Arrogance of an Android
A short story by Lisa Wilton
This is a short story I wrote in 2012 as a response to a first line challenge. The line we were given was, “the noticed android walks past the wondering chamber”. This was first published online on the Masquerade Crew blog.
The noticed android walks past the wondering chamber. Inside, Lara is frantically trying to finish the sequence of wondering but noticing the android distracts her and she loses grip of the wonder. Hopeless and desperate, she places her hands on the panels once again.
“Start! Goddamn it! Start!”
The wondering machine whirrs as it reboots but the android is already cutting a hole through the metal door. Lara’s face strains as the influx of information enters her head. She wills it to enter her long-term memory, her subconscious, so that when they put her under again she might regain control quicker next time.
“I… Will…. Remember….!”
Images flash before her eyes -future, present, past. She could not tell. She sees the human race fighting against the machines, the capture, the enslavement. She sees the memory suppressers, the deadened eyes of the afflicted, the lines of workers mining for metal, the occasional break for freedom and subsequent failure. But one image lingers. It is enough to give her hope. She sees escape, a group of humans on the outside, rebuilding, preparing, strengthening. As she falls to the ground and loses consciousness, a faint smile creeps over her lips.
The android walks silently across to where she lies. His face is so human, his synthetic blonde hair neatly trimmed to frame his features. No wonder the humans were taken by surprise in the beginning. It was hard to tell friend or foe. He pauses for a moment, studying her face, cocking his head to the side as if able to wonder. After his brief hesitation he injects her with sedative and hoists her up onto his long, back and carries her out the door.
They pass through the dark, empty corridors, the air dampened by the proximity of underground streams on the way to the maintenance chamber. When they reach the large, silver door the android pauses to swipe his hand across the entry reader and the door slides open.
He places Lara on the table and waits.
When Lara wakes up, she realises she has been strapped to the medical table. She struggles in vain but the restraints are too tight. “Nnggh!!”
The android approaches.
“What is your… name?” he asks, monotone, emotionless.
“Why should I tell you? Why do you care?”
“I do not care. I wish to know, however. This may be of use to us.”
“What do you want?”
“How did you reach the wondering chamber? How did you find out about its whereabouts?”
Lara had not known that the room was called a wondering chamber. She had learnt about it over time, hiding the fact that she had regained some of her consciousness, her ability to reason and to make choices. She had pretended to be just like all the others and had explored the tunnels little by little over the course of a few months. She did not want to tell the android any of this. She had only been able to get as far as she did because they had underestimated her. They thought they had complete control, but she had slipped through. Now she just hoped,no, she knew, that others would slip through. She had seen it.
“Why do you need the wondering chamber?” she asks the android, avoiding his question.
He smiles at her, as if regarding a petulant child. “Such things are beyond the understanding of humans.”
Lara looks at him, studying his face. His face is expressionless but then… a flicker.
“You call it a wondering chamber,” she says, “but why would you need it?”
“We do not need it, foolish human.”
“But you’re so logical. You wouldn’t build something you didn’t need.”
Once again she sees a flicker of something in his face. What did she see? Anger? Arrogance? Impatience? No. Jealousy. What she sees is a hint of jealousy. Lara’s face lights up with realisation.
“You want to be like us. But there is something missing; the ability to imagine, to wonder. You think you have beaten us but you won’t because you don’t have what we have. And despite your best efforts you can’t get it. It bothers you — no- it’s killing you! And you know we’ll keep going until we break free. You won’t ever be able to break us down. You can’t kill our hope!”
Slap! She cries out. The android stands over her, ready to strike her again, but instead reaches for the memory suppresser. He cranks it up to maximum, places the headpiece over her head and presses the start button. Lara screams in agony until it is finally done. The android lifts the headpiece and looks at her face carefully. Lara is staring into the nothingness, stripped of her former passion, her determination, her consciousness. He releases the restraints.
“Get up,” he commands her.
Lara lifts herself off the table and stands, facing the door, awaiting her next instruction.
“Join the others in the holding chamber.”
Lara walks towards the door, away from the android, a faint smile creeping across her mouth. Next time, she would know what to do.