The Robot Master

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: New Writers wanting Reviews

Sneaking onto a train was more difficult than he remembered. For the first time in years, he would be awake in the wilderness.

Chapter 2 (v.1) - Aboard!

Submitted: June 12, 2016

Reads: 305

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Submitted: June 12, 2016

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He watched the feet of the passengers swishing past him through the mesh grating. The shaft he’d entered was dusty and narrow. He’d have to crawl along until he could find a way to get out and into the passenger area. He’d never been in a first class car before, although he paid into the lottery for a free first class trip at least once a week for as long as he could remember. Winning that was hopeless, he thought to himself before pulling his thoughts back to the reality of his current circumstances. He began to doubt the sanity of what he’d just done, now that he was here. He peered through the grate to see what first class looked like. He could only compare it to the two times he’d won rides on second class cars. This was much nicer. He moved slowly along the tight internal shaft, uncertain where it would take him. The grated sections were about three feet in length with solid sections, maybe four or five feet long, between each grate. He could see his progress as he crawled along through the car. The shaft was dark with intermittent light spraying through each grate. The dark-light-dark pattern appeared to go on for some distance. What is this shaft for? He wondered.

With a jolt, the train began gliding slowly forward down the center guide rail. Richard could feel the rumbling jog reverberate through the structural framework of the train as it moved away from the station. Once it was clear, a rapidly increasing click sounded, as the guide shoes passed over each rail joint until the sound was a continuous buzz that eventually blended into the hum of the pulse motors until it was no longer discernable. Inside the dusty sheet metal and steel frame tunnel the buffeting ride gave him a real sense of the hurtling speed they were traveling. After a minute or two of this, he felt that familiar jolt. The train was approaching the speed of sound. Within seconds the ride became glassy smooth and quiet again as they continued well into the supersonic speed ranges. He crawled aimlessly down the dusty shaft looking for any way out of the cage he’d gotten himself into, still happy to be aboard but anxious to get into that first class cabin and enjoy the pampered lifestyle with the rest of the people fortunate enough to be there.

Richard paused for a moment, remembering that the New Jersey station was not far from the edge of the wilderness. A security bot bleeped to a stop in front of the grate he was near and began hovering and shining an intense white light and red laser pointing beam into the shaft, searching all around for something…probably him. He instantly froze, holding his breath while the annoying little bot scoured every inch of space in front of the grating. Richard was just far enough back that it could not get a spotlight on him. The relentless bot clanked and banged against the grating, trying to locate him like a hound sniffing out a fox. Someone in the cabin yelled out at it and then ran over and kicked the little bot away from the grate. It clanked into things as it bounced along through the passenger car like a soccer ball. A roar of laughter erupted throughout the car. The kicker’s muffled cursing sounded like someone yelling with a pillow over their face. “Why do they keep these damn antiques around?” The person said. “First class should have the best security on the train…in the world! Did that stupid thing think there’s a stowaway on here or something?” Laughter erupted once again. “They should reprogram every one of them to be service bots and get something in here that’s deserving of our standing and will keep us all safe. These are a joke!” Someone else said, “Well don’t worry about that one, it’s never going to work again.” Both of them laughed loudly at the waning bleeps and clicks of the mortally wounded security bot. “Naw, they’ll patch it up and put it on the second class car by tomorrow, I’ll bet you.” “You’re probably right.” They said as they walked out of earshot from Richard.

“Prepare to enter Wilderness Zone One!” A calm voice issued from the cabin intercom, in a very pleasant sounding female voice. “All passengers return to your assigned seats and press the yellow service button on your travel console.” A flurry of legs passed by Richard as everyone scrambled to get to their seats. He recognized the familiar announcement. It was the same one he’d always heard when reaching this point in the trip. But first class passengers were asked to hit their service button for some reason. He’d never done that on the lower class cars. He assumed they were to get some kind of specialized pampering before the medical bots came through. He also resigned himself to the fact that he wasn’t going to make it out of the tunnel he was in before lights out, when they reached the wilderness but at least he’d be safely away from the sneaky little security bots.

“Entering the wilderness area in 15 minutes. Return to your seats immediately!” Squawked across the intercom this time. Richard knew this warning would sound every five minutes as the medical bots made their way through each car affixing a sedative patch onto the arms of every passenger. After the patch is applied, it’s programmed with the passenger’s DNA and all data is stored in the GGA citizen movement archive. The archive stores and tracks all travel data on every person in the world and refines the sedative type and amount in an effort to administer the exact dosage needed by each person, so that they awaken just as the train exits the wilderness, and into the next settlement. The process is extremely effective and accurate. The government was very effective with this program.

Richard could hear motors whining from the medibots as they zig-zagged up and down the aisles, administering sedatives to every passenger then snapping their service button off so they knew which passengers had been sedated. “Entering the wilderness area in five minutes!” A final warning was sent out before reaching the edge of the wilderness. Several groggy groans could be heard as the sedatives started to take effect on the passengers. Richard continued down the shaft, hoping to find a way out quickly. He tugged on each grate as he moved along, looking for a loose one that he could squeeze through, but no luck. They were all tightly secured. “Come on!” He whisper yelled under his breath. “Looks like I’m stuck in here for the whole ride through the wilderness.” He had no idea how long it would take to get to the next settlement. A couple of the bots exchanged audible bleeps and seconds later the entire car plunged into darkness. Oh...No! Richard whispered reflexively. He frantically groped the tunnel sides to see where the grating was. He feared a security bot would spot him if he was in front of a grate. He could see absolutely nothing but he knew they could see him. After a moment he spotted some blinking red and white lights moving past one of the grates up ahead. With his bearings now, he was relieved to determine that he was safely between grating sections where he couldn’t be seen. The lights were associated with a hissing noise and other gadgety sounds that all robots made as they motored around. “Wish I had a sedative about now. I could sleep until the lights come back on and then I’d find a way out of here.” Richard thought to himself in the darkness, with digitized robotic noises peaking and fading as they passed by. He wondered if he would ever get out of this tunnel. He dozed off, alone in his thoughts, lying prone on the hard floor in the tight hidden space of the first class car, careening down a spindly monorail as they headed to points west.


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