Golem Project In Progress
Robbed. Wessel couldn’t believe it. It was impossible for his home to have been robbed. That just didn’t happen.
He stepped away from the door, Jakob and the two golems following. None said a word. Jakob, the guy who’d just been bullying and chasing him, had now crossed the threshold of his home, but that didn’t matter. The entire argument, the insults, the anger, all of that was discarded.
Wessel’s mind was empty. His eyes were on the broken window. His feet shuffled another step toward his wrecked room.
The security system should have stopped this. There were cameras to catch this sort of thing. GPS tracking kept tabs on everyone’s golems, and also tracked the marks on their shoulders. No crimes could happen, not under the watchful eyes of the people and their golems. Wessel grew up with that knowledge, understanding that violence and crime were things of the past… at least, within the power zone. Everything was monitored, controlled. Every citizen had the power and knowledge to prevent this sort of thing happening to them.
But the power zone was gone. The power was out.
He’d been robbed.
Wessel’s hands shook.
“Don’t look like they took much,” Jakob said. “Everything’s still all over the floor.”
Taking in an unsteady breath, Wessel knelt by his bed. He looked for his most prized possession.
His computer was gone.
Gone. His project he’d been working on. All of the progress. All the plans. Gone. Everything that he’d poured his heart and soul into.
Gone. Gone. Gone.
Wessel tremored, pushing a fist into the floor. His breath didn’t come easy as he pushed himself up. He felt like screaming.
“Uh… are you okay?” Jakob said from behind.
Wessel turned and looked with wide, blurry eyes. Even with effort, he couldn’t seem to blink them clear.
Jakob stepped back. “What I means to say, is uh… you ain’t going to freak out, are ya? Do something crazy?”
That same ugly desire from before came back. He wanted to lunge forward, to strike and gouge and bite. The urge was strong, and he stumbled a step forward before quelling it.
What was wrong with him today? It wasn’t Jakob’s fault that he’d been robbed. Even if Jakob was a bully, and even if Jakob had blamed Wessel for the bullying. Maybe it would be fair to attack, if the golems weren’t there. Right? No. No, Wessel refused to be like that. He wiped his eyes and forced himself to take a slow breath.
“I’m okay,” he said.
It was barely noticeable, but Jakob’s shoulders dropped. The boy really was scared of Wessel, in some way. “Right,” he said, “So whatcha going to do bout this robbery thing, neh?”
“I d-don’t know.”
“If I may make a suggestion,” Aizi said to Wessel, “we should pursue this robber as quickly as is possible.”
I can’t do that, Wessel thought. Aizi doesn’t understand. I just got home. The entire plan was to get home and wait for Mom and Dad. I can’t leave now. I can’t. And following the thief would be impossible, anyway.
“What’s missing?” Jakob asked. He gave Wessel a wide berth, on his way to check out the room.
“The computer,” Wessel said.
“Aw, that ain’t nothing. It was probably getting fried by the power zone mishap anyhow.”
Wessel shot a glare at Jakob, but it went unnoticed.
“There ain’t much worth takin in here. But they didn’t hit anything but your room. Weird, neh?”
“They t-took the only thing that matters.” Wessel spoke with a tremor, but his words were firm.
“It had uh… important stuff in it.”
“Worth some money?”
“Um…” Wessel paused, thinking about it. He’d never considered selling his work. Would it be worth selling? It was just brute force code put together by a middle-schooler.
“With my additions,” Aizi reminded him.
Right, that. Wessel turned a shade paler. What all did you add?
“Everything I understand about myself, the way I work and that golems work in general, has been implemented in your code.”
Wessel’s breath caught. There were things in that code that only those in the Golem Project knew. Those, specifically, who had worked on Aizi. Secrets. Things that could unravel the structure of society from the top down, changing the way golems worked. Wessel had intended to work on that himself.
He’d never even considered how dangerous the program could be, with Aizi and himself both working on it.
“Please take care of her for us,” Vincent had said.
“Somethin wrong?” Jakob asked. “It’s just a computer. You can replace the files ‘n stuff.”
Everything was wrong. “I need a second,” Wessel said, turning and sitting on the bed.
“As I said, it would be in our best interests to recover that computer. Quickly.” Aizi’s voice was not panicked, and it didn’t sound worried. Clearly she understood the significance of what was lost. She simply wasn’t emotionally troubled by it.
How could this have happened?
“I’ll be needin my dad’s houseplant back,” Jakob said, pointing at Aizi. The whirring coil still buzzed, attached to her golden shell.
Wessel snapped out of his own mind, found himself standing again. “No!” he said. “I need it.”
Jakob raised his hands, up and forward. Threatening? Defensive? He was ready for a scuffle. The ‘power’ golem squeezed into the room behind him, and Aizi shifted in place.
Wessel realized he had moved between Aizi and Jakob. He was breathing too hard, eyes too wide, jaw too tight. He let his hands unclench. “I need it,” he said, “to recover the computer.”
Jakob narrowed his eyes. “All they stole was that one box, neh?” he said.
“And now you’re freakin’ out about it. Just what was on there?”
Wessel pressed his lips firmly together. Jakob couldn’t learn about the code, or about Aizi. Those were secrets he’d sworn to himself he’d keep. Obligations to himself, to society, to the Golem Project people. He couldn’t tell Jakob anything.
Jakob’s eyes were burning with curiosity as he looked around the room, but when his eyes settled on Wessel, they grew colder.
“Need the plant back,” he repeated.
“Give it to him,” Aizi said. “We no longer need it.”
Wessel reluctantly shuffled to the side, and Jakob snatched the miniature plant off Aizi’s shell. Turning a shoulder to Wessel, he stuffed it in his pocket.
“Good luck,” he muttered. “With the computer.”
Then he left the small concrete dwelling, his power golem lumbering behind him.
Wessel sat down, unable to keep his legs from trembling. “We—” he said, catching himself and swallowing a lump of fear. “We need to get that computer, but we also need you to keep running. We can’t do both.”
“We have some time,” Aizi said. “I have recharged a large supply of power. We can use the time that this charge will give me to modify my code, using your program. I have processes that I can disable to save power, making this charge last for the rest of the day. Then we can go after the thief ourselves. Or, if you prefer, you could strike out now, alone and unprepared. I would caution against that.”
“Hold on,” Wessel said. “My program is— is gone.”
“I contain many things,” Aizi said. “Making a backup of your program was trivial. We only need to retrieve the program in order to prevent information spillage.”
“You… have my program?” Wessel said. He propped himself up on his knees and ran his hands over Aizi’s rough, shiny carapace. “Can I access it?”
A panel slid aside in Aizi’s shoulder and light splayed forth from the gap, painting the wall with fuzzy lettering. The code. Wessel sagged in relief.
“You provide the direction, and I will disable my functions as you see fit. Then we will go after the thief.”
“We just got home,” Wessel said. He stared at the code, most parts familiar, some parts foreign. Aizi’s heart and soul were written on the wall there, ready to change.
“You must hurry and make your decision,” Aizi said. “Every moment we wait, our chances of success drop and my power slowly drains.”
“Give me a second,” Wessel snapped. He looked away, looked at the rest of the house. His wrecked room. The empty living area. Everything had gone wrong today. Even getting home didn’t fix anything. And now he had to leave again. It didn’t feel right, but neither did staying.
This was just the way it had to be. Plans thrown out the window. Time to start again. “Okay,” he said. “I can do it.”