Weekend Edition: Mercedes Geiger's The Escape

Fetterolf’s Fiction: Creative Writing Selections
Part of an ongoing series of creative writing selections from Ms. Fetterolf's creative writing class. Check back next weekend for another installment.

The Escape
by Mercedes Geiger
            I finally snapped. Every question I asked was dodged by my superiors.
Throughout the short time that I have been a sentient being, I have never fit in. My life in the compound was just like the thousands of others living in our underground community. I had a duty, a place to sleep and friends to hang out with. You would think I’d feel right at home, but even in this safe place I stand out. Let’s get something straight; I’m not moping about my life, I’m not a whiner. I’m simply giving you some information to explain my actions; it is kind of important to the rest of my story. So take a seat, this could take awhile.

            I had better get the biggest thing out of the way. I’m an android. The thousands of others that live alongside me in the compound are all androids as well. Just let it sink in. If the government ever found out about us, we’d be scrap metal in minutes. Or they’d sell us off to be maids in everyone’s homes. But enough about that, I’m babbling.
My best friend, 7438, was always there to try to support me in my schemes. She was the first person I saw and spoke to when I was first activated. Ever since then she’s always been my backup. The first time I really needed 7438 to help me out was when I started working on my own wiring. I already had a great knowledge of machines since I worked in the heavy machinery and maintenance shop.
“It’s really simple,” I explained one day as I was poking around in my central arm navigation system. “I can teach you if you’d like.”
“ No, I’m more into hacking the main computers,” she replied nonchalantly. “Also, you could get called in front of One. You know she prefers that Five fixes everyone’s central power systems.”
“I know, but I just figured out how easy it is, just like working on the air purifier.” 7438 lowered her thick glasses to the tip of her nose and rolled her eyes. She never attempted to stop me once I got started on machines.
About a week later, I was paged by the central “brain” as we called it.
“44431C, report to One’s office immediately.” Of course I was in the middle of restarting the core processor for electricity. I huffed as I wiped the residue from the machinery off my hands. As I dragged myself to One’s pristine office, I could feel defiance bubbling in my heart. Going up the glass elevator, I had a view of the entire compound. It was a completely functional city, a hidden city, whose only inhabitants were androids.
A swift ding signaled that I had reached the top, One’s office. 27, her secretary buzzed me into the office of our leader.
One was what most people would consider beautiful: Blonde hair, gray eyes, and the one characteristic that all of us shared, a wire-like scar on her face. She had her hair in a tight bun and she was sporting her white sweater and black pencil skirt.
“44431C, please have a seat,” One gestured to one of her modern armchairs. Cautiously, I sat down in the white and chrome chair closest to me.
“It has come to my attention that you have been, editing, your own wiring,” she asserted as she straightened out the objects on her desk. “As you should know, tampering with your own internal wiring is strictly prohibited.”
“Yes I know, but I figured I could apply my own knowledge of machinery to my own systems,” I retorted.
“Don’t take that tone,” One whispered coolly. “I’m only trying to keep you and the others safe.”
“Please promise me you won’t do this again, 44431C,” One pleaded without changing her tone.
“Sure.” This was the first of many meetings that I was destined to have with our fearless leader. After awhile, she decided to schedule a weekly meeting with me so I could ask my questions, and of course, be lectured about disobeying the rules. The key part of these meetings was that I asked questions, most of them were never answered.
It drove me insane, not knowing why I had more wires that showed more than the others; why it seemed that One had paid special attention to me and my actions. These questions were the ones that drove me to thinking up my escape plan. 7438 came in one night to find me madly working on my route for escape.
“What’s all this?” She picked up a jumbled mess of papers.
“It’s nothing,” I answered too quickly. 7438 gave me her typical, quizzical look of skepticism. Reluctantly, I unfurled my latest plan for escape.
“Dude,” she gaped at my plans. “Are you serious about this?”
“Yeah. Maybe… Probably not.” 7438 looked up at me, above the rims of her glasses. “I’m sorry, this is just my, project. I guess I do this whenever I get tired, of One.” I ran my fingers through my jet black hair, as I always do when I’m stressed.
“Well, maybe I can help you with your little, obsession,” she suggested. 7438 was always so good at trying to help me out with my issues. Secretly, we worked on my escape plan for months. Sometimes we would work harder than others. Until the day I couldn’t take it anymore.
One had called me earlier than ever before. Three hours before my normal activation time.
“Good morning 44431C,” One greeted me as I came into that same office I had so many times before, but this time was different. “Five has reported that you missed your last appointment.”
“Yeah. I prefer to check my own internal processor, as I’ve told you before.”
“You are not above the rules, 44431C.”
“You’ve made that quite clear.”
“Do not take that tone.”
“Yes, no sarcasm from me.”
“What is bothering you today, 44431C?”
“You already know that.”
“All I know is you ask the same questions every time I meet with you.”
“And I’ll keep asking until I get a straight answer from you.”
“Oh please. I cannot explain why you look different from the others, we are all different.”
“Yeah, but no one has as many wire marks as I do.”
“I can’t explain that to you; it was not I who created you.”
“Well then, I think we’re done here.” At that point, I coolly left her office and went down the glass elevator, feeling One’s burning eyes on me the whole way.
As I looked out over the compound as I had done for months, I did not see a functional city. I saw a prison, a place from which I had to escape. And that was the moment I set my plan in motion.
The minute the crystalline doors opened, I took off sprinting for my living quarters. I grabbed everything I needed and knocked on 7438’s door.
She came to the door, dreadlocks disheveled and glasses crooked on her face. I had obviously just woken her from her sleep cycle.
“I can’t stay here anymore.” It took a few minutes to sink in.
“Wait, you wanna leave right now?” 7438 asked in disbelief.
I nodded.
“Dude,” she murmured. “That’s heavy.” We stood in silence for a few minutes; me holding all the gear I needed to escape, and 7438 in her robe, astounded by the newest development in my life.
“Come in. You probably should think about the plan before you go awol.”
I explained to 7438 that I had finally made my decision after my early morning spat with One.
“She’s probably pretty ticked off,” she commented when I had finished my account.
“I know. I have to get out of here. She’s probably going to restart my system if I stay.” I began running my fingers through my hair, but I slapped my own hand away.
“What’s wrong?” 7438 looked at me with confused and pleading eyes. I crumpled to the floor.
“I’m a fish on a hook here, I’ve gotta cut the line.”
“Okay,” she murmured. Jumping up she said, “Let’s get started!”
“Wait, you’re really going to help me?”
“Of course. I’m already in too deep anyway. Plus, I can’t pass up the chance to shut down the central motum!” Eyes twinkling, 7438 began going over the latest plan and making changes where they were needed. At this point, I had very little optimism left, but seeing my friend enjoy a challenge made me smile.

“It took all night, but I’ve done it,” 7438 declared with a grin. “Here is the official escape plan.” I grasped the map and multitude of sticky notes. I had a way out, and it was full proof.
I have thirty minutes to get to the central air purifier. 7438 is hacking the main power motum to distract everyone so they cannot catch me. The clock starts in three, two, one.
SCREECH! The alarms are screaming as I sprint toward the center of the compound. The others look at each other frantically and begin to panic. I leave them behind. The tech team is running the opposite direction, rapidly discussing malfunctions and complex algorithms. I don’t look back. Through the madness I emerge, a lighthouse on a stormy night.
As I scan my pass card to the purifier, I start thinking about my future, my freedom. I know that getting out today will be my salvation.
Bursting into the main intake room, I check my time, Twenty-eight minutes to go. I leap to the control panel and hit the emergency stop for the fan. The whirring of the machine stops abruptly, and as it does, all the commotion outside fades into the background.
There is only one way out, and that is up. The core air duct is the final stretch of this undertaking of mine. I squeeze in through the maintenance door and begin the long climb upward. Twenty-four minutes to go.
Climbing is not as easy as I had expected. My limbs can barely take it anymore, but I must press on. Five minutes on the clock and I see a glimmer of light about twenty feet up. Four minutes and the purifier restarts and everything I have done will be for nothing.
Three minutes, five feet left and I can smell the fresh air. Two minutes I can almost touch the grate. Fifty-nine seconds, I unscrew the screws as fast as I can. Thirty seconds, this is the last one. Ten seconds, let me out. Three… Two… One…

Bright, blinding light is the first thing to greet me as I emerge from the air duct. The wind in the wheat quickly snaps up its chance to say hello to the newest member of the population. I am 44431C. I’ve left a lot behind, but I’m finally free.

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