"Jeurridam: The Outskirts" - Chapter 3
We made it to the highlands where we walked on the rocky pan for hours. It was beyond saddening leaving Beth, even Heaven but I had to do this. So much was riding on that tiny little android nestled in the torso of the Big Daddy. In fact, I wasn’t quite done working on the Big Daddy. As we walked, I was swiftly programming the final touches of his speech cog. It was arguably the hardest thing to do on any robot, let alone one that is technically a cybernetic human. It involved, rooting the robots cognitive skill presets, auditory and visual senses to the brain inside the Big Daddy and writing hundreds of thousands functions, some the Big Daddy would write himself, forming memories...It wouldn’t be perfected until I got the chance to test it for the first few times.
Nervously, I activated it. I paused at the top of the foot hill.
“Can you speak?” I asked. There was a long pause.
“...Yeah.” I heard. It was rather tinny sounding but very functional. I was overjoyed, almost drawn to tears.
“It got so old having to communicate using text to neuron wave pattern. God…” I sighed, glad to be able to finally speak with my father after several long years.
“So much I wanna say.” He responded, “Can I just say I’m proud?”
I couldn’t even come to words, it was damn near surreal.
“I…” I stammered.
“I know you’ve been stuck for a long time, and I am just as wrong as the Logatti family for asking this of you, it’s why I only can say thank you…” He said.
“This is different! I’m furthering your work, making it so this world can one day be better…” I said.
“It’s not so different. I still planted the neuro-computer in your head as a newborn, I still attached thousands of neural wires to your nervous system. I still forced this upon you…” He said.
“It’s not like that! Again, this is a much bigger picture! You did what you had to do, and I respect that!” I said.
The Big Daddy, continued to walk over the foothill.
“It’s so crazy how we’re just too different people.” The machine chucked.
“What do you mean?” I asked, lapping all of this up.
“You’re this nice little soul. I was never nice… I didn’t care much for the people around me, only for the sake of the world. Some may have deemed me a mad scientist… Maybe I was. I was done in at the New Patagonia research labs in Argentina about a decade and a half ago. You were only a toddler then and...God.” Dad said, barely able to talk about it.
“ It’s ok, ya know. I had to learn quick fast and in a hurry that not all people are nice. At least you showed me that, much. You know I’m just glad to have some form of real family left...even if it’s behind layers of carbon fiber, titanium alloy and red armor.” I said.
“That’s touching. Sorry I wasn’t much of a father to you...sorry I brought years of hell upon you. No child should have…”
“I get it.” I responded, “I just got a question..” I said, looking down at the floating dagger.
“What is it?” He asked.
“How do these things work? I mean, they just read my mind…” I asked.
“They are very advanced, ceramic coated rare earth blades that use a powerful electromagnet and torque to create fields of anti-gravity. Plus they have…” He froze in place.
I looked, unsure what had happened. My watch gave me biometric warnings of severe damage to his core. As soon as I realized it, he fell, a hole burned into his back. Suddenly, an Orb fell too with a similar hole burned into it. I then realized we were being attacked. The Second orb too fell out of the sky, a hole burned clean through it’s chassis.
I could not tell what was going on, looking to find any signs of my attacker. My blades were on alert, surrounding me, looking for any signs of what was going on. Suddenly, buggies began to speed down the valley, surrounding me. It was the Merchant Clan. I knew this was about to get very dire. I sent Beth a message as fast as I could before the buggies could close in on me. It was now time to make them taste my vengence.
I began flinging the blades wildly, the blades speeding through the air slicing through the engines of several buggies. Many blew up while others retreated to a safer distance. The blare of a machine gun to my left made me curl and cringe. I thought I was hit but upon opening my eyes, the blades had expanded into circular disks, blocking all of the canon fire.
“I told you not to shoot!” I heard someone say.
I noticed that the palms of my hands were opened wide, the blades obviously programed to turn into protective disks when this happened. All I could do was think about my father, a hole burned through his back. I truly hope it did not reach his organic core. I ran over to him, it taking all my cybernetic strength to flip him over. He still was powered on but his energy reserves were hit. It was dangerous considering he was powered by a fission reactor. I opened his chest cavity and unplugged the wires.
He wasn’t dead, at least that but still.... This was close...too close for comfort. They shot him clean through most of the electronics that took me years to design and months to build. I stood, trembling with rage. Turning to face the Merchant Clan, I aimed my blades at every single soul, particularly looking for anyone with a very high powered and long range rifle. My eyes fell upon someone sitting atop a buggy with a rifle that’s barrel was four feet long. The gun was bolted to the top of the buggy, the gunner still mounted there.
He looked at me through binoculars, being a considerable distance away. I began walking towards him, my blades rotating as they could feel my wrath.
“HALT!” A gunner a top a buggy said to me. I ignored him, continuing to head towards the rifle gunman. The distinctive sound of a Desert Eagle rang in my ears just as the blade deflected three oncoming bullets to my right.
The blade then flew towards the shooter, slicing through his gun...and hand. The man screamed out falling back inside the buggy.
“I said not to shoot!” The rifleman shouted, all the way up the valley. The two swords locked onto my wrists, propelling me towards the rifleman. As I did, three bullets connected with me. I screamed out, falling to the desert floor. Still though, I crawled towards him, wanting the rifleman dead.
I was again, surrounded.
“I told you all NOT TO SHOOT!” The Rifleman screamed.
“But…” A goon said. I roared out, sending all my blades at screeching speed towards the rifleman’s buggy. He leapt out of the buggy just in time. All thirty six blades passed through the buggy, killing the driver and second gunman inside.
My blood loss was great. I lost consciousness… I woke up God knows how much time later, strapped to a bed. Sitting in the room was the same man who lied to me about my Cyberlope Android. He was looked as confused as I was.
“What the hell are you?” He asked.
“Why do you have me! Let me go! Who shot my father! I’m gonna kill him… Was it you?” I growled, struggling against the restraints.
“Father? What the fuck are you talking about?” The man asked.
“LET ME GO!” I demanded.
Hearing my shouting, the same Merchant that sat behind the counter came into the room. He looked on in shock.
“He woke up?” He asked.
“Yeah… June shot the hell out of him...once in the stomach, the back of liver and the thigh. They say after the blood transfusion he’s fifty percent healed…” The man said.
I looked down at my medical gown, remembering I did in fact get shot. The young man from the counter of the repair sho came over to me, sitting.
“My boys won’t listen sometimes. They get a little trigger happy…” He sighed.
“They had every right to be,” I said, realizing he was the rifleman, “I was trying to kill you…”
“I figured that much,” The man said, “I’m Galveston…”
“What do you want?” I asked, cutting to the chase.
“You say you built that little android right?” He asked.
“Yeah, and the thirteen foot mech you shot, and the two orbs you SHOT!!!!!!” I said.
“Why, so you can weaponize them and turn them on good people?” I asked.
“No,” Galveston said, “Because they are amazing and I want to learn to build this way.”
“I’m sorry but, I have a lot to do. I can’t set time aside so you can level up as a mechanic.”
“Why was that little android so important to you?” He prodded.
“It’s a prototype...it holds very, very…” I said thinking about it, “I need to get the giant mech out of the desert!”
“Don’t worry it’s already done. We got the two Orbs and the blades too. Might I say those blades are rather badass?” He smiled.
“You can’t be serious.” The man sitting in the chair across from the bed asked.
“I am. Those things are ferocious! Did you see how they slice through solid engine blocks?” Galveston asked.
“Oh gawd…” I sighed, looking up at the ceiling.
“Where were you headed?” Galveston asked.
“I was on my way to the Great Spine. I’m trying to get to Vancouver…” I responded.
“Well you’re gonna be here awhile...at least until you heal. But what you said about a prototype… a prototype for what?” He asked.
“The Cyberlope Android is meant to hold information and be extremely evasive in case that information is attempted to be cracked. However, I built a one ninth scale model to test the housing capacity for it’s computational equipment. I actually went through about twelve or so prototypes before finding a design that simply functioned. That thing is...it’s very very important.” I said.
“What does it do?” Galveston asked.
“I already told you it holds information.” I responded.
“You said it was stolen…” The man across the bed asked.
“Yeah...by someone I trusted. He ruined all my plans… I wasn’t supposed to leave for another year but he gave me no choice.” I said.
“Ezekiel?” Galveston asked, “How do you know Ezekiel?”
“I worked for his family...correction, slaved for his family. I was their sole, mechanic, engineer and designer for everything the sold for a long time. It’s a complicated story, just...I need to fix the giant red mech.” I sighed. Galveston looked at me for a long time, his eyes profiling me from head to toe.
“You’re a cybernetic aren’t you?” He asked.
“...Yeah.” I responded, hesitant to admit it. I did not know these people, nor did I have a valid reason to trust them. After all, we did try to kill each other.
Galveston leaned in, looking at me eye to eye.
“Where are you from?” He asked.
“Here.” I sighed.
“Really? I’ve never seen any type of...well what are you if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I’m Illisian. Can you bring me my laptop… I need it...gotta figure out how long it’s gonna take me to fix the mech.” I sighed.
“Sure.” Galveston, said. He quickly got up, leaving the room.
That left me with the strange man across the room. He got up walking slowly towards the sink..
“You know…” He began, “Someone like you is dangerous. You know computers, you know science, you know pretty much all there is, right?”
“No… I only know about computers, engineering and survival.” I quickly shot down.
“You’re just someone I can’t trust and if you…”
“Look, I don’t give a fuck if you trust me or not! I’m not here for your benefit. I’m here because you motherfuckers stalked me shot me, shot my robots and now I’m fucking back at square one! I just want to fix my shit...and GO!!! That’s it!” I said.
“Really?” The man asked, surprised by my response. I really had nothing to say to him. He stood at the counter, pouring himself some fruit juice.
It didn’t take long for Galveston to return with my bag. He undid the zip ties that bounded me to the bed. I leaned up, feeling very uncomfortable but not in any serious pain.
“How are you able to move right now?” Galveston asked.
“I don’t know…” I sighed, opening the laptop. I booted it up, seeing it had only been a day since I was shot. Checking my messages, Beth had written me back asking, ‘Where are you?’ I wrote her back stating, ‘I don’t know… Will triangulate later.’
I then used the laptop to connect with the the Orbs and the Big Daddy, checking their vitals. It did not look good.
“One of my Orbs is completely destroyed… I’d have to build another which will take months. The other Orb and the giant mech can be repaired but it’ll be timely… Quite frankly I don’t got time. I need to be out this city before anything happens.” I sighed.
“What happens?” The man standing at the counter asked.
I ignored him, checking my vitals on the computer. Surprisingly, I suffered the least amount of damage between me and my mechs. One thing about being a cybernetic, you were detached from pain and could heal very fast. Still though, I had a lot to do. First off, I had to prompt the Big Daddy not to go into combat mode upon first boot-up, post meltdown. Secondly, I had to painstakingly spend hours analyzing the the three mechs to figure out what can be salvaged and what can be replaced. Thirdly, I had to read over my schematics for each and begin building out the components that need replacing. And lastly, I needed to dismantle each one down to the tiniest screw and bolt, clean them and put them back together.
This was all beyond overwhelming.
“I have the worst luck…” I said to myself.
“Why do you say that?” Galveston asked.
“Look at me!” I snarled, holding up my hands. It was then I realized my gauntlets and my watch were gone. I began to panic, those being my most prized possessions. I looked at Galveston, completely and utterly devastated.
“What?” He asked.
“Where are my gauntlets and my watch?” I asked. Galveston pointed to the counter where the strange man continued to stand. There they were, my gauntlets and my watch, sitting there unscathed. I sighed, collapsing on the pillows in relief.
“I’m guessing they are important as well?” Galveston laughed.
“Yeah, you have no idea.” I chuckled, staring at the roof.
“I haven’t caught your name.” He said.
“I’m Tanzanir Aheed… People either call me Zanir, or Bun-Bun. You pick.” I sighed.
“Why Bun-Bun?” He asked.
“Because when I was a little boy, I had really long hair and shit. So I’d roll it into a bun that sat on my head, and since my hair is really coarse and curly, the bun was often the size of my head.” I laughed.
“So,” Galveston began, “About this prototype thingy? You can stay as long as you like to build a functioning full sized model.”
“I don’t approve…” The man leaning on the counter said.
“Dad!” Galveston pled, turned to him.
“I don’t want to stay too long. I seem to bring unwanted attention everywhere I go. I’m just bad luck…” I said.
“You can’t be serious.” Galveston responded.
“Try having darker skin, kinky hair and a fat nose for one day and you’ll see precisely what I’m talking about. Every since I was a kid, people viewed me as an oddity. Now that I’m grown, they view me as something menacing, like a threat… I’m not at all menacing!” I sighed.
“I disagree wholeheartedly.” Galveston’s dad chuckled.
“Ay man, I tried to keep from killing ya folks as long as I could but when ya’ll shot my mechs... I lost all restraint.” I said in my defense.
“Well, it’s a dog eat dog world. Sometimes you gotta fuck a few to move a few.” Galveston shrugged.
“Well at least ya understand.” I sighed, leaning back up to use my laptop.
“Oh and can you reactivate my network? I can’t get past your security protocol.” Galveston asked.
“Sure.” I said.
It didn’t take me long to remap his servers the way he had them originally. The entire time, he stared at me as though I were a big conundrum.
“How old are you, man…” He asked.
“Twenty…” I said.
“You don’t look a day past five…” He teased.
“Shut up…” I said.
“It’s always the unassuming ones…” His father added.
“I know! That girl and that dude were total bad assess too!” Galveston responded.
“Wait, how are they?” I asked.
“They fucking got away!” He responded.
“Oh,” I said, remembering Beth did write me back.
“Who were they?” Galveston asked.
“I don’t know if I should say…” I said.
“Come on…!” Galveston prodded.
“They are the two Logatti youngsters, one seventeen, the other twenty. The girl was my best friend. Her brother, not so much… he had came after her when she left to help me and nearly fucked up everything. But I worked out in the end... glad they got away.” I responded.
“I figured they were Logatti. No one ever heads East…” Galveston’s father said.
“Well, I hope they’re alright. They really went an extra mile to make sure I got away… I kinda can’t believe it.” I said, thinking back on it.
“You seldom find people that dedicated to you these days…. Loyalty is so rare. I say you struck gold, Mr. Aheed.” Galveston’s father responded. He left the room, leaving me alone with Galveston.
It was so surreal, being in here with this boy. I never in my life had seen someone so gorgeous...EVER! He was well built, I mean a walking tank, six foot plus, two plus pounds, off-set by his boyish face. It worked so well, God it worked so well!!!!
He had a strong brow with dense honey colored eyebrows. His eyes were striking, not for their color which was ember, but for their shape. They were not almond shaped like mine but far deeper set. The upper eyelids gently arched over into the straight line of the lower eyelids. They weren’t creased like most people, hidden behind layers of epidermal tissues.
His nose was the perfect match for those eyes. It was small and slender fanning into one that was rather bulbous. His cheeks were high and full, having the same plumpness of his brows. Then came those full, pink lips which were also was just as plump as everything else on his face. How dare he say I look like a toddler! He looked just as young as I did if not more.
It truly made me wonder just how old he was. With a body like that he, at the minimum, had to be at least twenty three years old. He was just all around beautiful, hell I’d say even more ‘better looking’ than Ezekiel and quite frankly, it was hard to look better than Ezekiel... even on his worst of days. I think it was Galveston’s freckles. I was a sucker for any type of odd pigmentation and his just worked so well for him.
His interesting looks aside, I began the long process of figuring out what was damaged on my mechs. I stayed up all night doing so, not resting. Galveston had gone but came back the next morning seeing me still typing away.
“Wow… Did you sleep any?” He asked.
“Nope…” I said back.
“Come on, get out the bed.” He said.
“No, I’m doing work and shit.” I said back.
“Well do work and shit outside of a hospital…” He teased. I sighed putting my laptop to the side. I got up, catching a whiff of the odor howling under my armpits.
“God I smell.” I said shaking my head.
“So…” Galveston said, walking over to help me out of the bed.
“Back back, I got this!” I said, managing to get to my feet.
“Dude you got shot in the stomach twice and once in the thigh...let me help…” He insisted, grabbing my arm, unplugging the catheter needle from my arm as well as closing the backside of my gown.
“Let me atleast take a shower first…” I said.
“Don’t be long...I got work to do.” He said.
“Alright,” I responded, heading into the bathroom. Talking to him, even in this way, felt like talking to a friend I’ve known for years. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but it was just a strange way he carried himself that was easy to connect to.
I didn’t stay in the shower long, scrubbing down all my extremities and drying off with a towel. I then realized I had nothing to change into.
“AY!” I shouted.
“Yeah…” Galveston responded.
“Where are my clothes?” I asked.
“They’re here. They’ve been washed for you.” He said. I opened the door, extending my hand out. He handed them to me.
“You know you could have done all of this back at the Flats right?” He asked.
“Eh…” I sighed, closing the door. It truly was strange how comfortable he could make me feel. I put on my clothes and exited the bathroom. Galveston handed me my my bag with all my electronics neatly placed in it. Upon looking, they were placed in each compartment that I would normally place them in. Considering the back had tons of pockets and compartments, it was very, very odd...
He lead me out of the hospital room and down the hall.
“So, how was life at the A99?” He asked.
“It was ok… Very easy going if you didn’t have much work to do. It could get boring really fast but I always had a thing for gadgets and shit so I always had something to do.” I responded.
“So no one really showed you how to do anything?” He asked.
“No, it was like I already knew how...strangely. But, I didn’t always have to motor skills and they began to develop when I was ten or so. It has something to do with the cybernetic side of my brain. It already had a lot of information in it… I as a mere human had to learn the depths of it.” I explained.
“...Kind of like soul searching.” He suggested. I looked at him, really liking the analogy.
“In a way.” I smiled.
We exited the infirmary, the sight outside being utterly mesmerising. Mounds of colorful junk sat everywhere, televisions, stoves, radios, billboards cars, robots… Thing is, all of it still worked, making a strange bustle to this region of Jeurridam. Galveston walked in front of me with arms outstretched, showcasing this to me.
“Welcome to The Outskirts! It’s my favorite part of Jeurridam… magical in a way.” He smiled.
“How is this stuff still working?” I asked.
“There is a strange electromagnetic output from deep within this area. It’s called the Flux… It scrambles with all my electronics so I tend to not bring anything, only coming for the beauty.” He said, continuing to walk forth.
I looked back at the infirmary.
“Why put a hospital in such an odd location?” I asked.
“Who knows...but it’s really close to the Flats and considering how everyone who stays in the Flats has to be treated weekly for new injuries, I say it’s the perfect location.” Galveston laughed.
“Well, you got a point.” I said, “Now will everyone be looking at me like I’m some sort of monster when I go there? I mean, technically I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Eh, everyone is always brash here. It’s all about testosterone… people with brains are a minority.” He sighed.
“Ugh, tell me about it! Between my best friend and I, we were the only ones who used our heads for much of anything. Her brother, the boy that was with us the other day, he’s as dumb as a box of chalk. I mean some of the things he says...like… Oh my god.” I said, truly mind boggled.
“Like what?”Galveston asked curiously.
“He pretty much stated he can’t stand me for the way I looked….like that’s something I can help about myself.” I said.
“Well, that’s the kind of bullshit you’ll definitely face here. However, I think you can hold your own. You seem as tough as hell...nearly fatally wounded but walking away damn nearly unscathed, two days later? You’re damn near immortal, man.” Galveston said.
“Who um,” I began, “Who did my surgery?”
“Well, my dad took the bullets out of you. One of the nurses stapled and rodded you back up.” Galveston said, “Strangely, they said your body was pushing the bullets out of the wounds and already trying to heal when on a normal person, the wound would seal around the bullet and attempt to heal that way.”
“I must had gotten shot with a handgun. I would have expected the bullets to pass right through me.” I pondered.
“Yeah, June shot you with a nine. He has the best aim of all of us.” Galveston added, “And, I’m sorry for shooting your mechs. I didn’t know they were…”
“It’s fine… I really hate apologies. They kind of dip my head in what I already am forgetting.” I giggled.
“Well, point taken.” He said, “When was the last time you ate?”
“I don’t know… It’s one of the drawbacks of being cybernetic. I can’t tell when I’m hungry, or dehydrated, or exhausted. Sometimes, I just crash.” I responded.
“Really?” Galveston asked, surprised.
“Yeah. I can generally remember when I am not doing anything to mentally strenuous.” I laughed.
“Well,” Galveston said moving a panel of sheet metal, “That’s good to know.” He pointed towards a tiny passage. I walked through it, he followed, closing the way behind us. He squeezed past me in the tight quarters, giving me a smile. He continued forward, reaching a metal wall. He tapped it, digging his fingers into some slots. A pressure lock popped and he pushed it open, the metal wall actually being a door.
“This is the back entry to my mechanic's shop.” He said.
We were in the Inventory Warehouse, it being far larger than I thought. The rafters had been changed into a living space obviously for Galveston and his father. I couldn’t see it in vast detail but it looked very comfortable.
On the other side of the Inventory Warehouse was another heavy metal door. Galveston opened it, the inventory room being connected to a massive garage. It was filled with many Merchant Clan goons. They looked at me, having to pause what they were doing. They resumed, obviously not willing to say anything. However, it was quite clear how they felt. I didn’t belong here and I killed several of their own.
Walking through the garage was torturous. I could feel eyes scanning me up and down, trying to figure out what to make of me. I didn’t look very threatening now compared to two days ago. Would I become a target to an attack? Would I be subjected to cruelty for the things I’ve done? Would I be treated with the same kindness Galveston showed me? All these questions loomed in my head.
Galveston led me to the mechs, the Big Daddy laying across several tables put together. The Orbs sat on two tables pressed against the wall. I was so glad to see them. I walked over to the Big Daddy, prying open his torso panel. My father’s brain stem was still connected in it’s tiny little capsule, perfectly unscathed. The hole that burned through the back of the Mech was three inches shy of destroying the brain stem capsule and making contact with the fission fuel core.
My heart shuddered at the thought. I unplugged the capsule, placing it over on an adjacent table. I then went back and unplugged the fission core. A big sigh of relief left me. I had to sit, this truly being tedious and taxing on me.
“What’s that.” Galveston asked pointing at both the fuel core and the brainstem capsule.
“The clear thing is my dad’s brain. He died a few years back and I made this Mech for him.” I responded, “It’s an advanced life support system.”
“Oh wow,” Galveston said, shocked, “I didn’t know!” He looked at the hole he had blown into the Big Daddy, feeling deep remorse.
Prying open the chest compartment of the Big Daddy, I saw a grim sight.
“Oh shit…” I sighed, damn near devastated.
“What?” Galveston asked. I reached into the chest cavity pulling out the Leer, the Cyberlope Android. It had partially been destroyed by the shot, most of the electronics smelted.
“Ooooh,” Galveston said, knowing this was a big deal.
I quickly whipped out my laptop, connecting the android to it. I was relieved to see that all the encrypted data it stored was unscathed. Again, I gave a heavy sigh of releif.
“Everything is still intact. The poor thing just got ruined though…” I said, deeply saddened.
“I’m so sorry!” Galveston responded.
“Well, it seems we have no choice but to build a complete full scale model,” I said, trying to be optimistic, “You have a 3D printer?”
“Yeah, why?” He asked.
“Yeah, why?” He asked.
“All the electronics I made for these machines were printed from a 3D printer.” I said.
“But most of the design you implemented was metal. My printer only can print composites.” He said.
“Well now, it seems we must trick out your 3D printer.” I smiled.
“Wait you made a 3D printer that actually can print metal?” He asked, further astounded. I pulled up the schematic for my 3D printer on the laptop. I turned it showing it to him.
“Yeah…” I said.
“Oh shit!!!!” Galveston said, taken aback by the sight.
“I got to um,” I began, “I got to review my schematics for my mechs for now which might take days. If you want to build the printer, I suggest we head out now.”
“I can do that. This doesn’t look too challenging.” Galveston said.
“Well,” I said picking up the laptop, “Here.”
He grabbed it, looking at the schematic meticulously.
“Yeah, I can find this material laying around here in a few hours.” He said, “Bones!”
“Yeah, boss?” A very skinny and pasty mechanic, working on one of the damaged buggies from the constant desert battles, said.
“I’m gonna need your help looking for some parts.” Galveston said.
“OK.” Bones said, placing down his wrench. He walked up the platform to where Galveston and I stood. Bones took one look at me and never made eye contact with me again. He too wasn’t pleased I was here. Maybe I had killed someone he was close to.
“Just get the cart and we’ll be off.” Galveston said, steadily reviewing the laptop.
“Sure thing…” Bones said, unenthused.
The two left the garage, leaving me alone with thirty odd-ish men who didn’t at all care for me. Sill though, I had a vast amount of work to do. I reached in my bag, getting my hollowatch out. I placed it on the table and began pulling up the vitals for the Big Daddy. Side by side, I placed the schematics next to it and compared the damaged areas to the areas of the blueprints. Mostly, it was a lot of wires and circulatory parts as well as armor, the speech cog, one of the many gyroscopes and the pitch controller.
Someone came up the platform, slowly pacing around staying just out of sight.
“You built these things, huh?” The man asked.
“Yeah,” I said.
“I bet it hurt you a great deal when we shot them up, didn’t it?” He continued to ask. It was then and I there I knew not to carry on with this dude. I gave no response.
“It was quite obvious...you went on a rampage, ya know.” He persisted.
“I know...I remember!” I said, truly wishing he’d stop bothering me.
“Well how do you think it felt when you killed some of our own?” He asked, suddenly coming into view. I didn’t recognize him, but he was striking.
He was very well groomed, his black hair slicked back over his head. He wore thin glasses that made his rather piercing eyes all the more menacing. They were a very cold blue. His nose and lips were very thin and chiseled sharply, maintaining the hardened appearance. And like mostly everyone else, of course he was much taller than me being at least six feet.
“I don’t care….” I sighed.
“Of course you wouldn’t. But seeing as actual lives were lost that we never can get back versus your mechs, which can easily be repaired…”
“My dad was in this mech,” I said pointing to the Big Daddy, “And that shot came three inches close to ending him forever. If you really want to know, that’s why I went on the rampage. At the time, I thought he was truly gone…”
“So,” The man said, walking over to the capsule, “This little glass thing is your dad?”
He picked it up, inspecting it in his hands.
“Put it down…” I demanded.
“How’d you feel if I dropped it?” He teased. I grew more and more on edge.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked.
“Because, you took several of our own yet you’re still here...this,” He said looking at the capsule in his hands, “...Is still here.”
“I didn’t hurt anyone until I had to. When I first came for the Android, I exercised extreme restraint with you all! I didn’t even injure any of you! But when you came for me, you shot my mechs...Yeah, then it was time to not give a fuck about restraint. Everything that happened up until this point...I have BEEN PUSHED TO IT!” I said, growing less tolerable of him.
“Oh, so we’re the bad guys because we chased you down for stealing from us?” He asked.
“I didn’t steal from you. The Leer was mine and was stolen from me… I even gave you all twice what it was sold to you… You know what. I don’t have to explain shit to you. I have work to do… I’m sorry I killed some of your crew but, you all shot at me first. But I’m not sorry for retaliating.” I sighed, “Now let this be the end of this discussion...and please… put my father DOWN!”
“Relax dude,” The man said, “I’m not gonna drop it.” He placed it back on the counter and left, “I’m only fucking with you man. And, since we’re apologizing and shit...Sorry I shot you.”
He walked away, hands in his pocket as he returned to his perch across the garage. So this was June, the sharp-shooter Galveston’s father described.
“Wow…” I chuckled to myself, getting back to work. It was not just detailing the specific parts that had to be replaced. I had to figure out what sockets were damaged, what wires and circuits needed to be replaced and how these parts should be routed back into the chassis of the Big Daddy. Not only that, but I had to do the same for the Orbs.
One was functionally destroyed, the only things working on it was the wings and flight components. Hell, even the flight cog was intact. The main computer, storage devices, optical sensors, auditory sensors, depth cogs, graphical rendering processors, ISP and the entire motherboard took a hit. Also, the thirty milimeter cannon as well as the mini array of tack missles were in pretty good shape.
It gave me quite the idea. Maybe I could put the wings and flight components on the Big Daddy, increasing it’s mobility. Much like the ceramic coated rare metal blades that could float freely, the wings were made out of the same material. When a charge ran through them, they were able to reverse gravity, warping it enough to make a vacuum on the underside of the wing. This vaccum made the pressure on the topside of the wing less than the pressure underneath the wing, causing not only lift...but thrust.
Considering the time it would take to fix the Big Daddy and the Orb that suffered less damage, I might as well. I could melt the extremely damaged Orb down and build a full sized, fully functioning Leer Android. I could also put the spare thirty millimeter cannon on it, hell even the missile array. The possibilities were endless, truly.
I then began redesigning the Big Daddy and the Leer Android schematics to fit the new equipment. It took hours of careful rerouting of power supplies and vital sensors, but knowing the benefits, it’d be more than worth it. During that time, Galveston and Bones had returned with several tons of spare metal.
Everyone looked on, surprised. Even Bones looked on, unsure what all of this was for. Galveston, still holding my laptop, ran up the platform to me.
“You designed this printer yourself?” He asked.
“No, my dad did.” I said. He looked at the the projected hollogram, the images taking his breath away.
“Whoa, this is what you’re gonna do?” He asked.
“Yeah...I might as well.” I said back, “Do you have a silicon machine?”
“Yeah, but...” He said unsure if it would be to my standards.
“If it can make twenty four by twenty four chips down to five nanometer dies then it’s more than enough.” I said.
“Well then, you’re good.” He laughed.
“Ok,” I said popping my knuckles, “One last question...where do you smelt your metal?”
“That’s my job!” Someone on the floor level said. He ran up the platform.
“Zanir, this is Swish! He’s our leading metalsmith. Anything you show him, he can forge down to the tiniest detail.” Galveston said.
“Well, hi there.” I said, reaching to shake his hand.
“Nice to meet you, Zanir…” Swish said, looking at me intently, “What’s like...your background?”
“I’m Illisian.” I chuckled.
“Whoa, you’ve come far! How is life over there?” He asked.
“I don’t know I never’ve been. I’m from Canada.” I laughed, “Vancouver actually, but I’m trying to get to Labrador.”
“Well, if you can manage to fly there, that’s a twenty seven hundred mile flight. But on foot, you’re looking at over four thousand miles. You got a long trek, sir.” Swish laughed.
“Yeah, it’s kind of daunting. But,” I began, picking up my watch, “You see this?” I pulled up the schematic of the massive 3D printer. He held up two fingers.
“Two hours…” He said.
And he was right. He constructed the frame for the 3D printer in less than two hours, in fact, one hour, fifty six minutes, twenty two seconds. Not only that, but it was constructed with some damn solid accuracy too. Now what was left was the circuitry and wiring. All I had to do was hook up my laptop to Galveston’s silicon machine and let it build the chipsets. That would take about forty five minutes of laser etching and automated soldering.
In that time, I had set up the wiring, placing it in the necessary grooves needed to power the electronics. However, I couldn’t quite reach the nine foot high lintel. Wasting no time, I climbed the structure with the wire in my hand, reaching the lintel. I scooted across it, upside down until I was able to get upright. I stood on the inch and a half wide lintel, routing the wiring through it. I lept down, not too pleased I had to do the other side.
Just as I was about to climb up again, Galveston brought me a ladder.
“Oh..” I said.
“Yeah, we have one of these.” He said, jokingly. He held the ladder steady as I climbed it. I pulled the remaining wiring through this side of the lintel. Now all that was left was to build the crane motor, the optics and the composite chamber. That would definitely take all night and indeed it did.
Even when the garage was empty, Galveston, Bones, Swish and I stayed to put the finishing touches on the 3D printer. The reservoir was filled with scrap metal, plastics and composites. It was time for the first print sample. With my laptop connected, I prompted the machine to print off a tiny metal statue of a horse. It was a tense few seconds as the machine initialized. When it began printing, we were more than ecstatic. I cheered out, collapsing to the floor in both relief and exhaustion…. Well, I was already on the floor, I just pretty much laid down and looked at the ceiling.
“I can’t believe it’s actually printing metal…” Galveston said astonished, watching the machine ooze tiny spheres of molten metal, fusing them together to form the bass of the statue.
“This is going to save us so much time,” I sighed, “I pretty much just got to print off the new components and dismantle the old drones.”
“So will that be easier for you?” Galveston asked.
“No, just quicker. I have no less work to do though…” I said, still daunted by the matter.
“Eh, that’s some dedication…” Swish said.
“You have no idea what all of this means. I have so much to do apart from building, alone.” I laughed.
“Well if it makes a difference, I’ll try to help where I can.” Galveston said. It felt odd considering he knew very little about my actual motives. Either he was incredibly off, incredibly naive or incredibly nice. Maybe he had his own motives. I couldn’t quite be sure.
“Hell I can use more help than that…” I sighed, “Dismantling the mechs will be no easy feat.”
“I know nothing about machines…” Swish said.
“Me either…” Bones responded.
“I only know one person who can help…” I said.
“Who?” Galveston asked.
“Beth… But lets not mention to her that I got shot. She’s crazy as fuck, man.” I laughed.
“You two seem like quite the friends…” Galveston noted.
“Yeah, she pretty much was my only friend. She’s the only one who ever bothered to care about me so I repaid her the only way I know how. I taught her everything I know.” I added.
“Lucky her…” Galveston said.
“I’m going to contact her.” I said, leaning up looking down at my watch.
“We’ll need to make sure she comes through The Outskirts. People will remember her face and that certainly won’t be good. Plus, I’m catching more flak than I’d like, for helping you. I don’t need anyone else breathing down my neck but eh...it is what it is.” Galveston said.
“Why are you going to these lengths to help me?” I asked. It truly was beginning to bug me. I hoped I wouldn’t regret his response.
“You’re a brilliant dude and I aim to learn as much from you as I can.” He said.
“Eh, fair…” I said, though I didn’t really believe it was fair at all. I just knew this dude was too good to be true, knew he had to have some catch. Heh, well I guess nothing comes free in this world. This is what I got for getting my hopes up...a student.
Still though, I contacted Beth, giving her the necessary information to find this place.
“Tell her to be at the Outskirts at fourteen.” Galveston said.
“Sure…” I sighed, starting to lose all enthusiasm of wanting to be around him. And I was right, this wasn’t fair. This wasn’t fair of me to want to treat him this way. Afterall, Galveston was the only one who truly wanted to help me. It’s just the scheming of his...I don’t know. Well, he had the courtesy to be truthful with me but he wasn’t being honest. Still though, I couldn’t help but be bothered.
It truly made me wonder what would happen if I just said I wanted to leave. Would he let me go or get mad and trap me here like I had been trapped back at A99. Galveston obviously had quite a significant role here and it would be very easy for him to do something like that. It was a thought that would always loom in the back of my head.
I just sat, waiting for a response. It didn’t take long, Beth asking where in the Outskirts to meet up. I wasn’t too familiar with the Outskirts in general.
“Where are the Ourtskirts and how do you get to them from the North?” I asked.
“They are on the northernmost stretch of the Red Rock Canyons and I don’t know.” Galveston said.
“How vague…” I sighed, sending the GPS coordinates instead.
“You get a little grouchy when you’re sleepy.” Galveston chuckled.
“Ooooou sleep.” I sighed, thinking about it.
“It’s been a while?” Galveston asked, thinking about how I tended to neglect myself.
“Yeah.” I said.
“Come on,” Galveston said, walking towards the the door to the Inventory Warehouse, “Lets get you some sleep.”
Unsure what to make of this, I got up, following. I looked back at Bones and Swish who waved goodnight to me. I waved back, heading through the door. Galveston led me up a flight of stairs hidden behind several shelves. As he led me up the stairs, he held his index finger above his lip. It was for good reason. His father was sleeping and I don’t think I was supposed to be up here. But for some reason, Galveston went to quite an extremes. I just didn’t get it.
His quarters were right over the garage, separated by the same wall. It made the space very secluded and quiet. He locked the door behind him making me question his intentions.
“It’s gonna be hard sneaking you out of here in the morning…” He chucked.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked. He turned to me, looking intently.
“You don’t trust me?”
“I don’t trust anyone… I don’t know you, know what you may have planned, what you want out of this! I already got hurt once, and I’m not gonna be a fool twice.” I said.
“I don’t trust anyone… I don’t know you, know what you may have planned, what you want out of this! I already got hurt once, and I’m not gonna be a fool twice.” I said.
“It’s just that I’m trying hard to get you to trust me. I really, really, really haven’t met another person like me before, someone who loves technology as much as I do. I don’t want to mess up anything but it’s so hard when everyone has shit to say and pits so much against you…” He sighed.
“I really don’t know how long I’m gonna be here. Don’t you think it’s a bad idea to get too close?” I asked.
“No.” He said walking over to his bed.
“Maybe we view the world in two different ways. When I see an opportunity, I pounce on it! I won’t let it slip me by without at least taking a crack at it.” He said.
“So I’m just an opportunity?” I asked.
“No, I mean...Gawd I’m an idiot…” He said, falling back onto the bed.
“Explain yourself.” I said.
“I really, really, really like you. Not just like you, I mean I like you, like you. I know I sound like a child but shit man… you do nothing but amaze me.” He said.
“I don’t know what to say…”
“It’s ok if you don’t feel the same. I still want to help you as much as I can. And I know we could never be considering you’re gonna be leaving soon...but it was worth a shot.” He said, sounding disenchanted.
“Don’t be so sure. I really don’t want to head north by myself and someone with your skill could be useful. I’ve contemplated this since the moment I discovered your wireless infrastructure and the turrets. Plus, your inventions show so much promise and I’d love to teach you everything I know.” I offered.
Galveston leaned up to view me.
“You sure?” He asked, surprised by my answer.
“Yeah…” I said.
“But that’s not all I want.” He said, hinting at his romantic feelings.
“Dude,” I began, “We’ve only known each other for a day… Chill.”
“Well, I’ll try again tomorrow...and the day after that...and the day after that.” He laughed.
“Why am I lying,” I began, “The first moment I saw you, I wanted to stumble over myself. You just seemed too good to be true.”
“Too good to be true? What do you mean?” He asked.
“You’re too perfect...there’s nothing wrong with you.” I said.
“Yeah, says the cybernetic,” Galveston laughed, “I’m more fucked up than you’ll ever know. Try my cooking!”
“I don’t know, it’s just… At A99, I was trapped. I couldn’t leave, do anything, was a slave and some things that happened today shared some striking similarities to things of my past. It just has me on edge.” I said.
“I’d never do anything like that! I promise you this! You’re too brilliant to force one’s bidding upon. And you still never told me how Ezekiel stole the Leer.” Galveston said.
“He tried getting really close to me, did so and when I was gone, he took it and sold it. I was devastated, lost my temper and bam...I ended up here tracking down the Leer.” I explained, vaguely.
“I know all about Ezekiel’s past. You want to talk about someone you can’t trust, him! I know the depths he’s willing to go to get what he wants… He’s a dark and twisted person and I say you did a good thing getting away from him.” Galveston said.
“You know, I grew up with Ezekiel… I watched his spiral happen day by day. I just think he needs some serious help because he’s one hurt and angry kid...hell we all are these days. I just can’t come to putting his evils past anyone elses, not when I know him so well.” I said in Ezekiel’s defense.
“I’m guessing you two were very close, then?” Galveston asked.
“No, he pretty much made my life hell. His father gave me more attention than I he ever did to Ezekiel and he was full of resentment from that. Not feeling the love from his father, he eventually looked for it in other places, finding it on Vegas. God knows what happened to him, but when he came back he was a different person and it only got worse from that point. Even though he fucking did me wrong throughout all my life, and I don’t want to justify anything he did...I understand him.” I sighed.
“Ezekiel and I used to be buddies. We got really close until he made a move on me and got bloody angry when I refused to do anything with him. So he got revenge the only way he knew how...he stole from me. What he stole was my ride, my buggy with the photon rifle. I marched right over to A99 and got it back.... I wanted to beat him so bad, but it was the last time we spoke. This was about three years ago. We both were eighteen.” Galveston said.
“Eh, I wouldn’t have known. I stayed cooped up in the workshed all day and no one really told me much about anything.”
“Well, that’s no life.” Galveston teased.
“Tell me about it. It was like prison…” I sighed.
“Well how does it feel to be free to make your own choices.” He asked.
“It feels surreal. It makes you wonder what is the true definition of free. If it isn’t one thing it’s another. I may be free of captivity but I’m not free of duties that I must fulfill and quite frankly, I didn’t ask for the duties. I’m only fulfilling them because there’s a bigger picture out there than me…” I answered.
“All of this is over that Leer? What’s on it?”
“It’s so heavily encrypted, I can’t even tell you. It’s impossible to hack, only a powerful software algorithm can crack it and that is in Labrador… My father said that some of the information was too valuable to put in my brain so he put it in a heavily encrypted SSD… He still never told me what it was. All things considered though, I believe it is very, very important so I’ll do this job. After that, who knows what life has in stored for me.”
“So you don’t even know… It sounds like some important shit! What exactly does it pertain to?” He asked.
“It’s related to the UCAC. He was the lead engineer. I mean I know a lot but it’s a lot that I don’t know… I have questions of my own that my dad refused to answer.” I chuckled.
“How’d you used to talk to him? I thought he died when you were very little?” Galveston asked confused.
“I connected his capsule to a brainwave transponder which converted his thoughts to text. You wanna know something funny?” I said.
“What?” He asked.
“I had been working for years on a speech cog for the Big Daddy. I finally got it to working moments before you shot a hole through it.” I laughed.
Galveston didn’t find it funny at all. He slowly slid down from his bed to the floor, feeling guilty.
“Why would you tell me that?” He asked.
“I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s fine. I’m just exhausted, you’re exhausted… We need sleep.” He said. I looked on in confusion.
“Where exactly am I supposed to sleep?” I asked.
“What’s wrong with sharing a bed?” He responded seeing nothing wrong with it. He was pure innocence in a burly form, but still…
“So...I’m supposed...to sleep...in the bed with you?” I asked.
“Don’t think of it that way! It’s just sharing sleeping space!” He laughed.
“How can I not think of it that way with all that was just said?” I responded, too laughing.
“Well,” He began still laughing, “Think of it like this. I will have my side...unless you want to share. I won’t touch you...unless you want me to touch you… Now if we wake up snuggled against each other, that is a sign of fate...now you have been warned!”
He surely had a way with words and took the awkwardness out of the room. Not to mention, his bed was fucking huge. If I went to sleep on one side and he did the other, there’d be no possible way we’d end up snuggling together. Of course I was wrong. I woke up, wrapped in two big strong arms, wondering precisely how this managed to happen. However, I did nothing to stop this. Things were moving at a blazing pace and I wasn’t one to slow things down. If what we felt for each other was true, then I couldn’t pass this up for the world.
But why now though? Why would this happen during a time when I need to be on the move with no attachments to anyone? Why does this have to be made so complicated, so difficult? Hell, if I was one hundred percent human, I probably wouldn’t feeling this way. The curse of being a cybernetic is that you just can’t merely fall head over heels for someone. You’re aware of their every move, their differentials in body language, there changes in intonation. You could never truly have love without treating it like a science and quite frankly, I didn’t know if I wanted that.
Still though, there was no denying that I was falling for Galveston fast but he had fallen for me even faster. For the sake of us though, I had to take it slow. With so much at stake, a relationship would certainly get in the way.
Suddenly, the loud buzzing of an alarm clock woke him up. He sprung up, startled that his arms were wrapped around my waist, holding me tightly against himself. He tapped the alarm clock, thinking I too was just waking up. I leaned up, my hair becoming undone in sleep. It hang over my face with wild kinks going in every direction. I looked over at the clock. It was six in the morning, the time I’d normally wake up. However, I had a truly major concern.
“My hair is about to fucking self destruct…” I said, pushing it back over my head.
“What’s wrong with it?” Galveston asked, scratching his chest.
“It’s getting dry,” I said, trying to find my scrunchy in this massive expanse of a bed, “My hair is really coarse so it soaks up all moisture really, really fast. I just don’t want it to get brittle and break.”
“How do you go about maintaining porous hair?” He asked inquisitively.
“You just to to keep it moisturized...I had a jar of moisturizer in my bag. I left it down stairs.” I sighed, finally finding the scrunchy.
“I gotta check to see where dad is. It’s his off day so he may be sleeping in. If so, I can sneak you out.” He said, placing a hand on the door. He opened it, venturing forth. He came back seconds later, gesturing for me to come.
I did, exiting his room as quietly as possible. We snuck down the stairs to the garage where I had my bag of essentials. I grabbed it and we made our way back up the stairs, to Galveston’s room.
“Wait, what day is it?” Galveston asked.
“Sunday…” I responded.
“Oh, shop’s closed to day! This is a really good thing!” He smiled.
“That’s good then...there won’t be any people looking at me like I’m satan…” I said, taking out various jars.
“Whoa, all of that goes in your hair?” He asked.
“No, some on my skin… But the green jar, the brown jar and the white jar...that stuff goes on my hair. The yellow and red jars, face and skin.” I responded.
“Whoa man, seems you care a lot about your appearance.” He laughed.
“Not really… I only care about my skin, oral and hair health. It’s funny how I can remember this stuff but completely forget to eat and drink…” I said.
He picked up the green jar, wondering what the hell this could be. He popped the lid, catching a whiff. He expected it to be smelly but it wasn’t.
“It smells like lemonade.” He noted.
“It’s lime juice mixed with avocado and olive oil. It’s a detangling conditioner.” I said.
“What about the brown and white one?” He asked.
“The brown one is honey and tea tree oil, mixed with argon oil. The white one is shea butter mixed with gum tree sap and specially treated butter.”
“Wait, actual butter?”
“Ew…” He laughed.
“Smell it…” I said. He picked it up, smelling the sweet aroma.
“It makes me want biscuits…” He sighed, “Is any of this stuff edible?”
“The lime juice one is, but I can’t be sure. I wouldn’t eat it.” I laughed. I picked up the brown and green hair agents as well as some black soap and fresh undergarments.
It was then I noticed the strange layout of his room. I must had really been exhausted if I missed this last night, or maybe it was because it was very dim. There were no walls dividing his wardrobe, bathroom or much of anything. One corner of the room was his bed, the other the bathroom and the other the wardrobe. It left this big empty space in the middle of the room.
“How did I not notice this before?” I asked rhetorically.
“I know my room’s weird but…” He said, trying to justify the weird floor plan of his room. He could think of anything to say.
“Well, let me hurry and take a shower. You got anything I could wear?” I asked.
“Sure...my closet’s yours…” He teased.
I walked over to the massive basin tub which had a shower curtain ring hanging around it. I hopped in, taking off my clothes, hanging them on the shower ring. I scrubbed down vigorously, making sure I washed my hair thoroughly with the conditioners. I tried not to stay long in the shower but with this much hair to make sure was moisturized, I stayed a little longer than I liked.
“Keep the water running.” I heard Galveston say.
“Alright,” I said, “Can I get a towel?”
“Sure.” He responded, passing me one through the shower curtain. I got out of the shower, walking over to the sink to ring out my hair. Looking in the mirror, I watched Galveston get into the shower.
Not wanting to feel like a stalker, I walked back over to his bed which he had already made while I was in the shower. My stuff was put neatly on the dresser. I reached for the white jar, popping it open. This hair solution was much thicker than the others. I massaged it into my scalp and making sure my hair was really well saturated with it. I then grabbed the scrunchy and wrapped my hair into a very loose and curly bun.
Then came the rest of the beauty routines before getting dressed in my pick of Galveston’s clothes. Mostly everything was oversized but I found the smallest tank top he had and a pair of shorts that he obviously had for a very long time. They even fit snug on me. I put my robe on, not bothering to close it. Today, I decided not to wear the turban, placing it into my bag.
“Zanir!” Galveston said.
“Yeah?” I responded.
“Head on down stairs… My dad won’t be up until one or two. He’ll really sleep in today.” Galveston said.
“Alright.” I responded, grabbing my bag.
I headed out of the room, walking past Galveston’s sleeping father. It was definitely nerve wracking as the man tossed and turned. I kept thinking his eyes were going to spring open at any moment. When I reached the stairs, it was so relieving. I headed towards the garage, it being already packed to the brim with local motor vehicle fanatics.
They all flocked around the 3D printer on the upper platform. I made my way over to the Big Daddy, getting noticed by the crowd.
“Dude…” Someone said, “You built this?”
“No, Swish built it. I only wired it and put in the computers.” I responded, opening my laptop.
“So we can print off car parts from it without having to weld them by hand?” The man asked.
“Yeah…” I said.
“That’s awesome.” He said.
“How long did it take you to build?” Another man asked.
“It took about...eleven hours or so.” I said.
“Yeah, I was wondering what you all were building yesterday. I didn’t know it was going to be something this useful...though I don’t know how to work it.” Someone else added.
“It’s um... you have to have a rendering program on a computer and design whatever you want to be printed. That’s actually the hard part. Or if you have a 3D scanner, which the 3D printer has, you can make exact copies of whatever you need but…”
“Ooooou, so I can scan my bike and the printer can copy it?” The man asked.
“Not quite. It works best with components such as bumpers, doors panels, seats, frames, stuff of the likes. It isn’t quite a manufacturing machine.” I smiled.
“What about those?” The man asked pointing to the mechs, coming over for a closer look, “Were they 3D printed?”
“Their parts and panelling were but I still had to manually connect stuff.” I said, checking my laptop for messages. Beth did message me, stating ‘Things are getting strange over here. I’ve been teaching Ezekiel how to read and he’s catching on swiftly but ever since I left dad has become really clingy and overprotective. He’s been mean to all the boys, especially Heaven… We’ll talk when I get there.’
‘Alright… we also need to talk.’ I sent back.
Just then, Galveston came into the garage. He walked over to the table with the Big Daddy.
“You waste no time in getting to work, I see.” He said, closing my laptop as I typed.
“Why’d you do that?” I asked.
“It’s Sunday…. no one works on Sunday! We relax…” He said, stating the ground rules.
“You have to excuse me. I haven’t had an off day in about two years...I’m kind of wired to work.” I responded, “And plus, I was talking to Beth…”
“Oh, what did she say?” Galveston asked.
“She said things are pretty bad at home and that we need to talk when she gets here. I hope she’s alright…” I said full of worry.
“She’ll be ok..” Galveston said, propping up on the table with the Orbs.
“What the fuck am I supposed to do all day?” I asked.
“How about,” A voice began, “Answer some questions.”
I turned, Galveston’s father standing before us.
“You’re up rather early…” Galveston noted.
“All that sneaking around, I couldn’t help but wake up early. You know Galveston,” His father said, “Sometimes I really, really worry about you.”
It then dawned on me. Galveston was not out of the closet yet. It became apparent when he glared angrily at his father, arms folded.
“But that is not what I wanted to talk about… I wanted to talk about you, Tanzanir...your blood.” He said, “I spent all night at the infirmary looking at it…”
“Dispose of it!” I demanded.
“You have machines in your blood…” He noted.
“I’m not discussing it...dispose of the samples.” I said, reaching for my laptop.
“I saw what they were doing to your cells. They were keeping them alive hours after leaving your body. Would you like to explain this?” He prodded.
“NO!” I said growing angry, “I would NOT like to explain it! I will not discuss it further…”
“You’re walking around like everyone else but you have the cure for every disease, cancer, hell even immortality running through your blood and you want me to get rid of it?” He asked.
“Look,” I said firmly, “You either will get rid of it or I will!”
“Why such hostility? You know damn well this could help everyone...everyone in the world! You better have a damn good reason!” Galveston’s father said, challenging my stance.
There was a lot I could say, but discussing the cyber platelets in my blood was simply not an option. They were very, very dangerous in the wrong hands. These machines read human DNA, found flaws and reworked them. They didn’t change our DNA to make us perfect, but they did modify our metabolism, fought off disease and slowed down aging. They were completely intuned with my cybersphere, the network my brain pattern used, but I had no control over them. They acted as the faintest extension of the body. They also had the ability to replicate when their numbers get low, tricking the body into thinking they are cells.
With that being said, it was quite clear why they were dangerous. Anything with the ability to alter a human’s bodily functions, had the ability to destroy humanity altogether. This getting out was a true and utter nightmare. I had to lie to make sure that Galveston’s father would destroy this.
“It’s a weapon…” I said.
“What?” His father asked.
“It was meant to be used to destroy humanity years ago but never managed to do so. The fact that I have it in my blood is a mistake and I’m very, very lucky to be alive. It is one reason I am traveling north. They can take the machines out of my blood. I’m not even telling you to destroy it..I’m begging you. If my blood gets in contact with anyone’s orifices, they’ll die… a terrible death!” I said.
“So your blood doesn’t contain the cure for humanity but the death…” The man responded skeptically.
“It’s very, very dangerous… I’ve already warned you!” I said.
“I don’t believe you.” He said.
“Well put it in someone’s blood stream and watch every single last one of their organs shut down. Jaundice will spread all over their bodies as they throw up bile. Their skin will turn black and they’ll lose the ability to circulate oxygen in their blood. They’ll either die from too high of blood toxicity or their brain being depleted of oxygen. If you want that on your hands, go ahead but I’m afraid there’d be nothing I can do to help. What you’re toying with is the deadliest weapon of mass destruction ever created.” I continued.
“Yet, it’s in your blood.” He said.
Hearing the discussion, chatter broke out between the men in the garage. This was the last thing I needed.
“You obviously don’t believe me. You were warned…” I said.
“Dad, don’t risk it…” Galveston advised.
“I just don’t get how these little blood machines can keep you alive and well but kill everyone else…” His father said.
“I am far more machine than I appear. My entire nervous system has been replaced with cybernetic equivalents. The entire left side of my brain, is cybernetic. When you have machine and organic matter working together seamlessly...sometimes you have side-effects. One of those side effects is the fact that my bone marrow now produces these tiny machines and there’s nothing I can do about it. These things are built for my body but not for anyone elses. And since you don’t believe me, I can pull the documentation detailing this information up right now and you can read it for yourself.” I said.
“No need,” He said walking away, “You’ve done enough to prove your part as far as I’m concerned...just hurry about your business…”
The sense of relief I felt when he left was so soothing. Galveston looked at me intently.
“Were you being truthful?” He asked quietly.
“No but I was being honest…” I sighed.
“I don’t even want to ask…” He laughed, walking down the platform. As he did, June came into the garage. The strange dude greeted me with a nod before laying eyes on the 3D printer. He seemed impressed but said no words. He went to his buggy, sitting on the hood of it, only here to relax. It was so strange watching all these men do this. Relaxing just seemed so foreign to me these days.
Somehow, I managed to do it, watching an old movie from the early part of the millenia. My watch could project a gorgeous image but the speaker quality was terrible. It was just impossible to put some good sounding speakers on a device so tiny. Halfway through the movie, Galveston came over to me.
“I’m going back to the Outskirts to meet Beth.” He whispered in my ear.
“Ok.” I nodded.
He left, walking back into the Inventory room. As soon as he disappeared, June made his way over to me.
“Dafuq are you doing?” He asked.
“Watching a movie…” I sighed.
“What the fuck is a movie?” He asked.
“It’s when people are recorded with cinematic cameras following a written script that reflects a story. Some can be quite stunning.” I said.
“You are the weirdest human ever. Glad you didn’t die…” He chuckled, walking back to his boys. It took me a while to realize what he had said. It put a smile on my face but I said nothing. It was crazy how the person that shot me, giving me a fatal wound, was actually turning out to be a rather interesting friend. It was the world we lived in, I guess. I couldn’t say I didn’t like it. It made everything very spontaneous and kept me on my toes.
Not long after, Galveston returned with Beth following him. However, it wasn’t just Beth. Heaven also had tagged along, both carrying two big bags filled with clothes and other necessities. They obviously planned on staying for a while. I got up, excited to see them both. Beth ran over to me giving me a tight hug.
“Ooooou, I’m glad you’re alright. When you told me you were surrounded by Merchants I had a panic attack in my chair!” She said, muffled in my shoulder.
“I know…” I laughed. She then looked at the Big Daddy and the two orbs.
“Well, what the fuck happened?” She asked.
Galveston and I looked at each other, drawn to laughter.
“Let’s not talk about it.” I said, looking at Heaven, “What’s up dude?” I extended my hand out to him.
“Not much…” He responded, grabbing my hand, pulling me in for a tight, brotherly hug. It was not expected at all. I looked at Beth who only could shrug, “I just want to apologize for being an idiot, man.”
“No worries. We all have...moments.” I chuckled, our embrace coming to an end.
Beth looked at me intently, suddenly seizing my face.
“You haven’t been eating!” She noted.
“I keep forgetting!” I laughed. She turned to Galveston.
“Why haven’t ya’ll been feeding him!” She snarled.
“Hell, I haven’t eaten in a day and a half!” Galveston pled, throwing up both hands in surrender. She turned to me.
“You need to remember to eat! One day you’re just gonna fall over dead because you never remember to eat!” She scolded.
“Why the fuck is there a girl in here? This is a men’s shop!” Someone from the floor level said.
“What puta, I bet my dick’s bigger than yours!” Beth said, going down to confront him. Everyone roared out in laughter.
“Oooou, we’re dealing with a tortillera boys!” The man responded.
It was one of June’s boy’s.
“Chill Julio,” June said, “What’s your name, girl?”
“I’m Beth…” She said, walking back up to the platform.
“Damn, boo! Don’t leave us hanging!” Julio laughed, “She must really be a tortillera!”
“No,” Beth said turning to him, “I just don’t fuck with little boys! Especially one’s who still ride desert buggies!”
“Guys! That’s the girl who kicked Bane out of the truck! She’s that girl that got away the other day!” Someone noted. Everyone fell silent.
June got off his buggy, rushing up the platform to confront Galveston.
“Why the fuck you keep bringing all these people? You know Alistair won’t be happy about this!” June asked.
“Relax man, she’s only here to help!” Galveston said.
“You just better hope these people aren’t sleazy because if shit happens, it’s all on you!” June said.
“I can assure you we’re not.” Beth said, walking past him. June eyed her from head to toe, obviously liking what he saw.
“And you’re words are the only consolation?” June said, fully skeptical.
“Heh, if that’s how you wanna view it, feel free. I don’t give a fuck, just keep that attitude the fuck over there when we’re working. I don’t really care how you feel but I will smack the shit out of you if you aggravate me.” Beth responded, not bothering to look at him.
“Ooooou, Ok then.” June smiled, liking Beth’s feistiness. He walked back down to the floor level, sitting on the hood of his buggy.
“Man…” Beth began, “Dad is going crazy…”
“What happened?” I asked.
“When we got back in the house, he just hugged me tight...saying he thought I ran off. Then for two days, everything was almost regular except for his rampant but-kissing. He was mean to all the boys, particularly Heaven. I wasn’t planning on bringing him but I had to get him out of there. I was scared Dad was gonna hit him…” Beth explained.
“Yeah, he just started nitpicking everything I did… how I cooked, how I cleaned...didn’t even want me to leave the kitchen. Man, it was crazy!” Heaven added.
“And Ezekiel’s doing well. I told him I’d be gone for a while, didn’t give him any details. I told him to keep practicing but I don’t know if he will since I’m not there.” Beth continued.
“He seems to really enjoy reading… I gave him all my old books.” Heaven laughed.
“I hope he is getting it together. You all take care of that boy...he has one hell of a talent.” Galveston chimed in.
“What’s that?” Beth asked, unzipping her bag.
“He has this way of squirming into things...and squirming out. He’d make a good bounty hunter if he ever cared.” Galveston teased.
“How do you know my brother?” Beth asked.
“It’s a long story, but in a nutshell...he stole my buggy and I came and got it.”
“Oh my god, that was you!!!!!!” Beth said, cackling loudly remembering that day clearly.
“Yeah. I put on a bit of weight since then. Not even gonna lie though, your brother left a very bad taste in my mouth.” Alistair sighed.
“Ugh, who doesn’t he leave a bad taste in their mouth? He leaves a bad taste in his own mouth...” Beth said, still fiddling through her bag.
“What are you looking for?” I asked.
“Trying to find you something to eat considering these fools haven’t been feeding you!” Beth said, finally able to dislodge the tiny cooler from her bag without throwing all her clothes on the floor.
“In my defense, he’s not to the only one that forgets to eat.” Galveston laughed.
“Aw, shut up! If you want some food, just ask.” Beth sighed.
“Well, what do you have?” Galveston asked curiously.
“Well,” Heaven chimed in, pushing Beth to the side, “We have some cold cut sandwiches, some chocolate muffins, puff pastries, Sonoran salad, veggie pasta, fetted rice, brined fish, brined chicken, brined beef cuts…”
“Give me a muffin!” I demanded.
“That’s not even touching the food Heaven brought…” Beth said.
“I only brought sweets. Beth brought the foods we really need…” Heaven laughed, tossing me a muffin.
“Yeah, this boy just thinks I stay skinny by a good workout plan… I gotta eat right too!” Beth said.
“You want anything?” Heaven asked Galveston.
“Um...anything really.” Galveston responded, trying to be polite.
“I got some sopping bread and jam.” Heaven said unzipping his bag, opening his cooler.
“Sopping bread…” Heaven said, trying to remember where he heard, “You mean biscuits?”
“I don’t like to say biscuits so I call em sopping bread. I know some guys from Eurasia and over there, they call cookies, biscuits. What we call biscuits, they call scones but we eat them a little differently.” Heaven said, grabbing a roll wrapped in rice paper. He then got out a jar of golden colored jam, handing it to Galveston.
“Damn you two came prepared…” Galveston laughed.
“Well, we have a lot to do!” Beth responded.
“Yeah, I saw some useful things in the Outskirts that I could use.” I said, scooping up my watch. “For now, I just need scrap metal preferably titanium and lithium so I can mix them and get to printing new stuff. After that, it’s time to dismantle the Big Daddy.”
“Well lets get to it!” Beth said excited.
“Ok, let me get the cart. We’re going to have a long walk because the cart can’t fit around the back.” Galveston warned.
“That’s fine.” I said. I watched him as he walked away, the way he moved becoming captivating. Beth stood there, arms folded. She swiftly pointed back and forth between Galveston and I. All I could do was shrug. A thin smile came across Beth’s face.
“I approve…” She said.
“What?” Heaven asked, oblivious to our silent conversation. I couldn’t help but laugh.
The garage gait opened. Galveston waved us down from level, telling us to come on. I put my laptop in my bag and we made our way down the platform. As we left, Swish suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
“Where are you all going?” He asked.
“We’re trying to get scrap metal.” I responded.
“Without me! What are you all looking for?” He asked.
“We need lithium and titanium.” I said, “About a quarter ton worth.”
“I’ll help you look.” He offered.
“Sure…” I responded.
Galveston did not look pleased to have the extra company but he didn’t say anything. He led us south, through the City of Rust where we didn’t get much strange looks this time. I’m guessing because we didn’t have a giant red mech tailing us, waving at everyone, this time. This was slowly becoming a place I would consider to live. Indeed people didn’t just come around over night and some of these people need help. When all was done, I’d definitely come back here.
Swish looked at the giant spires as we walked, obviously awe struck.
“I always wondered how these got here…” He said, looking all over the landscape.
“Me too.” Galveston said.
“These ruins are the remain of a giant ship. It crash landed here, probably shot down upon reentry into the atmosphere.” I said.
“Reentry? Wait people went into space?” Swish asked.
“Yeah there are civilizations on Mars. The richest people fled Earth and have been on Mars for half a century. They left the poor and the war scorn here when this war was caused by their greed to begin with…” I sighed.
“Whoa, you’re like a walking account for all details that has happened at one point in the past.” Swish laughed.
“And you talk a lot!” Galveston hinted.
“Well sorry for wanting to learn stuff…” Swish laughed.
We turned to the east, towards Vegas. We only traveled this way for a few minutes before heading north. The forty minute walk to the upper Outskirts was...interesting. I only say this because of the scenery. Swish really couldn’t shut up and he truly was aggravating, asking question after question. Well, Galveston did the same but the difference was Galveston was cute.
It’s not to say that Swish wasn’t attractive. He was a bony little something, no muscle mass. He had blonde hair, swept to the side, held in place with gel. His eyes were blue and his nose was razor thin. He had virtually no lips, his mouth literally looking like a line when closed. His jawline was thin as well, tapering down to a pointed chin. In his defense, he did have some gorgeous teeth.
Thankfully, Beth had some questions of her own to hush Swish for a bit.
“Guys?” She began.
“Yeah..” We responded.
“What happened? You both avoided telling me any details about how you ended up here, Zanir.” She said.
“Well,” I said looking nervously at Galveston, “I and the Big Daddy were heading west. We were tailed and the mechs were subdued so I can be captured.”
“Why are you being so vague?” Beth asked.
“I shot the mechs… Didn’t know they were so important and now I’m doing anything there is to help.” Galveston responded.
“Yeah.” I said, wishing he wouldn’t have said anything.
“And they didn’t do anything to you?” Beth asked.
“No.” I said.
“You lying, mano!” She said, rushing in front of me. She patted me down, feeling the staples in my skin. She pulled up my shirt, “Whaaa?”
“It’s healing…” I laughed.
“Who shot you? You better not say Galveston, so help I’ll…” Beth threatened, looking the boy directly in the eyes.
“It wasn’t me, I promise!” He pled.
“Then who was it?” She asked.
“It was June. You met him today, you know the dude you kind of told to fuck off…” I said.
“Oh, that...dude?” Beth asked, sounding afflicted, “He’s sexy as fuck. What did you do to piss him off to make him wanna shoot ya ass?”
“Whaa, really, Beth?” I laughed.
“I’m just asking.” She said back.
“Your chola is showing.” I joked.
After about forty minutes of walking, we reached the upper Outskirts. The City of Rust was already stunning but the Outskirts was just far more beautiful. We all stood there both daunted and mesmerized by this place.
“Beth, find any silicon you can. Swish, you look for anything made of lithium that can be used. Heaven, you help Swish. Galveston and I will look for titanium.” I said.
“Sure thing.” Swish said.
Everyone split up, leaving Galveston and I alone. We watched as Swish began to talk Heaven’s ear off. I couldn’t help but laugh.
“He’s something of a talker.” Galveston chuckled.
“I know...I was like God, will he ever stop!” I said, walking towards the nearest hill of junk.
“So,” Galveston began, “When can I kiss you?”
“I don’t know, maybe when I need resuscitating.” I said.
“Well, don’t pass out or anything…”
“I’m close to it.” I teased, hinting at how hot he was.
“Oooou,” He smiled before getting serious, “So, we’re leaving together?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“When we get the mechs repaired, will we be heading north together or will it be a lone voyage? I mean, I just want to know if you leave will you ever be able to come back?” He responded.
“I don’t know. I might not even make the journey. America is a very, very dangerous place,” I sighed, “It’s why I’ll need all the help I can get.”
“So I’m coming with you?” He asked with an excited grin.
“Yeah…” I nodded, “I got a question though?”
“What would that be?” Galveston asked, beyond eager to answer it.
“You haven’t came out to your father yet have you?” I asked. Galveston sighed, the answer being very obvious.
“No, I haven’t. It’s why I want to leave. He’ll never accept me for who I am.” He sighed.
“I understand that! I haven’t told mine yet…” I sighed.
“Maybe,” Galveston laughed, sorting through a pile of rubble, “We can sit both our dads down and discuss it with them…”
“Yeah, that sounds like a good idea and have both of them kill us!” I said back, finding the joke hilarious.
“Yeah my dad will beat me senseless, your dad….’ll shoot you with a cannon.” He laughed.
“Maybe it’ll all be worth it.” I said, walking over to him.
He stood up, looking me in my eyes. His smile was so warm I just wanted to relish in it for the rest of eternity.
“Maybe so.” He said, edging closer to me.