Stories

The Resistance


Jerah quietly sat on an old, beat up sofa under a dingy lamp fitted with a bulb too weak for it. It wasn't optimal for his delicate work, but it was better than any other option he had at present. A cracked magnifying glass was held in front of his face by rusty steel wire which had been twisted around his head. It let him see the delicate ends of the copper wires as he soldered them to the circuit board.

"How much longer is that going to take?" Myrrh asked loudly, nearly causing him to drop the red-hot iron into his lap. He turned to face the skinny girl and frowned at her. She hovered near his shoulder, wiry arms on bony hips. Her wide brown eyes stared down at his work from behind raggedly-chopped dirty locks of blonde hair.

No one was quite sure how old she was. She'd been part of the resistance for a decade, at least, but malnutrition had gifted her an arrested puberty. She could have been thirteen or she could have been twenty-three.

"It takes a while," he told her, "longer when someone is bothering me. It's delicate work, love."

"I don't see why," she huffed. Her attitude didn't help her appearance of youth. "We just want to make it go boom! What's delicate about that?"

"We don't just want to 'make it go boom'," he muttered, turning back to the circuit board and resuming his work as cautiously as he could. "There are a lot of things we want it to do beside that. And if I mess up, when we return power to it, it might short out and just ruin everything."

"That's best case," said Herbert, their cell leader. "The worst case is we turn on the power and the whole thing goes boom as soon as we do. Luckily, Jer knows what he's doing. Ain't that right?"

Herbert was younger than Jerah, a dark-skinned man with a scarred cheek and bad teeth. He'd been fighting for years. "I know what I'm doing," Jerah said.

"You'd better," Herbert said.

"Oooh," Myrrh cooed, getting so close to Jerah that her head was actually right next to his. Herbert grabbed her and pulled her away, careful to make sure Jerah wouldn't be jostled by the move.

The truly dangerous part of their mission had been collecting the transport for their bomb. It looked like a man in his early-30s, professional and well groomed, with swept brown hair, a flawless tan, and brilliant white teeth. In actuality, it was an android, an "andy" in the slang of the resistance.

There were billions of andies in the world. More andies that humans. How many humans were left? Jerah couldn't rightly say. At least three, he said, glancing about the small, underground bunker the resistance cell occupied.

Outside of them, there was no immediate proof any more humans existed. Of course, there had to be more. Several hundred million at the least. Most of them lived and breathed in ignorant bliss, drinking drugged water designed to keep them happy and pacified. Never realizing that each generation got smaller and smaller as andies took over everything.

"Got it," Jerah said, finishing the final solder. He slowly lowered the circuit board back into the chest cavity of the andy and socketed it in place. He wiped his dry, cracked hands on his dirty pants.

Herbert and Myrrh returned to examine his handiwork. "You sure everything's good?" Herbert asked.

Jerah shrugged and said, "As sure as I can be without powering it on." The plan was a simple one, all things considered. Capture an andy, remove its main fuel cell and replace it with an explosive, rewire it to believe it had an empty fuel cell, then simply wait until it plugged into a recharging station.

"Well, we can't very well do that here," Herbert said. "Let's get moving."

Herbert and Jerah lifted the thing it was as heavy as a real man of the same size and hauled it out of the bunker, into an underground tunnel system that was used for transportation between neighborhoods. The rails ran on a strict schedule, though, and the next one would not be passing through for another seven minutes. In the interim, they loaded their booby-trapped andy on a rail cart and went speeding off.

They reached an access tunnel two minutes later. It was positioned midway between two neighborhoods. They pulled their cart off the rail to avoid anything crashing into it, then began crawling through the tunnel. It was narrow and cramped, designed for repair bots rather than people and people-sized robots.

The three of them finally reached the exit and dragged the andy out into the open. Jerah squinted up at the false sun. He wondered how many levels from the surface they were. Three, he thought. It had been years since he'd been to the surface, though he had to admit he wasn't even sure of that. The fake skies were pretty damn believable. For all he knew, he was actually looking at the real sky now and the one before had been fake...

The streets were deserted. They usually were. Robots didn't need to use them that often; most stayed in their duty areas 24/7. The few humans who were in the area might move from place to place, but it was rare to see them.

Even though the area was supposedly inhabited, the whole place felt like a ghost town. Jerah shuddered.

"Well?" Herbert asked. "You going to do it?"

Jerah nodded and entered a command into his pad. As the andy convulsed once, the three of them immediately turned and jogged down to an alley and ducked inside. Both Jerah and Myrrh peeked out to watch.

The andy's eyes opened and it sat up. It looked around and touched its head, then reached down to its side. It pulled up its shirt and looked at the chunk missing out of its chassis, which Jerah had cut away to get access to the circuit board. "Shit," Jerah muttered.

"Something going wrong?" Herbert asked in concern.

Then the andy straightened up and its neck spasmed. Then it pulled the shirt back down over the gaping hole and turned and walked off. "No," Jerah said with a release of breath. He felt light headed. "It's all working fine."




"What went wrong?" Herbert asked as the group stared at the computer monitor. It was detailing the results of the explosion. Fifty-three casualties, it read. Fifty-three casualties in the middle of an apartment complex. Andies didn't live in apartment complexes.

"It went to an apartment complex," Jerah answered.

"I know that," Herbert replied, his lips drawn in a firm line. "What I want to know is why it went to an apartment complex."

"How should I know?" Jerah asked while running his hand through his hair. "It was supposed to return to its recharging station! Not to an apartment complex."

"Maybe it had a recharging station at the complex," Myrrh suggested.

Herbert and Jerah turned to her. "Why would it recharge at an apartment?" Herbert asked stiffly. "Why would there even be a recharging station at an apartment complex?"

Jerah nodded slowly. "There wouldn't be. I must have messed up. That's the only explanation I can think of. I did something wrong and it caused it to go to the wrong place." He sighed and put his face into his hands. "I killed fifty-three people."

"Fifty-two," Myrrh cheerfully put in. "Assuming they counted the andy!"

"Either way, that's not acceptable," Herbert said. "We're here to take down the andies, not kill human beings. You screwed up, Jerah. You screwed up real bad."

Jerah rose rigidly from the rusty folding chair. "Yeah, I screwed up. And I feel terrible about it! But what does hammering on me do, huh?"

"Yeah, Herbie," Myrrh said, "ease up. He messed up, but we'll get 'em next time."

Almost as if on cue, the computer screen went blank for a second, then flashed three times. "It's the office," Herbert said. Myrrh immediately grabbed a pad and watched as a series of numbers flashed on the screen, each less than a second. She tapped letters onto the pad with each flash, her eyes shining with the green tint of the archaic display.

The numbers flashed for about one minutes, then ceased. They did not repeat. The screen flashed three times, then returned to the report on the explosion. "What does it say?" Jerah asked, leaning over Myrrh's shoulder to read.

She pulled the pad to her and turned away from his prying eyes. "It's our next mission," she said, squinting at him. "It says, 'Destroy hard copy data inside box 12-B in Central Sector Data Repository. Urgent mission. Requires immediate attention.'"

Herbert and Jerah exchanged looks. "A data repository?" Jerah asked. "How are we supposed to get in there?"

"How should I know?" Herbert responded. "Look it up. We'll figure it out."

"You sure you want me to be doing that?" Jerah said. "I might screw it up again. Wouldn't want that."
Herbert grimaced. "Just do it."

Jerah turned back to the computer and cracked his knuckles theatrically. A few minutes later, he was into the city's database and had the Central Sector Data Repository showing on the screen. It was only a few miles away, easily reachable by their rail cart. There was a blueprint for the entire structure.

"There," Myrrh said, pointing to a small room off to the side. Jerah and Herbert stated at it. It appeared to be connected to an old ventilation shaft which connected to the rail tunnel. It would have taken hours of pouring over the blueprints for Jerah to have found it. He was amazed once again at Myrrh's attention to detail.

"Why would andies need a ventilation shaft?" Jerah wondered.

"Must be an old building," Myrrh suggested. "Put up before the robots took over running things."

"It seems awfully convenient," Jerah answered. "Like a trap."

Myrrh shook her head. "No, they don't even know we exist. Besides, it's all the way on the other side of the building from the room we need. If it was a trap, they'd put it right next to the ventilation shaft. What do you think, Herbie?"

Herbert stared silently at the screen for a moment. "Yeah, I'm with Myrrh," he said softly. "This seems like an easy enough job. Let's not complain about some good luck." He looked at Jerah with cold eyes. "Let's get in, get the files, and get out."

"Fine," Jerah said. "Let me see if I can pull up security records, see what they've got there..."Doing so was child's play, of course. Jerah pined for the old days of hackers and crackers, when things were encrypted behind passwords and firewalls. Nowadays, the andies didn't expect anyone to break into their files. Another robot certainly wouldn't and no humans were trained in doing it. At least, none that the andies knew about.

The records showed that there was an automated alarm, but that was it. Intended more for animals accidentally getting in than someone breaking in. "Shouldn't be a problem to get through," Jerah said. "But there will be andies working there. We'll have to be careful not to get noticed."

They gave Myrrh a couple of minutes to memorize the blueprint, then headed out. Andies didn't work regular hours. They worked until they needed recharging, then plugged into a recharging station to refuel. Waiting would serve no truly useful purpose.

They reached the repository after only a few minutes. After stashing the cart, they walked the last few hundred feet to the ventilation shaft. It was just wide enough for Herbert, the largest of the three, to fit inside. Myrrh went in first, then Jerah, then Herbert.

It was actually quite a slog to reach the repository. They had to crawl on their hands and knees and Jerah slipped at one point, going down to his stomach. He couldn't push himself back up by himself, requiring Myrrh to twist herself around to help him back up. Herbert grumbled the entire time.

Later, the shaft bent upward. Myrrh stood up and reported that she couldn't reach another opening. They had to back out and then realized they'd taken a wrong turn. Neither Jerah nor Herbert could turn themselves like Myrrh could, so they had to crawl backward the entire way.

Finally, after nearly an hour of crawling through the shaft, they reached the repository. Myrrh quietly unfastened the grate and slipped into the room, then helped Jerah and Herbert in. The room was dark; andies didn't need lights to see, so they didn't waste energy on lights.

They were only able to see thanks to Myrrh's flashlight, which would quickly give them away if they were spotted. Myrrh motioned for them to follow and the group quietly crept out of the room. Myrrh swept the light around and didn't spot anything, so they tiptoed out.

As they walked down one hallway, Myrrh's flashlight passed over the face of an andy. Jerah nearly shouted in shock, but Herbert held up his hand. Its eyes were blank and still. All andies had lifeless eyes, but this one was deactivated. Recharging.

Jerah looked more closely. It had the same face as the andy they'd captured before. It always unnerved him that the andies simply built multiple copies of the same face. The last he checked, there were about 20,000 different variations in the United States, used depending on circumstances. All doctors looked identical, all lawyers, all waiters... The only exceptions were the lifemate andies, things that were built to serve as replacements for actual spouses.

It was very lucky that they only encountered a single recharging andy, Jerah thought. He wanted to say something, but any voice would set off the building's alarms, so he kept it to himself. Besides, he could imagine Herbert would tell him to count his blessings.

When they got to the room, it was filled with boxes. Myrrh quickly located box 12-b and Herbert retrieved it. With their prize in hand, they quickly retraced their steps back to the ventilation shaft.




Back in their bunker, the three of them gathered around the box. "Job says to destroy it," Herbert said. "Let's get started."

"Wait," Jerah said, "aren't you interested in what it is?"

"Nope," Herbert said.

"I am," Myrrh put in. "I want to know what it is. Can we look? Please Herbie?"

Herbert puckered his lips. "Fine," he said. "But after that, we destroy it. Immediately."

Jerah opened the box. Inside were two file folders, one thin, the other fat. On the thin folder was written "New York City Natural Habitation Records". Jerah raised an eyebrow and Myrrh immediately grabbed it away from him.

"Hey!" Herbert said. "What are you doing?"

"Finding out what's inside!" She opened the folder and two sheets of paper came fluttering out. Jerah picked up one, while she picked up the other.

On it was a picture of a person, a name, birth date, social security number, and other personal details. "Michael Flaherty, twenty-seven years old. Married to a lifemate named Sarah."

"Jessie Chambers," Myrrh read out, "Thirty six. Lifemate's name is Sam. Lives on 1432 Brooklyn St, 3rd Decline. No children."

"No children on this one either," Jerah muttered. He picked up the folder again, looking at it. Only two people? This couldn't be the entire population of New York.

Then he lifted the other folder from the box. It said "New York City Synthetic Habitation Records: Aa - Ac". It was stuffed. He reached in and pulled out a sheet of paper.

On it was a male face, an andy. He appeared in his mid-20s. "Aaron. Serial number 01HC2T4. Seventy-eight years old. Lifemate Judith Mitz (deceased). Lives at..." He trailed off.

"What is it?" Herbert said.

Myrrh looked up from the paper she had taken from the second folder. "It's an address. They all have addresses on them. This one is from the apartment complex we blew up earlier." She handed the paper to Jerah.

On it was the face of the andy they'd reprogrammed. "Abel. His name was Abel."

"They don't have names," Herbert growled. "Not real ones."

"It says he has been alive for a hundred and seventy-three years. He was a doctor." Jerah looked up, face pale, right into the eyes of Herbert.

"It was a doctor. And it wasn't alive," Herbert said. "Someone built it, programmed it."

"There are thousands of these files," Myrrh said. "Thousands of andies living in human homes."

"So?" Herbert said. "What does it matter?"

"But there's only two people," Jerah said. "Two people in all of New York City. How the hell is that..."

Herbert snatched the papers away from Jerah and Myrrh and threw them back into the box. He slammed the lid shut on it. "That's enough. You got to see them. Who cares what they say? We know there are more people living here than that. There's the three of us, for one. And there are millions of other humans out there."

"How do we know?" Myrrh said. "Aside from the few people in the resistance, how many others have you met?"

"None," Jerah said. "Just the resistance people. How many of there are us? A few hundred?"

"That's what they tell us," Myrrh said. "Outside of you guys, I've met seven."

"Five," Jerah said. He knew all their names. Banash, Adele, Terry, Merv, and Inia. Oh, beautiful Inia, with her long black hair, brown skin, and blue eyes.

"Thirty-six," Herbert said, then quickly added, "but so what? That proves nothing. We're supposed to stay separate. That way if any of us is caught, we can't give up the others."

Jerah shook his head. "When are any of us caught?" Herbert stared at him for a moment, then quickly snatched the box from the ground. He turned and marched off, toward the rear of the bunker. "What are you doing?" Jerah asked.

"Getting rid of this," Herbert said. "Now I know why the office sent us after it. It's making you all doubt everything." He grabbed one of their cutting lasers and flipped it on, pointing it at the box. Within a second, it burst into flames.

Jerah exchanged a look with Myrrh. She shrugged her shoulders and said, "Oh well. This doesn't change what we're doing, does it?"

Jerah turned back to look at Herbert, who was staring at him. "No," he said. "I guess it doesn't."




That night, while Herbert and Myrrh slept, Jerah left. He left them the cart and all their stuff, taking only a single flashlight for himself. He walked down the rail line. Three times a rail car sped past him. He pressed up against the wall of the tunnel as it passed him by. He only was able to see brief flashes of riders, but each car appeared to be full of completely immobile people.

Finally, after an hour of walking, he reached a ladder. He started climbing. Four levels passed him by as he ascended. It felt like it took an hour more before he reached the top, a metal platter covering a hole. He pushed up against it with one hand; it barely budged.

Before he could despair, it lifted on its own accord, flooding the tunnel with bright light. He squinted against it as a hand thrust itself down to him.

He took the hand. It was warm and soft. It gripped him firmly and pulled him up, out into the light. He stared up at the sky. Then he started laughing.

"What's so funny?" the voice of his savior asked him.

"I guess I never had seen the real sky before," he said.

"Welcome to the surface," she said to him. He could hear the smile in her voice. "We've been waiting for you to finally come up out of there. Everyone will be so excited to hear about another natural!"

Then he turned to look at the person who had pulled him up. She had the same face as Myrrh.


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