Droid Rage

Tully swung at Van’s jaw with as much power as he could draw up. The connection was perfect, sending Van down so hard that he kissed the doorknob before flopping to the linoleum floor. Tully took a second to admire his work – sturdy strength was his constitution – then he snatched the suitcase and took off down the corridor and out the side door, straight into the night.

The further Tully ran, the smaller the university became; until eventually the darkness swallowed it up whole. It was only then that he felt safe enough to send a d-note to his boss. He took cover in an alleyway and pressed the COMM button on his wrist. The holographic screen appeared. “Secured”, he whispered into it, and hit send. The message was sent directly to its linked COMM, Sera, who did not respond. The fewer the correspondence, the fewer the hackers knew.

Afterwards, he crouched and placed the suitcase gently in front of him. He was under strict instructions not to open it. Not that it would have been all that easy to if he had dared. The case was made of a metal denser than any Tully had ever encountered, and its bolts were DNA activated (something he didn’t have, anyways). None of that child’s play fingerprint recognition stuff – whatever was in that case was on lockdown.

The thing about being a professional thief is that you had to have a precarious nature to begin with. It meant that secrets were liable to get leaked. That’s why people came to Tully when they had something worth keeping plugged. He was one of the few who could get the job done, and be satisfied with the payout alone. Most people would not risk their asses without knowing what for. But Tully wasn’t most people. In fact, he wasn’t people at all. Being a droid had its benefits, and this was one.

Back at the safe house, the suitcase exchanged hands along with the money. Tully thanked his client – the man in white – and went on his way. Another mission down and another penny closer to Indigo. Yes, being a droid had its benefits, but Tully was sure being a man had more. Indigo was the only one out there with the technology to help him realize his dream, but she didn’t come cheap.

That night, Tully was mimicking sleep as he always did, when the d-note came in. “RETURN TO BASE.” It was an odd request at this hour, but Tully was only self-aware enough to notice that, not to question it. He certainly hadn’t been programmed to challenge Sera or her orders. So, he picked himself up and headed to base. Once there, Tully waited longer than he had expected to for Sera to arrive. When she finally did, she did so with a clatter, swerving in without elegance. Her hovercraft was noisy and dented, and she poured out of it dizzily.

“Accident? Are you in need of medical assistance?” Tully asked.

“You could say so. My hover was used as target practice this evening. A war with the Looters is inevitable, unless we beat them to the kill.”

Tully tilted his head and sent a signal to his chip to decrease room tone. He was unsure he had heard her correctly.

“One kill, Tully. And you’ll have your Indigo money.”

“But – I’m not programmed to -”

“You will be.” Sera hailed over her mechanic, Whisk.

It took only an hour of programming and rebuilding for Tully to be mission-ready. He was excited. His propensity for violence had been amplified, and he was that much closer to buying Indigo’s services.

“I don’t know why that’s so important to you,” Sera sighed as Tully geared up. “You have everything you need now – strength, intelligence, and as much reason and emotion as any person would need.”

“I only have what I’m programmed to have. I want to exist outside of this,” he pointed to his head, indicating his personality chip.

“Nobody exists outside of their heads Tully. We’re all just programmed. And the irony is that your desire to have the impossible – well, that makes you as human as they come.” Sera smiled, and sent him on his way.

Tully found the Looters exactly where he was told he would. From outside of the warehouse, he had to increase his ear chips to be sure, but once he heard their riotous thunder he was all systems go. With his leg and arm power set to max, he kicked in the steel warehouse door, sending it flying across the room and into a Looters’ throat. The rest of the gang raised their firearms which were some of the most sophisticated Tully’s info-read had ever picked up. A danger warning displayed in his line of sight for a moment, before his new ultraviolent programming overrode it.

It was a massacre. Five on one, but the Looters didn’t stand a chance. They were all at one time state-funded criminals, trained for battle in a time of less efficient droids. Some had even been backseat drivers, controlling droids in battle from a safe distance, which meant they had rarely even put their ill-training to use. Tully came at them with a force they could not have predicted. He was stronger, faster, impervious. Their fire bounced off of his strong metal skin. In hand-to-hand combat, his blows were fatal, while their caused more harm to themselves than to him. By the end, the five men lay mangled, sodden in their own blood.

Tully took a second to admire his work. His last job. Tonight, he would pay a visit to Indigo, and she would give him what he wanted – or else.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Bargaining

Story #2: The Fixers Series

I look over at Gus. He’s a mess. His hair, the little bit of it that he has, is dishevelled and his eyes are red and swollen. His tie hangs loose around his neck, and his white lab coat is on inside out.

“What time did you leave last night?” I ask him, trying not to sound judgemental.

“Huh?” I startle him out of his disorganized thoughts and he jumps a little. “Oh, uh, I’m not sure. Two or so, I guess.”

I nod slowly calculating my next move. He should go home, but the suggestion will offend him.

“Do you want me to take over the Dylan file? I’m done with mine.” It’s the least I can do; I had created the back log by wiping the history from our time mover – a secret I am still keeping.

Gus looks up from the his computer screen and eyes me suspiciously. But then a relief showers over him and I smile gently as he steps away from the desk.

“Coffee?” He offers.

I smile and nod. I consider telling him to fix his coat, but I let it be. By 8:30, Gus is passed out in the lounge – I never did get my coffee.

At 9:05 the front doors swing open, violently thrashing through the air. A woman storms up to the desk, waving a gun. Behind her, I can see Ed, our security guard, lying flat on the pavement outside. I try to decide what the smart move is, but then I realize I’m only telling myself to think; I’m not thinking. I’m panicking.

“You! You in charge?”

I try to tell her that I’m not but no sound is released when I open my mouth. I’m still staring at Ed.

“Hey! You!” she hollers again, this time the gun is pointed right at me. “Are you a fixer?”

“Yes,” I manage, forcing myself to look into her eyes now.

She’s tall and lean, with long brown hair, some of which is tucked into a wide brimmed black hat. She’s hiding behind dark sunglasses, leather gloves, a trench coat and high heels. I try to take a mental photo of her, for Ed.

“What’s your name?” she asks, leaning in to intimidate me further. It’s unnecessary; I’m terrified.

“S-Sasha. Sasha Green.” My voice is barely more than a whimper, and my heart is speeding up. In her glasses I see my own reflection, and I’m humiliated by the small warped image of myself I see.

“Well, Sasha Green. I have a job for you. An urgent one.”

She slams a medical ID bracelet down on my desk. “Fix it.”

“I can’t do that. It’s – we – there’s a system and laws and -”

“Fix it.”

Realizing there’s nothing I can do to reason with this woman, I pick up the bracelet and scan the barcode into my computer. June O’Donnell: 37 years old, Chief Financial Officer at Cane Inc., Recovered: Extensive brain damage (chipped).

Recovered? Fixers have already taken care of this. I scroll down to see the photo. It’s the woman in front of me, holding me at gun point.

I look up at her, unsure of what to say. She must read my confusion immediately, and removes her sunglasses. Her eyes are watering, welling up with tears, and sparking. A mechanical reaction to water. She’s been chipped alright, made cyborg too. It’s a relatively new technology: to recover lost or irreversible bodily damage metal parts are melded into the patient’s fibres. For damage to the brain that extensive, a chip can be used to replace any of the broken functions. Most often, it’s memory loss. The chip will store new memories for you, and false old memories can be implanted at the patient’s request. It changes who you are, but at least it fills the holes. The holes can drive some people mad. But this woman, June, seems to have gone mad just the same.

I’m watching her, trying to assess her state of mind, and what it is she wants from me, when she lashes out. She slams her hand down on my desk with as much force as she can, and it’s a lot. The gloved hand must be cyborg too. I leap back, and a scramble comes from down the hall.

No. Gus.

“Who’s here?!” She hollers out towards the noise, and Gus exposes himself. June cries out and shoots a bullet in the wall behind me. For a second, I think it hits me, and I’m paralyzed. But when the sting doesn’t come, I exhale.

“I’ve called for help so you’d better get moving!” he yells out confidently. I admire it, but it also worries me. I have no idea what she is capable of when threatened. And cyborg’s are not exactly frangible.

“Help?! You want help? I want help.” She doubles over, and more sparks fly from her face. “Fix me, please.”

“You’ve been recovered, it says so right here,” I say, still completely confused.

“You call this fixed?” she tears off a glove to reveal a cold metal hand. “This is not fixed. It’s broken. I was meant to die on that table and Cane Inc. paid you to bring me back! Against my will!”

My heart stops. I look over at Gus and a veil of embarrassment washes over him. Could he have really cut a deal like that? His expression tells me yes. I’m mortified. I guess I’m not the only one who makes mistakes around here.

“The chip,” he whispers finally, “it’s a new technology. It needed to be tested and”

“And,” she moans, imploring him to admit his mistake.

“And we were told…” he stops, drops his head.

June looks back at me, more sympathetic than violent now.

“Fix it,” she whispers.

I nod slowly, and glance at Gus. He’s on the floor now, crumbled by guilt.

I grab her file, and walk over to the machine.

“September 1st,” she says.

I nod again, and set the date. I don’t know exactly how I plan to stop this from happening, but I will. I’m a fixer, and I fix things.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Click here to read Story #1: An Easy Fix