A/N: "Eva" was originally written as my final for a Creative Writing course I took in college. Strangely, this was one of my only Creative Writing courses I took in college, despite that I have a degree in Creative Writing. My professor was very much a stickler, and before you wrote anything, you had to come up with a theme that could be narrowed down into one sentence. Writing this way didn't necessarily benefit my writing process (it's very hard to write like that), but now theme is unavoidable in whatever I read or write. So I guess I can thank him for that! Aside from that, I love this story because it was inspired by one of my favorite authors, Marissa Meyer, and her book, Cinder.
The war began when the Three Laws of Robotics were proven to be little more than fiction. Robots were promised to enhance the human experience, to help those in need and improve family life. But after a small number of freak malfunctions were blown up by the media, these machines were being destroyed by the very people they were designed to help. Distrust spread and settled into the hearts of Americans for generations.
The Inventor saw the mistakes made by his ancestors, and appeared two centuries after the war and recreated robots from scratch. Robots were slowly reintroduced back into an America that had long since revolted against smart technology, and the people warily accepted them, mostly because they were curious. First were low-grade robots meant to aid in manufacturing, then businesses used them, and then they were being placed—at a very slow rate—into the houses of civilians.
The Inventor’s newest idea, however, was the LifeBot, a robot that was human in every way except for the fact that they were completely mechanical beneath their silicon flesh. The concept was not presented to the public, since the idea of a robot with free will would be appalling to even the most trusting people. However, he believed in his invention, and he loved his prototype like a daughter. He was sure that the American people could love her too, but they would never go for the idea outright.
So he ran a test. He taught his creation everything she would possibly need to know and he sent her out, booking her a plane ticket to New York City and promising to meet her on the other side. If she made it without incident, without anyone raising alarm, he would consider it a success. If not, he knew he might have to scrap her; the public would never let her exist if their distrust got the best of them.
He realized the risk—but he believed in Eva even more.
Eva, however, wasn’t sure she could believe in herself. Train; car; hell, she’d even walk—but a plane? From all that the Inventor had taught her, she didn’t want him to make her start with the riskiest scenario. She only had a basic programming, and everything else was painstakingly learned from her creator. What if she slipped up and forgot something critical? Her memory, after all, was not as perfect as the other robots’. She was supposed to be human, not at all computer-like, and she wasn’t convinced she could pull it off.
She shuffled forward in the line for TSA, her shoulders hunched and her eyes flicking to the other travelers. Some had their attention buried in small tablets and screens, a fad that preceded Eva. Most of them stared expressionlessly into far corners of the room as they watched digital displays imbedded into their retinas. She almost did the same, but decided against it. She was too nervous.
She stepped forward and handed the security guard her ID. She didn’t look at him, imagining the way his lips would twist into a scowl when he read the words “cerebral cyborg” printed at the bottom. It was a lie, but the Inventor supposed they would raise fewer questions by calling her mostly human. He waved her away from the metal detectors and to a roped-off area with a small sign that read “Robots/Cyborgs.”
Eva ducked her head and hurried to the station. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for a robot to travel unaccompanied, but it was out of the ordinary for a robot to look as human as she did. In fact, it was only recently that robots could ride in planes as passengers instead of being loaded into the plane as luggage, though Eva would have felt more comfortable being stuffed into a suitcase than riding on the plane with the rest of the humans.
She loved the Inventor, or so she liked to think she did, but she couldn’t quit wondering why he had asked her do this.
“Where’s the latch?” another guard asked as she probed the back of Eva’s neck. “You must have some of the new stuff—usually they make it more obvious than this.”
Eva showed her the small indentation at the base of her skull that opened the seamless, flesh-covered plate that led to empty plugs and ports. The guard checked another cavity in her belly for explosives and weapons—as if her programming would allow it. If Eva could blush, she would have. Did they think robots didn’t desire privacy? Or was her programming just different from all the others’?
It wasn’t long before she was allowed to leave security and blend in with the crowd, and Eva ran her hand over her neck, making sure the latch was closed and hidden once again beneath her hair. To her chagrin, a message blinked red in the corner of her eye. She’d been processing the coming trip so much that she’d drained her battery.
She reached a hand into her bag and wrapped her fingers around a battery disguised as a tube of lipstick. It instantly began to leak power into her hand, easing Eva’s nerves as she made her way to her gate and boarded her flight.
She took a few deep breaths to cool her internal mechanics. The plane itself was what she was most afraid of. The Inventor had chosen her a seat right in the middle of everything, so she would have humans on all sides of her for the duration of the three-hour flight.
Eva spied a few other robots on the plane, obvious with their metal skeletons glinting through thin plastic membranes. One woman angrily commanded the stewardess to find her a new seat. She was moved next to Eva as a less finicky passenger offered to sit next to the robot.
Eva held her breath until words began to scroll across her eyes, warning her of overheating. She drew in air and the display blinked away.
“Damn robots,” the woman grumbled. “That Inventor doesn’t know when to stop, and neither do all these people buying them. The robots already screwed us over once, and now it’s like he thinks he can do better than the idiots who tried the first time.” She shook her head. “Learn from the past, I say. Lest we end up repeating it.”
Eva blinked, unsure what to say at first. The Inventor had gone over this, but unfortunately it wasn’t one of the pieces of information hard-wired into her programming so she settled with a vague, “That would be a shame.”
Don’t be afraid to talk to them. I want you to get to know them. The Inventor’s words were pulled from her memory bank and thrown in front of her eyes in a program he had labeled “Conscience”.
She made a sound like she was clearing her throat, and asked the lady to tell her about herself. The woman smiled, looked right into Eva’s eyes, and began to do just that. Eva’s wariness of the woman and the others around her eased as the plane took off, and she was surprised when the plane landed as the ride hadn’t seemed very long at all.
As everyone disembarked, the woman held out her hand and said, “It was a pleasure to meet you, Eva.”
The robot could have almost forgotten her mission over the duration of the flight, but as she faced her now it all came crashing back with the realization that one misstep could mean the end of her.
Eva took the woman’s hand and shook it, bidding her to “Have a safe trip.”
“You as well,” the woman replied. “God bless.”
Eva felt a measure of triumph as she walked away and met the car waiting outside the airport. She’d convinced that woman
that she was alive. The Inventor had been right—Eva could do this.
The driver sped her through the city and dropped her off at Central Park where the Inventor was speaking that day. Already she could hear his voice echoing over the loudspeakers, and people were making their way into the park and onto a field where someone had erected a stage. The Inventor stood in the middle of it, a microphone held to his lips and a screen behind him showing an animation of a new model of robot his company was unveiling.
Some people cheered and others shook their heads or looked downright hostile. No one stopped Eva as she moved toward the stage, and they kindly stepped aside to let her pass. The Inventor smiled when he caught sight of her, and went on with his speech. She was glad to be near him again. It was good to know that he was there if anything went wrong—like a child to her father, she knew that nothing could go terribly wrong if he was there.
“I’m tired of this guy,” a man mumbled to her right. “He’s going to ruin everything.”
“I think he’s great,” she replied without thinking. “I think he’s learned from those mistakes from years ago. Just you wait and see. He’s got good ideas.”
The man scowled and walked off. She turned her head to watch him go, and found herself next to another audience member with a gun in his hand. He looked her up and down and smirked.
“You think he’s got good ideas? Well let’s see how many great ideas he can come up with when he’s dead.”
“What?” is all Eva got out before he raised the gun, aimed for the Inventor’s chest, and pulled the trigger.
“Because,” the man said, the gun smoking in his hand as everyone panicked around them and guards rushed to the stage, “that man’s inventions cost me a child. Those things don’t belong in our world, let alone our hospitals.”
Eva couldn’t move for a moment, but when she finally came to her senses, she found herself presented with a strange idea.
She could kill that man—there was nothing to stop her. Or she could run to the stage and be with the Inventor, her father, for whatever time she had left.
Her hands twitched, but she turned away from the man and ran for the stage. She forced herself past the onlookers and guards and crashed to her knees beside her creator. Blood pooled on his chest, and his eyes were dimming. But when he saw her, his lips curved into a weak smile.
“I don’t understand,” she said.
The Inventor reached up to run his hand over her hair. “Everything will be okay,” he said. “You’ll be okay.”
Eva held the Inventor in her arms as everything frenzied around her. Police were there now, and others stood around her and her creator, so she held him closer as if to protect him. Cameras were pointed in her direction, and she saw her own face reflected back at her in their cold, dead lenses.
She looked down at the Inventor and registered no signs of life. The humans around her would take her away and reprogram or destroy her—they’d take her away in some form. Already they shouted for her attention and tried to pull her away from the body, but something peculiar began to happen then.
She’d never been taught grief, but she remembered what the Inventor had told her about it and the look on his face as he’d described how it made a person feel hollow. Eva was hollow except for her hard drive and wires, but some part of her had been connected to the Inventor that couldn’t be explained by programming or wires or Bluetooth—if it was she wouldn’t have reacted the way she did.
She didn’t feel hollow or any more different than she usually did. But something inside of her broke all of a sudden. Her vision blurred, and she blinked. She touched her cheek.
She was leaking.
Her breathing sped as warnings flashed over her eyes. More fluid leaked out of her eyes and ran down her face. Something sparked and caught fire in her belly, and steam puffed from between her lips.
“I’m not okay,” she told the Inventor. She knew he couldn’t hear, but he was the only one who could fix her. “I’m breaking.”
Eva was breaking, but not in the way she thought. The Inventor, as it happens, had hidden a secret in Eva, something that he’d hoped she would figure out on her own one day in perhaps less heartbreaking circumstances. As the pressure of too many feelings built in the Inventor’s precious robot, the release he’d designed for her manifested itself in a steady release of condensed steam from her eyes.
When Eva realized that her body wasn’t shutting down, she let the pressure slowly release through these tears. The cameras caught this strange occurrence, and when they learned of what Eva was, or more accurately who she was, no one quite knew what to say. However, it was true for almost everyone that those who could shut her down didn’t have the heart to, for they were simply enraptured by the oddity that was Eva.
The Inventor, if he could’ve been there to see the events in the years proceeding his death, would have been very pleased to know that he was right—the world would come to like Eva just as much as he did.