Science Fiction Coming of Age Teens & Young Adult

Not Just Yet?

“Andrea, if only you could be this skilled in the performing arts as you are with all the other subjects you have studied in the past,” scolded her mother. “At least you are less likely to be noticed. Too much perfection might arouse suspicion. But after all of these years I would hope that you have learned the vital importance of blending in with the crowd!”

She sighed, mortified by her reaction to a seemingly simple question. “I'm sorry, by now I should know better, but even after all this time I still am unable to give you a satisfactory answer.” Unfocused, she dropped her coffee cup, but the burning sensation in her lap went unnoticed due to the sound of her breakfast plate crashing to the ground. Whoever said that 'with age comes wisdom' never took into account what happens when you have outlived your usefulness, yet death never comes. 

That day, the normally obnoxious sound of the school bell was drowned out by a screeching halt at the school gate. It would have appeared that a motorcycle drove on the sidewalk, but the deep marks present were not made by an irresponsible driver. Rather, they were made by a currently blonde, blue-eyed teenage girl. Taking a thorough look completely around her, it appeared that her sudden appearance went unnoticed. Given the speed at which she almost flew across, jumping over construction workers equipment with ease, yet precise enough to create clean straight lines at such an improbable speed, being left unseen was a miracle. Androids are gifted with many different assets, but rarely given a miracle. 

“Hi Andrea! Cutting it close today. How are you...is something wrong?” Jane suddenly went from a sickeningly sweet to genuinely concerned. 

Andrea surprised Jane to the point of almost fainting from shock when she said, “oh, I'm just tired. I had to run to school today. Long story...” It was unusual for Andrea to appear concerned, or to express herself in general. People generally assumed her oddly timed or simply lacking emotional responses were due to a outside factors, or just that she was merely born an introvert. 

It was a extremely rare occurrence for Andrea to run to school, but the normally early arriving student had bigger problems to worry about. The chaotic breakfast that caused her mother's suffering only got worse as the morning went on. She only caused her ailing mother to suffer additional stress when realizing that although Andrea was significantly smaller than her, she was still able to lift her as easily as a piece of paper. Nursing her wounds before she realized she was injured and cleaning up the kitchen for her at lightening fast speeds only made her feel worse. Terminal illness was ripping her body apart from the inside out. It was obvious by a single glance something was amiss and everyone knew it was only a short matter of time before she ceased to exist.

Always playing the role of the optimist, Jane rarely noticed the negative, even when surrounded by it. Not completely oblivious however, Jane could clearly see something was wrong given Andrea's expression. Her depressed face seemed almost painted on. Was this just Jane's imagination, current home difficulties or something else? She was going to find out.

While not telling all of the ghastly details of the morning, over lunch Andrea and Jane started talking. What should have been lunchtime appeared more like a counseling session. Each girl faced the other sitting at a table with no other students. Knowing that all she could do is listen, and sympathize, Jane let their 'session' begin. 

“Given my history of being a serial procrastinator, I know all about fatigue and just barely getting myself together quickly.

Fatigue is not the heart of the matter is it? Surely you know by now best friends tell each other everything. What's wrong? Trust me.” It was Jane's genuine interest in Andrea's conundrum that brought out the truth.

“She yelled at me about not doing well in past theatre classes, not letting me get a word in to defend myself,” she continued, trying to whine and mope like a teenager. Almost returning to calm, but unable to stop herself, she continued, “telling her that nobody is perfect was not good enough! I'm not surprised that she found those words unacceptable but I am surprised why after all these years it matters. I JUST DON'T CARE ANYMORE!” This was her most convincing attempt at young rage in her whole life.

Jumping for joy, Mia strolled out of the theatre classroom, enormous Shakespearean script in her hands. The young Thespian's arrival halted the conversation for a moment. “Don't care about what? Clearly I missed something. What is the problem?” Choosing to eat rather than spend their whole lunch period rehashing the same story, they proceeded to engage in general small talk. Jane mouthed “I'll tell you later,” to Mia. 

Using small talk and taking advantage of Mia's current attention to her script, Andrea was able to quickly discard her lunch. With no need to eat, yet suspicion of others for not doing so, Andrea had learned over many years how easily it was to manipulate humans. It was a relief when the lunch period was over, because if she had to hear another second of Mia talk about being cast as the lead, her high level of tolerance would disintegrate. If only she spent as much time on academics as she did being a performer, she might become an honors student.  

After Andrea left for school, Dr. James eventually cleared her thoughts enough to contemplate her daughter's future. The retired PhD Technological Engineer, thought she made certain all traits and skills to be superior to humans when she programmed her artificial daughter. Given her enhancements in intelligence, it was devastating to realize genuine human emotions can not be programmed. A concept understood by most people was a concept still too difficult for Andrea to grasp: blending in with the crowd is one of the most important survival skills. Initially annoyed, as decades went on she became infuriated by her lack of foresight, realizing Andrea needed to learn more about others to blend in. 

Learning by observation and experience, Andrea's mother thought, would alleviate some of the difficulties. Mastering her programming to change appearance was simple enough. But slipping up and behaving like an adult in a child's body often occurred during her training. Portraying age, appropriate behaviors and appearance simultaneously often seemed too complex a task. Eventually, Andrea began to learn how to express herself in society acceptable ways, but could never truly understand them. Forgetting that she was working with an android, an easy mistake to make given that Andrea was the only one on Earth, she forgot that much like humans a machine has limitations. Eventually, they found their current home in a Bright City. The longest place they had ever resided. People of all different appearances were their neighbors so the slightly unusual traits were met with little more than a brief glance. 

Even in this generally accepting city, there were still difficulties to be had. Illness and old age changed Dr. James appearance no longer allowing her to blend in with any crowd. Not even her friends would associate with her. Andrea's mother would not be able to protect her for much longer. Plagued by nightmares of the worst for her daughter, she often woke up in a cold sweat with tears in her eyes. Ending up in a scientific research facility, ripped apart limb from limb, circuits cut and rewired as part of an experiment, or the even most sickening thought of winding up in a museum where people gawk at her creation may be the result of being unable to blend in to society. Just because she designed and built her does not make her any less of a person than a human child. But being exceptional often results in fear. 

Contrary to the infamous stereotype, Andrea was certainly not a dumb blonde. Whenever you needed a reliable person you could count on her. She was always more than a simple robot, but her enhancements did help her often. She volunteered at schools, tutoring young and older students, often better than their teachers. Babysitting jobs went better than expected. Surprisingly, making atoms out of marshmallows and toothpicks or large scale buildings out of toy bricks could be such engaging pastimes. Even the menial tasks such as cleaning could be done by her with a convincing grin, in a microscopic amount of time. Those who would consider her a rival respected her. She even had two friends. For now, thankfully, Andrea blended in.

“Mother, I'm home. I hope you don't mind that I brought Jane and Mia over”, said in her more typically pleasant tone than she had earlier that day. When there was no response all three were silent for a few moments. Hoping that it was simply that she wasn't heard, the trio ventured forth into the hallway nearing her mother's bedroom and old office. Certain she would be heard this time, Andrea knocked on the door of each room and received no response. Splitting up, Jane and Mia gently opened the bedroom door, not wanting her to think that they were spying. Expecting a sleeping woman, they found nothing more than a cluttered room with twisted sheets torn off the bed. Meanwhile, Andrea checked her mother's old office. Jokingly, the trio called that room the 'Secret Laboratory.' Their assessment being accurate was something they certainly did not expect. The door normally closed and locked with a combination lock and several other devices to prevent outside invasion was left completely ajar, with much of the contents left scattered about in a disorganized manner. Upon further investigation, exactly what they most feared is exactly what they found.

As Andrea came out of the office, having spent some time hiding classified documents that her mother has read as she was dying, she had to announce it eventually. “Mother is dead.” No crying, signs of anger or dismay could be seen. Not even a clearly feigned expression of sorrow was seen upon her face or heard in her tone of voice as she announced it to her best friends. This was the last straw for both of her friends. 

Torn with grief instantly at the lifeless body of a second mother laid before them and comparing Andrea's reaction resulted in an explosive shouting match. Mia's insulting remark, “what is wrong with you?” rose to an uncontrollable level of intensity. “Your mother is dead and yet you act as though nothing has happened! There is a difference between hiding your emotions and feeling nothing. She was your mother, one of the most important people in the world to you and yet you say it with the same feeling one might put into leaving a phone message! People are going to say, for better or worse many things about your mother, and while blowing up at every negative comment is wrong, NOT REACTING AT ALL IS EVEN WORSE!” 

“Frankly” said Andrea, “you're such a hypocrite! You tell me to be prepared for the worst by not blowing up, yet you feel free to do it yourself. Pathetic.” She braced herself against the wall preparing for impact as Mia was about to punch her in the face. She felt no need to defend herself because that punch was only going to hurt Mia more than herself. That punch would feel like nothing more than a gust of wind passing over her metal body but would likely cave her friend's arm inward. Maybe a long-term injury would get her to shut her mouth for the long-term she thought.

Fortunately for them both, Jane stood between them stopping the fight before it started. With difficulty she managed to restrain Mia and talk them both down by simply stating, “It's clear that tragedy has befallen our family, but we know that she would never want us to behave this way. We said as children we would be best friends forever and I hope you still agree with me after all these years. Expressed with great passion or frank simplicity, words and feelings are unique to us all. Everything about us is different and there is little point in trying to 'blend in' with the crowd.”

The next day the school bell chimed so loudly it seemed that the sound could cause an earthquake; at least that is what Andrea thought. If an android could feel pain, such sounds would be a potential source. Wondering why more students were not made to be ill, a thought suddenly crossed the girl's mind. Her heightened senses, might be the cause. What many would consider to be assets, were slowly becoming a hindrance to her. 

With no room for an upgrade to her programming, having the entire school and neighborhood consoling her for her loss and having to produce the proper response was the closest she ever felt to having a nightmare. Humans might not always like it, having emotional intelligence is more of an asset than any enhancement. Convincing the Child Protective Services that a 17 year old could live alone would also count. She already had her mother taken from her, she didn't need to be taken away by someone else. Soon paranoia began to occur. Jane's brief speech the night before about how 'it's OK to be different' might by some be considered encouraging, but Jane was unaware of just how different they all were. With all this suddenly close contact, surely someone would find out the truth. No amount of deception could delete any knowledge found out about her. Taking an inside look would, even to a Phd engineer, be as much of a confusing journey to partake in as a journey inside the human body would be to anyone else. Instead of the biological developments that are present in humans, a completely different evolution could be seen, comprised of advanced wiring, circuits, memory chips, among other parts. 

Presenting a eulogy and the small funeral could not have went worse. On the bright side, it wasn't too long, but perhaps it was too short. Even a child could present something more thorough than simple praise and a declaration of eternal love. The crowd was not moved, nor did anyone say anything either. Sitting in an office waiting-room would have been more engaging. The trio returned to her house and spent the night.

Always trying and generally succeeding, Jane was not helpful that night. Cleaning up is a chore, so she went into the 'Secret Laboratory' to clean up the excess paperwork. What she found were endless piles, some so large they touched the ceiling, of open 'classified' files. Out of them fell multiple extraordinarily detailed drawings, containers of models and almost as many boxes of school awards and projects. Other than Dr. James degrees, everything was about Andrea. But the dates and locations of when things were received were clearly wrong. She would have been decades older than now, many of the documents were also written in foreign languages. Walking back to look at the models and drawings she realized how much of a resemblance they bore with Andrea. Humoring Jane, Mia went and asked what she thought. As fascinating as it would be, androids are not real she insisted. 

The commotion from the office prematurely awoke Andrea from her regeneration cycle. Already irritated, finding both of her friends snooping through her mother's belongings was bad enough. Assessing their opinions based on their findings would dictate her next actions. As the decades passed, she always wanted to tell the truth to someone, but could never find the people to trust. Upon awakening, in her usual tone of voice, she simply scolded them for entering without permission. Apologizes were given, but Andrea's hopes of starting a deeper discussion were dashed. 

“Wow, I didn't realize your mother was such a talented artist. You clearly inspired her given all of her work was about you,” said Jane before asking, “Do you have any relatives named Andrea?”

“Detailed work is part of the 'Technological Engineer' job requirements, but thank you, no other Andreas,” Andrea replied. 

“Let's get something straight, Jane wants to know if you are an android or if your mother was designing one based on you. As much as I could see her point given your behavior, can you please tell her androids are not real? It would be a fascinating sight to behold though...” commented Mia. “Here is a letter to you, left on your mother's desk.” At least Jane didn't snoop through that document too, giving her a death glare. 

Much to the annoyance of Jane, Andrea didn't open the letter until they both left. Andrea wanted to know its contents, as did Jane, so almost instantly after their departure, she gently opened the letter from her mother. “You are my proudest accomplishment. I love you, be safe and blend in.”

After asking her mother thousands of times what she meant by 'blending in' she never understood. Taking such a dramatic loss to finally make her realize that her mother's usage of the performing arts was just a metaphor. She was just trying to explain what she meant by blending in. Performing onstage wasn't important, it was making your lifestyle 'performance' believable and preventing harm. Realizing that she had now found the answer, she finally felt that her own ability to blend in wasn't out of reach, but admitting the truth was not a wise choice. Yet.

February 27, 2021 02:56

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Morouje Sherif
16:06 Aug 23, 2022

A wonderful story, Shannon! Love to see the contemporary influence of education whilst we are all navigating it somehow. And the pettiness to Androids was hilarious, "Androids are gifted with many different assets, but rarely given a miracle." Very true! Great story, and you are an inspiration! Majoring in Psychology is a very fascinating career path, and I'd love to delve into it while I'm navigating the prime years, you could say :). Nonetheless, a great read!


Shannon Ruane
04:06 Aug 24, 2022

Thank you so much for your comments! I'm hoping to continue this story into a full length book.


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Graham Kinross
05:16 Nov 22, 2021

“simply lacking emotional responses were due to a outside factors, or just that she was merely born an introvert” nothing wrong with being an introvert, unless it brings undue attention. Do you think you’ll continue this story?


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Susie Johnson
23:07 Jun 14, 2021

I truly enjoyed this story. I'm glad to see you have been adding more about the story. It has a lot of potential.


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