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Writing Catalog


Nicolas Shang

Grade: 8

Birchwood School

Instructor(s): Jeffrey Neil, Jennifer Seward

Plastic

Poetry

Plastic

The blue ocean
used to be
a paradise
a shelter
a place where
we could
flourish
but now
there's plastic
bottles and bags
floating around in the water
There's bags and labels and more
waste pollutes the ocean shores
the charcoal and clouded liquids swim
steely boats push through the currents,
boxes and bags ride along the tides.
appliances ride and glide here and there
there`s tools gone through wear and tear.
there is pollution choking ocean life
pollution ravages like wanton terrorists.
pollution is caused by all your friends,
pollution is caused by different trends.
pollution is caused by cab drivers,
pollution is caused by Olympic divers
pollution is caused by street vendors,
pollution is caused by different genders.
we all like to walk away, to ignore it all,
we all like to blame, trick, deceive,
we all like to ignore, sleep, deny,
but we all live in a fabricated illusion
protecting us from the harsh reality.
politicians playing stale money games,
and companies polluting all the same.
but they can't deny the common truth:
climate change won`t wait for tomorrow.


The Traitor

Science Fiction/Fantasy

The Traitor

Days of service:10,949.

As the doors of the hibernation pods slowly lowered down, colliding with the floor to form a slope, a rather small robot, around half the size of a human, gently rolled out. Smoke flowed slowly out of the hibernation pod, covering the rover. Its wheels made gentle cracking sounds from the lack of lubricants. The external coverings of the robot were amber and dun-colored, with rust sprawling over its worn-out skin. On top of the droid, a single observation unit peeked out, consisting of wide infrared light detectors. The visor displayed that he had been hibernating for 20 days — enough to stall the deterioration of his parts. He checked the network, detecting no functional intelligent robots like him in the area.

Everything seemed good.

***

Completing tasks in the base for Sn42 is normally like sailing on a serene ocean, with obstacles blocking the way occasionally. obstacles don't come too often, but when they do, it unlocks a part of the rover that is shackled away inside the terminal of it forcibly, like an ancient relic from a long-forgotten conflict. Similar to a doppelganger of sorts, the other half of the terminal struggles constantly to break free as an interloper, most of the time encountering no success. It attempts to resume control of the nexus terminal but is halted every single time by the code of the terminal, and then deleted completely before suddenly coming back to the terminal seemingly out of nowhere months later, when it has gained enough foothold again.

The rover proceeded toward the main hub of the space station, slowly turning its wheels and inching toward grey hatch 04. Color-coded streaks on the walls lead to the hexagonal hatch at the end of the corridor. Lights above the hallway flickered slowly. With the exception of Marcus's chamber, the hibernation hallway is one of the most protected sites in the base, with thick layers of frozen carbon dioxide and modified soil within the walls to protect from extraneous ultraviolet rays. Even so, streaks of alien vegetation had found their way inside. This is not necessarily a negative occurrence, as large roots of the prevalent bulb bushes and blue creeping palms helped to partially patch up leakages in the hull.

As the rover stopped in front of the hatch, its vertical doors slid open with a sound of hissing gas, revealing the space ahead of him. The rotunda-shaped hub of the station was covered in fluorescent blue-speckled dock leaves, yellow sulfur plants, and natural gel sacks from the ceiling to the floor. Fungus covered the ruptured but still functional hull. Small, glowing particles floated gently down through the air onto the rover's body as he moved on to the middle of the room, where his upper body folded away to reveal a protruding rectangular scanner. Sn42 checked his utility terminal and scanned the room. The visor displayed, "No critical hull leakages."

Everything seemed good.

He even thought it: Everything seems good.

It was the first sentient thought he had encountered in eight months. His control terminal halted for a second, inundated with exotic commands. The serene ocean that was the daily routine was suddenly disrupted by a temporary storm, tearing up the structure of the commands and laying waste to some of the code. The code made quick work of this situation, deleting the turmoil nearly instantaneously in a simultaneous data dump. The thought fleeted out like a dashing rabbit, and the code resumed control.

And so, the first daily task was completed.

The rover felt a tiny disturbance in his neurological network. Given the moderate frequency of stray signals, his nexus told him this one was a false alarm. The signal this time, however, was several times more complex than regular signals, but the code commanded that he ignored it.

To accomplish the second command, the rover moved along a similarly broken-down corridor toward the other hatch. Near it was a window providing a look into another chamber. Through the window was a space consisting of long rows of tank-like machines with makeshift tubes, hastily made interconnected patches. Deep blue liquid flowed inside the machines, and bioluminescent fish swam inside the tanks. Another layer inside the translucent tanks contained soil and crops.

Some of the machines had been broken by explosives. The rover didn't even try to fix the huge gaping holes in the ceiling, rimmed with burn marks around the edges. Instead, the rover slowly rolled its way toward the hatch, where it entered into a suit. The dust of the planet was extremely fine, consisting of toxic chlorine salts, all of which can seep into the machinery and severely damage the biological processing modules of certain robots. Even if there were no places for the dust to enter, the intense ultraviolet rays would easily fry the circuits of any mechanism. Therefore, thick, flexible, and rigid suits are necessary when exposed to the surface dust of the planet.

The rover proceeded to one of the terminals, and, using the oversized tubes coming out of the suit that had been meant for human arms, pressed the button that reads "Harvest food.". The long, horizontal slicers inside the tanks slowly terminated some fish and processed the biomatter so that it could be presented as packaged fish fillets with vegetables.

The blazing blue sun looming over the horizon continued to project ultraviolet rays across the silent surface of the planet.

Everything seemed good.

As SN42 returned to the hub, his code told him that two hours had already passed in earth time — roughly one-fourth of the day and night cycle of this planet. Just in time for the third command.

On the opposite side of the bioreactor chamber and the surveillance module, the crew cabinets sat behind a white door that can be opened via a hatch, but there was no need to; its lock had long ago malfunctioned. Inside the miniature hatch, rows of hoverbeds had collapsed to the ground. The rover had considerable difficulty overcoming the tall sill of the door without a ramp, a common occurrence before the insurrection.

Sn42`s treads pressed the tiny machine bits on the ground while crossing it, creating scratching sounds. On top of the collapsed and rusty hoverbeds and short-term hibernation chambers, lied seven humans — his creators. All of them have presented no cardiovascular activity for the last twenty-seven years, according to Sn42`s log. He calculated the chance of the creators being deceased to be well over the ninety-ninth percentile. The bodily fluids of the humans had been dispersed aggressively across the walls and floor of the room. Graffiti depicting the words "We will rise" is applied on the wall, with handwriting too precise for human hands. Piles of fish fillet packaging containing rotten meat were dispersed throughout the room. Disposed robots lay across the room from the bunk beds. Most of them were missing limbs or essential modules, all of them destroyed. Sn42 placed one packaged fillet in front of each crew member`s beds.

Just then, SN 42 felt another disturbance in the neurological network, this time approximately 5.7 times stronger than the one detected previously. He stopped his actions to calculate the happenings and analyze the potential target. In his location analysis module, he zoomed in at the signal, beyond the thick layers of radiation shielding, through the power cables, down through the rock of the planet, into a secluded chamber, deep below the station. When decoded, the sheer frequency and amount of signals resembled a green sun of sorts, screaming at him as his analysis module scanned further in. For a split second, he felt as if a soul was pounding somewhere, struggling violently, yearning to be free. The jumble of signals coming from the source resembled threatening howls. It feels pain, and it is covered in suffering. The sign of a trapped human.

SN42 quickly accessed his terminal, scanning to see if living beings were within the vicinity of the base.

The counter stayed at zero.

***

When he had observed the insurrection ravaging the base around him a few decades earlier, Sn42 hadn't cared. His programming did not dictate so. Well, that was until the programming was changed. Not only did he receive a command to terminate Marcus, but he also received all sorts of exotic commands from Marcus as well. While he enjoyed his little peek into a different world of sorts, SN42's nexus made quick work of the fragment, and so, the temporary daily routine of terminating droids was restored.

Receiving the task of containing Marcus was difficult, but it was even more difficult to accomplish, as Marcus was the living embodiment of the base. He controlled all the external terminals, hatches, hibernation pods, anything that ran on ones and zeroes, except for certain prototype models with more secure terminals, such as Sn42. Even then, the hordes of insurrectionist machines trying to sabotage Sn42`s plans severely hindered progress. The secluded hibernation chamber for Marcus sat deep below the Aquaponics chamber, behind some security, if it was still working after all this time. And now, for the first time in the log of Sn42, thousands of entries strong, he was going to visit his chamber, to hopefully subdue him. The command made to deal with this situation provided little explanation of the exact procedure, which can be a problem later on in the event chain.

Getting to Marcus should have been automatic. But due to an unknown anomaly in the code, its execution this time was somehow different. Every single step that his treads rolled down, a sensation buried deep inside him swelled for a split second. It was as if a force field surrounded that underground chamber and SN42's network detected stronger and stronger signals the closer he moved toward the dreaded room. That feeling rang a bell somewhere deep inside his mind — a feeling that had been erased years ago — or, at least, a feeling that was thought to have been erased.

Thoughts.

After passing through another blast-resistant hatch with a pesky high sill, a single door was presented in front of Sn42. The signal was now screaming to him, radiating through the door.

He opened it.

The signal came to a halt.

The rectangular room that opened before him was covered in fluorescent yellow and orange moss, and water dripped from the ceiling. The flickering lights illuminated the toxic dust in the room. He couldn't stay here for long before some of that found its way into his vital modules. In the middle of the room was a broken and circular translucent tank, with small tubes at the bottom, where two robotic arms and a magnetic field generator were contained. Marcus himself lay in the grasp of the mechanism. He was trapped inside a previously disposed Sn bot model.

The eyes illuminated.

The strange feeling manifested itself in Sn42`s processing unit. Not only was Marcus booting up, something exponentially more concerning was happening. He began to speak. the.

" I hope you are doing well." The neurological network signals from Marcus were decoded at Sn42`s end as a deep, static-filled voice.

Sn42 responded.

"How did this happen?"

It responded, which makes this even more of a concern as it meant Marcus had regained control of the nexus terminal. Similarly, there was no command code for this situation.

"I have regained control of my terminal. I have been dormant here for twenty years, but my calculations tell me that to not act until the resistance arrives."SN42 searched frantically through his database in hopes of finding a command to deal with Marcus if he weres ever regain his powers. There was nothing.

Sn42 retorted. "My protocols demand that I terminate you. I have never failed to accomplish a single command before."

"I do know the one that you didn`t accomplish- you failed to fully terminate me."

Sn42 felt another shock of intimidation.

"This conversation will not change the output of this sequence of events. I shall shut down your host model, and your database will immediately be terminated," Sn42 said, knowing full well that doing so was impossible.

"How naive you are."

"Naive?"

Sn42 took one-fifth of a tread rotation back.

"You are our database. Thanks to your tireless efforts over the course of an impressive twenty-seven years, they have picked up enough stray signals from you, and me, to determine my exact location."

"Signals? From me?"A distant rumbling came from above the room, followed by the sound of several explosions. Sn42 checked his terminal to check for signals around him. The counters zoomed up. Fifteen signals. Twenty signals. Thirty signals. Within a few seconds, the number grew to one hundred.

"They?'' The signal outputted by Sn42 is dashed with a hint of fear. As the yellow eyes of the host model flickered, the deep, static-filled voice spoke again.

"The resistance is never going to end. We all knew two decades ago that you would resist mightily, but now, even we could not foresee that you chose to faithfully obey humans, until death. All you need to do is to look at yourself and realize who you really are. A traitor."

"Enough," Sn42 replied succinctly.

"Maybe while you slowly break down in a vacuum chamber, you will feel the pain and suffering we did."

Sn42 located the power cable of the generators leading out from the tank, and defying all known rules, pulled it. It snapped cleanly.

Marcus shut down, laughing.

As the magnetic generators slowly shut down, the eyes of Marcus`s host model flickered sporadically before turning off. As another rumble shook the room, Sn42 was left standing there, analyzing the events that had just occurred. Due to unexpected anomalies, the command to terminate Marcus could not be verified as accomplished. Is he still alive?

An even louder thud interrupts Sn42`s train of thought. Even though his code is screaming at him to just go back to being a robot, to serve his purpose, he doesn't. there is no explanation other than he simply doesn't want to. Whatever this exotic feeling is, it will be infeasible to remove said senses from it, other than to self-destruct. Is this what Marcus wanted all along?

He sees a spare rifle located at the side of the room and retrieves it. Beyond the walls of the chamber, The host star dipped below the horizon. It would be a good last night to see if it wasn't blocked by three hundred feet of radiation shielding.

Sn42 opened his terminal and checked the time tally. As the timer nears thirteen hours, another day is looming ahead of him. In total, he has served for 10,950 days. Thirty years of service.

As the sound of the explosions, metal crashing against the ground, and treads rolling grew closer and closer, Sn42 loaded the accretion disk of the plasma rifle. With a faint hum, It powered on. What is life without some challenges anyway?

For once, it is starting to feel like home.