Ana’s chamber was glowing a deep green. She was all recharged and ready for a day of working in the factory.
The green light started to flash. It was time to extend her arm, open the door and make her way down on the revolving lift with all the other Myrmidons.
The green light continued to flash and Ana held out her hand. On the wall was a key pad to open the doors of her chamber.
All of a sudden her arm stopped in midair. The green light was getting brighter and brighter…plink! Something hit the metallic floor. The green light had stopped flashing and turned a soothing orange.
Ana looked down at the floor. By her feet lay something shiny. She screwed up her eyes and focused on it.
Why, it’s a screw. But from what? Thought Ana. Her hand still hung suspended in the air on its computerized path to open the door, as it was programmed to do every day.
My hand feels strange…Ana flexed her fingers and examined her hand, I’ve never felt like this before. It’s so liberating! Ana looked around the small metallic chamber. Her eyes fell on the key pad. The cogs in Ana’s head whirred, she reached out and pressed a button on the key pad. The door slid open.
“Command Report, Sir.” Inspection Clerk Reynolds was let into the high security main office in the Department of Obligation.
“Proceed.” said The Minister, Head of the Department.
“Yes sir. It seems production line 712 had a defect. There was an inadequate screw in the batch but the product supervisor didn’t catch it until now. Those Myrmidons are already charged and heading out of their chambers.” As Reynolds spoke, the expression on The Minister’s face went from uninterested to very stern.
“Well then Reynolds, you’d better make your way down there and find the defective Myrmidon. We can’t have any commotion here.”
Reynolds jumped and bolted out of the room.
Ana passed many Myrmidons as she left her chamber, but they didn’t pay any attention to her because their mechanical minds were set on making their ways down to the factory floor.
Why do they all look so sad? Wondered Ana. The Myrmidon’s faces remained emotionless. Giving a dejected look to them.
Why are they all going the same way? Ana decided to find out.
As she followed them out onto the walkway crossing above the front foyer, a voice played out around them.
“…Myrmidons are the most loyal mechanical persons known in this world. They will follow your every command with no questions asked. Perfect for working in…”
Ana listened to the voice.
I don’t think I’m a Myrmidon. I wonder if they are…
The Myrmidons Ana was following came to an abrupt halt in front of two big steel doors. A sign above them read ‘Factory Floor’. As the Myrmidons in front of her stood still, Ana took the opportunity to look over the edge of the suspended walkway. Down below was the public entrance hall. People visiting the Factory or meeting with The Minister, first went through the grand entrance hall.
As Ana leaned over the railing she gazed out at the enormous fountain, statues depicting technological advancements and a delicate chandelier hanging above it all. Ana’s imagination went wild.
This place is incredible!
But Ana noticed one more incredible detail. Walking around the fountain below her were…
“Humans,” breathed Ana. The voice was strange and soft. She’d never heard it before. Ana glanced over at the Myrmidons now filing through the doors. She hadn’t heard them speak at all.
I’m not a Myrmidon.
“I’m not a Myrmidon,” said Ana out loud, the voice already sounding more natural now.
Reynolds had just run down thirteen flights of stairs cursing under his breath the whole time, “Why this stupid building needs to conserve so much energy they can’t even have a staff elevator…ridiculous!”
Reynolds swiped his card and the door to the factory floor opened. As he stepped through the entrance he was blocked by hundreds of Myrmidons waiting their turn to be sterilized. Finding the one defective screw would be nearly impossible.
Ana made her way down to the entrance hall. She gazed up at the fountain. She was so mesmerized by the flowing water that she was snapped out of her trance when someone bumped into her.
“Ouf!” Papers flew everywhere and landed at her feet. She looked up at the person who had jostled her.
I don’t think he’s a Myrmidon either, thought Ana.
“Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry.” He knelt down and fumbled as he picked up all his papers.
“My name’s Jake, by the way.”
Ana hesitated for a moment before bending down to help.
“My apologies as well.” Ana gathered up the papers strewn across the floor.
“No it’s my…” Jake looked up at Ana, “Are you a Myrmidon? No…but they don’t talk do they?” Jake pulled out his notebook, “I’m writing an article on Myrmidons…”
Ana processed what he was saying and tried to answer his questions.
“I’m not a Myrmidon. They don’t seem to be able to talk, but I can. I feel bad for them because talking feels good.” Ana looked at Jake for the first time.
Jake looked right back at Ana and they locked eyes.
“What’s your name?” asked Jake.
“My name is…Ana.”
Jake smiled, “That’s a really pretty name.”
The two stood up, Jake trying to hold all his papers and Ana handing him the ones she picked up.
Reynolds wiped the sweat from his brow. He’d already tested several dozen Myrmidons and none of them showed any signs of defect.
Jake lead Ana past the fountain towards the clear glass doors leading to the world outside.
“So you see, the Myrmidons just follow the herd. Their brains are preprogrammed to do certain things and not to do anything other than that. This is why I can’t figure out why you can think and talk and…feel.”
Jake pushed open the door and Ana took her first step outside. But as she crossed the threshold a piercing siren went off.
“What is that?” cried Ana, covering her ears.
“I don’t know, but let’s go. I have so many things to show you.” Jake took Ana’s hand. Ana looked down at their hands and smiled as they tried to cross the busy intersection.
At the sound of the alarm going off, Reynolds’ worst fear became reality; the defective Myrmidon must have escaped. Dropping his clipboard and shouting into his radio, Reynolds rushed past the Myrmidons, through to the front entrance hall where security was already in lockdown process.
“Escaped…defect…ive…screw…” Reynolds sputtered to the guards before finally catching his breath and coming to his senses.
“Yes sir, the subject was seen leaving with a human. Yes, I understand what measures must be taken to get it back.” Reynolds turned off his radio and pulled his sidearm from its holster.
Jake and Ana walked through the busy streets. Ana marvelled at the beauty of the buildings, statues and vehicles that they passed.
“And this here is my favourite place to get inspiration for my articles,” said Jake as they walked past an enormous brick building. A large brass sign read ‘Department of Records’.
“Everything here is so fascinating! I don’t know where to look. Thank you for showing me.” Ana smiled at Jake who smiled back.
“Come on men, the more time we waste here the farther away they get! If that defective Myrmidon gets any farther we’ll be ruined!”
Jake took Ana to Victory Bridge. The link from the mainland to the island cities. The two looked out at the calm waters below.
“How come people don’t sit here all day to admire such beauty?” asked Ana.
“Well, because if the Department of Obligations tell you not to do something, you listen. They say there are better things to do than sitting around looking at something beautiful…” Jake met Ana’s eyes, “Yet here we are.”
Reynolds led a mob of combat programmed Myrmidons. They crossed the busy intersection in front of the Department of Obligation headquarters and marched past numerous big brick buildings.
Onlookers cleared a path for the Myrmidon troop to pass.
Jake and Ana were walking hand in hand along the main road.
“Ana, do you know what, I mean who you are or where you came from?”
Ana was silent for a moment, thinking back to her earliest memories, from earlier that morning.
“I remember seeing the screw. I remember feeling my hand. I followed the Myrmidons, but they looked so sad.”
“The screw…hmm, how interesting,” Jake scratched his head, “Building such marvels of engineering with humanlike qualities, but neutralising and preprogramming what they think with the placement of one screw…incredible.”
“Over the bridge you lazy robots!” Reynolds shouted at the combat Myrmidons as they arrived at Victory Bridge.
“But Jake, what does that mean, that I’m different, that I think differently from other Myrmidons?”
“It means you’re not a Myrmidon.”
“Stop right there!” The combat Myrmidons surrounded Jake and Ana, “You’re not going anywhere.” Reynolds paced back and forth in front of Jake and Ana, swinging his sidearm playfully around one finger.
“You understand how important it is that we all conform to the Department’s image of society. We can’t have defects like you two roaming the streets. You will of course recognise the importance of keeping you contained.” Reynolds stopped pacing and cocked his gun, pointing it at Ana.
“No!” Jake shielded Ana, “Why does the Department do this? Why control the Myrmidons’ minds when they are capable of thinking for themselves?”
Reynolds didn’t flinch.
“Restrain the human.” Three Myrmidons walked forward and pulled Jake away from Ana.
Reynolds took aim, pointing his gun at Ana.
“This is the consequence for thinking your own thoughts…”
Ana opened her eyes and looked around. She was in a small metallic chamber. A green light flashed above her.
Ana tried to think about what had just happened. She remembered the man pulling the trigger. She remembered the sound of his gun going off and the bullet coming through the barrel. But most of all, she remembered Jake.