut tightly and his head downcast as if eternally awaiting judgment. Alex pressed a white button on the side of the cylinder and a digital info plaque appeared on the glass, glowing fluorescent green against the bubbling suspension fluid. A soft male voice began reading off the robot's data.

"James MacCleod. Age forty-five. Born in England. Career criminal and arsonist. Death by police laser fire. Skills include cleaning, car repairs, and light housework. Works well with common house tools."

"Sounds good, but he's too old. What about that one?" Travis walked down two cylinders, leaving Alex to go the opposite way. Travis came in front of a cylinder holding a teenage girl with sandy blond hair and freckles on her face and shoulders. Upon further inspection, Travis also noted that she had what appeared to be a Y-shaped scar on her chest, disappearing into her pink blouse. A deep, scraggly red ring formed a morbid choker on the girl's slender neck and there was another cut above her left eyebrow. Travis scratched the side of his face gently in thought, then pressed the button and the girl's info plaque appeared.

"Cindy Johnson. Approximate age fifteen. Unknown murder victim. Skills include laundry, cleaning, cooking, and assorted daycare. Specializes in children aged 2-6."

"Hmm, I don't have any kids," Travis mumbled. A harsh whisper caught his attention and Travis turned around to see Alex flailing his arms; Travis dashed over to see Alex pointing proudly at the price label. In the cylinder before, a tanned man floated, his black hair swaying gently upwards like a torch. He had a salt and pepper beard, his tattered white beater and shorts draping his body and barely hiding the semi-healed wounds and stitches.

"Tah-dah, I did it! $615 EC, won't find a damn thing cheaper." Alex pressed the data button and his jaw slowly drooped as the robot's information was read off.

"Antonio Eliseo Sanchez y Gutierrez. Age twenty-nine. Born in the United Nations of Cuba, Florida & California. Multiple murderer, thief, and kidnapping suspect. Death unknown. Skills include household repairs, cleaning, cooking, home security, and laundry. Is fluent in five languages."

"Nice!" Travis exclaimed. Alex turned to him, his eyes wide and his mouth still agape.

"Dude, this is THE Tonio Gutierrez. He was the most famous outlaw of the 35th century! He was wanted on every continent, dead or…deader." Alex rubbed the back of his neck, surprised at the perspiration he found. "I think it took the intercontinental police like five years to find him. They said he killed over a hundred people on all three continents and kidnapped some high-ranking officials. That's how they caught him."

Travis looked over at Alex, then back to the man in the cylinder and stuck out his tongue. "Why in the world would he do those things?"

"No one really knows. Some say he was crazy, some said he was some kind of vigilante."

"Vigilantes don't go on mass killing sprees…" Travis said lowly. "Whatever became of him?"

"Well, the reports I remember say he got blown to bits by the cops." Alex pressed his hand against the thin glass. It warmed to his touch and for a minute, Alex thought his hand would sink in. "But whoever put him back together is a damn artiste."

"Agreed," Travis said, nodding. "Let's get 'em."

Alex's tongue failed him as Travis signaled for an employee. He knew how bad Travis wanted this robot, or rather, felt he needed this robot. He shook his head and looked at Tonio Gutierrez in his glass & fluid prison, sleeping like the dead. He began to remember the reports of Gutierrez's life, yes, they were all over the satellite transmissions. Gutierrez was born in an impoverished city and had allegedly suffered physical and sexual abuse. There wasn't much to note about his life before his seemingly random spree; first it was two cops and he was arrested, then he managed to break out and in his five year reign he took down most of the combined police force of Cuba, Florida and California before he really went off the deep-end and kidnapped those officials—were they diplomats? Ambassadors maybe? Alex couldn't remember; it didn't necessarily matter either. He did remember, however, that the intercontinental police force showed him no mercy with their laser weaponry when they took him down. An artist's hand hid his past well indeed, he thought, or perhaps those reports were just exaggerated as they usually were. But in the cylinder he looked in tip-top, prime working condition, despite a few imperfections here and there.

Alex cringed at his own line of thought. Here he was, already assessing a human being like a tool to be used—although, wasn't that exactly what he was? Probably more machine than human at this point, and there were still some that would argue he was never human at all.

"Can I help you sirs?" the female employee said. She was petite and a bit on the heavy side, with her platinum blonde hair tied into a ponytail so high it sat right on her hairline according to the latest fad among young girls; her hair fell stiffly to her shoulders and surrounded her face like a hood. Travis thumbed to the cylinder behind him and Alex tried to work his mouth again in some sort of protest, but he failed again. Instead, the girl nodded dutifully and complimented his choice.

"Very good. That one is what we call 'all-purpose', he's pretty good with a little bit of everything," she said. "Wait here and I'll get you some forms to sign then you just take them over to Izotz."

Travis pressed his hands together in a prayer position and turned to look at his purchase.

"All-purpose she said. I wonder if he'll tuck me in and give me warm melon water to sleep?"

"That's not funny," Alex said through a small grin. "Although I suppose he could."

"Look at him. Look at all of them, it's like they're sleeping." Travis gave the room a good look over for the first time and for a moment he felt a little disturbed and worried. His mind was desperately trying to fight the notion that there was something wrong with making human beings into machines; he couldn't worry about that now, he was so close to not looking like such an oddball in his neighborhood. The scrutinizing eyes taunted him whenever he closed his eyes—"where is his robot? He does his own dishes and lawn? What is he, broke?" Alex always told him how disgustingly superficial it all was and when Travis was alone, he agreed. But in polite society he had to put on that hat no matter if he didn't particularly like it or how ill-fitted it was.

Anne came back with the paperwork on a transparent clipboard. She pulled a pen from her pocket and indicated where Travis should sign then left for the other side of the room. For a moment Travis's hand faltered, but then he signed his name, first in his native Castalian then its English approximation. The two of them then headed to Izotz's checkout line, which was moving faster than either of them expected with Izotz's arms working overtime; in five minutes time it was their turn. Izotz handed Travis a slip of paper with his confirmation number on it and the date on which his robot would arrive.

"You're…Traveesh…Traveesh Oh—"

"O'chthnor," Travis said and rolled his eyes. "Travis Smith, please."

"Oh," Izotz said. He grumbled at his pen running out of ink and pulled another one from his chest pocket to fill out the rest of the forms. "You Anglicized it, did you? They told me to do that with my name when I moved here, only there is no English equivalent for 'he who drinks the blood of the elderly'."

Travis and Alex stared at Izotz dumbly as he signed his name with a flourish. He looked up to see their twin bewilderment and laughed dryly.

"For Goddess's sake I'm kidding. I was born on Earth, it's a family name."

"Uh—oh. Charming," Travis said, his purple face turning violet. Izotz gave another acerbic chuckle and exchanged the completed forums for Travis's cash. He nodded to them and took the next customer in line. With that, Travis and Alex left the dome, back down the long spiral of steps, and onto the main floor again. The crowd from earlier had thinned considerably and the translucent clock on the wall said they had been upstairs for the better part of three hours.

"You wanna grab a bite to eat or something?" Travis asked, placing his hands firmly in his pocket again. He raised his shoulders and stiffened his arms in a short stretch.

"Can you afford even a bite?"

Travis shook his head and leered over at his partner. "I was hoping you could. Look, your friend is coming."

The lavender TMY-150 from earlier breezed over on his disc, hovering in front of Alex.

"You're back! Done shopping? Save some for me?" Alex looked at Travis nervously, who was pretending not to notice and was instead focusing on a row of small, mobile radios.

"Man, I really don't have that kind of money to buy you," Alex confessed. "Plus, I like mine."

"Is that so?" The task manager said in a huff. "And how old is it?"

"It's…wow, I guess she's about five years old."

"Five? Are you kidding? It was time to replace that antique a long time ago, friend," the TMY-150 sneered. Alex was taken aback at the machine's sudden outrage and persistence. Behind him, he could hear Travis whispering "I told you so" in a sing-song voice. He blushed heavily as the task manager zipped around him.

"I already said I can't afford you!"

"I know you can't. Remember that bargaining chip I told you about? What's your name?"

"Alex Lo."

"Alex, let me handle this."

The TMY-150 droned away, leaving Alex scratching his head in confusion. Travis finally rejoined him and without saying a word the two of them left the store for lunch. The next day, the TMY-150 wound up at Alex's house. After deactivating Darla, Alex begrudgingly accepted his new task manager and named it Tim.

0 had something to add:

Post a Comment

Please share some knowledge. Or amuse me at least :O