David Bernstein: Machines of the Dead

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David Bernstein Machines of the Dead
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    Machines of the Dead
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    sf_postapocalyptic / на английском языке
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David Bernstein

Machines of the Dead

Chapter 1

“Damn it,” Dr. Reynolds said when he looked through the glass into the containment room. Homeless person number 14 was d ead, the bots taking too much of the man’s energy, sucking him down to almost nothing more than a husk.

“I don’t understand why the programming isn’t working,” he said, and hit the kill switch, filling the containment room with enough electromagnetic energy to wipe out a small town ’s electrical equipment. “The bots worked perfectly in the rats.”

“Sir,” said Dr. Chan, his assistant. “The human brain is just too complex. Maybe we-”

“Maybe we what, t ell the military that their project is too much for us? That they should find another company to work on this project? We’ll just give back the millions upon millions we’ve been funded, and say sorry.”

Dr. Chan sighed and looked down. “I’ll have more test subjects rounded up. The city’s full of them.”

“ Get on that; tell C hambers I want at least twenty-no, thirty.”

“Thirty? Sir that’s too many at one time. We’ve never-”

“ I need to be alone,” Dr. Reynolds said, cutting his assistant off.

“I’ll take lunch then,” Chan said, and left the control room.

When the military first approached him, Dr. Eugene Reynolds had thought it a good thing. Now he wasn’t so sure. What if he couldn’t deliver? What would they do to him? Would he ever be able to work again, or would his reputation be ruined? None of that mattered, because he was going to make the project work; give the government what they wanted. He had never failed before and he wasn’t about to now. With thirty more subjects coming in, plus the ten he had left, he would be able to get the bots to work. He had to.

Sitting down at his computer, he began to re-wo rk the nano’s interface module. He needed stronger bots, and ones that required less host — energy.

Chapter 2

Derek Mayfield had been living on the streets of New York City for ten years, having s pent time in almost every borough. At the age of fifteen, he was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, and under his parents’ medical insurance, he received the proper care and medication for him to maintain a normal lifestyle.

At the age of nineteen, he fell in love with Clare Schmidt, a waitress and recreational drug user. Together, they partied at night and on their days off from work; it was a twenty-four hour party. Marijuana and beer were the drugs of choice, until one day, they decided to try cocaine. From th at day forward, it was the hard narcotics: cocaine, speed, meth, and heroin.

Off his meds, Derek experienced major mood swings. They could occur at any moment and anywhere. After Clare died from an overdose, Derek spiraled further down the path of destruction. One day, while arguing with his parents over money, he snapped and killed them both.

Since that night, he had been living on the streets, hiding from the cops and society. H is weight had dropped to half of what it used to be; he was dirty and had a full, scruffy beard. He was always looking to score, and one day a large, well-built man came to him, offering him a job.

“Work for you?” he asked the big guy. “I thought you brought me to this back alley be cause you wanted me to blow you.”

The big man smiled, but something about his smile bothered Derek, making his blood feel as if it had turned into ice.

“I work for a pharmaceutical company,” the big guy said.

Derek’s eyes lit up at hearing the word pharmaceutical.

He was in.

“My boss,” the big fellow continued, “is looking for test subjects. Former drug users, current drug users, and whatnot.”

“What do I gotta do, suck his dick?”

The big man laughed. “No, no. Nothing like that. He needs people willing to go around the bureaucratic tape, the paperwork. Things get done much faster that way. Course it’s all off the record. We keep our mouths shut, and you do the same.”

“How long is the job?”

“Should be no more than a few days and while you’re staying with us, you’ll be fed, bathed, and given whatever you need.” The big man held up a small baggie filled with white nose candy. Derek reached out, grabbed the coke and held it close to his chest. “And you’ll earn a thousand bucks, cash.”

What did he have to lose?

Now, sitting in his room five stories below Manhattan, in an underground bunker, Derek started to feel as if he were in withdrawal. He was antsy and needed a fix. The small room was too claustrophobic. It made him angry. Made him wonder why he was there in the first place. Who were the rich assholes who needed him? How much were they going to make off him?

He deserved more than a grand.

Derek closed his eyes and began smacking himself upside the head until he felt right again. Truth was he needed the money. Didn’t everyone need money? He’d been allowed to take numerous showers. The hot water was something he had longed for, and he was fed and clothed, just as the big guy promised. He could do this, whatever it was. If all they wanted were samples of his blood, they could have them. Shit, they could keep on having them if he could stay here. His brain was so fucked up. He needed meds. Fuck that. Meds turned him into someone else. He needed drugs, the kind he could use to leave the world and enter the land of ecstasy. Once he got paid, he would go out and celebrate in style. Get the good stuff, not that shitty crank he had to settle for on the streets. Maybe, he would even find a woman.

Okay, he could do this. Let them take whatever they wanted from him. A little blood, sure. Some skin, sure. He had done way worse, for far less. Nasty things with nasty people. He should count his blessings and enjoy himself. If only his head wasn’t so fucked up.

Sitting on his bed, he waited for his turn in the lab.

An hour later, a doctor entered his room.

“Hello, Mr. Mayfield,” the man said. “My name’s D r. Chan. How are we doing today?”

Scratching his head and twitching, Derek said, “Good. I’m doing good.”

Chan looked at him curiously. “You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah. What have you got for me, Doc?”

“I’m going to give you a very mild sedative, so that when we bring you to the lab, you won’t be as jumpy.”

“I like sedatives. It’s a good idea. I’m a little nervous.”

“Oh, this is nothing really. I doubt you’ll notice a thing, and as far as being nervous, don’t be. All we’re going to do is x-ray your body, take some blood and skin samples and send you on your way.”

“Sounds good, Doc.” Derek held out his arms. “Pick one.”

The doctor approached him, held onto the left arm and inject ed him with the syringe he was holding. “Okay,” he said, “all done.”

“I’ll just lay back and enjoy… I mean, wait for you to come back.”

“Relax, Mr. Mayfield. You’ve got nothing to worry about,” Chan said, then walked out of the room and closed the door. Derek heard the lock click and jumped.

“Fuck,” he said. Why were they locking him in? P recautionary, that’s all, he thought. He laid back and tried to relax, let the drug take effect. However, after a few minutes, he felt the same. He wondered what the hell was going on. He’d been on plenty of sedatives and whatever they had given him, sure wasn’t one.

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