Happy new year, y’all. For the first Saturday of 2016 we’ll be rejoining Rosa in her fight to save the Human Family. Will she be able to offer them the security and freedom she knows they deserve, or will the owners reign supreme as they have always done? Find out by continuing the story here with us today or buying a full copy of the novel through this link.
Enjoy. And don’t forget to join my email update list for news on deals, new releases, and free books. Have a great weekend and a great new year.
Rosa groaned while Anna, who had teleported in something special for her to wear, fixed her blouse. “Are you sure you want to do this?” Anna asked, stepping back to get a good look at her creation.
“Of course I want to do this. It’s a major part of spreading the word of the Family. Besides, we’ve found the perfect candidates for our purpose. They want gear not tokens. What else do you expect me to do?”
“Well, you could send someone else,” Anna said. “It’s just—I’m not sure I trust that ring yet.”
“I don’t trust anyone else to do this for us,” Rosa said. “Besides, we sent that protector through and he came out unharmed.”
“I guess.” Anna huffed, unsatisfied.
Rosa embraced her. “C’mon now, sweetheart,” she said. “I’ll be fine. I’ll be back in no time with a story for my Nanna.”
Anna tried not to smile, but she couldn’t help it. She looked into Rosa’s eyes. “And in the meantime, I’ll watch over your new toy Ollie,” she said with a grin.
Rosa pushed her away, chuckling. “C’mon now. She’s been doing pretty well, hasn’t she? If anything, she’s worth more than what we’re paying her.”
Anna smiled. “I’m just kidding. She’s a good kid. You’re a fine judge of character, you know. But not of danger. So you be careful.” She kissed Rosa on the cheek.
“I’ll be fine,” Rosa said, kissing Anna’s lips. “Be back in no time with good news to share.”
“Okay, well let’s do it,” Anna said. “Stand back.”
Anna went to the big metal console in the corner of the basement to press some buttons and flip some switches. Rosa had no idea how it all worked. She just stood there trusting Anna to get her to the right place. After some time of flipping and tapping, Anna looked up at Rosa, smiled, and said, “Alright. Are you ready?”
Rosa nodded. Her heart beat faster. The protector did seem fine when he came back through, but she had known no one else to do it, and the protector didn’t stay for long. He could be a mess by now. What if there were long-lasting effects she didn’t know about?
Anna pressed a button and the machine hummed into action. The console she stood behind was attached by thick black wires to a thin metal ring large enough for a normal sized human to walk through—or a protector if they were stooping. The ring lit up, and what looked like heat waves emanated toward the center of the circle until the concrete wall behind it disappeared and a carpeted bench, piled high with clothes, appeared in its place.
Rosa looked back at Anna. “Are you sure this is right?” she tried to yell over the loud humming.
“Why are they always costume closets?” Rosa asked.
Anna shrugged. “Easy place to hide the hardware? There have to be a lot of them in Three?”
“I guess.” Rosa shrugged.
“Be careful,” Anna said. “I’ll open it up again in fifteen minutes. If you’re not here by then, I’m sending someone in after you.” The hum of the machine was getting louder so Anna had to yell to be heard.
“I’ll be fine,” Rosa called, but Anna shook her head, pointing at her ears, unable to hear. Rosa blew her a kiss, turned, and stepped through the ring into the costume closet. The door disappeared with a fwip behind her and she took a deep breath. She was alive, thank God, and in another world. She crossed herself and made her way out of the closet. It was connected to a local community theater on a side alley. No one was there, and it might have been abandoned, but she hurried out anyway, not wanting to take the chance of being seen. Outside were lines of four and five story buildings all with balconies. Rosa went over the directions in her head one more time and made her way toward the meeting.
Cohen wanted to meet in a bar. He said that’s how business was done by everyone he knew, everyone in Outland Three. Rosa had to ignore her disgust—giving him the benefit of the doubt from having been born and raised in this Sodom and Gomorrah—but she wouldn’t compromise her own beliefs and have a meeting in a bar.
“No,” she had told him. “How about a park?” She did love to do business under God’s watchful eye. And, luckily enough, there was a park directly across from the bar where he first wanted to meet with her. That’s where she found herself after walking through blocks and blocks of uniform balconied buildings.
There was no one in the park when she got there, though. She wasn’t even sure it could be called a park. It was smaller than the field which now sat in front of her own home. It was just a patch of grass really, but there was a tall bench which Rosa had to jump up into where she sat and waited.
Across the street from the “park” was a bar with a big neon sign, reading “Indywood”, above the doors. It wasn’t long before those doors opened and out came a fluffy haired kid who looked a lot like Northwood, only with somehow more colorful clothes. He came across the street to sit on the bench next to her. While her legs dangled, not touching the ground, his were bent up a little to his chest.
“Cohen,” she said with a smile.
He looked at her like he was a little disgusted at the sight of her. “Uh… Rosa?” he asked, unsure.
“Yes, child. I’m Rosa.”
“You expected something different?” She smiled. “I know you did. Don’t worry. I don’t mind. It gives me the advantage. You’re exactly what I expected.”
“But how can you…”
“It doesn’t take anything to operate a 3D printer,” she said. “You know what a printer is, don’t you?”
“Then you know what it means when I say I have access to one.”
His eyes widened. He smiled and nodded then shook his head. “No,” he said. “How can I believe you?”
“Oh, that’ll be easy enough,” Rosa said. “Once we give you what we promise, it won’t matter to you whether we have a printer or not.”
“And what exactly is it that you promise?” He looked suspicious of her claims.
“What exactly is it that you need?” Rosa asked with a smile.
Cohen chuckled. “Well, let’s see: Cameras, computers, lights, camera rigs, mic rigs, editing software, costumes… Should I go on? I mean, honestly, there’s no end to the list of things we need.”
“And what would you be willing to offer in return for everything on that list of yours?”
He laughed. “Whatever you want. Whatever we can do.”
“Good. Very good, child,” Rosa said. “Well, that’s exactly what I’m here to offer you. All we ask is that you record and broadcast a short script of our own. We’ll give you what you need to do it, and after that, you can keep the equipment and do whatever you want with it.”
“I—uh—are you serious?” Cohen asked. His jaw dropped.
“Always,” Rosa said. “Here. Here’s the script.” She handed him the stack of papers.
He flipped through them and said, “I can’t make the decision myself.”
“Oh, I know,” Rosa said. “You have to come up with a list of what you need, too. We can’t give it to you until we know what it is.”
“Right, right,” Cohen nodded with a big smile. “Great. Perfect.” He clapped his hands together and stood from the bench. “I’ll go take this to them right away. I’m sure they’ll say yes. I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t. You can—Do you wanna come in with me? Most everyone’s inside right now. You could meet the crew if you’d like.”
“Oh, no no,” Rosa said, standing herself. “I trust you. Take your time. I have my own business to tend to as it is. Shall we make it the same time and place in say…a few days.”
“Let’s make it three,” Cohen said, holding out his hand.
Rosa shook it and smiled. “Very good, child. I’ll see you in three days.”
“Thanks again, ma’am,” Cohen said, nearly skipping as he hurried away back to the bar.
Rosa smiled to herself as she walked back to the costume closet. There was one more step taken toward uniting her Family and returning them to their rightful place in society’s natural hierarchy. How things had ever been so perverted she may never know, but she knew that, as long as she was alive, she would fight to purify the worlds. She had no choice, really. It was human nature to exert her free will, and her free will told her to free herself and her Family from the tyranny of the robots.
The teleporter door—or whatever—wasn’t open when she got to the closet, but she didn’t have to wait long before she was hit with a blast of cool wind and the sound of a vacuum sucking the air out of the room. Anna was leaning this way and that around the console, trying to see through the ring, and when she saw Rosa, she smiled and sighed. Rosa smiled and stepped through the door, but instead of stepping into her basement and Anna’s arms, she stepped into a short, brightly lit hall. She turned around to try to go back, but the door had closed and in its place were the metal doors of an elevator.
Rosa slammed her fists on the elevator doors, and at the same time, a door at the end of the hall behind her opened. She turned to see a woman who looked a little bit taller than her—and maybe a bit older—but a lot whiter. She was wearing a long white coat, and she had on a big fake smile. Rosa could tell when a smile was genuine, and this one was certainly a big fat fake.
“Where have you taken me?” Rosa demanded.
The woman chuckled. “Why, I haven’t taken you anywhere at all. You stepped through a hole in my wall and ended up somewhere you didn’t expect. You were the one trespassing in my fields.”
Rosa smiled. So that was how it was going to be. If this old lady wanted to play word games, she didn’t know who she was dealing with. “Well,” Rosa said. “I’m sure they aren’t your fields, so why don’t you direct me to who’s really in charge here? Who’s the owner?”
“You don’t think I’m in charge?” the woman asked, feigning offense.
“Not with a place like this,” Rosa said, indicating the small hall. “No, I’m sure you do what you’re told. So who owns you?”
“Follow me,” the woman said, going back through the door that she had come in. “I’ll show you.”
Rosa hesitated for a moment then followed the woman. She wasn’t going to get out of there until she played along, so that was just what she had to do. Hopefully it wouldn’t take too long. She still had so much business to tend to back home.
The room was an office bigger than Rosa’s conference room. There was a too large desk and a few too large chairs. The wall opposite from the door was a window looking out onto a vast green wilderness. Rosa had to stifle a gasp when she saw it, and once she had seated herself in one of the chairs, she knew the old woman across from her had seen her awe, despite Rosa’s efforts at hiding it.
“Now do you think I’m in charge?” the woman asked.
Rosa scoffed. “A view is not power,” she said. “You’ve convinced me of nothing.”
“What is power?” the woman asked.
Family, Rosa would have said. Humans. Influence. But again, she didn’t want to respond. That would be playing into this woman’s hand.
“Power is a lot of things,” the old lady said. “A view has some power. The power to awe.” She smirked. “Resources have power. Everyone needs resources to live. And influence.” The woman paused, looking for Rosa to react, but Rosa maintained a straight face. “Which some of us hold more of than others. But I hold a different kind of power. I control transportation between the worlds.”
That couldn’t be true. “Why are you telling me this?”
“You don’t believe me,” the woman said. She smiled. “What would it take to make you believe?”
“I—well—I just want to know why you’re telling me all this.”
“No.” The woman shook her head. “You want more than that. I know you better than you think I do. Trust me. What would it take to convince you that I control transportation between the worlds?”
Rosa smiled. “Send five printers meant for robot factories to the Family Home,” she said without a second thought.
“Do you have one already?” the woman asked.
Rosa was taken off guard by the quickness of her response. She expected a dodge which really meant no, not for the woman to go along with it. “Well, no. Not yet.” She smiled. “Not technically, but we manage.”
“Then how do you propose we—”
“The same way you’re going to get me home. If you can trick me into stepping into your trap, then you can deliver a few printers to where I was supposed to go. I thought you controlled transportation between the worlds.” Rosa smiled. “Prove it.”
“Five printers is pretty specific,” the woman said. “Why five?”
“It’s as random as any other number,” Rosa said. “If I’d said three or seven, you’d be asking the same thing.”
“You don’t want to think more carefully about the decision?”
“I don’t think you’re going to do it,” Rosa said. “That’s thinking enough, I’d say. Why would you give me everything when you already have me in the palm of your hands?”
“Why wouldn’t I? It’s like you said, whether I choose to be benevolent or malicious, it’s just as arbitrary either way. Why do you question it because I choose benevolence?”
Rosa couldn’t argue with that, with free will. But she was forced by history to stand by her hasty decision. “If it’s benevolence you want to prove, then show me,” she said with a smile.
“Very well,” the woman said, standing. “But we can’t do it here. We have to go to my office.”
Rosa stood up and looked around. “This isn’t your office?”
“Oh, no, dear,” the woman laughed. “Please. This gaudy thing? This is a show piece.” She smiled. “My office is much more sensible. Come on.” She walked out of the door to the hall and Rosa followed.
The woman closed the door behind them and opened it again. Instead of the gaudy office, it opened onto a slightly less huge office with a big desk in the center that butted up to a glass wall. But here, the window didn’t look out onto wilderness, here it looked out onto lines and lines of humans, piecing some thing together. Rosa couldn’t help herself. She walked right up to the window and stared out over them with a tear in her eye.
“It’s disgusting, isn’t it?” the woman said behind her, sitting at the desk, typing and clicking away at the computer.
Rosa wiped the water from her eyes and composed herself. “How do you… How can you…”
“The power over transportation includes views,” the old woman said. “I choose to look at this because I know the sacrifices those workers make and I want constantly to be reminded of them.”
Rosa broke away from the window and walked up to the desk. “So you really do—”
“There,” the woman said with a smile. “Your Anna may still be worried about you, but now she has five 3D printers to fill her mind instead.”
“You did it?” Rosa asked. “But how—” She stopped to compose herself. She remembered where she was and what she was doing. “But how am I supposed to know for sure?”
“You’ll know when I send you home,” the woman said. “It doesn’t matter now anyway, does it? I would think that the office change alone was enough to convince you—not to mention the view—but hey, I’m not you.”
“Yes, well,” Rosa said. “That still doesn’t explain why you’re convincing me. Or who you are.”
“I’m the Scientist,” the woman said. “I’m more powerful than you’ll ever know. And I’ve been watching you. I gave you those printers because they mean nothing to me and I want you to know that as fact. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Rosa understood that this woman was trying to intimidate her, that was about it. She didn’t respond, forcing the Scientist to go on.
“Let me ask you this,” the Scientist said. “What do you know about androids?”
Rosa rolled her eyes and nodded, giving a thumbs up. “Okay,” she said. “I get it. Of course that’s what this is all about. I should have known from the beginning. Are—Are you one of them? That’s it, isn’t it? You’re a rogue elevator scheduler bot gone wild.” She laughed.
The old woman laughed, too. “No, dear,” she said. “I’m something worse than an android. I’m the mother of the androids, and I know what you’ve been up to.”
Rosa half chuckled. This woman wasn’t serious, was she? “Yeah right,” she said.
“Yeah, Rosa,” the Scientist said. “That is right. Go home, find your 3D printers, and realize that everything I’ve said here is true. Then think about that long and hard before you make any more moves with your family. You understand?”
“I’m not sure you understand,” Rosa said. “Like you said, there are different forms of power, and some of us hold more influence than others. We’ll see whose power is stronger than whose. Especially now that we both know what we’re up against.”
“Oh, it’s still not a fair fight,” the Scientist said. “But I did give you fair warning, so you’re responsible for everything that happens next, Rosa. I hope you know that.” She opened the office door and showed Rosa into the hall.
“I’ll gladly take that responsibility,” Rosa said, walking all the way into the elevator.
“Well, I tried to warn you,” the Scientist said. “This’ll take you a few blocks from home. I trust you can find your own way after that. Good luck.”
The doors closed before Rosa could respond. The elevator fell into motion and stopped, then the doors opened onto a street she recognized. She hurried home, storming in through the full conference room and down to the basement where Anna and Olsen were sliding printers across the concrete floor.
“Rosa!” Anna ran over to embrace and kiss Rosa as soon as she saw her.
Rosa pushed away. “Where did these come from?”
Anna laughed. “I thought you’d tell me. This isn’t your plan to fund our new operation?”
“I only wish,” Rosa said.
“What happened to you?” Anna asked. “Where did you go?”
“I’m not exactly sure,” Rosa said, trying to process it all in her head still. So that woman did have some amount of control over transportation, but that didn’t mean that she controlled all of it. Obviously she didn’t or Rosa and Anna wouldn’t have their own transporter ring in the first place. But that woman’s technology was well advanced beyond theirs, there was no doubt about that. The way the door in that hall functioned was evidence enough.
“You can’t tell me anything?” Anna urged her on.
“There was this woman,” Rosa said. “An old woman. She—she said…” Rosa looked over at Olsen who was still trying to shove a printer even though Anna had stopped helping. It was obviously too big for one person to move so Rosa said, “Olsen, could you go start dinner for us? Make enough for yourself to eat, too, please.”
Olsen nodded and hurried clumsily out of the basement.
“What is it?” Anna asked, coming closer to Rosa.
“I’m not sure you’d even believe me,” Rosa said, shaking her head. “I’m not sure if I even believe it myself.”
“Of course I will, love. Tell your Nanna and she’ll make it better.”
“She said she’s been watching us,” Rosa said.
“Watching us?” Anna asked, scrunching up her eyes.
“And that she controls all transportation between the worlds.”
“That’s what I said,” Rosa said. “But she sent these 3D printers as proof. The place she took me to, Anna. The things she showed me… They weren’t possible. And she’s after us.”
“But why?” Anna asked. “What have we done?”
“She said she’s the mother of the androids.”
“The mother of the androids? Was she one?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Then why does she care?” Anna scoffed.
“I don’t know,” Rosa said. “But she does. And she said she’s watching us.”
“So what are we supposed to do then?” Anna asked, crossing her arms.
“We speed things up,” Rosa said. “And we get more transporter rings to confuse her while she’s trying to figure out what we’re up to.”
“More transporters?” Anna laughed. “We can’t even afford this one. How do you expect us to get more?”
“Look around you, Anna, dear.” Rosa embraced her. “We’re surrounded by printers.” She kissed Anna before she could talk “We can afford anything we want now.”
“Yes, well,” Anna broke away from Rosa’s embrace. “For as long as we have these we can. We better put them to use while we do, though. And what do you propose we do with them?”
“First, we get what we need to build the other transporter rings,” Rosa said. “More than a few more. Then we use them to feed the masses like we know they should be used to do.”
“But why more rings?”
“And we hurry our operations in Two,” Rosa said, ignoring the question. “We can’t forget the lower worlds, now can we? If we want success, our efforts must know no bounds. Am I right?”
“Good.” Rosa smiled. “Let’s go brief Olsen. She’s ready, wouldn’t you say?”
“Well, it doesn’t take much, but—”
“Fine then,” Rosa said. “Perfect. Let’s go, dear.”
Rosa went up the stairs and to the kitchen before Anna could protest any further. If Rosa let her, she knew that Anna would go on and on, asking questions about what had happened and coddling Rosa for nonexistent injuries. There was no time left for that now, though. A new “mother” had shown her face, a human claiming to be the mother of androids. Well this so called mother had chosen her side, and Rosa had chosen hers. Rosa had her own Family to look after, and she wasn’t going to let some old lady’s anthropomorphizing sentimentality get in the way of that.
Olsen was standing behind the oven, frying something in a pan, jumping every now and again around the popping hot grease. She turned and smiled at Rosa as they approached. “I’m getting better,” Olsen said. “I still burn myself every now and then, but I don’t burn the food anymore, at least.” She smiled again then yelped and rubbed her arm where a bit of hot oil had hit it. “Ow! You see.”
“Yes, child,” Rosa said. “You’ve come a long way.”
“That she has,” Anna said, coming in and standing close behind Olsen to inspect her work. “She’ll be a proper chef in no time, if she keeps at it.”
Olsen blushed and set to scooping out the little nuggets. “Chicken,” she said. “It’s my favorite so I always practice with it.” She popped one in her mouth then promptly spit it out. “Ah. Hot!”
“You know, child,” Rosa said. “I think you’re ready to take on more responsibilities around here.” Olsen’s eyes widened. “We have a special project which I think would be perfect for you.”
“Ooh, what is it?” Olsen smiled and popped another nugget in her mouth. Rosa could tell it was hot by the look on her face, but Olsen kept chewing through the heat anyway. “I’m in,” she said through her reverse blowing.
“Settle down, now,” Rosa said. “You haven’t even heard what the mission is. You can’t agree to something until you know what it is. Besides, there’s a test you have to pass first.”
“A test?” Olsen looked alarmed.
“Think of it as a trial run,” Rosa said. “You perform this first task up to our standards, and we’ll see if you’re capable of performing a more pressing piece of business for the Family.”
“Definitely,” Olsen said, nodding. “As long as it’s not a written test—I mean… What do you want me to do?”
“It’s simple, dear,” Anna said. “You and I are going to lug one of those big beasts of a 3D printer out of the basement and up onto the street corner.”
“That’s all?” Olsen asked.
“Of course not, sweetheart,” Anna said, shaking her head. “Then we offer each person who comes along whatever they want from the printer—sure to tell them it’s courtesy of the Family, of course—and ask them to join us. It’ll be fun. You’ll see.”
“What do you say?” Rosa asked.
“Well it doesn’t sound difficult,” Olsen said. “I don’t know what kind of test this is.”
“A trial run, child,” Rosa said. “Can you do it?”
“Of course I can,” Olsen said. “When do I start?”
“Right now,” Anna said. “You go downstairs and get ready. I’ll be down in a minute to help you.”
“Yeah, okay.” Olsen grabbed the rest of her nuggets and ate them on her way out.
“Do you think she’ll do this?” Anna asked.
“Hand out food on the streets? Of course.” Rosa smiled.
“You know what I mean,” Anna said.
“Well I think that, as long as we keep paying her for the privilege of learning how to cook, she’ll do anything we say.”
“But even this?”
“She doesn’t have to know what she’s doing.”
“It’ll be obvious once she’s done it though,” Anna said.
“Maybe not as obvious as you expect,” Rosa said. “Besides, I have a feeling that, once she gets out there and feels what it’s like to help her fellow brothers and sisters, she’ll do anything she can to get that feeling back.”
“I hope you’re right, dear.” Anna shook her head. “Though I’m not sure you are.”
“I’m not sure, either,” Rosa said. “But I am sure of one thing. You want to know what that is?”
Rosa kissed her cheek. “No robot mother is going to hold our Family back.”
# # #
Thanks again for following along this far, and a happy new year to all of you.