Tonight, was the night he would do it.
Orion’s eyes remained wide open as he heard the final few robots shuffle into their charging systems for the night in Cellular 4. He remained dead-still in his bed, heart hammering fast, until he was utterly sure the coast was clear. After shooting a nervous glance at the sparkling electrical clock beside him, he heaved himself up, trying his absolute best to make as little noise as he slipped off the stiff mattress. His dressing gown fell silently to his knees. He made his way to the door, and then slinked through the small doorway of his Cell.
The corridor was alight with the dim lights of charging robots: CC6, YK90, J3M2, B46PL – the list went on and on. All unconscious. He surveyed the corridor swiftly and then padded quietly up to a large grey door, which stood out to him immediately due to the violent orange ‘keep clear unless authorized’ sign screaming into the hollow darkness. He fished out the ID pad he’d snatched off a fellow member of his cell complex and pressed it to the unlocking point on the door. It immediately slid open with a quiet buzz that a hundred years ago would’ve been recognized as an electric car. He slithered inside, the door shutting behind him with the same familiar drone.
Seconds later, his fingers were drumming instinctively on the first computer his eyes had locked on as he’d entered the room. Hardly minutes after that, the screen was alight, and he was in. Millions of records on every single living mechanism in the whole of New Earth flooded the screen, and Orion couldn’t help it as his eyes lit up with hunger for knowledge. He’d craved this knowledge for ten years now – ten years since the revolution – and he wasn’t going to let his chance flop. He cautiously scrolled for a while, reading every single record and mentally copy and pasting them into a little trash can in his mind. Every single one, until he saw one that made him stop and read the record once again. “Justice N. Elrod” was not a robot name, he noted. “Justice N. Elrod” was not a robot name – it was human.
His heart began to thunder in his chest, as if it were dancing with happiness. However, with the joyous revelation that he was not the last human to stand, unpossessed by wires, came the crushing truth that everything his fellow members in Cellular 4 had told him and anything anyone in any other Cellulars of New Earth had told him in the past ten years was scandal. None with electrons surging through what was once called veins instead of blood were to be trusted, and Orion had to find whoever Justice was before it was too late. He would never listen to the robots’ instructions again.
He tapped nervously on Justice’s record. Information hit him hard in the face: member of Cellular 7, to be transformed 3rd March 2123, 00:00, in the Cellular 7 Transformation Cell. That was it, all it said. So little, but it slapped Orion like nothing else. The little digits displaying the time on the computer screen struck him. 00:00. 3rd March. 2123.
But Cellular 7 was an hour behind. Orion could make it – he knew the way; he’d been there once for work. It wasn’t far from Cellular 4, where he was currently. He could take the escalator up to the Cellular 5 and 6 intersection, and then walk down the slope straight ahead for a while, until he got there. Quickly. Quickly walk, maybe even run. He could get there, just in time to stop the robots from transforming Justice. Then they could both make a plan to get away from New Earth forever, and never have to look back. Ever.
And so, then he was running, fast, out the Control Cell and down several sinuous technological corridors, and then he was riding the escalator up to the intersection. The dimly glowing wires that webbed the walls and the tiny sparks let off by charging robots were the only things that allowed Orion’s straining eyes to see his way. Yet, despite his lack of perfect vision, he kept running, determined to get there to save Justice. Straight down the slope. On, and on, and on, but he was almost there. And then after what felt like forever but also no time at all, he was outside the Transformation Cell of Cellular 7, the whizz of several robots alive inside meeting his ears. There was also the irritating drone of their electrical voices, forming a chant. He burst in, praying he wasn’t too late.
Orion hadn’t expected there to be nearly as many robots as there was. Despite having ventured to Cellular 7 before, he’d only ever been inside a few cells – never the Transformation Cell. He’d expected the room to be like the one in Cellular 4 – quite small and empty, only decorated with a singular laptop to control the immense human-sized tube in the corner, with wires trailing across the floor. This cell was very different, however: the room was at least triple the size of the one Orion had seen before and packed full with at least a couple dozen robots, all whirring with excitement. A sea of colors: copper, a pale blue, onyx-grey, ebony. If they noticed Orion, he couldn’t tell, as they continued to powerfully chant, their gazes unbreaking with one incredibly large sapphire-colored test tube in the center of the room. All the robots surrounded it like a ritual. And inside the tube was a human – arms and head flung back, legs limp and their whole-body levitating.
In the milliseconds Orion had, he managed to take in the human’s features. They were a man. Even seemingly being possessed, his hair a complete mess, the man managed to retain a serene, attractive air. His long, dark hair was flying dramatically behind him, his skin a rich brown. That was all Orion managed to take in, but it was enough to tell him that Justice Elrod was incredibly fine-looking man, and despite knowing so little about him, his heart ached as he observed Justice’s beautiful skin become hard metal as his face became etched with multi-colored wires, swelling with electrons. His eyes popped and fell with an atrocious sound to the floor, and were replaced by luminescent little orbs which fixated Orion with a horrifyingly striking stare.
He was next.
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