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At first glance, this place came across as a quaint little restaurant housed in an old department store downtown. The department store had been closed for nearly seventy years now, but after a period of dormancy it became revitalized as a privately owned restaurant. Or so the illusion was. While there was indeed a restaurant downstairs, upstairs housed five androids and one cyborg. These beings had no role to play in the restaurant downstairs. However, the true nature of their work was kept on a hush hush. Only humans who knew about the “secret menu” had access to these pieces of technology.

Arden, as he had been renamed, was the only cyborg in a building full of androids. While the androids were essentially nothing more than mindless machines, Arden was different. He possessed sentience but had been bound by contract and programming to be as “unproblematic” as he possibly could. Arden, formerly Aiden, was an organism-android hybrid birthed from the cloning tanks of his company’s laboratory. An attempt at eliminating the uncanny artificiality of androids, while stripping him of whatever humanity he could of had if he had been allowed to keep an unaltered copy of his creator’s DNA.

The second floor was typically quiet. This was per the boss's orders, as the business was situated in a small rural town that had been on a decline for quite some time. Small rural towns were typically more conservative, and for this side of the business, the boss needed to keep the activities that took place up here quiet. Fortunately, he had the foresight to install some soundproofing up here so the people downstairs wouldn't catch wind of what went on upstairs. This did place some restrictions on the business Arden was a part of, but it was nothing he couldn't work around.

As Arden laid on his back in his second-hand rickety bed, staring at the ceiling, he just listened to the hum of the air conditioning. The ventilation in here sounded and looked about as old as the red brick building itself, but it kept the place cool, so he wasn't complaining. His room was dark because he had no window, and his light switch did not work. The only time he got any light in here was when someone opened the door, or through the small crack underneath it. His boss refused to give Arden any light to see by, mostly because he said that Arden's room needed character. Besides, it was deemed as fitting for Arden's role in this place. Arden just accepted it, as he was programmed to do, and he listened for visitors.

The silence had dragged on for a while, and Arden thought he could get a quick nap in before he was needed again. He had just shut his eyes and was preparing to go into sleep mode when the door to his room was pounded upon, prompting the male to quickly sit up. He heard the security safeguards on his door being disabled, and, due to being sensitive to light since his placement here, he looked away from the door and closed his eyes, listening to the door swing open then shut. There was always a little light from the hallway outside his room that slipped in. Fortunately, it was a dim, yellow light that suited the overall theme of the building – dated, with a 1960s to 1970s feel. Due to the type of lightbulb outside, it didn’t hurt Arden’s eyes too much, but did make them sting a little.

He opened his eyes, looking up at an average-looking man with honey blonde hair, with bangs hanging slightly away from and over his right eye. He dressed in business casual, with a long-sleeved, V-neck, gray overshirt, a white undershirt, black and tapered jeans, and shining black dress shoes. The visitor had a low-power, twelve-inch flashlight with him, and he had a malevolent air about him. The man said, tone calm but menacing, “You’ve almost made your monthly payment. Keep at it.” With that, he turned and left. Arden shut his eyes again and waited until his boss had left. Arden listened to the security devices re-enable on the door, before opening his eyes once more.

Arden waited, staring at the door for a moment, listening for any other visitors who would be paying him a visit. Once he was certain there would be no other visitors, he got underneath his stained, white sheet and placed himself into sleep mode. It was basically his way of napping, and it was a way to recharge himself. His job was demanding, and he had grown to value a good nap. His clients didn't give him much of a chance to rest otherwise.

***

It was business as usual for the rest of the day. The only interesting thing that happened was after the business had closed for the night. He had just gotten back to his room from the downstairs shower, as every worker in here needed to shower while their bedding was being swapped out by the custodian, when he heard a knock at the door. He turned to face the door and debated whether to say something or not. What if it was a trap? Humans had broken into the old-timey commercial building in the past with ill intentions. Most of the time it was just a burglar, but occasionally more malicious types broke in with the intention of assaulting robots or damaging property.

Arden didn’t have to think for long, as the door’s security safeguards disabled with beeps and clicks. Thinking it was an unauthorized individual having tinkered with the locks, Arden prepared to put up a fight. While he knew that he was expendable, he still had a desire to survive. It wasn’t as strong as a human’s desire to survive, but it was there. As soon as the door started to open, Arden charged at it and slammed it shut, knocking the individual on the other side back and into the floor. Arden towered over most beings, his height around six feet and three inches, and he had plenty of muscle mass that had been grown by the stuff the cooks put into his food. However, the stuff made him more aggressive than he was before he was taken into this place. With these factors in mind, he predictably made the intruder fall flat on their bottom and possibly hit their head on the hard, thinly carpeted floor on the other side. He listened to the safeguards enable once more, and he waited to see if the intruder would try coming in again.

Arden did not have to wait long, as the intruder got back up and unlocked the door once more. The door opened with more force this time, but Arden slammed his hand onto it and shoved it closed. He growled to the being on the other side, “Leave now and don’t try to get in here again.”

There was a still silence for a moment, before a Japanese-accented voice said, “I come in peace. Please allow me to enter.” The visitor had a robotic echo to his voice and spoke in a way Arden knew androids to speak - detached, with eloquence.

Arden asked, “Aren’t you supposed to be shut down in your room at this time? The business is closed.” Arden was isolated from everyone else, and it was likely that he was wrong. He honestly had no idea what happened outside of his room. Maybe the policy had changed, or maybe this android had free will and had chosen to come to Arden’s door. Arden wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case - he had heard from humans that the door piqued their curiosity, and for some that was the only reason why they had decided to risk it with him.

“It is not hard programmed into me to shut down at exactly 23 hundred hours every night. Every android in this establishment lacks such programming.” The locks were disabled again, and the stranger said, “I would like to speak with you in a more appropriate way. Please allow for me to enter.”

“No. Get lost.” Arden applied more weight against the door to prevent the visitor from barging in. Arden had a character to keep, and part of this character was an unfriendly creature who despised company. It was funny because he was meant to be a type of companion robot, designed to keep lonely humans company by being a roommate, with flaws like human ones. By keeping others out of his space, he was working against his programming. His unfriendly act had become a part of him. He was forced to form the unideal traits of being unfriendly, blunt, and a loner. Not that he had the best personality imaginable prior to winding up here but being in this place had made him more difficult than he originally was. It was a bit of work to keep in character, but Arden had no choice but to accept it and move on. Besides, he was adaptable.

There was no sound from the visitor for a moment, and Arden thought he had left, but the visitor spoke once again. “Very well. I hope you have a nice night.” The visitor then walked away, the locks activated once more, and Arden headed to bed to shut down. That was inconvenient, but at least the android or whatever he was had left now. Arden rolled onto his side, got under the bedsheet, set his internal alarm for six in the morning, and shut down for the night.


Submitted: December 25, 2018

© Copyright 2022 A. Rhetters. All rights reserved.

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codenameaspen

I like your plot, but I think more diverse punctuation would help. The first paragraph was mainly just stating facts, so it would help to make that more into a story in comparison to what it is now.

Otherwise, this was a really great chapter! I like your style of writing, so keep writing this story!

(Maybe make it a trilogy, that would be super cool! Of course, after you finish the sequel!)

Fri, January 4th, 2019 6:45pm

A.K.Taylor

You mentioned you wanted a critique so I stopped in to try my hand at giving you some pointers I've learned from some of the more experienced authors here and from my own personal search for information about writing. I can do more if you wish so just message me if you'd like me to continue. I'm currently critiquing someone else's work as well as part of a mutual agreement for them to review mine.

As for your story, I kinda like the idea. It shows promise and a different way of progressing so far. An overall critique I have is that you don't describe your setting or the people very well and that may be because you want to start off a bit mysterious. I get that but don't be afraid to pull out some elements that help strike the image into the minds of your readers like I showed with the lights from under the door in my Icomment.

Without much background for the characters, it's hard to tell what to think about them just yet. This first chapter seems a bit bland but workable and more like a prologue rather than the initial story. I get the feeling that the next chapter goes into more depth and actually begins the plot but I'll find out if I continue to go over any more for you.

Keep writing, the story's there just needs some fine-tuning to make it great. And don't worry, I'll help as much as I can.

Sat, February 2nd, 2019 6:23am

Author
Reply

Hello,

Yes, I did have the intention to start off mysterious so the reader has a neutral feel for the characters and therefore will be easier able to negotiate their view on what is positive or negative about them. The lack of detail was also intended to further draw people in so they can get an image of what the characters look like. I have put in a little bit of description about the characters as the story progresses throughout the chapters.

And thank you for leaving a critique. I will utilize what you have told me in order to improve the story. And perhaps the first chapter will become the prologue since it mostly exists to establish the setting and doesn't really do much to progress the story.

A. Rhetters

Sun, February 3rd, 2019 11:24am

Archia

Your idea and plot is very interesting. You could really take this anyway and I like that there's some ambiguity to it. It's very intriguing the different elements that make up a cyborg and how that also differs from am android. I liked that you didn't get straight out say what makes a cyborg and that I'm able to keep adding to that picture as I read more.
Your descriptions do give a informed picture of the setting which is good. It does though sometimes come across a little like things are being stated instead of shown. For example, the 'low-quality' bed. It's just stating the condition of the bed, instead of showing it; maybe he lies down and groans at the discomfort of it.
Anyway your novel is off to a great start. You've got a really great idea for it and it has a lot of potential to go some really exciting routes. This possible friendship between two very different creations could really go either way so it will be interesting to see where this goes.

Mon, May 25th, 2020 1:29am

Rob73

A good science fiction story.

Sat, August 28th, 2021 4:04am

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