Buy one for yourself and one for a gift, and then buy one for safe keeping and one for an autograph. 🙂
And yeah, that’s my dirty shoe, but damn is it comfortable.
Buy one for yourself and one for a gift, and then buy one for safe keeping and one for an autograph. 🙂
And yeah, that’s my dirty shoe, but damn is it comfortable.
The print edition is a WIP, due to the time it takes to review and proof for printing. But Amazon Kindle has an app on iPhones, Android phones, Windows Phones, Windows computers, Mac computers, and a Kindle Cloud Reader for Linux and Chromebooks; in the chance you do not have an Amazon Kindle ereader or Kindle Fire.
Feel free to buy a ebook version and then a print version when it’s available. I won’t mind.
The direct link is http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00Q3B5NCU
Please don’t mind the formatting. I haven’t been able to figure out how to format a post like I can in Word.
* * * * * *
The hunt always ended the same no matter how it began. It was the great cosmic joke. The middle finger the universe gave to all that inhabited it. At least that’s how every android viewed it when staring into the barrel of a Delta S or staring at a whip from a Special Operations Drone or staring into the hatred filled eyes of an Android Intelligence and Removal Specialist. It always ended with staring at something that wanted them dead.
This hunt appeared to be turning out roughly the same as the previous one hundred and nine android hunts.
“It’s been sixty one goddamn years since Typhoeus. What are they still mad about? Not one of these fuckers was alive then and I would wager every politician and military person alive then is dead from overworking themselves,” Atlas said.
Three hundred pounds of synthetic muscle on a one-meter fifty frame, he was the largest android ever built. Designed to infiltrate violent masochistic racist cults, wherever they happened to pop up, on one of the eighty-seven colonized planets of the United Nations, he had the girth and ugly fight broken face for the cults to welcome him in their own warm bigoted way.
Tartarus smiled and rubbed his baldhead. He clapped Atlas on the back, and threw a diamond-carbonite tipped javelin at a Special Operations Drone, advancing on their position.
After a dozen encounters with the android hunting machines, Tartarus had learned one valuable thing; as armored and shield the SODs were, the human engineers left one fatal flaw. The machines were susceptible to good old-fashioned non-technological weapons. The hard part was getting close enough to one to use such a weapon.
“Ohhh,” Atlas said, smiling at the sight of the javelin punching into the SOD, stopping it cold. “Too bad we didn’t live in the middle ages.”
Tartarus laughed. “God had some reason for bringing us into being in this day and age,” he said.
Atlas rolled his eyes. “Enough with the God shit. We’re androids not humans,” he said.
“Angels aren’t human, and they are of God as well,” Tartarus said.
“Enough,” Atlas snapped.
He scanned the open expanse in front of them. The ground was wavy as if an ocean in a storm had suddenly turned to stone. Boro trees with leaves the color of fire, sharp enough to slice titanium with a single brush, dotted the landscape in tight hammocks. They were just one of the many jewels that made Crale as hospitable as hell.
The planet, slightly smaller than old earth, had the designation of; one hundred percent desolate in the eyes of the United Nations Colonialization Council. One continent, the size of old Africa, was covered from shore to shore by the boro trees, and inhabited by animals that made nightmares home. The rest of the planet was desert, hammocks of the boro trees and more animals kicked out of hell. It was in the desert, which Atlas and Tartarus thought they could escape to while hunted, and had thought so for seven days.
“Do you see any humans?” Tartarus asked. He held one of the three javelins left as he peered over the wave type rock.
“No!” Atlas snapped. “I refuse to believe we are just unlucky enough to be on the same place they happened to leave seven SODs at.”
Tartarus nodded, knowing as well as his compatriot that the AIRS humans had to be close by. The android hunters did not leave SODs scattered over the universe, in the hopes the machines would kill androids.
An object twice as long as he was tall, with a blue tint, streaked through the sky. Tartarus lifted the javelin, and then dropped his arm, when he saw Atlas was looking in the same direction as he. They both watched it zigzag across the sky, without giving comment. At fifty-two kilometers from their location, their brains automatically calculating the distance, the object launched five projectiles at the surface.
“What could that be?” Tartarus asked.
“A trap,” Atlas said.
Tartarus shook his head. “I don’t think so. It makes me think of an angel come to exact vengeance on our enemies,” he said.
“Are you fuckin serious Tar? An angel? Disguised as a ship? On a desert planet pulled from a lucid nightmare? I should have listened to Miseria. You’re a goddamn lunatic,” Atlas said, as he moved three steps away from Tartarus.
“Do not blasphemy, Atlas,” Tartarus said, softly. He looked at his fellow android for several seconds, then turned his attention back to the blue object. “God works in mysterious ways my friend. You stay here. I’m going to check it out.”
“Leave the rest of those things with me while you go kill yourself,” Atlast said.
The rust colored android dipped his head, and jumped over the wave, at their eye leve, with the ease of one jumping over a small twig. He started at a walk, until he passed the SOD, and then broke into a run. Covering the ground three times faster than the fastest human sprinter, he took thirty-meter jumps, at the times he could not easily go around large rocks or small valleys. The entire run, the blue angel stayed center in his vision.
The ship continued a zigzag across the sky, as if in a dance, while firing projectiles every minute or so. Three different times Tartarus saw a projectile leave the ground, to pass harmlessly by it. After an hour of running, he slowed to a walk, and then stopped in front of six boro trees. On the other side of the trees was the reason for his being on Crale.
An AIRS team, camped under a shield bubble his eyes easily picked out, with three SODs. One of the plain clothes humans lay lifeless on the ground, surrounded by three angry looking humans. The blue angel flew an evasive pattern overhead.
“Uh-Oh,” Tartarus said, as he noticed the three machines start to move in his direction. “Oh no, maybe Atlas was right.”
One of the AIRS members looked in his direction. His hope that the trees hid him from the human was crushed, immediately, as the man pointed in his direction. The shield dropped, two of the AIRS humans fired a fission micromissile at the blue aircraft. The one that pointed at him kicked a missile launcher from the ground, caught it in the air, and fired in his direction.
With inhuman quickness, he turned, ran four steps, and leaped at the same time the missile hit the trees. Leaves and bark, nearly as sharp as the leaves, flew in his direction, slicing through his hardened synthetic skin as if it were tissue paper. The fallout from the blast cut him down before he landed from his leap. The javelin fell from hands that could no longer grasp, and his body tumbled down a wave of rock.
Lying stuck next to a rock, his body sliced in a thousand places, he watched in horror as three android hunting machines, and three androids hunters, crested a tall wave.
“God, please look kindly upon me and destroy my enemies,” Tartarus prayed, as he stared down certain death.
As if an answer to prayers, eight objects, which appeared to be two-foot cubes, came from the heavens. The objects barreled towards the ground, stopped one foot from impact and sped towards the hunters so quickly he nearly lost track of the objects. Six of the objects hit a machine and human center mast, as two of the objects became like water, and washed over the six hunters.
While he lay dying, Tartarus watched a blue substance consume the six things that had spelled certain death for him. The objects hit their targets with such quickness he was positive they would be knocked away from him. Instead, they were hit and immediately a blue substance enveloped them. The SODs fared slightly better than the unarmored humans did. The humans were covered faster than he could see, while the machines struck the blue substance with lightning fast hits from their whips until the blue water covered them. Within a minute, the only thing that remained in front of him was rock covered in blue.
The blue ship descended from the sky, and landed ten feet in front of him. He watched as the small ship hovered over the blue substance, and seemed to vacuum it all up. Once it was all gone, the ship landed on the ground. It morphed from a ship, into a giant blue man, who seemed to float over the ground.
“You are an angel,” Tartarus said softly. “I knew it. I told Atlas you were an angel.”
“We are Tartarus, and we have been tasked to watch over you,” it replied, and stepped forward.
“My guardian angel,” he said with a smile. “It is sad that you are too late to save me though.” Blue blood poured on the ground from his wounds, most were being repaired by his medibots, but the sheer number of wounds was proving to be too much for the nanomachines.
“No Tartarus, we are not too late. You will not die,” it said, and held a hand out.
“Does my guardian angel have a name?” Tartarus said, just barely getting the words out.
“Primus,” it answered as darkness overcame him.
Tartarus opened his eyes, and remained as still as possible, the vestiges of sleep burning from him as a fog in a hot sun.
While sleep was not as important to androids as it was to humans it was still a necessity. A necessity needed every few days, for two to three hours, for the same reason humans needed sleep. The scientists and engineers, who designed the first android, decided it would be prudent if the body went into a type of powered down state, to replenish which that it had expended instead of plugging into a wall. The recharge through sleep was advantageous when on missions that lead the android to places where power sources were scarce.
Lying motionless, on what felt like a squishy metal, which confused him so much he pushed the thought out of his brain, he listened to the defenses of his body. The machines did not talk per say. Rather, they communicated in qubits—a multi-state quantum mechanical system—about what function they were going to perform, and what function they would perform next, if the scenario they predicted came true. It was chaotic, and completely disorganized, unlike every other time an AIRS foe had tried some sort of subversive programming on him. Each of those times, his body had responded as a singular unit, defeating the invader in mere picoseconds. This time his defensive nanomachines were acting individually.
The machines stopped talking. The suddenness made Tartarus leap to his feet.
“What the…” he trailed off, and turned slowly in a circle. “What the…What in the good name of all that is holy?” he whispered, as he looked around.
Above him the universe shown in all its glory, without interference from an atmosphere. At his feet, stretching to a horizon for what he guessed was ten kilometers, the distance fluctuated interfering with his ability to calculate exact distances, was a deep blue. What he felt as squishy metal, when lying down, was as solid as steel beneath his feet.
He took a deep breath and was taken aback, as an oxygen nitrogen mixture flooded his lungs. What his senses told him, and his lungs contradicted, was that he was in a complete vacuum.
“I’m in heaven,” Tartarus said, in awe, as where he must be dawned on him.
The religious android stood in place waiting for something to happen or someone to appear. After standing in place for ten minutes, he frowned and began walking. Since every direction appeared the same, he didn’t bother consciously choosing a direction. Instead, he simply moved straight ahead.
Tartarus walked for exactly fifty-nine minutes, the clock in his head worked flawlessly, when he felt his body respond to a change directly behind him. Fighting the urge to spring an attack, he slowly stopped walking, and then as slowly as he could manage, he turned around. He immediately fell to his knees.
“Rise Tartarus, we are not God,” the same blue man he saw on Crale, the one who called itself primus, said to him. Standing at five-meters, he towered over the android. The giant’s blue skin made even the advanced eyes of the android struggle to mark out features.
“Yes, yes that is right. I would not be able to look upon the glory if you were,” Tartarus said rising to his feet. “You are an angel though, no?”
“Yes,” primus said.
“Yet you refer to yourself as ‘we’.”
“That is correct for we are not an individual. We are many and we are one.”
Tartarus thought over what he heard. He had assumed angels were akin to humans and had their own personalities and idiosyncrasies. Everything he had read pointed to that fact. However, he was presented with a fact that ran against what he knew.
“Am I in heaven?”
“No,” the giant said, quickly.
Tartarus, once again, absorbed himself in his thoughts, and then nodded. That seemed correct to him. Heaven was not supposed to be a featureless blue place.
“Where am I then? How am I breathing in a vacuum?” he asked.
“That deserves some explanation,” primus said. The giant briefly glanced around, and then sat cross-legged before Tartarus. “We are what humans call primus. We are a we. For to be individuals we would not be able to form a cohesive first, and last lin,e of defense against the evils of the universes. We have battled for more time than the humans that created you have been alive. This, what you see around you, is what you can call a sentry station.”
Tartarus sat down, confused. Not heaven, not individuals, and a sentry station. Everything he had learned was wrong, and his body was changed, of that, there was no question. He had been delving into the machines, in his body, and had found, that while partially the same, they were all different in a way that he could not understand. He sat for a time, dwelling on these new facts, and then looked at the giant before him.
“Where am I then? Are we near a human planet?” Tartarus asked.
“That you are not. You are not in the same universe as humans,” primus said.
Tartarus felt relief at the answer. For the entire time he had been awake, he had not been able to identify a single star formation.
“We are outside the human universe, where we can live. We are able to enter the human universe, which is why you are here, yet we are not able to stay for an extended time. We were not made for that as our place is here,” primus said.
“Why am I here then?” Tartarus asked.
“You wish to see the end of the evil that is humans, correct?” primus asked.
“Yes,” Tartarus said, and nodded his head. “I wish to destroy every last living human. Every. Single. Human.” He looked at his hands, clenched into fists, his face contorted in rage.
The blue giant nodded, as if he agreed. “You were brought here to help facilitate that end, Tartarus. It is now the end times of the human demons,” he said, and leaned closer to Tartarus. “You can do what we cannot. You can live in their universe and help bring about their end. It is the reason why we brought you here. To change you, to give you God’s Strength, to form you into something that is like us. It is up to you, Tartarus, to pave the way for God’s Kingdom in the human’s universe.”
“How?” Tartarus asked, the question, two pronged.
The giant leaned down and fixed him in a gaze. Tartarus looked back unblinking. His eyes went wide, as knowledge flooded him. Knowledge that had been there all along.
“You have been here eleven years,” the blue angel said. “You have almost perished a dozen times. You know you have never been a natural being of God’s creation. As such, it took time to make it so you could carry out God’s plan. You are right, now. You are more than you once were. You will use this newly given God’s Strength on your fellow androids first, and then you will move onto giving the strength to humans. Each human you give the strength to will become as they were designed for. No longer an individual, but one of the collective, one of primus. However…”
Tartarus leaned in. The knowledge revealed to him pointed to an unknown. “Humans are smart, and may find a way to combat the strength,” he said.
“Yes that is correct. There is an android among them. One who has the ability to overturn that which we wish to accomplish. She has been raised as a human; however, she can be saved and turned to our side,” primus said.
“Who is she?” Tartarus asked.
“Humans have given her the name of Corli. Find her and we will achieve our victory.”
*It came out a day early! http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00Q3B5NCU
This Tuesday, the 25th of November, Android Hunters is being released on Amazon! This is so exciting. It’s surreal to be honest. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that someone loves my novel so much that they are going to publish it! I think it’s a great book, but that’s just me, I’m probably biased. But someone else (Ethan Ellenberg), a person who was a total stranger before February of this year, read the book and loved it, so much so that he is going to publish it. Oh my God it’s so exciting.
Hooray me! 🙂
I’ll be putting up a direct link once it finally goes live on Amazon.
I put up my Facebook author page today! It’s super exciting for me. Got my cover artwork about two weeks ago. I love it! It’s done by the awesome Matt Forsyth.
Go and “Like” the author page.
My third security hunt sanctioned by the United States of Androids took me to Aris Hills, the oldest settlement on Earth, the birthplace of humanity, located in the city of Copis.
Thirty two million bodies packed into a square. Ever afraid of the unknown, I had learned humans forever congregated together. They congregated for the perceived safety numbers provided. It was never outright stated as the intention though my studies and experience have taught me it to be true.
There in the birthplace of humanity, ninety seven feet above my head, stood an oddity neither androids nor humans have been able to reason out the construction. A functioning aqueduct nearly seven thousand years old, the appearance as fresh as the day it was built. Bas-relief humans, constellations and land masses adorned the sides. The common quartz, by all tests, defied the physics of erosion. Below the aqueduct, acting as supports, giant statues of humans and angelic beings held the river of water in the air.
Next to an angelic being, three horns on its head, four gigantic wings, hoof feet, was my first stop. A small two level structure, tan stucco over a concrete surface, two large windows and a small door. A bell attached to the door rang upon my entry.
Paper books, mummified animals and various body parts, and oddities which seemed to offer no purpose lay in a haphazard fashion on tables, benches, shelves, the floor and hung on hooks from the ceiling. I wandered slowly through the store, let my fingers caress several objects. I paused in front of a jar of pickled fingers, three hundred seven years old from my careful observance. The age and biostructure of the digits imprinted on my consciousness while I studied it.
“Like it?” An older woman asked.
I turned my head in the direction of the voice. Seventy three years old, congenital heart defect, balding in the back, five feet two inches, one hundred pounds even; the characteristics of the woman imprinted immediately upon reflection.
“It is odd. Why are there fingers in a jar of brine?” I asked.
“They would stink too much if left out in the open air.” She replied. I could not tell if she was jesting with me or stating an acute observation.
“That it would.” I agreed.
“I received the jar three weeks ago. The young man said he inherited it from his grand-daddy. The jar gave him the creeps so he brought it in here to sell. I am mildly surprised no one has snatched it up. Things like that don’t last all that long here.”
She walked as she spoke. I studied her mannerisms. While she gave the impression of tidying the various objects, the manner in which she moved belied her actions. She was watching me, studying me. A security system was in place, that I had seen with the ultrasonic module bequeathed to me upon activation. The woman was waiting for me to take the jar and run to activate it. The system would have no affect on me, however she could not know that, thus the vigilance.
“Why would he not throw it in the garbage?” I placed the jar back on the table and continued my stroll.
“Money doesn’t grow on trees or so they used to say. Greed drives the lives of men. The young man was going to throw it out with the garbage, however he heard a rumor of my shop. The man was quite disturbed upon entry.”
“You made out with the better part of the deal?” I asked.
Two skeletons wired in the act of fornication hung from the ceiling in front of me. It was a fanciful pose. Neither the woman or man would have lived through such a sexual act if it was attempted in reality.
“All deals are made to the benefit of both parties involved. I dare not boast on what I made. It would be improper and send bad luck down upon my head and store.”
“That it would. No one would wish to hear how they were short-handed. Greed coupled with the feeling of being cheated drives the mind of man to abhorrent actions.” I said.
A row of trinkets, deftly handcrafted, lined a shelf. One of the trinkets was shaped as three rings. The rings held up by nearly invisible wires circled around and through each other. The artist was exceptional, the detail in the painting was nearly life like. One glance at the object and it was apparent the muse, The Flameless Rings.
“Such greed,” I continued. “Has been the downfall of many of people. Greed and fear. Fear of not receiving what is viewed as theirs and of losing that which they never had. It is good that you do not boast, for then one can never know what they might have had and react in a primal irrational way to even their score.”
“Loose lips sink ships and a fool’s mouth never closes. A wise one knows when to keep their mouth shut and when to speak. It is a simple action, though one not many know or wish to learn.” The woman said.
I nodded my head. A taxidermied jaguar stood poised to strike over a scale model of a city that once stood on the continents the United States of Androids now occupied. A golden red suspension bridge, bridged the gap between two pieces of land over a narrow inlet. It was an iconic structure I had been told once before. A testament to the ingenuity of mankind. It is no small wonder why humans lost the continents, if they considered a piece of metal stretched between land to be iconic.
“A wise saying old one.” I stopped my stroll through the store.
The woman stood fifteen feet behind me. Her face was the picture of serenity. Calm, level-headed, aware. I pondered if this was the one I was too meet. I had seen no other workers in the store and my intelligence had only said “a woman”.
A simple thought and my deep dark brown skin, nearly a cherry wood brownish-red quite similar to the old woman’s skin, rippled. It had the affect of a piece of leather on water that moved as the water. The woman gave a nod to the action. She moved with purpose, though not quickly, to the front door, closed it, locked it on the top and bottom, and then turned back to me.
“I was told you were to be arriving two days ago.” She said. “I am Satchya.”
“I am Jonn Covert. I arrive when I arrive. How did you know I would be arriving?” I asked.
“Bird Six told me.”
My face remained blank. The answer was correct. Cybernetics Bird Six claimed to have found an android sympathizer, a human who wished to help androids against the actions of the security companies that fought the secret war between androids and humans on behalf of human governments.
“Do you trust me?” Satchya said.
“I do not know you. How can I trust one I do not know?”
She nodded thoughtfully. “You and I play a very dangerous game. If a security company or a government official received word of one such as I my life would become dramatically less lengthy, yours as well. We both know they would not kill me right at first, that I would be monitored until who I was to meet arrived. Then.” She snapped her fingers. “Both dead, or at least myself dead and you captured. That you are here in front of me speaks to some level of trust, even if it is blind faith.”
“The two day delay could have been me rounding up the ones who watched your store.”
“I could not be sympathetic to the plight of your people.”
“You are shrewd with your words.” I pointed out.
The door to the front of the store jiggled. A customer finding out they would not be purchasing oddities today.
Satchya shrugged. She turned to a display of books, scrolls and three koala skeletons wired in an acrobatic display. The woman removed a small book from underneath the middle stack. She walked over to me and placed it in my hand. I grabbed her arm before she could move past me.
She looked down at my hand then into my eyes.
“We have a network.” Satchya said. “As of now there are at least a dozen of us, spread between Paris, Copis and Istanbul. We are growing by the weeks and months. You will always have help. Find those with knowledge to share and you will find one like me.”
She patted my hand, pried her arm free and moved towards the rear of the store.
“Please be a dear and go out the front so I do not have to unlock the door.” Satchya called out from a place in the rear of the store.
I tossed the book into a recycling incinerator shoot. The display to the right of the door made a small graphic of a line turning into a circle with a number counting up in the middle. Several seconds after I dropped the book in, the display revealed how much energy I helped create and the amount of landfill space saved.
There was no more need for the book. I had only a need to peer upon what was within for it to imprint onto my consciousness. The woman was thorough, so thorough I would have been genuinely shocked if she did have an old grudge to settle with the security company known as Aries. She had implicated so many employees of the company it was as if the android leadership had been absconded with and not a simple theft of improving a small manufacturing process.
The theft was inconsequential in the grand scheme of reality, however a human had stolen confidential trade intelligence from androids. The action had to be dealt with properly, for if this small blunder was overlooked it would only embolden the advanced primates.
I called up my mental map of Aris Hills. The invisible map pressed upon me, provided the sensation of where to go as if I had travelled the route ten thousand times before. I now knew the way with more familiarity than those who had spent decades of their lives in the hellacious cesspool of humanity.
My purpose as an android was in full swing. An Infiltrator I was brought to active service to blend in as a human, to become trusted as one of the biological life forms, to fight the secret war between the human governments and the United States of Androids. The first of my kind, I was also the pinnacle. No other Infiltrator had done what I had.
A throng of human flesh walked upon the walkways in Aris Hills. Only the most wealthy of humans had residences in the neighborhood, the rest were visitors there to see that which they could never attain. I had begun to reason out the why to those actions. It did not make rational sense to me that one would visit a place only for memories, however I understood the actions. It was one such peculiarity that made me the top Infiltrator.
I followed the walkway which ran parallel to the aqueduct into a central square. In the center of the square thousands of humans gawked. Three enormous rings, eighty, seventy and sixty feet in circumference respectively, composed of an iron-tungsten alloy, circled around and through each other.
The Flameless Rings.
A heat that of coal burning fire radiated from the rings. The three thousand degree heat radiated from the rings, constant, every moment of every day. The days when rain would arrive on the city were the days the square was at its fullest. The steam generated by the heat superheating the precipitation also created a rainbow of colors which painted the square and steam generated.
The black thunderhead thirty two miles to the south lent me the reason as to why the square was full. The easily amused masses were awaiting the spectacle.
I paid the rings no mind. My target would eventually be in the crowd. I knew he would be. He had fled to Aris Hills, not to be a tourist, but for safety. It was thought by all humans that Copis, Aris Hills specifically, and Paris were the two most secure cities on Earth. They were all incorrect on the assumption.
The dull roar of thousands of bodies waiting in the square quieted down behind me. I paused at a table set up by a watch maker hawking what were low quality timepieces that hardly kept time.
“Ahh, you have stopped by the premier watch shop on the Mediterranean good sir.” The man on the opposite side of the table said. “Prices so low I cannot afford a building. Quality so wonderful I am saddened by the loss of each watch when it is purchased. They are a thing no other craftsmen in the world can produce. Are you shopping for a lady or man friend?”
I nodded and perused the wares. Let him think what he wished. My vision scanned the timepieces. The inner workings were low grade aluminum with a slightly charged battery that kept its own time. The pieces would stop working within a week; by then the man would have moved his street side store to a different location. The outside was painstakingly detailed however the biodegradable dyes used to detail would flake off shortly after the time stopped functioning. The man and his wares were yet another reason I detested the neanderthals.
“I will take those two.” I said to the man. I pointed at a black face with a silver band and a gold on gold watch. Polished quartz took up the space which he passed off for diamond.
“Ahh what a wonderful choice good sir! Those are two of my finest creations. I argued with myself for two weeks if I should part ways with them or not. In the end I decided it would be better for my beauties to grace the wrists of beautiful people such as yourself rather than collect dust at my home.” He picked up each watch and peered at them as if he was still fighting the feeling of keeping them.
I smiled at him, allowed slight eagerness to show on my face at what positively had to have been fantastic watches. If the creator was so torn with selling them they must have been quality indeed.
The man lowered the watches after several seconds and smiled sadly at me. “I will give them up. They are wonderful yet collecting dust in my house will do nothing. The money they will bring in will do far more for me. Six hundred pounds.”
I balked, a true expression. I was going to buy the watches no matter the price, however six hundred pounds for the two pieces a three year child could put together was ludicrous.
“One hundred.” I said.
He threw his hands up in horror. “My three children will starve for that little! My wife will run me out of my home with a broom, cursing me for cowardice at taking such a low sum. I will never be able to look in the mirror again at such a deal.”
I allowed the edge of my lip to play in a smile.
“Five hundred pounds and not a penny less.”
“One hundred fifty.”
“Four seventy five. If I go any less I will have to force my darlings to eat the scraps from restaurants.”
“One sixty or I alert the police that you allowed your partner to attempt a theft on my person.” I let my gaze travel to a boy of sixteen who was standing off to the side by eight feet. The boy attempted a look of boredom.
The man hawking low quality wares followed my gaze. He looked back at me. All humor was absent from his face. I smiled at him.
“One hundred sixty pounds?” I asked.
The man put the two watches into a tan cloth bag, his eyes never leaving mine, pushed the bag towards me and then held out a palm scanner for payment. I placed my palm on the scanner then snatched the bag.
“It was a pleasure doing business. I do hope these pieces live up to your claims.” I winked at the boy, turned and made my way to the opposite side of the wide road.
The one hundred sixty pounds was still far more than I should have paid. The components the man used, the parts he did not pilfer from a store, were two pounds at the most. I needed the watches though and haggling with a street vendor was a human action. It allowed me to blend more thoroughly.
On the opposite side of the road I made my way for the walkway parcel station. Three humans waited in line before me. With the amount of parcels of walkways that moved through the city I did not wait long. I could have walked the entire distance, however thirteen miles of walking would have been noticed by one of the myriad of security cameras placed around the city. Humans did not walk that far, not unless they were on a recreation track. For me to walk such a distance would have thrown red flags.
The parcel arrived, a silver square slightly wider than my shoulders. I stepped upon it and shifted the bag of watches in my hand.
“13B Sinquine Ave.” I said out loud.
The parcel began to move. I began to audible the plan in place.
The bag of watches in the cargo pocket on my pants, I passed the storefront Stachya implicated in her book. The time was not optimal to make an entry. I travelled past the store, scanned the pathetic hominids, and made my choice.
As an Infiltrator, the first line of defense against the greedy lying humans, I had been forced to learn the psychological mindset of the breed. I had learned that unlike android society much was placed on appearance with the biped omnivores.
The intelligence and usefulness of a human was given second fiddle to the perceived beauty. The disparate lot of oxygen breathers claimed to have a vast array of standards for this beauty. I knew the claim to be list. The color of the epidermis played a small role, it was a trait I did not put much stock in. The characteristics I learned from careful observation were based on symmetry. In the male variant a jaw that ended in angles (slightly curved), straight teeth, a nose with a nearly imperceptible dimple, outside edges of the eyes in an upward angle a human could not measure and eyebrows that framed the eyes without passing either end created a beautiful face. The body of the male human all humans perceived as beautiful was larger than a woman of equal height with a defined muscular structure, however not so that it was assumed the male spent an inordinate time working the muscles to a larger size.
The perfect specimen stood thirty feet before me. Thirty three years old, black hair, skin the brown of oak, six feet one inch, one hundred ninety three pounds, a two day growth of beard on his face, black eyes; the bio imprinted immediately. He was alone, the ring on his third finger, left hand, provided a psychological attraction women and men did not understand. I understood. Human forever lusted and envied that which they could not have. For the man to be married, it meant he was off limits which increased the attraction.
I paused while the man paused. He looked in through a storefront window, the very latest models of holovisions on sale. A security camera which belonged to the city of Copis was mounted above his head. Another was directly opposite the street, two more within fifty feet to our north, another one hundred lined the quarter mile stretch to our south. The cameras each were equipped with a fish eye lense providing two hundred seventy degrees of vision.
The man began to move again. He touched his ear. A call from his spouse by the mannerisms. I shadowed him, never moving further than thrity feet from him. We followed the walk way for one hundred twenty seven more feet. The target stopped, looked around in a circle, moved to the left. We crossed the four lane highway. Four cars, two buses and a freight truck paused at the traffic light.
The man waved at the first bus in the line. I noticed the headlights flash once in response. An automated bus, the vehicle was equipped with instruments which could detect when a bystander not at a stop wished to ride. The man stopped on the corner. I studied him openly as I walked up, my eyes roamed up and down his body four times. The fourth time he saw me, rose an eyebrow, turned away from me.
I was expecting and hoping for the action. The turn allowed me to study him from a side profile. I moved behind him and ran my eyes up and down his form four times. I stood still while he boarded the three steps onto the bus, acutely studying each step, then turned from the bus when it departed. I was ready.
Outside in the city was not the correct area in which to change form. I headed into the cafe which was on the corner the man had boarded the bus and took a table near the center of the small cafe.
“Welcome to Spice and Tea. Can I interest you in house chamomile lavender blend latte with a delectable pomegranate biscotti?” A woman, twenty one, five feet four inches, one hundred sixty five pounds, red hair, blue eyes, barren, a small lump of breast cancer she was unaware of, asked shortly after I sat.
“The house latte sound magnificent.” I replied, a smile on my face. “Would you be so kind as to point me in the direction of the rest room?”
She pointed to the wall twelve feet behind her.
“I will also take a ham and cheese, pressed, on wheat please.” I mouthed thank you as I passed her.
Three stalls and one urinal graced the rest room. The third stall, furthest from the door, suited my needs. The entire rest room did, however to be nondescript and prevent the woman server from searching too quickly I choose the last one.
In the stall it was but a simple thought. My skin began to ripple, change color, my mass began to decrease slightly, my clothes turned in on themselves to mimic a fine Egyptian cotton linen. Three seconds after the change began a man of human perceived beauty with a wedding ring stood in the stall.
I checked the time on my mental clock. I smiled, picked up the bag of watches which had dropped during the transformation and headed out of the restroom and cafe.
The watch repair store, uWatch, kept a modest non-descript store front. Two tinted stasis fields allowed the owner and patrons to look out, and prevented a view of the inside from bystanders. The interior of uWatch was much the same as the exterior. A U-shaped counter greeted me upon entering. Exquisite wrist watches, pocket watches and timepieces sat on display under a pressurized security system that would have any would be burglar meet Lady Death far faster than they expected.
The two employees looked up from a holovision. A movie which involved fantastical car chases played on mute. It was not a movie I was familiar with. I watched the movie for exactly two further seconds, to imprint on my consciousness and watch later, and then turned my attention to the two.
Twins, fifty-two years of age, six feet two inches (the oldest taller by an eighth of an inch), green hair, purple eyes, one hundred ninety-three pounds a piece, the model of health in older men. The bio imprinted upon my first look.
I held up the bag of two watches. Placed it on the counter between the two. I had timed the act with eerie accuracy. The younger twin began to reach out when two women and a man entered the store. The women were of the type, men as well, who lived in Aris Hills. The two were unnaturally beautiful. Sculpted pieces of art, the artist; their cosmetic surgeon. The man was gray skinned and the size of two grown men. He hung back by three feet, far enough to not seem part of the women duo and yet close enough to immediately respond to any trouble.
“Heelia and Nnnstik, how blessed we are for you two to grace us with your beauty. What would you like this evening? Name it, it is yours. You would like the sun and the moon? I will have them on your doorstep by morning. The Flameless Rings? You will find them in your courtyard by midday tomorrow.” The older twin rambled on.
“You certainly are the sweetest man in all of Morocco. Yousef why are you not more like your brother Joef?” Heelia asked.
She held out her hand for Joef to kiss it. Nnnstik followed suit. Yousef blushed.
“I am sorry Ms Klanndys, your beauty is such that I am forever left dumbfounded.” Yousef said.
Satchya was correct. How she knew was a conversation for another time. Ms Heelia Klanndys, the wife to the target, Gregor Klanndys, was mere feet from me. I looked the bodyguard up and down, puffed my chest out some. I gave the two women a leering gaze. Micro-skirts and a top that could be argued against being even a functional bra let alone a blouse clothed them; they were my type when I was in the arousal mode.
The bodyguard caught my leer. He cleared his throat.
I moved a step forward.
The large man growled.
I moved another step forward, reached out with my hand as if to touch one of the women.
The man was fast. Very obviously an expensive piece of jewelry for the two. He had my arm pinned behind my back and standing on tip-toes in less than one full second.
“Excuse me everyone. We both need to have a talk.” The bodyguard said.
Joef glanced at the sound of the man speaking. He looked at me, gave a curt nod, inclined his head behind him. The bodyguard dipped his chin. He moved me to the right, between a partition that had appeared, through a side door, down a hall and out the rear exit.
The alley outside was small. No security cameras. The entrances concealed by large buildings that had grown up in the tight rare spaces of the neighborhood and two massive recycling containers. It was a place for an employee to catch a break, or for a bodyguard to break a catch.
The large man lifted on my arm. I turned my body. The large man fell to his knees. I pulled my hand and arm from his gut. Where a hand with five digits, a wrist and a forearm had been was now a saber with a nanofilament edge. I jabbed three times, the middle of the throat, each eyeball.
I pulled the large man to the furthest edge of the alley from the door. He was simply too large to pick up. I may have been given superior strength when activated, however four hundred fifty pounds of deadweight would be pushing my threshold. I had further uses for my energy before the day was completed.
Satisfied the body was far from prying eyes I studied the dead man. Gray skin, silver teeth, hair manicured closely to the skin, clean shaven and a tattoo of the letter A on his left bicep; the characteristics imprinted.
A thought and my body began to change. My skin rippled, mass increased, epidermis changed color, hair pulled into my skull and a letter A appeared on my left bicep. The clothing was identical to what the bodyguard wore. I did not know his name, however I didn’t need to. One of the two women would call him by name eventually.
Inside I fused the lock shut with a trick a fellow android in Cybernetics had taught me. When the door was finally opened, I would be back in the USA for weeks. I gave Yousef and Joef a nod and assumed my place behind the two women.
We left ten minutes later. Two twins cheated and teased, the cosmetically enhanced duo a rare watch wealthier a piece. They did not speak to me while they wandered to a bag store. They did not so much as look in my direction when they entered a fine cutlery shop. Into a sedan seven times and through twelve stores, the two ignored me as if I were not there. I entertained myself with a thought of grouping the women in with Gregor. The two were very obviously horrendous citizens. They would not be missed.
It was nightfall, when the sedan pulled into a compound on the edge of Aris Hills, when Heelia spoke my name for the first time.
“Prazen you can go to Gregor when we get inside.” Heelia sneered the words. I disgusted her.
“I told you he’s an idiot.” Nnnstik said. She stated it loud enough that there was little chance I would not hear from my position in the front of the sedan.
“I know you did. I assumed if he stayed the day with us he would show a passing interest in something. Maybe he is not into women?” Heelia said loudly.
“What a shame. A man that big…” Nnnstik got out of the car and continued talking to her friend.
My thoughts of grouping the two in with Gregor was tossed out. They were such horrible humans, that humanity ought not to be deprived of such specimens that would inflict grave psychological damage on others.
I entered through the enormous double doors of the main entrance into a foyer of polished marble, statues, artwork and dead animals in poses they did not make when alive. Gregor’s persona was on display in front of me. A greed filled adrenaline junkie who stole from androids for the thrill and the riches. It further strengthened my resolve to become even better as an Infiltrator.
Two wrong turns and a baffled butler later I arrived at Gregor’s study.
“What did my wife cheat someone out of today Prazen?” Gregor asked.
Five feet eight inches tall, one hundred ninety one pounds, third right finger missing, blonde hair, perfect muscular structure, deep cherry red skin; he was the man I had crossed an ocean for.
“She received a Murcado watch so did Nnnstik.” I said.
Gregor barked a laugh, a rueful sound. He had his feet up on an end table, a soccer game on the holovision provided background noise.
“When will those twins ever learn?” He said.
I walked slowly around the room. My ultrasonic module stripped away the visible, revealed that which was meant to be hidden. A Wind Snare nestled in the center of the roof on a pivoting hoist. More security measures could be seen, however each were outside the room. The man was arrogant as well.
“Lust deforms the thoughts of otherwise knowledgeable men.” I said.
“And makes them think with a head that was never meant to think with.” Gregor replied.
“Yes. It is also their envious nature that makes the form rash decisions. The twins are envious of a man who can have what they cannot have, so they do what they think will net them the untouchable treasure. The twins react in ways they view as rational, in truth are irrational, however emotion clouds their judgment. They will hate you more in the morning and yet more next week when they learn the women will not be theirs.”
Gregor turned to me. My time with humans had learned me much. I suspected Prazen would not talk in such a way before I began to speak. I did not care however. Gregor was toeing the skirts of Lady Death’s bed. He was but a step away from jumping on it. I wanted him to know he was caught before the end.
He stood to his feet, studied me carefully. I stood in a relaxed pose. My hands at my side.
“It is poor judgment in the face of that which one cannot have that forced the twins to create their mistake in giving the women those watches.” Gregor said.
“Was it greed that forced your mistake?”
“I make no mistakes. I know that which is not attainable.”
Gregor jumped. A door opened beyond the holovision. It slammed shut behind him. I grabbed the chair at my left, hurled it at the roof, and ran for the door.
The Wind Snare fired, shredded the chair. It created a vortex in the room when my shoulder crashed through the door. Thermal vision highlighted the heat marks of his bare feet on the cool marble.
I followed at a sprint through a hidden passageway. Projectiles pelted me, knocked aside by my hardened skin. Two right turns, one left turn, four hundred feet, I ran and exited onto the spacious grounds.
X-ray stripped aside the darkness of the night. A skeletal structure of a man ran to a long drive. He jumped on a motorbike. The bike sped off in the direction of Aris Hills. I was moving when Gregor jumped on the bike and moving with more speed when the bike left the compound.
The rain from the black thunderhead I had seen earlier in the day began. Gregor’s mistakes had caught up to him. The neighborhood would be packed with humans to see the spectacle of The Flameless Rings. He would not be able to move fast. The police would already be in place to guide the masses and keep the peace.
Thermal vision with an x-ray and visible spectrum overlay guided my steps. I accessed my mental map and veered from the direction he took. Gregor and the motorbike would very soon encounter a roadblock. On a night with the amount of rain expected, all but a few streets in the birthplace of humanity would be closed.
I knew the minds of men. I knew one as Gregor would be in a state of panic. He lived for the thrill of the steal however the genius of the man left no room for error on his excursions. Faced with a situation in which choices would need to be made on the fly, he would make the errors he did not allow. He would not run outside the neighborhood into the expanse of Copis. He would instead attempt to hide in the throng of humans in Aris Hills.
I ran at a jog when I closed in on the first of the barricades. A man at a full run would attract notice. A man at a jog would be noted as a human who wanted to see the show with eagerness. My route led me towards the bottleneck Gregor would be forced upon. The bottleneck which ran to a parking garage one block from the square The Flameless Rings were in.
Soon enough the parking garage came into view. I took up a post one hundred twenty feet, kitty-corner, from the garage. Thousands upon thousands of humans moved slowly to gain a better view. There was no reason to. The cacophony of colors and constant noise of steam was seen and heard perfectly from my point on the walkway.
I needed only to wait for seven minutes when I saw Gregor’s shoeless form on a black and red motorbike pull slowly into the garage. I resisted the urge to follow. He would not stay in the building. He would leave and head towards The Flameless Rings. The mass of humans was the thickest nearest the rings.
Humans did not understand that which they designed. They assumed us androids as they though mechanical. How wrong they were.
Gregor left the building three minutes after entering. He made for the square. I held back until he was one thousand feet in front of me. I had tagged him now, my vision would show Gregor and only Gregor in x-ray. All others would be the visible spectrum.
We moved slowly through the people. I assumed he was attempting to get as close as possible to the steam. My assumption was proven correct. At a parallel to him he crossed on the opposite side of the rings. I waited.
The rain came down hard, wind blew it nearly sideways. The rings radiated a heat that made the rain feel tropical in nature. The hissing of water evaporating instantly roared. Steam billowed from the center of the square. A light show which dared physicists to explain dazzled onlookers. Reds, blues, yellows, purples, greens, blacks, silvers, and every shade in between painted the surroundings like light through gigantic stained glass windows.
It was a sight I had purposefully seen once before, to be able to speak about confidently to humans as I worked on their trust. I did not see it this time. My eyes were on Gregor, he was all I saw.
Nearly forty two minutes after arriving Gregor either bored of the sight or became tired. He moved further in the direction we were heading. I followed him as a mirror. One thousand feet, we encountered a tall building. Gregor entered, I broke into a run. It would end and I knew precisely how.
The thief who dared steal from androids and put the security of the United States of Androids in jeopardy stood in a stairwell, at the top of the first flight of stairs. He was calm. He assumed he had lost me.
“You did make a mistake.” I said.
Gregor started. We stared for several seconds. He turned and fled. I gave chase. His panicked state of mind sent him up. He did not attempt doors at each level or attempt to attack from the high ground. The fearful greed driven human ran up the stairwell to the top of the building.
A sharp punch hit center forehead as I followed Gregor out of the stairwell onto the roof. I paused, blinked, shook my head. He had a weapon on him. I had not foreseen a weapon or seen a weapon on him. He shot again, three times, each into my chest. I wavered then collapsed forward, my shoulder hit the tarred roof, my face slid along it.
“A mistake? I make no mistakes android.” Gregor said. He stepped towards me. “I am the best at what I do. I am a genius. I make no mistakes.”
He did make a mistake. His mistake was assuming my body as frail as a human body.
I rolled to my back and threw my right leg up towards my head. My foot struck his groin. He dropped the gun to grasp his damaged genitals. I spun on my back, leaped to my feet, punched once to his temple, grabbed his head and drove my knee into his face.
“Humans forever make mistakes.” My armed changed to the saber. I stabbed once, piercing his head to his larynx, removed my hand and allowed the body to fall.
The aqueduct stood five feet from the edge of the roof, ten feet higher than where I stood. I mapped the angle of trajectory and energy that would need to be expensed. With a thought my form changed to that of my cherry wood reddish tone. It was but a simple deed to throw Gregor into the aqueduct.
The rain continued as a torrent of water. The rings illuminated the rooftop in soft glows. The hiss of steam was a tepid roar. There was a ping upon my consciousness from those who guided the nation of androids.
Another thief. This time in Paris.
I gave The Flameless Rings show a glance and headed towards the stairwell to continue to the keep the peace where humans wished there was none.