Fiction logo

Protocol 64-54

A Mystery Box Challenge Submission.

By Dr. Constance QuigleyPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 9 min read

“Front door alert.” The melodic voice calmly announced as Julianna stirred in her bed. Her stark black hair was a bold contrast to the bright white farmhouse comforter set that seemed to envelop her. She lifted her left wrist bringing her smartwatch screen into view. 3:14 am. Julianna snuggled back into the warmth of her blankets, refusing to rise early on a Sunday. She made a mental note that she would need to have Alice serviced on Monday. She would set a reminder when she awoke.

Her bedroom door opened, “Julianna, Front door. You have a package.” Alice walked into the room, her steps still offering a jarring action that distinguished her as non-organic. However, beyond the mechanical movements and glow of her green eyes the red-haired, fair skin woman looking at her, was very much human visually.

“Alice,” Julianna began exasperatedly, “It is Sunday. It is 3 am on a Sunday. Schedule yourself for a maintenance check-up and go back to bed.” Dramatically Julianna tossed her comforter over her head and snuggled back into the bed closing her eyes.

“Very well. I have scheduled the appointment for maintenance. I must arrive at …” Alice continued to inform Juliana of the successful appointment, but Juliana stopped listening.

Juliana wondered why she insisted on having the most advanced gadgets. She was growing irritated and trying desperately to ignore the droning of her robotic house companion. She was still talking! Juliana mentally admonished her robot. There was a pause in the drone and Juliana turned toward Alice slightly. There was a feeling or energy of anticipation building in the room. Juliana waited for a breath.

“Will that do?" Alice asked again.

“Sorry Alice, it is early. Repeat the question.” Juliana stated.

“Would you like me to collect the package on my way back to bed?" Alice asked.

“What package?” Juliana sat up. She felt annoyed at the realization that she was awake.

“At 3:13 am a package was delivered to the front door,” Alice responded, holding up her hands to create a holographic screen showing a package placed on the porch beside the door by some metal extension arm.

Juliana stared at the video clip and kicked her feet free of the covers. “Alice, we are not running the good morning routine. No music. No workout. Do not wake the neighbors. Do not wake the cat. Please make me tea. I think a delicious peach will do.”

Juliana slipped her feet into her pink Catnap slippers that matched the green Catnap jammies set she was wearing. She shuffled past Alice and into her ensuite bathroom asking, “Alice who was the delivery service?” still not sure how a delivery arrived at such an unreasonable hour.

“A UAV, Juliana. It was without any branding.” Alice’s hologram screen started to glow a second time, but Juliana closed the bathroom door.

After a private moment, Juliana emerged from her bedroom and bounced past Alice who was placing a tea set on the dining table. Horse, Juliana’s rotund cat was sprawled out draping himself across her dining chair, making invisible air biscuits. Juliana chortled as she turned into the entryway to get the package. The passageway light turned on to greet her, responding to movement in the hallway. “Door unlock,” Juliana said in a firm but absent-minded voice. The lock began to emit mechanical noises, and as Juliana reached for the door she was startled to find a hand already around the handle.

“Juliana my security protocols are alerting you that I am not to permit you in accessing the porch or retrieving the package.” Alice moved between the door and Juliana.

Juliana never liked it when security protocols were activated. They made her feel small and insignificant. Sometimes Juliana swore she could see dark shadows dancing in the green glow of Alice’s eyes. In those times, like now, it felt almost as if Alice were malicious. “Return to Horse and have your tea at the table. I will bring the package in.”

Juliana opened her mouth to argue but was silenced by the feeling that there would be no point. Security protocols were designed to protect the user. Juliana turned back, knowing they would protect the user, even from themselves. As Juliana reached the end of the long hallway and was greeted by the pleasant aroma of peaches, she heard the doorknob click and the door drag open. Juliana seated herself pulling Horse into her lap.

Alice closed the door behind her, and soon joined Juliana at the table. Alice was holding the package in her hands. Juliana was surprised to find that the box was smaller than she expected, roughly the size of a smartwatch box, a folding phone, or perhaps a wallet. On the package, there were no words anywhere to explain what the contents were or how they ended up being delivered to her. After watching Alice's lasers scan it while she rotated it in her hands, she moved toward her seat at the table. Alice set the perfectly sealed cardboard box down on the table nearer to her seat and sat down across from Juliana. In response, Juliana reached for the box as Alice reached for the teapot. Alice's hand shot out and blocked Juliana from reaching for the box.

Alice glared at Juliana. She moved her hand only after Juliana sat back on her seat removing her hands from the table's surface. Alice stood to pour the tea.

Juliana noticed that Alice’s eyes were dancing with greens and browns and shadows. Alice poured two glasses and offered Juliana her cup. Alice put her tea to her pink-shaded lips, her eyes focusing intently on Juliana from over the rim of the teacup. Juliana swallowed the knot building in her stomach.

She took a sip, then placed her cup in front of her. “Juliana I don't think we should open the box. My calculations suggest that there won't be a sound outcome. We should throw it away or destroy it.” Alice looked down at the box. "I am awaiting your consent to destroy the unknown package."

Juliana reached for the box a second time and this time Alice ripped it off the table and placed it in her lap. The shadows in her eyes seemed to be taking the shapes of other faces, staring directly at Juliana. Juliana rubbed her wrist, feeling that she must be trapped in some strange and elaborate dream. There was no way she actually saw faces staring at her from Alice’s eyes.

"Alice, either I am dreaming or there is something wrong,” Juliana said rubbing her arm. There is something horribly wrong with you, she added in her thoughts. Her mind was racing over ways to wake up from a strange dream or to respond to the threat of a malfunctioning housemate. She knew she should have taken the self-defense from technology course she was offered last spring.

“Juliana drink your tea.” Alice looked at her and then at Juliana's teacup.

Her eyes were drawn to Alice as she lean forward ever so slightly as Juliana lifted the cup to her lips. It was then that Juliana noticed a face in the shadow of Alice's eyes. After meeting the gaze of the intruder for the first time, Juliana screamed in fright!

“Alice, you need to run diagnostics. You have been hacked. There is something wrong with your system." Her voice was shaken and she was clearly startled as she pulled her hands away from her tea cup.

Alice stood letting the chair fall to the floor with a clamor and the suspicious package tumbled without notice under the table. Horse hissed and ran from the room. His sharp claws tore into Juliana’s leg with the force of his leap. A small red line appeared behind the chubby white anime image of Catnap her favorite cartoon character. Her finger noted the small jagged tear in her jammies left by Horse’s claws.

Julianna looked up to see four shadowed and distorted faces peering down at her from Alice’s glowing eyes. “My protocol will not permit self-diagnos… diagnosis at this time,” Alice's voice glitched and hissed as the faces smiled down at her from her robot's gaze.

Juliana’s phone started to ring. Juliana stood up as the sky outside turned brilliant orange and she heard a growing commotion outside. “I am going to answer that,” Juliana said as calmly as she was able and she stood to get her phone. Alice just watched her.

Juliana picked her phone up from the charging station on the wall beside the security system. A bright light was triggered by movement. Outside, all of her neighbors were running from their homes. “Hello,” Juliana answered her phone. The action was more habitual as the orange glow in the sky intensified, making it difficult to see people moving around in the light on her security screen.

“Say I initiate protocol 64-52, then insert the chip.” the voice on the other end stated.

“What? Who is this?” Juliana mumbled. Alice crossed the room and stood right next to Juliana. Alice took the phone. At the same moment the ground shook, and a deafening rumble shook the house and walls. The screaming of her neighbors filled Juliana’s ears.

Alice lost her grip on the phone and was knocked to the floor by the blast. The sound of Alice falling backward was loud and terrible. Juliana watched as her robot began to inhumanly crawl at an unreal speed toward her cell phone.

The ground rocked again throwing Juliana to the floor backward. Juliana watched paintings fall to the floor and debris fly overhead. She scrambled to the window and threw open the curtains. Large silver orbs and oblong shapes were floating in the sky. The skyline was on fire in oranges, reds, and yellows. It looked like the outside had turned into a fire kiln.

Alice closed the curtain. She seemed to grow in height. In her glance, she could no longer distinguish shadowed faces, just swirling shadows. Alice’s hand wrapped around Julianna’s shoulder and she leaned her face into Juliana’s.

Without thinking, Juliana whispered, “I initiate protocol 64-52.”

Upon releasing Juliana's arm, Alice's eyes turned black. In a matter of seconds, the robot's body collapsed onto the ground. Juliana jumped up and started to run for her door. She was knocked off her feet, however, by another explosion which caused her to lose her footing. The bookshelf almost fell on top of her when she slammed into the sofa. Struggling to get to her feet, Juliana saw the package sliding across the floor, so she lunged for it as fast as she could. Her attention was drawn to the fact that Alice was also thrown across the floor, and a compartment in the back of her skull was open.

Juliana secured the box. The box was made of new cardboard that was perfectly sealed and it was able to be opened easily with a simple pull mechanism. Taking hold of the white cord, she tugged it open. Inside there was a small SIM-type card and a note that read: hopefully, you will get the call in time.

In a hurry, Juliana picked up the small card from the package and crawled over to Alice. She placed the SIM-Thing into her head compartment and found that it slid perfectly into place. It took Juliana a brief moment of hesitation before she decided that she should trust her instincts and take the risk. Despite not knowing the reason for it, she trusted the caller and would follow his instruction. Taking a deep breath, Juliana pushed the compartment shut.

A blue light shone behind Alice's eyes as she blinked twice. She made several beeps and mechanical clicking noises, Alice began to sit up. Alice began making changes to her operational systems. A jagged blade flashed out from beneath her normally beautiful arms with fair skin and freckles. With the change of her left arm, she now had a computer screen and a communications center built into the arm. From behind her ears, two antennas rose through her red curls. She tore off her dress to reveal a technology-based armor built into her entire frame.

Slowly, Juliana crawled backward. As if straight from a video game, Alice looked like a destroyer robot. In the blink of an eye, Alice turned her gaze to Juliana. Then she headed for the wall with the security system screen. She typed in a code and said, "Protocol 64-52 is initiated.” The wall opened revealing a staircase that seemed to descend into darkness. On the wall was a set of military-issued bags and a cat kennel.

After walking over to Julianna's side, Alice placed the cat kennel and a green military bag at her feet. We are running late, so grab Horse, and running shoes, and hurry. You have initiated protocols for Phase One of Operation Delta. As your guardian, I am responsible for ensuring your survival. Earth has been invaded and the invaders intend to annihilate all life on Planet Earth.”

Juliana looked down at her fuzzy jammies and back up at Alice who was stepping into a grey canvas jumpsuit. “Alice,” Juliana whimpered, “What is going to happen now?”

Alice smiled, pulling her hair back into a ponytail. “You are going to live.”

Sci FiShort StoryMystery

About the Creator

Dr. Constance Quigley

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

No Advice Given. Constance Quigley, DM-OL, owns all work contained here. The work is fictional and is not based on fact.

Enjoyed the story?
Support the Creator.

Subscribe for free to receive all their stories in your feed. You could also pledge your support or give them a one-off tip, letting them know you appreciate their work.

Subscribe For FreePledge Your Support

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

Add your insights

Comments (4)

  • Rick Henry Christopher 2 years ago

    Very well written. I enjoyed this story. Great job. Please join us at Vocal + Assist on Facebook.

  • Excellent take on the challenge, thank you for your comment on mine. Welcome to Vocal and if you are on Facebook please join us in Vocal+Assist. YOu also got a subscription from me

  • Dawn Salois2 years ago

    This is an awesome story! I loved your sci-fi take on the challenge.

  • Kaliyah Myers2 years ago

    This was a very compelling and poignant story! I really enjoyed reading it! I wish you the best of luck with the challenge! :)

Dr. Constance QuigleyWritten by Dr. Constance Quigley

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.