August 25, 2008

They used to…pt 3a

Yep, I'm back to writing. They can't hold me down! Not even five classes for 3 days! Nope, not I.

So this is the third part and again it was long as the dickens so I split it up. What to say about this one... A&F having a pet store is a little joke and no, it doesn't make a bit of sense. "Tauri" I found while randomly scanning Wikipedia, apparently it's what scientists originally called Uranus thinking it was a star (34 Tauri) but at the same time it's also a group of ancient peoples. And that's just kinda interesting so I...borrowed it.

I'm a little perturbed about "Cuban-Spanish accent" because not every one knows what that sounds like (believe it or not). And it's just a weird description because technically that accent shouldn't exist. I think I'll change it later when I figure out something more suitable.

Hm, wow. Font is large. Why is it never good enough when it comes to Word? ~_~


Vacation time was over a week later, and Alex had to return back to his job at Abercrombie & Fitch's fashionable pet department, simply called the Pet Department. He remembered when he was moved from the regular clothing store. Alex even remembered when A&F decided they wanted a pet department; he remembered because it was such a bizarre decision that made worldwide news, but the Figureheads up top thought it was cute and he couldn't deny that it brought in the rich crowd. He liked his job fine and would like it more if he weren't called in at such outrageous hours to do menial tasks such as stocking and shelving. But getting to play and interact with all the intergalactic animals was a bonus treat for him, so the cons evened out with the pros.

Alex was on break when his IMAGEphone began to ring. He pulled the slim device from his pocket, a smooth oval that fit perfectly in his palm. On the screen he saw Travis's name and pressed with his thumb, and a hologram image of Travis in his living room bouncing excitedly sprang up from the surface.

"You'll never guess what I gooot," he said in a sing-song voice.

"I guess you better tell me then," Alex replied.

Travis's face disappeared then the image panned around Travis's living room before coming to a stop on a figure in a large glass box. Alex thought of dolls on display in a store as he looked at the man who was wearing the shiny blue-grey jumpsuit of a personal robot. He came with a pre-packaged bundle of clothes and a small black flask next to his hip. The image wobbled a minute then Travis's face reappeared.

"See 'em? Isn't it great?"

"Yeah…" Alex replied, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. "When'd he get there?"

"This morning. You gotta come over after work so we can put him together."

"But he is together, isn't he?"

"Sort of." Travis leaned over out of view then came back with a folded list. He shook the list and it dropped into a long inventory that hit the floor. Alex's eyes widened as he stared at the directions, some of it English and some of it apparently chicken-scratch scrawled between paragraphs. Translations, he assumed, although he couldn't imagine for what language.

"What the hell?" he asked slowly. "What is all that even for?"

"Damned if I know. I can't even read some of this shit, that's why I need you over here."

"I'll…see what I can do." Alex ended the transmission. He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples, grumbling angrily. He then looked up and realized his break was over.

After work, Alex made a quick stop home to change clothes. As usual, Tim met him at the door.

"Hey buddy!" the task manager said merrily. He zipped over to his owner and perched on his shoulder. "Good day at work?"

"Fair," Alex answered. He still hadn't gotten used to having the overly-exuberant Tim around compared to his more complacent Darla. He sometimes wished Tim had a personality chip too, or a sedative program. He threw his rucksack on the couch and headed for his bedroom. He clapped to bring his wardrobe up from the floor, took his work clothes off, and threw them into the closet. The clothes vaporized inside and Alex gently brushed Tim off his shoulder.

"Where you goin' anyway?" Tim asked. His lips vanished and were replaced with a checklist with lines drawn through completed tasks. "You're supposed to be on the couch chillin'."

"Change of plans," Alex answered briskly. He picked Tim up and with the tip of his nail struck through the rest of his list. "I'm heading to Trav's to fix his robot."

"Ohhh. 'Kay, I'll mind the house."

The task manager hummed away and left Alex to dress himself. Alex turned to the wardrobe and contemplated what would be best for the job.

"Jumpsuit? Nah. Maybe…oh—black shirt and shorts, sneakers and gloves."

Alex stepped into the closet and the blue light formed his clothes and shoes. A separate light wafted down to form a pair of black elbow length, heavy rubber gloves. Satisfied, Alex dashed out the closet and headed for the door.

"Good luck," Tim said from the couch.

"Thanks, I'll need it."

Travis lived about ten minutes away from Alex if he walked slowly. Today he hurried, nearly beating the oncoming sunset. By the time Alex actually arrived the sky was just tinting itself with various oranges and pinks, the clouds parting to reveal a dull red sun on the horizon. Tauri was where Travis resided, a heavily guarded sphere community that hovered about three meters over another neighborhood. It was practically invisible except for the reflection of the sunset on its glossy surface and the only way in was an invitation from a resident. Under the sphere in an empty field was a circular transport pad for visitors. Alex was never quite sure how residents got in the sphere, Travis had tried to explain it once but it was such a complicated procedure that Alex forgot the details immediately afterwards. It had something to do with a password and he was sure there was another transport pad well-hidden somewhere else, he remembered that much. It didn't matter though, since he could never live in such a wealthy community.

Alex stepped onto the transport pad and waited for it to clear. The pad turned green and a light went up his body and vaporized him, carrying him directly to Travis's street. Inside the sphere it was still sunny even though the sun itself could not be seen. A warm breeze blew through the street, agitating the cypress and hybrid trees and stirring up a few dead leaves. It looked like perpetual afternoon even though outside it was nearing seven o'clock. Alex paused, taking in the neighborhood. He'd been here several times before but he was always entranced by its utter perfection. The houses were perfectly square but tall and wide, the lawns well-manicured by teams of worker robots, and there was at least one fruit-bearing tree in every backyard. The roads were wide and the sidewalks untouched by time and traffic, the driveways paved with chrome for their family aerocars. Alex knew Sirius Drive well but he had never gone beyond it, had never had a reason to. In fact, he had never gone far beyond Travis's house, which was the first on his block.

Travis's lawn was not as finely clipped as his neighbors and more rectangular in shape. It also had a more old-fashioned triangular roof, requested by Travis because he simply liked the aesthetic. He also didn't have a car in his driveway as he couldn't afford one, and the interior of his house was undoubtedly sparsely furnished unlike his neighbors. Alex took his time ambling to Travis's door and once on the porch, he pushed the doorbell and knocked.

A moment later the door swung open to reveal Travis grinning ear to ear. "Come on! I've been waiting for ages!"

"You could have started already…did you?"

Travis paid his friend no mind and bounded back inside. Alex followed him and the two of them went into the kitchen where the robot still stood in his glass container.

"So, how do we get him out?" Alex asked.

"I think the front comes off…like this." Travis grabbed the front of the box and slid it up. The glass was heavy and only moved a few inches despite Travis giving it his greatest effort. Alex pitched in and the two of them slid the door open until it clicked. Then Travis grabbed the robot by his sides and pulled him out. Now the robot stood in front of them, his eyes closed and his head drooping as if he'd fallen asleep standing up. His hair had been pulled back into a braid, his fingers manicured and a light touch of makeup to cover some of the deeper wounds on his face and hands. He was a few centimeters taller than Travis and Alex and broad shouldered, muscled without being too bulky—perfect for work, his creators must have thought.

"Wonderful," Travis said. He went to the kitchen table and grabbed the list of directions.

Alex snatched the directions and looked through them. "The directions themselves aren't the problem, it's the trouble shooting."

Travis took the directions back and looked at them again, more thoroughly this time. "This looks pretty easy but…why is the precaution list so long?" he asked with a slight tremble.

"I think we better just focus putting it together first. Read 'em out loud."

The robot, despite the directions claiming eighty-percent of his body was various metals, was fairly malleable and flexible as a normal human male. Alex sat the robot down and, per the directions, opened the flask and poured the contents into an opening at the base of the robot's neck.

"Some kind of 'memory juice' it says," Travis explained with a grimace. "Supposed to keep him…obedient? This gets weirder and weirder."

Alex just shook his head and stretched his own arms, then pulled on one of the robot's. He rotated one then the other, his legs and finally the feet. That done, Alex pulled the robot to his feet then unzipped his jumpsuit from behind and pulled it over the robot's shoulders. On the robot's left shoulder was a hole about the width of a pencil tip and embossed in tiny letters underneath was the word RESET.

"Gimme a paper clip or something…something so I can reset him."

"I don't think I've got a paperclip," Travis said as he rummaged through the utility drawer. "You want a screwdriver?"

"Too big."

"Nail? It's a long one."

"Let's try it."

Alex took the nail and gently pressed the reset button. It clicked and there was a humming noise from within the robot. His shoulder twitched then he abruptly stood erect, his shoulders and back rigid. He began relaxing again as if he'd suffered a shock of some sort, then there came a shuddering sigh from his lips. Antonio pulled his jumpsuit back up and zipped it. He then slowly turned to face his new owner with cold, dead black eyes.

"Travis Smith," he said mechanically, his voice labored by a Cuban-Spanish accent. "I am Antonio Gutierrez."

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