Inhuman (10)

To read from the beginning, please visit the Inhuman page to find all the links.

The following days, weeks had been a whirlwind. Brian’s ‘accident’ and subsequent funeral, Amanda’s resignation from her job, and giving notice to her landlord all came in rapid succession. Amanda’s family had pleaded with her. “This is a mistake. You’ve just lost your husband, how can you just pick up and leave everything behind? They say you should never make big, life changing decisions so soon after a trauma. Wait a year at least.”

She made the excuse that she couldn’t bear to be in the home she’d shared with Brian. She needed a fresh start, in a new town with a new job. This opportunity was too good to pass up. “Don’t worry, I’m not going across the country or anything. It’s only about two hours away,” she had said. And so with her belongings packed and her rent deposit refunded, Amanda drove north and west from Philadelphia with the agency-hired moving truck following her. She had been issued a new phone and she used its GPS to guide her to Makepeace, the small town she would now call home.

The long drive gave her the first quiet time, the first alone time she’d had since Nathan had driven her back to her apartment after that fateful day at the laboratory. She’d been given a more thorough tour, and a cursory interview for the job she would now be performing. Lastly, she’d been required to sign the confidentiality agreement that would ensure her silence about the agency’s true purpose. For all her friends and family knew, she was going to work for a sub-agency of the Department of Energy, responsible for oversight of the region’s controversial hydraulic fracturing industry. She’d left the place with her head spinning. Nathan had been quiet on the drive, just answering questions as they came to her. Upon leaving her, he’d given her a final warning about what could happen if she went to the authorities or the news media and also his cell phone number if she felt that she needed to talk. She hadn’t used it.

The city gave way to suburbs and then long stretches of farmland interrupted occasionally by small towns, more like villages, until she reached the road that circled around the restricted area that once was the mining town of Centralia. A few miles further and she passed a sign welcoming her to Makepeace, established 1947 and boasting a population of 1701. She passed a gas station and convenience store, a supermarket and drug store and a medical complex with a general practitioner, dentist and eye doctor. The town center had a square with a well-tended park and each of the store fronts facing the square seemed to be occupied with small businesses —a jeweler, florist, hair salon, and dry cleaners, as well as the post office. Self-contained, she thought. Then again, the town was out in the middle of nowhere. It made sense to have everything you would need close at hand.

The GPS directed her to turn left onto Elm Street which, true to it’s name, was lined with stately old trees fronting the neat, uniform yards of nearly identical Cape Cod style homes. The street was oddly quiet for a beautiful, sunny Saturday —no children outside playing or people walking dogs. She pulled in front of number 12, allowing the moving truck to back into the driveway. The pale grey house with its black shutters and red front door, were as pretty as a postcard. Window boxes full of cheerful flowers adorned the two sills on either side of the door. Amanda took a moment to absorb it all. She shook her head. A dream come true, a nightmare in disguise. Well, at least I will be comfortable while I figure a way out of this mess, she thought.

As the movers brought boxes and furnishings, she wandered around the rooms, trying to stay out of the way. She found herself at the kitchen window, staring across the lawn to the yard of the neighbor behind her. Another Cape Cod, quiet and eerily similar to her own. A post-war town, she thought. All the homes built for returning soldiers.

“All finished, Ms. Connor,” one of the movers said. “We’ll get our of your way, if everything looks good to you.”

“Sure, sure. Thank you,” she replied absently. Movement in the house behind hers had caught her attention. A figure stood silhouetted in the window, then pale fingers pulled the curtain aside. Amanda instinctively stepped back into the shadows to avoid detection but it was probably too late. The watcher remained at the window, but she couldn’t see the person’s face. Someone curious about their new neighbor, no doubt. Then why did she feel unnerved? She took a deep breath and stepped back into view. She leaned toward the glass and smiled and waved. Immediately the curtain fell back into place. “Hmm, maybe curious, but not particularly friendly…” she murmured.

At the sound of the moving van backing out of the driveway, she looked around at the boxes trying to decide where to start. She had left her suitcases and toiletries in the car. Might as well pull the car into the drive while I’m at it, she thought. So grabbing her keys, she walked out to the street where her car was parked. Movement in the periphery of her vision had her turning her head. Another curtain parted, another watcher in the window, this time in the house across and to the left of hers. Then again, at the house straight ahead and yet again in the one to the right. A finger of anxiety traced along her spine and she found herself running to the car as the invisible eyes of her neighbors watched her.

Inhuman (9)

To read from the beginning: parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight.

Nathan smiled. “Good, thank you,” he whispered. Then louder he said, “Amanda, I promise you will be well cared for, your job will be interesting and fulfilling and best of all, you will be doing a service to your country. Of course, we understand this is a lot to digest all at once. You don’t have to agree to all of this right away. Take some time. Unfortunately, while you’re thinking it over, you’ll have to remain here.”

“I can’t just drop out of sight,” she protested. “I have work, what if one of my friends calls… or my mom or sisters? And where is my phone anyway?”

“Your phone and your handbag are safe. We will give you access to your phone, with obvious limitations. You will be allowed to call in sick to work. Tell them you have the flu —something that will keep you away for a few days. As for friends and family, you can tell them the same thing, unless of course, they would be inclined to come and help.”

Amanda smirked. “No, as long as they thought Brian was around to care for me, they’d keep their distance.”

“Good. Then it’s settled. The flu it is. We can provide a doctor’s authorization, if you need one. It will give you a few days to come to terms with the situation. And for us to give you a more thorough explanation of what we do here. Are we agreed, then?”

Amanda shivered involuntarily. If she wanted to stay alive, give herself a chance to get out of this mess, she had to play along. She wondered again whether she could really trust Nathan. The doctor seemed to trust him, at least. The idea of having to put her faith in the creator of super intelligent androids and a government agent, both of whom she’d known for less than a span of a day was absolutely ridiculous, but at this point, she saw no other way forward. For the moment, or until some other option presented itself, she would agree. Slowly, she nodded. “I guess that is my only choice, isn’t it? Very well, I will agree. At least until I have a better understanding of what this agency is involved in.”

Nathan breathed a sigh of relief. “Excellent.” Then he addressed Dr. Knight. “Now the question remains, Leo, will you tell us what we need to know so that we can bring the other AI’s in? For their own good, Leo. For their own good.”

The doctor rubbed his hands over his face. “Is there no way to allow them to live? If I agree to build and program new androids with a modified military program, one less human, is there any way to save the remaining two?”

“I don’t know, Leo, but I doubt it. The director isn’t going to like the idea of a pair of androids assimilating into society. The risk of discovery would still be too great, even if you managed to fix the glitch in the sleep cycle.”

“What if the AI’s knew that they weren’t human?” he suggested. “They could at least take precautions then.”

“It might be too late for that,” Nathan said. “I’m sure by now they’ve formed friendships, maybe even fallen in love and married, like Brian did. That would mean they’d either have to abandon those people or those people would have to be taken into our confidence the way we’re doing with Amanda. Do you really think the director is going to widen the circle of people who know the truth?”

Dr. Knight sighed heavily. “No, I suppose not. But could we at least find out? See what their lives have become before we rip them away from them?”

“Does that mean you agree to help us find them?”

“On that one condition, Nathan. That we be allowed to see what kind of lives they’ve made for themselves and if it is at all possible, we try to preserve that life for them. In return, I will start working on new androids with an altered program for military use. Tell the director he will get his weapons.”

Inhuman (7)

To read from the beginning: parts one, two, three, four, five, six.

Dr. Leo Knight gave Nathan a nearly imperceptible nod, then smiled warmly at Amanda. “I imagine you probably have more questions for me than I have for you, my dear. What have they told you so far?”

Amanda took a deep breath and summarized the story she’d been told upon arriving at the facility. “Honestly, I am having trouble believing all of this. If I hadn’t seen Brian with my own eyes…”

“Of course, dear. I am so sorry this happened to you.” He turned to Nathan. “Do I have permission to speak freely?”

“It’s no secret how you feel about your creations, Leo. You can tell Amanda anything you like as long as you listen to her story, too.”

“Hmm, yes. Maybe Amanda would like to go first then?”

“All right,” she said. “Where should I start?”

“At the beginning, dear. How did you and Brian meet?”

Amanda blushed. “At a bar, actually… I guess about three years ago. I was out with friends and Brian there with a couple of guys from work. I don’t remember how we started talking but by the end of the night, he’d asked for my phone number and we had our first date the next weekend.”

“Do you remember what you talked about?”

“He told me about work, that kind of thing. He’d moved to the East Coast for college and stayed for the job. We talked a little about music, I think. A few things we have in common.”

“Nothing unusual? Anything that made you at all uncomfortable?”

“No, not at all. I am usually a really good judge of character.”

Dr. Knight laughed softly. “You still are, Amanda. Brian is a man of good character. I’ve endowed him with the best of human attributes.” He gestured for her to continue. “You dated for a while and then he proposed? Tell me about that.”

Amanda nodded. “Yes, we —well, I guess I should say I— fell in love fast. After that first date, we were together all the time.” She paused to compose herself. “Brian was adventurous. He loved trying new things, going places we’d never been. It was so much fun being with him.”

Dr. Knight reached over and touched her hand. “And you never had any idea…? Nothing made you suspicious?”

She wiped her eyes. “I don’t know. I can’t think. Maybe there were clues I just didn’t pick up on. Really who would ever suspect their husband isn’t human?”

“Quite right, Amanda. Especially when he believed himself to be fully human.”

“Why?” she cried. “Why would you do that? Not just to him but to the people that would grow to care about him? To love him?”

“To make him human was to save him.” He stared at her hard. “The world is not ready for a new life form —and believe me Amanda, that is what these beings are. No, they are not human, but they are alive. If they had remained here, they would have been essentially destroyed. Remade into mindless killing machines. All my work, all of their progress would have been for nothing. To show mercy… Amanda do you see what that means? That quality has been reserved for the greatest of all earth’s creatures —humans. And from it’s source: the divine.

To be continued…