Violet took a sip of her wine, Derek smiled at her from across the table, they didn’t need to share words in this moment, right now the silence was perfect. She placed her glass down, “I can’t believe you managed to get the same table and everything”
“Anything for you honey.”
She smiled and raised her glass of wine, “To us.”
He grinned, the same grin she fell in love with. They both sipped.
The lights flickered. Violet looked around, “I hope the power doesn’t go out or something.”
“What do you mean?”
“The lights, they flickered. There, they did it again.”
Derek frowned, “Not that I noticed anyway.”
She shook her head, “Maybe I’m just tired or my eyes are playing tricks.
The restaurant seemed to tilt slightly, “Do you feel that?”
The room flipped.
Everything was happening in slow motion, the waiters moved around the room as though nothing was wrong, the food stayed on the tables, the drinks in the glasses, no one seemed to notice. Violet couldn’t control her body, her limbs moving of their own free will, jerking back and forward. Derek was moving in the same way, his arms and legs flailing out. The lights flickered again, the tables disappeared for a split second, then returned. Everyone froze, then there was darkness.
Everything was still dark. Violet tried to move, but it felt like she was stuck on something. She wriggled, trying to feel for what ever it was but before she could find it she fell. She landed on the ground hard, the breath knocked out of her. She lay there on the cold floor for a moment, breathing deeply. Gingerly she felt over herself, she found a few cuts and scrapes but nothing too deep, she had a small lump on her head but seemed fine otherwise. The floor beneath her was rough, she suspected it was wood. She stood slowly, afraid that she would hit her head despite the long fall. Over to her left there was a small sliver of light, she moved towards it, arms held out and waving slowly back and forth. She stumbled over something, it was soft and slightly yielding, it made no noise. Her heart was thudding heavily in her chest. The light was coming in through a door on a track, she gripped it with her fingers and pulled. Outside was a vast expanse of tall grass. She could see someone at the edge of it, they were sitting but that was all she could make out. She looked left and right, train carriages. The one she was in was tilted, a few train cars were lying on their sides. She could see men standing around them. She looked behind herself and froze. Time stood still, she couldn’t breath. Behind her were bodies. At least fifty, some were sprawled on the ground, others were tied up to the ceiling, none of them seemed to be breathing. She wanted to scream, but there wasn’t enough air in her lungs, all that came out where sharp breaths and moans. She moved backwards and stumbled off the edge of the train car. She landed on her feet this time, just barely managing to keep her balance. She quickly looked back at the men, they hadn’t noticed her yet. She ducked down. “You can get out of this, you’re ok. Think, c’mon think think think.” The last thing she remembered was the restaurant before things went weird. Had they been drugged? She hadn’t spotted Derek amongst the bodies, but she hadn’t looked very hard.
Outside she could see that whoever was by the grass was a man, at least going by his size. He was moving his hand from the ground to his face. Violet moved closer to him, he hadn’t noticed her yet, but he was wearing the same cloth covering that she had on, so her was probably rattled from what happened in the train. The men by the overturned cars had moved off further down, Violet feared it wouldn’t be long until they came back to check on the car she was in. They may not know about the bodies but she didn’t want to take the chance that they were in on it.
“Hey, hey you.” Her voice was slightly hoarse, as though she hadn’t spoken in a while, the man didn’t look up, her heart was thudding heavily in her chest, something about him reminded her of Derek, but she didn’t want to get her hopes up. She needed to remain calm and rational, she couldn’t get emotional, not now while she was still in danger.
“Hey” His head snapped up and he looked at her, it was Derek. He looked back at the ground and continued what he was doing.
“Derek? Honey? It’s me, are you hurt?”
She crept closer, maybe he was in shock. She caught sight of his hand, it was curled up, like he was holding something. She watched as his hand moved up to his mouth which opened as though he was eating something. Maybe he hit his head and thought he was still in the restaurant. She reached out gently and touched his hand, “Honey?” he jumped slightly, he looked at her for a second then shook his head, “Vi?”
“Yeah, it’s me. I think someone drugged us and put us in there. There’s bodies in the train.” He grabbed her and pulled her close, his grip was almost crushing. She hugged him back tightly.
“You have to let go of me now, we need to hide in the grass before those men come back”
He let go of her almost reluctantly and hand in hand they moved into the grass. Derek was acting strange, but then she knew she wasn’t exactly herself either. It was all so much to process.
They stayed crouching together for what felt like hours. Eventually the men came back, one of them called out to the others and pointed at the open door, a few of the men looked inside, then they stood in a small group talking. Occasionally the wind would pick up and Violet would catch snippets, not enough to know what they were talking about, but enough to know they were in on it. When the men moved away again she turned to Derek, “We’re going to have to move through the grass, are you feeling up for it?”
“Yeah, my head still feels a bit spacey, but I’ll manage.”
“We’ll take things slow ok.”
Together, they started to move off. Part of Violet was screaming at her to get moving, faster, faster, faster before anyone realised they were gone, but she couldn’t leave Derek to fend for himself. She gripped his hand tightly for a second, then let go. They’d get out of this together or not at all.
“What do you mean two escaped?”
“Exactly what I said. Two escaped, we don’t know where they are. The crash scrambled with the trackers. They’re working together.”
“How could they be working together?”
Jacob coughed and looked at the table, “Well!?”
“We uh, we reviewed security footage, a couple of the guys were screwing around and posing them. They were left linked together.”
“What does that mean?”
“They were able to communicate, create a kind of bond with one another. We don’t really know how, somehow they activated each other’s personality core, then the crash did the rest.”
“So they don’t know?”
“No. We don’t think they do.”
“Ok, surely we just wait for the power to go out and someone will drop them off.”
“It isn’t that simple. They’re part of the new line, they can take in power through solar energy and food waste. If they eat and stay in sunlight they could very well keep themselves going.”
“How dangerous is this?”
“We don’t know. If they were aware they were machines they would have simply stopped and waited for someone authorised to give commands, however the accident seems to have kick started it all, they’re running their programs without being aware of it. They’ll respond to commands given, but only those of authorised personnel. They have the capacity to be dangerous, though we don’t think they’ll kill anyone.”
“They cannot intentionally harm a human, that much is clear, however in their scrambled state they could walk into the road or something. That is our main concern. We’re almost certain they will seek help, we have their pictures up and sent out to all local law enforcement, besides, their clothes will help them stand out. We’ll get them back.”
“We better, the public trusts us now, and that was a hard won trust, any kind of incident and it could all come crashing down. I want them captured and destroyed.”
“We think it would be best to study them first. See what went wrong.”
Mr. Yates took a slow deep breath then exhaled heavily through his nose, “You can perform full diagnostics, you can see where the faults are, you can have them for a month to run your tests, then they will be destroyed, if I find out otherwise you will be fired and the entire division will be heavily disciplined. We cannot get bogged down in this what is consciousness philosophical bullshit again. We sell high end appliances with faces, nothing more.”
“Yes sir, I understand.”
“Good. Find them.”