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- Gift of the Gruldak: Chapter One and Table of Contents
Gruldak is a serialized science fiction novel about humanity, aliens, survival, passion, cool technology, and coming of age for a second time in a game-changing reality. It's free to read online.
Chapter Nineteen, Seeing Is Believing
I went to bed worrying about the family Kevin had still living on earth and the thousands of descendants his sperm might have produced. I dreamt dark dreams of apartment complexes full of dead people that changed, in that way places do in dreams, to apartment complexes made of alien-constructed people like Guido. Dozens of Guido's sisters stood silently, full of death and spiritually dying in horror themselves, unable to escape the rotting remains of all the people they loved, poisoned by the same virus but not enough to die swiftly. I thought I heard Guido's voice sobbing quietly as I passed a burnt out car with a half-rotted arm sticking out of it and I woke with tears on my face.
The bed was shaking.
"Kevin. Wake up, Kevin," Guido said gently.
I wrapped my arms around the bed covers and said, "Oh, thank God, Guido." My dreams had far too closely resembled my nightmare journey out of New York City during the pandemic and in the new version contained even more people I loved dying, including Guido. I squeezed the covers tightly because it was the closest I could come to hugging her.
"Your dreams were getting too sad again," Guido said softly from a small voice box near the head of the bed.
"There's just been too much death, Gwee," I replied.
I sat there on the edge of the bed with only the sound of Guido's quiet breathing and my own heartbeat in my ears for a few moments. She broke the silence, saying, "Cap is up if you need to be with him."
"That's not a bad idea."
"I hope you don't mind, but I asked him to meet us here."
Cap was entering my apartment by the time I reached the dining room.
"Good morning," I said to my grandfather's young doppelganger.
"Since you're both awake, I have something to show you," Guido said as Cap closed the door. "I have the visual and audio data from the booth we used to put your copy on earth."
Cap asked, "Don't the bots usually longer to come back?"
"We programmed them to return immediately if their sensors were too damaged to collect further data, remember?"
"So let's see it," I said.
Cap and I sat on the sofa, watching the recording on Guido's new screen as she cut the habitat lights. There was nothing but darkness for a few seconds. Then the eerie blue lights came up, showing three different views, each in its own separate box on Guido's screen. The cameras were spaced evenly and near the ceiling of a small domed room. Around the edge of the floor, a small distance from where it met the wall, was a thick, fluorescent orange line.
"Robert Evan Andrews," said a faint, cool feminine voice, "Please enter the transportation booth and stand inside the orange lines on the floor. "
The door in front of camera one whooshed open and the voice said, "Stand inside the orange lines. Make sure no body part is outside or above the orange lines on the floor. You may wish to close your eyes during the scanning process. "
A middle-aged white man with attractively symmetrical features and large feet stepped into the booth and the female voice repeated its message. The man took a couple of steps towards the center of the room, not even looking down for the orange lines, tugging at the fabric under his crotch in a timeless display of masculine discomfort. He then adjusted his waistband and the hem of his jacket, and shook one leg to be sure everything had settled properly.
Mr. Andrews closed his eyes and stood still as a statue. The floor he stood on turned transparent, making it clear the room was actually a sphere. Lights so bright they overloaded the three bots' cameras scanned him from every direction, apparently coming from the walls. He stood there with his eyes shut for several seconds then opened them. He looked down in surprise at the transparent floor beneath him and said, "Huh. What the Hell?"
The floor remained transparent and the man became increasingly agitated. He turned and walked stiffly to the side he'd entered through and started pounding on the entryway. I looked over at Cap, who bit his lower lip, looking pale. He took my hand in his without looking down.
A high-pitched chirping sound made him react by pounding harder on the wall where the door had been.
"Stay inside the orange lines," a loud voice blared.
I saw movement in all three different camera angles as small robots rolled out of the walls. Mr. Andrews looked down at the one nearest him and his expression relaxed slightly.
"Stay inside the orange lines," the voice blared again, but before the man could back up, there was a flash of light and the man yelled, "Ow! What the Hell?"
Cap's hand squeezed mine tightly and I heard his sharp intake of breath.
"Stay inside the orange lines" was again followed by another flash of light and a shriek from Mr. Andrews. This time, I could see the flash was coming from the small robot nearest him like some kind of electric arc. He shrieked wordlessly and fell down, trying to scuttle backwards away from the machine. I heard someone whispering "no" over and over again and realized it was me, but still couldn't stop.
An even brighter explosion of light filled the room, and two of the cameras cut out instantly in a crackle of sound with the third a fraction of a second behind. I closed my mouth and glanced at Cap again, seeing tears streak silently down his face. A few seconds later, two of the three cameras came up soundlessly. Guido explained, "They switched to the backup cameras."
We saw Mr. Robert Evan Andrews' right hand and part of his arm laying just outside the orange line just before one of the robots pushed it inside the orange lines and another followed behind it, buffing up the thin smear of blood it left behind. The robots retreated back into the walls and a sudden flash of light burnt out the backup cameras.
"But the... It was supposed to be disabled by the bots!" I cried.
Cap replied in a thin whisper, "It must be a fail-safe."
"This is all my fault. I should have tried harder. I should have tried sooner. Oh, God, grandpa, what have I done?"
Cap put his arms around me and spoke into my hair, "Shhh, boy, it's not your fault. They know; they have a fail-safe, so they know. They know they're killing people."
Guido asked, "What do we do?"
"We fight it. We make it stop," Cap answered, voice trembling, "We show the world what we just saw."
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 23, 2016:
How did I miss out on this series? I have a lot of catching up to do.