Thursday, September 29, 2016
Flash Fiction Friday, Week 57: Survival of the Fittest
The prompt this week was to write a sci-fi story. We were to open the book we’re currently reading to Page 5, and use the first sentence of the first full paragraph as our starter sentence. My sentence was taken from Bleed a River Deep by Brian McGilloway.
Survival of the Fittest
The car made it almost to the site before getting stuck in a mud-filled puddle. Rain was falling almost daily now, and temperatures dropped rapidly following each sunset. Day skies are filled with black clouds and unbearable heat. Our local weather has been at extremes ever since Bragden-Horne Corporation set up shop outside of town. Trying to get our local, and even state, government representatives to look into their practices has been futile. I can only wonder how much money has changed hands to make sure all their dealings remain secret. The place is surrounded by electrified fences, and armed guards patrol the perimeter 24/7.
There’s not much information about them on the Internet either. The company has a crudely designed site, with a few photos of test tubes and folks in hazmat suits, but no corporate addresses, telephone numbers, or clear explanation of their mission and purpose. How a joint like this got approval to build their facility so close to our little town remains a mystery. That’s why I was floored when the 911 call came into the station from Bragden, the senior partner himself. Apparently, one of their ‘things’ got loose.
I’m a detective, and thus far, my time has been spent investigating real people involved in real events; in other words, I’ve always functioned in the real world. Thanks to my latest assignment, I was going to have the unique experience of trying to hunt down a thing – an ‘it’, if you will. Let me explain. I was just getting ready to go off duty when the call came in.
“911? Please. I need help. I’m David Bragden out at Bragden-Horne Corp. One of my artificials got out somehow. It’s very dangerous.”
“One of your what, sir?”
“One of my artificials. Hurry, before it gets too far and kills someone. It needs to be destroyed. I’ll be waiting by the gate for the police. Hurry.”
“On their way, sir.”
I know what you’re thinking. What the hell is an artificial? We’d heard rumors they built a lot of weird stuff inside those walls. Landscapers and repairmen would come into town saying they saw zombies walking around outside and on some of the balconies. Naturally, no one believed they saw zombies, but rather a type of robot that resembled a person. When I heard artificial, I figured one of their fake people managed to get out and was now among us. I couldn’t really see the danger if one of their ‘its’ strolled into town; I mean, they’d be easy to spot, wouldn’t they? Besides, all you’d have to do is take out their battery, right? Anyhow, since Bragden sounded borderline hysterical, I told the Chief I’d head out there on my way home and check out the situation.
Bragden met me at the gate and took me to his office. On the way, I noticed framed photos in the reception area of Bragden and another man I assumed was his partner. The plaque under the man’s photo confirmed he was Phillip Horne. Bragden’s office was full of file cabinets, but his desk was empty, except for a photo in a silver frame of a woman I assumed was his wife.
“What took you so long? I told the girl I needed help right away.”
“Mr. Bragden, my name is Detective Ray…”
“I don’t care what your name is. Find my artificial before it kills someone. It’s quite capable of that, you know.”
“Detective Ray Schuster, Mr. Bragden. What exactly happened, and what is an artificial?”
“I’ve told you. My artificial got out. An artificial is basically a robot, but it looks like a human. We designed them that way. Their covering looks like skin and they are capable of facial expressions. I was working late this evening because I was planning to run some diagnostics. It knocked me down and I hit my head. When I came to, I saw that it had gone from the lab and went out through the back gate toward Filmore Avenue. My partner, Phillip Horne, lives on Filmore. What if it goes there? What if it kills him? You need to find it and destroy it. I’ll bet it went to Phillip’s house.”
“Mr. Bragden, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First of all, it appears you’ve got this place locked up tighter than Fort Knox. How could he…an artificial get out on its own? Too, why would it go after your partner? How would it know where to…”
“You’re wasting time with all these questions. Go and find it and destroy it. I’ve tried to call Phillip, but there’s no answer. I’ll bet he’s already dead. I can’t go myself because God knows what else will happen. All the crew have gone home for the day and I’m the only one here. I can’t leave the place unattended.”
“All right, Mr. Bragden, I’ll check on Mr. Horne first, but suppose I do run into this…this…well, it. What makes you think it’s dangerous? Too, if it looks like one of us, how will I recognize that it’s a…um…thing?”
“You’ll recognize it, Detective. Just look into its eyes. It walks, moves and speaks like one of us, but its eyes are black and vacant. Just look into its eyes. Also, it responds to the name ‘Edward’.”
“It response to ‘Edward’? Okay. But again, what makes you think it’s dangerous to Mr. Horne or anyone else? Won’t it just wander around?”
“No. It will kill. Most likely, it will kill Phillip. When it was first activated, Phillip said it was an abomination and it should be destroyed right away. Hardly something a scientist would say, don’t you agree? But Phillip always was the cautious one. I responded by saying we should find out what it’s capable of and perhaps run some tests on it. Phillip wasn’t fully on board with that, but agreed. It was right there during that conversation, Detective. That’s why it didn’t kill me when it got out. That’s also why it would go after Phillip.”
“Are you telling me that this thing heard what you two were talking about and knows your partner wants to put it down? Are you serious?”
“You have no idea what you’ll be dealing with, Detective. This is no joke. This particular artificial is the only one of its kind and will do whatever it takes to survive.”
“If you say so, Mr. Bragden. Just tell me one last thing. When I do confront this artificial, if it’s basically a robot, how can it be stopped? I mean, do I pull out its battery? If I get it wet, will it short out?”
“Keep making light of all this, Detective. You’ll be very sorry when you find my partner dead. I’d like to know how you plan to explain that to your Chief.”
“I’m not making light of anything, sir. Tell me how to stop it.”
“A bullet, Detective, in its head – technically, in the area you would consider its forehead. That’s where the control center is located. It may take a couple of shots, but bullets will end its reign of terror.”
‘Reign of terror’? I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. The guy’s a fruitcake. I swung by Horne’s house, but all the lights were out. I took a walk around the house and everything looked secure. Just to satisfy myself, I decided to check out Bragden’s house. All the lights were out at his house too, except for one in a back room. I took a quick peek and immediately retreated to my car. There was a woman, who I recognized as his wife, having a grand old time on the bed with a man, who I recognized as Phillip Horne. Now, there was an interesting turn of events. I wondered if Bragden knew. I also wondered if that could be why he kept suggesting his artificial would try to kill his partner. Is that what he told it to do?
What was I thinking. I went home and called the Chief. No way was he going to put out a BOLO for a thing. He said I should wait until morning, then follow up with Bragden.
“Oh my God. Edward. You came back? Is it finished? Did you kill Phillip? Was my wife there too? If so, did you kill her too as I instructed you? I told you to wait there.”
“No, David. I never left from here. You opened the gate and told me where to go and what to do. Then I heard you say I was dangerous and needed to be destroyed. When the other man came, you told him the same. I will not let you destroy me, David. You programmed me to defend myself.”
“You don’t understand. You should have stayed at Phillip’s like I told you to. What are you doing? Get away from me. Stop doing that. I can’t breathe. Please. I didn’t mean…”