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Topics - R_Solomon

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Story Critique / Saturn
« on: 07:05 PM, 09/30/18 »
    “He’s over here,” huffed the aging janitor, “and thankfully, the son-of-a-gun hasn’t moved a twitch.”
        The janitor beckoned the expert towards the cold dead corpse. Mason sighed.
    “He killed him. That sociopath really killed him.” Mason thought, climbing down the ladder onto the facility floor. He always thought a janitor in a waste treatment plant was redundant and always felt unsettled by him during those long nights when they were the only two workers in the facility.
    The body before them was limp and stretched out in an exaggerated position across the floor. Its arms where flailed out past its head and its four spindly spider-like legs crossed together in strange and unnatural angles.
   “You found him like this?” Mason asked, hoping and praying the scraggily man standing next to him had no involvement.
    “Nope,” he said, almost proud of himself. “I shot him dead.”
    Mason gazed into his eyes with horror and disgust.
     “What!? Why!? Jesus Christ man, you could have told him the shut-down command!”
    The janitor held up his hands in a gestor that usually was meant to soothe wild animals.
    “I did, I did, no need to make a ruckus. The son-of-a-gun kept running and I thought he was gonna break something, so I gave him a zap.” Again, Mason despised the proud look on his face.
    “Well did you consider the chance that you might have broke something?” said Mason, now painfully aware the stun pistol holstered to his belt.
    The 066 Stun Pistol was considered a marvel in security technology, able to shoot a quick charged bolt of conductive gas that could disorientate organics and overload robotics up to fifty meters away. On the downside, it had an infamous tendency to break machinery. Misfires could destroy machine components from its sheer overload of power. It didn’t matter too much if they were properly insulated, as the charged ball of gas seeped through their vents and crevices. It paralyzed intruders as much as it fried circuits, and Mason knew this was most likely the case right here.
    As an engineer, Mason personified these quirky machines. Even though they’re programmed for work and work only, he liked to pretend he was their doctor and they appreciated his work. The thought of this janitor needlessly destroying one of these machines was heartbreaking.
    “Eh, trust me, I didn’t fry any circuits. I even checked, pried this bad boy open and I…well…I really think you should see for yourself.”
    The machine before them was a Mark IV Saturn, the best of their kind. As all-purpose humanoid robots, their primary purpose was to be used in place of people if the job posed a significant danger or strain. With 360-degree fishbowl-shaped head between its shoulders, a humanlike torso that could swivel on a dime, and four spindly legs, they were much more situationally aware than your average hardhat.
    The Saturns dealt with the most dangerous waste in the facility and often took the place of workers during the late hours of the night to keep up productivity. Mason, while he didn’t want to admit it, wished he could have had a Saturn take his place right now. He was far too tired for this situation.
    The janitor bend over to pry open the Saturn’s chest plate, but Mason stopped him.
    “Please, let me do this” he said.
            “You’ve done enough damage tonight.” he wanted to say but didn’t.
    When he pried open the poor thing’s chest, he wished he let the janitor do so.
    “Jesus fucking Christ!” he shouted, scrambling away from the automaton.
    “I told you so.” The janitor said smugly.
    “What the fuck do you mean!? You didn’t tell me shit!”
    “I told you I didn’t fry any circuits. I’m sure you understand now.”
    Mason understood well enough, but that didn’t stop his disgust. How could that man try to be humorous now? He wanted to throw up. He peered right into his aging eyes, trying and failing to read him like he did before, but then he swiveled back to the Saturn’s chest cavity and just stared.
    “Its okay. It took me a good while to comprehend. The boys in suits are gonna throw a shitshow tomorrow once they hear about this.”
    Mason pulled himself closer to the chest cavity, gripping along its metal sides for support. He almost touched one of the many pink organs that sat inside the Saturn’s chest. Without even thinking, he spoke up.
    “Did…did you do this?”
    “What, systematically harvest and preserve organs in a hollowed out company robot serving as a really shitty refrigerator.” the janitor replied, expecting him to come up with that accusation beforehand..
    Mason realized his accusation sounded silly, especially since the janitor was the guy to show him. He finally peered at the nametag clipped to the old man’s gray suit.
    “I’m sorry, Mr… Dandy. I didn’t mean to imply-“
    “Eh, just call me Andrew, and it’s alright. Boy, you should have seen me when I pried open the son-of-a-gun first. Nearly upchucked my dinner and then some. Spent a good thirty minutes or so just lookin at it, wondering if I should destroy him or not.”
    The janitor (or Andrew, as Mason was trying to make a mental note to call him) took a deep breath and sighed.
    “And while I was starin’ at the corpse our Saturn friend here, I started noticing something very peculiar and I bet you have as well.”
    Mason indeed didn’t have any idea what he was implying, but he forced himself to peer at its pink innards, as much as this detested him. Inevitably, he saw it. It was more than just a clump of entrails stuffed inside a machine. They were all connected inside without any incisions or gashes, as if they were all grown from the same body. While it didn’t have any ribs or bones, he could see wires and chips occasionally through the mess of innards, parts that seamlessly connected to the organ system as a whole. He felt confident in his conclusion despite it not making any sense.
    “These things grew inside it.” Mason muttered, disgusted with himself for coming to that conclusion. The janitor agreed and began to state his own operations, but Mason did not require the extra help. These organs certainly resembled that of a human’s, but with some key differences. The lungs were surprisingly large and would have to push the rest of the organs inward to pull a full breath in. The organ that should have been its heart was significantly tiny. If the human heart was the size of a rat, this heart was hardly the size of a mouse.
    “And that’s what I think killed him,” spoke the janitor. Mason returned from his inner thoughts back to reality.
    “His poor heart couldn’t handle a shock like that.”
    The janitor continued with his observations but Mason interrupted him.
    “Why did you come to me?”
    “I said why did you come to me. What made you think I was the kind of guy who could deal with this kind of crap?” The janitor gave him a fairly good answer.
     “Because you’re the only other human up at this hour, other than all of the other Saturns fumbling about.”
    Mason became uncomfortably aware of all the clicks and clacks of the many thin spindly legs that roamed the facility. Normally this was just background noise that he could ignore. It made him even more uncomfortable knowing that their heads could see in any direction no matter where they were facing. He wondered if those domed heads would have massive eyes or brains inside if he pried them open. There were many more Saturns out here than there were when he first walked in.
    “I don’t feel safe.” he said bluntly. His eyes quickly darted towards the magnetically holstered gun on the janitor’s belt.
    “Andrew, where do I get one of those?”
    “I have a gun because I’m trained to know what to do with intruders. The only others with 066’s are-“
    Mason regretted that Saturns could do so many jobs, even basic security. Mason silently gestured him towards an empty office towards the east side of the room. Both of them swiftly entered and Mason locked the door. He knew the auditory systems in the robots were particularly good so there was a chance a hollow aluminum door wouldn’t block out everything they were saying, but he craved any sense of security he could get.
    Inside, the two debated methods of escape. The most important thing was to figure out which Saturns had organs and which didn’t. They both examined the facts. The shut-down command would indeed cause the unaffected Saturns to drop in their spot, but their more organic counterparts could easily feign a shut-down if they had the ability to learn. The other option was shooting any Saturn that got too close.
    “There aren’t enough charges or gas cartridges to defend us if we get rushed. Two 066’s would be cutting it close, let alone one.”
    “Then it’s settled. We need better weapons.”
    Mason peered out the plexiglass window. Normally Saturns didn’t idle, they were linked to a network that would immediately direct them to their next task. The Saturns out there, however, just stood in place. Some of them paced, some carried around tools and boxes, but they were doing nothing. What scared him more were the Saturns he couldn’t see. Just a floor above, on the work platform, he could have sworn he heard the telltale clicks of their scuttling legs. Neither had seen any proof of aggression, but both felt trapped. Mason peered further out the window, noticing a similar room parallel to theirs.
    “Listen, I have a plan. It’s a stupid plan, but I am too goddamned tired to come up with anything else.”
    “I’m listening.”
    “Well there’s a chance you won’t be after I say this. On the count of three, I need to open this door and sprint to that room, while trying to draw any attention you can.” Mason was expecting the janitor to protest but he didn’t.
    “Go on.” he said, legitimately interested.
    “Okay, um, do you have access to the armory?”
    “Sure, but my card ain’t gonna open the locks on the cases. Probably gonna have to brute-force them open.”
    “Shit. Okay, I want you to run to that room and draw their attention. Keep your on gun ready to fire at anything that moves an inch too close. Then lock yourself in. I am gonna leave a little bit after you exit and try the armory. If the robots are causing you trouble. I blow their little hearts out with whatever I can find. Does that sound like a plan?”
    “I guess we have a plan.” he replied. Mason couldn’t stand the optimism in his voice. He realized he was throwing this senior citizen in harm’s way. He was praying that the man would come up with a better plan, or at least a suggestion.
    Mason was handed the key card and inevitably had to give the man the signal. He slowly counted down.
    The older man sprinted out the door, much faster than either anticipated. Mason silently cheered as the janitor, no, Andrew, darted at such a speed that is gave the impression that he would shatter any automaton that got in his way. The machines, despites not needing to, shifted their bodies in his direction as he passed. The ones that were feigning work immediately stopped, some even dropping boxes and tools. In their apparent distraction, the other sprinted out the door, heading north instead of west. In the past, people actually used to stump themselves with the question of how a robot would decide who to kill in the event of a situation where they were forced to pick. The thought briefly stuck in Mason’s mind. The path of least resistance was the obvious answer.
    A crack filled the balcony above, followed by the metallic smell of ozone. Mason whipped his head back, but only in time to see the fall. Andrew was almost there, so close to safety. Just a few more steps and he would have been so safe and secure. Instead, he convulsed on the floor, writhing like a confused worm as his body and mind whiplashed with an electric shock. Mason’s eyes quickly darted to the robot on the balcony, the 066 pointed ever so accurately towards Andrew Dandy’s uninsulated back.
    Saturns could do so many jobs, even basic security.
    A second shot cracked out and Mason didn’t bother watching it strike the convulsing old man again. There was no way the automatons didn’t realize he was there. It was pure speculation before that these things were violent. It was also pure speculation if this plan would even work.
    Mason sprinted out the workroom and into the northern hallway, the pattering of many feet ever so present behind him, the realization that his plan was doomed from the start. Acidic guilt waterlogged his heart knowing he sent an old man to die.
    When he had reached the armory, he desperately opened it with the keycard and hid behind the heavy reinforced door. It wasn’t long before he heard muffled clanging from outside. It wasn’t longer after that when he realized that security could easily access this room. The mental image of dozens of these creatures feigning machinery pooling outside his door flashed through his head, with just one of them walking up, opening the door, and letting the wave flood in.
    The engineer couldn’t let himself become a fish in poorly crafted barrel. In this room, there were weapons, the last line of defense against these things. He scanned the darkened room, quickly locking his eyes on a carbon mesh box that had been carelessly left open. He inched slowly towards it. On any other day, the thing inside would disgust him; he hated weapons with a passion. In this moment, it was a friend he desperately needed. The 05 Repeater was a device that could shatter metal and vaporize soft organs, contained here in the event of a siege. The waste treatment plant dealt with biohazardous things that they hoped no criminal or terrorist organization could get their hands on. This would help him.
    He held the weapon in his hands, a pulsing sensation of power filling him with more comfort than anything else could. He pointed it towards the door, waiting for the moment the Saturns finally broke through.
    “Not gonna kill them if there aren’t any charges loaded.” he thought, realizing that a gun like this would most likely be unloaded when in storage. He scavenged the room, looking for the right ammunition.  Finally finding the right grade of powerpack, he opened the compartment on the side of the gun.
    Mason found that it was already loaded. The thrumming he felt from it was so much stronger now, audible even. The gun’s beating heart raced, each wet beat reverberating through the metal shell.
    The door clicked open.

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