future stuff work in progress
- - - - - - - - - - Chapter 1 - - - - - - - - - - -
Narrow roads and dense urban clutter. I was told working in the city was a graceful matter, but there's nothing graceful about oil frying around fries for drunk patrons. The sludge left behind the fryer looked a lot like the rubbish that filled the corners of the streets.
The cab pulled up to a garage-door sealed store front, lit by neon white street lights which brought out the cold in the grey concrete instead of the warmth that the yellow streetlights used to bring onto the stone jungle. The door alongside the store front lead to a hall which lead into the back workshop.
The ringing of metal hitting metal reverberated through the workshop, muffling mumbles. An old man with long hair akin to a wire-coat dog stood off at the corner surround by tables. I watched his vehement passion to his task before interrupting.
"Hey Artur, how's your day been?- "
"Sweet Baby Jesus! Don't startle me like that!" Artur let go of his tools and spun around on his stool "don't you see that I'm working with delicate electronics! I just scavenged these today!"
His reactions didn't surprise me. He was easy to spook, but too tough to admit it. I placed a rectangular Styrofoam box filled with cheap bar food atop his workspace. In front of him laid an arm made of a Magnesium alloy.
"Oh yes, yes, about my day. I've come up with some e-polymer mixes for me to test. Do you have time to assist in installing the modifications?"
I accepted the request for help, knowing that Artur wasn't as flexible as he used to be. His focus on reverse engineering e-polymers used as muscle fiber in augments has been consuming him for years, yet today feels like he is for once close to his goal.
"What do you need me to do?" I replied
"Okay boy, there are two sets of finished muscle e-polymers on the table. I used an electromagnetic field to arrange the e-polymer into carbon nanotubes while it cured, so that should increase the expansive and contractive strength of the polymer upon activation... or that's the idea anyways..."
Artur continued to talk as he sat up on his stool. Sometimes his words became so big that it made it difficult to understand him. He rolled up his sleeves to reveal his two type 4 synthetic arm augments. The older model Type 4's, compared to the newer models were easier to modify, and were less prone to become bricked. Artur held his arms outward and engaged the pin release, allowing the augment to be disassembled.
"... now if I did my math right... the expansive strength of the new nanotube polymer structures should be contained by the strength of the magnesium alloy, but just to be safe I'll have to ask you to step back before we bring them online."
Pins not previously seen began to protrude from the augments. Each set of pins released a section of the arm, which revealed the internal components. A thick rubbery gel cylinder with a red tint was held in place by two metallic disks which were suspended between two points within the skeletal structure. These cylinders were able to contract and expand giving the augment the ability to move using the same physiological mechanics as human muscles.
"If everything goes well, I'll be able to work with ease again! Gone will the days of having to ask for help!" said Artur with a growing excitement.
"What if it doesn't go well?" I questioned
"Well... Over-expansion ripping open my elbow is a possibility... over contraction folding the magnesium into my arm is another risk... then the standard stuff... fire... explosions... mutilation... risk of shock.."
The refitting was almost finalized, and there were just a handful of pins left to reinsert.
"... but dear boy, the good outweighs the bad! If we manage to improve the formula, we can open the doors to bigger and better possibilities!"
Artur stood up, and at just shy of 4'9'' all one could see was a cloud of white hair floating across the workshop. Artur made his way into an empty space somewhere in the middle of the shop.
"Now boy, wheel me that engine block that hangs from that engine hoist please"
"Shouldn't we start on something a bit more reasonable as a first test?" I mentioned as I began wheeling the engine hoist towards the open space.
"That does sound like the more reasonable request, unfortunately there's a time for science, and a time for fun, but I do believe I've earned myself a bit of fun after all these years of research"
Artur walked up to the hanging engine block which hung at a weight of 550lb, as is average for any 8 cylinder engine block. Artur walked up with a martial elegance with arms spread out akin to a sumo wrestler, then with sudden vigor he brought his palms together. The audible stress that the steel engine block released resembled that of a sinking ship being crushed by the oceans pressure. A maniacal look appeared on Artur's face as the chains that suspended the engine block folded with excess slack.
"I did it boy! I did it!"
Artur raised the engine block above his head, yet upon finishing the motion the engine continued with its newly given trajectory. The engine block slipped from the hands of Artur and shot upward, creating an exit wound of mangled steel through the workshops ceiling.
Moments later, the engine block returned back through the ceiling, just feet away from the initial opening, creating an entry wound of unwrapped steel. The block fell atop a dusty table, crushing the table and spreading a cloud of dust that filled the workshop.
".. Amazing, absolutely incredible..."
- - - - - - - - - - Chapter 2 - - - - - - - - - - -
Artur began divulging in the French fries and burger. I began recollecting the rubble created by the flung engine block to try to regain the sense of organization that was lost. Over the sound of dragging steel was the crushing sound of a small porcelain mug.
"Darn it that was my favorite mug..."
I saw Artur holding out his hand with a closed fist that dripped with coffee. The hopeless look on his face brought out a small chuckle out from within me.
"What happened here?" I said.
"Looks like the augments have to be tuned to the force being exerted by my nervous system. I can't seem to help feeling limited by what I used to think my arms were capable of at my age, so I tended to try harder. While I used to think I don't have the strength, now there's more than enough"
"It's amazing that our minds can tell how much strength we should or shouldn't have without giving it much thought" I mentioned.
"Well its makes us human boy, sometimes when people loose limbs, they feel what is called phantom limbs where limbs used to be. I feel that's a part of us that's trying to maintain the integrity of what makes us human..."
"Then what happens when people get more than just their limbs replaced with augments?" I questioned,
"Lots of strange things actually"
(The Three Pillars. Three realizations that came only after humanity decided to play God. Three conclusions only reached by execution. Naively, humans began replacing themselves with machinery in the hope of escaping mortality. First the extremities, then whole limbs, then organs. At first, all was good. Flesh fused to polymer, and nerves fused with fibers, but the desire to become fully synthetic did not end there.)
"I can imagine people trying to get all of themselves replaced with augments..." I responded
"It's a real urge, the fear of death is a strong fear, unfortunately we become a little less human and a little more machine the closer we get to a full replacement. I'm not sure about what happens when it reaches that point, but I suspect that there should be a threshold where one's own human connection... Fades behind an algorithmically rigid machine conscience."
Silence blanketed the room, only being disturbed by the rhythmic crunch of Artur's chewing.
"Has anyone ever tried to go... full robot?" I brought up.
"There's been cases, but the augments are designed to limit what is possible" Artur responded.
"That's why they restrict military augment research, right? In case someone loses it?"
"Right, and it's my responsibility to not let what I have developed get into the hands of the wrong people"
Artur stared at the distance with glazed eyes. His sudden concern was alarming knowing his inquisitive mind yet he caught me watching him, and quickly stood up, breaking the silence.
"It's getting late boy, let's go"
- - - - - - - - - - Chapter 3 - - - - - - - - - - -
I cleaned the workshop while Artur began to return his tools. Within the back of the workshop were two couches and a rug which resembled a room within a room that I made into my own space. Artur began insisting that I sleep in the guest room in his apartment above the shop but I have made it a habit falling asleep on the couch. Soon enough Artur retreated to his quarters for the night.
I rested on the couch within the workshop under the cover of the white light of my cellphone and the dull glow of moonshine through a blue tarp being used to seal the newly created skylights. I began falling asleep, envisioning the stepping of boots over train tracks and stones, and the rustling of jackets and coats being slipped on before a long journey, then the sound of screeching metal. I awoke realizing that it was not the screeching of metal nor the squeaking of the front door nor boots over rocks and rail that woke me up but the sound of Artur coming down the metal stairs, over the concrete floor and out the steel door.
I hurried into my outerwear before stepping out onto the street. Artur could be seen turning the corner. I ran after him, keeping a close eye, observant yet distant.
The concrete jungle of the city seemed more void than usual. Artur walked through endless alleys occasionally crossing streets gowned in glass windows before returning to the web of side streets. At first Artur looked back regularly to make sure he wasn't being followed but with little success. The rate in which he checked decreased the closer that he got to his destination. It wasn't like him to let his guard down like that, it was almost like if he was submitting to a fate he had yet arrived to. Artur reached an overpass and walked down the grassy slope onto the underside of the overpass. I found a comfortable place to sit with decent cover and began observing Artur as he stood by a service road beneath the overpass, staring blankly towards the crumbled stones atop the concrete below.
Artur became illuminated by white lights that shined from three black sedans that moved in an echelon formation. The cars stopped to reveal one exuberant leader which wore what looked like a tailcoat, and his security detail. Words began to be exchanged between Artur and the man with the tailcoat began escalating. The conversation came to climax, then silence. The man in the tailcoat return to his car while his goons stood motionless. The man with the tailcoat turned to face Artur for one more exchange of words, and to watch his goons shoot Artur to the ground.
- - - - - - - - - - Chapter 4 - - - - - - - - - - -
"This can't be happening... Who were those people...?" I quietly shouted while holding Artur's head up.
The blood from the bullet wounds began seeping into Artur's clothes, causing them to stick to his skin. They failed to finish Artur off, but he was clearly mortally wounded. The bubbling of blood could be herd alongside his gasping breaths. A sudden emptiness filled me.
"You can't let them... Have it" Artur said.
"Can't let them have what? What is it?"
"Take my keys... Listen closely..." Artur grabbed my shirt and pulled me into him
"G3... H9... L5... U8... Y1... V4... in the storage room... Behind the desk... use the key... And the password..."
"What's going to be there Artur? What are they looking for? What am I supposed to do with it? Don't do this to me Artur, I need you..."
"Don't... let them... use... my work... against us..."
Artur was gone. His loss took a bit of me with him. I reached into Artur's pocket and retrieved his key ring. I closed Artur's eyes and laid his body on the ground, then began sprinting towards the workshop.
- - - - - - - - - - Chapter 5 - - - - - - - - - - -
I had to come up with a plan before arriving, but the adrenaline within my blood fixated me on the target. I followed the back alleys and side streets Artur and I used to return to the workshop. I was no further than a couple blocks down the street from the workshop but I could already see their parked sedans.
The front door was out of the question, but the back of the building has a cellar door, giving access to the utility room, and that utility room has a door that goes into the storage room. I rode around to the back to meet the cellar door sitting in an upward slope towards the workshop. The cellar door was sealed by a square padlock. I took out Artur's keys and began trying keys.
The cellar door swung open. Inside I heard the tapping of dress shoes onto concrete floor above me. The Utility room stored cleaning equipment as well as the boiler and was accessed by ladder. I had to lure them out, then it struck me. The fire alarm.
The floor above broke into chaos that become drowned out by the splashing of water from fire sprinklers. Confused shouting quickly became silenced by a dominant voice. Then a slam of the door. They were out of the building, but in around 3 minutes the fire brigade will put me in a whole lot of different problems. I returned to the storage room and confronted the table. Confused, I began to knock on the desk to find a compartment. After some aimless tapping and hopeless expressions I found an oddly placed poster.
Ripping down a sexy poster revealed a keypad and lock combination.
The keypad accepted Artur's code with a positive beep, and with a turn of Artur's key, the safe door swung open.