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Metal Detector

By , milford, IN

I know that the future was depicted as basically just robots, flying cars, and moving sidewalks. But we only kinda managed the one thing—robots. We have those, lots of ‘em. And for the record they are pretty helpful and pretty cool, when you think about it. Not everyone sees it that way.
The Terminator Movement, or the TM. Which is  named after the 1984 movie, are out for the total eradication of humanity's dependence on the robots. They are kinda the laughing stalk of the world really.  For years, they have told of robots that can hide among us completely undetected. Claimed there were these unstoppable—killer—robots! Needless to say, everyone thought they were insane.
I mean, today your average robot is humanoid. He or she, depending on the model, has everything from pre-programmed blink cycles to programmable quirks. On the surface, they are coated in synthetic faux-organic material that feels like skin. If skin was always 98 degrees unless you go for the cheap non-heated model, most people do. Anyways they, at a quick glance, are nearly identical to humans. With the minor detail of their little metal A’s, this is something that distinguishes ‘em from us. Every Automaton has a synthetic steel A, embedded into the middle of their forehead region. Most everyone owns one—a robot.
Anyways all robots and stuff are built by Thingamabob Inc.  They also didn’t spend too much time on picking a decent company name. That's actually just personal speculation, if I am being honest. Anyways, Thingamabob Inc. is the world's leading—and only—manufacturers of Automatons. My father and mother both work—or rather—have worked with ‘em. Ever since I can remember they have worked for the company.
Not that they’d talk about it. They’d come home go to sleep only to get up and go to work again the next day. And when their jobs aren't running their every second of every day they’d still refuse to talk about it.
“You have enough on your plate with school without us complaining to you about work.” My mother would say daily, a blatant lie. Nothing against my mother, but she was a bad liar. If something was troubling her, you’d be able to tell before she even had a chance to deny it. Lying never works when you're scared. And I believe she probably is.

I noticed it a year ago, when the first, android, “...posing as a human…” as the news put it, was found. Some “girl” in Japan set off a metal detector when she attempted to board a plane. Why a robot was dumb enough to try that was beyond me. No one else seemed to understand either, there were wild speculations, none of them could hold water. The only information that surfaced was announced when the news reported that the “girl” had simply, ran away from home. The reason didn’t matter, the android was promptly—deactivated—of course. Its creators, the “girl’s” self-proclaimed “parents” were incarcerated for their hand in the concealment and creation of the machine.
And no one was bothered by the deactivation or the incarceration. The thing that seemed to spook everyone and wig em out was the lack of an A. No A adorned “her” forehead. It had looked human in every respect. This single event proved  that the Terminator Movement was, and had always been right. But, it wasn’t the small things—the details—that bothered people.  No, what made everyone so paranoid from that point on was the question that had been planted in most people’s minds.
“Are there more!?” The question got a swift and devastating answer.
“Yes! Hundreds!” Proclaimed the news in wild speculation. This was after a “boy” was hit by a car in Russia. Leaving behind the mangle mass of metal scraps and that faux-skin stuff. The driver was subsequently, hailed as a hero.
Following these events my mother stopped working. She was on the couch when I left for school and still when I returned. Whereas dad, reacted contrastingly—he never came home. Well, that was an exaggeration, he came home after I fell asleep and left before I would wake up—per mom. In his attempt to, make up for it, my words not his, he called every night with some made up excuse.
“Members from the TM came in and trashed the place all workers have to stay late tonight to clean up. Sorry!” This was a lie. If the TM had really broken in, it would have been all over the news. The news wanted nothing more than to destroy TM. Even if, they had predicted this whole mess.
         Nonetheless, here I am, with a mother who barely looks at me and a father who's rarely home. All because some idiots built some androids and freaked everyone out. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of these A-less androids, it kept me up at night sometimes. But it's not like I was gonna do something about it. But even now, months after the last androids was found, people still can't seem to get over it. People still panic, convinced that androids were the cause of all sorts of strife.
Their panic manifested in the form of citywide rallies where the fearful stood proclaiming their fears for all to hear. The Terminator Movement’s numbers grew like weeds. It seemed like everyone from the mayor to the homeless population had joined in the crazy. Everyone was scared beyond reasoning. Sadly, many people didn’t seem to know what they were even afraid of.
“The electricity in my flats been shut off!” Screamed a woman whom I had passed on my way to school today; one of these mobs had formed around my daily route. Can’t go over it. Can’t go around it. Can't go over it. Guess I have to go through it.
I hated walking through these groups. They always got my adrenaline going. Don't get me started on how paranoid these things make a person. You couldn’t walk through this much crazy without feeling a bit crazy. Speaking of crazy, I caught a glimpse of the lady. A disgusting sheen of sweat coated her oxygen deprived face as she screamed more nonsense. I recognized her as a parent of one of my classmates, I couldn't remember the girl's name, I wonder if she knew her mom was crazy? I wondered if she was as crazy as her mother? I wondered how she's dealing with the power outage.
That lady was not the only one who seemed less aware of the actual threat the androids presented and more aware of the problems their dysfunctional life choices caused. I mean the way I saw it, the big problem was robots that couldn’t be seen as robots. Without the A, they could look like us completely, they were virtually undetectable-
  “Thems took my dog!” I could only imagine what face was connected to that one. These were the same people who constantly called in the Guards. Who were, ironically enough, a group of robots that carted off people who were suspected of being androids. They drive around in the extremely “inconspicuous” bright teal vans. They snatched people up all the time, only to return em a few minutes later because the accusations had been—surprise— fraudulent. I think all around the world only ten of these android things had been found—none from our city.
“Not yet anyways…” As the mayor, had insisted in her nasally voice, about the city, “Neoteric Falls! The greatest city in the universe!” As she’d like you to believe, though the name literally meant—New Falls. Which made little sense to me, due to the fact the city was hundreds of years old, and contained no water falls. Not that the mayor cared though; I mean she had personally accused no less than sixty-three people. And a whopping zero of ‘em had been anything other than human.
Surprisingly, no one had accused her. But she did have the face of a pug dog- or maybe a doll someone had stepped on? This probably cleared her of all suspicion; no one would bother building such an ugly robot. Pulled away from my thoughts of the mayor, I saw the light through the sea of bodies and my heart fluttered. Almost there-
A hand hooked my elbow and yanked hard, turning me towards its owner, who proceeded to grab my shoulders.  Based on the way the hands grabbed me, their owner was shorter than me. I could probably take ‘em in a fight, I chose to suppress the desire to deck the hands owners and-
         “THE END IS COMING MY DEAR SWEET CHILD!” A shrill voice declared, triggered an involuntary wince. You’ve got to be kidding me! I look back over my shoulder only to see people reforming their group, blocking my escape.
“You have ten seconds to explain before I-” she just smiles waiting for me to continue, “I was this close-” I hold up my hand, my pointer finger and thumb nearly touching, “To decking you.” She shakes her head in mock disappointment.
“Sam. Sam. Sam.” she repeats. “Why so angry all the time?” I shoved her hands off my shoulders. And proceed to make it seem as if she were just some random person with whom I had no connection.
“THE MAIL MEN AREN’T HUMAN!” A man declared, as if that was news.
I really just wanted to respond with something like, “Well, yes sir! How observant of you, it's only been like that for the past hundred years.” But I held my tongue you can't reason with crazy.
“THE ROBOTS WANT TO BLOW UP THE MOON!” She’d cupped her hands around her mouth to make sure everyone could hear her. I was beginning to drown in embarrassment.
“Rachel Anne Quick!”I snap in an attempt to end the nonsense she was now using, trying to get a reaction from the crowed. On the bright side, in her attempt to join in the crazy, Rachel was using her powers for good. I mean she was graciously choosing to warn us of the robots’ moon hating agenda.
“Why would they want to blow up the moon?” I ask humoring her.
“So, you're acknowledging my existence good pal o’ mine?” When I didn't respond, she drops it with a smirk. “Who doesn’t?” She shrugs in, “Besides!” She declares fishing for something in her bag. “It doesn’t matter, what does matter is-” she trails in an attempt to buy herself some time. I sigh as her inability to find what ever she was looking for, started going on five minutes.
“Rachel-” She cuts me off with the look of a victor.
“Is this!” She announces as she shoves her phone in my face. A picture already queued up, depicting  something called a Cuff. And based on my apparent confusion, Rachel decides to enlighten me.
“That picture started circulating last night. Rumor is their testing it in some school, our school to be exact!” I frown in confusion, “I heard the Mayor kinda volunteered the school herself.” she shrugged.
“What did she volunteer us for? What’s it do?” I ask.
“Put it on the wrist of any androids and BAM-!” I jump, widening the smile on her face. “DEACTIVATION!” The smile falters as she fails to get whatever reaction she’d desired. So, she switches into a sort of voice over person’s voice impression, “A single pulse of high voltage electricity and deactivation is guaranteed in 10 seconds or your money back!” Shifting out of the weird voice, “According to the description on Thingamabobs website.” I shake my head as we break through the sea finally and the school came into view.
“So, the school's gonna make us try on jewelry and hope we aren't bots?” She nods smiling ear to ear. “What if they put that thing on someone who isn’t a robot and they get electrocuted?” She shrugs.
“I heard they are going to make us take a test first or something.” Her face turns serious as she stares intently at a short redhead, from Rachel’s programming class. “I bet May-” the redhead, “-is a bot!” And Rachel quickly spouts the names of her many suspects. I tune her out as we near the school steps. “Maybe you're a robot.” I’m jerked from my thoughts.
“Huh?” and she grabs my arm.
“Always 98 degrees-” I c*** an eyebrow in question.
“Are you a human thermometer?” I ask as she begins staring intently at my face, counting aloud. She was blocking my path up the school steps.
“Twenty blinks a second.” she gasps. I was pretty sure all people did that. “And you never seem to grow! Like a robot!” I survey her features searching for signs of jest.
“Or I had my growth spurt already?” I fail to suppress a laugh.
“Likely story-” she trails narrowing her eyes. “You didn't start going to school here until a few years ago—like a robot!” I snort a laugh.
“Robots change schools?” I ask feigning a serious tone.
“I would.” she insists crossing her arms and smiling like she’d just caught me.
“So, you're the robot?” I ask crossing my arms smiling.
“That’s what a robot pretending to be a human would say!” I just look at her quizzically and she continues. “Only a robot would accuse a human of being a robot! It's the oldest trick in the book!”
“What book?” The bell rings from inside the building; she spins and enters the school dramatically declaring her best friend was a robot. Ridiculous, and late to class.
         I didn’t see Rachel, until we walked home together, the mobs long since disbanded.
         “May and some annoying kid, from our Trig. class-” She didn't say it like she was trying to insult the kid. Honestly, it was really just because she didn’t know how else to describe him “-were robots!” She states abruptly. Her black hair looked like it had suffered its own personal tornado. That coupled with the weird look in her eyes made her look slightly like escapee mental patient, but only slightly more than usual.
         “Really?” I ask, dragging the word out, I’d heard this earlier, and still wasn’t sure of its legitimacy.
         “Ya, the lower half of the Alphabet was tested today with that cuff thing.” She explains, “I thought I’d feel warm and fuzzy or something, watching that smug face get deactivated-” she couldn’t say much about the other kid—neither could I though. He’d been a classmate whose name neither of us had ever learned. But I mean May and Rachel, had been like nerd rivals or something. Always trying to one up the other in the grade department. They had a sort of mutual hatred I think. Rachel just shakes her head sadly. “I kinda miss her already ya know? I hated her don't get me wrong!” she warns, “But I mean it’s not like she was hurting anyone!” I nod slowly. I’d never even fantasized about Rachel defending May-
“I mean sure but-” she shakes her head and looks at me frowning. “Sam don't you dare be a robot I couldn’t bear it!” I snort.
“Maybe I’ll go out of my way to be a robot, now that you mention it-” I trail as I wave her off, stepping into the drive of my home. She just shakes her head before heading home herself.
         I twisted the door open and mom basically tackled me, while simultaneously slamming the door shut. Her grip on my arms was tight, shaky, and cold. Her eyes blood shot to high heaven and hair uncombed. And I thought Rachel had looked crazy.
         “They found two more androids today!” She exclaims as she wraps me in a hug. “And that was just at your school!” I nod again attempting to wrap my head around why she was so freaked. I pull away slowly. “I just heard-” she stops. “I thought-” she shakes her head. “I was worried about your safety.” I frown.
         “From the bots?” She looked sick for a second before going back to just plain crazy. And we stand in awkward silence, as I waited for her to answer what I thought was a simple question.
         “Have they tested you yet?” she asks after a long pause. I shake my head.
         “You aren't going to school tomorrow!” She declares suddenly; I raise a brow.
         “Mom, if there are more androids they will be caught you don't have to worry-” Her frown deepened for a moment. And suddenly her features turned soft and the emotion in her eyes became blurred with tears. She shakes her head.
“You can’t go to school tomorrow!” she decides. I seat myself at the table and looked at her as analytically as possible trying to figure out what the heck was going on.
         “Sounds great, mom.” she nods. “But I am dying to hear what the school doing some testing with these cuffs have to do wi-” I laugh as it snaps together. “You can't really think-”
         “Listen to me Sam, there's an explanation for this-” I shake my head with a nervous smile plastered on my face.
   “Why not just call the Guards?” I ask, trying to power through the tears threatening to spill forth. It’s not that I was sad I was just getting really frustrated! Why the heck was she- “How could you think- no.” I take a deep calming breath, “Mom, why do you think this?”
            “I can call your father, then we can explain everything-” She was crazy, at least when Rachel tried to pull this she was joking.
          “He’s probably busy, the TM probably broke in again.” Her response hit the limit of ridiculous I was willing to deal with today.
          “He doesn’t work for Thingamabob- we never-” I stand from the table and grab my backpack, rubbing my eyes vigorously.
“This is ridiculous.”  She doesn't respond. I sigh, “You know what mom I’ve got lots of homework.”
  “I can explain-”
“There is nothing to explain mom.” I ascend the stairs and step into my room. I slammed my bedroom door as hard as humanly possible. I did what humans do. I sulked in anger and embarrassment all night trying to figure out why she’d think that? I was also half convinced the Guards would show up in the night. I had no idea what to say to her when I’d see her tomorrow. I ended up not figuring out what to say, to her, and opted to just climb out the window to avoid her altogether.
“Sam?” Rachel asked waving a hand in front of my face. I blinked trying to clear the thoughts of yesterday from my mind.
   “Yes?” I ask clearing my throat.
“You look tired.” she states narrowing her eyes. “Do robots get tired?” She asks with a smile, she was trying to goad a response. I just rolled my eyes.
“Apparently” Her eyebrows rocket, wide eyed, she waited for me to continue. “My mom thinks I'm a robot.” I admit with a smile. Rachel's face bursts into an enormous toothy smile.
  “Really?” She squeals with the enthusiasm. I explain last night's events and she gets a real kick out of it. “And for the record if you were a robot it would be rad!” She laughed. “A robot best friend would be amazing!”
The school day began as a dull blur. My mind was anywhere, but present. It was swirling with irrational fear. What if mom was right? Why was I letting her crazy ramblings convince me of anything? I knew me better than anyone if I was a robot I would know!
“Adams.” I jump in my seat, resulting in a few chuckles that bounced around the room. The Robot that taught whatever class this was, showed no sign of annoyance or amusement. “You are to report to the gym for testing.”
The gym was full of kids ready for the testing. Turns out, the testing was just to walk through a metal detector. And if it went off you got to spend your last seconds modeling that cuff thing. The metal detector didn’t make a single noise as my class mates stepped through. It wasn’t until I took that step that the alarms went off. All heads turned to me. And when the Guards came at me with those cuffs—I ran. Trying to think of reasons I might have set it off, other than the one my mother had tried to explain to me. Maybe I had something in my pocket? Metal pocket lint?
I flew across sidewalks—weaving about—constantly throwing glances over my shoulder. I must have looked insane, or insanely suspicious. If there was a class on how to seem suspicious, I’d either ace it or teach it. If I was gonna act like some sort of wanted criminal, technically I may qualify as such, I might as well think like one. Where would someone who didn’t want to be found hide?
I found myself in some local store. Might as well hide in plain sight—right? I darted frantically from aisle to aisle—aimlessly—trying to think of an excuse I could sell the Guards. Maybe, they would buy that I had a metal hip? A loud announcement from the electronics section called my attention as I navigated the store.
“THIS ANDROID IS ON LOOSE!” the TVs echoed and my face lit the screens. They had used my—unflattering—school photo. I wondered, if in fact I was a robot, why someone chose to make one that looked like me? Maybe the Mayor was a robot after all?
People began pointing and whispering. So, I left the building—minimal resistance—like no one knew what to do. Unfortunately though, I was spotted rather quickly—just my luck. The city having been on high alert. A group of Guards began chasing me, as the rain picked up. If, I had known this was how the day was gonna end, I would have skipped school.
The sound of metal feet hitting the pavement trailed me with unnatural volume. I knew with horrific certainty; they were gaining on me. I dare not turn back to look at ‘em as I passed into the streets of the harbor. Most people just glared or pointed, having seen the news. Others eeped and gasped as I shoved my way past ‘em. I felt guilty as I shoved past the countless people- I turned just long enough to catch a glimpse at their metal faces, fear shot through me.
“STOP!” a voice called out. I nearly jumped out of my skin, quickly looking forward. That voice was the stuff of nightmares! Deeper than any human voice, four times as loud, and completely emotionless. I mean I had never seen these Guards up close. They seemed to be your typical robots, sans fake skin for some reason. Maybe so they would be more intimidating? But I mean with voices like that—mission accomplished!
My foot caught a patch of uneven pavement, the raised ground coupled with the slick rain- They were my downfall really. My right palm hit first, it collided—hard—with a sickening metallic snap. Whatever just broke, was now protruding from my arm—painlessly. It caused sparks to fly as the exposed bits skidded across pavement. Unable to stop my momentum. I heard a metallic THUNK, my head had hit the ground. It all happened so fast!
I lay there, struggling to process what I was seeing. My vision was filled with glitches. Pixelated disturbances that made whatever must be in place of heart do flips. Coupled with the smoking metal and wires that now protruded from my wrist, they were the last damning pieces of evidence that confirmed everything mom, and Rachel, had said. I was either a machine or had a really rare condition-
The Guards had caught up. Hands pulled me to my feet. Wordlessly my good wrist was pulled forward and the metallic cuff was snapped into place. I looked at the scene around me, the camera crews. They were the part that seemed the weirdest, I never thought I’d do anything news worthy. But it wasn’t just news casters who circled me now. I also saw normal people gathering around waiting to see the show. I didn’t know any of these people, or so I thought. Until I caught a glimpse of the idiot, and she was barreling towards the epicenter of this mess.
“HEY LET HER GO!” Rachel's voice demanded, “LET HER GO!”
“Ma’am stand down this android is being deactivated.” a voice instructed as two other Guards detained her. I saw mom in the crowd, she was screaming into her phone. Her face blotchy and tear streaked. Wonder who she was talking to? Maybe dad. Maybe they'd give him time off from work when he was arrested. Where ever that work was- I was just glad she was out of the house for once.
“DON’T PRESS THAT BUTTON!” Rachel’s voice screamed. I was snapped back into the reality of my current situation. That Guards she yelled at—didn't listen. The hands keeping me still let go just in time for him to press that obnoxious looking red button and-
“SAM!” Was that mom? I also heard my named called from several other directions. Just as a tremor knocked me to my knees, as the cuff sent an electrical pulse through me. I lost control of my body and from the parts I could see I was spasming.
“System-m-ms mal-malfunc-functioning.” So, this is what the cuff does? Was that really my voice? Weird.
“Sam don't you dare-!” and time stopped in that horrible moment. Rain frozen in time. Rachel's face mid scream.  It's like I was stuck staring into the frozen world of my last second.
Were the others like me? Did they think they were human? Did they get stuck like this? Did they know who built ‘em? Why they existed? Did their parents know, the way mine had? Where had we come from? Thingamabob Inc.? The company that built it all? Had they built whatever I was, what those “kids” were? Or was there some crazy robot building company? Is that where dad and mom worked that would explain-
I felt tears on my face, warmer than the rain. I felt ‘em. I—physically—felt ‘em cascading down my face in tandem with the rain.
Could all robots cry? Could they feel? Could the other “kids” cry? Did they feel? Did they get scared? I was scared. I used to think I was a pretty brave person; I thought I was a person. But right now, I think I’m feeling something stronger than just scared. What would come after this frozen second? What next? Where do robots go when they’re deactivated? Maybe-

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