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“I believe you know what this is. What, did you think those people I keep in my Penthouse stay here of their own free will? No! They get a chip, and then they happily live out their lives in my enrichment chambers and are shocked every time they even think about leaving. They don’t threaten my machine or my business anymore. Maybe you’re right. I might be a monster, now,” Mr. Coldwell said, lining up the chip with the back of William’s neck. It would completely shut down his nervous system first, then use electric signals to give control of his brain over to Mr. Coldwell. William had heard it was a painful process.
“But I’m a monster with a purpose– without me, humanity would be light-years behind where it is now,” Mr. Coldwell snarled. William wondered how someone could become so twisted.
William was going to become another slave to the enrichment chambers. He’d never be freed. He wanted to cry out, scream, fight back! But his struggles were useless. William was doomed–
William could feel the cold surface of the chip, just a breath away from ruining everything.
Then there was a loud zap and a gasp of pain.
It was Mr. Coldwell’s gasp.
Maxis beeped, scuttling down Mr. Coldwell’s arm. The little droid hummed and shocked him again. Maxis had his mag-driver attachment out, sparking wildly. He blinked his purple eyes at William and beeped happily. William felt a fierce sense of pride for his robot. The shock was enough to throw William’s father off balance and William heaved with all the strength in his body to throw the man off of him.
William pushed Mr. Coldwell away, and they both tumbled to opposite sides of the long desk in the center of the office. There was a little clatter as the obedience enhancement chip fell to the floor, along with the detonator.
William dove for the detonator, fumbling with it in his hands. He scooped it up and hurriedly got to his feet, wondering why his father wasn’t scrambling for it as well–
Mr. Coldwell had Maxis in his hands.
He made a violent twisting motion, and there was a whine from the little droid. William’s father had ripped out his mag-driver, while Maxis helplessly wiggled his little metal legs.
Then he dropped the robot on the floor and stomped down, hard.
“Maxis, no!” William shouted, but he was on the other side of the room. He couldn’t stop his father.
Mr. Coldwell ground his heel into the little scrap-box-body on the ground and sniffed indifferently. As if he were squishing a bug. Sparks flew and beeps came out all distorted from Maxis’ chassis. Then they slowed down, and his legs stopped twitching.
Finally, Maxis’ purple light-eyes went dark.
“Obnoxious droid,” Mr. Coldwell said, stepping over Maxis’ body. The doors suddenly clicked and the mag-locks were unsealed. Maxis had been in control of the door’s circuits, and now that he was gone, the office was unlocked again.
William was in shock. His little buddy, who’d been there for him through thick and thin, longer than anyone else in his life besides maybe his mother, was dead. They both were. He vividly remembered discovering him in the Luna junkyards, ecstatic as he’d gotten him to reactivate…
Tears blurred William’s vision. His father’s security team was here, now. They flowed through the doors, closing in on William. He clenched the little remote he held in his hand tightly, gritting his teeth. He knew what he had to do. He wouldn’t let himself become his father, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t fight back.
William punched down the detonator button violently.
Mr. Coldwell froze, narrowing his eyes. A large security guard tackled William to the floor and painfully twisted his arms behind him. William grunted, looking up at his father’s face as he was detained.
“I know you, son. You’re not capable of destruction. You’re small,” Mr. Coldwell tsked, shaking his head and bending over to pick up the obedience enhancement chip. “Bluffing,” William’s father scoffed condescendingly.
There was a deep, powerful rumbling coming from the bottom of the Penthouse.
Mr. Coldwell’s office desk phone began to ring. Notifications blipped up on his monitors faster than they could be read.
A bright, warm explosion shone from the port-city, powerful enough to light up the room.
William’s father paled, and William saw true terror settle over his features.
That alone practically made the whole thing worth it.
William smiled. He might be enslaved to the obedience chip soon, but he’d done it. He was hurting, but he felt more alive than he ever had. He wasn’t weak. He’d made a difference. Maxis’ sacrifice would not be in vain. And those terrible screams he dreamed of would finally be silenced. The matter-gathering towers for his father’s reactors would fall, and the reactors would shut down.
“No… no!” Mr. Coldwell said frantically, hopeless panic taking control.
Then everyone started floating.
It was as if gravity had momentarily shut off– the guard that pinned William down was suddenly lifted up along with William and everyone else in the room. Everyone was in shock, looking down at their feet as they slowly rose. There was a long second where it felt almost peaceful.
Then gravity came back stronger.
William was lucky enough that the guard on top of him had caused him to rotate while floating– he landed on his feet, supporting his increased weight with some difficulty. Others weren’t so lucky. Some of the guards slammed their heads into the floor and cursed, trying to get to their feet but failing as gravity pulled them against the floor with suffocating vigor. There was a terrible and ominous crumbling noise from beneath them all. The gravity phenomenon was affecting the building, too.
A moment later, gravity was reversed again. This time, it shot William upwards with gut-wrenching speed, and he barely had time to hold his arms over his head as he prepared to crash into the ceiling. He squeezed his eyes shut.
The impact never came, however.
William opened his eyes to see Obsius stretched out before him. The ceiling had been broken into jagged pieces, and had launched even higher than William. William noticed that some areas of the office floor below had been displaced too, and that some security guards were launched higher than others beneath him. Gravity was acting… randomly.
The little port-city around the Penthouse was small below William. But even from so high up, he could see the chaos his actions had caused. Pieces of the Penthouse had shot out in different directions, floating suspended above the city. Transports wavered in their courses unsteadily. A mag-train had tipped over, and shouts could be heard. All around the base of the Penthouse, in a huge cloud, the white dust of Obsius had risen into a kind of particulate fog, suspended by gravity’s games. The planet’s true, harsh, black surface was on full display.
William floated above it all.
William looked down at the sizable drop back into the Penthouse office and gulped.
Gravity pulled him back down like a human yo-yo. William tried to catch himself, but the increased force made him feel uncoordinated and clumsy. He stumbled as he crashed into the floor, hurting his leg. He rolled to his back, trying to resist gravity’s increased strength, and watched as a chunk of the ceiling tore away and crashed through the floor where he’d been laying a moment before.
William stood, looking around at the destroyed office. The security team was gone, flung this way and that by the chaotic gravity.
A hand reached up from the other side of the desk, using it to stand.
It was Father.
Blood dripped from a cut across his forehead. He was wide-eyed and furious, his hair disheveled. There was a wild air about him, as if he was an animal that had just broken out of its cage.
He saw William and snarled.
“You,” Mr. Coldwell growled, and then moved forwards. William saw the obedience enhancement chip his father still clutched in his other hand and decided to move. He scrambled to the other side of the desk, stepping over a hole in the floor. Movement was awkward, now.
“Do you realize what you’ve done?” Mr. Coldwell shouted, chasing after William. William ran out of the office doors, sidestepping another gaping hole in the floor.
There, on the floor! It was Maxis!
William scooped up the little robot’s body, cradling it in his arm, his heart pounding as he tried to keep distance between himself and his father. Mr. Coldwell looked like he was trying to kill him!
“You blew up the matter-gathering towers, thinking you’d shut down the machine,” Mr. Coldwell snarled, his voice seemingly right behind William. “The gravity wells in the center of my reactors– keeping the mass together– they can’t just be cut off!”
Well, it ticked you off. That had to mean it was a good idea.
William moved towards the service door ahead of him. Gravity’s strength was suffocating!
Mr. Coldwell swore and chased after him. William burst through the door and gasped.
The steel beams and cold metal walkways that spider-webbed through the tall service shafts were gone, torn away.
There was no walkway for William to run out onto.
He shot to the ground, falling the length of the Penthouse. William’s breath had been torn away. The glass window-wall that showcased Mount Sica in the distance was shattered. William looked out the window beneath him and saw a huge star-transport spiraling towards the Penthouse from the port outside.
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