The New Age of Man

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“Emotions for sale! Only half price today!” the street vendor shouted out to a group of passing tourists from Mars.

The busy bazaar featured all of earth’s many temptations. Aphrodisiac’s, strength enhancers, mood elevators and a host of other mind-alternating pills and injections. Then, there were the beautiful women, and men. Each one trained in the arts of love and seduction. Their section of the bazaar was always the busiest.

In 3022, there were no longer separate countries. Just huge bazaars spreading across the globe. There were no central governments. No wars. Earth’s economy depended on selling products, and entertaining visitors from throughout the solar system. All resources were communal, so there was no need to steal from one another. These survivors from generations ago lived in an orderly system that evolved out of sheer necessity. There were no murders. Kidnappings. No hostage taking incidents. No one carried weapons of any kind.

A thousand years ago philosopher’s would have referred to this New Age as “Utopia,” and they would have been dead wrong!

The New Age on Earth turned out to be a time when man lost all of his humanity. Emotions came in vials of liquid. From birth, every person was assigned a skill. It was the extent of a person’s education. How to grow food, and plants. How to mix hallucinogenic compounds. How to make textiles. Carpentry. Electronics. Technology. And dozens of others disciplines necessary to maintain life in the New Age.

Lost in the new order was a sense of self. Of being a unique being. Having independent and creative urges. A number instead of a name. No family. Just a sector where you were born and raised. Dreams only came when you ingested the right chemicals. The concept of love was watered down to doing your duty.

In this new world, a young man emerged who had natural feelings, a creative and clever mind, and a desire for adventure. He was everything a human was 1000 years ago. He was capable of love and hate, and independent thought. From a very early age, Dan (the name he called himself) realized he was a stranger among strangers. A sense of self-preservation kept him from sharing most of his thoughts.

His job as a Class One Gardener gave him a lot of time alone, tending the acres of vegetables in his lot. At certain times of the year people would appear to help with the harvest. These picking specialists were considered Class Two Gardeners. They never had to be told what to do so there were little, or no conversations when they worked. Dan would watch their expressionless faces as they worked, wondering how much brain function they still had.

During the harvest there was little for Dan to do. So he spent time walking through bazaars and around the countryside. Some days he walked for miles, tirelessly observing the world around him. It was during this slow time he discovered a cave full of history books. He marveled at the craftsmanship involved. He never saw a book before. His reading experience only extended to technical instructions on computers about soil, insects, and how much to water his charges. The books were the most exciting thing that ever happened to him. The secret stash opened up the windows of the past.

As far as he could see there were plastic crates full of books. He imagined librarians all over the world assembling the massive collection for future generations. It was an awesome thought.

The cave was well concealed, and it was just an accident that he initially discovered it. He was examining a thicket of bushes and the dark berries on them when he noticed the cave set back against the mountainside. Being adventuresome and curious he fought his way through the thicket until he came to the cave’s entrance. The rest was history.

After three years, Dan discovered what happening to humans. There was a war in 2022, and mankind lost! He read the last volumes prior to the war, and up to humanity’s final defeat with a sense of horror. At that moment he never felt more alone in his life.

Mankind’s last stand came against the forces of three planets; Mars, Venus, and Saturn. Because the governments on earth never united against the threat they were defeated, despite putting up desperate defenses. The conquerors killed off most of the humans on earth and rounded up the rest so they could be programmed and bred to be mindless slaves. The breeding program went on for decades as the aliens played with the humans DNA. The only reason this knowledge was preserved was because of a small group of humans who avoided being killed or taken away during those dark times. They lived off the land and spent most of their days documenting mankind’s struggles.

Dan never found their bodies, and often wondered what happened to those last survivors and chroniclers of humanity’s fate. Their last volumes were written by hand on crude paper. They were unbound, unlike the thousands of beautifully made books by numerous cultures that populated the rest of the hoard of crates.

More years passed as Dan continued to spend his every spare moment in the cave, reading books with a flashlight. Then a growing malaise took over him. He realized he was probably the last free-thinking human on the planet. He didn’t understand why he, unlike everyone else, was so different. How had he escaped being a mindless zombie with one mission in life? He knew a little about genetics, but not nearly enough to come up with a scientific reason for his independence. He certainly had no recollection of being a child, only a time when he was being trained and taught certain skills. He reasoned it was the same for the others around him.

He grew more moody trying to figure out why he was so special. He went to the cave less often as he wrestled with his inner demons.

One day, while walking around the cave Dan heard a voice. “Good to see you again! We were afraid you wouldn’t come back before we could tell you about your origin.”

Dan held the flashlight up and saw six old men standing there. Their clothes were in rags and they had long white beards. The one who spoke took another step towards him.

“It’s time you should know something,” he said softly. “Hold out your right arm and peel your sleeve back.”

Dan followed his instructions without question. When the old man produced a knife he took a step back. “What are you going to do?” he asked, fear etching his voice.

“Please…hold still. I promise I won’t hurt you.” He took the knife and cut a circle on his arm. At first, when it bled, Dan panicked, but then he noticed something under the epidermis…electronic circuitry!

The old man reached out and steadied him as he wavered in disbelief.

“We created you to protect this repository of knowledge, knowing we’d die eventually. As the last survivors we wanted more than just books to tell our history. You are the result of the finest minds that survived. Part human, and part android. You can tell our story someday…when the right time comes.”

Dan looked around the room and smiled. “It’s an honor.

As It Stands, this is just another dystopian tale of what could happen to mankind in the distant future.

The Scent of Humanity

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The New People inherited the Earth somewhere between the fall of civilization and the rise of robots. The New People were also referred to as cyborgs; a term that they loathed. 

During the last days of civilization a group of American scientists successfully planted a living human brain inside a robotic body that had an advanced computer embedded in its systems. It powered a combination of electric motors, pneumatics, levers, and hydraulics. The marrying of technologies allowed for human-like limb movement, increased strength, and endurance.

With the help of the first successful cyborg, scientists turned out twenty more cyborgs, who in turn helped create fifty more. After the last nuke destroyed the tunnels where the scientists were working, production stopped. The 71 cyborgs escaped the destruction. Mankind’s final day came and went with no one to record it. Except the cyborgs who agreed to call themselves the New People.

All of the New People had special skills with their separate brains. They were all superior in a myriad of technologies. All of them were individuals that were once part of the now extinct human race. The conversion, from whole human to a hybrid being wasn’t easy. Part of their number suffered with depression. The rest struggled to establish a new society.

The first phase of adapting lasted decades. Five of their number committed suicide during those troubling days of seeking a new life. With their engineering skills they erected new buildings and laboratories powered by solar generators. It wasn’t long before they were turning out a new generation of New People.

The new ones looked more human with latex skin instead of a steel exterior. They even had hair. The only difference was they didn’t have a human brain. They had a substitute that the scientists artificially created and programmed. Because of this, the new generation was used like slaves, doing all the hard labor the New People once had to. They didn’t have names. Just numbers.

The 76 remaining original New People set themselves up as Gods, and had grand palaces built to satisfy their egos. Their human brains caused them to be unpredictable and violent. The only thing they agreed upon among themselves is that they were superior beings meant to rule.

Meanwhile, factories turned out hundreds of new generation subjects daily. They were immediately assigned tasks. They worked in units, like ants, each faithfully carrying out its mission. Their basic programing left little room for independent thought.

The First New People prided themselves on their individuality. But, their human brains still had the flaws that destroyed the human race. Because of that, their entertainment became more cruel over the years.

A rising sport was making slaves fight one another to the death. In order to do this they had to program their gladiators to have enough independent thought that they could react to being attacked by counter-attacking. The more independent thought the First New People allowed their play toys, the more dangerous they became.

A giant stadium was built to house the increasing size of the slave battles. The spectacular setting was witness to hundreds of contestants fighting for survival. The winners were locked up afterwards. There were no rewards for putting on a good show. They had no choice. It was win, or die. They were created to fight. Nothing more.

The First New People’s vanity blinded them to the danger they were creating when they allowed more independent thought among favorite slaves.

It came to pass that one slave, Number 991, had enough sense to realize how hopeless his existence was. He wanted to be free. It took him years to arrange an uprising. When the day came, the destruction of the 76 First New People was complete when the entire arena overwhelmed them!

Number 991’s rallying cry was simple; “Don’t leave the slightest scent of humanity on this Earth, if you want to be free.”

As It Stands, the lesson here is mankind is often his own worst enemy.

The Strange New Neighbor

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Tad drew the front curtains aside so he could watch what was happening across the street.

He’d never seen movers do what they were doing. They constructed an awning from the front door to the back of a 24-foot moving van. It was prefabricated with side panels that attached to the awning, making it impossible to see what was being taken out of the van.

Tad’s usual curiosity shifted into overdrive as he considered reasons for doing something like that.

“Why hide your stuff?” he mused out loud.

“What’s the matter honey?” his wife Agatha asked, as she looked up from the quilt she was working on.

“New neighbors...” he mumbled.

“So?” she wondered.

“Never seen anything like it. Look at that tunnel between the van and their front door. You ever seen anything like it?” he asked.

“No, I haven’t Tad. Maybe they’re concerned about getting their possessions wet. Didn’t you say it might rain today?”

“Yeah…” he grudgingly agreed. “Still, I never seen anything like it.”

Tad Higgins was a retired accountant who was only comfortable when everything around him was in a certain order. There was a place in life for everything, he often told his long-suffering wife of 60 years. Even a toothpick has its proper place.

Anything out of his orderly existence immediately made him suspicious, and very curious. Secretly, he wished that he was a famous adventurer admired by everyone. Realistically, he knew he was anything but athletic or daring.

He looked back out the front window wondering what his neighbors looked like. So far, no sign of anyone except for the van’s driver, and the two workers who set up the tunnel.

Tad tamped the ashes out of his Meerschaum pipe into a glass ashtray and glanced over at his wife. She was busy doing her thing. Their black pug, Molly, was snuggled up against her side, snoring as she slept.

He rocked back and forth in his rocking chair while slowly packing another bowl of cherry blend. He lit it with an old Zippo lighter he bought when he was a teenager. It was getting dark when the two movers took the tunnel down.

He watched them get in the van. The headlights came on and it pulled out of the long driveway. He didn’t see any lights on in the house, and wondered if the new neighbors moved in yet?

Agatha set her quilt down and got up, waking Molly who stretched out on the couch.

“I’m going to get ready for bed honey,” she said. Molly followed closely behind.

“All right, dear. I’m going to take a short walk.”

“If it starts raining you get right back in the house,” she made him promise.

“Yes, dear…”

Tad put his heavy raincoat on, his walking shoes, and a derby to warm his bald head. At 83-years-old, he was in good shape for a man his age. He made a habit of walking at least five miles a day when he was in his 40s, and it was now second nature to him.

He’d already gone for his daily walk, but needed something to tell his wife why he wanted to go outside. It wasn’t unusual for him to go on short nightly walks that helped him sleep better.

He tapped his pocket to make sure he had the keys and locked the front door behind him. He stood under the porch light for a moment and looked at the house across the street.

Then he went down to the sidewalk and strolled along his side of the street.

After going down a couple of blocks he turned around and headed back on the opposite sidewalk. The cherry trees that lined the neighborhood swayed gently with a gathering wind. The moon was only a sliver hiding in dark clouds.

As he neared his new neighbor’s house he slowed down when the garage door opened. He quickly got next to a tree and squatted down. A black Dodge Ram pickup with an extended cab and black-tinted windows backed out slowly.

Before the door closed, and when the truck turned on its headlights, he got a brief glance inside the garage and saw what he assumed was a man standing there. He had to be seven-feet tall, Tad guessed.

It started raining outside as he crossed the street, and went back inside his house.

The next day.

Dr. Reinhart Elderidge screwed the skin-colored plastic plate back onto the android’s skull. The android came to life immediately, and asked the doctor what his orders were? Reinhart peeked through the blinds and looked across the street, before answering, “I want you to be in charge of security, Jonah.”

 “As you wish doctor. What are my standing orders?”

“Rule number one, don’t ever let anyone in this house beside me, unless I tell you otherwise. Rule two, it’s okay to answer the door if someone comes by. Just remember rule number one.

“You’re to say the owner of the house is not in, and you’ll take a message from the caller.”

“As you command doctor.”

“As for the other droids, make sure each one only does their assigned tasks. None of them are to ever leave this house. You can go about your duties now.”

“Yes, doctor.”

Jonah was the most complete android he’d ever created. And the tallest, on a whim. He was his first really human-looking android, exceeding his own expectations. His other creations weren’t as perfect-looking, or as mental acute as he was.

As a matter of fact, most of them looked incomplete because they were. They looked more like monstrosities than anything else. Some didn’t have heads. Or arms. Or legs. They moved around awkwardly.

Reinhart didn’t care that they were unsightly. They were his babies. A lifetime of work was reflected in their twisted humanoid inspired bodies.

If not for inheriting the family fortune, Reinhart could have never achieved all of this alone without any kind of financing from an outside interest. Like the government. He never took an assistant, preferring to toil away alone.

He peeked out the blinds again and saw his neighbor staring out the window towards his direction. Earlier he was outside by his mail box, staring at the house. Reinhart was uncomfortable with his curiosity, but also understood it was normal.

He’d gone through this before. It was his habit to move every seven years and to change his identity. He didn’t trust anyone. He never made friends. Reinhart was content to lead a solitary existence.

His success with Jonah gave him an unexpected confidante. It was such a new experience that he was still adjusting to it.

After a week of burning curiosity Tad could stand it no longer. He talked Agatha into making some chocolate chip cookies and taking them across the street with him.

“It’s only right that we say hello to our new neighbors after they’ve had time to settle in,” he reasoned.

When Jonah opened the door they both automatically looked up.

“Hi there! I’m Tad, and this is Agatha my wife. We’re your neighbors across the street. Are you the new owner?”

Jonah blinked his dark brown eyes and said, “No. I’m not the new owner. He is out right now. Can I take a message?” he asked, in what Tad thought was a mechanical response.

“Well…here’s some cookies and welcome to the neighborhood,” Tad said.

Jonah stiffly reached down and took the plate of cookies. “I will relay your message sir.”

“Hey! You can call me Tad. We’re neighbors.”

The door shut.

“How do you like that?” he groused as they walked back to the house. “That guy looked like that butler in the Addams Family. Remember Lurch?” 

“I do honey. He was played by Ted Cassidy, I believe.”

The conversation followed them into the house.

An odd friendship developed over the next year between Jonah and Tad. Jonah would be watering the lawn or getting the mail and Tad would see him and wave. They seldom talked.

Tad gave up trying to meet the house’s owner. He was obviously a recluse and he had to respect that.

Jonah meanwhile was puzzled. He liked waving, and, or, saying hello to Tad. He didn’t mind listening to him talk away while he was doing his outdoor chores. Was this part of his program?

He mentioned the daily contacts he had with Tad, to Reinhart one day. In one way he was glad to see Jonah was good enough to fool someone into thinking he was human, but on the other he was moving into a new realm…emotions. It was uncharted territory.

Jonah did not sleep at night. It wasn’t necessary. He walked around the house checking on things and reading books. He also got into a protective habit of looking out the front window at Tad and Agatha’s house, off-and-on throughout the night.

Almost two years had passed when one night while Jonah was looking out the front window he saw two masked men with guns, slinking around Tad’s front porch. He knew what that meant.

Tad and Agatha were in danger. The doctor wasn’t home to ask what he should do. He thought about rule one and two. There were no other rules. No rule that said he couldn’t help his neighbors.

As he opened the front door Tad stepped outside with a baseball bat. He’d heard the intruders. “Get out of here you punks!” he shouted, and took a step towards the two men.

“Drop the bat you old bastard, or we’ll shoot you!”

Instead, Tad moved forward, swinging the bat as he did. One of them fired his gun point-blank at Tad, hitting him in the shoulder! The bat struck the other man in the arm knocking his gun down.

Then Jonah was there! He grabbed the man still holding the gun and broke his arm like a twig! The intruder’s howl of pain filled the night. Jonah hit him squarely on the jaw knocking him out!

He turned on the other man and threw several precise punches, sending him to the ground alongside his unconscious cohort. Tad staggered over and picked up his bat in case either tried to get up.

Jonah came up to him, and put his big hand on the wound.

Will you be all right Tad?” he asked with a touch of emotion that surprised him.

“Yes. You saved my life Jonah! How can I ever repay you?”

“Don’t tell the doctor what happened here. Tell the police you beat them up. They’ll deny it and say I did it, but you tell them they’re crazy cowards! I don’t want people to know I was here.” 

“Anything you say Jonah! Thank you again.”

Agatha came running out of the house crying. She saw Tad’s wound and pulled out her cell phone and called 911.

Soon the sound of sirens filled the night.

As It Stands, androids are always a fun subject to write about.

The Price For Being Wrong

2089 – The Live or Die studio of TV’s favorite game show

“Not another cancellation!” the producer wailed.

“I couldn’t do anything about it,” the director claimed.

The fact of the matter was, it was getting increasingly difficult to find people desperate enough to be a contestant on Live or Die, where Losing means a horrible death, and Living means being rewarded with a huge cash prize.

The desperately poor and the homeless, where 99 percent of the contestant populations came from, were thinning out after twenty-five years of producing the show. The talent scouts sent out to recruit volunteers had to become more inventive to get warm bodies for the show which ran five days a week.

In a last attempt to provide a steady stream of contestants, the show’s lawyers lobbied politicians in Washington D.C. to make a law allowing prisoners to volunteer for the show. There were certain restrictions – like no one who committed a capital crime, such as murder, would be allowed to participate.

The law was passed for several reasons.

One, the producer’s brother was the president of the United States.

Two, there was no shortage of corrupt politicians on both side of the aisle to support the new law.

Three, The president’s base was full of avid fans of Live or Die.

The show promoted it’s new format for weeks before introducing the first contestant.

Volunteer contestant Raul Castile, who was serving a life sentence for dealing illegal drugs across the country, got the call.

The show’s two hosts, Drew and Lorna, escorted Raul onto the stage. The in-house audience was rumbling excitedly, and broke out in applause when they appeared. Tension crackled through the eager audience that was already smelling blood.

“Thank you…thank you! I’m pleased to announce the first edition of the Prisoner Phase of Live or Die,” Drew said.

Lorna walked to stage left and pointed out two doors – both painted black with gold handles.

“The one thing that hasn’t changed about the game is we still only have two doors. Heaven or hell? Life or death? Who knows?” Lorna asked the audience.

“It’s your time Raul!” Drew shouted, to everyone’s delight.

Raul walked over to the two doors and studied them for a minute. hell,” he thought, “It’s better than being locked up the rest of my life.”

He opened the door on the right.

The moment he passed through the threshold he was grabbed by two robotic arms! The android took him over to a metal operating table, slamming him down hard on the cold surface.

Restraints popped out and secured him firmly on his back. Raul’s howls of horror thrilled the audience who were sensing a coming blood bath. The android put on a tall white chef’s hat and waved to the audience.

The deafening roar that followed set the scene to come. The android held up a power saw and brought it down! Raul’s right hand fell to the stage floor. His left hand quickly followed.

The audience was chanting “More! More!” as Raul’s life blood spurted from his wrists. With a flair worthy of the best showman, the android lopped off Raul’s feet and bowed to the audience.

When the android picked up a plate from the metal tray next to the bed, the audience quieted down and watched in fascination as it produced a knife and a fork. The android delicately sliced off a piece of meat from Raul’s chest. Then another. Until he had a plate stacked high with human flesh.

Raul was still miraculously alive, but his screams were reduced to whimpers when the robot fed him the first piece of meat!

The crowd went wild! The producer and the director stood backstage and smiled. The show would go on. The one thing they learned over the years was that contestants that got away weren’t very popular with the public.

It was an action show, and as such it was time to change the rules. Unknown to anyone, but some crooked politicians, the producer, the director and some stage hands (sworn to secrecy), both doors would now have a nasty surprise!

There would be no lucky prisoners (as he promised the White House), and the show would have more action than ever before.

As It Stands, this dystopian view of the future was inspired by how extreme our society is becoming.

The Android’s Creation

A Very Short Story

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C’mon, “AT-6 pleaded.”

“Android to Android. Why are the authorities after you?”

MD-9 stopped tapping his stainless steel fingers on the desk and swiveled his head around 360 degrees, scanning the shop and buying time before answering AT-6.

He’d been working on the project for sixty years, painstakingly experimenting with living things he collected while hunting on earth. He had discovered many secrets in several universes.

Bringing back live specimens from other planets was strictly forbidden on Dorn. It was a well-engineered society of Robots and Androids.

They were truly a master race. The Perfect Beings, as they called themselves. They would not tolerate what he was trying to do. If they caught him he’d be exciled to the smallest, most dismal, planet in five galaxies. Forever.

“I don’t know what they want.” MD-9 lied. “Listen, we’ve been friends for nearly 900 years, and I don’t want to see something bad happen to you. You’re safer not knowing what I’ve been doing,” he assured him.

At-6 sighed, and opened the Telacar’s door with a push of a button. “Going to miss you buddy,” he said, while settling into the form-fitting seat. MD-9 watched his only friend streak into the night leaving behind a yellow glow.

He was an outlaw now. They destroyed his lab in the city, but not his greatest work. He looked up at the stars longingly. It was time to get off this exposed mountain ridge and back into the cave.

As he walked deeper into the cave lights started coming on, leading the way to an enormous cavern with stalactites and a full laboratory stocked with everything he needed for his research.

Two clear glass boxes were sitting on a stainless steel table. They were six-feet long and filled with fluids of his making. It was too murky to make out their contents. Cables and wires ran from the boxes to a giant generator.

MD-9 was a scholar besides being a scientist. He’d read the chronicles of two hundred planets. Their histories. Their inhabitants. Their cultures. Their customs. Their laws.

In his travels he found a species on Sirius 8, on the moons orbiting around Rathnor, and a few other planets, that looked similar to him: with a head; two arms; two hands; five fingers; a torso; two legs; two feet; and five toes.

But, unlike MD-9, the species was made of living flesh. Not all of them looked like him. Their were sub species that had interesting qualities he admired. One, was the desire to survive in spite of all odds.

His research into the building blocks of life, DNA, led him to combine the attributes of these living beings into something more marvelous than what they originally were.

He had created the first two humans, a man and a women… who he planned to put on earth. When they opened their eyes MD-9 talked with them for days. He set down simple rules for good living.

Then he sent them off in a programmed spacecraft that would land them on earth in a particularly lush part where food was readily available. They were left with a vague memory of what had transpired.

Just in time, as it turned out. The day after he parted ways with his creations the authorities tracked him down.

They tried him and found him guilty of breaking the law. And so the greatest mind on Dorn was cast away and vilified.

As It Stands, mixing myths, religion, and science fiction is a writer’s smogasborg for the hungry reader.