An anachronistic weird schlock sci-horror novella cum love letter to the 80s.
Hideyuki Motoyama works at Brainful, a computer/electronic solutions conglomerate proliferating artificial intelligence chips into the consumer and industrial markets. Brain Chips promise to liberate the average worker from the doldrums of blue collar work. But when his nephew, who works for Brainful's research department, goes missing, Motoyama must put everything on the line to find him.
©2020, Made in DNA
THE WARM weather of mid-May put Uchiyama in a good mood. He whistled as he loaded boxes onto a large cart for delivery across the factory compound.
From behind him, a man leaned out the window of the second-floor office overlooking the floor. "Hey, Uchiyama!"
Uchiyama rolled his eyes before turning around. "Sir."
He looked up at his manager, Mr. Inada. The man was excellent at his job, but he could be a real stickler for rules. A real robot; rules over efficiently and ease. "Where you going with those?"
"To the next building, Shipping."
"You're supposed to let the robot do that." The man chided him.
"Aw, Boss. It's so damn slow."
"It was just upgraded."
"The guys in Building Two complain when we send it over."
"I don't care about the guys in Building Two. Management tells me what to do, I tell you what to do, and you do it. These are things we don't question, alright? Now, save me the agony of explaining to the factory manager as to why you're not doing your job, huh?"
The young man sighed, "Yessir."
Picking up the remaining boxes, he placed them on the cart and wheeled the whole shebang toward the corner where the delivery robot was kept when it wasn't in-use.
Not much different than the cart he was pushing, the robot had a wide flatbed with caged siding, and thick, fat tires. The "head" was a combination control panel-sensor array in the shape of a cartoonish, smiling laborer. As if the looks of the damn thing wasn't enough to give Uchiyama the willies, it had really started to creep him out after they'd upgraded it over the Golden Week holidays. Damn thing acted needy, like it expected something from you. It followed himself and a few of the other workers who regularly loaded boxes for transport. He'd been ready to take a bat to it when Inada had caught sight of it wandering aimlessly, and had the sense to have it turned off when it wasn't in use. Uchiyama was alright with that.
He sighed. Long gone were the simple days the workers would just push a loaded cart of product across the factory yard. Now they had to rely on these things to do the job for them. The union had promised the robots wouldn't take any jobs from human workers, and they hadn't – yet – but Uchiyama wondered for just how long. Sure, he personally saved 15 minutes time walking between the buildings, but it wasn't something a human couldn't do, which Uchiyama thought was a far more fitting role for robots – dangerous jobs; ones wherein humans actually risked their lives. To have it hauling boxes... well, that made it nothing more than an expensive toy. If management wanted to play with toy carts, they should take up racing remote controlled cars or something. Anything other than making him fool around with this robot.
Unhinging the side, he loaded the boxes, careful to stack them so they wouldn't tip over during transport, and then hit the power button.
The eyes lit up with a blindingly bright flash as it came to life.
"I live to deliver!" It spouted in a chirpy neutered male voice.
"Yeah, yeah, shut up," Uchiyama gave one of the front tires a small kick before leaning over to program its destination. Mulling over the laminated card hanging about the neck of stupid thing's stupid grin, he checked the various routes across the factory the robot was programmed with.
"Uhhh, let's see... Building Two... Building T– Ah, here it is." He punched in the route to Building Two.
"Annnd... go." With a push of the start button the robot began to trundle off. It narrowly avoided smacking into a set of stairs and paused momentarily before heading out the large automatic doors to the grunting bellow of the driver cursing at it.
Uchiyama pinched his nose. Please, don't let the dumbass thing cause an accident.
A friendly voice chuckled. "Hey buddy, what's the matter?"
Uchiyama turned to see his friend and coworker, Gen, approaching.
Uchiyama shook his head. "Damn thing is going to take my job and ruin us all."
"Oh, don't be like that. These things are the wave of the future. You watch, by 2020, we'll all have flying cars, three-day work weeks, and robot mistresses." The affable young man smiled.
Uchiyama gave his friend a look. "By 2020, my dick will need a pacemaker. And at the rate you use yours, it's going to fall off long before then."
Throwing his arm around his friend, Gen laughed and lead him off.
UCHIYAMA SAT at the communal desk filling out paperwork when the phone rang an hour later.
"This is Factory Two, Material Supply, Uchiyama speaking."
"This is Sekimatsu over in Shipping. Where the hell are those boxes you were supposed to send over an hour ago?"
"Huh, what you mean?"
"I mean, they haven't arrived." Sekimatsu surly reply caught him off-guard.
"You gotta be kidding. I sent them over already."
"Well, we don't have them."
"So what do you want me to do?"
"They're your responsibility until they reach us, so you'd better go find them."
Uchiyama started to protest but thought better of it. Sekimatsu wasn't his superior, but he had been at the company longer, and the man could make waves for Uchiyama with his boss. "Alright, alright. I'll call you in about 15 minutes."
"Make it a quick fifteen, we're holding for you guys."
"Okay, okay," he grumbled and hung up. Uchiyama squeezed his eyes shut momentarily; he didn't need this kind of crap right now. How the hell should he know where the boxes were? One of the boneheaded new guys probably just forgot to log them in. Uchiyama was certain they were sitting on a shelf over in Shipping. Wouldn't be the first time.
"'Make it a quick fifteen'," he mocked the man under his breath as he made his way to the robot's corner. "I'll give you a 'quick fifteen'... jacka–." His jaw dropped. The robot wasn't in its storage space. He cursed realizing he should've checked to see if it had returned.
He began a desperate search of the floor, all but interrogating his coworkers over whether they had perhaps stored it in a different area (even though they weren't supposed to). No one had. Which meant his ass was on the line for it. Damnit. If anything had happened to that robot, they were going to take it out of his bonuses forever!
"Where are you, you hunk of junk..." He threw a look up to the boss' window. The man seemed busy with other work, unaware of Uchiyama's personal drama happening below. His heart raced in equal measures of indecision, panic, and desperation. He tried to calm himself, taking several deep breaths and flexing his fists. Okay, okay. It's probably just outside the door. Maybe there was a door malfunction or something. Or... and he really hoped this wasn't the case, it had probably fallen into a ditch somewhere, or one of those stupid-ass truckers ran it over again. He knew he should have delivered those boxes himself.
Walking out the building, he followed the supposed path of the robot between the blocky, industrial buildings, storage sheds, and vehicle garages. Piping snaked out their sides in fat groupings like cancerous growths stretching to infect anything within reach, running to large chemical storage tanks and 4-meter tall cooling units. Wafts of vaporizing coolant drifted across the company blacktop roadways giving them a lonely, isolated feel.
And then he saw it. Having deviated from its route, the machine had gotten itself caught in a rut alongside one of the cylinder block vehicle storage units. Its movement is erratic and choppy; Uchiyama wondered if something wasn't damaged.
"How the hell did you get over here? Stupid robot."
It made a sound as if to answer him, "Bluh bgg fuwaa…"
An explosion of sparks from the robots still-smiling face took Uchiyama by surprise. Backing away, he instinctively threw a hand up in protection. "The hell?"
With a burst of speed, the robot reversed and then sped forward slamming itself into the edge of the concrete wall. Its face cracked and splintered. Before he could do anything, it repeated this action two, three, four more times.
Uchiyama was flabbergasted as it continued, its face falling away in pieces, revealing the skeletal hardware beneath. If he didn't know better, he would swear the machine appeared to be trying to destroy itself. What's worse, the boxes in its cargo shook violently. The sight of it nearly gave Uchiyama a heart attack as the product was prone to cracks if subjected to that kind of shock.
"Shit!" Grabbed the robot through the thick mesh siding, the young man tried to put an end to the bizarre display, but it was surprisingly strong and the only thing he actually managed to do was to allow himself be jerked around by the wayward delivery bot until the foolhardy idea resulted in him being thrown to the ground.
"You son of a–" He popped up and stepped directly in front of it to reach for the power button. The robot ignored him, plowing forward, slamming into him, and rushing toward the sharp, hard edge of the building. Uchiyama screamed, holding on for dear life.
Moments before they collided with the wall in a mess of human flesh and robotic circuitry, the face exploded, launching Uchiyama away from it. Barely missing the hard concrete, he sailed backward the blackened and melted plastic caricature in his hands.
Slightly dazed, Uchiyama sat up and stared at the robot in horror as the exposed sensors and CPU began to burble and leak a strange gray-pink fluid-goo.
"What the hell?" His anger and fear overrode his commonsense. Standing, he lashed out at it, pushing it away from the wall. He cursed as his hands came back covered in the greasy goop, wiping it on his coveralls. "God. Damn. It. Yuck!"
He kicked it.
The machine gurgled in a low-pitched, super-slow articulation, "Aaaghghhhh... Ack-aaahgggh... Aaak– Ai-" It sputtered. "I li-li-li– I li-li-libv–" The voice faded to a groan. "Live..."
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme