Based on a true encounter I had, this piece is dear to my heart. Treat it with care!
Based on a true encounter I had, this piece is dear to my heart. Treat it with care!
Here’s part two in my eight part series 2024. Enjoy reading! If you haven’t read the first part, go to my previous blog post “2024” for Part 1.
The Year 2024, NOVA STACIA.
Nova reminisced fondly about the first time she had seen Tom. Little did she know that he would become such a huge part of her life, the Gladiator cyborg. She wondered how he managed to defeat so fearlessly, the robotic monsters that he was faced with every day. To her, he was the ultimate man.
“Nova! What are you doing home at this time?” her father asked.
She mumbled something inaudible and tried to retreat to her room. How could she say she had been to another Gladiator fight? Her father was rigidly against his daughter viewing anything so barbaric and violent.
But she could not tear her eyes away from the spectacle. This was her third fight in the same month. Tom was definitely her favourite gladiator. The way he faced the robots, the way his glistening cyborg arm reached out to smite anything in his path. He was a hero, she was sure of that.
To think, he had noticed her out of anyone else in the crowd. She was flattered to think what this meant. Did he like her? She was attracted to him, that day in the book shop after the match between him and that Z330.
But she knew she was not allowed to get involved with the Gladiator. After all, he was a mere slave and she the daughter of a high powered Galactic diplomat. There was no way society would allow them to be together. And yet, her thoughts shifted to Tom more than once that day.
At breakfast, she remembered the way his shaggy hair cascaded over his eyes, making him seem a little goofy, unable to kill anything. He looked harmless to her.
At lunch, she remembered Tom’s little swagger, as he heaved his cyborg arm with the ease of a toddler lifting a toy.
At dinner, she felt that her infatuation was unavoidable, so she endeavored to bring it up with her father. This was going to be tough, but she wanted to find out about any loopholes in his rules. She knew she would be shunned in Galactic society for choosing a slave. She raised a glass to her father across the table,
“I raise my glass to you father,” she said affecting enthusiasm.
He looked over from his E-reader and raised a bemused eyebrow,
“To what do I owe the toast?” he asked.
She could tell he knew she was an opportunist. After all, she was Frederick Plywater’s daughter.
Frederick was a father who knew when his child was hiding something. He also knew that the world of adolescence was a foreign land which he had not inhabited approximately 300 years. So he let his daughter speak,
“Father, can a woman of my standing, love a man below her caste?” she asked.
“Of course darling, you can love any man you want, as long as he is a Galactic. We must keep the bloodline pure.”
She screwed up her face at that. Her father had ruled out the entire human population in one fell swoop.
Nova sighed, going back to her food. The chef had made pasta today, her favourite with pesto and chicken, and yet she played with her food like a child. Her appetite had completely disappeared.
As long as he is a Galactic.
She scoffed at the statement. All her life, her father had raised her to follow her heart, teaching her that the whole brain would follow. Today, he stood in her way. She ate quickly and retreated to her quarters.
Would she see the gladiator again?
She decided to go to the same bookshop where they’d first met the following week. She had no other way of getting to him. She did not even know his last name.
Meanwhile, her father had forbidden any contact with a human. She stepped into the shop, receiving a familiar nod from the chinese shop assistant. She was young, with light purple hair on one side and a bright blue fringe. She oftentimes wore back, at least she did every time Nova entered the store.
Nova tried to remember the isle where they’d first met. The entire shop was like a huge library. Inside every book was a code, to the audiobook and computerised version of the manuscript. She used her smart phone to scan different items and recieved the entirety of the book on her E-reader device. Each book was placed title facing to the customers. The hard copy cost 300 basas for the one she wanted, but the E-reader version was only 10 basas. She clicked “buy” and soon, the book was in her library.
She meandered through the shelves, looking for new titles, hoping to see her love interest once again. But he was nowhere to be found. Sitting alone in the corner of the store, she ordered a coffee and sank into her E-reader. She had ordered a textbook on robotics, and she began to leaf through it. She remembered Tom’s cyborg arm and wondered what he really was. It was so difficult to tell whether a human was more cyborg or human.
Robotics: Modelling, Planning and Control
The textbook itself was an old one 2008 and was exactly six hundred and thirty two pages long. She tried to understand the complexities of robotics, reading through the text about the different types of robotic joints; revolute and prismatic. The book seemed like gibberish to her and in the end she resigned to reading another work of fiction by Isaac Asimov, a man whose stories had captured her so completely that she had read the entirety of his Foundation series.
She sat wondering how Asimov could have written five hundred works of fiction in his lifetime and she struggled to even write one. Efficiency, she though was the difference between a good writer and a brilliant one.
As she sat wondering about the inner workings of Asimov’s mind, who should appear but Tom himself. He was walking through the historical fiction, pretending to pay attention to it, but she could see his tinny gaze move to her every couple of seconds. She could not help but smile a little too smugly at this attention.
She remembered her father’s words. She was to go nowhere near a human being.
But he’s not human.
She reasoned with herself. After all, Tom was part cyborg. Frederick had said nothing at all about a cyborg, and so she got up, carefully turning off her E-reader and followed him into the bookshelves.
TOM was only allowed to visit his father once a month. His father was painting an image of Tom, the thinker, not the fighter that he truly was. Tom stared at the painting and wondered what it meant. Scathingly, he wondered if his father was alluding to him as a robot Descartes. He’d had enough of the typical “I think, therefore I am” bullshit.
Such was the saddening reality of a gladiator slave. He was trapped like a rat in a maze. He looked over at his cyborg arm. He wondered how a hunk of metal could cause so much pain in another robot. After all, he was part robot. Every day when he stepped into the arena, he was killing his own kind. His identity crisis was simple; was he a man or a robot, or both?
I was a man first, therefore I am a man.
He refused to believe that he was just wiring and circuits and joints. He was so much more than that. Some of the Galactic robots were advanced in AI, but it wasn’t reason to believe that they actually had feelings. They just pulled out a bunch of code from a drawer in their brains that mimicked human emotions. There was no way of truly replicating feelings and the subconscious in a robot. At least, he didn’t think so anyway.
Like his feelings for that girl!
A robot couldn’t do that. It couldn’t think emotionally about the opposite sex. Heck, it couldn’t experience endorphin releases during orgasms with a woman.
He imagined Nova Stacia, the beautiful Galactic woman he had seen in the library. Her hair was long and flowing, and she was staring at him. He’d gone back to Abby’s bookshop in search of her, and she’d been there.
Could he really pull her into this life? Was he really that selfish?
He was a slave, and he knew it. He could not provide for her, but her almond eyes spoke to him.
That second time in Abby’s bookshop, was far better than the first. He’d gotten her number. It was only a matter of time until they met again. She was an achievable target.
He stared at the portrait his father had made, with a mixture of admiration and resignation. On the mantlepiece was a picture of a young girl, his little sister. He stared wistfully from the painting to the image of his baby sister on the mantlepiece, thoughts of Nova still spinning in his head.
It had been the year 2017 when Sara had gone missing. He had searched high and low, gone to every station and yelled her name. But she was never found. She was 3 years old and lost, probably dead.Tom thought of her every time he went home to his father. Then he got back into the arena and imagined that every single opponent was his baby sister’s captor. But none of his wins brought her back.
It would a while before his affair with Nova would lead him to a place that he didn’t want to go. But for now, he was lovesick.
Lovesick and immensely stupid.
To be continued…
Written by Irveen Kaur, UTS Communications Graduate and Writer
©, 2017, Irveen Kaur.
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.