One Good Reason Chapter 2

One Good Reason

A My Life as a Teenage Robot Fanfic

Chapter Two Tortured Souls

Drew stretched out in his booth, cracked his knuckles, and pushed his unkempt blonde hair away from his eyes.P He was looking forward to doing absolutely nothing for a few hours.P Mezmers was jam-packed with the after-school crowd, just hanging out and listening to the tunes on the jukebox, enjoying life the way it was meant to be.P Hed already forgotten whatever it was theyd talked about at school today.P He wasnt terribly concerned about getting home anytime soon.P All he cared about right now was sinking his teeth into a crispy, greasy, sizzling order of five-alarm nachos.

The waitress zipped over on her roller skates, and theatrically presented the giant platter of nacho chips, smothered in five kinds of cheese, beef chili, salsa, sour cream and jalapeno peppers.P It was truly a thing a beauty.P Drew lifted up a fistful of drippy, gooey, nacho perfection to his trembling lips.P He didnt rush the first bite.P You never rush the first bite.P You crunch slowly, deliberately, letting every new flavor explode in your mouth, building into a brain rush of gastronomical nirvana.P He closed his eyes and tuned out the rest of the world, just focusing on the exquisite taste

Something was wrong.

It wasnt that the nachos tasted bad.P It was that they tasted like nothing.P He chewed a few more times, and still there was no taste.P Uneasily, he grabbed another handful of chips and stuffed them in his mouth.P Nothing.P But why?

Brad grabbed a few nachos from the pile and started munching away.P His face twisted into comical expressions of pure joy.P Mmmm mmm-mmm.P Oh, wow, these sure are delicious, arent they?

I I dont know, stammered Drew, growing nervous.P I cant taste them for some reason.

Huh!P They taste fine to me, said Brad.P Then he snapped his fingers and smiled.P Oh, thats right!P I know why you cant taste them.P He picked a fork up off the table, and casually wiped it off with the fabric of his shirt tail, until it had a nice, clean shine.

Then he lunged across the table and stabbed the fork into Drews chest.

As stunned as Drew was, he was even more amazed to see the fork actually liquefy into a shiny silver blob, sitting on his chest.P Then the blob started to expand.P In a frenzy, he rubbed at his chest, trying to wipe away the layer of ooze that was slowly enveloping his body.P It spread up to his shoulders and along his arms.P It spread down his legs and wrapped around his feet.P He felt the silver ooze flow over his neck and cheeks, over his lips and teeth, into his eyeballs and nostrils.P He watched in terror as thin, crooked green stripes faded into existence all over his body.P And all around the restaurant, every pair of eyes was staring at him, repulsed by the freakish spectacle they were witnessing.P Hundreds of eyes.P Thousands of eyes.P All gaping wide in horror and disgust.

Brad laughed at him.P You cant taste them because youre an inhuman freak that shouldnt even exist.

Cripes, just look at you, said Jenny, shaking her head.P You may not be human, but youre really not much of a robot either, are you?P I mean, what are you good for besides grossing people out, that is?

Tell me about it, said Brad, sticking his tongue out.P Yechhh.P That giant pile of silver puke is enough to ruin anybodys appetite.

Drew shrunk into his seat, withering under their words.P Guys dont say stuff like that!P Please youre the only two friends I have in the whole world!

Excuse me?P Friends?P We just let you hang around because we feel sorry for you, sneered Jenny.P Now why dont you just stay here and loaf around its not like anybodys going to miss you.P Some of us robots actually do something meaningful with our lives.P In fact, I have to go save the world right now.P She stood up to leave the booth, rotating her pigtails to flight mode

No dont leave me all alone like this! cried Drew, as he grabbed Jenny by the arm.

Dont worry, dear, youre not alone, echoed a menacing female voice.

He didnt know whose voice it was, but it seemed chillingly familiar to him somehow.P Drew looked around wildly, searching for the speaker, but didnt see anybody.P The voice seemed to come from all around him, and from inside his head, all at the same time.

Youre one of us now a robot, just like us.P We made you.P We own you.P You belong to me.P The voice purred with an arrogant confidence; a voice accustomed to giving commands, and having them obeyed without question.P You know what you have to do.

His grip on Jennys wrist grew tighter.P Thin strings of silver-green ooze flowed from his hand, and snaked their way up to her elbow.P She struggled to pull herself free from the silvery molasses.P Drew!P Stop it!P Oh my gosh what are you doing?

The silver ooze crept up to her shoulder, and started to spread across her entire robotic body.P Jennys arm started to lose its solid form, gurgling and burping as the nanobots devoured her.P Drew just stared into her pleading face, horrified, and unable to stop himself.P Jenny, Im sorry oh God, Im so sorry

Brad grabbed Jennys arm, and desperately tried to pull her away but a new strand of ooze shot out of Drews torso, and started to envelop Brad as well.P Drew shivered in terror as a third, then a fourth, then dozens of silver tentacles sprang from his body.P They wrapped around the panicking customers, and punched into the walls of Mezmers itself.P He could feel the nanobots dissolving everything down into sludge.P Drew watched Jenny shriek one last time, and then she collapsed into a thick silver puddle.P Brad was the next to dissolve.P The floor and the walls started to drip with silver-green ooze.P All of it flowed into his body, which grew into a monstrous blob of metallic slime.P People screamed with dread and pounded on the doors and windows, trying to escape, but Drew kept growing, until he had absorbed everyone and everything inside the restaurant.

But that was only the beginning.P There was still an entire city for him to consume.P There was an entire world.P The front doors melted away, and a wave of silver death roared out to engulf the planet

And spilled onto the bedroom floor, splattered against the dresser, and knocked over a stack of Sporting Illustrated magazines.P The wild sloshing motion sent the large metal tub which Drew used for a bed crashing against the wall, with an ear-splitting clang that reverberated through the entire house.

Andrew?P Andrew, are you all right up there, sweetie? yelled a voice from downstairs.

The metallic puddle bubbled chaotically on the floor for a few seconds, shooting thin tendrils of silver licorice wildly into the air.P Then it stopped, and started to warble with rippling waves of silver-green.P The syrupy mass gathered itself together into a more solid form, and sprouted arms, legs, and finally a head a head with a tortured, tired face.

Im okay, Mom, he shouted, just just getting up.P He slowly pulled himself to his feet and rubbed his head, trying to get his bearings.P He tried to reassure himself that it had all been just a dream.P Just the one where I lose control of my body, kill my friends, and turn into an instrument of Armageddon.P You know, typical stuff.P He hadnt told anyone about his nightmares, least of all his mother; there didnt seem to be much point in giving her yet another reason to freak out.

I heard a crash up there.P Is everything all right?

Sure!P Ive got voices in my head.P Everythings peachy!P Just a little clumsy this morning, Mom.P Ill be down in a few minutes.P Hed had the odd nightmare now and then, but the last three nights had been miserable.P And that voice hed never heard that voice before this week, yet he had the most bizarre feeling that it was somebody he knew.P Somebody who played a part in his transformation from a human into an android.P Somebody important.P Somebody dangerous.

It cant be six oclock already.P My internal systems havent finished their nightly maintenance.P But that was to be expected, since it had only been about three hours since shed gotten back from that suspension bridge accident in China.P Jenny swung her legs out of bed, slowly creaked her way over to her vanity, and plunked herself down in the chair.P With a mighty effort, she managed to ratchet one eyelid open.P The robot staring back at her in the mirror was not a pretty sight.

Groan Ive got rust under the eyes.P Ohhhh, thats going to corrode if I dont do something about it.P She fumbled for her bottle of rust remover, dabbed some on her cheeks, and extended a polishing tool from her right hand.P The high-pitched whine of the polisher was especially unnerving this morning, and Jenny was relieved to finally turn it off.P But after it retracted back into her arm, she noticed another noise coming from outside her window.P The sound of voices, shouting in anger.

Jenny staggered over to the window, looked outside and couldnt believe her eyes.

A crowd of people there had to be over sixty was gathered on the front lawn, waving homemade signs and chanting slogans, shaking their fists in the air.P There were men and women of all ages, some college students and teenagers, and even some children.P She recognized a couple of faces from the fire at City Hall the previous night.P Ive seen things like this before P this ... this is a protest.P Right here on my front yard.P On top of that, four TV news vans were parked on either side of the street, clogging traffic and drawing attention from the neighbors.P TV news reporters deployed themselves around the protesters, filming the entire spectacle.P A chant started up for the TV cameras

Hey hey, ho ho, the robot thug has got to go!P Hey hey, ho ho, the robot thug has got to go!P Hey hey

Jenny braced herself against the window sill.P Why why are they saying that? Im not a thug why are they all mad at me?

Then she realized something awful.P If this is on TV, then all the kids from school are going to see this!P She dashed over to a small television hanging from the ceiling, and turned it to one of the local channels.P To her horror, the morning news program was showing a live shot of the outside of her house and her mother, on the front walkway, shaking her fist at the cameras!

Merciful heavens! her mother shouted out of the TV screen.P Watch where youre stepping, you!P I just planted those begonias last week!P The graphic at the bottom of the screen read Dr. Nora Wakeman local crackpot inventor.

Reporters hurled a barrage of questions at her.P Dr. Wakeman!P Dr. Wakeman, how do you respond to charges that your rogue experimental robot is endangering the town?P Dr. Wakeman!P Critics say that the XJ-9 robot is causing more damage than it actually prevents!P Your comments?

I am simply out here to collect my morning newspaper, she huffed.P Now, shoo!P This is private property.P Off you go!P She waved away the reporters, to absolutely no effect.P The media swarm pressed in closer, jamming lenses and microphones towards her face.

Wakeman, you wacko! shouted a large, loud man in the crowd, holding a protest sign that read Humans First, Robots Worst.P Your robotic contraption is a menace to us all!

Balderdash, responded her mother, unfazed by the mob.P Now I do not have time to banter with the likes of you.P Its time for XJ-9 to get her pumps flushed, and have her morning lube.P With that, she walked back in the house and closed the door.

Jenny clasped her hands to her mouth.P AUUUUUGHHH!!!P I cant believe she just said that on live TV!P The kids are going to name me Dork of the Year!P She dove back on the bed and buried her head underneath the pillows, wishing that she could just make the entire world go away.P But the TV news was still on, and the morning anchorman joined in to talk to the on-the-spot reporter.

Cynthia, this is Neil in the studio it looks like Dr. Wakeman wasnt in the mood to answer questions this morning.P Have you been able to speak to any of the people in the crowd?

Yes I have, Neil.P The protest organizer, Morton Snidely, is the owner of a downtown Tremorton restaurant that suffered massive damage a few months ago, when the XJ-9 robot crashed through his front window during a reckless melee with a giant mechanical spider.P He says that everyone in the crowd this morning has incurred property damage as a result of the Wakeman robots so-called battle against evil, and that legal action

Click.P The TV went silent, as Mrs. Wakeman turned the knob.P Jenny hadnt even heard her come in.

I believe that is enough uninformed claptrap for one day, she said, as she walked towards the diagnostics unit.P Honestly, the nerve of that loudmouthed ruffian.P Someone who cannot be bothered to use proper grammar on their protest sign cannot possibly be taken seriously.P All right then, XJ-9, lets just run your morning systems check before goodness gracious, are you still in bed, young lady?

Yes, and Im staying here all day, she shouted, the pillows muffling her voice.

Dont be so silly, said Mrs. Wakeman, as she snatched the pillows away from Jennys head.P Now be a good robot and sit up straight, so I can check the lubricant on your gaskets.

Great, why dont you just announce that to the world, too?

What is the matter with you, XJ-9?!?P Mrs. Wakeman planted her hands on her hips.P Stop behaving so immaturely!P Now, the sooner we check your lubricant, the sooner we

Jenny snapped upright, her eyes on the brink of tears.P Whats the matter!?!P Ive been flying around the world for the past three days nonstop, I dont get to have any time with my friends anymore, you just made a me look like a fool to everybody in town, and those people those people outside think that Im some kind of a monster!P And you ask whats the matter?!?P I cant take any more of this, Mom!

Oh, of course you can, dear, Mrs. Wakeman smiled, patting her on the hand.P After all, this is what I designed you for.P Now, dont give a second thought to that bit of unpleasantness outside.P Im certain that this will all blow over in no time at

Mrs. Wakeman was interrupted by a shrill, buzzing alarm.

Jenny stared at the flashing red light on one of her ceiling monitors.P Another emergency.P Her pigtails drooped, and she turned away.

Her mother dashed over to the monitor.P Oh my theres a tidal wave approaching Sydney, Australia!P Wave height is reading as eighty feet traveling at two hundred miles per hour.P Estimated time of impact, fifteen minutes.P Thats very odd, the seismographs didnt pick up any earthquake activity well, no matter.P This should be a routine mission for you, XJ-9.

Jenny sat silently on the bed, staring at the floor.

XJ-9, is your auditory system malfunctioning?P In fifteen minutes, Down Under is going to be Down Underwater.P Now get going!

Jenny turned to her mother, with a stern face.P No.

Mrs. Wakeman returned her daughters stare for a few seconds.P This wasnt the first time they had argued about a mission, not by a long shot.P But she sensed something different in XJ-9s attitude this time; something told her that trouble was brewing.P Now XJ-9, I understand that youre a little tired, but

Understand?P How can you understand? shouted Jenny.P You just stay here in the house, sitting in your chair down in the lab, while you send me out to run your little errands all around the world.P If you really understood, then youd know that Im sick and tired flying around to every earthquake and volcano and killer bee swarm.P Im sick and tired of it!

XJ-9, she answered, taking a deep, measured breath, you do not run errands.P You protect the Earth.P That is a very important responsibility, and it is what you were made for!

Well I never wanted that responsibility.P I never asked to be assembled.P Did you ever think of that?P No, of course not.P All you ever do is give me instructions, like I was some kind of punch-card computer.P Maybe thats all you think of me as!P Something else to program, like a microwave with legs.

I do not care for that tone of voice, young lady.P You are being foolish and selfish.P Mrs. Wakeman gestured to the monitor.P Thousands, maybe millions of peoples lives are depending on you right now.

So I fly there and save them.P And then what?P Jenny was starting to get red-faced, and tears were welling up in her eyes.P Will they just holler at me and curse me like those people out on the lawn?P Or call me a menace to society like the people on the news?P Why should I keep risking my life to save the Earth?P Can you give me one good reason why I should?

I will give you the only reason you need, shouted her mother. PBecause I said so!

Oh, sure.P Order your machine around.P Thats always your answer.P You know what?P The last time I went to stop a tidal wave, it fizzled out before it even got close to shore.P I flew halfway around the world, and the only thing in danger was some kids sand castle.P Jenny flung her arms in the air.P How can saving the Earth be my responsibility?P So what, earthquakes and tidal waves never happened before I was built?P What did people do back then, huh?

Jenny hopped off her bed, and walked over to her backpack, checking her schoolbooks.P I am taking a day off.P The world survived before I was built, and it will do just fine without me.P Everyone will probably be happier.P She glared out the window, at the surly mob of protesters. PIm just going to go to school like a normal teenager and try to salvage whats left of my reputation.

She took a few steps towards the door, until her mothers icy voice stopped her in her tracks.P XJ-9, I am ordering you to go stop that tidal wave NOW.P Or else.

Or else what?!? Jenny shouted back.

Or else we can simply go back to the old rules, before those pesky neighbor boys came along, Mrs. Wakeman said coldly.P Things were certainly a lot simpler then you remained in this room and only left to respond to emergencies.P You certainly havent shown me much gratitude for relaxing those rules.P Young lady, if you do not fly to Australia right this instant, there will be no more going to school.P No more movies, no more hanging at the mall, no more hanging with any teenagers at all neighbors included.P Do I make myself clear, XJ-9?

Jenny gasped, and wondered if her mother realized just how cruel her threat was.P She started to shake with rage.P Then she deployed a giant robotic claw, savagely ripped one of the trouble monitors from the ceiling, and started bashing it to pieces on the floor.P I hate these stupid monitors!P I hate not having a life!P I hate flying around saving people who hate me!P I hate all of your stupid orders!P And and

She shouted into her mothers face.P And I HATE YOU!!!

A terrible silence hung in the room, while mother and daughter stared at each other unblinkingly.P The words hovered in the air like a poisonous fume, a foul odor given off by the emotions churning inside of her.P Part of her wanted to drop to her knees and apologize to her mother on the spot, but another part hoped that the words had hurt her, just a little bit.

Mrs. Wakeman simply folded her arms across her chest, and intensified her glare.

Finally, Jenny broke down and turned away.P She simply had to get out of this room, and Australia was about as far away from Tremorton as you could get.P With one last withering stare at her mother, she deployed her pigtail-jets and her boosters, and exploded out of her bedroom window in a blind fury.P In seconds, she was thousands of feet in the air, where nobody could see the tears streaming from her eyes, or hear her screams of frustration.

Only then did Mrs. Wakemans shoulders sag.P She took off her glasses and massaged her temples.P I wonder if Ive finally done it.P I wonder if Ive finally pushed her too far.P She slowly turned and left her daughters bedroom, dragging her feet back downstairs.

Continued in Chapter Three

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