Science Fiction Short Story Contest

Science Fiction Short Story Contest

Anonymous

The Blank Slate

The loud echo of her shoes against the floor was the first thing Juno Balker noticed. She had never been in a place that was so quiet, so lacking of mechanical voices. Which was quite a surprise considering where she was. Her job had sent her to the home of the man who had managed to raise humans above a constant level of servitude, starving, and war. His name was Ludovic Knox. He was almost dead.

She tucked her translucent hair behind her ear and continued on down the long corridor. Juno’s job was to get an interview, a last speech from the man almost, before he died. He was at the almost death-defying age of three hundred and forty-seven, most people only living into two hundred and fifty. As she approached a fork in the hall she soon realized why she had heard no whirring or no machines speak to her, they were all completely silent, or at least the one she was facing was, designed as to make no sound, not to even verbally respond to a human’s orders, most likely by the choice of Knox.

“I am here to see Mr. Knox.” The glass-covered machine looked in her direction, if you could call it looking, it had the shape of a human, it’s silhouette is most likely that of a man, but it had no defining facial features, just a face of glass allowing you to see the brass and gold colored mechanics that lie beneath. It stepped forward and gestured for her to follow before walking smoothly down to the right, soon after stopping at a large door. He pushed it open, the entire time the machine moved its movements were fluid, more human than any she had ever seen. Maybe it was a prototype.

“What is it now?” Knox muttered angrily, not turning away from his desk where he sat hunched over and concentrating, scribbling on a notepad to his left. Juno had never met someone who had writing utensils anymore. Most people just had audio recorders that changed the person’s voice into text in every known language and even some that weren’t used anymore like Latin.

“I am Juno Balker, I’m here for the intervi-”

“What interview?” He still faced away from her, not bothering to give her any attention. He most likely wouldn’t give her attention, for he was quite into his work and hated being interrupted. She stepped closer curious to see what the old man was doing and say something unexpected. She didn’t know whether to be impressed or concerned, no not concerned. Terrified.

The thing Knox was working on looked like a real child, but the child’s chest opened to reveal extremely advanced mechanics. She stared for a moment, letting the computer inside her brain catalog what was on the table and save it. She would now be able to access this image anytime she pleased.   

“For the reports of your death coming soon.” The thing’s eyes blinked. “May, I ask about the thing you are working on?” Her voice wavered slightly as she turned on the audio device.

“It’s is a he and his name is Atai.” He continued tinkering with the inside of his chest. “He is the future. His body is enabled to grow and age, but all of that will stop at the age of twenty.” She nodded watching his hands. “Say hello to her.” He closed up the things chest and it set up.

“Hello.” The voice wasn’t mechanized or programmed. It was a genuine voice.  It had shocked her immensely when he got down and held out his hand to her. She took it slowly and was even more surprised. It was warm.

“He’s designed to appear and feel as human as possible.” He finally turned towards her, probably just to see her reaction to his creation.

“What inspired you to make such a thing?” She sat down in the chair and watched the thing, Atai, carefully. He just blinked and looked around at his surroundings almost like he wasn’t aware of the two other people besides himself.

“He’s meant to be my companion. Nothing more nothing less. I designed him to look like my younger brother had when he passed. That’s also why he received the name he has. I plan on producing more, people can pick what they look like along with personality traits and so on and so forth. They age, they don’t wither. They’re more perfect than us.” Atai wandered off sometime while Knox was speaking but he didn’t seem to mind. “They can eat, sleep, and do everything a normal child can. No superhuman abilities above the other children. You would never be able to tell the difference until they stopped aging.” Even the idea had started to seem appealing to Juno. She thought about how she was her mother’s only friend her entire life. Her father had never been around. “They probably wouldn’t even know themselves unless someone told them.”

“Why wouldn’t someone tell them?” He blinked slowly and watched her with interest.

“To raise them normally as their child.” She nodded and pulled her hair back again. It had a tendency not to do what she needed.

“I could see the benefits and the harms to that.” He eyes seemed to light up a bit.

“Do tell.”

“Well, while it would make the child more comfortable themselves, they can feel emotions like humans, but depending on the traits they picked out the child could become overly emotional when they do eventually find out and hurt someone or themselves.” He nodded and crossed his legs, leaning back in his seat.

“You do provide an excellent point, but I wonder…” She was slightly confused as to where he was going with this. “Do you mind if I ask about your family?”

“No. Not at all.” She straightened up a bit and crossed her legs at the ankles.

“Do you know both of your parents?” She shook her head in response.

“Only my mother, my father left before I was born.” He nodded studying her face closely.

“Any aunts or uncles?” Another shaked head. “Any other family?”

“Not that I’m aware of.” She was getting nervous at this point, fidgeting and playing with her rings as he stared at her with a blank face.

“I guess the clearing of your data worked quite well then, didn’t it Juno?” She blinked. Bewildered and disgusted at what he just insinuated.

“Excuse me?” He grabbed the notepad and writing utensil off the workstation, scribbling something down.

“Disappointing. I still see your anger issues are there. Along with the lack of intelligence, you kept most of your composure and manners, however.”  She was furious at this point.

“I’m not sure who or what you think I am but I can promise you-” He grabbed a device off of the desk and pointed it towards her.

“Factory reset it is then.” Then Juno Balker was a blank slate.