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Franken’s Kind































































Copyright 2018 by Karin Moquin



All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or used in any manner without written permission of the copyright owner except for the use of quotations in a book review.















































With heartfelt thanks to Mary Shelley for penning her timeless classic

The Modern Prometheus, or, Frankenstein.

A novel that induced some of the greatest nightmares of my youth.











































Franken’s Kind

Worcester Robotics University

Bio-mimicry Division, Lab 3

Worcester, Massachusetts

United States

Earth

3147 A.D.





1

Shadow Beast



I was filled with an ever-increasing sense of dread as I watched my fiancée, Doctor Victoria Franken, raise her finger above the button that would animate her latest robot. It was all she had been doing for the past four months; an entire semester of half-eaten delivery meals and late-night work sessions that sometimes, no, almost always, ended in screaming, tears and scrapped designs. It had culminated at this moment, a cloudy mid-November Friday morning, in this place, the academic epi-center of robotics research and development. The robotics amphitheater was packed with students and professors who were gazing in wonder at Vicky’s latest creation. It was a canine beast like the wolves she had always adored, with a body the size of a horse and magnesium alloy claws the size of my legs. If its mouth had been open the viewers would have been able to see the creature’s diamond fangs, capable of ripping into, well, almost anything, really. She had powder-coated the whole artificial beast with an absolute black paint that made it look like you were staring at the shadow of something that wasn’t there.

“I ask you, my esteemed colleagues and teachers, doubters and believers,” she said, as a disgruntled murmur swept through the faculty section of the audience. Victoria was the most brilliant robotics designer any of them had seen in a decade, but her ideas were radical. The possibilities were terrifying. “I ask you plainly. What does it mean to be real, to be alive? Is it the ability to breathe? Fire breathes, taking oxygen to grow, to sustain itself, until it eventually dies. Is it the ability to think, to become self-aware? I can present to you today a thousand instances where artificial intelligence out-thought humankind, where they behaved in a manner more self-aware than the ‘real’ people standing by their side. Are the hybrids alive? Robots with humans uploaded to their hard drives so that those humans can cheat death forever? Maybe you think to be alive you must be able to reproduce? Indeed, this is the greatest challenge faced by those of us who are brave enough to take the final step in giving life to our beloved artificial children.” Her words turned the horrified murmur into an uproar. But Victoria was determined to press on. She glared at the faculty with such contempt I feared for their safety.

I stood at the back entrance overlooking the amphitheater and watched as a dozen souls filed quietly out the exit doors. Victoria watched them leave, a look of dead calm on her face. I knew that look well, and it shook me to the core. She was angry. Not the hot fury of a momentary loss of temper. This was an icy, ever-present hatred of all who doubted her vision. It had been quietly building up inside of her since accelerated high school, where she had been denied a college scholarship and was forced to use her inheritance to pay her own way. When she finally began her studies, her genius exploded as she advanced to her first doctorate in robotics at the young age of nineteen. She hated their ignorance of the inevitable future, their need to conform to standard procedures, but most of all she hated their lack of confidence in her. She would show them her power. She would make them see.

She grew impatient as the noise showed no sign of settling. I watched her slender arm rise into the air, moving in a dream-like arc towards the podium. She gave the crowd a scolding look that went completely unnoticed. She was done waiting for the noise to settle. Her gaze locked with mine, and as I shook my head, eyes wide in absolute terror, she silently pressed the button. At first, they didn’t even notice as glowing crimson eyes snapped open. The beast raised its head, and the students in the first row began pointing, excitedly drawing each other’s attention to what was happening just a few feet away from them. The moment that captured everyone’s attention was when it flexed a front paw, the scrape of metal against metal making a piercing shriek. All went silent then, as if time itself was waiting for what would happen next.

“Are you sure that thing is safe?” a man in the faculty shouted, and in disbelief I heard my beloved Vicky laugh. It was a harsh and violent explosion that echoed through the amphitheater as the stunned onlookers bolted up straight in their seats.

“Is it alive?” queried another, and I witnessed several people grasp each other as they wrestled with these questions. The beast turned towards Vicky, towering over her tiny form like a storm cloud ready to release its force. She gazed up at it with the loving pride of a mother and I found myself jealous of the shadowy beast. She had never looked at me like that.

Someone in the audience knocked their steel coffee cup over, and it clattered down the inclined surface towards the beast. It turned and crouched then, red eyes narrowing as it faced the potential threat. More people rushed out the doors, but most were frozen in place with morbid fascination, the need to know outweighing the need to be safe. A growl sprang from deep within the beast’s throat, and Victoria moved between the beast and the people. For one hopeful instant I thought she was going to somehow calm the creature and regain control of the situation. She didn’t. She locked eyes with the black wolf, and then she nodded.

The beast sprang from the stage into the audience. It had jumped clear over its creator into the crowd. I turned to the back row and started to evacuate as many of the students as I could, trying hard to focus on getting them to safety. Anything to avoid bearing witness to what was transpiring. Something must have caught the beast’s attention, because it bounded up the stairs and blasted through the doors. I watched as people dove for safety, and as I stole a glance towards the stage, I realized Doctor Victoria Franken had vanished.











2

Hunting



It took me two days to find them. In that time, she was immediately expelled from the university and was declared a dangerous fugitive. I found them by following the trail of destruction they left behind as they appeared to be making their way north. My nav was military Arctic grade, so I kept to the side roads as much as possible. It appeared that Vicky and her shadow beast, as I had come to call it, were doing the same. They had reached the Green Mountains of Vermont, and since the search was still concentrated in and around Central Massachusetts, I knew she had the chance to actually make it across the border into Canada. She had been clever enough to set her other robots loose upon the city, wreaking havoc. The officials blamed it all on the shadow beast. I knew it was a diversion, it was so easy for her to fool people. She had always wanted to disappear, to live far away from everyone and everything, and she had been talking a lot lately about moving to northern Canada and setting up a lab together.


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