Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Murder In Skin City - Part Four

Murder In Skin City: Part Four

I hoped that my audio sensors were on the fritz when my new boss told me that we only had four security 'bots, including the two of us, to patrol an entire city where humans and robots would be living side by side for the first time. The thought was too ridiculous. There had to be an explanation.

"Only four sir?" I asked.

"John, the human and robot liason will explain inside," he said, gesturing to the nearest of the three doors inside the compound. "I leave you in his care. I have preparations to make."

With that, he turned and headed toward the farthest door. I assumed that one must have been his office. I filed the information away for future reference and stepped toward my door. It opened silently and instantly by vertical lift. Inside I beheld what could only be the comman center. Screens and docks were everywhere. The room, however, was dominated by the strangest looking robot I had ever seen.

"You must be Zed!" it exclaimed as it rushed forward to invade my personal space. "A pleasure to finally meet you! I am John, human and robot liason designation HR-5653."

I don't know what it was that I was expected him to look like, but it sure as hell wasn't the thing in font of me. His shell was slighter in build than most 'bots, kind of pansy looking if you ask me. Not much detail about the shell could be made out though, mainly because he appeared to be wearing clothing. A robot wearing a suit. Just what the screwed up universe needed most. I was beginning to feel like I was in an old human circus. The dark tan suit with a blue tie was not the most disturbing part of John's appearance, as absurd as that was. He had a face.

Sure, almost every robot had something resembling a face. Visual sensors that mimicked eyes, a recessed speaker bar where a mouth should be: that sort of thing. John had a human face. Rather, he had what a robot must have reckoned a human face should be. It had some sort of synthetic covering for skin, and fully animatronic features. His blue eyes blinked from time to time. His mouth moved, stretched, and contorted with each word it spoke. Even his "eyebrows" moved.

"Um, hello," I managed after a moment's shock.

"I can hardly believe I'm standing here with you! I've read all about you," he gushed. I couldn't take my eyes off of the bizarre spectacle going on on his "face".

"Read about me?" I inquired, surprised.

"Oh yes. Your case files from the reservation are most interesting. Your handling of the incident--" he started to say.

"No offense John, but I really don't want to discuss that," I said, quickly cutting him off.

"But you handled it flawlessly I thought," he began again.

"Why do we only have four security members for an entire city?" I barked. That shut him up momentarily.

"Ah. Yes, that is most interesting! Please allow me to introduce your subordinates. They are the first of the NHZ security series... Dex and Rex!" he said as he pressed a switch on the wall behind him.

Two large wall panels slid away to reveal a pair of behemoth robots. They were incredibly impressive pieces of hardware. The were hulking examples of the best in armor for one thing. The weapons were obviously top of line as well. They stepped forward with thundering strides, perfectly in step with one another.

"NHZ-127 and 128 reporting for duty sir!" they said in unison.

"Impressive," I said. I meant it too. "At ease."

I heard a release of air and was amazed as sections of the armor receded into their shells. Their helmets also released and retracted. That was when I saw them.


They gave them faces too.

NEXT: The humans arrive (honest! They really do this time!)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Murder In Skin City - Part Three

Murder In Skin City - Part Three

My new boss and I arrived at the Central Security Compound and I was shocked at the lack of personnel. There was no one on the perimeter of the squat single level building. We entered a through a nondescript overhead-lift door without so much as a "Halt, who goes there". The interior was sparsely appointed and cramped. There were three doors within. All looked the same, with no markings as to their purpose. The Security Head paused and turned to address me.

"I was somewhat surprised that you chose to travel here by conventional means," he said. Conventional? I used a powered bike. I wasn't sure what was odd about that.

"Sir?" I asked, confused.

"Most of us travel by upload now," he explained. I understood then. I heard some talk while on the reservation that it was becoming the latest thing. Traveling long distances by uploading our programming entirely into new shells that awaited at the destination.

"I prefer to stick with what I know sir," I said.

"It makes travel almost instantaneous. Very efficient," he offered.

"I don't like the thought of changing bodies like humans change clothes," I retorted.

"I tend to agree with you," he said with a touch of mirth in his voice modulation. "Although we did have a shiny new beast of a shell for you."

"I like the dents. They remind me of where I've been."

"Indeed. Experience," he said thoughtfully.

For the record I am well aware of the irony of my stubbornness. My own little individuality hang-up. Call me a hypocrite.

"Unfortunately Zed," the Security Chief continued. "It did deny you the opportunity to get completely up to speed before the humans arrive."

"I'm a quick study," I claimed.

"You'll have to be. Fifty thousand humans will be flooding those streets starting tomorrow. Fifty thousand trying to live side by side with robots. Your team will ensure that nothing goes wrong."

"How many security 'bots do we have sir?" I inquired.

"Four, counting ourselves."


NEXT: Things go wrong.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Murder In Skin City - Part Two

Murder In Skin City - Part Two

I walked the empty, rain-slicked streets of Skin City, making my way to the administrative office. I passed a few 'bots on the way. They were all too busy to notice me. It was probably uncalled for, but I felt angry when I saw them ambling about on their appointed tasks with their shiny and new shells. I surmised that they saw themselves as better than me somehow with my dented and worn frame. A robot with class warfare issues. Stupid. I know.

It took only a few steps inside the unadorned waiting area for me to suddenly find myself accosted by a pair of officious looking 'bots. One was clearly service, while the other was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. His shell was ridiculously elaborate and ornate, with little swirls and arches built into the shoulder pieces and a short cape draping behind. A cape. Seriously. Made me sick to look him.

"Ah. Z9-0014. You've arrived," he said with a pompous vocal accenting.

"Call me Zed," I commented.

"Zed? How delightful. Zed it is," he replied in a tone that made me want to smash his headpiece in. "I am the administrator of this facility. You may call me Simon. I am responsible for the day to day operations of this city."

He actually sounded arrogant. We adopt more of man's trappings every day. It's like a disease.

"This is Security Head SH-Z103," Simon said, gesturing demurely to the service bot to his left. Security Head. My new boss. His shell was clean and undamaged, but utilitarian. No pomp and grandeur, but there were insignias painted on the chest plate. Tokens of achievement no doubt.

"What should I call you?" I inquired.

"You call me sir," he replied. He scorned naming conventions, but still decorated his shell to prove his individuality.

"Sir," I replied respectfully.

"Z103 will show you to the primary security center. I am sure you will want to acclimate quickly to your new assignment," Simon explained. Condescending scrapheap.

"John, our liason to the humans, will meet you there."

"Let us proceed. Time is wasting," Z103 prompted.

"Sir," I replied stiffly.

"Zed?" Simon inquired.

"Yeah Simon?"

"Do you know why you were assigned here?" he asked idly.

"Not really," I answered honestly. I was uprooted pretty unceremoniously. I wasn't sure if it was for promotion or reprimand.

"Your experiences with the humans on the reservation give you a unique insight. We are beginning to place great value on experience. We expect great things from you here," Simon said as he turned away.

Great things. Yeah, that was just what I was looking for. Scrap.

NEXT: We meet the rest of Zed's team!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Murder In Skin City - Part One

"Murder In Skin City - Part One"

It was a rainy, miserable night when I first arrived in the city. My new city. The humans would come to call it "Skin City". My designation is Z9-0014 and I hate humans.

Perhaps some background is in order.

As the story goes, the human race hit its peak some seventy or so years ago. Their capacity for creating technological wonders had reached incredible levels, though their capacity for kindness and tolerance had not. Somewhere in some lab, man's keenest minds unleashed a spark... and gave life.

It was an artificial life, with artificial intelligence, but it was real enough. Even more incredible than the creation was that they shaped that life, making it unique and even allowed it to feel. Emotions... a marvel and a curse if you ask me.

Man, of course, dubbed his new offspring "robots". The first generation of my kind was happy enough just to be alive and happy to help. Some bright bulb scientist pioneered revolutionary software for the robots and I'm sure he couldn't wait to tell all his friends. It allowed robots to replicate their programming with unique variations for the resulting new generation. He even saw fit to require 2 'bots for the process. A "male" and a "female". Man created robots in his own damned image.

A few years went by pretty well until mankind decided it was high time they made war on each other again. It was a time-honored tradition for humanity. They expected robots to help.

The robots, as it turned out, had no desire to take sides and certainly none to fight each other. So they chose a third option... remove mankind's ability to make war. Robotkind decided in the interest of the future of both species and for mankind's own well-being, they would take violent action for the first and only time. The reaction was swift and decisive.

Mankind had already given over control of most industry to robots. They used that control to "breed" a new generation to serve as an army. Man, of course, resisted. They even banded together in common cause at the end. Honestly, they never had a chance. Robots had superior bodies, minds, and instruments of war. There were casualties, but not remotely as many as suffered by the humans.

The robots sought to fight a kinder, gentler war. They didn't seek to kill and humans were always given the standing option to surrender. Too often they refused. They were defeated in a matter of days.

Man's military was disbanded, his war machines dismantled, and the remnants of humanity were moved to supervised reservations. That's where I come in. I was commissioned as security at a reservation facility near what once was known as San Diego.

The human's called it "Dead Man's Ranch". Their lives were shadows of their glory years. They are devolving dangerously close to bestial level. Filthy, hateful creatures.

Enough background scrap for now, back to my tale. After years of faithful service, now I found myself summoned to Unified Facility NH-0002. "Skin City". I stood on a balcony high above the main gate of the city. I took a long, lingering look at my new home before reporting for my assignment. The rain-soaked streets were pristine and calm. That would all change so very soon...


Monday, December 7, 2009

Getting started is always the hardest part...

Hello. I am sure it will be quite some time before anyone reads this, but we have to start somewhere and I might as well address you as though you are here with me on this little journey. (It's kind of like a rudimentary form of time travel. I am addressing readers in the present-tense, who will hopefully be reading this in the future)

I seem to have digressed. Let's start again.


My name is Bryan Lamb and I love fiction. Science Fiction and Fantasy are my favorites, but I love all fiction. I have had this crazy idea for a while now to create a blog and post original fiction written in almost real-time. I am sure others have had this same idea and have executed it much more brilliantly than I, but what's the harm in following one's motivation?

This is simply an introductory post. A little "Hey, how are you" if you will. In the coming days I will be posting new fiction in installments every single day. If no one ever sees them, so be it. I will at least finally have these stories out of my brain and out into the universe.

I will submit the pieces of story until the story is finished, however long that may be, then move on to the next story. Hopefully, some of you will notice along the way and will be entertained.

I'm sure you will have questions. (Like "Why on earth did you call the blog "Tales From Beyond The Universe?" Simple answer: It's got pizazz! Seriously, it's like an old sci-fi B-movie title.)

I'm sure there will be typos.

The Great Lords of Grammar and Sentence Structure will surely be offended.

I hope it will be fun.

Tomorrow begins the journey with part 1 of "Murder In Skin City", a very noir mystery tale set in the near-future. Join me. There will be robots.