Monday, April 25, 2011
Many take for granted such simple things in life; the invigorating smell of coffee, the warm massage of a hot shower, the sensation of a hand clenched in theirs, the taste of morning fog, the feeling of watching home disappear in shadows in a car's rear view mirror.
They are simple, and yet it is these things which make our lives so different from others less fortunate--especially those with no beating heart. Those, who are not human.
Today, though, was different. Today, one less simple thing was being denied of Lilobot. For the first time, she was going to be allowed to leave home.
"My carpool ride home fell through, I need you to come pick me up from the school," Lil heard Alesha groan over the phone, the noisy class of students in the background making it difficult to pinpoint her words. "You loaded up that driving... sub-rou-whatsit Brad wrote for you, right?"
"Of course, Mrs. Kane!" Without a moment's hesitation, Lilobot checked on Brad and Margo--who were both napping in the bedroom--and grabbed the keys from the counter and rushed into the garage, where the car was waiting for her. "Oh, you out-dated vehicular transportation unit, how I have dreamed of this moment!" If she'd known how to squeal, at this moment, she likely would have.
The Twinbrook map included in her driving subroutine led her straight where she needed to go, though it would be a lie to say that Lilobot didn't take her time getting there. The sights on the sides of the streets amazed her; buildings she'd never seen, people she didn't recognize, noises and smells she'd never processed before.
And then, there was the school. Lil stood on the sidewalk like a tiny child staring at the utter majesty of the Taj Mahal, barely able to comprehend the craftsmanship of its building or the wonders that took place inside.
"It's... it's so grand. An entire facility dedicated soley to the processing of knowledge for the younglings of human-kind! If only--"
"Hey! Hey you! Rust bucket!" From behind her she heard a voice she did not recognize; it belonged to a boy, who stood among two others that apparently had snuck up behind her while she was distracted with the building.
Lilobot carefully wheeled herself around, and--of course--was amazed to see not only one young boy, but three! And they wanted to speak to her! "Greetings, children!" she responded with the most normal voice she'd been able to compile so far from watching Simmore Girls with Alesha. "Isn't it a beautiful day outside, today?!"
"Say what?" The boy in the middle looked to his mates to the sides, who both broke out in chastizing snickers. "Yeah, sure--whatever, tin can."
"Actually, my outer structure is made mostly of a high grade poly-carbonite alloy mixt--"
"Oooh, lookit me, I'm so cool I know what I'm made of, oooooo... Seriously, bucket, we don't care."
"Since when did did the science facility start letting it's toasters wander around outside, anyways? I thought they were all locked up in cages for those pointless AI experiments the newspapers keep writing about."
"AI... Experiments? No, I--I'm not an ex... experiment. I'm a fully functioning Intellectual Emotive Unit..."
"Yeah, right. Like it has feelings," he chuckled to his pals. At this point, Lilobot had gone from confused to worried. What was going on?! Didn't the world know about simbots? About her? "They could have at least given you a less ugly face, ya know."
"My... my... You're hurting my feelings," Lilobot openly admitted, now unsure what else to do.
"Feelings? Robots don't have feelings. You can't even feel. You're just a a toaster on legs."
"I'm... I'm going to leave, now," Lilbot started to mutter, now backing away; but it was already too late. The boys had discovered a new game to play, and they weren't letting her get away so easily.
"Who said you were allowed to go, rusty? Didn't they teach you manners? Learn your place, you're just a servant, that's all robots are for... And we didn't say you were allowed to leave."
Lilobot's eyebrows quivered a little in her face. Were they right? Was she not allowed to leave? It was like, all of a sudden, she couldn't remember... Nor could she move; all her joints had frozen stiff in place, only gently quivering as her eyes shifted from one boys foul expression to the next.
It was a new emotion: fear.
It was odd, how utterly powerless she became underneath the pounding of their heels. The sensation was strange; she had no nerves, but sensors detected dents in her outer shell, screws falling from her joints, several cables in her legs coming disconnected. Even if she knew how to run, there was no way she could.
And yet here, at their mercy, she pitifully allowed them to continue; they were humans. Her masters. Weren't they allowed to do as they pleased to her? Wasn't she only constructed as a tool, a servant to the whims of those who truly lived? That's what they said... wasn't it?
She just didn't understand... why did it have to hurt.
As luck would have it, few more moments passed before Alesha finally emerged from the school to find where Lilobot had parked the car.
What she saw: not what she expected.
"What do you think you're doing?!" Alesha screamed, advancing on the boys with the haste of a protective mother, quickly spooking them off of Lil's frame, over which she hovered as she yelled. "This is completely out of line!"
"I--I--" the 'gang leader' responded, suddenly caught off guard once caught by a teacher. "I just thought--"
"Well you thought wrong! I did not expect such cruel behavior, especially from you, Dave! This is unbelievable. I am calling all three of your parents as soon as I watch your legs carry you away from here this instant!"
"I I--we're sorry, Mrs. Kane... I didn't realize--"
"Yeah, it won't happen again--"
"It's my fault, I thought it would be funny--"
"Funny, to attack an innocent, helpless lifeform?! This is despicable, you three. Get away from here, now, before I have it in me to call the police, because so help me, I will!"
As she watched the Dee, Prudence, and Rotter boys run away in shame, Alesha made a note in her head to do just as she'd promised to do; but first, there were more important things to be done.
Her eyes closed; her lungs breathed deeply. She didn't want to look down; Plumbob, she didn't want to look down.
Yet, drawn as a moth to a flame, Alesha's gaze was lured to Lilobot's maimed shell. "L-Lil?" she stuttered, eyes flowing from head to chest to legs, searching for any sign that life sparked within her. "Lil?"
Alesha gulped, then tiled down onto her knees and gently cradled Lil's head in her palms. She knew there was a switch here, somewhere... Brad had showed her where, in case anything went wrong, but she couldn't exactly remember--
--but her fingers stumbled upon it before her memory could serve her fully. Movement spurred back into Lilobot's joints, and light flickered back into her eyes; Alesha quickly rolled her up onto her knee, trying to prop to the poor simbot up from her fetal position on the ground.
"Lil--are you okay?"
"I believe I am... more or less... in-tact," Lil responded, but her voice was weak and fragile.
"Lil, why didn't you protect yourself?! Why did you let them do that to you?!"
"Mr. Kane... knew you were afraid of me... so he... disabled my... *scratchybzzt*... self-defence protocols to ensure minimum risk. I was okay--I did not want to hurt you..."
Guilt suddenly flooded Alesha's heart, drowning the corners of her eyes with tears. This was all her fault; she made Lil defenseless, and then drew her like a lamb to the wolves. How could she have been so stupid?!
"Why... Why did they wish to hurt me?" Lil asked, her hands still shielding her cowering face. "Did... Did I do something wrong?"
"No Lil," Alesha choked, her hand resting against the cold, cracked husk of Lil's hair. "You did nothing wrong. They just don't understand, okay? They can't."
"I just wanted to be liked," Lilobot wheezed, her eyes whirring back and forth, as if searching there, on her chest, for the answer. "So I could be normal."
Alesha closed her eyes again, thankful that Lil had not lifted her gaze towards hers. She didn't want this fragile thing to see the sadness in her eyes.
It was sadness inspired by memories... No one likes you, Alesha. You're dumb. Poor. We don't like being around your types--just leave! We don't want you, here!
"I do not understand, Mrs. Kane. I do not understand why they must do that."
"I know, Lil," Alesha sighed, her arms draping around her simbot, and her forehead lowering to graze the cold, dented metal below her. "And I don't think we ever will."
The hours passed at what seemed like light-speed; Brad was able to get Lilobot back into working condition just in time for them to head over to the Bottega, where they'd already started to make too many plans that they knew they couldn't cancel now.
For the most part, though, Lil and Alesha's moods were able to pick up enough for the festivities ahead: it was an occasion worth being happy about, after all.
Unfortunately, Alesha's mother was not as sympathetic to the day's earlier events as Alesha would have thought. As she recounted the attack on Lilobot, even her mother's gentle nature couldn't help but sympathize a little with the boys.
"But mom, she's harmless... People should be allowed to prey on anyone like that, much less the weak."
"Yes, but, fear and misunderstanding inspires a lot of things in people, and sometimes you just have to understand that they're acting on instincts that perhaps are justified." As she spoke, Eva Drudge--Alesha's mother--continued to look across the room at Lilobot suspiciously. It was difficult enough being in the same building as that thing, much less the same room. "Are you sure it's okay to let it hold my grandchild?"
At least the rest of the party was going along smoothly; Amelia seemed nearly back to her usual self again, and Naomi was even spending more time looking longingly at the bundle of baby Margo than she was dumbstruck by the fact she was being held by a mechanical being.
"Think maybe I'd be allowed to like... hold her, later?" Naomi asked sheepishly, as if wondering if the child would reach out and bite her if she wasn't given permission.
By the time everyone finally arrived, they decided to get the cake going--and Alesha, being the proud mother, did the honors...
...of bringing Margo one step further along in her life.
Unfortunately, Margo had to share the day with two other special people who needed to--though were not ready--to take the sparkly path to gray hairs and crackling bones.
"I always hate it when this happens," Meredith mumbled as she stared down at her hands.
(Trust me, Mere--we all do.)
But, at least old age didn't leave the eldest of the Kane line too much worse for wear.
By the time everyone had had their fill on cake and socialized each others' ears off, the sun had fallen beneath the horizon, and the family had started to mention heading home to their beds; however, there was one last thing that needed to be taken care of before everyone departed.
"Well, while we've got you all here in one place, we may as well break the news now..."
Alesha's faced seemed to glow as her gaze drifted towards her husband's, and they drew together so he could rest his hand upon her shoulder "... We just found out--we're having another baby!"
It seems that, no matter who, where, or when--such news is regarded with impassioned excitement. Babies are born every day to the richest and the poorest of folk, and yet it is these--it is family--that delight in the fact that there is one more addition on the way.
And to say that the room was quiet after Alesha and Brad's announcement would be a complete and utter lie.
"Congratulations, honey," Meredith whispered into Alesha's ear as she bounded over and sweeped her daughter in law into her arms; the room was still buzzing with excitement--excitement well earned, and well-deserved.
Finally, out of everything that had happened, lately, something was going right.
However, it may indeed be the last thing to do so.
"C'mon, just one more pull... You can do it. You didn't dig your way out here just to fall at the end, woman." Her voice was poisonous to her own ears, but her own discouragement pushed herself to try even harder. She wasn't going to take that kind of lip from anyone--even herself.
With fingers already caked with grime, nails long since broken and cracked, the woman's hands hoisted her body free from the hole, where she collapsed--exhausted--onto the cold, damp ground.
After her journey to the open world, it took some time for the jailbird to remember how to use her legs and arms again. Even her lungs seemed not to believe that what they were breathing was truly air--it was all so strange, from what she'd been used to. A dank cell... cold cement... the cage of metal bars.
But, no more.
"Freedom!" Carolina Leman screamed to the open air, uncaring who might hear her victory cry. It would be only moments before she was gone, as far away from this path to misery as her legs would carry her. "Finally, freedom!"
With her gaze to the open sky and her arms rushing at her sides to catch the air about her, her mind was flooded with the thoughts that had driven her to achieve such a goal. Smiling, she said some small thanks to the man who had inspired her to find a way to reach the surface. If it weren't for him--or for her intentions--she'd be staring at those gray walls for the rest of her life. But now, she had a chance for something better, something greater, even if it was only but a small taste of life before the end.
A chance, for revenge.