One Good Reason
A “My Life as a Teenage Robot” Fanfic
Chapter Eight Freudian Trip
A swarm of Skyway Patrol aircars circled frantically around the massive Cluster starship, as it edged closer to the shores of Australia. They were trying in vain to slow down the juggernaut that was about to lay waste to the city. The curved hull of the gargantuan, insect-shaped vessel bristled with hundreds of lasers and particle beam weapons, forcing Skyway Patrol pilots to keep their distance. Military jets screamed in from the north, unleashing a barrage of air-to-air missiles at the starship. Only a fraction successfully hit their targets, and even then, the ship’s hull was protected by heavy armor. The Cluster was going to be within firing range of Sydney within minutes, and Skyway Patrol couldn’t stop it.
At least not on their own. Jenny realized that. And she knew that even now, when her insides were being torn apart with grief, she had a responsibility to protect the millions of humans in the city below. Flying through the skies at blinding speed, she spiraled around the Cluster starship to attack it from above. She struggled to focus on the immediate danger, and tried to formulate a plan, but it was hard to think logically right now. She had to do whatever it took to stop this thing. That’s what Mom would say
Jenny didn’t want to be here. She wanted to get back to Tremorton. She had to get back to her mother. The Cluster had sneak-attacked her very own home, while she was kept busy on the other side of the world. And those monsters had just murdered her mother, live on international TV. No, she corrected herself, attacked. Not murdered. Because Mom isn’t dead. She can’t be. Please, she just can’t be
A hail of multicolored laser fire scorched the air around her, as Jenny dove towards the midsection of the starship. The searing blasts filled the air with high-frequency screeches; the heat from the lasers created miniature shock fronts, like a thousand tiny claps of thunder. She raised her arms and deployed a pair of diamond-tipped drills, which shrieked like banshees as they pierced the first layer of armor on the hull. But the only sounds she heard were in her memories
Feeling the exo-skin crawl over her body had been freaky beyond description, but now that it was on, it was amazing! She looked just like a normal teenage girl! Her mother had done an amazing job on it and all in her spare time, too!
“My dear lady,” she joked to her mother, “do you think I might sashay around town a bit?” Her mom would probably want her to take the exo-skin off again right away, so she could take notes, and measurements, and run tests
But Mrs. Wakeman’s clinical, scientific exterior melted away, and she broke into a warm motherly smile. “Oh, how can I say no to a face like that?” she laughed.
Metal bulkheads exploded into wreckage in the path of her dual power drills, as Jenny powered her way through the bowels of the ship. Pipes burst and electrical conduits exploded around her; her vision was practically blinded by clouds of oil, steam, fuel, and hydraulics. But she tapped reserves of energy and desperation she didn’t know she had, and tunneled onward towards the engineering section.
“Great,” sulked Jenny, “another night of dreamless sleep function.” Brad and Tuck had made dreaming sound so fantastic; she would’ve given anything to have a dream of her own. But her mother had been too busy, as usual. She was probably tinkering around with some useless junk in her lab.
Suddenly, Jenny was startled by a knock at her door. Her mother poked her head inside. “Are you still awake? I’ve come up with a new dream program!” She held a shiny new microchip in her hands.
Jenny was thrilled! “I don’t believe it! What about your long list of things to do?!?”
“I put this on the top of the list,” her mom said with a playful wink. She had put all of her work aside, just so that her daughter could experience a dream.
With an ear-shredding scream of ripping metal, Jenny emerged into the giant engineering section. She was immediately greeting by a frenzied volley of laser fire, as Cluster drones scrambled to defend the most sensitive parts of the mighty vessel. Jenny deployed her laser-limbs from her elbows, and started madly weaving her way through crossbeams and pillars, deeper and deeper into the ship.
The attendees of the trade show applauded with enthusiasm, as the remnants of Vexus’ robot army lay in waste on the convention floor. Her mother’s nerdy science friend, who had mocked Jenny only minutes before, was now gushing over her, imploring the doctor to build another robot for him.
“Ha! There’s no way to duplicate a robot of such superior abilities,” her mother boasted. “There is only one robot like XJ-“
Then her mom paused, and to Jenny’s amazement, she wrapped a loving arm around her waist. “I mean there’s only one daughter like Jenny.” She couldn’t believe it! She’d finally called her Jenny!
The memories were becoming almost too much to bear. Jenny ducked behind a steel bulkhead, and tried to wipe away the streams of tears flowing from her eyes. Her mother wasn’t nearly the monster that she’d seemed to be earlier that morning. Oh, she was still Mom. Still the same Mom who gave her orders, and stern lectures, and eight o’clock curfews. But hidden within that cold, unfeeling scientist, little displays of affection escaped from time to time. And her mother spent most of her spare time working on things for her. Jenny had just rediscovered how wonderful it was to hear the words thank you. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d said those words to her mother.
She remembered the last words she’d said to her this morning, however with crystal clarity.
I hate you.
Cluster fire pounded away at the steel bulkhead, disintegrating it into dust all around her. With a shrieking yell, Jenny leapt over the bulkhead, ignited her pigtail-jets, and roared towards the back of the engineering section, directly towards the massive fusion reactor that served as the ship’s main power source. She clenched her eyes shut, and fired a full blast with every laser in her body. I’ve got to end this now. I’ve got to get home to Mom before it’s too late.
Brad and Tuck clutched tightly to each other, as clouds of plaster dust drifted from the walls and the ceiling. The Cluster roach-drones were starting to pound away at the metal plating on the side of the Wakeman house; beating on it with their robotic claws, and cutting away at it with brilliant ruby beams of laser energy from their antennae. It wouldn’t be long now before the robots broke through, and once they did, they’d overrun the house in seconds.
“Mrs. Wakeman, you’ve got to do something now!” shouted Brad. “We don’t have any time left, and if Jenny doesn’t get here soon, then we’re all gonna be Cluster Chow!”
She wrestled with the last of her many improvised electronic connections. “That should do it! Bradley, toss the red switch, and we should have full power to the transmitter!”
Brad grabbed a large plastic box in the middle of the living room. It had thick black electrical wires running to the doctor’s desktop monitor, and another set running downstairs to her experimental reactor in the basement. With the extra power from the reactor, Mrs. Wakeman would be able to overpower the Cluster jamming signal that blanketed the house, and get a distress call off to Jenny. She was their only hope now. Brad tossed the red knife switch
And Mrs. Wakeman’s desktop monitor burst into flames. The basement reactor was providing far more power than the circuits in the monitor were designed to handle. After a few seconds of panic, the doctor found a fire extinguisher, and snuffed out the flames. The smoke cleared, leaving a semi-melted heap of plastic slag gurgling on her desk.
“Oh my,” she gulped. “This is not a favorable development.”
“Uh guys?” Tuck’s trembling voice called them over to the window. “I’ve got more bad news.”
He pointed outside, where Drew’s silver-green form was calmly walking up to the line of Cluster roach-drones attacking the house. His face was empty of all emotion, and a dull red glow was emanating from his eyes. He lifted his arms in front of him, in an aggressive stance, and his hands started to warble with ripples of silver-green.
“The Cluster has assimilated him,” Mrs. Wakeman said, with genuine sorrow. “He’s lost to us. And I’m afraid that we’ll be lost ourselves in another minute or two.”
Brad gazed out the window in disbelief. He tried to make eye contact with Drew with his friend. But his face registered no reaction nothing to suggest that he recognized Brad in any way. There was just the soft, reddish glow of his eyes.
And then that glow started to flicker a little bit.
An infinite blackness stretched off in every direction, devoid of form or dimension. The only features visible were a background of thin, zigzagging green stripes that surrounded him on all sides. Drew looked around, feeling a bit disoriented, unsure of just what was going on. He watched pulses of green-tinted energy race along the circuit paths, speeding from one end of the universe to the other and back again. It was all strangely calm, and even beautiful, in a haunting way. It felt, for lack of a better word, comfortable. He clasped his hands behind his back, and relaxed
And then an ominous reddish glow built up in front of him. He took a few cautious steps backward as a terrible crimson light grew in intensity, and began to coalesce into a solid figure. Evil cackles of laughter echoed through the blackness, and a tall, wasp-shaped robot took shape, towering over him with her arms raised high in triumph. A savage grin stared down at him from a wide, cruel face.
“Hello there, DRU-1,” she said. “I must admit, this is definitely one of the more unusual computer minds I’ve ever been in. So random, so chaotic, so disorganized but don’t worry. I’ll have that taken care of in no time at all.”
‘V-V-Vexus?” stammered Drew. “No no, this can’t be happening! This has got to be another nightmare!” Except this time it wasn’t just her voice now she was here in person.
“Oh, it’s not a nightmare this time,” said Brad.
Drew’s head spun around. “BRAD?!? What the how the what the heck are you doing here!?!?”
Brad leaned back in an invisible chair, clasping his hands behind his head. “Hey, buddy, you’ve got more important things to worry about right now than what I’m doing here. Like the evil robot tyrant that’s trying to take over your mind.”
“Yeah, I’d definitely worry more about her if I were you.” Now all of the sudden, Jenny was here too. “Of course, you shouldn’t have been stupid enough to let her shoot you with that dart in the first place. I mean, come on, what was with that lame con-man routine you just pulled?” She rolled her eyes sarcastically. “That sure worked great, didn’t it? I’ll have to try that one sometime. Not!“
Vexus was almost as bewildered as Drew was. “What the devil is going on in here? I’ve never seen such a dysfunctional mind before. Oh, believe me, when I erase your personality, I’ll be doing you a favor.”
Bolts of energy crackled from her long, majestic antennae, and the orb above her head glowed a soft orange. The jagged circuit patterns in the universe started to change color, from calm, phosphorescent green to an angry blood-red. The change was localized to the space around Vexus for now but the redness was spreading, in an expanding sphere of Cluster infection.
“This is crazy. I must be going nuts,” Drew sputtered, as he watched the approaching circle of glowing crimson stripes. “This has got to be all in my mind.”
“Bingo!” said a familiar voice. “Finally figured it out, eh, Einstein?”
Suddenly standing next to Drew was himself. Or a copy of himself, as he used to look, back when he was still human: unkempt blond hair, untucked baseball jersey, slouching with his hands in the pockets of his baggy jeans. He stared, stunned, as his human double casually rocked back and forth on his heels.
“Just like you said we’re inside your mind, genius,” Old-Drew explained. “Well, at least until the Cluster turns you into a drooling robo-zombie in another microsecond or so. And Brad, Jenny and I are .. oh, whaddaya call them ‘manifestations of your subconscious’ or something like that. Heck, I don’t know, I’m not a psychiatrist! Anyways, see those green circuit patterns turning red? That’s your brain being sucked into the Cluster hive-mind. Personally, I think the Cluster is getting the short end of the stick on this deal.”
Drew was getting agitated now. “Look, would you all just shut up already! It’s bad enough I’m about to be turned into a mindless Cluster slave. Do I have to listen to you guys dump on me while I’m being turned into a mindless Cluster slave?!?”
Vexus rolled her eyes with aggravation. “Yes, will you all just SHUT UP?!? All this yammering is starting to give me a headache!” Pulses of crimson-red Cluster programming kept radiating away from her, turning even more of the universe blood-red.
“Well, assuming you don’t want to join the Cluster, why don’t you do something about it?” asked Brad.
“Why don’t you just make her stop?” asked Jenny.
Drew flung his arms in exasperation. “Oh, well, of course just make her stop! Excuse me? Mrs. Evil Robot Queen? Could you please stop absorbing my brain now? Thank you!”
Old-Drew shook his head in disgust. “You’re wasting your time, guys. He’ll never actually do anything to defend himself. He’s never stood up for himself a day in his life. You know, he’s probably enjoying this. Yet another chance to be the tragic victim!” The human copy clasped his hands against his cheeks, mocking Drew to his face. “Oh, look at me, I’m suffering! I’m being picked on! Feel sorry for me! Boo, hoo, hoo!”
Burning with anger, Drew roughly shoved him in the chest. “Look, loudmouth, this is different. Look at that!” He pointed to the towering figure of Vexus, and the approaching tendrils of red Cluster circuitry. His mind was aflame with the Cluster infection, sizzling and crackling like a forest fire. “She controls millions and billions of robots across the galaxy! She conquers planets and rules over an empire! How in the world am I supposed to stand up to that?!?”
“How will you know unless you try?” asked Brad.
“You don’t have anything to lose,” added Jenny.
Old-Drew crossed his arms, with a cocky smile. “Oh, he’s not afraid that he’s going to lose. He’s afraid that he’s going to win.”
That stunned Drew for a moment. “What the that’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard!”
“Oh, no it’s not and you know it.” Old-Drew stepped forward, until his pink, flesh-covered face was mere inches from Drew’s shiny metallic nose. “You see, guys, he’s afraid that he actually does have the power to beat these Cluster robots. Ever since he got turned from a human into an android, he’s realized that this nanobot body is something unique. Something special. Something capable of doing amazing things. And that just terrifies him. Because if it’s true, then it means that he doesn’t have any more excuses for being such a total nothing.”
Drew was grinding his teeth in rage, but Old-Drew just smirked arrogantly. He reached down and pulled up his right pant leg, revealing the old metal-and-plastic artificial limb. “You actually miss it, don’t you? Sure you do. Aw poor Drew, what a tough break, isn’t it a shame. Life is tough enough as it is; you can’t expect a guy to deal with losing a leg on top of everything else, right? That’s okay, nobody really expected you to overcome it. It was just too hard. And that was such a warm, comfortable feeling, wasn’t it? Low expectations. No responsibilities. Nobody expects anything from you you certainly don’t.”
Drew’s silver shoulders started to shake, and a tear ran down his metallic cheek. “I just can’t do this,” he whimpered. “This should have happened to somebody else somebody better than me.”
“Maybe so, but it didn’t.” Old-Drew put a hand on his shoulder, and looked him in the eye with a pained, sympathetic face. “Remember all those nights you couldn’t sleep, and you’d just sit up in bed and stare at the leg? Just thinking of the amazing future that had been stolen from you? Well maybe just maybe here’s where you get it back.”
“ENOUGH!!!” Vexus’ booming voice blasted his ears. “No wonder this mind is such as mess! You used to be human!?! HUMAN?!? Disgusting! Revolting! That a filthy primate should be given the gift of being a robot! Yechh, I’m going to take a nice hot oil bath once I’m finished in here, to wash off the stench of human thoughts. Now just relax, DRU-1, and welcome the embrace of the Cluster!”
The crimson-red Cluster infestation covered over three-quarters of Drew’s mind, and it was starting to close in on him. Drew took a few staggering steps backwards, edging away from the red circuitry that was snaking its way towards him. “Wh-wh-what am I supposed to do?”
“Fight back!” shouted Brad, punching the air with a fist. “Drew, I’ve seen you do some pretty freaky, amazing things with those nanobots of yours. Use your imagination!”
“But Vexus is in control in my mind!” he protested.
“Not all of it, or else we wouldn’t be here talking,” said Jenny. “Come on, you’ve got billions of little molecular computers floating around inside of you. Use them!”
“But what if I lose control of the nanobots, like in my nightmare?”
“I’d say you’re pretty close to losing control of them anyway,” said Jenny, gesturing towards Vexus.
Red circuit-paths closed in on Drew from all sides; his mind was almost totally overrun with the Cluster infection now. He hopped back from a threatening piece of Cluster code, but he was running out of places to go. Brad and Jenny stared at him sadly, their faces silently imploring him just do something; then they were swallowed up by the corrupted circuitry. Old-Drew glanced down at the red stripes that were coiling around his feet, like angry jungle vines.
“I guess you really won’t do anything to stand up for yourself,” he sighed, his human face showing disappointment. “Typical. And selfish. Because there’s one little thing you’re forgetting.”
He looked Drew in the eyes, as the Cluster circuitry wrapped around his body. “You’re forgetting that somebody else might need you to stand up for them.”
“Somebody else? What are you talking about?”
“Almost finished,” gloated Vexus. The orb between her antennae glowed like miniature sun. “The technology in this body will serve me well. Once we’re rid of all the clutter in here, you will never have to question your purpose in life again. You will exist to obey me. Perhaps I’ll find a way to integrate some of these nanobots into XJ-9’s systems “
Drew’s head snapped up. “Jenny? What about Jenny?”
Vexus laughed, as the crimson-red circuitry started to creep up Drew’s legs. “She’s what I’m really here for, darling. Oh, you’re an interesting little trinket, but Jennifer will be my trophy catch. Once you help me capture the infernal doctor, and those other little mammals that she calls friends, I’ll have her just where I want her. She’ll be joining us in the Cluster soon enough “
Jenny? Brad? The doc, and Tuck? All captured because of me?
Drew’s shoulders heaved, and his eyes squinted with intense concentration. He started to shiver violently from the strain. The jagged green stripes on his body glowed softly, then began pulsing with flecks of rapidly flowing energy. An electronic hum-whine emanated from his body, increasing in pitch and volume. The crimson circuitry that had cocooned his lower body stopped growing. And then, to Vexus’ astonishment, it reverted to its natural green color. The Cluster infection was being pushed back.
She increased the power from her control-orb, trying to tighten her grip on Drew’s mind. But now the countless tiny computers in his body took on the role of virtual white blood cells. All around Vexus, in the glowing crimson-red universe of Cluster circuitry, pinpricks of green appeared and expanded. First two then twelve then sixty then eight thousand. The super-adaptive nanobots were repairing and restoring his mind with amazing speed. They were coordinating their activities to repel the invading code, and identified the source of the Cluster infestation Queen Vexus.
Vexus was being pecked at from all sides by billions of nano-computers. She growled furiously and redoubled her control signal, convinced that no robot in existence could actually reject her. She loomed like a giant inside Drew’s mind but the universe had been fully restored to its original, pristine condition, and now it was she who was being attacked, by countless streams of glowing green circuitry. A million green ribbons shot out and wrapped around her legs. Another million wrapped around her arms. The green circuitry flowed up her neck and over her face, and just before she was completely pushed out of his mind, she had time to shout “This is impossible!”
The roach-drones blasted away at the metal plating with white-hot cutting beams. They were now only seconds away from breaking through the shielding that protected the Wakeman home, and its occupants, from capture by the Cluster. Drew took his place between two drones, and raised his arms in an aggressive stance. His hands started to warble with ripples of silver-green; then they began to grow.
His forearms lengthened and thinned out, stretching until they had been converted into eight-foot long machetes. The nanobots gave him incredibly precise shape-shifting abilities; the machetes were without any structural flaw, and had edges only a few atoms thick. They were formidable weapons. Drew raised his machete-arms, preparing to finish off the metal shielding.
He swung his arms in a pair of lightning-fast arcs but not towards the house. Two silver-green blades swished through the air schwick, schwick.
The roach-drones abruptly stopped their attack. They weren’t even sure that something had happened; then with two loud cracks, their bodies started to split apart. Each Cluster drone had a perfect horizontal slice through its torso. They shivered with spasms of short-circuits and frantically waved their arms in the air then the tops of their bodies simply slid off, metal grinding on metal, and fell onto the front lawn, squirting jets of oil over the ground.
Vexus raised a hand to her head, as if she had a mild headache, and shuddered with surprise never before had a robot rejected assimilation. She gave Drew an evil look, throwing daggers at him with her eyes. The drones stared at him, stunned that two of their brethren had fallen so suddenly. The Cluster-controlled police-bots stared at him, evaluating him as a potential hostile. The prisoners stared at him, amazed and horrified at his strangeness. And Brad, Tuck, and Mrs. Wakeman stared at him, wondering if they should dare hope that he could actually fend off so many Cluster attackers.
Drew gulped hard, tried to steady his nerves, and turned to meet Vexus’ gaze. Pulses of energy raced along the jagged stripes on his body, and his arms shimmered with tense waves of silver-green energy.
Vexus seethed with rage, and issued her robots a simple command: “Destroy that abomination.”
Continued in Chapter Nine