The Call of the Automatons This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

May 23, 2012
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Anna Beth sighed, running her hands through her tangled hair. She rolled over onto her back, the soft grass tickling her legs. As she looked up at the canopy of trees overhead, she felt calmed by the light green of the leaves as the sun hit them, the chirps of the birds flitting through the branches, the sight of monkeys jumping from tree to tree. Suddenly, the red-headed girl heard a sound coming from the trees to her right.

Anna Beth sat up and watched as a silver figure emerged from the clump of trees. She gasped, for standing just a few feet away was an automaton. Anna Beth had only heard about the robots the government had created.

The silver automaton stood silently in the moss, its blue eyes watching her intently. Automatons were entirely silver, with egg shaped heads and big blue eyes. They had lips like humans, but there the similarities ended. The government based their looks off a movie from the 21st Century called I Robot. These robots were much more advanced, though. And they obviously found ways to escape their chambers. After the government lost an experiment they’d started about 16 years earlier, they locked the automatons up, never to be seen again.

“What is your name?” It sounded so human, except for the slightly chopped speech.

Shaking slightly, Anna Beth stood, facing the automaton, planting her feet on the ground in case it made any sudden moves. Automatons were known to be dangerous. “Anna Beth.”

“Anna. Beth,” the automaton tried. It took a step forward, and Anna Beth ran, her feet carrying her through the forest. She looked behind her to see if it was following her and hit a tree head on. Crying out in pain, she fell to the ground, feeling dazed. She shut her eyes for a moment, cradling her head in her hands.

When she stood up again, after she stopped shaking out of fear, she peeked out from behind the tree and saw the computer-screened fence up ahead. Anna Beth sighed and tapped her ear, turning on a small ear piece that looked like a clear, hearing aid. She knelt down behind the tree and slid open the buckle on her belt, which revealed a computer screen and began hacking into the computer system to shut the fence down. Through her ear peace, she listened to the computer workers typing from their base, the Pentagon, and working to keep the fence monitored until she could finally get into their database. She stood up as her belt buckle slid shut, and she whispered a command to the fence.

The fence shut off and Anna Beth bolted for the dusty road in the town. She barely got to the road when the fence turned back on with a light static sound. She knew that the cameras would work again in a few minutes, but she darted home anyway.

The town mostly consisted of small huts that served as homes. The huts would normally house seven to eight people because of the overpopulation. There were only a few stores for items people needed to survive, because the main profession was farming. Anna Beth ran into her hut and slammed past her three brothers playing on the floor in the hall. She ran to the kitchen and almost bumped into her father. Happily she didn’t, because if she had, she would be tending to a welt on her face.

“Watch it!” he grumbled, pushing her away from him.

“The automatons are back!” Anna Beth yelled between breaths.

Her father looked at her with an angry face, mixed with something else. Did she see concern? “What?” he asked.

“The automatons, they’re back. I saw one through the fence, in the woods,” Anna Beth panted. Slamming his drink down on the table, her father left the kitchen, muttering curses under his breath. “Where are you going?” Anna Beth asked.

“I’m telling the town. They need to know, Anna Beth.” He threw the door open and started to leave when he turned around. “Don’t leave the house,” he growled.

As if Anna Beth could really just sit around and wait for the townspeople to raid her forest and destroy the automaton and probably countless others. Never. Anna Beth walked out the door and slowly walked down the street. She stopped short when she came to a shop and saw every adult in the town gathered in Town Square, listening to her father talk about the automatons. She stayed behind the store until well after dusk, listening to the people come up with plans to slaughter the automatons. After a while, her legs began cramping, sending tremors of pain up her legs.

Finally, when the townspeople began to disperse, Anna Beth wandered into the crowd and quickly hacked the fence. She stalked through the forest all night, looking for the automaton she’d encountered. When the sun rose, she felt discouraged, ready to give up. Sliding down a tree, Anna Beth cradled her head in her hands again, upset she hadn’t found it.

Hearing a sound, she looked up and saw the automaton again. “Anna Beth, what are you looking for?” it wondered.

Anna Beth stood up, guarding herself against the robot, just in case. “Information,” she said.

“Information,” it repeated. “That… I have.”

“Good, now, what’s your name?”

“AM-323,” it responded.

Anna Beth interrogated it until she found the information she needed. There were 1,607 of the robots, but only 500 made it to the forest. They escaped by force, according to AM-323, and they only wanted two things: a home, and the girl who could give it to them.

When the automaton took a step toward her, she yelled, “Don’t take another step!” She took a step back, her back hit the tree, and she yelped in pain. AM-323 held its arm out. She reached with her left hand and touched a cuff on its wrist. Suddenly, it grabbed her wrist, squeezing it tight. Anna Beth cried out until it let go.

She looked at her hand and gasped in surprise. In the middle of her palm was a small glowing circle, and then a blue-green color tinted with purple ran down her arms through her veins. “I knew it,” the automaton whispered.

“Knew what?” Anna Beth said frantically. She closed her hand and the color stopped.

“You are the girl. The blood of an automaton runs through your veins. You were an experiment, to see if humans could be mixed with automatons to make superhumans. They would be stronger, more dangerous, smarter, but still have the emotions and appearance of humans. You ran away when you were three, so they stopped testing, afraid you had died.”

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Anna Beth muttered, inspecting her arm. It looked entirely normal.

“Why do you think you feel so at home here? This forest is ours,” the automaton whispered, spreading its hands.

“It’s a normal forest.”

The automaton laughed, and then whistled. A bird came down and landed on its metal arm. Anna Beth realized it was an automaton, too, because of its blue eyes that matched AM-323’s. “Every animal here is either a prototype, like me, or a mix of animal and robot, like you. They are known as the Firsts, since they were the first to be created.”

Suddenly, everything clicked in Anna Beth’s head. She was a mix of a human and an automaton. That was why she looked so different from her tan-skinned, dark haired siblings, with her fiery red hair and pale skin. That was why she could run faster, jump higher, fight better. She’d been able to hack into that fence because her brain worked like that of an automaton, which understood technology better than anyone else. Finally she understood why her mother kept such a close eye on her and why her father looked at her with utter disgust. He obviously thought her mother cheated on him and produced her. She wondered what her real father and real mother were like, if they missed their little girl, if they even wanted her to take place in the experiment.

Anna Beth suddenly wanted to do everything she could to protect this place. She didn’t want the people she spent 13 years with to hurt her newfound family. “This is home,” she realized. “I’ll defend it. How do we do it?”

499 other automatons stepped out from the trees, the Firsts following them. “We fight,” AM-323 said. Anna Beth heard the chants and screams from the town behind her, surrounding the fence. She reached her arm out to AM-323 and he grabbed her wrist again. The glow began again in her hand, rising up her left arm, down her right. The glow ran up her neck, she felt it on her face. She looked at AM-323 and saw her face reflected in its own. Her eyes, usually dark brown, turned entirely blue like the automatons’. She turned; ready to lead her people into battle, ready to win.

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Ecrivain This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 1, 2012 at 10:44 pm
Your concept is so interesting (you could totally turn it into a novel) and the ending leaves me with wanting more! I just think you should make the realization more gradual ; it just seems jumpy but then I suppose this is an idea for a longer story, correct? But I love it anyway. I love the world you have created and the way you described everything (especially the automatons). Keep writing! 
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