Dorrie was getting more and more confused by the second. Every answer Image gave her seemed to arouse even more questions.
“What are the Cavities?” she asked.
Image sighed in exasperation. “Geez, am I gonna have to spend all day standing here answering questions for you?” she complained. “Hey, if you were me, you’d want to know what’s going on too,” Dorrie replied defensively. Rolling her eyes, Image said, “Ugh, fine. So, you know about God, right? Like, as in, Jesus?”
Dorrie nodded warily. “Well, then you must know about the Devil, or Satan, or however you call him,” Image continued. Dorrie nodded again. “So, the Devil and God are enemies. Let’s say that the robots have a God and Devil too. Do you read me?”
Dorrie rolled her eyes. “Loud and clear,” she said. “Alright,” Image continued. “So, the ‘God’ in the robot world is a dude named Thollidimar. He was a human, like you. Thollidimar was, like, a genius. He’s the one who created this whole ‘World of the ‘Bots.’
“But, on the other hand, there was a guy named Lotus. He’s the ‘Devil’ in this story. But believe it or not, Thollidimar and Lotus used to be best buddies. They both had brilliant minds and a dream to create manmade humans—A.K.A., robots. They worked on figuring out how to make a robot that could have all the brains and qualities as a human for over 20 years.
“Finally, they found out a secret. It’s called The Discovery. The teachers in class aren’t allowed to talk about it, because it’s surreptitious. I don’t even know what it is, but I’d do anything to find out.
“The Discovery, from what I’ve heard, is what broke Thollidimar and Lotus apart. Thollidimar wanted to make robots that could help humans, but Lotus wanted to wipe out all of the humans and replace them with robots. Thollidimar didn’t want that, so he took all of his things and fled from the place he and Lotus were sharing.
“But it was no use; Lotus already knew the secret. He told it to his kids, who told it to their kids, and so forth. Thollidimar created a system that recorded everyone on the whole planet on a small computer-type thing. He knew Lotus had great-great-great-grandchildren who contained knowledge of The Discovery, and he needed to get rid of them somehow.
“So he came up with the Key to Life system. He made identical robots for each and every person in the world, and the robots would spend their entire lives watching their Kid (which is the person that they were created for). Then, when their Kid was eighteen, he or she would fall through the Portal between the humans and the ‘bots, and that’s where they would meet up with their Kid. Like we’re doing now.”
Dorrie was still pretty confused. “But…you still haven’t exactly answered my question,” she remarked. “What are the Cavities?”
“Oh, right,” Image said. “The Cavities are the descendants of Lotus. Thollidimar’s plan was to get rid of anyone who was related to Lotus, so that’s why we have the Key to Life system. Any one of you humans could be related to Lotus and be planning to take over the robot world, so Thollidimar came up with a way to find out whether you’re a descendant of Lotus or not.
“You see, the whole reason you fall through the Portal and meet up with your robot is to see if you’re related to Lotus. If you are, we call you a Cavity.”
Image inhaled deeply, then looked at Dorrie expectantly. “Any more questions?” she asked. “So…what happens if you find out if I’m related to Lotus?” Dorrie inquired, dreading the answer. Image laughed. “Well, that’s simple. We terminate you.”
Dorrie felt the color drain from her face. “Terminate?” she squeaked. Image laughed again. “Duh! Thollidimar was no joker. He knew anyone that had even an ounce of Lotus’s blood in them could be a danger to us robots. So when we find someone that’s a Cavity, we waste no time in getting rid of them.”
Dorrie gulped. “So, exactly how do you find out?” she asked. “Well, you have to find your Key to Life first. Then you put the key in the lock on my jaw. If the robot melts down into a glob of metal, that means you’re a descendant of Lotus. If the robot starts to give off a whitish glow, that means you’re safe,” Image explained.
Dorrie imagined Image dissolving into a puddle, and she shuddered at the thought. “What happens when you find out you’re safe?” she asked. Image shrugged and replied, “You just go back to how you were living before. The Key to Life literally is your key to life.” Dorrie looked around the room she and Image were in. “So…what now?”
Image scrunched up her face, thinking. “Well, I think we should wait for our Escort to show up, I guess. I should pay more attention during class…” she said, her voice trailing off.
After a minute or two, Dorrie heard a low rumble. Then, out of nowhere, a man made of shiny metal flashed right into the room. Dorrie jumped, but Image merely looked at the thing. “Here’s our Escort,” she said in a mildly bored voice, which kind of ticked Dorrie off. She shouldn’t be standing around like she’s bored, she thought. She should be telling me what this silver man is gonna do to us!
Dorrie looked at Image questioningly. “Well?” she asked, an annoyed edge in her voice. Image held up a finger. “Hold on.” Then, before Dorrie could move a muscle, Image had her in a headlock and a hand over her mouth. “Shh…don’t move. Just stay still,” she breathed in Dorrie’s ear.
Then Image slowly took her hands off of Dorrie’s face and turned her head towards the metal man. Then she yanked her eyelids open so she wouldn’t be able to close them. “What’re you doing?” Dorrie hissed, her eyes already getting watery. “Shh!” Image snapped. Then she turned to the metal man and said, “Escort.”
All of a sudden, a painfully bright light poured out of the Escort’s eyes. Dorrie tried to close her eyes and look away, but Image wouldn’t let her. “It will be really quick,” she said calmly. Soon Dorrie began to feel a little tired. The room began to spin as she tried desperately to stay conscious. But it was no use; the white light coming from the eyes of the Escort was making Dorrie loose consciousness.
“It will be okay, Dorrie,” Image whispered. “When you wake up, everything will be okay.” Image’s voice suddenly seemed very loud. The metallic edge in it raked at her eardrums, causing Dorrie to wince. What’s going on? she thought groggily. The sound of Image talking was like getting scissors driven into her ears. Dorrie used her last ounce of strength to raise her head and look up at Image.
“Shut…up,” she breathed. Image scowled and said, “What do you mean, shut up? I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be Escorted while you’re awake.”
Image’s voice was even more piercing than before. Dorrie clenched her teeth and croaked, “No…just stop…talking.” Image looked at her in confusion. “Why?” she asked innocently.
Dorrie’s scream sliced through the air. Not only was Image’s voice hurting her, but her skin was beginning to sting. “Help me! Make it stop! Image! Make it stop!” Image stood next to Dorrie, a concerned look on her face. She was frozen.
Needles dug into every square inch of Dorrie’s flesh. The needles were hot; they were on fire. Images of Dorrie and her family melting down into a blob of skin and bones were plastered to her brain. She screamed out even louder until a cold hand clamped down on her mouth.
“Dorrie, shut up!” Image hissed. “What’s the matter with you? Escort, what’s happening? Tell me now!” There was a beep, then the whir of a machine booting up.
“Anderson, Dorrie: Highly sensitive to Escort fumes. Will lose consciousness in 03 minutes and 46 seconds,” a robotic voice said flatly. Image turned back to Dorrie, who was sprawled on the floor, writhing in pain.
“Dorrie!” Image said, desperately trying to wrestle her down. “It’s gonna be okay! Just calm down, only three more minutes!”
Dorrie fought against Image’s strong hold, but slowly began to tire. Her eyes crossed and her mouth opened slightly. “Image…” she breathed drunkenly. “You’re going to be okay,” Image reassured her. “Just calm down, it will be over in a second.”
Dorrie slowly relaxed her muscles. Her eyelids fluttered shut, and Image seemed to be a hundred miles away. Her breathing began to slow along with her heart rate.
Dorrie could feel herself being pulled away by some unseen force. She was too tired to fight against it, so she surrendered. Within seconds, Dorrie was wrapped in a dark blanket of nothingness.