Golem Project In Progress
Wessel had never been inside the golem garage before. He had to check the maps on the walls of the school halls several times before he found his way into the poorly-lit metal storage building that was called the golem garage.
It was beautiful.
Hundreds of golems that had yet to be bonded with a partner stood motionless along the walls. Some were only the size of a man, some were three times that height. Metallic blues, reds, greens, greys, and browns covered their stylized bodies. Some had exposed mechanical parts, others were sleek and alien. Most were humanoid, some had vestigial wings, extra limbs, and a select few crawled on all fours.
Sure, Wessel had seen many different golems on the streets of the city, about as often as he’d seen people. But the sheer variety here was stunning. And on top of that, these didn’t belong to anyone. He could touch them, if he wanted. And he did want to. He approached a golem casted in shiny baby blue, ran a hand up and down the contoured slope of its leg, marveled at the perfectly round shape of its foot. Below that metal carapace was a perfectly self-sustaining system, with all of the joints and pistons and levers and carbon sinews in place. Amazing. Truly and utterly amazing.
“Wessel!” a familiar voice called.
Wessel turned from the golem, one of many that he wanted to inspect, and toward the speaker. It was the greasy man who had marked his arm. As focused as he was on his surroundings, it took Wessel a moment to place the man’s name. Peller. That was it, Peller.
“Come on over, little mate,” Peller called.
Wessel obediently trudged in his direction, still taking in the sights. Then he remembered why he was here, and his pace quickened. He practically sprinted to join Peller in the middle of the room.
“Whoa, easy there,” Peller said as Wessel dashed up. Wessel slowed and stopped. There was something different about the tattoo artist looked now. He was… clean? That was it. No smudges of ink, no grease, his hair was even styled. He still wore jeans and a work jacket, but under the jacket was a collared shirt, and a tie.
Peller wasn’t alone, either. Three men stood to his left, and three to his right. Each wore a gray suit and a tie, though some of them wore it better than others. Even Wessel could see the discomfort some of them felt, tugging at tight shirt collars.
“Is something wrong?” Wessel asked, looking at the others. “Am I in trouble?”
“Naw.” Peller cleared his throat. “No, of course not, Wessel. There are just some important men here to talk to you.”
Wessel blinked. “So… I didn’t come here to meet my golem?”
The gray-suited man closest to Peller, a tall man with a small amount of closely-shaven black hair, gave a stiff smile and stepped forward. “We’ll deal with that in a moment, Wessel Cote. There’s been a development, and we just need to ask you a few questions.”
“Are you sure I’m not in trouble?” Wessel asked, taking a step back.
The man shook his head. “No, you’re not in trouble. We were just hoping you could do a favor for us. Okay?”
“Okay. We personally brought your golem here, so don’t worry about that. We can talk. Each of my associates has a question for you, and depending on how it goes, we may ask you to do something for us.”
“Is the favor going to take a long time?” Wessel asked. “I’m supposed to be back in class soon.”
“We’ll take care of that.” The gray-suited man reached out to shake Wessel’s hand. “I’m Vincent Williams.”
Wessel took Vincent’s hand. “W-Wessel Cote?”
“Good to meet you, Wessel.”
What on earth was going on? Wessel wasn’t prepared, whatever it was. He squeezed his eyes shut for a second, breathed in, then out. Forget class for now. Peller trusted these guys, so he needed to trust them too. After all, they said they’d brought the golem. This might just be the same thing that happens to everyone else.
Just answer the questions honestly, and it would be fine. His parents had taught him that. If he hadn’t done anything wrong, he could always answer honestly.
Peller nodded at him, then retreated out of sight, leaving him alone with the suited men. One of them, a man with stringy red hair and bleached white skin, squatted down next to him.
“So, kid,” he said. “Have you ever done any mechanical work?”
Wessel twisted his lips to the side, thinking. “Mechanical work?”
“Altering something, fixing something, making something work right.”
“Does code count? I’ve done some code stuff.”
The man nodded, stringy hair bouncing. “Okay.” He stood and stepped back.
“You had to fight to pass the inking exam,” the second man said. He was a heavily-built man, with a short, thick beard. His eyes were almost hidden behind stout cheeks. “Do you enjoy fighting?”
Wessel shook his head.
“How many people would you consider your friends?” The third man asked. He was reedy, and when he spoke the words were quick and snappy, like a whip cracking. Wessel thought the question was kind of personal, but he was trying to be honest.
Friends. He had his mom and dad, but they weren’t supposed to count. Maybe Lillian was a friend, because she sat with him? Probably not, though. Friends were supposed to come to your home and stuff.
“Probably zero?” he said. He didn’t think he had any friends, by that definition. The number didn’t bother him too much. It was just the way things were.
The fourth man, a heavyset man with a sweaty forehead. “If you had a pet dog, what would you do with it?”
“Get rid of it,” Wessel said without hesitation. “Dogs aren’t allowed in my kind of home. Maybe if I lived out past the power zone, I might do something different.”
The man nodded.
The fifth man said, “Why did you choose ‘adapt’ as your golem symbol?” Wessel stared, lost of words. He was thrown off, because the voice was wrong. It took him a moment longer to realize that this fifth man, a shorter man with short spiky hair and a turned-up nose, was actually a woman. Her voice was light and soft. Now that he was focusing on her, he couldn’t see how she could be a man in the first place.
“Why ‘adapt’?” she said again.
Wessel thought back to his conversation with Lillian. “Because I can’t adapt good. I want to be able to, so I can be better. And if I’m better, I can make other things better.”
Satisfied with that answer, the woman backed away. She nodded to Vincent, and he smiled at Wessel.
“Alright,” he said. “Now, about that favor.”
“It isn’t anything illegal, is it?” Wessel asked. “My parents wouldn’t like that. I wouldn’t do it.”
“No, no.” Vincent reached into his pocket and retrieved a billfold. When he flipped it open, a silvery badge flashed in front of Wessel. The man handed the billfold to Wessel, waiting for him to get a good grip on it before releasing it.
“Vice President of the Golem Project, subsidiary of the human rights division of our government,” he said. “Gee Pee Vee Pee. We all work for the government, and my co-workers Mindy and Crovix are the ones who designed your golem.”
The woman and the stringy-haired man nodded at Wessel. Mindy and Crovix. Wessel looked at them in awe, then studied the badge in front of him. It was solid metal, embossed design, molded into a symbol that he wasn’t unfamiliar with. A humanoid form interposed over a seven-pointed star, rounded out into a rough shield.
It was them.
He had studied about the Golem Project in his social studies, and in his personal time. They were heroes to him. They created the golems, set society on its current course.
But they had always seemed so unreachable. Like they were in another world, one that he couldn’t touch or aspire to. Now they were here, in his school. Giving him his golem.
“Wow,” he said, clutching the billfold in shaking hands. When he looked up from it at Vincent, his vision was blurry. He had to blink to clear it.
“So,” Vincent said. “That favor.”
“Uh.” Wessel looked down, then handed back the billfold. “I don’t know much, but I want to help.”
“Good.” Vincent said. To Mindy, he said, “Bring his golem to life.”
“Sir?” she asked.
“He’s as good as agreed. Begin the startup process.”
Mindy turned and walked away, Crovix following her. Vincent flashed that well-worn smile at Wessel again.
“Do you understand the golem creation process?” he asked.
Wessel brightened up. “You guys make them all, right? Then they get keyed to a certain symbol, and when the symbol is drawn on a person and the golem is activated they link!”
That was about to happen to him. He was about to have that companion, a strong but gentle machine that followed along with his every thought. The excitement was enough to make him shiver. He wanted to giggle with exuberance, but not in front of the Golem Project Vice President. Already the ‘favor’ was pushed to the back of his mind.
“Come with me,” Vincent said. He turned and walked toward the back corner of the garage, and Wessel followed him. Every time they passed a golem, Wessel stopped for just a moment to admire it. Is this the one? he thought, but Vincent kept walking, and Wessel hurried to catch up.
They passed all sorts of unique golems. How is it that none of these would do? One of them had six arms. If that wouldn’t help him multitask, then what would? Yet another one had seams all over its body, allowing it to bend and change shape in a dozen different ways. Surely that was his. But as his fingers caressed the joints, Vincent marched on.
It seemed that they were heading to the very back corner of the room.
What were they hiding back here?
As they stepped around a particularly hefty golem, Wessel saw their destination. Mindy and Crovix were standing on either side of a relatively small golem. It was only about seven feet tall, built as humanoid as they come. The little ‘bump’ on top of the golem that represented its head had two little holes for eyes, and a blue glow sparked inside of them. The two arms of the golem were thick and sleek, with three fingers and a grasping thumb on the ends. The wide, smooth torso was barely separated from two legs, both bent at the knee. In the gaps, Wessel could see the mechanical parts underneath, tubing and hinges gleaming. The golem’s armor gleamed a dull gold.
Against that gold, dozens… no, hundreds of seams stood out. It made the other golems in the room look like statues. On this thick, seven foot tall golem, each piece of armor was no larger than Wessel’s hand. The seams were tight-knit together, almost unnoticeable, but Wessel saw them all the same. They gave the golem a crystalline structure.
After a few moments of still staring, Wessel realized he’d forgotten to keep breathing. He swallowed and took in a quick breath to fix that, then slowly exhaled, letting his shoulders fall.
“This is your golem,” Vincent said. “And she is your favor to us.”
Wessel hardly heard the words. He stepped closer to the golden golem, hand outstretched. One step, then another. Mindy and Crovix stepped away, and as far as Wessel was concerned, they had stopped existing. Another step brought him almost within reach of the golem.
And it reached out as well, grasping his hand with metal joints.
A connection formed in Wessel’s mind, a burst of new, quickly moving information. It was alien to him, but familiar, wonderful. It fit, somehow.
And then Wessel heard something he never thought he’d hear.
A voice, inside his mind. Stiff, but sweet. Feminine, but full of steel and strength. Yet there was uncertainty, and a tone of voice that matched his own.
“Hello Wessel,” the voice said.
“Wessel, meet Aizi,” Vincent said. “She is your golem, chosen by your need to adapt to a world that moves in a way you don’t. She needs you as much as you need her. Your favor, to us.”
“Hello, Aizi,” Wessel said.
“Please take care of her for us.”