Science Fiction Suspense Adventure

««« Warning: Language, sexual innuendo »»»

I was awakened by a wailing alarm. My dream fingers had been on a course for that lacy bra strap. In reality, I’m lying alone and groggy with my nethers as stiff as a vintage joystick. The alarm quieted. 

I glared at the helicopter gadget hovering above my bed. It’s the size of a golf ball and rooted into my brain through a transmitter chip in my left temple—my ZeeBudd, Charli.

What’s a ZeeBudd? Wow, you must either be someone who kills and cooks their own food or old enough to remember tapping a cell phone screen. ZeeBudds are government control masked as modern convenience. All citizens are wired into one by age two, and they’re the most irritating, deplorable—

“Good morning, Jeiz!” my ZeeBudd chirped in its tinny teenybopper voice.

Okay, so I didn’t loathe the thing enough to ignore all its features. You can program its character, the colors on the mini display, and…I’m getting off track.

I squished a pillow over my face to block out the day and kicked up a foot. I grumbled when I felt no impact of metal on my leg. “I said eleven twenty-five, Charli.”

The muffled whirring of propeller blades neared my head. “It’s past that. Up and at ‘em if you wanna score today.”

Fine, so I also programmed some choice lingo into Charli’s memory. I still hated her. I had been about to score in that dream when…wait, what did she say?

I flung the pillow aside and peered into Charli’s mini screen. Eleven twenty-nine flashed in red digits like the countdown on a bomb.

“Ah, shit!” 

I scrambled for the bathroom, a ratty shirt from days ago reaching out to trip me. I recovered just in time to grab my comb. 

Charli said, “It has been five days since your last shower.”

And my hair was at that length where I resembled a scarecrow no matter how much gel I used.

Charli flitted overhead. “Mandatory UnaniCorp meeting begins in ten…nine…”

“Wait a sec!” I skipped my morning piss in favor of snatching a shirt I hoped was clean.


A laser air screen materialized from Charli’s projector as I smoothed my collar. I had no time for pants, but meetings in my knickers had become a regular thing. My camera focused on chest-up. At least my backdrop was now a blank wall instead of my bathroom.

The semi-transparent display blinked twelve of my coworkers to life. The highest government dogs, Brad and Cooper, started rambling their corporate lingo. No one could tell their droning voices apart without watching their lips move. The bottom-rung programmers—save for D.L. who was exempt from video—nodded at the tasks.

Push out more digital ads for UnaniCorp, and up the security for local ZeeBudds. I could detangle the code in less time than it took my coworkers to shit themselves from the error readout.

The top right video feed was my sole source of entertainment.

Reeda’s tops dipped lower each day when promotions neared. Today, her chosen flavor was grape strapless with a flash of peach bra. A flick of the air screen had me gazing into those fleshy blimps without the angle of my eyes tattling on me.

“Get all that, Jeiz?” Bradley or Cooper asked.

“Uh, yeah. Rework the security patch data and push the change out.”

“Right. Your ZeeBudd has access to the data now. Finish by end of day.”

I mock saluted, and the call was over. Now I could ruminate Reeda’s jugs alone in my fourteen-by-fourteen apartment. Good, I really had to pee.

Charli said, “Additional UnaniCorp data pending download. Commence?”

“Yeah, do it.”

While I relieved myself, Charli’s movement blew my hair enough to tickle my cheek. Ignoring her was silly since she couldn’t stray more than ten feet from me. No one’s ZeeBudd could without penalty. The robots had a direct line to UnaniCorp and were powered by a top-secret energy source that never dried up. Trying to damage ZeeBudds caused their human counterparts severe migraines.

“Download complete,” Charli said. “Would you like to install and view?”

I zipped myself into stained jeans smelling of old fryer grease and sighed. “In a minute.” 

A peek out my lone window revealed empty streets and boarded shops three stories down. With everything delivered through larger, detached DeliviBudds, few people ventured outside. I hadn’t felt those warm daylight rays in over a week—unless you count reaching through my window to accept deliveries.

I frowned. When was the last time I touched another human? The latest health trends warned against personal contact. But hadn’t I ventured to the relic store, Paulo’s, at some point?

Paulo’s was my every so often happy spot. Just the thought of those shelves lined with dusty tech intended for entertainment instead of entrapment had me forgetting about my work deadline and overdue delivery tab. But it wasn’t just times of freedom past that held my focus.

I rubbed my pasty fingers together and smiled. Beyond those shelves at Paulo’s, tucked between two ancient computer towers sat—

“Jeiz, you have spent ninety-two point seven percent of your waking hours pondering contact with women. This is ill-advised.”

My shoulders bunched. “Thanks for that, Charli.”

“Shall we try to score after your deadline?” She buzzed by the left side of my head. “Or should I play your fantasy content now?” 

It was depressing that I accepted Charli—a robot feeding the government info of my mundane thoughts—as the closest entity to a woman in my life.

“Just show me the work data.”

“With pleasure!”

I gave a bitter chuckle at the innuendo while Charli brought up her screen. The image followed me to my chair, but I was transfixed on a handwritten note at one corner of my desk. The tape holding it in place had curled at each corner.

“Thanks for the tip!”

I felt a tug at one edge of my mouth. That shaky cursive yanked me right back to Progressive ZeeBudd Security class and the brilliant brunette who had carried outdated materials in her frayed messenger bag. 


I hadn’t seen paper in years before she had slipped me the vintage note. It was no wonder she enjoyed outdated materials; her family owned Paulo’s.

My reverie was interrupted by a zap to my earlobe.

“Ow, Charli? The hell?”

Charli made high-pitched beeps I had never heard from her. She had her extendable toothpick arms reaching for my face. When she responded, her voice shuffled between old man and washed-up celebrity. “Data invalid…not compute…transi—stemmmmm…”

Another zap charged through my temple. “Cut it out.”

I reached for her circular body, but she shocked my fingers. Her air display faded out in pixelated blips. Her propellers sputtered until she fell into my hand. The silence stunned me as much as my faulty counterpart.

“Whoa, Charli?” I poked her round body, but all she did was make irregular buzzing sounds. “That data you downloaded…”

My mouth dropped open. If ZeeBudds could be corrupted to this degree, I had never heard of it. What I had heard was friends discussing people disappearing in the past month after reporting irregular ZeeBudd behavior. The local UnaniCorp news broadcast mentioned nothing of this.

“Damn it, you’re not getting me in trouble.” I shook her. She blipped and jumped, but her rotor wouldn’t function. She zapped me again before she went still.

I couldn’t do my work or pay my bills. I couldn’t communicate. A government official could be noticing Charli’s lost connection. A brain hemorrhage could paralyze me at any moment. 

My hands shook as I scanned the useless contents of my cluttered apartment until my focus settled on Lindi’s note.


The entire way to Paulo’s, Charli zapped me through my jacket pocket. I sprinted down the vacant sidewalk, thankful I wouldn’t draw attention. Streaking would be less conspicuous than lacking a ZeeBudd. DeliviBudds toted their packages overhead, giving me the sense that I was a fugitive dodging spotlights.

I turned a corner, panting. Paulo’s was wedged between two abandoned stores where weeds poked through the cracked brick walls. For once, I didn’t hesitate outside the store. I flung myself around the door to the chime of a cowbell.

I picked my way through the piled, rusted heaps of rubbish until I reached the checkout counter. 

Lindi stared at my heaving form. For a breath, her inquisitive expression wiped my mind.

“You look familiar,” she said, but I knew from that pinch by her eye that she wondered more about my missing ZeeBudd. Hers hovered a few feet overhead, blowing Lindi’s cherry streaks. 

Why would Lindi remember me from a class we had shared almost a decade ago? Nothing about my string bean figure was notable, and I had a policy to speak only when prompted. My brain didn’t count her statement as a prompt requiring a response.

“So, uhhh, can I help you?” Lindi asked.

While I had forgotten how to form words, her ZeeBudd hovered in my face. The voice of a pigtailed six-year-old emanated from the device.

“Wanted criminal, Jeiz Spectra. Age thirty-four, last known contact twenty-eight days ago by fifteen-foot proximity.”

Okay, so I had never mustered the courage to enter Paulo’s when Lindi was working. Her ZeeBudd had known when I peeked through the window but kept my secret? I lifted a wrinkled brow to the blessed robot. Its screen winked at me.

“You’re wanted?” Lindi’s eyes were shining as she leaned toward me. “What did you do? Hack your ZeeBudd? Disconnect it?”

I reached into my pocket and pulled Charli out. “Not on purpose. I need your help.”

“Mine? Why?” Lindi’s nostrils flared, and her mouth made an odd shape. “Fry grease. Ultimate ZeeBudd Security class. You helped me ace that final exam.”

It was my turn for warped features. Tingling emanated from my heart until a distant siren jolted my nerves. “Shit, I’m wanted? They know! I didn’t mean—” I tapped Charli’s screen. “Come on, wake your ass up!”

Lindi’s eyes were on the shop door, her tongue licking her lips. She reached under the desk, and metal panels rattled and lowered over the shop windows. While I stood stunned, she grabbed my free hand.

She said, “I’ve been waiting to tackle another three-decade case.”

“Case? Wha—just help me fix Charli!”

“I will. Hurry.”

Lindi jerked me toward a back room, gliding past the clutter as if she could navigate it blind. She shut and locked a back door behind us. Everything was dark. If I weren’t freaked out of my mind, I’d have been turned on as hell from the scent of strawberry lotion overshadowing brittle iron.

We moved straight through a corridor which bounced the sound of our steps and her ZeeBudd’s whizzing.

Lindi said, “Engage code five-two-five.”

“Engaging,” her ZeeBudd replied. A red wireframe scan lit up the area. When the light turned green, we had arrived at the end of a hallway. “Zone secure.”

“Okay,” Lindi said, pushing a button near the low ceiling. She turned to me. “Do I have your full support for what’s about to happen?”

I had been so focused on holding her hand through my adrenaline rush that my brain had to refresh. “Support? What’s about to happen? I don’t even know what’s wrong with—”

Lindi patted the broken chunk in my hand. “I know. But you’re safe. We can speak freely here without government interference.”

My eyes flicked to her hovering, giggling ZeeBudd.

Lindi grinned. “Dahnta’s safe. I reprogrammed her transmission mode.”

“You reprogrammed…” My eyes were pools of admiration reflecting the woman who had earned one point higher than me on that exam. No wonder my gut had sent me here.

“And now”—she held out her hand until I gave her Charli—“I can teach you how to reconfigure yours.”

“Teach me?” A different kind of adrenaline pricked through me.

“Unless you’re content to hide your skills at the bottom of UnaniCorp until you’re wrinkly.” Her squinting eyes and curved lips captured me, and she knew it. “You in?”

The wall dinged and opened to reveal a lift. Lindi moved inside but waited with a hand on her hip. I threw a glance over my shoulder at the hallway. I could follow the only person with whom I felt a tangible connection to illegally hack UnaniCorp property or turn myself in for something I didn’t do.

I was glad I had used the bathroom right before this went down.

My nerves convulsed my fingers, but I stepped inside with her. “I’m in.”

“Welcome to Tech Dump, Jeiz.”

The door closed behind us, and we sank into a world that didn’t exist.

February 24, 2021 20:10

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Roger Scypion
22:03 Mar 05, 2023

Great story, engaging throughout. Will there be more added to this one? Makings for an excellent novel.


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20:09 May 23, 2021

I have heard in my college days about a novel in which the concept was technological advancements and human life. The climax of the novel was, at the end every thing of day to day business of mankind was being controlled, monitored and adminstered through robotic and automatic mechines, but there was no one to enjoy it becsuse human life ended due to the radiation.


Lydi B
17:44 Jul 11, 2021

Sounds too close to reality to be sci-fi, hah. Guess we'll see if we're all still here in 20 years.


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