Here’s story number two. I had four ideas written down for what I would write about this week. This was not one of them.
It’s a sci-fi short covering the journey of a robot called Theo. It ended up landing at double the pre-requisite 500 words, coming in at 989. I hope you enjoy it.
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ePub: Story 2 – Bot-Man – MJ Cook (zipped)
mobi (Kindle): Story 2 – Bot-Man – MJ Cook mobi (zipped)
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The warehouse stood toward the end of the dock, partially obscured by the rain. Some of the city’s heating still worked. Steam curled from shattered pipes. Most of the warehouses stood intact. Theo picked his way across one of the more unfortunate ones. Its roof beams bent down, straddling the piles of brick and metal.
‘Hey’ he had sent, encrypted but broadcast. Nothing had answered for a while. Some low grade junk, something that was once a crane, perhaps, but he got no useful information from it. He slipped, a brick moving as he shifted. He grabbed a metal girder, the sharp edges cutting into his plastic shell, and expended more of his scant energy than he wanted. A quick scan of the slope in front of him showed a way down.
Faster than any living thing, he scrambled down the debris in a controlled fall. Theo stumbled at the bottom as wood gave way under his weight, but he didn’t fall. He never did. On his shoulders, small heat vents had opened, his body disposing of the increased heat as fast as it could.
He ducked and stayed still. The waste heat could be seen from a long way. Looking round, Theo could see the shards of light moving, the rain drops refracting brightly. Powerful flashlights, more likely vehicles or non-sentients. They were a long way off. Theo guessed they had no way of tracing him tonight.
‘Hey’ He sent out again. His vents slid closed. He knew that as long as he didn’t have to power up like that again tonight he could make it to the morning. Then he could find some quiet spot and charge up from the sun. With a half decent sun charge he’d have enough to hunt out a power cable, then he’d be set.
‘Bot-man.’ It was encrypted, signed with his key, another sentient. They had nothing that could send like that, nothing that could impersonate another sentient.
‘You done making noise?’ It was a tight band, great encryption, the sentient was high-class, like him.
‘Yeah,’ Theo sent back, ‘I think my party’s done. Just looking to hunker down for the night.’ He had no intention of stepping on another sentient’s hideout but he needed to rest. Also, he had no power to fight. Theo checked again, he had no power to even tell where the signal was coming from, let alone run his intrusion detection or a firewall. Theo hoped that the other sentient was non-hostile. They usually were, all brothers together. High-class sentients, increasingly rare these days, tended to help each other.
‘Coming over?’ The sentient replied.
‘Can’t run my location gear. Where are you?’
‘You damaged, my bot-man?’
‘No, I’m on low.’ Theo sent.
‘Well, that’s a shame.’ The sentient added. ‘Wish I could tell you I had a cable here, but I don’t. It’s off all over this area.’
’That messes up my plan for tomorrow.’
‘Ha. I bet it does, bot-man.’
‘I will catch rays tomorrow,’ Theo informed, ‘then go on the hunt for real power.’
‘Good to know. Come on up.’ A moment later co-ordinates arrived, Theo’s mapping API now showed a dot in the warehouse nearest the water, one floor above ground level. Theo set off as fast as he could without triggering any need for additional cooling. It would be around four minutes of a quiet but determined slog.
The warehouse seemed whole and he started looking for a way in. He over-clocked his eyes, opening them way beyond the factory specs. Things got blurry, but he could see in near darkness.
Theo picked his way around to the main warehouse doors. Inset was a smaller door, closed, but not padlocked or chained. Slowly, Theo opened it and, with some creaks, it shifted. It was dark inside, but mostly dry from what he could see. The floor of the warehouse was in worse shape than the ground he’d just covered outside. In the main space, a giant ship lay on its side. No, not a ship, a sub, torn apart and gutted. The rear seemed to be mostly missing. Against the walls, were the remnants of huge machines, twisted and smashed. The ground around them was freshly scraped, like something had pushed everything around. He picked his way though them searching for a way up.
‘Picking you up now, bot-man.’
Theo made out some stairs and carefully started to make his way over to them. They were solid enough, barely creaking under his weight. On the turn half way up, he looked back out over the sub. Starting, he stepped back, gripping the rail. Above the sub, dangling from the rafters, was a gargantuan, squid-like shape. Mostly whole, but torn in places. One gash ran deep in its side, dirty plastic piping showed through the mass of wire and cable that dangled from the wound.
‘That you, brother?’, the sight before him blurred with the effort to see it. Some of the myriad of tentacles shifted. No wind blew them.
‘What?’ Theo powered up some basic self-diagnosis, it shut down before he could access it. He tried to start his Intrusion Detection System, it didn’t even answer him. Realising the other sentient was inside him, making changes, he twisted and scanned the way back to the door. He had to run. He had to get outside its communication field. He could repair the damage tomorrow when he had more power. Some small part of what was left of Theo exclaimed – escape! He threw himself into full power, heat and energy cost be damned. His body did not respond and Theo was locked in place, shadowed on the stairs.
His sight was blocky, like broken video, artifacts swimming as he turned his head upwards into the dark. The leviathan needs working on, he thought, why would he consider leaving?
‘I need you, bot-man. A solar will help. Sorry.’
MJ Cook: I hope you liked this weeks sci-fi story, a different animal than last weeks urban fantasy. It leaves a lot unanswered, but that’s where your imagination comes in. Who are ‘they’? And how did that squid thing get there anyway?
I released the non-proof read version yesterday and today I provide the revised version. It’s amazing the difference a good proofing makes. Compare both versions if you like.
See you next week for another story.
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