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Thread: Equivalence

  1. #1
    Registered User RMDuChene's Avatar
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    Equivalence

    Johnny Ray pulled his bare feet up off the floor just as the large gray rat scurried past. The small beast moved quickly, sniffing the damp concrete as it went. It completed its search of Johnny’s cell and then, when no crumbs of bread could be found, it moved on to the next cell down the block. After the rat was gone, Johnny considered putting his feet back down to the floor again. He’d been sitting still, staring at the bars and listening for the rattle of keys when the rat made its routine appearance. Why bother? He thought. No sense being all anxious and ****. They’ll come get me when they’re ready.

    He stretched out on the cot, pulled the itchy wool blanket up to his shoulders and closed his eyes, knowing that sleep wasn’t a possibility – not today. Where did it all go wrong? He thought. His eyes… it all started with that bright reflection, like a camera flash in Gable’s eyes. That’s when the **** hit the fan.

    Thinking of Gable made him think about Lucy – Lucy; who never wanted to go along with his and Gable’s plans, but didn’t want to abandon him – Lucy, who was shot in the back– Lucy, who married him even after her father said that he was no damned good.

    “That man is going to lead you to bad times,” her father told her. A tear escaped Johnny’s eye at the memory of how she had argued with her father, stood up for him. In the end, her father was right. The bad times came, and came, and came. But, they were over now…at least for her. At least the old bastard wasn’t at the trial, Johnny thought. I don’t think I could’ve handled him staring a hole into the back of my head. He knew that Lucy’s father had every right to hate him. Johnny didn’t begrudge him on that account. Hell, I hate myself for that one. I’m so sorry, baby-love. What was that flash in Gable’s eyes?

    The break-in went clockwork smooth. All of the right codes were entered into the system before they arrived at the Xerdrones’ main office. Lucy kept a lookout from the server-room door while Johnny and Gable planted the explosives inside the front sliding panel of the main server, what Johnny thought of as the Xerdrones’ brain. Johnny checked his watch.

    “We have three minutes.” Johnny said. He quickly began to set-up the charge for the explosives, sliding two long metal posts into the putty-like substance. The posts had wires poking out of small holes at the top. He pulled the wires taut and held out his hand for the wireless transmitter. Nothing happened. “Gable, the transmitter,” he said, barely above a whisper. Nothing appeared. “Dammit Gable, we don’t have time for this ****.” He turned. Gable was staring back at him, expressionless. “Gable…” That’s when he saw the flash in Gable’s eyes. He looked to the door, expecting to see Xerdrone troopers blocking the way with bright lights and weapons in their outstretched metal hands, but it was just Lucy, looking in at the two men nervously.

    Johnny checked his watch – less than a minute to go. If they didn’t make it, they may as well just pack up and leave. Once the law is signed, it will be too late – for him, for everyone. He grabbed the small black bag from the floor at Gable’s feet and searched it for the transmitter. The longer his hands dug around inside the bag, the more confused his expression became.

    “Where is it?” he said. He turned the bag upside down and shook it, dumping its contents onto the floor. “Where the hell is it?” He looked at Gable. “Gable?”

    There was only one shot fired, the one that ended his marriage and stole his wife’s future. She fell inside the server-room, landing on her back. Where she’d been standing a second before, a Xerdrone guard stood pointing its weapon at him. Johnny stared down at his wife’s motionless face. I’m so sorry, Baby.

    “Lie on the ground and put your hands palm-down in front of you,” the Xerdrone commanded.

    Outside, a roar went up that seemed to shake the city walls. The law’s signed, Johnny thought. It’s too late. The Xerdrone repeated its command for Johnny to lie down. Johnny looked up from Lucy’s face at one that was brightly polished steel, perfectly smooth like an egg, but with a rectangular opening across the top where two glowing white dots flickered in an ocean of black.

    “You killed my wife,” Johnny said.

    “The woman was carrying a weapon and in the process of committing a felony,” the Xerdrone said in the same, synthetic voice that they all shared. “Deadly force was authorized.”

    Johnny lost it. He charged the Xerdrone and closed the distance between them before it could fully raise its weapon. He slammed into the robot and drove it against the wall in the outer hallway. The impact snapped the Xerdrone’s leg off just below the knee and when it struck the wall, it went head first. The top part of the Xerdrone’s head collapsed inward and threw out showers of sparks. It fell to the floor and Johnny was on top of it, raising its head with his hands and slamming it against the floor, over and over, as hard as he could.

    “Johnny,” Gable said from behind him. Johnny glanced behind him. Gable brought the butt of the Xerdrone weapon down and slammed it against the side of Johnny’s head. The lights went out for Johnny Ray.

    ***

    They were coming. Johnny could hear the jingling of the guard’s keys coming up the block. He opened his eyes, sat up on his cot, and took one last look around his cell. After four weeks, the cell became his home, a place of refuge – a sanctuary where he could escape the chattering of idiots who thought that they knew everything. Will he be freed or condemned? It doesn’t matter much, he thought. Either way, I’m not coming back here.

    When the guard reached the front of his cell, Johnny was waiting for him by the door.

    “The jury’s reached a verdict,” the guard said. “You ready?”

    “It doesn’t matter,” Johnny said, “You’re going to take me anyway.”

    The guard unlocked the cell with one of his many keys and motioned for Johnny to step outside the heavy barred door.

    “I’m not going to cuff you unless I have to, Johnny Ray. You just keep to the yellow line and we’ll get along fine.”

    As it was during the trial, the courthouse was full for the verdict. People were squeezed in next to each other in the pews and some were even sitting on laps. The guard brought Johnny in through a side door, so he didn’t have to walk by the crowd that was gathered at the rear of the courtroom, all of those standing-room only folks. My nose thanks you sir, he thought. The courtroom fell silent when he entered. I can’t hear you, Johnny thought, but I can still smell you.

    After the collapse of the capitalist economy during the Xerdrone war, society decided that a resource-based system was the answer. What they didn't count on is how much people like to be rewarded for their work, Johnny thought. Just as he figured it would, the wheels of progress slowed to a halt and bartering became the new way of doing business. I’ll pay you three goats for your daughter, Johnny thought, looking at the filthy faces of his peers. He had to repress a smile.

    He suspected that the resource-based economy idea wasn’t a human one. It didn’t affect the Xerdrones in the slightest. They don’t eat. Johnny hated the way that things turned out. He hated that the humans gave up and signed a treaty with those God-damned microwave ovens. He hated that the trash-compactor offspring lot of them now outnumbered humans. He hated his own brain, which kept telling him that they couldn’t be sated with mere equality – they want to dominate. Mostly though, Johnny hated his own species for signing that damn law to give the Xerdrones basic human rights, legally making them people in the eyes of the world. He tried to stop it, but he failed.

    The jury and the judge entered the courtroom at the same time. The judge climbed up and sat behind the bench and the recently washed jurors filed into the jury-box. There was a slight stirring from the crowd. They’re jealous, Johnny thought. Being selected for jury duty was based on a lottery system and everyone hoped for it. Hot food and access to soap and warm water for the length of the trial was nothing to take lightly.

    “Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict?” The judge asked.

    A tall man, wearing a suit that didn’t quite fit right stood and cleared his throat.

    “Yes, your honor.”

    “And is the decision unanimous?”

    “Yes, your honor.”

    “Please read the verdict.”

    Johnny’s heart began to race inside his chest as the jury foreman unfolded a large sheet of white, recycled paper.

    “We the jury, find that, in the case of the wrongful death of Mrs. Lucille Ray, the accused is guilty as charged.”

    There was no stir from the crowd, no sudden gasps. Even Johnny knew what the first verdict would be. It was set in stone the second that Lucy died while they were committing a felony. It was the second verdict that everyone was waiting for – the one that would set a precedent for all time.

    “And the second charge?” The judge asked.

    The jury foreman cleared his throat again and quickly glanced in Johnny’s direction before turning his eyes back to the historically significant scrap of paper.

    “In the case of the destruction of the Xerdrone, Spock Bradbury; we the jury find that the defendant did willfully and without regard for the law, deprive Mr. Bradbury of his right to live as defined in the Xerdrone equal rights bill. Therefore, we find that the defendant is guilty of murder in the second degree.”

    Every person in the courtroom gasped – everyone except for Johnny. He was afraid of what the verdict would be, but once it was read out loud, he found that he preferred it that way. Better to die or be locked away than to exist out there in the messed-up world, he thought.

    “Quiet down,” the judge said, banging his gavel. The courtroom fell silent. “Is there any more?”

    “Yes, your honor,” the Foreman said. “Due to the special circumstances involved in this case. We also feel that the charge should be elevated in the eyes of the court to murder in the first degree.”

    Johnny leaned back in his chair and held his hands in his face. Well, Lucy, he thought, I guess I’ll be seeing you sooner than I expected.

    “Very well,” the judge said. “The jury is excused.” The foreman nodded and then sat back down in his chair. “Mr. Ray.”

    Johnny stood up; feeling like a tremendous weight was bearing down on his shoulders.

    “Your honor,” he said.

    “Do you understand the verdict?”

    “Yes.”

    “Is there anything you wish to say before sentencing?”

    There was, but not to the judge. Johnny turned around and faced the people in the court-room. The eyes staring back at him told him everything that he needed to know – there was no condemnation there, only pity.

    “All I have to say is this,” he began. “Johnny Ray. Remember my name. Remember it because you will find that my name is the start of your end. I tried to save you, but you don’t want to be saved. You’re children – a bunch of frightened children, hiding behind the Xerdrones like you think that they’ll protect you. Protect you from what, them? You have no idea what’s coming. Don’t look at me with those pitying eyes. I don’t need your pity. I pity you.

    He faced the judge again and nodded to signal that he was finished talking. The judge nodded in return.

    “Johnny Lee Ray, you have been found guilty of Murder in the second degree by a jury of your peers. I’ve considered the circumstances of the crime and agree with the jury. You are guilty of first degree murder in the eyes of the law. Because of the provisions outlined in the Xerdrone equal rights act, I must now hand you over to the Xerdrone nation for disposal. May God have mercy on your soul.”

    “Who’s God, your honor,” Johnny asked, “ours or theirs?”

    The judge banged his gavel and the door next to the jury box opened. Two Xerdrone sentries entered the courtroom.

    “There is only one God,” the judge replied and for just an instant, a fraction of a second, Johnny saw a white flash in the judge’s eyes.

    “You’re one of them,” Johnny said. The Xerdrone guards appeared on either side of him. They grabbed each of his arms with their cold metal hands and began to lead him from the courtroom. By the time that they were halfway to the door, they had to drag him.

    “He’s one of them!” Johnny yelled. “Can’t you people see it? They’re taking over!”

    The people stared in silence as the Xerdrones pulled Johnny Lee Ray from the courtroom.

    ***

    Gable Clarke finished putting the final touches on the new neuro-chip that he was working on. The project took him almost a year to complete and would revolutionize the future of human-Xerdrone co-existence. He slid the chip into the black box on his desk. A small, white light appeared at the top-center of the cube.

    “Hi, Gable,” the cube said.

    “Hi, Vader,” Gable replied, smiling.

    “Am I alive yet?” The cube asked.

    “Not quite,” Gable said. “You still need a body.” He rubbed the pad of his index finger on the side of the cube and the chip slid out. Finished, he thought. Just in time for the first anniversary celebration. He was picking up chatter in his head and knew that the Xerdrone leadership was very pleased. He grabbed the chip, turned around in his swivel chair and held it out to his assistant.

    “Take Vader down to the implant station,” he said. “He’s ready for a body.”

    Johnny smiled and his eyes emitted a small flash of light.

    “Thank God,” he said.

  2. #2
    The Wolf of Larsen WolfLarsen's Avatar
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    You know, this is good writing. However, conventional writing doesn't hold my attention anymore unless the story is VERY compelling. There's simply just too much conventional writing. I didn't finish it. Sorry.

    Nothing personal. This is not the only short story I did not finish today, and I've made much the same comment on the writing of others.

    Somebody named "Free" posted the most interesting story I've seen so far today. It got really unique really quick. I like that.
    "...the ramblings of a narcissistic, self-obsessed, deranged mind."
    My poetry & other stuff on Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr...or=Wolf Larsen

  3. #3
    Registered User RMDuChene's Avatar
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    Hi WolfLarson,

    Wow! I've never had my writing described as conventional before. Thank you for your feedback.

  4. #4
    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RMDuChene View Post
    Hi WolfLarson,

    Wow! I've never had my writing described as conventional before. Thank you for your feedback.
    "Conventional" is, of course, relative.

    http://www.online-literature.com/for...8-Or-A-n-amp-b
    You must be the change you wish to see in the world. -- Mahatma Gandhi

  5. #5
    Registered User RMDuChene's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calidore View Post
    "Conventional" is, of course, relative.

    http://www.online-literature.com/for...8-Or-A-n-amp-b
    Gotcha

  6. #6
    Inexplicably Undiscovered
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    Unlike other stories I've read on the NitLet, this one begins right out of the gate. It seems creepy to say this, but you had me at the rat.

    Lucy, who was shot in the back– Lucy, who married him even after her father said that he was no damned good.
    The order of events seem reversed here, no?

    Johnny Ray. Remember my name
    As a matter of fact, I already do! Along with Marilyn Monroe, Johnny Ray was one of the stars of There's No Business Like Show Business. He had some huge pop hits with "Cry," "walking My Baby Back Home," and "The Little White Cloud That Cried." But I'm willing to bet that you're quite a bit younger than I and never heard of him. I do empathize with the difficulty in choosing characters' names. Either they're really common and mundane, or head-scratchingly bizarre. Some really strange names entered the Zeitgeist when Soap Operas ruled. "Gable"(as in Clark) is a nice one-- neither bogged down with familiarity nor randomly snatched out of the air.

    The only other criticism I have is that it can be shortened in spots, especially the courtroom scene. Most of the dialogue we've seen and heard hundreds of times already--every night as a matter of fact, for those obsessed with the many variations and repeated eps of the Law & Order show. On the other hand, we could use a little more elaboration on the Xerdrone, although I guess it's some kind of Robocop.

    I've read many of your postings. I'd say this one is one of your better efforts so far.

    Auntie
    Last edited by AuntShecky; 06-07-2014 at 06:33 PM.

  7. #7
    Registered User 108 fountains's Avatar
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    Interesting how different people respond differently to your stories. I found this one entertaining, but lacking the intensity of your earlier, shorter postings. Possibly it is owing only to my likes and dislikes. I'm really attracted to the horror genre (and really enjoy the sort of combination Edgar Allen Poe/Twilight Zone feel of your short, short stories), but I can't get very excited about the future/fantasy/we'll all be taken over by robots genre. Too many stories out there with the same idea.

    I do think the idea of a future society grappling over robot/android/human rights is an interesting theme, but it has been done already, and done superbly, in "The Measure of a Man" episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Your story's plot is much different, of course, but I couldn't help make comparisons.

    I"m looking forward to more of your stories. You have a unique style that I think will keep us all reading.
    A just conception of life is too large a thing to grasp during the short interval of passing through it.
    Thomas Hardy

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