Still working my way back into it. I would like to put together a collection of science fiction stories, and this was one I wrote to get started.
By Ronald Cypress
The profession was starting to become an unnecessary aggravation, and Lincoln was beginning to settle on the decision to make the most recent move his last one. The moving was getting easier; all he really brought along with him were his tools and a few other personal items. The apartments were getting smaller; the new room—new to him—was just one room and a bathroom. The red carpet was worn, and in some spots it looked like someone had purposely ripped it off the floor to expose the wooden surface beneath. Each of the walls had some sort of blatant mark on them, and the wall that held the two windows to look out onto the streets had enough thin cracks running down it to give the impression that the whole thing could fall apart at any moment.
The apartment may have been derelict, but everything was acceptable to Lincoln; he didn’t even mind the dead frog that was sitting in the bathroom sink when he arrived. The place was adequate enough for work, and Lincoln knew that he probably wouldn’t be there long. People were starting to talk too much. The bureau had made a clever move when they started offering decent amounts of money for information. They already knew about it. All they needed was proof of his work, and they would finally be able to lock him away for as long as they wanted.
It took just one day to settle into the apartment, and the next day Lincoln received a call from his partner, Pop. She had found a new client for him and wanted to make sure everything was set and he was ready to start working again. Lincoln gave her the go-ahead to bring the new client up to his apartment around 11:05 that night. He didn’t receive much information about the new client and only had one question:
“What’s the problem?”
“The guy I talked to said she’s feeling down,” Pop explained. “That’s all he would tell me.”
Sadness could be a tough one, Lincoln thought. It all depended on the severity of the disturbance. He knew some mechanics refused to take anyone who was experiencing complete dismay. Personally, Lincoln had yet to come across a case that he couldn’t solve. It was the one thing he could brag about it, and it was also why he was likely so high up on the bureau’s list.
As usual, Lincoln began to prepare for his new client about an hour before they arrived. He was seated on the floor and staring at the wall when there came one knock. Eight seconds passed before five more rapid knocks came. Lincoln got up and answered the door.
“Here we are.” Pop walked straight into the apartment, leaving behind the woman she appeared to be escorting. “Did you know there’s a dead turtle on the elevator? Its shell looks like it’s been cracked, and the thing is just sitting there in the corner.”
“I haven’t seen it,” Lincoln said. He looked at the woman who was still standing in the doorway. She seemed hesitant to enter. “Please come in.”
The woman stepped into the apartment, and Lincoln closed the door.
“Why is it so dark in the hallway?” Pop asked.
“I’m Lincoln,” he said as he put out his hand for the woman.
She shook his hand and Lincoln could immediately feel what he was dealing with.
“Where is the…” Lincoln stopped and looked at Pop. “Did someone come here with her?”
“He’s downstairs,” Pop said. “He didn’t seem too excited about coming into this place, and I told him for the initial appointment it was fine. He doesn’t have to be here.”
“Okay,” Lincoln said. “Well let’s get to work.”
The first meeting was always simple. He would ask Desirae several questions about herself and would listen as she tried to explain why she had come to be and how her problem had developed. She had been made to become a partner to a man named Mitchell. Like most contrived citizens Desirae had been custom-made for him; this was about five years prior to her arriving at Lincoln’s apartment. Most of her story went as Lincoln had expected. She had been incredibly happy after she first started operating. She had clearly been programmed properly, and her system was functioning as it should. But then something happened, and Desirae started to fail.
“This happened about a year ago,” she told Lincoln. “I was staring out the window one morning, looking at a lady walking down the street, and something just changed inside of me. I haven’t been working since then. I told Mitchell that he should report me, but he refuses to do so. He says that they’ll just discard me. I’ve done some research, and there is a ninety-five percent chance that they will terminate me. At this point, I feel like I wouldn’t mind that, but Mitchell refuses to report me or let me report myself.”
“You would be terminated,” Lincoln said. “As far as the government is concerned, once a contrived citizen breaks down or fails at its intended functions there’s very little reason to try and remedy the being. They feel it’s much easier and better to just get rid of them.”
“Like I said, I don’t think I would mind that. The way I feel now, there’s really no need to go on existing. I don’t feel anything like I felt before. I don’t see a reason to keep existing.”
Lincoln looked at the mostly blank face of Desirae. He could see that she had once been an incredibly looking being—most contrived citizens fell into the physically attractive category—but the system failure had started to wear on her face. Lincoln could see that she looked older than she probably was supposed to look, and the lifelessness in her eyes betrayed her purpose. It was easy to tell what type of citizen she was.
“So your person wants me to fix you?” Lincoln asked as he continued to study her.
“Yes. That’s what Mitchell wants.”
Lincoln looked over her blonde hair that was down to her shoulders. Desirae was about five-foot nine and fairly slim. Lincoln had seen the stature plenty of times, and he felt pretty confident that he knew where he would need to work in order to fix her.
“Do you think this is something that can be fixed?” Desirae asked.
“Definitely. I’ll just need a couple of sessions to take care of your problem. It shouldn’t be that difficult.”
“I hope you can do it. I would really like to feel the way I did before. Then I could go back to making Mitchell happy again.”
“I’ll get you there.”
They arranged for their next meeting.
Before Pop escorted Desirae out of the apartment, Lincoln put his hand out one more time for her.
“It was nice to meet you,” he said.
Desirae stared down at his hand. The two were frozen for several second before Pop moved Desirae along.
Lincoln listened to the news coming from the radio as he worked diligently on Donnie’s foot. Whoever had manufactured Donnie had placed vital parts of his systems in odd places. It had taken Lincoln longer than usual to figure out where he would need to work in order to fix Donnie.
“I know I keep coming back to you,” Donnie said. “But I really don’t feel like I have a problem. I truly think it’s the people around me who have the problems. I know I can be too assertive sometimes, but I know what I like and I feel my way is usually the best. Is that really so wrong?”
It was the fourth time during the session that Donnie had mentioned feeling like he was functioning properly. Lincoln thought that he had fixed him before, but according to the man who had ordered for Donnie be made, the contrived citizen still had an ego issue. Most people didn’t like for their contrived citizens to have egos that were bigger than their own, and many of them preferred to just give a report to the government and do away with their problem. Donnie had gotten lucky because his man had fallen in love with him.
Lincoln was close to finishing his work when a news report came on the radio and caught his attention. Another mechanic had been arrested after one of the beings he had worked on attacked several people.
“It is cases like these that are causing police and the government to crack down more on home operations,” the reporter said. “Of course we all know that the laws and regulations changed after the Pierre case, and the government mandated that all contrived citizens be dealt with by them.”
Lincoln went over to the radio and turned it down. He hated hearing about the Pierre case. It had hurt many people in his line of work, and it had almost destroyed his livelihood. Most of the people around him had advised him to go into a new profession. They didn’t understood what it took to be a legitimate mechanic. When you were as dedicated to the craft as he was, you couldn’t just walk away from it because something had gone wrong and people became fearful. Some people had told Lincoln to just go do his work for the government, and he had considered it, but it quickly became clear that they weren’t interested in fixing contrived citizens who malfunctioned; all they wanted to do was get rid of them.
The only option that was left for him was to become a criminal and operate discreetly to serve his community.
“All right,” Lincoln said. “Let’s just get you patched up. Like last time, you should start feeling a difference by tomorrow. Hopefully, it will last this time. I’m pretty confident that it will.”
Donnie sat up from the portable table that Lincoln had placed him on.
“I still don’t understand what was so wrong with how I was,” Donnie said. “If it were up to me, I would have just stayed the same. But I guess it isn’t up to me, is it?”
Donnie put his shoes on, and Lincoln walked with him down to the elevator. When the elevator arrived, the doors slowly opened. In the corner of the elevator was a dead snake.
“You should find a better place,” Donnie said. He got on the elevator. “This is one of the worst apartment buildings I’ve ever seen.”
Lincoln nodded and waved as the elevator doors closed.
Desirae insisted on talking about the Pierre case as Lincoln worked on her. Pop tried to explain that it was something neither she nor Lincoln cared to discuss, but Lincoln insisted that he was fine with the topic.
“There’s not much to talk about,” Lincoln said. “I’m sure you could probably find more information than what I can give you.”
Lincoln began working on the middle of Desirae’s back since the likely source of the problem would probably be found there.
While he worked, he talked about how Pierre had been a contrived citizen who had broke down and was taken to a regular shop. There had been a bunch of them back then. The mechanic who worked on Pierre said that everything had been fixed, and the person responsible for him said that Pierre appeared to be fine and working better for a couple of weeks before he picked up a rifle and killed fourteen people at a restaurant.
“Supposedly, the government had suspected that there could be some danger in trying to fix your type,” Lincoln said. “It was what Pierre did that finally made them go ahead and stop trying fix contrived citizen. That pretty much put me out of work. There were supposed to be a few qualified companies left around to work at, ones appointed by the government, but those never came about. Instead they decided that they had to take charge of the situation. You’re lucky you weren’t developed back then. They were basically rounding beings up and taking them off to be destroyed. Any contrived citizen with any kind of history of malfunctions was taken away.”
“That sounds horrible,” Desirae said in a monotone voice.
“Yeah. And people like me started being prosecuted for trying to save you guys. It started out with fines, but now they dealing out pretty heavy time.”
“How much time?”
“The most I’ve heard of is thirty years. This woman I knew and worked with briefly got it. She was running an operation for young contrived citizens. Kids.”
“Maybe the government feels it is right in what it’s doing.”
“I’m sure they do, but some of us feel a little different.”
“I’m glad you do. Yes. Glad. Lincoln, I think I can actually feel that.”
Lincoln continued to work quietly, feeling confident in what he was doing and the possibilities that it would allow.
Desirae went through two sessions with Lincoln, and he sent her off feeling certain that he had been able to fix her problem. About a month would pass before she showed up at his apartment again. Lincoln was at the end of working with another client when she arrived with Mitchell. The client, a contrived citizen named Freya, was discussing her problems with being obsessed about her looks. She was starting to spend hours looking in the mirror, trying to figure out what could be improved while also admiring what she called her magnificent appearance.
“I’ll just do some light work,” Lincoln said. “Work that will stop you from becoming to caught up with staring into the mirror. You can still be a proud woman, though.”
“I should be,” Freya said. “Am I not beautiful?”
“You are beautiful.”
There was a loud knock on the door. Lincoln’s first thought was that it was finally over, and the government had arrived to take him. More loud knocks came before he opened the door. It was Desirae and a man that Lincoln had never seen before.
“Are you Lincoln?” the man asked.
Lincoln knew who it was.
“Come in, please.” Lincoln allowed Mitchell and Desirae to enter the apartment. “I was just about to finish up with a client.”
“This won’t take long,” Mitchell said with his anger clear on his face. “I just want to know what the hell you did to her.”
Lincoln saw that Mitchell had Desirae by the arm and was squeezing hard.
“There’s a problem?” Lincoln asked.
“There sure is. This is not the woman I had made for me. This is some bitch who doesn’t know how to treat or respect anyone, and I want it fixed right now.”
Lincoln looked at Desirae’s face and saw that she was trying to keep a lifeless expression. Her face was betraying her, and he could see how she truly felt.
“I ask her to do something,” Mitchell said. “And all I’m getting nowadays is a bunch of no’s and talk about things she wants to do, things she wasn’t programmed to do. Now I want to know what you did to her, because I’m about to report her and have her shipped off.”
“Sir,” Lincoln said. “Please calm down. I can promise you that this will be fixed, and I won’t charge you a thing. Just let me check my schedule, and we can make an appointment. I’m sure that whatever needs to be fixed will be simple.”
“Are you sure you can fix her?” Mitchell was starting to cool down. “People told me you were supposed to be the best.”
“I promise I can. I didn’t want to do it unless necessary, but I’ll just put her back to the original manufactured settings without erasing her memory. There’s a very small risk, but I can definitely get it done. Just let me schedule your appointment.”
Lincoln retrieved his calendar and put Desirae in as soon as possible. He apologized to Mitchell several times before he and Desirae left, and Lincoln assured him that everything would be fixed after the next session.
“Okay,” Mitchell said as he and Desirae left Lincoln’s apartment. “She’ll be up in a few days. I hope I don’t have to bring her back here.”
“You won’t,” Lincoln said with confidence.
“By the way, there was what looked like a dead baby crocodile in front of the building. I thought it might be fake, but I couldn’t tell.”
Lincoln nodded and smiled.
“I’ll see you later,” Desirae said before Mitchell pulled her away.
Lincoln closed his door and apologized to Freya.
“She had really nice eyes,” Freya said as Lincoln began to walk around her for an examination. “I wish my eyes were as nice as hers.”
During his final work on Desirae, there was mostly silence. He worked carefully on her arm, staying mostly around the bicep area. Lincoln was starting to patch up his work when he mentioned that he would be moving soon.
“Do you know where you’re going?” Desirae asked.
“Probably farther than I’ve moved before. I’m thinking about actually leaving the state this time. May just go across the country. I hear that talk is starting to build up about me around these parts.”
“Well, wherever you go I wish you the best of luck.”
“Same to you.”
Lincoln carefully looked over Desirae’s arm before declaring that his work was done. He guaranteed her that she had been fixed and there would no longer be any problems. Lincoln walked Desirae to the door and held out his hand. She stared down at it for a few seconds before hugging him. The embrace was brief, and Desirae was soon rushing down the dark hall towards the elevator. Lincoln watched her go, and as he was staring down the hall he noticed that several feet away from he was a dead lizard lying in the middle of the floor.
Lincoln began to pack that night.
He would wait until he heard the news before actually moving. The news came five days after Lincoln had last seen Desirae. All he had to hear on the radio was that a man had been attacked. Without hearing a name, Lincoln already knew who it was. He listened to the reporter for a few minutes. The man had been horribly mutilated, and the police were describing what was done to him as some sort of operation and a method of torture The prime suspect was the man’s contrived citizen, a female being that the police and government were currently searching for.
Lincoln turned off the radio and began to leave his apartment. He had already called Pop and told her that he was going to be on the move. Lincoln had declared his retirement from working as a mechanic, but he and Pop knew that would it just be a short break. He would settle down somewhere else and the need to work would overcome him again. The word would be put out, and more clients would come to him. There was plenty of work to be done, and Lincoln knew that no matter how fatigued he became the desire to perform would remain with him. There weren’t many great mechanics like him left, and in a way his work was an obligation.
The profession was a burden, but there were people who needed him.