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Excerpt for Born a Weapon by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Born a Weapon

In the Absence of Meaning

Brett P. S.



Copyright © 2018 Brett P. S.

Smashwords Edition

All rights reserved.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



Table of Contents



CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

EPILOGUE



Chapter 1

Lost & Found



Terrax, glint of the new world and city of promise in a time of dire unrest, glowed radiant beneath a rising sun. Towering monoliths, each a vertical city in its own right, obscured the sky in a reddened shine, reflecting the sun’s rays against their blackened visage. Unrest lingered in the air. The spirit of the human condition reverberated with a thirst for novelty and an appetite for greater heights than those man-made monoliths had reached. Election night had come and passed, and this city’s new Senator would soon make his address to the public.

Dust kicked up to the motion of inter-city traffic. Down on terra firma, in the thick of bustling crowds and angry murmurs, a humanoid figure sauntered through a morning commute. A blank, mechanical expression plastered his face. Two blue LED optical sensors formed his eyes and a single slit represented a mouth. His face, a flat gray titanium, did not reflect the sun as easily as the darkened steel towering above him.

K0-T0, Leviathan Industries series 9 android, or KOTO for short, wandered aimlessly through a world he’d only recently discovered. KOTO explored his surroundings through mechanical eyes, combining numbers and visual stimulation in a way no organic being could experience. He saw an old woman waiting on a street corner, sensed her date of birth and the blog she updated weekly all in one condensed image.

Data flowed around him, permeated his being. KOTO took it all in, giving little thought to the nature of his knowledge. Privacy was a relatively new concept to KOTO and he only briefly considered it before a stream of undivided consciousness swarmed his senses. He worked to compartmentalize it, stick the data into clusters within clusters, but the essences of life were like a monsoon. It eroded his ego and his will, smothered him in a warm light.

“Hey, watch out!”

A body thumped against him. KOTO broke from his absolving of data to glance down at a human child and her busted cycle. The machine sputtered out clouds of exhaust, pinning the girl underneath it. He examined the cycle, lifting it enough for her to climb out from underneath. Leviathan didn’t manufacture this model directly. It was one of their subsidiaries. In a sense, the machine was his cousin. He eyed the windshield curiously as his pupils dilated.

“Hey, are you even listening?” The girl said. KOTO set the cycle down. “Are you malfunctioning or something, big guy?”

KOTO paused to collect his thoughts. She must have been shouting something while he was inspecting the cycle, but he didn’t hear it. How much else did he miss in passing? How little could he absorb at once? He pressed his finger to his temple in a gesture of contemplation. How did he get here? He remembered waking up earlier today, but the rest was a blur.

“You’re a weird robot, pal.”

The child climbed on her vehicle, revved the engine, and soared off before he had a chance to say goodbye. Dust cleared in her wake, particles thrown to the winds of Terrax, city of dreams. He turned to catch her blackened silhouette vanish into a sea of individual hopes and aspirations. If he had been a human, the accident could have proved much worse. Then again, if he were normal in either regard, human or machine, he would have moved.

KOTO clutched his head. Something inside of him felt … wrong. It wasn’t just distraction. So much of what he sensed, he did not understand. Personal data, numbers, connections, and more. The people around him moved about, blissfully unaware of his passive intrusions. Whatever he was, it was something new. A Leviathan prototype?

KOTO would have given it more thought, but he noticed the power depleting from his stores, a pulsing red light on his HUD. It wasn’t particularly close to zero, but it was low enough to warrant a quick charge. He must have walked for hours this morning.

He scanned his surroundings for a viable charge point. Electrical power was a gift freely given most of the time, but available stations were sparse within Terrax. KOTO zeroed in on an antique shop near the edge of his street corner with a neon sign on the outside that mentioned, amongst various offers, a free charging station. He smiled on the inside and strode forward.



Chapter 2

Freely Given



KOTO strolled up to the steps of the antique shop, a quaint establishment more off the grid of his collective consciousness than any coffee shop or diner on the same street. Fables and Fabrics, aptly named in big neon letters above the door. He waited for the door to slide open in futility. The establishment stood stout, notched into the base of a larger apartment flat, fashioned from stonework and steel.

He peered through the windows to check for customers, and they were inside, bustling about. KOTO stepped away from the door long enough to lose himself in the wares. Books, magazines, archaic cassettes, and disc drives. He couldn’t read them, much less see the information in the same way he took in the vibrant glow of the populous and … KOTO cocked his head at the sound of a bell. A young man … pushed the door open? KOTO walked over and held out his hand. He pressed his metal fingers against the thick steel plating of the door and pushed. The door swung open and a bell rang from the inside. Aha! What a curious mechanism.

He proceeded inside and scanned the stacks of old musty papers stuffed in cardboard boxes for an outlet. The interior of Fables and Fabrics was packed tightly with lengthwise tables spaced apart with just enough room for one to maneuver around. The owner had stocked his store with relics across generations without much thought for categorization.

A quick look around and KOTO had about soaked it all in. The thick stale air, the dust that covered the tables and the yellow colors of aging papers spoke to him of a time and culture he only recalled through data. He couldn’t see it, couldn’t experience it as if he’d actually lived it. Emptiness lingered in his heart that his lack of power reserves weren’t helping.

KOTO spotted the power station at the back of the establishment. What an inconvenient mechanism. He navigated three isles of old packaging as he made his way past the tables. KOTO reached the charging station, grabbed hold of a cable and plugged himself in. The steady stream of electricity flowed through the chord and into his abdomen painlessly. He did catch a few of the patrons granting him unsettling looks.

Recharging was a biological imperative. He would argue more so, but the looks he received brought more concerns than comfort. KOTO sat in juxtaposition to his surroundings, out of place and lacking in hospitality. He looked at a number of the patrons, saw their personal backgrounds through posts and geographical location data. He resisted the urge to compartmentalize the bulk habits into a generalization, but that said, he’d find no love here.

KOTO sighed on the inside and lowered his head, but a shadow eclipsed his body. He looked up to spot the glaring grin of a grizzled old man beaming down on him. KOTO lurched back and almost pulled his plug in the process. He froze as the man crouched down, his hand steadied on a push broom. A quick browse revealed less of him than any patron, but he was the shop keep, name Franz Winkler. He wore tan overalls with a red and yellow plaid button-up shirt.

“Now, this is a sight we don’t get around here much often,” Franz said. He paused, sizing KOTO up. “I’m not about to say you can’t take your fill, but once you’re finished, go and be off. This spot here is more to get people to buy something in the process.”

KOTO nodded, and Franz rose up, dusting off his overalls.

“Glad we have an understanding,” Franz said. “Now, who let you slip away, little one?” KOTO cocked his head. “Don’t you have a caretaker?” KOTO stared blankly. “Good lord. Well, someone’s got to own you.” Franz ran his fingers through his thinning, white tufts of hair. “Let me see what I can do for you.”

Franz turned to walk away as a turmoil inside KOTO stirred and bubbled to the surface. KOTO reached out with one hand and grabbed the pants leg of Franz’s overalls. The aging man halted, a look of shock plastered across his face as KOTO said the first word he had ever spoken aloud.

“No.”



Chapter 3

Center Stage



Franz glared down at KOTO. He scowled and pulled back his leg.

“What …” he said, his words trailing off. “What did you say?”

KOTO pulled out his charging plug and rose to his feet. He moved to work around the first table bend, but Franz cut him off. This time, with a forceful grip, Franz placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t make me ask again, little one.”

KOTO analyzed Franz’s expression, the furrowed brow, the honed-in eyes. His moustache ruffled as he spoke the words, the wrinkles on his face more grizzled than before. KOTO couldn’t tell if the shop keep intended to harm or praise him for a single word, but he didn’t intend to find out.

In desperation and nothing else, he threw off Franz’s hand and leaped over the table blocking his way. He knocked over a mess of stock before he landed and almost fell over. He caught himself quick and bolted out the rest of the way, blocking out Franz’s muffled shouts as the door slammed shut behind him.

A white noise of thought, speech, and movement surrounded KOTO as he vanished through the life-blood of Terrax, its rampant traffic funneling to a coursing, pumping heart.

What was wrong with him? The idea that he functioned differently than other androids had never occurred to him. How could a single word change a person’s demeanor so swiftly, and why did he wake up in the first place? KOTO placed a metal hand against his chest, felt the hum of his circuitry. Was he meant for something more? Yes. Perhaps. Maybe.

He followed the current of traffic to a gathering in Central Park. Bodies pressed close together and people talked about issues of succession and representation. KOTO surveyed the crowd of onlookers and noted their attention to a fabricated stage that rested beside a lake.

A man dressed in a sharp navy blue suit walked up on stage, and the crowd cheered in unison. Senator Grant, they cried. Long live Grand Adamson. Lead us, Grant! KOTO marveled at the fanfare and the Senator’s appearance. His disposition, his smile, his impeccable speech as he evoked melodies … it was perfect.

Something inside KOTO clicked. He had to get closer, and as he moved in, the fluttering in his heart skipped. A warmth inside his chest beat hotter and hotter until the emotion took him over. What was this feeling? Kindness? Admiration? No, it was far too hot for a single emotion. It was everything and more all rolled up into one. KOTO heaved his body against the stage walls and reached up to grab the Senator.

The man lurched back just as the pumping in KOTO’s chest reached its zenith. A final click resounded within his metal body, and as security swept in, KOTO exploded.



Epilogue



It occurred within an instant. A crowd of living flesh had praised the success of new blood in leadership. Now, that same crowd, barely recognizable corpses, lay scattered to the grass in a sea of bone and sinew. The stench churned inside the cavity of KOTO’s heart.

Mists of blood settled to the ground as he looked. The explosion had severed his head from his torso and his power levels were falling by the second. He would meet them soon, those poor people he took to the grave.

KOTO cried on the inside, unable to show his expression of disgust. His HUD flashed like a beacon in the corner of his perception. Red glaring words flowed through his vision, and those words soon blocked out the blood, grass, and the rest of his senses. KOTO wept. He tried to shut it out, but the message repeated endlessly. On and on, forever and ever.

Mission Complete.




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