"Jeurridam: The Arizona Paradise" - Chapter 1.
Sadly, this was a regular routine. I’d work my ass off behind this veil, guarded by the Logatti family’s hired goons until the job was done. Then I’d be loaded up into a standing torpor chamber and shipped across the desert until we got back to A99. The worst part about it was being lied to for so damn long. The Logatti made it as though my work was special, as though I was some prized possession, giving me praise when my work was done.
However it wasn’t as simple as they once made it. I was no longer a child and could be bought over by praise-filled jargon or manipulative rhetoric!They weren’t the only ones holding some dark secrets. There was more to me than they could ever know! Truth be told, I was a cybernetic human, one with insight into every electronic device ever created. That’s right, half of my brain was intricately woven with the most advanced supercomputer ever created. This supercomputer could grow as I grew, becoming more powerful and more capable as I aged.
All and all, it was both a blessing and a curse. Now, the Logatti family did not know I was cybernetic. They didn’t know a lot about me, actually. To them, I was just a very blessed child, a child they could… monopolize. That is precisely what they did… The thing was though, I didn’t blame them. We stayed in a very hostile place, a place so cutthroat that to survive, you had to use anything that could gain you leverage. It just so happened that the family entrusted to take care of me after the death of my father, realized that I was the perfect tool to make them the most powerful family in the Mojave-Sonoran.
It started around my ninth or tenth birthday, when I began making machines out the junk heaps all around the Mojave. It took me a year for these machines to have a certain level of uniformity that differentiated them from other machines with similar functions. Mind you, they were nothing other than mundane, refrigerators, induction cooktops, infrared ovens ya know… household appliances. I don’t know why, as a child I felt the need to build them but I did. Remarkably, each product I made was identical to the last and the ability to make these replications down to the smallest component was my ‘gift’. It was marveled by those who knew but would soon become my biggest curse.
Truth be told, I was a big secret and with secrets came the heavy guarding and keeping me under lock and key. Very few people knew I existed, and I guess it was better that way. A person with these attributes would be sought after to all ends, maybe to that person’s detriment. But at twenty years old, I was getting really, really tired. I could see the rest of the Logatti family, the members that were my age, had a life of their own… boyfriends and girlfriends and nights out on the town. They could go when they pleased and had… freedom.
At night, I was locked down in my work shed, comfortable, but a slave to my work. It became this way when I was twelve and went missing for three weeks. The family grew very concerned because I was their means to make money. I had went to Sloan for a special mission of my own, one that was very, very important to me being cybernetic. When I returned, I was badly scolded by the family! The family said I could have been killed, that if anyone learned of me I’d be forced to do work! They then locked me in the work shed, saying it was for my protections. Even though I had a supercomputer for a brain, the logic sensors developed the same way the did for a human… slowly. Things didn’t register, then.
Things really took a turn when about a year ago, I had too many questions and the family had too little answers. It was then I knew I was not a part of this family, never was. I was just how they made their money and how they took a big stake of… Jeurridam.
Now Jerridam is a very, very, very special place! I think at one point it was called Las Vegas based on some old books I’ve read. It seemed like a pretty place but after the huge fallout six hundred years ago, the city has become nothing but a junk heap… one of many. However, this wasn’t particularly a bad thing. It had countless resources left over from the war. These resources themselves caused an infinite amount of battles around the desert.
Nighttime gunshots were common in these parts. They were my nighttime lullabies after a long day of slaving on mechanical work. However tonight, I couldn’t sleep. I had a special project I was working on, one of my dearest templates that had been nine grueling years in the making.
Not long into my work, a knock on the side entry of the workshop distracted me. I really didn’t want to be bothered by anyone at the moment. Frustrated, I opened the door surprised to see it was Beth. I considered Beth the closest thing I had to a sister. She was sweet girl, the only one with any type of sympathy for me here.
“Hey,” She said with the oddest smile ever.
“Hey…” I said back, unsure how to respond. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she carried on with the smile. I then knew something was terribly wrong.
“They had a fight…” She said.
“Come on in!” I said, grabbing her by the hand. I closed the door after her and led her to my work area. She sat on a stool, interested in the components I was fiddling with.
“What’s that?” She asked, temporarily distracted from her feelings.
“It’s um...Just something I’m experimenting with.” I said, not wanting to reveal any details about it. Beth was a very trustworthy girl but this… I couldn’t even spare her the secret.
“Is it related to your father?” She asked. It made me pause. I had to stop what I was doing, the question hitting me hard.
“Yeah.” I said back.
“Need I say no more,” She said throwing up both hands in honor of him, “ But Zeek um...he tried to steal some of moms jewels…”
“Damn.” I sighed, deeply saddened by the news. Ever since I met Zeek, I had a crush on him but he was a very trouble young man. I think the desert lifestyle was proving to be too much for him. He was strung out on cocaine and it was starting to defeat him.
“I just don’t know what to do anymore… It’s like talking to him won’t work…” Beth, said.
“Well, it’s a chemical addiction. The human body confuses drugs with hormones such as endorphins and chemical receptors used all over the body. The brain starts to build synapses that use the drug as transmission receptors for things as simple as thoughts. It runs deep, Beth. It’s something that can’t be helped without balancing his blood chemicals which is no easy feat.” I explained.
“You think you can fix it?” Beth asked, hopeful.
“I can but, is it really an issue for Zeek? Does he view his addiction as an issue? That is the question that should be asked. Based upon his answer, that’s how much I can help.” I said, sounding colder than I intended.
“I just pray that he comes to his senses.” Beth said.
“Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. At least he gets the choice…”
“Oh come one, Zanir why do you always have to be so negative?” Beth asked.
“Because, I have no reason to be positive.” I said, still fiddling with the machine on my workbench.
“Sure there was something that happened today that made you smile.” She asked. It made me pause. Reflecting back on the day, nothing made me feel joy. It was an awful reality, but a true one.
“See, this all boils down to you not seeing what I have to go through during the day. You only know by my account. I feel robbed of my joy, to be honest and I doubt I’ll ever get it back.” I said.
Beth didn’t know what to say about that. She was the type of person who liked to fix feelings but I was very, very different. I liked to fester in mine. It was not like I was given a choice but to do so since I had very little social interaction with anyone, apart from the people who wheeled me in and out of the workshop. I couldn’t leave anymore because the family feared I’d attempt to run away… and lose them money.
“I got to figure out a way to make you less banal!” Beth teased.
“Good luck with that...I’m virtually a robot.” I said.
“Just because you build robots does not mean you’re a robot.” Beth laughed.
“You’ll be surprised.” I sighed hinting at what was truly inside of me. Beth had no idea I was a cybernetic human. It was too big of a secret to reveal to anyone...at least under these circumstances.
“So,” Beth began, “You’re gonna stay up all night with that thing?”
“Yeah, I might.” I said unsure if I’d want to work all night.
“You look exhausted! You need to get in that bed!” Beth smiled, pointing at the tiny excuse of a bed by the rows of reinforced tool cabinets.
“When am I not exhausted?” I asked.
“You have a point. You need to find something that helps you unwind...like…”
“How regular do you pay him visits?” A stern voice asked.
Both of our eyes pinpointed the origin of the voice. It was Beth’s uncle, Miguel.
“Uncle!” She said out, surprised to see him. Behind Miguel was two of Beth’s brother’s, Ezekiel and Heaven.
“What are you doing out here?” Heaven asked, very protective over his sister.
Ezekiel walked his sexy ass around the workshop, investigating some of the gadgets I had thrown around. His eyes fell upon what I was currently working on and then I knew something simply wasn’t right. Ezekiel hadn’t paid me any attention since our early teens. His life now belonged to the streets where he often was seduced by whatever he felt would get him drugs. This little curiosity pertaining to my machines had me a little concerned.
It was such a shame because he was the most gorgeous thing I ever laid eyes on, well used to be. Now, he had a lot of mileage which added fifteen years. Maybe it was the dirt and debris that he was too gross to wash off. Still though, he was one pretty person, with honey brown eyes, gentle sloping cheeks, a powerful brow, perky lips, and a cute button nose.
He stood at about six foot even, and was incredibly skinny. He was only marginally older than me, maybe about twenty one or twenty two years old. However, he carried this attitude as though I was beyond inferior to him. It was both saddening and frustrating but what could I do?
“I didn’t want to go back in the house…” Beth, sighed.
“So you came out here?” Heaven asked.
“Yeah,” Beth said, her tone fierce and challenging, “Why not?”
“Well..?” Heaven said, looking at me as though I was some disgusting being not worthy of their presence. It warranted a serious eye roll as I leaned across the workbench to grab a jar of rubbing alcohol.
“You need to come back in the house…” Miguel sighed.
“I’ll come later,” Beth said, “We’re talking…”
“Are ya’ll two a couple?” Heaven asked, hoping dearly that this was not the case.
“No…” I said firmly. It was clear that Heaven, Ezekiel and Miguel were skeptical. Miguel just stood there, thinking about the conversation Beth and I were having.
“Based off of the turn of that conversation, it seems you two are involved in one way or another…” Miguel inferred.
I just looked at him, detesting him with all the might my gut could muster.
“If any of cared enough about what you all put Zanir through, all of you would come visit him as well. None of you take into consideration how hard her works and how little he has to show for it.” Beth argued.
I extended my palm out, pausing Beth. All I could do was shake my head.
“Don’t even bother…” I said to her.
It was then I took note of Heaven touching one of the base frames for a small automaton I was working on. I eyed the boy menacingly as he continued to investigate the rough build.
“Hey! Don’t touch my stuff…” I warned. He ignored me which was beyond angering. I picked up a wrench and chucked it at the boy. It hit him in the side of his head, causing him the wince.
“DON’T TOUCH MY STUFF!!!!” I shouted.
Heaven stood there in shock, unable to believe I threw a heavy wrench at him. He seized his sore head, jaw hanging as he looked at his uncle who too was shocked. The only one who wasn’t shocked was Ezekiel who was silently laughing to himself. It sickened me down to my stomach.
“In fact all of you get out!” I demanded only to have them stand and stare, further shocked, “NOW!”
Miguel sighed, feeling it would be wise to leave me.
“Come on Beth…” He said.
“What harm is there for me being here? Can’t two friends talk?” Beth asked with an innocent smile.
“Look,” Miguel snarled obviously frustrated, “You’re either going to walk out of here or I’m going to drag you out of here kicking and screaming…” The girl folded her arms defiantly and crossed her legs.
“Can you all hurry the fuck up? I have a lot to do tonight...and tomorrow...and the day after that...and the day after that...and the FUCKING DAY after that!!!!” I said, full of angst.
“Zeek, you better get your sister before I hurt the little girl.” Miguel said through the grit of his teeth. Ezekiel sighed as he made his way over to Beth. He reached for her only to have her dodge his grasp, cringing in disgust.
“Don’t you touch me you fucking crack-addict! I don’t know when the last you washed your hands...or had a bath…” Beth snarled, walking towards the door, “I’ll be damned before I let that shit touch me.”
“Wow.” Ezekiel said, deeply offended by what his sister said. He scratched the back of his head, having to take a seat as the words sunk in.
Heaven and Miguel walked out after her, Heaven stopping to look back at me.
“If I have a knot on my head, I’m going to…” He tried to say but found himself dodging a torque bar.
“GET THE FUCK OUT!” I screamed. The boy did not hesitate to flee the workshop, closing the door swiftly. I sighed, collapsing on my bed almost drawn to laughter over how crazy I came across, just then. I stared at the ceiling only to hear fidgeting across the shack.
I leaned up, bothered to see Ezekiel pushing my stuff out of the way to set up bedding on the floor.
“Ezekiel…” I said out of shock. He looked at me with a warm small.
“Bro, we’re family, call me Zeek!” He said. That statement made my head numb. I pointed at the door.
“Get out…” I demanded.
“Bro….” Ezekiel said, fully disenchanted.
“This motherfucker…” I said to myself, scrambling to me feet. I picked up the biggest bar wrench I could find, rushing over to him. I was going to beat him senseless!
“I HAVE NO WHERE ELSE TO GO!!!!!” Ezekiel screamed, throwing up both hands to protect himself. It made me pause, taking into consideration his plight. I looked at the bar wrench in my hand, wondering was I really going to strike him with it, “Dad put me out, said I can’t step foot back in the house again… Please, bro for me! Just let me stay one night, so I can figure some shit out…”
I sighed, tossing the bar wrench to the floor.
“Ok, but if you touch any one of my machines,” I said, trying to think of the biggest most gruesome threat, “I’ll kill your entire family...simply because you touched one of ‘em! I’ll burn them all alive but before that...I’ll drive stakes through their feet so they’re trapped in their home… Then I’ll burn that bitch down! Do I make myself clear….?”
“Crystal…” Ezekiel said, clearly unsure how to feel about such a bizarre threat.
“Good, the bathroom’s over there! Go take a shower please! I can smell you from over here...and brush your damn mouth! I got some unused toothbrushes in the bathroom closet. Please don’t use mine! And don’t use up all the hot water either because I have to do laundry tonight and take a shower for myself…” I said.
Ezekiel, went over to the bathroom, just about to enter.
“Um…” He said stopping short, “Got any underpants to spare?”
“What? NO! I’m not letting you wear my underwear! That’s just nasty…” I cringed.
“Bro…” Ezekiel begged.
“OK, the bottom black filing cabinet by the two reinforced tool cabinets to my left has some... When you where them, keep them.” I said, growing very uneasy. Ezekiel smiled, walking past my work station, entering the cabinets.
“Whoa dude…” Ezekiel said, surprised by my tastes in undergarments. I had some pretty exotic underwear… I didn’t know why but I loved them!
“Don’t judge.” I sighed, not even bothering to look at his reaction.
“Finally, a normal pair…” Ezekiel said, pulling out some mesmerizing matte and silk black briefs, “Where the fuck did you get these?”
“Had them for a few years… When I was able to leave more regularly, I’d buy stuff like that.” I sighed.
“Wow, everyone is just different.” Ezekiel said, steadily sorting through them.
“Stop getting your fingerprints all over my underwear, boy!” I demanded. It made Ezekiel pause. He looked at me for a long while a smile gradually coming across his face.
“I don’t remember you always being this mean…” Ezekiel laughed.
“Well...get locked up in a shack and be forced to work against your will and see just how bitter you become.” I retorted.
“Like Beth said,” Ezekiel said still laughing, “You need to lighten up.”
“Just shut the fuck up and take a bath… You smell like spilled liquor, armpit and gopher shit.” I said, looking down into the microscope as I used a special computer to design a priceless microprocessor.
“What are you doing?” Ezekiel asked, coming near me.
“DUDE!” I said, clenching my nose.
“Come on…” Ezekiel said, feeling a bit offended, “It’s not that bad…”
“Are you sure your dad didn’t say you’re not allowed in the house if keep refusing to bathe?” I asked. Ezekiel laughed, rushing off to the bathroom.
He came out about thirty minutes later, looking like an entirely different human. The gorgeous Ezekiel I knew from childhood came out that bathroom! I didn’t know who the fuck had went in. However, I was not one to stare thought I wanted to badly. I don’t even know how I got that good of a glimpse at him because I don’t recall lifting my head up from my work once.
I looked over to my watch. It was just after eleven PM, and I was growing very fatigued.
“I don’t know how you’re still up and running…” Ezekiel said.
“I guess I’m programmed to run off fumes.” I sighed, staying on my work.
Ezekiel relaxed on his bedding, legs propped atop each other with arms behind his head. He stared at the ceiling, obviously bored.
“Why does your shampoo smell so nice?” He asked. I paused, looking at him.
“I don’t use shampoo…” I said. He leaned up, concerned. He didn’t know what he had put in his head.
“Well what the fuck was in the jar?” He asked.
“Conditioner…” I sighed.
“Wait...why don’t you shampoo?” He inquired. I grabbed a big clump of my hair coily hair.
“You see this.. It is thick, brittle and kinky. Shampoo breaks it off. I haven’t found the right formula for a shampoo yet but I settle for lemon juice and clay treatments to clean my scalp…” I explained.
“I didn’t know that.” He said, “My hair isn’t that high maintenance… I remember when you used to roll your hair up into those tight little curly buns and everyone used to beat you with a stick…” I looked at him in displeasure.
“Why the fuck would you bring that up?” I asked, surprised by his gall. He laughed, obviously getting a kick out of upsetting me, laying back down on the bedding. He looked around the workspace seeing how… cluttered it was.
“What do for fun here?” Ezekiel asked.
“Work hard...sleep.” I said. He leaned up to look at me.
“That’s no fun at all! You gotta have something fun, man.” Ezekiel prodded. I pointed to the filing cabinet just in front of him.
“That’s my personal archive...books, magazines, movies...I got quite a collection.” I sighed.
“You know how to read?” Ezekiel asked shocked.
“Yeah… I learned really young.” I said, still not bothering to look at him.
“Lucky you. My dad said books are for girls, and I believed that for quite some time until I realized just how stupid it made me. I’d kill or die to be able to read… consider yourself lucky, Bun-Bun.” Ezekiel said. I slowly turned to him, unsure if my ears deceived me.
“What the fuck did you just call me?” I asked.
“Bun-Bun, don’t act like you’re too good for old nicknames…” Ezekiel said, laughing.
I couldn’t help but smile, haven’t been called that in years. I was called Bun-Bun because I often pulled my nappy, tangled hair into a high held bun when it got in the way of my work. Those were the days I missed when work was not considered work and it was simply fun.
The smile quickly dissipated as I went back to working.
“It’s been a long time since we talked, kid.” Ezekiel said, reverting back to staring at the ceiling.
“There’s no point… All I do is work, work, work, work, work… I have no life of my own. Nothing interesting happens to me. I’m just dry with nothing to give… ” I sighed.
“Hey atleast you can work. I can’t get any good jobs considering I can’t read or write… Sometimes I have to do what I have to do just to get by. And it’s not fair that my father treats me this was considering he wouldn’t let me learn to read as a boy. It’s like he wants me dumb and dependent on him but… I mont comfortable with that.” Ezekiel said.
“It’s also not fair that I’m being forced to work and don’t see a penny for it.” I said, showing my lack of empathy.
“Hey, Jeurridam is a tough place to live in… Sometimes you gotta do some fucked up things just to survive. Just be glad you’re not out there in the world like I am. It’ll swallow you then shit you out, man.” Ezekiel said.
“And this is better because?” I asked.
“...Because, you have a bed to call your own, free food, electricity, your own bathroom, hell a fucking entire place to call your own. The only thing you’re missing is a wife.” Ezekiel teased.
“I’m sorry but that’s just bullshit to me…”
“Seriously, bro,” Ezekiel said, leaning up, “I’d be grateful to have what you have. You think I like doing what I do? I hurt people, Tanzanir! If I told you some of the fucked up things I’ve had to do to stay alive, you’d probably be afraid of me… My father man… He’s the root cause of all my issues yet I can’t depend on him to fix shit for me. He just wants me to do everything he says... I’m on my own bro.”
“Well that’s kinda sad.” I said, starting to feel a bit more empathetic towards him.
“You know what’s funny?” Ezekiel asked with a chuckle.
“I used to be so jealous of you during my teen years. You got all the attention and praise from my dad for the things you could do when you weren’t even his kid. It kind of crushed me, made me feel like I was shit. So I kind of hated you for a long while until I noticed that it was less about praising you and more about keeping you happy so they could milk profits out of you without you even knowing. I thought it was funny as fuck, but still I wished I could have been you. Just to be able to do half the things you are able to do would be amazing. I could find a job, wouldn’t have to…” Ezekiel confessed.
“I can teach you what I know.” I interrupted, suggesting something I never thought I would.
“Really?” Ezekiel asked, very pleased.
“I mean, it’s gonna take you a while, and it’ll be hard since you don’t know how to read, but not impossible. I can show you the necessary skills to being a mechanic and engineer. Maybe one day I can show you programming.” I continued.
“It’s a language in itself, very contextual and is mandatory when building most machines. I taught Beth a thing or two.” I explained.
“Eh, Beth,” Ezekiel sighed, “I just…”
“You know that girl loves you so much right? Between you, Heaven, Zion, and Celest, you’re her favorite brother but you hurt her so much, man. She just wants you to get it together.” I said.
“You know that girl loves you so much right? Between you, Heaven, Zion, and Celest, you’re her favorite brother but you hurt her so much, man. She just wants you to get it together.” I said.
“I try, I try all I do is try but no matter how much I want to let go of that world, the world can’t quite do the same for me…” Ezekiel said.
“Well keep trying dude, you’ll beat it eventually...you just got to have the will to endure.” I said, trying to sound… encouraging.
“Easier said than done, bro.”
“You know,” I began, not believing what I was going to say, “I can deliver you from this. I can take the addiction right out your blood. You just gotta want it and promise me that you’ll never revert back to it.”
All Ezekiel could do was sit there in utter shock. It became clear to me that he was very much dealing with some complex feelings. While he sat there contemplating much, I placed all my prized electronics in the vault.
“I’m about to take a shower. Just think on it for a bit…” I sighed. I prepared some undergarments and ran the water. I took a brief shower, knowing I’d have laundry to do later. Upon exiting, I could see that Ezekiel still seemed to be deliberating.
“Ya know,” He began, “I don’t want my sister to think of me the way she does. I don’t want her to think of me as filthy. I mean, I used to parade her around like she was my very own pride and joy, and now she...she’s disgusted by me.”
“You’re not disgusting…” I sighed, rolling a big stack of filing cabinets out of the way.
“You’re gonna have to prove it… I mean I’m gone for weeks at a time, steal from any and everyone and have a drug addiction I can’t help. I got involved with some people who get you addicted to these drugs specifically so they can keep you coming back for more and do any and everything to get more drugs. Each time I go back, I don’t know what they’ll make me do next and every time, it gets worse and worse! If that’s not disgusting, then what’s not?” He countered.
“Ok if you want to sit there and find reason to be a poor excuse for a living being then do it,” I said, sorting through my whites, “Keep doing the drugs, keep hurting people and keep hurting yourself. Don’t you even try to say it’s impossible to stop what you’re doing, or to say you’re in it neck deep, as is. If you want to quit, you can quit one way or another. The thing is, you do these drugs for gratification. You use them to fill some type of void that keeps you wishing for things that will never change… Hell, there is a lot that I wish I could change, a lot! The thing is, I’m willing to do something about it rather than sit and fester in my own misery just being a pathetic human being.”
“You think I can stop cold turkey? Cocaine?” He asked with a chuckle. I turned to view him, leaning onto the washing machine.
“You’ll need to be tied, foot and hands to posts for three days...tight! The withdrawal alone can nearly kill you...but it won’t because there is an old trick I know to detox your body. Intravenously, plasma will be injected into your blood containing activated carbon. Carbon is a special element as it is able to form fourway bonds with any other element including the waste products your body doesn’t need such as the chemicals related to your dependency on cocaine.” I explained.
“What?” He asked, not able to comprehend most of what I said.
“I just stated a cure for your dependency,” I sighed, loading my whites into the warm wash, “Don’t worry. I will make sure you get it.”
“Then what will I do after, sit around like the ignorant fool I am, not capable of doing anything resourceful, like you or my brothers and cousins.” He said back.
“I told you I’ll show you what I know. We can take it one day at a time… In a few months, you’ll be a decent little handy man and if you keep working on it, you’ll be great after some years. Hell, If I can teach all your brothers and cousins how to do this shit so I can relax… I mean, at this point I made it easy for myself,” I said turning towards the big four pillars and motorized lintel, “That is a 3D printer… If you think I build anything anymore, you’d be mistaken. That thing manufactures everything I need, all I got to do is place in my illustrations, let the printer optimize and then it prints. The only thing I do is wire the machines when it’s finished. My issue though, I’m the only one who does maintenance on the machines and at this point, we have thousands of ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers, microwaves, cooktops, televisions, radios and other appliances out there. Your family wants to monopolize the industry, yet they can’t do the hard work themselves.”
“Wait, so you don’t do anything anymore?” Ezekiel asked.
“No, I do repairs. Anything that is built at this point, is built by the printer. I just double check it to make sure it has no faults.” I clarified.
“That is fucking badass!” Ezekiel exclaimed.
“Eh…” I sighed.
“Like, does anyone know you have this?” He asked.
“No and I’d like to keep it that way.” I said, closing the washing machine.
“I mean, it could benefit a lot of people!” Ezekiel insisted.
“You know what caused the great war six hundred years ago?” I asked him, heading back to my work station.
“No.” He said.
“People fought and fought, growing tired of killing each other. So they built cyborgs and androids to do the job for them. Like fools they made these androids think they were alive but didn’t bother treating them as such. As a result, said androids eventually turned on the humans, ending the war. People and their machines caused this war. I’m not risking it again...” I said, finding my hollowatch. I deactivated the printer, it shrinking down to coffee table sized cube.
“So you rather see people struggle?” He asked. I guess he thought he could warrant a different reaction out of me,
“Yes…” I said, opening the vault and taking out my most recent project, “I would more than be happy to see people struggle than to see people completely wipe themselves out. To be honest, there is a lot going on that you just don’t understand, nor do you want to be apart of.”
“What do you mean?” He asked, deeply intrigued.
“I’ll tell you this much. There is a new war… Some people want this technology out so humanity can pick up where it left off. Some people want this technology to be forgotten so humanity can start over. Then you have a faction which disagrees with both, one that believes that the technology that is necessary for humans to thrive should be reintroduced but the technology that caused the war should be kept away. Of course all three factions have their fundamental flaws but…” I sighed, losing all desire to continue explaining.
“How do you know all of this?” Ezekiel responded, amazed.
“It’s complicated.” I said, connecting the tiny hollowatch up to my mainframe.
“If you had to choose a faction, who would you side with, the ones who want to return technology to humanity?” Ezekiel asked.
“Hell no!” I quickly refuted.
“What, why?” Ezekiel asked surprised.
“Because, a lot of the technology in consideration is wartech. Wartech far exceeded any other forms of innovation and it truly would not benefit the majority of people left on this planet. I’m all for making life easier for humans though, but in some places of the world, these war machines are still active and are terrorizing the locals there. I just think it’s stupid to say do away with technology all together just as much as it is stupid to put weapons of mass destruction into the hands of corn farmers and expect them to grow maze with it…” I explained.
“So harboring information that can help people, is your game huh?” Ezekiel asked, sounding very unpleased.
“No, but it is your family’s game,” I said, no long wanting to entertain him, “Excuse me, I have a lot of work to do to night, for your family in particular so don’t question me about the way I do things… when I have no choice but to do things a certain way. It keeps a roof over your head, right?”
“Bro, I didn’t mean it that way!” He quickly said in his defense.
“No, it’s fine! Just know that I have my own plans and I don’t plan on staying here forever. I will be leaving very, very soon.” I said.
“Wait, what about me! You said you help me!” Ezekiel said back.
“I will..if you want it of course.” I said, steadily typing in complex programs.
“Of course I want it! When do you plan on leaving?” He asked.
“Um, when the time is right. We’ll all know.” I smiled.
“Hell, I don’t know where I’ll be between now and then,” Ezekiel said thrown into deep thought, “I just want to say I’m sorry.” It truly caught me off guard. I stopped, turning to him.
“Sorry for what?” I asked.
“I mean, I never got the chance to know you as well as I should have… We were pretty much strangers under the same roof.” He said.
“Well you got all night.” I teased.
“Really?” He said with a devilish smile.
It was then I realized he was misinterpreting my every word. He got up off of his bed, slowly walking over to me. His boyish smile grew as he slowly wrapped his arms around me. He came in, bringing his lips closer to mine. Our lips locked, a jitter spreading throughout my body. It began to envelop me, trying to make me get lost in it’s scrambling waves. I wanted to get lost, I truly did but I couldn’t.
I withdrew from the kiss, it being my first.
“I didn’t mean it that way!” I clarified.
“Just you and me! Lets run off together so we won’t ever have to be apart. Lets never have to say goodbye!” Ezekiel said, full of passion.
“No.” I said, without hesitation. His advances felt very sudden, too sudden perhaps.
“No?” He asked, surprised by the swiftness of my refusal. He stepped away, beyond disenchanted. It made my insides swarm with regret and the want to plead for his understanding was overwhelming.
“Zeek, you have to understand that we, as a thing, could never…”
“Save it.” He interrupted, heading back to his bedding.
“Zeek…” I pleaded, but got no response.
It was just me and my keyboard, writing long algorithms. However, it was no easy feat with so much swarming around my head. What if I would have let my feelings got to best of me tonight? Would I have let Zeek simply take my virginity? After all, just moments ago I had my first kiss! Hell, since when was Zeek gay, or into men or whatever? Did this moment even mean a thing or was it something darker at play here? Was this all just some dark plan? Was this a way to manipulate me into getting something he wanted? Was this simply away for him to get under my skin, for him to always be in my head, a way for him to for a dependency on me so he’d be better off? Would he, for my sake, let himself be cured of his dependency? Even if we did run away, would his family just let us escape like this without hunting us both down and hauling us back here? What would Beth have to say about all of this?
Never before has anyone done this to me! It was, after all, my very first kiss, a very magical experience in my small cybernetic world. I sat there feeling wrapped around his finger, my internal value measures counting a shift in endorphins, endorphins related to pleasure arousal. Of course my stupid body would make such an experience an experiment… It didn’t stop there. It brought archival data of all the treacherous behavior Zeek was known for in the past forward to my frontal processing. It correlated my sudden feelings coupled with the turn of events into...entrapment. It alerted me of imminent danger.
Danger… A feeling I never before felt, fueled by fear and excited by the mind. I didn’t quite know what to make of it so I did what any sensible hardworker would do. I pushed through it. I worked and worked and worked, eventually being shaken awake by Heaven, Zion and Mr. Angelo. I looked down at my watch, it being Seven forty two in the morning. My gaze then fell upon Heaven, who backed away from the heat of my gaze.
I wiped my face, sighing wishing for another hour of sleep.
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t clock you now, boy.” Mr. Angelo said sternly. I looked at him intently.
“Is this because of Heaven?” I asked.
“You know damn well it’s about Heaven, and my little girl! How long have you two been seeing each other?” He prodded.
“Me and Beth? Why can’t people believe we’re just friends and friends alone?” I sighed. It was then I was seized by Mr. Angelo, hoisted out of my chair hanging by the grip of his knuckles.
“I should beat you down!” He snarled.
“And if you do that, you can kiss this all goodbye. I promise you, you hit me, I’ll leave and it’ll be shit you can do about it! And not only that,” I said pointing to a glass case with a red latch inside, “But I’ll hit that fail safe and destroy every creation I’ve ever built… Each one will go up in flames, destroying everything in their vicinity. You better hope no children are standing by, no family is cooking…. You don’t want that on your hands do you?”
Enraged, Angelo threw me down to the floor.
“You little shit. I bet you’ve been waiting for a while to drop this on me ain’t ya?” He asked.
“You’ve pushed me to it,” I responded banally, getting to my feet, “And as for your son. I told him explicitly not to touch my stuff due to the fragility of many of my prototypes, the prototypes I make for your marketing sham I might add, but he wouldn’t listen. So, I gently threw a four pound wrench at his head... as HARD as I could! Oh and not only that, but he also tried to threaten me again after I advised him to leave so I politely tossed a torque wrench at him but unfortunately, it missed as he saw it coming and was able to dodge it.”
“Look, I ain’t here to make no issues, I’m just here to tell ya to respect my family because…”
“May I interrupt and say you were trying to cause issues? If not, why wake me up and confront me as though there was not an issue to be addressed? I also want to add that I respect everyone here, but I can’t say you all do the same for me. Since I am the sole reason you all have revenue, a monopoly, an empire, I’d expect a little more respect but….tisk, I get none.” I interjected.
“You stay on my property, use my electricity and my water! You’re the one that should show more gratitude… You’re the one with something to lose.” He threatened as I walked past him heading towards my wardrobe.
“Let me ask you something.” I began, looking for an outfit to where, “Am I the one dependent upon a twenty year old who builds appliances for an entire city? Do I have to hire a personal army to keep corporate spies away from seeing my secret? Did I lie to a child for ten years to make that child do my dirty work and continue to cover my trail which is increasingly becoming wider and harder to hide? I think not! And If I recall, my father was the one who ran power lines from the dam to A99. He’s the one who built this place… not you! He’s the one that ran dozens of miles of piping from up the river so you can live an easy life while everyone else in the valley suffers! He’s the reason you can say you have as big a claim as you do! He made life easy for you and now that he’s dead, this is what you do? All I have to ask you is… what work do you have planned for me to day?” I was dressed by the time I finished my rambling.
The entire family was left standing there, all jaws hanging from shock. There was a long pause, the silence seeming to resonate as if it had it’s own rumbling pitch. I waited for Angelo to make his comeback. It was chewing at me to hear it.
“So you’re ready?” Angelo asked, as though the entire discussion never happened.
“I just need to clean up the shop a bit and freshen up. It shouldn’t take me more than ten minutes.” I sighed, putting my clothes in the tumble dryer.
“Heaven, Zion, watch him to make sure he doesn’t try anything funny.” Angelo said, leaving the workshop. I couldn’t help but sigh.
I rushed over to my workstation and put all my sensitive valuables in the vault, all except my hollowatch, my control center for everything I created. I put it on my wrist and looked over to the heavy duty filing cabinets and sighed. I then looked over to Zeek who was still sleeping, nearly hidden from sight in his corner of the shack.
Swiftly, I walked over to the bathroom, washed my face, brushed my teeth, dampened my hair and put a little jojoba oil on it. Now I was ready to go. Upon exiting the bathroom, I could see Heaven suddenly stop toying with one of my prototypes that was hanging from the platform above his head. He obviously had a very strong interest in electronics.
“Did that wrench not give you a clear enough message, yesterday?” I asked, teasingly. He looked on as though I was menacing threat to his life, not bothering to respond. It was then I realized I forgot to smile. Eh, where was my fucking humanity? Zion too looked on in horror. I didn’t want to be portrayed this way.
“Zion,” I sighed, “Don’t let these fools make me out to be a bad guy. I’m not too fucked up.” I walked between both of them, pushing them aside. I then tapped the TC activator on my watch. The traveling torpor chamber came down from the ceiling, enveloping me with a loud clamp.
About an hour and a half later, I was behind a tall veil with a dishwasher to fix. With my watch, I scanned the machine detailing what was wrong. It was an issue with the solenoid that turned the motor, one of the more prevalent issues with this model. It was an easy fix, just required a realignment. I was finished in twenty minutes, back inside the torpor chamber.
Minutes later, the torpor chamber opened and was tasked with fixing one of my rarer designs. It was a sonic hoverboard board which used resonant frequency matching to allow the board to hover. With practice, one could travel extremely swiftly across terrain with one of these. The issue with these boards was that the ventilation intakes would clog with sand and the poor machines couldn’t cool properly so they’d often overheat. That meant that run-times were shorter and the board couldn’t move swiftly enough. This was not an easy fix.
I spent hours blowing sand out of every nook and cranny on the board. It was a tedious process, the board having many small components with openings seemingly everywhere. This was so very frustrating. The board was never meant to be sold, being a very, very limited prototype with many flaws I had to kink over. However, Angelo thought differently, seeing it as another way to make money. Fortunately for me, it was one of those inventions I cared least about, one that had little value to me.
When I was finished, I was beyond glad. I entered the torpor chamber and the machine retracted the veil. I then was wheeled back to the truck and we rode for an hour and a half. When it opened again, I was back in the shack.
“That’s all the calls we had today. You get the rest of the day off.” A gunman said, closing the door behind him.
“Wow…” I said, truly surprised.
This by far was some of the best news I’d gotten in a long time. I walked over to my workbench only to realize something was terribly wrong. My project, my oh so dear project was gone! I ran over to the vault, swiftly opening it. The project wasn’t there either, only a few SSDs and my laptops. I ran back over to the workstation wondering where could I have misplaced it.
I then looked over to the corner of the workshop to see Ezekiel was gone. My gut told me he took it. I just knew he had to. Drawn to a panic, I struggled to think of what could be done, pacing all around the shack. I had to ask around for it.
I walked over to the hangar exit, pulling on the chains of the door. It had just enough height for me to duck down and get out before a guard noticed me. I walked around back heading towards the house. There, most of the brothers and cousins sat frolicking in the midday sun.
“Hey!” I said. The young men looked at me, startled to see me outside the shack, “I’m missing a very, very, VERY important prototype! It looks like a small deer… silver. Have any of you seen anything?”
“What are you doing out of the shack!” Miguel asked from the veranda. I held up my palm, pausing him from speaking.
“Have any of you seen it, or’ve been inside the shack, maybe even took it?” I continued to ask. The young men shook their heads, each not seeing anything out of the ordinary.
“Well,” Heaven began, “I haven’t seen Zeek since last night.”
“ANGELO!” Miguel screamed, entering the house.
“I have surveillance all over my shack. I’ll find who took it and so help me…” I said, walking back to the workshop.
I entered around the hangar exit, heading towards my main computer terminal. I punched in a few codes and pulled up my security feeds. Pinpointing the hours of the theft, the videos found clear footage of Ezekiel taking the prototype and exiting with it.
“Oh my God!” I said, completely horrified.
“HEY!” I heard someone shout from the front of the shack. It was Angelo, incredibly angry and followed by his Brother, sons and nephews, “You know you can’t leave the shack…”
I turned the terminal so he can view it.
“Your son,” I said clenching my head, “STOLE something of mine and I NEED it back!” Everyone was silent before Angelo broke out into laughter.
“That damn boy...will do anything to get a quick fixing won’t he…” He chuckled.
“I know right. That probably why he came in here last night, to scope this place out, to see what he can take and sell.” Miguel chimed in laughing, too.
It then dawned on me. This was all part of an elaborate plan that Ezekiel devised well before coming to visit me and I fell for it so easily. It was so embarrassing, more so than anything I felt in a long while. However, the boy knew very little of what he was jeopardizing and I had to get this prototype back.
“Where is he?” I asked, trembling from rage.
“Oooou, someone’s angry…” Miguel teased.
“I wouldn’t tempt me right now, Miguel.” I threatened through the grit of my teeth.
“Good luck finding him. He probably won’t be back for a few weeks.” Angelo laughed, heading towards the exit.
“That automaton was worth fifteen million dollars in that state and once completed, would have been worth ten times that.” I said, freezing Angelo right in his tracks.
“Fifteen mill? What the fuck can this thing do?” Angelo asked shocked.
“Nothing, it just has a lot of information on it. It was meant to simply never be caught, which is why I based it upon the design of an antelope. It was built for speed, crazy speed but I never finished it before your damned boy STOLE IT!” I said.
“And what information is worth that much?” Angelo asked. He was beginning to suspect I knew more about my past than he previously thought. He slowly began to prowl over towards me.
“Nothing that concerns you!” I snarled.
“Well if that’s the case, it’s just a prototype...build another one.” Angelo said, walking out of the of the shack.
“If that boy has sold my robot, so help me God I’ll..”
“You’ll what?” Angelo said at the door. I couldn’t even come to finishing, beyond enraged, “You know the basic rules I give you? Follow them! Ah, lookie here.”
Suddenly, Angelo pulled someone into the shack.
“Hey dad! What are you doing…” He asked. It was Ezekiel being forced towards my work bench.
“Tanzanir wants to talk to you.” Miguel said, pointing towards me.
Ezekiel stood there, looking lost.
“Did you take the robot that was sitting here on my desk?” I asked, as calm as possible, supporting my aching head with a hand as I navigated the interface on the monitor.
“No, why would you think I…”
I didn’t even give him the time to finish. I turned the screen so he could see the video evidence of him stealing the machine. His jaw dropped, his shock turning into anguish. Those gorgeous warm eyes turning to scalding pools of raw anger.
“Do you know what you’ve done?” I asked, still trembling from rage.
“It’s just a robot, you build countless of them...big deal, build another one.” He shrugged.
“I can’t because that robot had ONE OF ONLY TWO variable power conduits EVER MADE!!!!” I snapped. Silence spread throughout the shack.
“Quite frankly, I don’t give a fuck.” Ezekiel said, nonchalantly. Angelo burst out laughing, causing everyone else to do the same.
“You don’t?” I asked, growing angrier and angrier.
“Nope…” He shrugged, steadily laying that intense gaze upon me.
“You need to get it back… Ezekiel…” I said, feeling my anger reaching a level that couldn’t be contained.
“Hell no.” He refused.
“One of you...someone!” I said, hoping someone would volunteer. After all the hard work I did so all these people could live comfortable lives.
“It’s nothing that concerns us right?” Angelo chuckled, obviously lapping this all up.
I couldn’t take this anymore. I navigated the interface of my watch, activating the BL99 protocol. A pile of metal sitting on my desk configured into a sleek metal gauntlet. I waved my hand in front of the crowd of people.
Suddenly, flying blades came out of every inch of the shack, stopping short of slicing
the neck of each man that stood before me. Each blade hovered in place ready for my command.
“I should kill you all.” I said, eyeing each one of them with rage I never before felt. Angelo looked around, seeing his family with blades to their throats, all trembling in fear.
“You don’t want to do this…” Angelo said, pleading for the life of everyone here. I had no response, only navigating the interface of my watch. Fortunately for me, the tiny prototype, my life’s work was in a state of suspended torpor, emitting a faint radio signal that could easily be traced.
“It’s so sad that,” I started, still very upset, “I ask you to do something as simple going fetch a stolen robot, a robot that could very well save your lives one day...and YOU….” The blades dug into each of their skins, “CAN’T DO SIMPLY THAT! I slaved for you all, did the work you all were not smart enough to do! And you, Ezekiel… You need help!!!! All of you just get out!”
There was no hesitation for each and every soul to flee the premises. The blades dropped to the floor as I shielded my teary face. I didn’t know what to do but cry. All I could do was think about this betrayal from Ezekiel. I let him into where I lived, offered him help but he did this to me. This could possibly ruin me, my cause, what my dad died for! That tiny antelope-like automaton was just that damn important.
“I can’t believe this…” I sobbed.
“Zanir!” A voice said.
I looked up, seeing it was Beth, in the doorway cautious to come in. All I could do was shake my head.
“It’s over, Beth.” I said, “It’s done.”
“Wait what do you mean?” She asked, growing more and more afraid.
Navigating the interface of my watch. I activated the Big Daddy Protocol. It was now or never. The massive, reinforced filing cabinets splayed apart, revealing a red mechanical cube. The cube began to unravel, locking into place. It turned into a massive, thirteen feet tall automaton.
“Ooooh,” Beth said, completely horrified at the sight of such a fearsome looking machine. The bulky robot blasted through the tin paneling of the shack, sending the armed gaurds spiraling into the air. Beth screamed, the concussive shock wave throwing her to the floor. The entire family was now on alert!
I summoned the blades from the floor, they following after me as I walked over to the vault. I packed the SSDs, and laptops into my bag, grabbing the second gauntlet out of the rear of the vault. Before putting it on, I activated the ORBOS Warrior protocol on my watch. Two four foot diameter spheres erupted from the roof of the shack. Four wings splayed out of the tops as well as a laser guided thirty millimeter cannon.
I walked out after the Big Daddy mech, stepping over the dead bodies. My hovering blades followed me like metallic wedge shaped sprites, their solenoids spinning and counter rotating as they moved along.
“TANZANIR!!!!!!” Beth screamed as I walked past. I didn’t bother to acknowledge her. The family all came from the house, holding rifles and shotguns all aimed at me.
“I won’t let you leave. I’ll kill you before I let you walk out of here!” Angelo threatened.
Big Daddy’s hands retracted, forming two one hundred ten millimeter cannons. The two Orbs aimed their thirty millimeter cannons down at the family, the bright lasers alerting them to the fact that there were guns aimed from above. My blades also took aim at each and every one poised with a gun.
“I don’t want to kill any of you...I really don’t but it’s time I go. If you want to stop me, you can try but then I’d have to kill you...don’t make me have to kill you.” I said as banal and expressionless as ever.
“Tanzanir!” Beth said, running towards me. Big Daddy watched her approach, his left arm cannon following her as she neared.
“I’m warning you boy, don’t you touch my daughter!” Angelo threatened, cocking his rifle.
“Let me come with you!” Beth begged.
“No…” I said, reaching into my bag. I handed her a laptop and a flash drive, “Help out in any way you can.”
“Tanzanir…” Beth said, not wanting me to go.
“I”m sorry but I must.” I sighed, full of reluctance.
“You can’t…” She said drawn to tears.
“BETH!” Angelo screamed.
“I’m gonna travel very far north, Beth. I got to go all the way to Labrador. You know how far away that is from Arizona? Would you really want to travel that far? It’s over four thousand miles away. It’s going to be dangerous, very dangerous.” I said, not wanting to reveal my true objective.
“Labrador?” Angelo asked, “Don’t tell me you knew about your father all along?”
“Of course I knew! I knew he died years ago, his brain the only thing that could be saved, hence this giant thirteen foot machine you see before you. It’s from the Cybernetic Reincarnation Program from six hundred years ago! He’s in there! I built it right under your nose and I can assure you, he’s not happy.” I said.
It was the first time I ever saw Angelo light up with fear. He stopped aiming his rifle at me and up to Big Daddy.
“You little…” He said, truly in disbelief, “I can’t beleive…”
“You tried keeping it from me for so long… How do you think I came across figuring all of this out, huh? You think after I worked hard out there in the city, I’d come back and just sleep. No! I like many of your children, have dreams and ambitions too! I aspired to become something more that a mechanic slave to your family but my dreams got shoved aside so you can make yours come to fruition. Plus, I knew you hid his cerebral matter hidden in the freezer for years! Did you forget I was there when I saw your wife bring it in? I may have been a child but I wasn’t stupid… I knew like most things in A99, it had something to do with my father! I also knew that there was old wartech that gave life to those who had fallen. The tech was called the Cybernetic Reincarnation Program and sitting here on these resource rich lands… I had all the means to build it! It meant my dad could someday be alive again! If you knew how hard I worked to build it you’d wonder how I still able to get around. The project started when I was twelve… ya know that day you thought I ran away? I told you I was in Sloan but you didn’t believe me? I was really there! I saw somethings that would make a grown man cry! It had everything I needed for this day and I’m so glad I went. It makes me glad you didn’t believe me, Angelo.” I continued.
Angelo was at a loss for words. Things tried rolling off his tongue but words simply couldn’t manifest.
“Why now?” Miguel asked in his place.
“Because,” I began one of my blades floating over to the family. Everyone’s gun pointed at it but it only had one target, “Your little nephew here stole something of mine, something so key to my plan, I’ll do anything to get it BACK!!!!”
The blade dropped down, wedging itself between the boy and the rest of his family. Everyone stepped out of harms way as the blade pursued the boy. It caused him to fall from the stoop to the ground. He got to his feet only to see Big Daddy’s cannons aimed right at him. He shook with fear.
“If you hurt my boy…” Angelo threatened, fearing the worst. I walked over to Ezekiel, my blades each surrounding him, spinning slowly as though they had blood lust. They seemed to long to pierce his flesh, rotating again and again with a sterling fixed focus. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he stood there in utter terror.
“How much did you sell my android for?” I asked.
“Two hundred! I tell you where it is!” He pled.
“Two hundred,” I chuckled, reaching into his pocket, “I already know where it is…” I grabbed the wad of money out of his pocket.
“Come on, don’t do this to me…” Ezekiel begged.
“What, the money?” I asked, unsure what he meant.
“I need this…” He continued. I reached in my pocket grabbing a folded wad of paper. I slipped it into his pocket.
“You won’t even plea for your life but will plea to soothe your addiction…” I sighed, walking away. The blades suddenly darted after me, startling everyone. The blades continued to follow me, rotating every now and again. Big Daddy turned back to the shed firing a mortar round on it. The workshop exploded, destroying every machine, every electronic, everything I slaved to build.
Everyone ducked down, fearing shrapnel from the explosion. I looked down at my watch. We had a long walk ahead, having to cross the Hoover Dam and enter the Mojave. Our next stop would be northern Jeurridam, the City of Rust.As we walked away, Beth screamed my name. There was no point in looking back. If I did, I’d break down. I needed to stay strong for her sake! This was all for a cause that would inexplicably affect her future. Still though. she was my best friend and I was… abandoning her! She screamed and screamed, “LET ME GO!!!!” It was the most heartbreaking thing I could ever have heard but today was the start of a long journey. I truthfully had no idea where it’d take me but it was now or never…