As Kupopolis started to fade, I started to work on a Novelization of the Clay Reynolds plot arc. I may still go back to it at some point, but I wanted to share with you guy what I had in case I never sit down to try and write it again.
In the Novelization, the story is no longer in the Kupop universe, but in my home town of Los Angeles. I wanted to add in more of the class inequality that I see on a day to day basis as a guy who enjoys his public transit. Clay is more of an angry punk and less voice of reason. Maura, a girlfriend Clay had initially in the original plot, was to be developed further into his moral compass that tries to ground Clay as he finds himself further tossed into this bizarre world of millionaires and robots.
Another key difference is Clay is also an experimented-on prisoner. In the original plot, Zion uncovers that subsidiary of Diamond were embedding mind control chips into prisoners to create an army of seraphim pilots. In the novelization, this is taken a bit further in that the experiment was an attempt to establish a wireless connection to the seraphim robot mind. This instead creates a prisoner hive-mind, to which Clay is unwillingly wired into. The hive-mind attempts to get Clay to prevent a disaster, which he fights against until he is finally swallowed up by a Typhon analog.
The overall plot was to be a retelling of Jonah and the whale, where Clay is Jonah. In the end Clay finally accepts that he is the designated messenger, allows himself to overtaken by the hive mind while piloting the seraphim, and thus makes him faster and more responsive than the bad guy who is piloting the other machine. Big robot battle in downtown LA, clay wins.
Meanwhile, there is a subplot with Maura and her younger brother who is still in highschool, who is a victim of bullying. Over the course of the novel this escalates along racial tensions and maura pleads for Clay to intervene, but ultimately she is killed in a race related incident at her little brother’s school.
Distraught, Clay attempts to quit. Zion points out the Jonah and the Whale parable connection to Clay, but adds that most people forget the other part of the parable about God giving Jonah a rose which he has destroyed. This leads waaaaay back to my first few Kupopolis posts with Clay, where Zion asks for his help so they can save all the ‘roses’–the good people in the world. The story ends with Clay hunting down the big bad’s cohorts who have retreated the high desert.
So this is what I got–keep in mind I tend to write in spurts following a loose outline, so it jumps large gaps:
“Have you had any current experiences of sleep walking, intensive daydreaming, or a transitive hyper attentive state?”
“What? Not unless some guy has done smuggled in a magician up their ass, no.”
The researcher frowned. He lowered his head as he poked in the answer onto a small sliver covered computer with a stylus. Prophet Micah shook his head and he laid back in the dentist chair. The inmate folded his arms. His nostrils flailed. The room stunk of rotten teeth and latex.
The old man ran his hands across the white stubble that blanketed the dry brown skin of his chin only to drop his arm to his side and slouch further into the plastic covered chair.
The researcher continued, “have you had any current experiences where you would normally react violently but instead behaved in a more subdued manner?”
Prophet Micah tilted his head, staring at the small metal drain in the corner of the cement floor. His eyes relaxed and his vision blurred. “Yeah,” he muttered, “there was this one thing. The guy in the cell across from me. I was gonna get him, but… yeah. ”
After tugging on the stool beneath him, the researcher put his elbow on his knee. He looked at the inmate quizzically. “Why didn’t you go through with it?”
Prophet Micah’s eyes darted to the corner of the room momentarily. The researcher followed visually, only to see a empty water stained corner with layers of peeled paint. He then turned back to fixate his gaze on the drain on the floor. He unfolded his arms and rested them on the arm rests. His lips parted to speak but only his eyes spoke out in thoughts, fixated on some idea but still wavering to express it.
The inmate shook his head, shrugging slightly. “Just wasn’t his time yet,” he mouthed out loud.
He turned to look at the researcher, a tall gangly caucasian man with short neatly cut brown hair–white shirt khaki pants and brown loafers. He was busy writing something down with the stylus. His hands folded up again once more with his brown boney knuckles interlocking into each other.
“I’m going to give you some homework this week. I want you to talk to that man, and figure out why you didn’t try to stab him. With the study of this treatment, a good portion of it is understanding the mechanisms that go into your decision making. Its one thing to do good because you know you will be punished if you do wrong, its another to do good because there is an innate desire for the well-being of others.”
He looked up from his device, placing down on the dentist tray table. Next to it was a small leather satchel. The researcher flipped it open and retrieved a syringe and of several similar looking vials. Prophet Micah grunted lightly to himself when he saw his name on it.
The researcher’s voice began more monotone as he repeated the lecture that by the tone sounded rehearsed and memorized to Prophet Micah. “I’m going to give you another shot this week. I’ll return next week, but with a few more people who will conduct some medical tests on you. The next part of this test will look further into any non-prescribed drug use, so if you took anything in the last six months I’d appreciate it if you’d be forthcoming.”
The inmate shook his head and mumbled. “No, I’m clean.”
“Good. You’ll tell a guard if you have any symptoms of nausea or any sudden spurs of anxiety or depression, right?” He spoke with a stern tone in his voice as he picked up the syringe. The inmate rolled his sleeve.
“Yah,” Prophet Micah grumbled as he turned his head and held out his arm, he turned his head away, pressing his fingers to his lips. After a quick swab of rubbing alcohol the needle went in effortlessly, and swiftly the clear fluid pumped into his veins. The Researcher pulled it out just as fast and rested it on the salmon colored tray. He unzipped a pocket from the satchel and took out a band aid, which he unwrapped and pressed to the point on his arm where Prophet Micah was jabbed.
The researcher stood, walked to the door, then pressed a small oval button. The door unlocked and a guard in gray uniform entered the room. Prophet Micah rubbed his arm as he sat up, then rolled his neck along his shoulder before standing. Holding out his arms the guard handcuffed him, and motioned for Prophet Micah to enter the hall.
In the hallway, sitting cross legged on a old worn wooden bench, was a flaxen blond woman in a black business suit. She sat with her arms pressed against tucked in, her hands clenched tightly onto a purse. He guard’s fingers dug into his sleeve as he escorted the inmate past her.
Next to her was a man dressed in a crisp stoic gray suit that glared at the inmate from a pair of heavy brow with dark brown hollow eyes. His hand tucked back against the midsection of the woman’s shoulders.
He turned his head enough to catch the woman looking up and smiling at his back. He throat felt suddenly dry. There was a strange air of sincerity with the smile that seemed unnerving, her lips curled just enough to seem to border between polite and mischievous. Prophet Micah coughed, clearing his throat.
“Who let her in here?” the inmate asked as they paused in front of a metal gate in the hallway. A guard there picked up a telephone bolted into the eggshell white walls, and mumbled words into it. The gate opened, and the inmate was quietly walked back to his holding cell.
Prophet Micah laid on his metal cot and rubbed his hands. They felt worn and raw. He closed his eyes. He yawned. An indiscernible chatter that echoed down the halls that left his thoughts dull and lethargic. As his body relaxed but his fingers trembled—a sudden wave of tranquility passed over him that blanketed over a cavity of fear that swelled underneath his ribs.
As the shot began to take affect, the booming voice of an opera tenor tickled his eardrum. The Prophet’s eyes opened slightly. He titled his head to the direction of the voice. He squinted. Standing by the metal screen of his cell was a little girl in a long shirt that reach down to her knees. Her small hands interlocked into the metal mesh as she pressed her forehead to the screen.
Her solemn expression evaporated as she looked up to the Prophet and smiled. The old man sat up suddenly as his hands clenched the steel frame of his cot. His fingers relaxed as the blood rushed out of his head and into his gut. Clasping his forehead, his eyes rolled back and he fall back down to the cot, unconscious.
Its the guys who want more to eat that don't make it, prophet Micah thought as he hovered over his lunch. He had read that or heard that someplace famous, movie or a book. The ringing in his head had subsided into a dull hum as he scoops his meal into his mouth with a spoon. It was a casserole of some sort. The only thing he could decipher of its contents was sauce and noodles.
He put down his spoon momentarily and cracked his knuckles. His fingers were swollen and blood seeped from under his nails. Prophet Micah pressed them to his lips.
"Hey," muttered a man across from him at the table. "Who did that for you?"
Micah glared at him in confusion as he bit at his fingertips. The inmate pointed with his spoon at the man's wrist. "Your arm."
He pulled his white sleeve back, exposing a design of ink and scars. It was a tapestry of shapes and words which he could not discern. His mouth dropped sublistly as the imagine flickered into his mind of a book of psalms. He squeezed his arm as he felt a shot of pain flow down his wrist and into his shoulder.
"Don't know," Micah muttered casually, "just woke up with it."
"You woke up to all that."
"You lying to me?"
"Bullshit. I think you're fucking with me."
Eventually the prologue leads to Michah being instructed to sneak an injection into Clay, which he does in a hallway.
Clay pushed the glass door open. The heat smoldered across his face as if he was peering into an open oven. As he walked down the cement steps, his fingers brushed against the metal pole that served as a handrail lightly as it was searing to the touch.
He stood at the foot of the station while cars drove down the block, the burning hum of their engines roared like the crashing of a ocean wave. The air smelled like burnt rubber and melting plastic.
Random limo picks Clay up
“Thanks for the ride. I don’t trust people who give rides to criminals though.”
“Are you saying you’re a criminal?”
Clay shrugged and slouched back into the seat. “Doesn’t matter really what I think if no one else agrees with me.”
The black suited man clapped his hands together. “Ah! Spoken like a true disillusioned follower. The thoughts of the sheep is always inconsequential. Is that’s kind of thinking that got you in prison in the first place. Why didn’t you stick up for yourself my boy? Why didn’t you put up more of a fight?”
The young man looked out the window. Briefly, he didn’t speak. “Almost a hundred degrees outside, stand that poor bastard is still selling chili flavored corn cobs.”
“Look out there–that guy there,” spoke the former prisoner, as he pointed out the limousine window to a brawny old Mexican man in a tattered yellow Lakers hat and white sneakers. “He goes around selling snacks all day in this heat. There’s better ways to make a buck, but I’m sure that’s all he knows how to do in this city. He knows how to push a cart, and he knows how to sell a vegetable on a stick.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Don’t ask me bullshit questions then.” The former prisoner folded his arms.
The black suited man smiled nervously. The botox in his bronzed face seemed to coagulate into blistering dimples.
“Well, in any case, I’m sure you know of the people I represent. I’m not at the liberty to say whom they are, of course.”
“The black suit and cowboy hat is a fucking giveaway, Sherlock.”
“I’d like to keep it civil if possible, Mr. Reynolds.”
“I’m sorry, its just that I really don’t like where this is going. I just go out of prison,” muttered Reynolds, “what makes you think I’d be so eager to get back there again?”
The leathery faced man smirked. “Son, I don’t think you understand present circumstances in its entirety. You’re out of the bars, but you’re still in prison. We bought you out with bribes and a brigade of many brilliant little men with many little yellow legal pads. Your debt to society is now a debt to us. No man is ever free.”
“Sure, tell that to the last three wasted years of my life.” Clay turned his head and looked out the tinted glass window. He ran his palm against his face and sighed. “Before you even tell me anything, who do I know this isn’t going to fall on me again?”
“Getting you released was an act of good faith by our part. But I’m a man of business,” he ran his sun baked fingers across the rim of his hat. “as a… business partner, any negative ramification would have an adverse affect on the outcome of our product. In other words, for the foreseeable future whatever benefits you also benefits me.”
“Sounds like just another hustle.”
His grin faltered into a waning broad smile. “The world has done you wrong, Clay Reynolds. Your life has been stolen away from you so you are pessimistic. That cost to your pride has been to great. I’m giving you the change that’s owed to you. We just hope that you’ll grant us the courtesy of leaving a tip.”
Clay ran his fingers across the top of his skull and sighed. “Fine. You got me out. I’ll accept that. What do you want from me exactly?
The man’s eyes lit up. “You are starting to see it our way! That’s good!” He leaned in to mutter, “what I am about to tell you was never spoken. Is that clear?”
The former prisoner scratched his ear. “I know. I’ve been down this road before.”
“Good! Excellent! Listen–what we want is a soldier, but we can’t go down the usual channels. No privies that can be traced. This project we have is… morally objectionable in the legal sense, but you are already branded as a criminal. Frankly, you’re too poor to wash away the stigma of a criminal, which is why we choose you.”
Clay Reynolds snorted and shook his head.
“You know its true! Let me ask you this: would you want to be still a honest man imprisoned, or a guilty man free?”
Reynolds stared at the man’s face, his own twisted into a an expression of disdain, “I let myself rot away for three years! What the hell do you think? You made a stupid mistake.” The former prisoner began to pull on the door handle, but the door was locked. “Forget I ever asked. You people are all alike–you think just because someone isn’t as rich of you they are less of a man than you. And if they are less than you, then they are only as good as you at your worst. You know what? The rest of us have to be our best almost every day just so you can have the luxury to be a colossal piss of a human being.”
The finely suited man pressed a button next to his armrest. “Pull over, please,” he muttered as his leathery face folded into a grimace. “I’m disappointed with your attitude, but the seed has been planted. When the time comes for you to understand your place and come to a decision, I’m sure the outcome will be both to our liking.”
The door unlocked and fanned open. The former prisoner glared at the passenger as the stepped outside. The man in the black suit reached into his jacket pocket and tossed a card at Reynold’s feet.
“Prepaid. Make some calls. See how many options a excon has. Prove me wrong.”
The door closed abruptly as the limo reeled back into traffic. Clay picked up the card and examined it briefly.
Clay meets up with Maura, who offers him a job helping with catering. The cowboy hat guy calls him, and exposes that the catering event was just a ploy to set up Clay to kill Zion–though he’s not the only one who may have it in for him.
“ You do recall why you landed in prison in the first place, right? You ratted out your bosses. How did that turn out for you? Oh that’s right, they got away free and you were imprisoned for ‘doing what is right’. Imagine how this will go down when you try and do the right thing here? Are you ready to change you life?”
“If you think just by putting a gun in front of me I’ll shoot, then there’s something utterly wrong with your head.” muttered Clay into the phone. The man laughed at the retort.
“Don’t think so highly of yourself! You’re actually the contingency plan. You see that lady next to the ice sculpture? Do you see her purse? Look through the scope if you have to.”
Reynolds laid his body flat on the balcony walkway and peered through the scope of the gun. A black metallic object sifted in the woman’s purse, her fingers slightly hovering over it.
“That poor woman’s son that murdered overseas by someone piloting one of Diamond’s monstrosities. Does she blame the soldier? No. Does she blame the the government that would send her son to die? No. She blames the Victor Frankenstien of the monster–Abidel Zion. Whether or not her convictions on the matter are just, Abe Zion will die in a matter of minutes. Your decision or indecision will be a pivotal factor in the last remaining minutes of his life.”
Clay watched as the old woman slowly stepped forward, her fingers quivering over the opening of her purse.
“So here is the moment we promised you. Shoot her and go back to prison. Shoot him and be reborn a new man. Oh, it looks like you don’t have much time left to decide. What will it be?”
Reynolds tossed the phone down as he grabbed the rifle and knelled. His body relaxed and posed to shoot. He looked down the scope, focused on his target, and fired.
There was a loud bang. Cecilia screamed as the sculpture shattered into pieces. Clay Reynolds raced for the balcony door.
“Whoa! Are you alright miss?” Zion asked with a smile. The man still stood beside the podium as he watched an army of busboys rushed upon the broken glass and flowers.
“Do you need to sit down? You look a little shaken. Could someone help her find her seat?”
Clay quickly crossed the banquet hall to put a hand gently on the woman’s shoulder.
“Let me take you outside for some air miss.”
He said as he began to escort her to the door. His free hand reached into her purse and pulled the gun away into his jacket sleeve. He turned his head as gestured at the speaker on the stage, his eyes examining the CEO’s expression. Zion grinned almost gingerly.
“It looks like everything is taken care of. Great! So, I was saying–”
Clay found himself clenching the woman’s shoulder as they walked into the alley. The man quickly peered down the alley to see a empty street, but the murmurs of adolescence permeated the afternoon air. His grip waned, but the woman stood frozen on the summer pavement.
“I know what you were going to do. I could have killed you but I chose not to. I’m not going to tell anyone, but you can’t do this ever again. Go home Cecilia.”
He gave the woman a small push, yet she still remained a statue, however trembling where she stood. Kids in white polo shirts walked down the sidewalk, rambling exited urban discoveries as they walked to the museum down the street.
“I need you to leave. You have to go.”
“He killed my son!” she cried out. Children paused and squeaked but were ushered forward by the mutterings of chaperones. Clay took a deep breath.
“I am sorry for your loss. Your son wouldn’t want you to be doing this, and you know that. I know I would never want my mom killing for my sake. Cecilia you need to leave.”
“Decinueve! He was only nineteen! Taking this away from me. You…. I hate. Taking him away. ”
She clutched the purse to her chest. “I don’t want him to go away!”
Cecilia let of a wail. Clay Reynolds stepped back.
“Why is she crying?” asked a little boy. The man wanting to speak, but he had no words. His eyes darted over to a chaperone, who looked back at him just as uncertain.
“Her son is lost.” he blurted out at last. The woman sobbed to this.
“Can I help her find him?”
“No… thank you though.”
“Will she be ok?” asked a middle age housewife with a face of concern. Clay smiled.
“Yeah. Thank you.”
He stood there as the long parade of schoolchildren walked by, their soft voices whispering questions to each other as the woman cried. He run his hand across his scalp and sighed, shaking his head to himself in disbelief. His phone rang.
“What’s going on? Is she ok? We can hear her crying inside,” spoke Maura.
“Things are too much for her right now. I think I’m going to take her home. I’ll back back to clean up. We’ll talk then.”
“She’s ok though, right? Well, alright .”
Clay took the woman’s hand. He held it gently. “Maura wants me to take you home, ok? Let’s not ruin this for her.”
Rubbing her eyes, Cecila nodded.
Zion meets with Clay after to offer him a security job. For some reason I only have half a sentence for this. Interestingly I know this is Zion talking at the rose garden at Exposition Park, because the science center is across the street. When I first wrote their meeting in Kupopolis, I envisioned it happening at this park that I used to have field trips to as a kid.
“Have you seen the space shuttle? Its over that way.
Clays talks it over with Maura, and Maura’s family.
"What are you thinking?"
"What do you mean you don't know?" asked Maura, placing her hand behind her hip against the kitchen counter edge. Clay ripped away a slice of the tangerine and slipped it into his mouth.
"Just asking for trouble, you know what I mean?"
"Yeah, but its good money."
"Good money isn't always honest money."
Maura pushed her hip away from the counter and folder her arms. "Yeah. What's his name again?"
"Nombre bueno de Cristo," muttered Rocio.
Clay nodded as he chewed down on the tangy fruit. "Yeah."
"Is he an honest person, this Zion guy?"
"He's a character Maura."
She leaned in and patted the man on the shoulder. "Ok. Is his heart in the right place Clay?"
He piled his peels into a neat pile in the middle of his napkin and folded it into a square.
"I dunno, what do you think Ma?"
Rocio huffed at the thought as her fingers pressed the magazine pages down neatly. "Best that you do good. You could do better than what they've done to you."
Clay smiled. He stood and tossed his napkin into the trash bin. He turned on the faucet and washed the tangy residue from his fingertips. "Its not jail."
"What is it then?"
"I don't want to chance getting mixed in that again. And so high up."
"Just tell him no then."
"He said he wants to take us to dinner regardless."
"Me. You. Ma. Jo--he wants to take us to a show. And dinner."
"Weekday. Jo has to study," blurted Rosario. She carefully began to fold the dashed lines of a coupon.
Clay nodded. He leaned over to Maura and put his hand on her shoulder. "I want you to take your mom and buy her a fancy dress with this, ok? Zion gave this to me but I owe her for taking me in like this," he whispered as his lips hovered over her ear. As he spoke he pressed the roll of bills into the woman's palm. Her eyes glanced down.
"That's too much money," she murmured.
"Its for you too. A nice dress."
"I'll get you something to wear too."
Clay’s first look at Rhea, Zion’s hot mysterious girlfriend
Clay clenched his teeth as she walked past him. Her shoulders seemed to hang in the hair as if held up by the radiance of her own skin. He turned back to Maura, who kneeded her napkin between her fingers with a subtle thin lipped grimace. Her eyes did not stray way from the long flaxen blond hair that swayed between her shoulders. He smiled lightly as he rubbed her arm.
Clay agrees to work.
“I get why you call the shots now.”
“Oh?” asked Zion, slightly smirking smugly to himself. He held out a small box of mints to Clay. He stared at it briefly before Zion put it away with a slight grimace. Clay leaned against a metal railing as he looked out into the empty city street.
“Yeah, 'cause you’re a sick manipulative bastard.”
Zion shrugged. “I wanted you to realize that what you do affects more then just yourself.”
A black and white police car slowly rolled up the hill and past the concert hall. Clay watched as it patrolled streets so empty that the pavement sighed beneath it.
“I’m not going to jail again. Ever. The second things turn in the wrong direction, I’m calling it out and I’m getting away from you and your stupid company.”
Zion stepped to the curb and looked down the long empty street. “That’s exactly the way we need it to be. People like me… we have our demons. When we fight them–we tend to lose perspective.”
“That’s what this is all about isn’t it?”
Clay folded his arms and shuffled his feet. “Why me?”
Zion turned his head and looked down the street. He shrugged. “Why not?”
“Fair enough,” muttered Clay. He sighed and rubbed his temples.
“So we have a deal then?”
The young man looked up past the buildings and into the night sky of downtown. The sky was a dull indigo from the street lamps and lacking any stars.
Zion grinned, “great! I knew you’d say yes, you strike me as the kind of man with a sense of duty.”
“And you strike me as the kind of guy with a lack of sanity.”
“To each his own,” he spoke with a sly smirk, pushing his body away from the wall with his foot. He turned and began to walk up the steps.
At this point we’re suppose to be a quarter of the way through the novel, and the story turns from being noir-esqe about working with Zion, and actually becomes more the tone of the generic Kupop zion and clay talking point stories. This is Clay’s first day.
"Its a green light, you don't have to slow down," Clay grumbled as he drove across the intersection. A faint voice spoke from his phone, giving him directions. He sighed as cursed to himself.
"Stupid fucking roads, who the hell designed this shit?" His eyes relaxed as he drove into the shade of the towers. The voice from his phone suggested a turn, as he merged his small black sedan into the far left lane.
"You have arrived." commented the electronic voice as he pulled into a parking garage. A guard in a small white booth motioned him to slide down his window.
"Are you a visitor?" asked the man. Clay shook his head.
"Naw, first day of work. Clay Reynolds."
"Yeah? Let me look here. What they have you doing here?" the guard spoke as he flipped through a printout on a clipboard.
"Security I guess. Some testing too I was told."
"Reynolds? I don't see you on the list Reynolds."
Clay tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. "I don't know what to tell you. I was told to come here today. Should I just park in 'visitors'?"
The guard stepped back into his white booth and typed a few keys on a old sun bleached keyboard. His brow furrowed. He picked up a radio and muttered something as he looked out into the street. Pause. Clay sank into his seat. A convertible pulled up behind him frustratingly close.
The radio clicked and the guard raised it to his ear. His jaw dropped and he muttered something back into the device.
"Sorry. The executive parking is one floor up on the right. Have a good day."
I’m still a HUGE fan of artificial intelligence. Charlie talks to Clay about the Seraphim AI, but doesn’t expose that they got into giant robots just yet. Also, the machines are named after two suicidal Ai pioneers, which you ran read abouthere
“Although they have the same kernels for motor skills and reflexes, we’re trying two different decision systems. This one we named Chris, and on the table next to him is Push.”
“I thought I was the decision engine.”
Charlies smirked, “yeah, but what we’re working on here is what we call a subconscious AI. We’re not looking to create a machine that could hold a conversation with itself, we just want it to make competent knee-jerk decisions based on a logic of preservation.”
Clay walked around the two tables looking at the two egg shaped machines. “So that means you’re trying to get them to react faster then I can. What if it does something that I would never do?”
The researcher scratched the back of his head and then folded his arms. “Well, in theory initially that could happen, but it would happen less and less as it learns your thoughts and actions. We’ve been using the first test pilot’s thoughts as a database of common sense to mimic on the first production models.”
“Great. So how’s it know what I’m thinking? And what if that test pilot is some kind of nut?”
“Then you’re in serious trouble,” quipped Zion as he leaned against the door frame, “'cause that pilot was me.”
“I’m as good as dead.”
Zion grinned his pearly white teeth. “Did ya show this kid the production model yet?”
Clay gets his task of findingstolen Seraphim
“Put him to work on it Abe,” muttered Charlie as he zipped up his suitcase. “The more time you waste the harder its going to be to track down.”
“Track what down?”
Zion grimaced. His shoulders slouched as he gave a deep sigh. “Truth of the matter is two of our robots were stolen from storage.”
“One of the prototypes?”
Zion shook his head. “If it was a prototype we could track it down. These were… completed by a third party. They don’t operate like our normal machines do.”
Charlie shorted. “That’s putting it lightly.”
“Oh go back to your mom’s basement or something already!” muttered the CEO. The engineer smirked as he softly closed the door behind him.
Abdiel Zion turned to the window and looked out at the city below him. The sun was bright from above, causing the glass towers to appear like twigs poking out from a blinding white snow of concrete.
“Clay, the whole reason we sprang you out of jail–and for the test–was to make sure you were the man to get these machines back for us. Its rare to find someone of your caliber of experience and fortitude. Its rarer still to find someone who can walk that fine line between their ideals and reality.”
Zion turned to face him. “For all the things we shown you today, these missing machines are a step further then that. A missile wouldn’t destroy them. A bomb can’t bring them down. These machines are a raw power that goes beyond the limit of human ingenuity and burrows into the depths of the soul.”
Clay stared at the executive in the eyes, a set of pupils that matched the color of the smoggy blue sky outside the office window.
“You are so goddamn melodramatic, you know that?”
Zion smirked. “It gets the job done.”
Clay shook his head and folded his arms. “Ok, is there a place were I can look at what you have got so far? Video, research, anything?”
Zion smiled. "Yeah, the war room. "
“Hey Doris, is Reeves still there?”
“Oh Good. Could we–” the man raised his head and gestured to the people at the table, “we’re all in agreement in this, yeah? Great–could we fast track Reeves?”
“Yeah–fast track him into a severance package. He’s done here. Thanks Dor.”
Zion looked up and smiled at his new secrutiy expert. “So, what do ya got for us Clay?”
“Hows the investigation going?”
Eventually Clay tracks down one of thieves mid-heist.
Zion's voice reverberated in his ear. "Its not my call to make, Clay. Let the city clear it first. I've been told that they are running it by the Chief of Police's staff. Once that happens--"
The seraphim pilot shook his head as his hand claps at the control bars, "that's not good enough."
"They can throw you in jail if we don't get clearance Clay. Chill out for a moment and--"
"I'm not afraid of going back there, so you're out of excuses. I'm not doing this just to sit here and watch. If I'm all in, then you're all in too."
The seraphim lurched up from the truck bed and tossed the gray plastic tarp aside and draped it across the rooftop of a gas station. As it stood, the crowd parted. Clay took a deep breath. The machine mimicked the gasp of air and stood with its chest puffed. As his shoulders tensed, the robot's body crouched slightly and adjusted to the shift in weight.
"Ok." spoke Zion with a monotone decisiveness.
The renters stepped out from their homes and looked at the seraphim machine. It raised a palm to them with a feather-like grace, fingers sightly spreads apart, as if to motion a child to go back to sleep. It then lowered its hand and leaned forward, ready to pounce.
The bank doors opened as the two bandits.
Zion Being Zion
"Hey you're just in time! I'm about to make my contribution to philosophy."
Clay winced. The CEO sat at his desk with his shirt sleeve rolled up to his elbow. Wrapped around the length of his arm was a tube of black material. On his desk was a small brown computer, and an lizard on a plastic rock its tail wrapped in a similar black wrap.
"Do I even want to know?" asked Clay as he folded his arms. Charlie hovered over Zion's side, typing something into a keyboard.
"This is very important! We're going to help prove existence through the expansion of my consciousness being into another consciousness--my little friend Luke the lizard. This material that's on both of us sends lasers to nerve cells under the skin--or scale--to cause them to fire false signals to the muscle and the brain."
"Basically, Abe's gonna feel a phantom tail coming out of his hand, and he's gonna be able to move Luke's tail with his mind. He's gonna be a siamese twin with a lizard," added Charlie in a dull monotone voice as he focused on the monitor.
"And you needed me for... what?"
"We needed a witness."
"Ok I think we're ready now," explained Charlie. He straitened his back and took a deep breath. Zion looked at him and braced his body in his swivel chair. The two men nodded at eachother. Charlie pressed the enter key.
"Huh," muttered Clay. Zion smirked as the lizard's tail began to twitch.
"It feels like I fell asleep on a sixth finger," he explained. Luke jerked his body quickly across the rock cautiously.
"Don't try to hard now," cautioned Charlie. "This is a living thing, not a machine. You'll freak it out."
"It feels like its waking up. Look at that! I'm controlling another living body. You know what this proves? If I can control another creature's body with my mind, then, it too must have a mind like mine as well!"
"Not really. You can change the engine on a car, but it doesn't make it the same engine."
"Zion. Don't." muttered Charlie. The CEO made the tail whip against the rock, and lizard whirled around once again.
"I actually feel the rock now! I can feel the texture and the heat of the stone. I can feel it flick like--"
The lizard quickly scampered across the desk, leaning a trail of red blood. The tail flopped against the stone as the executive began to scream. He reached for his phantom tail-finger, only to pull on the arm band.
"Hold him! Don't let him take it off!" cried out Charlie. Clay lunged the desk and held the man's wrist as the the engineer quickly began to run down the program.
"That... that was stupid of me. Sorry... sorry." moaned Zion as the pan subsided. He held his wrist and wiggle his fingers.
Charlie pulled the wristband off the severed tail and stuffed it into his pocket. Zion slumped his head down as he rubbed his temples.
"You knew that was gonna happen, didn't you Charlie?" muttered Zion, still rubbing at his missing phantom tail.
"Its only the reason why I agreed to do it."
Clay laughed. Charlie put the rock and bloody lizard back into the terrarium and began to spray the desk with cleaner.
"Yeah laugh it up smiley. We're having a whole suit made for you to interface with the seraphim. Maybe then you won't be so inclined to smash limbs off and beat people with it."
Reynolds furrowed his brow. "What? You're gonna zap me whenever I make a dent?"
"More or less. I'm curious to see how it works with the machine's AI. It already reads your thoughts, we'll see how it learns from your actions."
Clay is Tired of Zion’s shit. Zion responds
"One day you'll see things may way. You're what? Twenty Five?"
"Yeah, still just a babe. I didn't hit my steam til about twenty seven--that's when I became a test pilot," Zion spoke as he placed his palm to his chest in mock earnest. The Diamond guru's face radiated a smile that slowly faded like a sunset. "Now that's an interesting story. I won't get into it right now. But you can imagine."
Zion turned and looked out the window of his office. "I bother you a little, don't I Clay?"
The seraphim pilot shrugged. "You don't pay me for my opinion."
"This is true," muttered Zion as he stared off towards the ocean. The salty water was one dull gray color indiscernible with with the sky. His pressed his fingertips to the glass window.
"I think that's why I like you though. You ground me, give me perspective. Its so easy to lose that in this place."
Clay folded his arms. "The
"You make it sound like you think these things are alive."
Zion looked up at the machine as it hung from the ceiling. "There is a difference between these machines and an animal. The engineers try to make things fit into facts, black and white. But there's a part of existing that goes beyond facts. How to you explain to a machine why a mother would sacrifice itself for her children?"
"The needs of the many outweigh to needs of the few. Spock, Wrath of Khan. I thought that was elementary nerd circlejerk knowledge."
Zion laughed. Clay reluctantly smiled and sighed.
"If you're gonna be a dick about it, then my honest answer would be yeah, I think we have something almost as alive as an insect, but I'm no expert on this stuff."
"Ill try not to get it squished."
"Its a forty million dollar insect."
"I'll try very hard. With happy thoughts."
Eventually Clay gets into a pursuit with a stolen Seraphim on the 101.
"Get it off the damn freeway before you get someone killed!" shouted Zion. As the words resonated in the hall of his machine the inky leviathan flipped a row of oncoming cars like a wave. Headlights crashed across darkness like a string a pearls shattering to the ground.
As muscular mechanical arms snatched a char from the hair as he whirled by its head. Clay placed the car in the road below as cars scattered and froze in place.
Fear, thought Clay, they are frozen in fear.
The oily apparition swelled across the freeway blindly until it smashed and splashed against the walls of the corridor, only to jolt back into traffic. A set of plastic fingers sank into a metal post of The 405 interchange sign as the seraphim tore it from the ground. Clay leapt across the scattered field of cars with the sign post raised in the air like a club.
Clay snarled as he came upon the creature.
The seraphim machine stood silently in the basin. The wind blew across the pool as the tattered plastic tarp rustled against the frame of the robotic machine. He scanned the water as the machine's head panned back and forth.
Zion's voice broke the silence. "The thing.. dissolved? What is it then... some sort of nano tech?"
"Shh. Its here. I can feel it."
"Guys, Metro says they're gonna have the copters take a look," spoke Charles.
Lights from overhead. The seraphim slowly stepped forward. As the beams of portable daylight panned across the basin, the little waif stood on top of the water and stared back at the machine, pointing at its feet.
"I know where it is," muttered Clay. His face grew stern. He switched to the exterior cameras to confirm. The camera screen was an oily black.
"Its crawling up the legs of the machine."
Clay ejects, and manages to get into a barbershop for some reason. We discover Clay has extended family he doesn’t speak to often.
Clay ran the back of his palm across his lips, the fragrant smell of meat and such filled his nostrils His head throbbed. He closed his eyes briefly until the loud pitched hum faded away in the brown noise of the streets.
He staggered to the sidewalk and pressed his body against the cold glass wall of a hydrophonics shop. He looked at the street signs, winching to make it out from the distance. Reseda.
The pilot burped and more bile drizzled down his chin. There was a place he knew off of Reseda and Sherman Way–a barber. Clay pressed his body forward, his hand tracing across the stucco and glass of the storefronts.
The stale orange hue of the lamplights draped over the empty streets and he made his way to the barber.
"Sorry son, we're closed."
"Holy--is that you Clay? You ok?"
"How?? What have you been taking?"
"Nothing like that--just..." his voiced trailed off as he looked himself in the mirror. His skin seemed almost translucent.
"Listen, I need you to do something for me. I need you to cut me."
"I can't do that for you Clayton."
"Its draining me from the inside and I need it out."
Aton sighed. He pressed his palm to his temples. "Cousin Fredrick showed me a video of what you been up to. I don't want to do this--but I'll trust you."
"Don't start. I said the same thing to your Daddy and look where it got him."
He opened a drawer and pulled out a razor. Aton flipped it open and rubbed it on a bundle of towels before tucking the cloth under his arm. "Where do you want it?"
Clay pulled up his sleeve, "right here, on my arm. Just a little cut."
"Aton put a tower over the arm rest and grabbed his wrist. "No marks at least. There. Just rest your hand there. Hell, hold this. I said hold it."
Clay watched as the blood drained into a mug.
"Yeah it is."
"Is that bad?"
"Do I look like a doctor?"
"I'm asking you for your opinion. How do I make it stop?"
"Just take a towel and hold your hand over it."
"Its not stopping."
"Relax, add more pressure."
Clay sees visions of a little girl. Earlier in the prologue it gets established that the other prisoners see visions of people that they don’t know personally, but another prisoner does. In a later battle Clay gets consumed by the oily black seraphim, and wakes up back in prison.
"You want some acknowledgment? I see you looking at me lost little kid. I admit it. I see you. I don't know what you want and I don't know how to help you."
The waif fidgeted as she stood pressed against the opposite wall, her palms flat on the cinder blocks. The prisoner sighed and sank his hand between his arms as he sat in the cot.
Rhea visits Clay in Dream Prison.
"I told him you were trouble," mumbled Clay as he spotted the long flaxen blond locks out of the corner of his eye. Rhea stood at the front of his cell silently.
"This is the part where you tell me, 'who are you talking about?' and I say 'your boyfriend the billionaire beard', and make myself sound more like some delusional psychotic jackass."
"Zion only has a vague understanding of my role in all of this."
The prisoner sat up, his back arched as he turned his head to the woman outside his cell. "Its real then!? This... isn't the real world, the other is."
"That would be a perspective to this situation, yes.
"Listen to me, how do you go between the two?"
"How do you know that this isn't reality and the other was the lie?"
"I am willing to die for it. If you need to take my life, then take it. I've already offered it several times before--you've seen proof of that."
"I don't want your life."
Clay muttered as he stared at the cement floor. "Do you want my soul?"
She smiled softly. Her pale blue eyes fluttered as she focused on his face.
"All of us are on borrowed time. You can forfeit your life and your soul, but the only way to leave this prison is surrender to the fact that those things do not exist, so they were never yours to give."
Reynolds took a heavy breath. His eyes remained closed as his voice was terse but monotone. "I was fighting. I was swallowed up. I am here now. This is some sort of dream. How do I escape? How do I wake up?"
"Honesty from within," she muttered. Rhea reached into the cell and pressed her palm to his forehead. The prisoner lowered his head. His ears focused on the soft footsteps as she walked down the hall.
And that ends what I had written down! Thanks for reading.