Stories Short Story: The Prototype by David Kramp

Floyd removed his thin silver-rimmed glasses and rubbed his eyes. The single lamp that sat upon his desk cast shadows upon a chaotic work area littered with papers and random robotic parts.   It was the end of another fourteen hour day and Floyd had finally figured out why his previous prototypes had failed.

 


The room was unlike any office. It was dark and dusty. It had the kind of couch you would expect to find at a thrift store leaning up against a rough brick wall. There was one of those old flat screen modeled televisions bolted into the wall and an end table in the corner with another lamp on top of it. There were some archaic halogen lights that dangled from the ceiling, but they either hadn’t worked in decades or Floyd just decided never to use them.
“Time?” Floyd asked into the darkness. An orb in the far corner of the room began to glow.
“Ten oh-five.” The orb announced. The light was enough to show that the loft was in fact much larger than the corner of inhabitable artifacts that Floyd called his workspace. Floyd felt his cheek bones and chin. His stubble was short enough for him to pass on a shave. He pulled himself out of his swivel chair, pushing aside his computer mouse as he stood. The flat screen monitor mounted to the wall flickered on. An image of the human brain, dissected under a microscope illuminated the room. He grabbed the mouse and closed the window of the image.  He stood and walked toward a flat steel door opposite the room.

 


“Open.” Floyd announced. The steel door slid open revealing a hall and another door just to the right. This door had a standard wood frame with a metal lever handle. Floyd opened it. The room’s light slowly crept inside. It had a decent sized bathroom with a full shower, toilet, and sink. On the wall was a hook that held a pair of denim jeans, an undershirt, and a trendy button down. Floyd entered the shower and began to get ready; he was excited for his breakthrough and ready to celebrate.
It was Friday night and Floyd was on the hunt like every other man looking for love or looking for someone random to screw him two ways from Sunday. Floyd preferred the latter. He wasn’t opposed to love; in fact he ended a seven year relationship a few years ago with a beautiful woman studying medicine at BioGen University. Unfortunately they didn’t see eye-to-eye and their differing ideals fractured their relationship beyond repair.
Floyd wiped the fog from the bathroom mirror and began combing his hair. He was thankful for the full head of brown hair his parents paid for during his preconception genetic mapping appointment. The hair along with his ocean-blue eyes gave him a leg up on first impressions. He finished dressing and headed out of his loft for the night.
Floyd exited the building through a side door into a dark alley. There were no transports or sound at all, save for a faint thump, thump, thump that sounded in the distance. Floyd locked the door behind him once at the handle and then in two other hidden areas around the door’s frame. The building was more of an abandoned warehouse. Trash dumpsters that lined the alleyway were all empty and the warehouse itself emanated no sounds of electricity. Floyd pulled up the collar of his jacket to help warm his back and began down the alleyway towards the faint sounding thump.
Upon exiting the alley and turning left through the desolate parking lot, the warehouse marquee was in plain sight and decaying from years of neglect. It read “Los Angeles Times.”
The 101 freeway that ran along side the abandoned warehouse was eerily quiet. The only signs of life were the lights that would flash past Floyd every five minutes as he walked underneath the freeway towards the thumping sound. A torn poster floated down from the freeway that read “Ten Year Anniversary of the San Angeles Freeway Express.” Floyd couldn’t believe how fast time had gone by. He had been so busy working on his prototype that he had never found the time to ride S.A.F.E. 
The thumping sound mingled with the distant voices of gatherers. Lights bounced off the underpass in flashes of green, yellow and red. As Floyd turned the corner a burst of social activity appeared out of the darkness of a dead industrial block. Somebody had painted the name “Old School” in an Electrical Paint Compound enabling the name to dance like beads of water on a table every time the thumps of the bass inside the building would knock on the walls. Old School was a club that had been there for years. They specialized in a fusion of Dance Electronica of the early twenty-first century. Everyone dressed in their old school attire and danced the night away. Floyd liked the club for its style as well as its discreetness. So many establishments had made a practice of constant surveillance that Floyd was becoming quite the conspiracy theorist. After all, he was on the verge of a breakthrough, the kind of breakthrough that would retire him and his great, great grandchildren.
After waiting in line for about an hour Floyd was finally in. He didn’t mind the wait; it gave him time to scout the local talent that entered the building. He was there for one purpose and was looking for a specific female companion to suit his needs. 
He found a cozy seat at the corner of the bar; one that would hide him in the dark space of the club. He often thought of himself as a lion in waiting, hunting his prey, and found it easier to stare at people without being detected.
Floyd knew the game all too well. He studied his prey, watching how they interacted with their friends, how they drank their liquor and flaunted their breasts for attention. Tonight he was looking for someone particular; a blonde about five foot six, preferably with blue eyes. Luckily this was Los Angeles and such women were available in abundance. Floyd didn’t care if the hair and eye color were even real.

Floyd had narrowed his search down to three women. Just as he was deciding whom to approach, the DJ began playing a song called the Falcon Twist. It was Floyd’s perfect moment. The Falcon Twist made any inept white guy look like hip-hop’s finest. Three girls dropped to two with one obviously not interested in the dance. Floyd dashed in. One of the two girls found a partner; the other still searched the crowd. Just as she spun around Floyd swooped in and they began the Falcon Twist.
Soon Floyd was back in his dark corner. This time his new female companion joined him.
“So what’s your name?” Floyd asked.
“Samantha. Where did you learn to dance like that?”
“The internet.” Floyd responded to a chuckle.
“What’s your name?” Samantha asked.
“Floyd. Floyd Patrik Fanderton.”
“Wow a man with three names, you must be important.” Samantha teased as she twirled her hair between her fingers.
“Well, actually I am important. I’m on the verge of a billion dollar robot design. Tonight is kind of a celebration for me. My latest experiment has proven quite successful. I think I might have the answer to my problem now.”
“Robots huh? I love robots.” Samantha responded.
“Really? Ever hear of Synthetic Materials?” Floyd knew right away he had her. She was an easy target from the get go, with her fake jewelry and discounted designer clothes. 
“I would love to see a Synthetic!” Samantha gasped.
“Well, I live close by. You want to get out of here?” Floyd asked.
“Sure, I’m up for an adventure.” 
Floyd took her hand and led her out of the club. It was one-thirty in the morning. The crowd was starting to break apart as many were heading up a stairway to catch the S.A.F.E. Floyd turned right under the freeway to head back to his warehouse with Samantha in tow. 
“Where are we going?” Samantha asked focusing on the spinning ground at her feet.
“My place. My building. I own the whole building.”
“Wow you own a building right here.” Samantha stated gazing up at the massive concrete walls that camouflaged their walk. “How could you afford an entire building in Los Angeles?”
“Let’s say designing robots is a lucrative career.”
“Oh, that’s right, duh.” Samantha began to laugh. Floyd thought nothing of her annoyance; after all he wasn’t bringing her home to meet his mother. “Am I drunk?”
“Maybe.” Floyd had been watching her since he entered the club carefully calculating each drink to her presumed body mass index. Waiting for the precise moment to sweep her off the dance floor before she passed out. He put his arm around her waist. As soon as she felt his grasp her neck loosened and her head bobbled back out of control. “OK, maybe a little drunk. Maybe you should take me back.”
“You gonna take care of me?” They walked past the dark alley and up to the entrance of the old Los Angeles Times building. “Are you sure you live in here?” Her unease seemed to sober her up.
“Does my building make you nervous?” Floyd said in a playful tone.
“Your building…you own the whole building?” Samantha said slurring over her words.
“The whole building. I don’t like attention which is why I bought this place. Trust me you will never want to leave.” Floyd said convincingly. The thought of his looks and money were too good to pass up. Even drunk she knew an opportunity when she saw one.
They entered the lobby that looked like something out of a post-apocalyptic story. The concrete was breaking apart, all metal was rusted through, and an occasional weed had broken through the foundation and pulled itself into the sky searching for daylight. They walked into the elevator room and pushed the down arrow.
“Are you serious?” Samantha asked.
“What do you mean?” 
“Now you are putting out a stalker vibe.” 
Floyd laughed. 
“I told you in the club that I had to keep my designs a secret remember?” 
The elevator doors opened and Floyd stepped in. He held the elevator doors open waiting for Samantha who looked back at the entrance to the building where they had come in. “Look I’m a very private person. How about this…here is the key, I will stand on this side of the elevator with my hands clasped together.” Floyd held out his keys. Samantha leaned in and grabbed them entering the elevator.

Floyd clasped his hands like he promised and leaned up against the corner of the elevator across from Samantha. “Now put the key in the basement slot there and turn it clockwise then push the button.” Even though Floyd could easily add a retinal scanner to operate the elevator, he preferred the old style elevators and trusted the key and mechanics of its setup.  “Now just relax, when the doors open up we will be in my place and you will see that there is nothing to worry about.
“DING!” The sound caused Samantha to flinch. The elevator doors slid open and Samantha looked inside. The living room was pristine with a less-is-more theme. There was a black leather couch in the middle of the room, two end tables and a 60” liquid-screen monitor on the wall.  The floors were slates of acrylic glass that were programmed to look like traditional hardwood.
“After you.” Floyd said unclasping his hands and gesturing Samantha to enter his space. She stepped out of the elevator into a giant room. There were no walls. Every section of the basement was partitioned off with four-foot walls. There was a kitchen, living, dining, and game room as well as a massive bedroom in the far back that took up an entire fourth of the basement. “If you need to use the bathroom it is down that hall.” Floyd said motioning towards a dimly lit hall that showed the way to the room’s only two doors. Samantha walked over to the coffee table. A glass dome covered a human brain.
“Touch the glass.” Floyd stated. Samantha leaned over and placed her index finger on the glass. An electric pulse shot from her finger to the brain and the pink flesh moved and began to glow. “Impressive isn’t it?” Floyd asked. Samantha stepped away a little freaked out by the trick and looked down the hallway.
“What’s the other door?” Samantha asked.
“My lab of course, that’s where all the magic happens.” Floyd walked into the kitchen; the simple motion of movement caused the lights in the kitchen to further illuminate. “Can I interest you in something to drink?”
“Can I see it?” Samantha said ignoring the question.
“See what?” Floyd teased. 
“Come on you’ve been bragging about your prototype the last hour at the club.”
“Oh that.” Floyd put down his glass of wine and walked with Samantha toward the hallway.  “Now you have to promise me that you won’t tell anyone about this. I could get into a lot of trouble for just showing you.”
“Sure.” Samantha replied obviously not having any intention of keeping quiet. Floyd walked up to the doors. There was a panel on the side of the wall that he popped open. He stuck his hand inside the panel and pricked his finger on a small needle that protruded and then retracted stealing a small sample of his blood. He then opened the door to reveal a solid steel wall.  Samantha was taken back.
“Don’t worry the system is reading my genetic marker.”
“Welcome home Mister Fanderton.” A voice announced as the steel door slid to the side revealing the laboratory. Samantha stepped inside the room. To the right was a small living area with an old couch and a desk littered with work.
“Is that a flat screen TV?” Samantha enquired.
“Yeah I bought that on uBid. I had to do some clever rewiring to get it to pick up the satellite signal. But it works.”
“Why do you keep this section of your place so retro?”
“I guess some things feel more like home to me then others. So are you ready to see them?”
“Yes,” Samantha responded staring into the dark corner of the laboratory. Floyd walked forward at an excited pace. His motion caused the lab’s lights to turn on.
First Samantha could see an operating table and some equipment hanging from the ceiling. Floyd walked past the main table to the back of the lab.
“Without further delay let me introduce you to my prototypes. There were two more tables towards the back of the lab. They were on wheels and could easily be pushed around the hard floor surface. “Come here.” Samantha eagerly hurried over to the side of one of the tables.
“This is Angela.” Floyd began motioning to his left. Angie had beautiful bronze-colored skin.  She stood about five foot three, had curly brown hair and brown eyes. “And this is Beth.” Beth had dark brown skin and short black hair. She was about five foot ten and had brown eyes. “Go ahead, feel them.” Floyd requested. Samantha’s eyes gravitated to the women’s breasts.
“Excuse me?” Samantha enquired.
“Their skin, touch her forearm. Isn’t it amazing?” Samantha took her index finger and pushed on the skin. It was life like, a little cold, but mushy like actual skin. She felt the joints in the fingers and caressed the lines in her palm.
“Wow. I have never seen a robot like this.”
“It’s a Synthetic material. You can only get it in Japan right now and it costs a fortune, trust me.”  Floyd said with a chuckle. “Unlike the current metal robot, these designs are based on a lightweight aluminum frame.”
“Do they work?”
“Angie is under repair as she went a little haywire last time I turned her on. I’m still working out the bugs so to speak. Beth on the other hand, that’s where my breakthrough happened. Just when I was about to give it all up I realized something. I won’t bore you with fancy robotics talk.”
“How do we turn them on?” Samantha asked.
“Easy…they work off of my programmed voice command. Watch this. Beth, wake up.” Beth opened her eyes. Floyd watched Samantha lean in to get a closer look.
“Her eyes are amazing.”
“What do you want her to do?” Floyd asked.
“I don’t know. How about raise her hand?”
“How boring is that. Beth, stand up.” Beth sat up and then positioned herself on the edge of the table to stand. She then hopped off the table so that her feet met the floor. “Beth, welcome our guest.” Beth turned to face Samantha. She held out her hand and spoke:
“Welcome guest, it’s my pleasure to meet you.” Samantha stood paralyzed with amazement. She stood in front of Beth looking up into her eyes, watching her mouth curl and set after she spoke.
“What did I tell you, a billion dollar design, huh?”
“Why is she blinking so much?” Samantha asked. Floyd turned back to look at Beth’s eyes which flittered open and shut. “Is she crying?” Samantha added.
“She sees your future and it makes her sad.” Floyd stated as he stepped behind Samantha. She turned, confused at his response and began,
“Why is she sad for me…” Samantha tried to ask but she felt suddenly faint. She looked down at Floyd’s hand which slowly pulled away from her neck. He was holding a needle. Just then she lost all mobility and slumped over into Floyd’s arms.
“Cry all you want Beth, there’s no escape. Now, lie back on the table.” Floyd commanded as he dragged Samantha over to the larger operating table and rolled her on top. As Floyd was positioning Samantha on the one table Beth settled back into position on the other.
“Beth, go to bed.” Floyd announced. Beth closed her eyes and began to fall sleep. The last thing she heard was Floyd telling Samantha:
“I think I’ll call you Chloe.”