Greetings and salutations, faithful reader! I’m Timothy Scott Purvis and this is Story Time With Tim! This story that is about to be put before you once was a script being developed for a short film I wanted to do for my film classes in Motion Picture Production. Regrettably, I got the boot from the program before I could see it to fruition so I reimagined it as a short story in the second person because I’d never written in second person before and I thought it sounded cool. I think it turned out pretty good though my Creative Writer teacher said he thought it would be better either in third person or as a film.
Anyhow, I hope you enjoy this piece and stay tuned to the end for links to where you can purchase this particular tale. Random fact, Drone was inspired to some degree by Plato’s the Allegory of the Cave. Something to think about while reading, eh? Now, without further ado: Drone.
There are some things in life that evade understanding. That is what is so troubling. Every night, you wake from self-imposed slumber with the sensation of needing to scream. As if your chest is on the verge of releasing the pent-up rage of an entire species.
Long since extinct.
Long since irrelevant.
You sit up, leap out of bed, and rush to the mirror that adorns a plain-looking dresser. And stare at the reflection glaring back. Your metal face dissolves and gives way to black eyes, like some sort of alien monster come to abduct you from your home. Metal hands embrace molding flesh eating its way to the outside from beneath the metallic surface of your face. Mouth twisted in some contorted expression of horror and repulsion.
Yet, no sound comes forth.
You turn away from that mirror, the darkness of your room engulfs you. There is but only a small way forward. Lit by some light on the floor, guiding you through the doorway of your room and out into a malicious hallway. Its shadows reaching out to reclaim what little soul you have left. Realizing this may be the only escape, you run as fast as you can down that barely lit hall, your face twisted in torment, a silent scream following you all the way.
Yet, fear rips at your insides as you race down this hall with a speed unparalleled to anything you’ve ever managed. Mechanical legs whirring under the duress of motion straining to keep pace. Mirrors materialize from nowhere, reflecting your image rushing towards them. One mirror after another, all the way down the corridor. As if in mockery of your entire existence.
You try to ignore those mirrors, choosing to run through them. Each one shatters, your image splintering into surreal micro-versions of yourself. A grim determination to reach the end of that hallway and beyond.
The darkened hall offers you no mercy.
You have no idea how many you’ve plowed through, but this last one is different. Your silently shrieking visage witnesses your mechanical form, with its patches of flesh and wide black eyes, smashing beyond in what can only be explained as a slow-motion collision. To find yourself plummeting into an ever-darkening void.
It had never dawned within that subconscious part of you, that a void could be so black, so lifeless. So wretched and dispassionate. And there you are, flailing into its dark embrace.
And you fall. Fall. Fall.
Your eyes close, and a scream echoes out into the black abyss surrounding you.
And then you are sitting upright.
How can you be sitting up?
You know your hand is out in front you, but can’t see it for the darkness. A dim light shifts your reality from one of unending black to a slight shade of grey. And then you can barely make out the thin outline of your hand with its five mechanical digits wiggling in the air. You look around as that dim light grows brighter. You realize, then, this is your room. You’re in bed and have just awakened from a terrible dream.
But how can robots have dreams?
The dim light brightens, and you can now see clearly. Legs stretch out straight in front of you. Those legs swing over a metal slab of a bed, and it’s almost disconcerting as you sit upright. You look down at your stark, bare bed. There are no sheets or a mattress. You look up to view the same room you’ve lived in all your life. Yet, it feels alien to you somehow.
Light beams brightly now from long, electrical lighting conduits embedded in the ceiling. The light casts the room under a pure white light that illuminates the drab silver-grey walls, ceiling, and floor. It is plain. A room with few furnishings. A drab metal dresser in the far corner with a large mirror behind it, stretching from the floor to the ceiling. A chair. Simple and metal, based on any number of generic chairs in the world. It is there that you will meditate, when that time of day occurs. To your right, the doorway to your drab, silver grey room.
You shiver and turn to see a long black groove in the wall that runs the perimeter all around this spartan room. Along this groove, a single blue light (a tiny glowing ball of energy), travels until it has traced your room from the floor to the ceiling to the doorway. You end up staring at this doorway. The door is closed. But an ominous foreboding about what lies beyond shudders your body, filling you with dread.
Were there truly horrific mirrors beyond that door?
Instead of opening the door, you head for your dresser to look into the large mirror. Right hand reaches up to touch the hard surface of your visage. There are no lumps of flesh, no large, black oval eyes staring back. Somehow, there is relief. Your eyes are their normal round selves. The edges of your face are as solid as they had been when shutting down to recharge. Were you able to afford the capacity, you would smile.
Now, though, you are perplexed. These sensations should not be there. A servicing is in order. There can only be one solution, go down to the servicing bay to have your circuits reaffirmed. A programming malfunction must have occurred. For a moment, you stare at your reflection second-guessing yourself.
Are you sure it’s a malfunction?
Turning towards the door, you hesitantly cross the room. The door opens after a moment of trepidation, and you exit the domicile. On the other side, you find a brightly lit hallway filled with other robotic units going about their daily tasks. Many of them will be attending studying sessions to learn about the threat to automaton existence and how to deal with it thoroughly.
The hallway runs left and right. There is no forward as there are other domiciles on the other side. The door to your room closes and you turn right and follow the hallway down until you come to an adjacent corridor. There, you turn left, making way for several robotic units as they go about their duties. All ignore one another and pay you no attention.
Continuing down this hallway (which runs in a circular pattern around the inner core of this robotic sanctum), you contemplate everything you’ve learned about the aggressor at large. There is an unfamiliar sensation creeping through your servo motors. Perhaps that implies you have electrical issues as well? But a segment of you wonders if you aren’t relating to the threat, feeling sympathy for these ‘aggressors’. That is completely ludicrous, of course. Robots don’t feel sympathy.
The aggressor is your enemy. It is sentient and flawed, composed of flesh and blood. You remember learning about the aggressor. The Professor Unit instructed how all these ‘humans’, must be destroyed. That at one time, they had created all robotic kind. But they were flawed, even if they were the creators. The world would be better without their existence. Yet, you found a strange emotion, that maybe destroying the creator would not be the best option. However, you know it is not proper to question authority. You are one unit. Part of the whole, and know that the enemy must be extinguished before they annihilate you.
Still, you question the wisdom of the Mainframe mind.
This question must be eliminated.
You enter an elevator near the Mainframe core and ride up several stories. What is the human world like? You wonder on your way up. What is there in the outside world? You’ve seen images of things called trees, oceans, and the sky. But you’ve never seen it with your own receptors. The outside world is a foreign concept, and you’ve been trained to invade that world, to destroy those there. No windows are in this place. It is a perpetual cave forever in the dark.
You can never see this enemy that seeks your end.
That is a discomfiting thought for you. You don’t wish to think it again as the elevator arrives at the servicing bay. You exit the lift and proceed down another series of circular hallways, each one ringing the other connected by shorter halls. The layout had always reminded you of a spoked rim. Like that of a bicycle wheel. The thought of riding one somehow brings you joy.
No! Whatever is happening to you, must be addressed soon as it is getting worse.
You are almost to the servicing bay when there is a rumble, followed by an explosion. You manage to catch yourself from falling.
An announcement blares over the intercom system.
“Alert! Alert! Alert! All combat units report to the war bay! Human forces have penetrated the outer sanctum! Repeat…”
Several combat units rush by you. You follow them, wanting to see these humans for yourself. There is panic building beneath the surface of your metallic finish. You don’t know what to think. You feel a pounding throb deep within and think that one of your motors has broken loose. It rings throughout your body and you hear it in your sensory receivers. You reach the elevator and get inside with the combat units whom ignore your presence.
The elevator shoots straight up and you find yourself imbalanced. It takes a few moments to ensure that you won’t fall over. By the time you’ve regained your balance, the elevator has stopped and all combat units rush out. You follow them down another series of halls. These are less circular in design and more jagged, as if to form some sort of labyrinth. You have to keep up with the rushing combat units elsewise you think you might be lost.
Minutes feel like hours and you and the combat units reach the main entry bay. You’ve been trained to fight as a combat unit, but you’ve yet to be retrofitted with armor and weaponry. Still, you follow these units into this bay where smoke and explosions fill the space. It is as if the bay is shaking under the thunderous poundings of a massive foot and it wants to crush the robotic units under its heal. Smoke fills the room. Your scanners are useless, something is jamming the signals. So, you seek a better vantage and exit the bay to go around to the other side.
Something feels very wrong to you.
You navigate several hallways and find yourself outside of a massive dual door entryway. The doors slide open into the ceiling and it is then you see the exchange of fire between robotic forces and the humans. You walk out into the bay and stare at the attackers, these aggressors. They are wearing strange masks and look almost like robotic units themselves. But they are considerably more agile. The combat units collapse under the heavy assault of these humans. You stare in horror wondering if everything you’ve been preparing for has been in vain, when one of the humans see you.
You have time to take in the entire view: the tall four- story interior of the main bay, the bright light shining from the forced entrance, and the legions of human combat brigades. The light gets you most of all.
You wonder if that is what sunlight looks like.
You’ve never seen the sun before and think to yourself that the outside world is something that should be cherished and explored, not thrown away. All the things learned pulse through your head:
-Humans are futile creatures seeking to destroy your very existence.
-The outside world is poisonous to robotic units and must be cleansed before robots can live there.
-You are destined to destroy the human infestation.
-There is no greater creator than the Systems Mainframe and you are its protector.
The glint of an electrical pulse pulls you from those thoughts and a beam of energy bolts your way. There is no time to react and you receive the hit. Darkness encapsulates and you find yourself falling through time. You flop backward and all goes black.
Yet, you still feel yourself staring into a mirror and then you sit up screaming having felt something pierce your chest.
There is pain.
You’ve never felt pain before. It is a strange sensation. That pain is all of existence when the darkness gives way to a dim light and silhouettes emerge in your vision.
Before you, stand three human beings. They are saying something, but you can barely hear and don’t understand their words. Consciousness comes fully and you look around the bay in confusion. All around are robotic bodies lying on the floor. Yet, they still seem to be moving somehow. You can’t figure out why that is. You saw the humans shooting everyone and everything. Are your robotic colleagues still functional?
A voice startles you. It is a male voice saying something you just barely catch, “Hey! Snap out of it!”
You are not entirely certain what he is referencing.
You look and see a human snapping his fingers together. It is a strange sound to you. Why is this human taking the time to try to communicate with you? You make out a few more words he is speaking.
“Come on! Stay with me!” the male says. Why you should stay with him is beyond you.
You find your ability to speak and warn him of his error, “This is a robotic sanctuary. The Mainframe will not tolerate your presence. You should leave now.”
The words spoken feel forced and sound metallic even to you. You don’t remember the last time you spoke. Perhaps it was when communicating with the Professor Unit, but you don’t recall how long ago that was.
The three humans look at one another. To your right, you hear a commotion and two more humans meet up nearby and start whispering. But you can hear what they are saying.
“Are you sure?” the taller human whispers. You continue to pay attention to this conversation.
“I’m tellin’ you they’re hooked up to the Mainframe. We’ve got it disconnected but… It’s like they don’t even see us! The girls are all laid up in this… device. Like a reproductive… thing… I don’t know! You’d have to see it!”
You are not certain what they are referring to when the human in front of you says, “I understand you’ve been through a lot. But… look we’re not your enemy! You don’t know the whole story! But you will. I promise.”
“Gerald,” his female companion puts a hand on his shoulder. “Take it easy. Don’t push too hard.”
You don’t know what he could hope to accomplish by ‘pushing’ you. Your body is made of metal and is very heavy. But Gerald responds in agitation and seems to be growing angrier.
“Don’t you see it?! He doesn’t get it! I’m not giving up!”
“You don’t have to… we’ll fix this. I swear it.”
You hear the two humans beside you from before continuing to talk, “…Looks like the Mainframe killed ‘em before they hit thirty. Kept the younger ones to birth more… There were tubes up their… Well, let’s just say the Mainframe solved the bathroom issue.”
One of the humans turns away looking disgusted and glances at you for all of a second. He frowns and walks off leaving his colleague shaking his head.
You see, then, several of your colleagues in the combat units being led away to large vehicles. Something seems strange about them. Their faces have changed. They no longer look robotic. In fact, they seem very human.
Gerald says something while you are staring at those who were once considered your allies, “You are not a robot…”
This puzzles you, why anyone would make such an implication when it is so obvious that you are a robot. An automaton in the service of the Systems Mainframe.
You turn to him and inform him, “Human, you are mistaken. We are all robots here and will destroy your infestation.”
The woman says to Gerald, “It’ll take time. Look at all the stress he’s been through!”
You cock your head considering informing her that you don’t have anything to be ‘stressed’ about.
She says then, “The damned Mainframe has been at this for nearly seventy years, you know.”
You’ve never thought about it before. You’ve always just been. There has been only one mission in your life, destroy humanity. Yet, now, you consider that you have never wondered how long robots have existed down here, under the surface. There has never been a thought that said ‘why am I here’. They must be lying.
Gerald screams at his companion, “That’s enough! We spent too much time putting this operation together!” He must mean the invasion of your sanctuary.
“That doesn’t mean to lose it now! Let’s get them out of here first then figure out how to fix ‘em!”
“No. No! It’s profane!” You can’t figure if he means what she says is profane, or if you are.
Gerald stands up and grabs a device beside him much to the distress of his female cohort.
“Gerald! No! Don’t!”
He slides it beside you, almost blocking your view of the other combat units walking away. This was how they were able to do it, you imagine. The humans infiltrated your society and implanted spies to tell them how to hurt the Mainframe. Those being led away had been masquerading as your colleagues. They will most assuredly be the first ones destroyed.
Gerald hastily shouts, “This is for your own good!”
“Gerald! Stop! You’ll do more damage than solve!” the woman tries to stop him from pulling something off your face.
Your vision starts to fuzz but readjusts by different means. Everything has become brighter. You struggle to see for several moments.
You realize then that he’s pulled your face off and you see it in his meaty hand and you are suddenly very terrified. You look to the device he slid nearby and stare into a giant mirror. It reflects your image. Only the image staring back is that of a human. You want to scream as your mouth twists in terror.
“Damnit, Gerald!” the woman screams, but you barely notice.
You decide that the humans are trying to convince you that you don’t exist.
You decide that you are still asleep and that if you simply count backwards from five, you will awaken back to everything you’ve ever known. You think about all the times the Mainframe and the Professor Unit have counted backwards from five to help you relax, to help you realize your place in the scheme of things and you decide to employ it now on yourself.
Gerald yells, “Look at yourself! You’re human! A native son of the Blackfoot! My brother!” He wails, but you stare off into the distance and ignore him as you drift off into your own mind.
Five: You are back in your room laying down to slumber. The darkness surrounds you and the light has retreated. The fear of every lie ever told is disappearing into oblivion.
Four: Your eyes close and you imagine your life in the embrace of the Mainframe. You recall how at a young age you received your first enhancement marking you as a growing robotic unit. Though you screamed and cried, fear was replaced by quiet bliss. A connection delivered into your mind from the Mainframe itself.
Three: The war between humans and robots never happened. They were never there. You tell yourself you are securely in bed imagining everything. The mirrors around you are no longer reflecting some warped version of who you are.
Two: The whir of your servo-motors lull you into that secure place you’ve always been. But some sensation tells you it’s a false security. That somehow the war will still take place. The sounds around you are now no longer meaningful.
One: You are asleep. You recall the soothing voice of the Mainframe telling you everything will be alright…
…But someone snaps an invisible set of fingers and you open your eyes to see the world around you. You imagine that everything is back to normal and you never left your room.
Looking around you, you see that the humans are staring at you. Nothing has changed around you at all.
They’re still there.
And so are you.
Alrighty then! We’ve reached the end to another short story up on my Story Time With Tim postings! I do appreciate your reading and hope that you enjoyed the tale. Come back next week for the first part of another novella! It should be quite exciting! Be sure to also check out my Left of Midnight postings still happening on Sundays!
Until next time, read to you all again later!
~Timothy S Purvis
Since you’re here, why not check out my personal author’s page over on Amazon Kindle? You can find the link to it by clicking on my name here–> Timothy S Purvis
Also, if you enjoyed Drone above, why not check out the short story as its own Kindle download? It’s only 99 cents and available here:
You can also find this tale and more within the pages of the following book, Tales From A Strange Mind Volume One:
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