2024 is an eight part series that I am releasing on my blog. It’s a short story, turned novella and I hope you enjoy it. Follow the journey of Tom and Nova as they discover the secrets of the new world. I will be releasing each part as soon as I have written it up.
PART 1: The Gladiator
The year 2024, TOM.
The audience roared as Tom raised his head. The light shone into his eyes, and he had no way of knowing whether his corrective lenses were working. There was a slight buzzing sensation in his ears, like bees rushing to honey. He knew the audience was thirsty for blood; he could hear it in the deep roar that resonated from the confines of the Coliseum.
Rome was not the friendliest place, where thieves and bandits roamed free, but it sure had great audiences. His opponent, a battered Galactic robot, no doubt from previous pounding and a lack of maintenance reared its head. Still, the thing was a robot and robots were difficult to bring down. This would require all of his focus. Both sides of his brain worked in unison to help make decisions. There was the cyborg side, and the human side. He still considered himself wholly human however. That made him wonder whether robots thought they were human too. By being part cyborg, he felt an affinity to them that most humans did not. For the most part, humanity viewed robots as an enabler, a hunk of metal designed to perform systematic tasks so that humans could engage in higher level thinking and make decisions that required more analysis than a robot was ever thought capable of doing.
At 24, Tom was the result of an experiment by the Galactic hub, a guinea pig if you will. He agreed to the experiment, so there was no force involved. The doctors and scientists wanted to see how the brain would work with a robotic element. And here he was, ready to fight another one of his kind right to the death. There was a certain poetic tragedy to the scene that lay before the Gladiator himself.
The other machine, was a Z330, several basic robots brought together. It had several arms and resembled something of an octopus skulking around the other side of the arena. The battle had barely begun and he could feel the exhaustion from the previous one. Gladiators were allowed to participate in up to seven battles per week; night in, night out. It sure wasn’t a profession for the weak of heart.
He could see the elements of inspiration taken from nature by the maker of Z, (that’s the nickname he would use for her). Z was walking on the walls of the arena, defying gravity and moving quite quickly towards him. He in turn, moved to the center of the arena, raising his arms to the crowd. For being a gladiator was not just about winning; it was so much more than that. It was about showmanship. It was about giving the crowd what they wanted; a big old show.
Z suddenly made a deadly detour to the center of the arena, and smashed into him. He fought not with his brute strength, but with his mind, skulking between the tentacles and using his hands and legs to strike the beast where it would create obstacles; for instance, the eyes. He pulled an eye from its socket, a large chord following it as it came out of the intricately engineered eye socket.
With one eye remaining, the robot was lost in translation.
Tom seized his chance to cause the maximum amount of damage during this moment of disarray. He tackled the robot to the ground, jumping on top of it and smashing its primary circuit. The whole thing shut down without much of a struggle. He wondered if this was indeed proof that he was much smarter than Z. She died in that puddle of her own chords, her sad singular eye staring straight at him.
He held his breath for thirty seconds, and then it came in waves; the applause.
Tom reminded himself that the people loved the carnage her performed for their pleasure, and not him as a person.
The bell rang to signify a win.
He retreated to his quarters, and just as he was leaving the stadium, he met with the most dazzling brown almond eyes. A beautiful woman was staring at him from the front row. Her eyes melted into his gaze, and he wanted to know her immediately. He wanted to be a part of her life. As quickly as she had appeared, she was gone.
He left his quarters as soon as he could; searching for the almond eyed beauty in the streets. He made his way past shops filled with mangled robot parts, baristas, cupcake bakeries and artists with their works all on the street.
His skin was tanned a golden brown from days of training in the sun. His green eyes searching and not finding the woman he saw. He tried to stop thinking about her, but there was no way out. Her distinctive features were imprinted on his brain. Because of the brain implant, his robot side was able to remember everything he saw to the last detail. This meant that he could remember virtually everything he saw, as well as recall it at will. This was often a good thing, for battle tactics, but not for emotional matters. Some things were better left forgotten.
Finally, he spotted the girl outside a dank little book shop up an alleyway close to the stadium. He followed her inside without thinking. Abbey’s bookshop was a hideout right in the centre of the city. She was looking at socialist historians, namely Marx. Perhaps she was a sociology major; his mind trailed off, picturing her in glasses and a pin up sixties dress devouring anything that had the word ‘discourse’ in it. They were all the same, the educated.
They all had that air of superiority about them, like holding knowledge was going to help in a fight against a wild octopus robot. He hated them all, mostly because he wasn’t allowed that privilege. After the experiments on his body, he was rendered obsolete. No college would take him, knowing that he would easily beat the human students, and possibly even Galactics.
A little information on the Galactics: they are a race that had come to Earth first in 2017, and now they had performed countless feats for science and technology, cured world hunger and also built commerce and created large amounts of employment for humans on Earth. They were revered in some countries as Gods, miracles put on this Earth to save us all.
He snorted at the thought. Tom hated any type of authority.
The girl with the almond eyes appeared to be engrossed in a book so he rounded the corner, and entered the same isle as her, feigning interest in a modern history volume, The Twentieth-Century World and Beyond, An international History since 1900. William R. Keylor wrote the book. He picked it up and leafed through its pages until he reached the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. She looked over at what he was reading like a child. Their eyes met and there was no going back.
“Hello,” he said gruffly.
“My name is Tom Wheeler. I saw that you enjoyed my little show earlier today at the arena.”
She gaped at him.
“Tom Wheeler; the Tom Wheeler, the gladiator.”
“Yes, that’s me. ” he beamed at her.
She gave him an affected smile back, looking at the floor like an adolescent. He wondered about her age, placing it at about 22 years.
She was a galactic for sure, that porcelain skin, the pupils of her eyes, it was all too perfect to be human. Galactic women were beautiful, he had been told but he had never seen one to his liking, until now.
“You got a name then?” he asked.
“Nova Stacia” she smiled.
That smile would be his be all and end all.
-To be continued-
Written by Irveen Kaur, UTS Communications graduate and writer.