Chapter 10: Russ

This Saturday brings us chapter ten with Russ’s second point of view chapter. Head on over to Amazon to pick up a full copy of the novel and read all of Russ’s chapters today.

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This Saturday brings us chapter ten with Russ’s second point of view chapter. Head on over to Amazon to pick up a full copy of the novel and read all of Russ’s chapters today.

Russ Logo

< IX. Ansel     [Table of Contents]     XI. Mr. Kitty >

X. Russ

Russ curled tighter into the fetal position on his fluffy, soft couch. He squeezed the blanket closer around himself. This was warmth. This was safety. This was all he needed in the world. He didn’t ask for any of that other shit. He didn’t go out looking for some stupid assembly line worker—eractor to pull that lame robot prank and get him wrapped up in Fortuna knows what.

What was he wrapped up in anyway? He threw the blanket off his body as if it were the situation he had been unwittingly thrust into. He had told the protectors he knew nothing. He didn’t know anything. The papos were there recording the whole thing. The protectors watched the footage for themselves. And still, they—they…

He grabbed the blanket off the floor and wrapped it around himself again. His body ached. His head pulsed. His ribs were at least bruised if not broken. He tried to sit up a little, but the pain was so much he groaned and went back into the fetal position. He had never before experienced such pain, such anger.

The protectors were savages. He had never met a protector, but he had played more than a few, and none of the roles he had ever portrayed were as deranged as the protectors he had encountered in real life. Protectors? Ha! They were something altogether different than that. They were unreal. It didn’t matter what he knew or what he said, they were out for blood and they were going to get it.

He heard a knock at the door and flinched, sending a shock of pain through his ribs and forcing another loud groan out of his mouth. The door swung open, and Jorah came in saying, “I’ll take that as a come in you barbarian.” When he saw Russ curled up on the couch, blanket tight under his chin, face makeup-less and bruised, Jorah held his hand to his mouth and gasped. “Russ, dear. What did they do to you?” He sat down on the couch, sending another wave of pain through Russ’s body. “I’m sorry, sweetheart.” He stroked Russ’s hair. “Tell your Jorah what they did to you, honey.”

“Jorah,” Russ groaned. “Why?” He wanted to cry.

“You know,” Jorah said. “That was a great groan. Uhhgghh.” He tried to mimic it. “I could use that in this play I’m doing. Do it again.” He poked Russ.

Ugghhhggh. Jorah! Please.”

“I’m sorry, dear,” Jorah said with a frown. “But the show must go on, you know. Anything to make it more realistic, right? You should be glad to have this experience. You can use it to your advantage in the future.”

Russ groaned again. “I don’t care about the future. I just want to be able to breath without my lungs burning.”

“Oh. Sweetheart.” Jorah pet his hair. “I know. I’m sorry. You know me. Always looking at the platinum lining.”

“Jorah, do you even see my face?”

“I do, dear.” Jorah patted his head. “I do. Now tell your Jorah what they did to you. Was it the protectors? I saw a replay of your show, you know. And your emergency broadcast, too. You did, weeell…you looked great.”

“Replay?” Russ frowned.

Yes, replay. I was at work, you know. I couldn’t rightly watch your show and film mine at the same time, could I?”

Russ groaned in response.

“But it was them,” Jorah said. “Wasn’t it?”

“There weren’t supposed to be any replays,” Russ said, clutching his blanket tighter under his chin.

“Yeah, well, once the feed goes out, there’s no getting it back. I’m sure everyone in the world’s seen it by now.”

“That’s not good.”

“Not good?” Jorah chuckled. “It’s great. The classic Streisand effect in action. You’re getting more publicity because they’re trying to cover it up. You’re all over every gossip magazine and talk show. You just keep getting bigger and bigger.”

“That’s not good, Jorah.” Russ groaned.

Pfft. Sweetheart.” Jorah shook his head. “Tell me how, then. Tell me how that’s anything but good.”

“Do you see my face, Jorah?” Russ said, turning this way and that to give him full view of the injuries. “Did you hear me groaning? That’s how it’s not good. The more people who see that video, the more broken ribs and bloody faces I get. That’s why! Uggghghgh.”

“Alright, dear. Alright,” Jorah said, brushing Russ’s hair to calm him. “You’ve made your point. Just tell me what they did to you. I’m here to help, sweetheart.”

“They just—they thought I had something to do with it. Apparently it’s against the rules of the network to talk about the assembly lines. I don’t know. But they thought I was in on it.”

“Why didn’t you tell them you didn’t know the freak?” Jorah scoffed, still brushing Russ’s hair.

“I did!” Russ said, sitting up with a groan. “It was the first thing I told them. But they didn’t believe me. They said I wouldn’t have brought it up on my show if I wasn’t in on it.”

Jorah shook his head. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. You know, though, Russ. They do have a point.”

“What?” Russ couldn’t believe what he was hearing. First protectors acting like savages, and now Jorah saying they were right to do it. There was something wrong with the world, and Russ just wanted it all to go away.

“I mean—like I said, Russ. You’re getting more publicity than anyone has ever gotten out of this. You’re telling me that it’s just a coincidence. You had nothing to do with it.”

“Jorah, do you really think I would get myself beaten to near death just for a little bit of publicity?”

Jorah giggled. “Uh…Yeah. You would, wouldn’t you?”

“Well…Yes. I would,” Russ said, shaking his head. In fact, he had done almost exactly that on many occasions. Maybe it was a bad defense to go with. “But I didn’t. Not this time. I swear to you, Jorah. I had nothing to do with it, and the protectors did this anyway. It was like—it was like they just wanted to beat someone.” His ribs hurt with the thought of it.

“No way, Russ,” Jorah said, shaking his head. “Protectors aren’t like that. I’ve played, like, a hundred protectors and a thousand criminals, and I know that no protector would ever do what you’re trying to say they did.”

“I know, Jorah.” Russ sighed. “That’s exactly what I thought. But I’m telling you, they were unreal. You can see the outcome.” He put on the saddest face he could muster, but acting was difficult in such pain.

“Sweetheart.” Jorah stood up and Russ groaned. “There it is. Remember that for the future, Russ. Your work will be better for it. But, sweetheart, I’m going to let you sit here and sort your story out so it doesn’t sound so ridiculous to the next person you tell it to. Do you understand what I’m saying, dear?”

“You’re saying you don’t believe me.”

“Oh, dear.” Jorah shook his head. “No no no. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that it would be best for you to come up with a better story. It doesn’t matter. You’ll figure it out. I’ll see you after the feast, Russ. You’re sure to win it now. So do yourself a favor: Go see a doctor, get ready to put on a perfect performance, and try not to get in any deeper than you already are. I might stop by before your speech. I’d rather not, but I might, dear. Ta ta.”

The door clicked closed and Russ clinched his blanket tighter. What was with Jorah? He wasn’t normally so cryptic. Or was he? All they ever really talked about was clothes and gossip. They had never had a real conversation before. What was a real conversation anyway? His stomach groaned and his ribs burned. Jorah was right about one thing: Russ needed to get to a doctor. He couldn’t live like this anymore.

His stomach wouldn’t shut up, but it would have to wait a little longer. He didn’t think he could move enough to eat anyway. He tossed the blanket off and slowly inched his legs over the couch and onto the floor. He took a few deep breaths and gathered his strength to push himself up to a stooped position. His body burned and his head pounded. He wanted to give up, to fall down onto the floor and go to sleep, but he pushed himself through the door and out into the hall to press the elevator button.

“Russ my man. Ru-uusss. How are you?” Wes said, coming up through the hallway. The sound of his voice made the pounding in Russ’s head all the worse. “Look, Russ. I’m sorry I was hard on you, but you’re the best, you know. I gotta stick it to you so everyone else is afraid of me. You understand that. Right, buddy?”

The elevator dinged and the doors opened. “Ugghhgh,” Russ groaned. “I’m not your buddy, guy,” he said as he plopped himself onto his elevator’s velvet couch.

The door slid closed, and he lost himself in the softness of it. It was like a nest, a womb. He wanted to lay there forever. He reached down to the floor for his blanket, grasped at air, and remembered he wasn’t in his dressing room anymore. “The doctor. Now,” he said.

The elevator fell into motion. He could feel himself getting better already. The doors opened, and there was nothing behind them but a dark, empty hall. “Not now,” he said, groaning. “Not now! I said the doctor.”

The doors started to close, but a gloved hand with a long, white sleeve slipped between them and forced them open again.

“Please,” Russ pled. “I need to get to a doctor.”

“Russ Logo?” the old woman who the gloved hand belonged to said, standing in the elevator door.

“Yes,” Russ said, almost crying. He reached his trembling hand out to her while still lying on his couch. He must have looked so pathetic. Hopefully it would work. “It’s me,” he said, making sure to let his lower lip tremble as he spoke. “I need a doctor. Please close the door.”

“Don’t worry, Mr. Logo,” the woman said. “I’m not a doctor, but I can take care of you. If you’ll just come with me.”

“No,” Russ said. “I—I can’t. Who are you?”

“Would you prefer a wheelchair, Mr. Logo?” the woman asked. “Popeye, fetch a chair for our guest, please.”

“No. I—” Russ protested, but a big mechanical arm pushed a wheelchair his way.

“There you go, Mr. Logo,” the woman said. “Popeye, help him into it, please.”

“No,” Russ pled. “Please. I can—Ugghhghh.”

The mechanical arm lifted Russ up and plopped him into the wheelchair. Russ screamed out in pain at the sudden motion.

“There we are, Mr. Logo,” the woman said. “Now bring him to the lab, please, Popeye. We need to see to his injuries.”

Russ was beyond protesting. He couldn’t imagine getting past the mechanical arm if he tried. He couldn’t imagine getting out of the chair if he tried. The arm rolled along behind him, pushing his chair behind the woman in the white coat who led the way through a short hall into a room that was filled with glassware, tubes, chemicals, and machines of every shape, size, and color. It was only missing two wires with electricity going between them to make it look exactly like the Frankenstein set Russ had worked on a few years back. Only instead of Eyegore there was a huge mechanical arm, instead of Frankenstein it was this woman in a white coat, and instead of a monster it was Russ who Popeyegore lifted up and strapped onto the lab table.

“No. No, Popeye!” the woman said, slapping the metal hand. “No restraints, please. He’s a friend. He won’t squirm. Will you, Mr. Logo?” She smiled.

Russ looked around him. There were sharp objects everywhere, but none of them seemed to have any blood on them. He sniffed the air and smelled hospital antiseptic. “Didn’t you say you weren’t a doctor?”

The woman looked at him, frowning. “Didn’t I say I wasn’t… Hmmm. No. I’m not technically a doctor. I was never certified. Never got that MD. I’m more of a scientist, so to speak. But I know more about human anatomy than any doctor you’ll ever meet. I guarantee that.” She turned and went back to digging clangily through the drawers, looking for some thing.

“Um,” Russ said. “Maybe I should go to a real doctor.” He tried to smile, but even he was having trouble acting in this situation, pained and alone in an unknown place, guarded by a huge mechanical arm. “That is, if we can get my elevator back. Did you send it away? Where are we, anyway?” He was sitting up now with great pain from the effort. “I need to get out of here.” He tried to slip off the table, but his feet couldn’t hold his weight. Popeye could, though, and the thing scooped him back up onto the table.

“Oh, Russ,” the woman said, still digging through the drawers. “I’m sorry. I just—I couldn’t find it…But, riiiiight—wait for it—right here! Here it is.” She pulled a small vial of some gray something out of one of the drawers and held it up to the light to read its small print. She had to squint and move it back and forth, looking for the right distance from her face to read the label, before she shook her head. “No,” she said, frowning. “No no no. That’s not it. That would probably kill you.” She went on digging through the drawers again.

Russ sat holding his burning ribs, staring at the robotic arm, trying to find its weakness, but there was nothing to see. “Please don’t kill me,” he whispered.

“Here it is!” the woman said. “No—yes—no. Ah. That’s the one.” She pulled out another little vial that looked exactly like the first one.

Russ’s heart beat faster. He was about to attempt an escape, but he saw the arm inching closer to him. “Please, ma’am,” he said. “Don’t kill me. I—I’m famous. I have a printer. I can get you whatever you want. Just d—don’t hurt me…Please.” He was crying by the end of it, his words barely audible.

Ppphhh.” The woman chuckled. “No, dear.” She shook her head. “No no no. No need to cry. Popeye, a tissue for our friend, please. Can’t you tell he’s crying?”

The arm moved back and forth like it was anxious and didn’t know which way to go. It finally picked a direction and knocked a beaker onto the floor to shatter in its haste. “And clean that up, please,” the woman said. “You clumsy fool you.” Popeye rolled back with a single tissue between its huge metal fingers, and Russ couldn’t help but chuckle at the juxtaposition before grabbing the tissue, blowing his nose, and resuming sulking with an occasional sob.

“I’m not going to kill you, you know,” the woman said, filling a syringe with the silvery gray liquid from the vial. “If I wanted to kill you, I wouldn’t bring you to my lab to do it. That would be a good way to get caught. I’d have to go through the trouble of doctoring your elevator’s travel logs, doctoring the Walker-Haley field logs, disposing of your body. No. That would be a stupid way of killing you.”

Russ felt a little better, but not much. His bones still ached. More than ever now.

“If I wanted to kill you, I would just send someone to you to do it for me,” the woman went on. “That way the protectors would be less likely to look to me as the one who did it. So, you see, you have nothing to worry about. If I wanted you dead, you’d be dead already. Heh heh. No. You’re too important to kill, Russ. You don’t know it yet. Not really. I mean, you think you’re important—and you are because so many people seem to agree with you—but you have no idea the role you can take in history. No idea. But, I digress. In order to get to then you have to live through now first. And I’m here to make sure you do just that.”

“I don’t understand.” Russ groaned. “Where am I!”

“You will understand,” the woman said. “And you’re in my lab. I know that means nothing to you now, but I’ll show you in time. First, however, a little something for the pain.” She held the syringe point up and flicked it a few times with her middle finger. Russ tried to back away from her, wide-eyed and groaning with the effort, but Popeye held him from behind.

“It’ll just be a little pinch, then you’ll feel as right as rain,” the woman said, shoving the needle deep into his thigh as Russ screamed.

“There now.” The woman smiled. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” She put the syringe in a trash chute and pulled up a stool to sit by him. “You can let him go now, Popeye. He’ll want to hear what I have to say once he realizes I’m not here to kill him.”

“I’ll have you arrested,” Russ said, surprised to be on his feet with no pain in his body. “I’ll—I—I’m kind of a big deal, I’ll have you know,” he added less confidently.

The woman laughed a big, hearty laugh. “No one would ever believe you,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. “You don’t even know where you are. You have no idea how to get back to your safe, cozy dressing room, Russ. There’s nothing you could possibly do to affect me in any way. I know you’ve never been in this situation before, but you are in it now, and as it stands, you’re powerless. As such, I suggest you take a seat and listen to what I have to say. Then I’ll let you go.”

Russ’s hands slicked up. He didn’t know if his elevator would be there for him, even if he thought he could make it past that giant arm. He was feeling better. His ribs didn’t hurt anymore. His head was clear. He felt healthier than he did after he had finished training for that Spartan movie, and only seconds ago he couldn’t hold up his own weight. She had injected him with something and that’s why he felt better. It healed him. She could have killed him right there, she had said as much herself.  He really had no choice but to do whatever she said, and she knew it. “All I have to do is listen to you, then you’ll let me go?”

“And take a short tour of the premises here. There are some things I can’t tell you. Some things you just have to live to understand. I dare say that you’re feeling up to a little stroll compared to when you crawled in here earlier. Or, rather, when Popeye carried you in.” She grinned.

The metallic hand waved at him.

“What did you do to me?” Russ demanded.

“I made you better,” the woman said with a smile. “Didn’t I? You still haven’t sat back down since you could hold your own weight. You seem to be healthy and ready to get on your feet again. Or should I say stay on your feet?”

Russ realized he was still rubbing his sweaty palms on his pants and stopped. He relented and put his butt up on the table but sat on the very edge so he could jump into action at any instant. What kind of action? He had no idea. “But how did you do it? What did you inject me with?”

“Oh. That. Well, that’s going to be harder to explain. That is—I guess—everything will be hard to explain. So that’s about as good a place to start as any. Let’s just say it was uh…a umm…a cure. Yes, a cure.”

“A cure for what?” Russ didn’t have any diseases that needed curing, unless you counted the fists of protectors as a disease, but he didn’t see how a shot could cure that.

“Everything,” the woman said, shrugging.

Russ chuckled and rolled his head back to stretch his neck muscles. He did feel good. “You can’t cure everything.”

“I did, actually,” the woman said, not trying to sound impressive—or at least not doing a good job of acting it. “I did better than that. If you kept coming back every month, you’d stop aging. Can you believe that? Imagine the price that would fetch on your beauty market. Number one trend in no time, right? But they won’t do that. It’s too dangerous. People living so long. And if you inject enough, you—”

“Wait.” Russ couldn’t believe what she was saying. He would have heard about something like that if it was real. “You cured aging?”

“Well, I’ve successfully treated aging. You have to continue treatment. And the longer you do it the more it takes. No. No no no.” She shook her head, waving her hands. “Now you’ve gone and gotten me way off topic. Perhaps I underestimated you, Russ. Are you ready to hear why I brought you here, then?”

Russ nodded. He was ready to go home, and if that’s what it took to get there, he was ready to hear whatever other insane claims this woman had to make.

“Russ,” she said. “Why were you in so much pain when you entered my lab?”

“I don’t—I’m not—” He wasn’t going to risk the wrath of the protectors by talking about that with a woman whose name he didn’t even know.

“I know, Russ.” She shook her head. “You’re not supposed to talk about it. But I already know what happened, too. I know more than any of those protectors who did it to you. They know nothing, Russ. This here—this lab—this is the highest clearance level location in all the worlds. We don’t normally take visitors, you know. That’s why Popeye here’s been so clumsy. Isn’t it, Popeye?” The arm knocked over another set of glassware in response and set to cleaning it up. “They beat you because a woman talked to you, Russ. They beat you for nothing you did. Because they were suspicious. Because they were trying to prevent you from talking about your experience on your show. They didn’t want you to tell people what you know.”

“I don’t know anything,” Russ said.

“You know what she told you,” the woman said, raising her eyebrows.

“She told me a lie. It was a joke, a publicity stunt. She told me noth—”

“She told you the truth, Russ. Why do you think they beat you? What do you think they did to her?”

He shook his head. “No.”

“Russ, it’s time we take that tour now,” the woman said, standing from her stool. “Are you ready?”

“Where are you taking me?” Russ said, jumping off the table fast to bounce on the balls of his feet.

“I’m taking you to see the truth. I told you there were some things I couldn’t tell you, now you’ll experience them for yourself. Come on.” She started out the way they had come in. “Popeye, wait here, please. Thank you.”

The arm slouched down and rolled off into a corner.

Russ stretched every muscle as he crossed the room out into the hall where the woman waited for him. She closed the door behind him, and—still holding the doorknob—said, “Are you ready, Russ?”

He shook his head. Ready for what?

She opened the door and there wasn’t a lab behind it anymore. Instead there was what could only be said to be the real life version of the set of the assembly line documentary he was currently working on, except built to one-half size. He poked his head in the door to look up and down the line of dirty, intent workers—all at one-half size themselves—trying to find the food cart, or the cameras, or the director, but there was none. He sniffed the rank air and looked closer at the workers, recognizing the syncopated humming and clicking he heard. It was the sound of conveyor belts and the chorus of slip, snap, clicking. They were slip, snap, clicking. This was an actual factory. These were actual factory workers.

He looked closer at the nearest of them. None had looked up to see that they were being watched. The one closest to him looked like a tiny human, but such intense concentration didn’t seem possible for a human to keep up for as long as she had already done, for as long as the entire warehouse filled with them had already done. The sweat smell overcame him again. It smelled like hard work, like long days on the set, looooong days. He tried to step into the factory to get one of their attention, but the woman in the white coat stopped him.

“You shouldn’t interrupt them while they’re working,” she said. “If they fall behind, they might not be able to eat tonight. Come on.” She pulled him back into the hall and closed the door.

“Was that—” Russ said. “What was that?”

“That was a factory, Russ. The woman who talked to you, the one who the protectors have now, she worked in a similar factory where they make clothes. I figured this particular line would be a little more relatable for you, though. We can go see the costume factory, too, if you want.” She smiled.

“Those were people?” Russ shook his head. He didn’t believe it. He couldn’t believe it. And yet he had to, he had seen them with his own two eyes, eyes he could no longer believe.

“Human beings, Russ. Not just people. Living, breathing human beings. And that was one sector in one factory. They make a part of a part of a thing on those lines. Imagine how many more of them there have to be to make all the things in existence. Your clothes, beauty products, cameras, phones, TVs, computers, elevators. Everything Russ. Humans are still cheaper than robots, so humans still do the work.”

“No.” Russ still couldn’t believe it. “But…But I’ve seen the footage of the robots doing it.”

“Russ.” The woman laughed, shaking her head. “C’mon, man. You’re an actor. You know how films work. In fact, you’re currently playing the role of one of those workers you just saw. Let me ask you this, have you ever seen one of your own documentaries on TV?”

Russ tried to remember, but he knew that he hadn’t. He knew there were a lot of things he had worked on that he had never seen. In fact, unless it was his talk show, someone else’s talk show, or a gossip news show, he had never seen himself on TV. Up until now he had accepted that fact—along with the awards he was piled with for playing those roles—without question, but how could he not question it when he had seen what he just saw?

“No, Russ,” the woman said. “I know you haven’t. I’ve seen them, though. And all those workers have, too. They learned from you that you always put a few more pieces together after the bell rings to make sure you’re on quota. Did you know that?”

Russ shook his head. “No. That wasn’t me. That was the director. I did that scene wrong. He made me do it again”

“You were complicit, Russ. You are complicit. You’re the highest viewed actor ever to exist in the entire history of their propaganda machine. You’re paid the most for that. Who else do you know who has a 3D printer? Who else has a choice of view from their dressing room?”

“I don’t ever change that view. I told them I want to see where I am, not some fake view they conjured up for me on a computer screen.”

“Are you sure about that, Russ?” the woman said, shaking her head. “The world’s awful pretty from where you’re sitting. Even knowing that humans work on these assembly lines—and, I assure you, they do—are you really willing to give it all up for a little bit of truth?”

Russ’s head started to pound again. He massaged his temples. “I don’t—I don’t believe you.”

“It’s okay, Russ. I know. Let’s go get a beer and talk about it for a little while longer, okay. Just this one last stop, then I’ll let you go back to your printer and your view of the real world, and you can live your life however you desire.”

“I don’t—” He didn’t finish because she opened the door to reveal an alleyway. “Where are we?”

“This is where the people who our owners decide are useless go. I call it Lumpenville. The protectors call it the Neutral Ground. The people who live here call it the Green Belt. But you won’t see why until you step outside.” She went out first and waved her arm to direct his vision down the alley.

He followed her outside, looking down the way she had directed, but all he saw was skyscrapers. The sky was blotted out except for a tiny slit that turned into a point out on the horizon, which was the alley going in a straight line between the buildings. It was as if the entire world were sidewalks and buildings, and nothing else existed. His head spun at the sight of it. “What’s green about this?” he forced through his want to retch.

“Nothing, Russ,” the woman said, smiling. “Absolutely nothing. It’s a world of completely streets. It’s a place where human beings live. I bet you’ve never heard of a place like this, have you?”

“Why are you showing me this?”

“You said you didn’t want the fake view. Well, this is an important part of your world, Russ. If you want the prettier version, just turn around.”

He turned from the oppressive skyline to see a patch of hazey blue-gray, something more than a slit, and below it there was a little bit of green. He went that way out of the alley, then turned left and right to see a long, skinny green park that went as far as his eye could see in either direction.

“That’s why they call it the Green Belt,” the woman said, walking up behind him and pulling him to follow her along the park. “The rest of the world here is just like what you saw when you first came out: completely streets. This is the only grass the people who live here ever have the chance of seeing, unless they hijack a protector’s elevator port, but that might as well be impossible with the technology they have here—not to mention the illegality of doing something like that.” She chuckled.

“Why are you telling me all this?”

“You said you wanted to see the real world, Russ. Look around. These people have no way of leaving this place. This is the best they can ever expect of their world. Just be thankful that you’re here with me and we have a way out.”

“But people actually live here?” Russ scoffed.

“Yes, Russ,” the woman said, stopping. “They do. Look around you. These people live here.”

Russ realized that there were people filing around him. They weren’t papos, none of them were carrying cameras or noticed who he was and they were all half-sized like the people on the assembly lines. “But…” he stammered.

“Here,” the woman said, grabbing his arm and pulling him along again. “Come on. Let’s get a beer. You’ve dealt with a lot today.”

They walked a few buildings down the street and into a door with no sign. Russ coughed up his lungs when he smelled the smoke. The few inhabitants of the dark room looked around to stare at him until he finished then went back to what they were doing. He rubbed his burning eyes. When they adjusted to the light, he noticed that the people were playing pool. He didn’t know people still did that. The woman in the white coat walked up to the bar to order. She sat at a low stool and patted the seat next to her. “C’mon, Russ.” She smiled. “There’s someone you should meet before we leave.”

Russ crept up to the stool and sat next to her. For as short as it was, it was surprisingly comfortable. “Where are we?” he said, looking around at the place again.

“We’re at a bar on the Green Belt. The bar is what they call it.”

“But, how?” Russ said. “I don—”

The bartender came back and set a beer in front of each of them. “Thank you, dear,” the woman in the white coat said. “This is my friend, Russ. Say hi, Russ.”

Russ nodded.

“Hello,” the bartender said, smiling.

“Ms. Valetson,” the woman in the white coat said. “You know the people who come to drink here pretty well, wouldn’t you say?”

The bartender smiled and chuckled. “What do you mean, ma’am?”

“Well.” The woman looked at Russ then the bartender. “Would you say that they mostly live around here?”

“Of course,” the bartender said. “Where else would they live?”

“And would you say that they’re mostly humans?”

The bartender laughed again, unsure if she should answer. “Is this some kind of joke?”

“No, ma’am. No joke. Would you say your customers are primarily humans?”

Um. Yeah,” the bartender said, raising an eyebrow. “Of course. I don’t know what else they would be. Now, if y’all’ll excuse me, I have to help some other customers.” She went down the bar to tend to someone else.

“Did you hear that, Russ?” The woman elbowed him, almost making him spill the beer he was gulping.

“I heard it,” he said, wiping his mouth.

“And what do you think?”

“I don’t know what you expect me to do about it,” Russ said.

“I don’t expect you to do anything, Russ. I just think that someone who is as important as you are should know what the world they live in really looks like, how it works. You said you didn’t want the fake view. Well this is the real world.”

“But what can I do?” Russ said.

“You can do what you do best, Russ,” the woman said, patting him on the back. “Act. Talk to people. Set trends. But set the trends you know you want to set. Do what you want to do, but do it knowing all the information. That’s all I care about. The rest is up to you.”

“But I can’t do what I want,” Russ complained. “I have to follow a script. I have to listen to the director. I don’t operate the cameras, sew the costumes, build the set—“

“No, Russ. You don’t. That’s the point. You can’t do anything alone, so you can’t do whatever you want, but no one can make you do anything, so you can do whatever you want. It’s a contradiction. You just have to live through it.”

“And then what?” Russ scoffed. “Never get another role in my life?”

“You’re always the protagonist of your own story,” the woman said. “Look, it doesn’t matter what you do. You know the truth now. You’ll do the right thing. You won’t get it exactly right at first—or maybe ever—but it will always be exactly right. Do you understand what I’m saying at all?”

“I don’t know,” Russ said, shaking his head. He didn’t know if he understood anything anymore.

“I know,” the woman said, smiling and shaking her head. “It doesn’t make sense. It can’t yet. I can’t just tell you this one. I can’t even show it to you. You have to find it and live it for yourself, Russ. That’s the only way to do anything, really. All I can do is encourage you along the way. And I know you’ll do the right thing. I believe in you. That’s all I wanted from you. That and to heal your wounds. We can leave as soon as you’ve finished your beer.”

“And that woman,” Russ said. “The—uh—the assembly line worker who tried to talk to me.”

“Mary.”

“She was telling the truth. Sh—She made my clothes.”

“Not all of them.” The woman shook her head. “Not all of any of them. She used to sew pockets before I met her. So she sewed some of your pockets.”

“But people—I mean—humans. Humans make everything.”

“Humans work on the vast majority of assembly lines. They’re so much cheaper to reproduce, the owners won’t have it any other way. Androids would gladly take on the lion’s share of the physical work, but that conversation requires a knowledge of politics you’ve never been introduced to.”

“Wait, so there are robots who work on assembly lines.”

“No,” the woman said, shaking her head. “Well, a few. But not really. Humans are cheaper. Androids are reserved for public work. They could do it, though. And would. But that’s another thing altogether.”

“And you just wanted to tell me all this,” Russ said, shrugging. “Just for the fun of messing with my mind? Is that it?”

“No, Russ. Not me. Mary. Mary wanted you to know. Mary wanted to tell you. Do you remember that question I asked you? What do you think they did to her?”

“What?” Russ shrugged, shaking his head.

“There’s no telling. Maybe they’re torturing her for information. Maybe they’ve already killed her.”

“No.” That was even crazier than the beating he had already experienced. “Torture? Then why didn’t they do it to me?”

“You’re too important, Russ. I told you already.”

Russ was beyond wanting to even try to comprehend this woman’s riddles. “I’d like to leave,” he said, sloshing his drink onto the bar as he slammed it down.

“Alright,” the woman said. “Alright. Just give me…” She lifted a finger and finished off her half-full beer in one gulp. “Ah. Okay. Alright. Let’s go.” She called to the bartender to take it off her tab and led the way out.

Russ looked up and down the thin strip of green as they made the short walk back to the alley. When they turned down it to see the endless line of concrete and steel towering over them, he couldn’t believe that people actually lived there. But he had to. He had seen some of them, he had talked to one of them, and not a single one had recognized his face.

They went back through the alley door into the short hall, and Russ said, “None of them knew who I was. How did Mary find me?”

“Mary was a prole, dear. From Outland 5. They get your propaganda. Lumpenville gets nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“Lumpenville has nothing. The proles a little more. And that’s just the bottom of the pyramid. There’s so much more to it all, but that’s what Mary wanted you to know. So now you do. And now you can go home, Russ. That’s all I needed from you. Thank you very much.” She pressed a button and the elevator doors slid open, revealing Russ’s velvet couch.

“So that’s it?” Russ said, not stepping in.

She shrugged. “Do you want to stay for tea and cookies with me and Popeye?”

“What? No.”

“Good.” The woman smiled. “We don’t do tea.”

“Well, what am I supposed to do then?”

“You’re supposed to live your life. Go home and get some sleep then wake up early so you can practice your Christmas speech. You won, you know.”

“But what am I supposed to say?”

“Say whatever you want. It’s your speech. Just remember what you saw here when you decide what you’re going to say.” She urged him onto the elevator and closed the doors behind him.

“But I—I don’t know what to say,” he said.

“You’ll think of something,” she replied as the doors shut and the floor fell out from underneath him.

#       #       #

< IX. Ansel     [Table of Contents]     XI. Mr. Kitty >

Thanks for joining us again today, and don’t forget you can pick up a full copy of the novel if you can’t wait another week to read the conclusion. Until next time, readers.

Chapter 07: The Scientist

Here comes Saturday number eight with the introduction of the last point of view character, the Scientist. We’ll start off with an illustration of her then dive straight into the chapter. Enjoy, and if you do, don’t forget to pick up a copy of the novel, through Amazon here, in order to support my future writing endeavors.

The Scientist

< VI. Officer Pardy     [Table of Contents]     VIII. Haley >

VII. The Scientist

Every day the same. Every day different. The only constant is change. Reality was filled with just such contradictions.

She stood in front of the printer—as she did every meal—and imagined the people who grew, reared, and harvested, built the things to make possible, and sent along the food she was about to consume. She always ordered her meals as raw as they came so those people were forced to do as little of her work as possible. Her personal thrift was only a drop of water on the face of the sun, and she knew it, but it made her feel a little less responsible, a little less complicit, and it wasn’t anywhere near the end of her actions.

One egg, one piece of bread, two strips of bacon. She placed the same order she placed most mornings and it took no more than seconds before each item was in her hands and ready to be prepared. She had done this so many times before that her movements were instinctual. There was no thought in cracking the eggs, cooking everything all at once, and spreading the jam on the pan-fried toast just as the bacon was crisp to perfection. She woke up, and before she knew it, it was done. Just like that. As if she hadn’t woken up until breakfast was cooked and ready even though she was the one who prepared it herself. She was sleepcooking.

With the smell of bacon following her from the kitchen, she brought her breakfast back into her office to start on the day’s security checks. She set the plate in front of the keyboard and bank of monitors on the big oak desk—overlooked by a wall-sized window with a  view of a functioning assembly line—and slid into the fluffy, leather chair. She hit the spacebar to wake the computer, picked up her plate, leaned back in the chair, and started on breakfast while the machine warmed up.

The screen flashed “Good Morning” in pale green on a black background before it hummed away, getting down to business. She chewed her toast as the various checks were performed. First the top tier printers of Inland, those which were owned by the owners. They were the most important printers according to company protocol. Of course, being the property of the owners themselves, they were the newest model printers, and as such, the least likely to malfunction. Still, they were the “most important”, and they were to be fixed before any others. The computer went down the list marking every unit green for fully functional as expected.

Then came the printers in Outland 1. Being the center of the defense of property, liberty, and life, Outland 1’s printers were on a tier with the owners’ own. A few were slightly older models in comparison, but even those were from the previous year at the earliest, and all were highly unlikely to malfunction. The computer ran through these, and there was a minor plug in one of the printer streams, but a mechanic bot was already working on clearing it out, and the bot looked to have everything under control.

Then came the Walker-Haley fields. She always suggested that they run this check first, as it was the basis of the entire system and making changes here could affect the printers she had already inspected, but she wasn’t in charge, the owners were. They had the money. They owned the property. They decided that their printers, and their soldiers’ printers, were more important than their walls or her time. She had no choice but to comply, so she did. The computer went down every single Walker-Haley line, checking every square inch of field for proper wave function. There were more miles of Walker-Haley field lines to check than there were miles of roads at the height of the automobile era, and every morning she sat and watched the computer check every single one, inch by square inch.

The holes came next. You couldn’t separate the worlds like that without leaving connections. What would be the point? No, that’s where the holes came in. So many of them. Transport bays, elevator ports, printers, communication portals, heat transfer—to prevent weather aberrations which plagued early attempts—repair hatches, you name it. Those and the holes that formed from the natural wear and tear of the system, holes like the one that was flashing red on the screen to her left.

“Woah now,” she said, spinning in her chair to get a closer look. “Where are you?” She tapped off a few keystrokes. “Outland 2? That’s odd. Let me just…” She typed a few more strokes and touched the screen with her hand then clicked on the mouse. “Ah,” she said. “Well is that so?”

A video came up on her center monitor, surveillance footage from the area where the hole was. A college-aged woman in a black hoodie was talking to someone in the shadows, maybe an assembly line worker who had found a hole, they had been getting more restless in Outland 5. More than likely it was a Sixer, though, left there to rot in a sea of skyscrapers, fighting over the only strip of green. It was brilliant really how the owners handled that problem, and equally disgusting. Made all the worse by the fact that the Scientist was the one who mended the walls that propped their entire system up, by the fact that she had invented those walls without knowing how they would be used.

She let them talk a minute more, finishing her breakfast and cleaning the dishes, before she called the mechanic bot to fix the hole and set the emergency lights to flashing—which sent the conversants running in opposite directions. She watched the video until the bot got there and set to work, then she switched back to the maintenance scan and leaned back in her chair.

The computer started its check over again from the beginning. Exactly the inefficiency she had warned about, but money didn’t care. There was always more. Nothing had changed, so the computer skipped from Outland 1 to Outland 2 and on down the line. There were less and less printers to check as it went, but more and more of them had problems. She sent bots to those she could afford to, but it wasn’t many, and they were mostly in Outlands 3 and 4. Five would have to wait and 6 wasn’t supposed to have any printers. It was a complex job, managing which bots went where, but she had a sixth sense for the triage needs of the system, which was why they still had her doing it instead of a computer.

As she set to deciding who in Outland 3 would be least likely to complain about a short delay in delivery so she could send a few bots to 5, a black cat jumped onto her lap and meowed.

“Mr. Kitty,” she said, clicking a few more times before she looked down at him “Still in yellow I see. Are you sure you don’t want a change?”

He meowed again and jumped onto the keyboard to lick himself.

She scooped him up and brought him into the kitchen. “I know,” she said. “But I have work to do.” She scratched his head and put him on the counter, then thanked the people behind the printer for the cat food. Mr. Kitty ate it greedily as she went back into the office to work.

She really didn’t have much to do but watch the mechanic bots and computer do their jobs, so she leaned back in her chair to get comfortable. It was almost serene watching them fix her creation. Until she remembered how things used to be. She used to spend all her time working with her hands and her mind, creating new inventions that the world had never experienced before, putting machinery into configurations which had never been attempted. She was herself then. Even though she still worked for Wally World Llc, she felt as if she worked for herself.  If she had an idea she could follow it and see where it led her. She was free to work on the projects she thought were worth her time.

Then she had made the discovery. She created the Walker-Haley fields. The Walker-Haley fields led to “printers”—a masterstroke of advertising if there ever was one. Printers led to the creation of the Outlands. But still, even with all the work it took to build and maintain such a massive and complex system, still she found time to invent, she found time to create, and she came up with her third great invention, her masterpiece, the customizable, almost-human android with full AI capabilities. And when for the third time Lord Walker ripped her creation from her hands and claimed it as his own, she vowed that she would never invent for him again. But still he needed her to maintain his system, to keep up the status quo, and she needed his printers to reproduce herself. So there she sat, building up his walls for him, biding her time until she could finally tear them all down again.

She flipped the center monitor to a television station and let the repairs run on autopilot for a while. She cycled through the channels. She had access to all of them with her clearance level, and she liked to guess which Outland each show was broadcast to based on what it depicted and who was acting in it.

Protector dramas were almost exclusively for Outland 1. She wondered how many different departments and cities they could plaster onto the names of the “different” shows before the people there realized that they were all the same thing.

There were a few different stock analyzers—all giving mutually exclusive advice—and a few political journalists—all arguing for one of two mutually exclusive positions—obviously directed at Outland 2, but they broadcast all the way to Outland 4 and in between.

Outland 4 was bombarded with documentaries and scientific programming of various levels and branches of study.

Outland 3 had everything because they made everything, but she knew that they only watched the self-indulgent, talking head, who’s who in celebrity culture programming. That was the one thing that talked about what they all loved the most, themselves.

Outland 5’s programming was all about the glory of toil and working hard for the common good in the hopes that you would make it big and become a middle manager. She thought that some of those shows actually carried good messages, but the creators didn’t put any effort into entertaining, just educating. Then again, they didn’t have to entertain. That’s all there was to watch in Outland 5. The Fivers didn’t know any better, so they didn’t ask for any better, and no one was about to tell them otherwise. Well, almost no one.

She stopped flicking through the channels and checked on the repair work. Everything seemed to be in good order. It was about time for her lunch meeting so she set a few bots on standby for emergencies with the owners’ printers and left the rest running on autopilot. She went into the kitchen and Mr. Kitty was gone. She washed his dish, staring out the window above her sink at the line of assembly line workers slip, snap, clicking, and collected herself. She sighed, then went out through the small hall to the elevator and said, “Outland 5, please. Frenchmen entrance.”

She came out of the elevator into the sun between classic New Orleans buildings, the kind with short stoops, sweeping porches, and lots of balconies. She was surprised they were left in Outland 5 but assumed they were too structurally damaged to be worth repairing enough for transport. They were good enough for the Fivers, though.

She walked down a sidewalk that was ravaged by tree roots, climbing up and down the concrete hills. This elevator exit wasn’t the closest to where here meeting was, but she had some time to kill, and she enjoyed the walk. She went through Washington Square Park, down St. Claude, to St. Roch to find the sign she was looking for. It just said “Bar” on it. Nothing else.

The bar was so dark she couldn’t see until her eyes had adjusted. She took in the stale smoke and the sound of pool balls clacking before she saw anything that was going on. She went straight for the bar when she could see, ordered a beer without asking—the bartender knew what she wanted already—and went to the back corner booth to wait.

There were three people at the pool table, two at darts, the bartender, and her. A song she liked came on the jukebox, and she couldn’t help but think that she’d enjoy a game of pool herself, but there wasn’t time for that now. Maybe after everything was under way. That and maybe all the worlds would be put back together in one fell swoop.

She laughed out loud at herself, and no one even glanced in her direction. She laughed again because she could, and while she did, the door opened. A dirty-haired, ragged-clothed worker with dark skin walked in, her chest pushed out for everyone to see. The worker caught the Scientist’s eye and went to the bar to get a beer before sitting at the corner booth with her.

There was a silence. They sat studying each others faces, sipping their beers. The Scientist found it was best to let them talk first. Usually they’d tell her exactly what they were there for with the first words that came out of their mouth. So she learned to wait and to watch, and she already knew what to answer before the worker said, “Are you the—”

“The Scientist,” she said. “Yes, Ellie.”

They drank some more. She knew that Ellie wanted to say the right thing, and she was willing to give her the time she needed to figure out what that was.

“I heard you know what’s on the other side,” Ellie decided on.

“That’s true,” the Scientist said, nodding. “I could tell you how many other sides there are, too. But I don’t think that’s what you really want.”

“I’ll decide what I want. Thanks.” Ellie sipped her beer.

“That’s fair.” The Scientist sipped hers, all part of the game.

“What I mean is…You know where everything goes, right. You know who we make it for.”

“I do.”

“Who then?”

“It’s people who aren’t you,” the Scientist said, with a shrug.

“Tell me something I don’t know.” Ellie scoffed.

“What could I tell you about them that would satisfy you? They do less work than you do. Their work is easier, less soul crushing. They have better houses, bigger beds. Many of them own their own 3D printers, their own endless source of anything. And none of their children ever die in factory accidents. You can be sure of that.” She could tell she hit a nerve with that last one from the look on Ellie’s face.

“No,” Ellie said, shaking her head. “They wouldn’t. Would they?”

“No, Ellie. They wouldn’t. And they have property so they don’t have to. So what are you going to do about it now that you know?”

Ellie slammed her fist on the table. “Something, God dammit!” she yelled and still no one turned to look at them.

“I apologize.” The Scientist waved her hands. “I didn’t mean to imply that there was nothing you could do. I literally meant to ask what you specifically would do about it? I know what you want, Ellie. I want what you want. My interests are your interests. I have the privilege to live a life of pampered luxury with access to everything you would ever need to get what you want, to everything that keeps our society running. Don’t get me wrong, I too labor—nothing like you of course, but more than others—but you… I want to do everything I can to help you get what you want. So—if you will—tell me Ellie. You came here. You had no idea who I was. You have no idea who I am beyond the Scientist which means nothing to you. You took a risk coming because you wanted something. I want to know: What do you want?”

“I want to punish them,” Ellie said through gritted teeth. “The people who killed my son.”

“I’m not sure we can find one person and say that they were the one who killed your son.”

“Then I want to punish all of them.”

“It’s not just the people, though.” The Scientist shook her head. “The people are but the heads of a hydra. If you punish one, three will take their place, and those three will be worse than the first. Your son wasn’t killed by people, Ellie, he was killed by the system that puts those people in power. He was killed because he was forced to work in that factory, and he was forced to work in that factory because he lives in Outland 5.”

“I want it all to stop, then,” Ellie said, slamming her fist on the table.

“Do you know what that means, though? Do you know how big they are?”

“I don’t care how big they are! Do you know how big—how important to me—how huge my son wa—is?”

“Good, Ellie,” the Scientist said, nodding. “Good. I didn’t mean to rile you up, but I need you to know that this isn’t something you should undertake lightly. You’ll have to break the law to get what you want, and in doing so, you’ll be risking death or worse as punishment.”

Ellie nodded with a stern face. The Scientist smiled and took a sip of beer. Ellie looked surprised at the change in her demeanor and took a sip to cover it up.

“One more thing,” the Scientist said, still smiling and looking Ellie in the eyes. “Trudy. She’s the one who told you how to find me, right?”

Ellie had to think for a second before she connected Trudy to Gertrude and nodded. There was a hint of fear in her eyes, as if she thought she had done something wrong by giving Trudy away. Or maybe it was shame for revealing a secret.

“That one is a terrific judge of character,” the Scientist said. “And a dear friend of mine. We’ve been working together now ever since she got her promotion. She found me faster than any other, and she’s proven more valuable to our cause than anyone I’ve ever known. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Ellie nodded.

The Scientist laughed. “Oh, I’m sure you don’t. I’m sure I don’t understand what I’m saying half the time. But in time, it always reveals itself. Remember that and you’ll be just fine.” She took a big gulp of beer and finished her glass. “Let me get us a refill and we’ll talk about what you really want to talk about. After all, this is about you. Not me.” She swept off to the bar, leaving Ellie to think about what she had said while she ordered another round. When she sat back down, Ellie looked like she had something to say, so the Scientist took a sip and let her go ahead.

“Did you send that woman through the conveyor belt?” she asked.

“I don’t send anyone anywhere,” the Scientist said. “I force no one. I only give them the information they need to do what they want.”

“But you did talk to her.”

“I gave her some information. Yes. She wanted to meet a celebrity.”

“And you helped her do that?” Ellie scoffed

“Like I said,” the Scientist said, shrugging. “I’m privileged. I want to give back in any small way I can. I want what you want.”

Ellie took a drink of her beer. She didn’t seem to believe what the Scientist was saying.

“She came to me because she wanted to meet an actor,” the Scientist said. “I told her his name, and I directed her conveyor belt to where he was.”

“And that’s it? That was worth risking someone discovering that you had helped her.”

The Scientist chuckled. “Trudy is a fantastic judge of character. Did I mention that? No. I also told her that Russ—the actor she wanted to meet—thought that his clothes were created by androids. Having worked in costume construction before she got her promotion, she was devastated to know that he had no idea she had sewn most of his wardrobe while she was a tailor.”

“He really didn’t know?”

The Scientist shook her head.

“How? How could robots do what we do?”

“That’s the thing. Androids could do all the work that humans do, but humans are cheaper.”

“Then someone knows. They’re not all oblivious.”

“Yes,” the Scientist said, nodding. “But it’s such a small minority who benefits so much from it that they don’t care. In fact, they work as hard as they can to maintain the system as it stands.”

“And that’s why you helped her.” Ellie shook her head. “He’s a celebrity. He could—”

The Scientist nodded.

“What happened to her?”

The Scientist shook her head.

“What?” Ellie said. “Dead?”

“We think not. We hope not. Maybe. Maybe worse. You should know what you’re getting into. She would have stood a better chance if she could have waited, but she grew impatient. Now she’s nowhere to be found. In the end, though, it was her decision, and I can’t blame her for making it the way she did.”

“So if I wanted to go back right now and slip through the conveyor belt to meet a celebrity, you would let me.”

“I would advise against it.” The Scientist shook her head.

“But you would let me anyway,” Ellie said, pushing the point

“Whatever I could do to help you get what you want.” The Scientist shrugged.

“And why would you advise against it?”

“Well, in the near future we will be crossing en masse, and crossing for you would be safer because of it. The more people who go through at the same time, the less likely it is for each one to get caught.”

“Not a bad reason.” Ellie nodded, sipping her beer.

“We don’t know exactly when the operation will occur, though. Mary didn’t want to wait.”

“That was all she was supposed to do, though? Talk to an actor.”

“And tell him she created his clothes, not androids. If he knew, he might spread the word. He has the platform to spread it. He’s privileged in ways that even I am not.”

“Nothing else?” Ellie looked suspicious. Trudy knew how to pick the smart ones.

“A little something else. But its different for everyone, and there’s no requirement that the thing is done for you to get what you want.”

Ellie took a big gulp of her beer. She thought about what she had just heard, shook her head, and said, “And if I want to be put in a room alone with some of these people who know what they’re doing and do nothing to stop it?”

“I can get you close to them, but I can’t promise you’ll be alone. Not to mention I’m not sure that anything you could do alone with them would be of any use to getting real revenge.”

Ellie clenched her fists. She made as if to slam them on the table again but stopped herself. “Dammit. It’s so easy for them. Isn’t it?”

The Scientist nodded. She sipped her beer.

“What can I do, then?”

“What can you do?” the Scientist said. “You’re not personable. You’re no Trudy.”

Ellie laughed, shaking her head. “No. I’m not that.”

“You want to go across, don’t you? You want to see it.”

Ellie looked into her beer and nodded.

“You know, it’s not too different from here,” the Scientist said. “Though they do have all the great natural beauties. Oh, you should see the mountains.”

“Can I?”

“Yes. But you’d be doing them a favor. If you drop out, that’s one less person who knows what they’re doing wrong and wants to fight against it.”

Ellie shook her head, sipped her beer, and stared at it for a while. After a moment of silence she said, “You weren’t lying then.”

“I try not to.”

“Do you think there’s a way I can help? A way that I can get revenge?”

“I don’t think it will be easy, and I don’t know how long it will take, but I have a plan, and I know there’s a place for you in it.”

“I’ll do whatever it takes.”

“You’re in a position like our friend who wanted to meet Russ was,” the Scientist said. “Quality Assurance is the front line, it’s the perfect position for a revolutionary. I’m sure I can find something for you.”

“Revolutionary?” Ellie scoffed.

“You didn’t think it would take anything less to get what you want, did you? To get the revenge you deserve. To prevent them—or anyone for that matter—from doing to someone else what they’ve done to you and your family. You still have time to walk away if you’re not ready for this.”

Ellie took a long drink to resolve herself. “I said whatever it takes.”

“Good.” The Scientist smiled. “Then how do you feel about losing your job?”

Ellie had to think some more at that point. The Scientist knew it. That was the ultimate test of a worker’s commitment to the revolution, the threat of losing their livelihood. She liked to believe that she knew exactly what was going through Ellie’s mind at that moment. Ellie would be wondering how she would eat without her job, where she would live. Once a person got fired from a pity position they never got hired by anyone ever again. By that time they were too old, not valuable enough, their model was dated. But then she would remember why it was that she had come to this meeting in the first place, what she wanted. She’d remember the day they told her that her son had been killed. How they had waited until the shift was over when the accident had happened in the morning, and all because they didn’t want to risk losing productivity. How they had given her two days off then sent her to QA to do robot’s work. Then she’d remember her son, and the days her stomach roared with hunger because she only made enough to feed him. She’d remember all the blood, sweat, tears, and love she had invested in him, that she has nothing left to lose, that she had already lost everything a long time ago. And then she’d answer, imagining all the people who could lose everything just like her, lose everything for the same reasons, lose everything to the same people, and she’d know that they’re people she could help.

“Anything,” Ellie said.

“Good.” The Scientist smiled. “Very good. Well, dear. This is what you do.”

#     #     #

< VI. Officer Pardy     [Table of Contents]     VIII. Haley >

That’s all for chapter seven. I hope you enjoyed it. Come back next week to continue Haley’s–and the entire Infinite Limits universe’s–story, or click through here to order the full novel on Amazon.

Thanks again for all your support already. Have a great weekend.

My Very First “Fan” Art

Yesterday I was presented with my very first piece of “fan” art. I keep putting “fan” in quotations, though, because I want to be realistic. The person who made the art didn’t do it because they were a fan of my writing. I don’t think they’ve even had enough time to read the entire novel, to be honest.

No, I’m sure they did it because the “p” in “Asymptote” was poorly aligned with the sky on my version of the cover–as I’ve said before and will say again, I’m no artist, sorry for that, hopefully the writing’s better to make up for it–but still, I appreciate this artist’s effort, and I’m going to present the result here as “fan” art from someone who may become a full blown fan–no quotes–some day.

After all that, here’s a link to the thread where the artist showed me their work, here’s a link to the entire post that got that conversation started, and here’s the art in question (you can click on it to see a bigger version):

The Asymptote's Tail Cover Fan Version

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Happy Tuesday, everyone. And come back again soon now, ya hear.

Ellie McCannik

Ellie lives in Outland 5. She used to slip, snap, click but now she works in QA. She sits behind a conveyor belt, watching a screen until a word pops up, then ensures that whatever goes down the belt matches the word on the screen. This is a terribly boring job and the entire time she’s there she imagines drinking at her bar.

Here’s an illustration of her at her favorite place. It’s not my best but I do spend more time writing and editing than I do drawing so what else can you expect? Enjoy nonetheless.

Ellie McCannik

Mr. Kitty

Mr. Kitty is the POV character from Outland 4. His best friend, Tillie Manager, used to live in the same house as him but now it’s just Mr. Kitty and Tillie’s dad, the most boring human Mr. Kitty knows–he spends all his time working behind the computer or watching football on the TV. But Tillie should be visiting for Christmas break soon and Mr. Kitty will be anything but bored when she does.

Here’s Mr. Kitty after rubbing his face on the sink, asking for a drink.:

Mr. Kitty

The Scientist

The Scientist is the POV character from Outland 4. She invented the technology which the owners use to bend space. She discovered how elevators paired with space bending technology could replace cars. She created the first fully customizable android which was indistinguishable from humans. And each time she did Lord Walker took the invention from her and used it for himself. When the third theft finally broke her the Scientist set to destroying the system which propped Lord Walker up.

She may look a little despondent in this illustration, but that’s because she’s been working for as long as she can remember and there’s no end in sight.

The Scientist