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Sleepers: A Near Future Science Fiction Short Story, Part Four

Chris has written more than 200 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

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“Why did they call us, masters?” asked Chesa.

“I have a theory. If a normal processor controlled the network, they would have responded like computers. But our brains are the center of it all, and unlike computers, our brains are organic. I believe there is an organic thread that extends out from us and runs through the entire network including this window.”

“It’s alive.” Chesa nearly whispered the words.

“Let’s see how much authority we actually have.” Benjie refocused on the robots. “I need you to start a fire, a big one. I don’t care where. I need four of you to come to the control room and protect us from the company’s men. You’ll need weapons, but try not to kill anyone.”

Yes, masters.

Four androids stepped out of line and disappeared off screen to the right. Two others walked off to the left.

“They must be communicating somehow,” said Chesa.

Benjie and Chesa waited several minutes to allow the androids to get to their respective destinations.

“Let’s see if the four androids have arrived at the control room.” In the corridor outside the room where they were sleeping, two company men guarded the door, but they were relaxed, not expecting anything unusual, looking at their cell phones.

The sound of footsteps in the hallway brought both men to their feet. They pulled their tasers and shouted for the men to stop. But the intruders had no intention of stopping. The guards shot their tasers. Four armed androids entered the view of the window and deflected the electrodes. They bound the guards and carried them off until their muffled cries faded.

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Benjie guided the window back to the android storage area. “Where will the fire be started?

One robot stepped forward. “Drone sector. Underground fuel tanks.”

“What will the two androids do? Just toss a match into one of them?” asked Benjie.

“They will cause a sudden compression of the sealed tank. The result will be an explosion that will aerosolize the liquid fuel mixing it with the ambient air. Only then will it be combustible.”

“But how will the two androids escape?” Chesa stepped to Benjie’s side.

“They will not escape.”

“We have one more request. I want to talk to Katja.”

Movement among the androids caught their attention. The line of robots parted and the female android Benjie and Chesa had been looking at on the computer stepped forward. She had short chocolate blonde hair that was cut above her ears with the front flipped up in a cowlick. Her face was stern, her eyes piercing.

“I am Katja.” Her voice was low, but not unfeminine.

“I want you to go to the office of Yasmine Albright. Don’t harm her, but don’t allow her to leave the office or communicate with anyone. If you need assistance, take two more androids with you.”

“Yes, Master.” Katja left the room alone.

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The drone sector housed a production facility as well as testing and storage. Fuel was kept outside, underground. The area was also where construction equipment was parked. The window opened to a view that took Benjie’s and Chesa’s breath away. A crane rolled across the open terrain, its boom and jib reaching at a slight angle toward the sky. Hanging in midair off the crane’s cable was a bulldozer the size of a garage. The crane stopped when the dozer hung one hundred feet above an underground airplane fuel storage tank.

The android driving the crane released the dozer. Benjie and Chesa watched it fall, as if in slow motion. It struck and compressed the liquid inside the tank causing an explosion that burst the welded seams sending a vaporized cloud across the open field.

The second android raced to the edge of the cloud on foot and stopped. He raised his hand and flicked a lighter. The vaporized fuel mixed with air exploded in a blinding flash. A few seconds later, the shock wave struck buildings, broke windows, and sent nearby automobiles tumbling.

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“Ches, it’s time for us to wake up.”

Benjie’s eyes opened in the control room and met the stare of an android. The face could easily have been mistaken for that of a human, except for the lack of feeling flowing out of the human essence.

“Do you have any idea where we should go?” Chesa was sitting on the edge of her bed.

“Yes, I do. We’re not leaving here without our money.”

The androids waited for instructions.

“Take us to Yasmine Albright’s office. She’s probably expecting us.”

Outside, the company grounds were a bedlam of people running, screaming, the screech of sirens, someone shouting over a public address system. Police cars were arriving along with firetrucks and ambulances.

The androids led Benjie and Chesa at a run across a parking lot toward an office building. Inside, the androids didn’t break stride. They entered the nearest stairwell and began running at an unimaginable pace. Chesa and Benjie were quickly left behind. The androids stopped one flight up and stared down at the two humans.

“Sorry, guys. We can’t do that,” said Benjie.

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They eventually arrived at the tenth floor and followed the corridor to an office door that read, President/CEO, Yasmine Albright. Benjie stepped through the doorway with Chesa right behind. Yasmine took one stride toward them when a hand grabbed her shoulder and held her back.

“What have you done?” Her face was flushed with anger. Tears had created streaks through her makeup. Her voice was guttural.

Chesa took the lead. “You cry and get angry about broken things like fuel tanks and drones.” She was breathing in the woman’s face. “But you were thrilled at the idea of sedating us and keeping us in that control room hooked up to your network for as long we lived. You're a sick woman, Yasmine.” Chesa spat out the name like sour milk.”

There was commotion in the corridor outside the room. The four male androids bolted through the door followed by sounds of a skirmish and cries of men in distress.

“We’re leaving the company,” said Benjie.

“Fine, go, leave now. I never want to see your faces again as long as I live.” The words were like the snarl of a feline.

"Not without our money."

© 2019 Chris Mills

Comments

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on January 29, 2019:

Things are getting tense. I can't help but feel Yasmine Albright is giving in too easily. And how did Benjie and Chesa gain control of the androids? Isn't their allegiance to PTI?

Ann Carr from SW England on January 22, 2019:

I've just looked it up and it's called the 'Writers' Market', though I've also just read that both that one and the UK one are not as good as they used to be, with only a fraction of the book actually dedicated to publishers and agents. However, it might be worth a look if you can get hold of one without buying it - maybe the library I suppose.

Hope this might be useful for you.

Ann

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 21, 2019:

Ann, actually, no, I am not familiar with that publication. I have been relying on web searches to find online magazines. The maze of possibilities for publishing is discouraging to me. For now, I'm promoting on my second facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/cam8510/. When I get a few hundred people to join the site, I'll introduce a book of short stories. But the stories will be new, not ones I have published on HP.

Ann Carr from SW England on January 19, 2019:

Have you looked in your equivalent of the 'Writers' & Artists' Yearbook'? It has a list of publishers and what they publish - very useful. I expect you know all about it already. Can't remember what the US one is called, sorry.

Ann

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 19, 2019:

Ann, I intended to publish this story in an online magazine but got tired of hitting dead ends. I just couldn't find one that published what I had written. I could do a book of short stories, but there isn't much of a market. I'm about 30k words into a novel, but I don't know what I would do with it. So I have a lot to learn.

Ann Carr from SW England on January 19, 2019:

Great ideas in the progression of this. I see what you mean about finding photos to match the plot; it must be really difficult as it has to be specific. You've managed well so far! I hope you're going to publish these in some sort of series, or novel?

Ann

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 18, 2019:

Sorry, John. The finale is ready to post when I find the right photos.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on January 18, 2019:

Onto the finale... :)