WHAT? A sequel? Yeah, kind of. This takes place after Sirens, which I posted yesterday. This one I wrote in my senior year at Drexel. I wrote this for my Writing Fiction class. Here’s the class description taken directly from Drexel’s online catalog:
“A creative writing workshop course focusing on fiction. Students read and write short stories. Students develop skills by creating complete fictional works and critiquing the work of other students. Emphasis placed on narrative structure, prose style, pacing, voice and tone, appropriate material, character, plot, description, dialogue, and editing.”
Anyway, this story was originally called A Night At The Bar when I wrote the first few paragraphs for my midterm in that class. The title Answers came when I wrote the rest. I explain it more in the Author’s Notes, and I’m going to leave the date at the end because it captures the spirit of that college student I had doing it for this class. As always, let me know what you think, especially if you want me to expand this further because I think this one has potential to actually be something bigger.
Steve rode his motorcycle down the dark night streets until he found the familiar turn in the road. And then when he turned right, he found it. The same overpass connecting the two buildings. The hues of the red lights that preceded tons of bars, shops and other…less than savory things. And one thing came to his mind: How long has he been gone, because it hadn’t changed at all. Instead, he just rode down until he found the bar. But this wasn’t just any bar. This was a bar that had posts of work of questionable legality, and just like many of the places in this neighborhood, there was always the prostitute willing to take you for a round…or whatever you wanted for the right price. Steve just walked to the door as he always did. Walking inside he made his way down the stairs to a lower door. And then he knocked.
got some scars to show for it. Be sure that we get your picture taken so your profile can be updated, okay?” “Okay,” Steve replied. And then, Steve’s eyebrow rose. “ What was that about a bombing? That’s news to me.” But then, Jeff was gone tending to another soul. Indeed, Steven had been out of the loop for a while. All that was needed from him was to be a getaway driver, and after a lot of things went south, Steve found himself on the ground writhing in pain and agony, shrapnel in his eye, and in the worst pain in his life as he saw his beloved car be stolen. He could feel he had gotten a raw deal, and he was going to pay for it with his life. The next few months were rehab, conversing with an android nurse called Sakura, and working at his friend’s restaurant to pay his medical bills. But he knew that if he wanted his burden of bills to be a thing of the past, he knew he had to do a job, so here he was. Plus, the thrill was too much to pass up. Putting the scotch and cigarettes on hold, Steve went into a room and got his pictures taken for a file that had the names, pictures, scars, and tattoos of anybody take a job from the establishment. And it was Steve’s turn to have his file updated. He had his picture taken different ways. Front, right side, left side. With his eye patch. Without his eye patch. With his shirt. Without his shirt, that showed all the scars from the bombing that were spread across his torso. When it was finally done, Steve was able to get to the bar and get a glass of scotch and a carton of cigarettes. Steve was contemplating with his scotch and was about to switch to the cigarettes, but then something caught his eye. A young blonde woman, blonde hair in a ponytail sporting a white shirt, a black skirt, and a black necktie to complete the look. And she was going to town on a punching bag, finishing with a powerful punch that saw her punch through the bag like it was nothing. And if Steve wasn’t mistaken, he saw what seemed like electrical sparks come from her gloves. The woman fiddled with her gloves and sat down next to Steve.
“Jeff, I punched a hole in your punching bag. Let me know how much I owe you for it.” The woman said. “Son of a bitch, Christina,” Jeff replied. “I take it your gloves are working perfectly. How wonderful.” “Watch the sarcasm.” Christina retorted. “It’s my goddamn bar. I’ll be the most sarcastic little shit if that’s the mood I want to be in!” Jeff responded. “Anything I can get you, ma’am?” “Not right now” Christina answered. And with that, Jeff was off. “You’re a new face. You look like you come from some high-end part of the city.” Steve extended his carton of cigarettes. “Name’s Steve. Want a smoke?” Christina smirked. “Sure. Why not?” She called on Jeff to give her a light. “Two questions. One, that your motorcycle out front? And two, what happened to your face that got it looking like that?”
“Well,” Steve began. “To start off, I got my face by having Nico’s literally blow up in front of me. My left eye had to be taken out because there was so much freaking debris in it, so the guys who worked on me took it out and gave me a prosthetic with a red pupil. And a cop gave me the eye patch as a “congrats for surviving” present or something. So excuse me for having scars that make my eye look like the sun. As for the scars on my right eye…it’s personal. We haven’t hit it off yet and as a result, I won’t tell you that story.” Steve finished his scotch. “As for the motorcycle, got it at a police auction. Knew I had to get it when I saw the attached sidecar. Looking at it, I saw that said sidecar had a compartment for storing stuff. Makes for a great place to keep a spare helmet for somebody who wants to join me on the road. Getting that thing was the only time I ever splurged since I left the hospital. What about you? And your gloves?”
gloves?” “Alright, Steve entertained.” Where did you get your gloves?”
“Karen Talley designed them,” Christina answered. “Did you ever hear of her?” Steve could only reply with a flat no. “She’s a great engineer. Used to work for a killer scientist, then he just left town. Now it’s just her and the android he built. Nice little thing. Goes by, uh, Sakura, I think? Can’t think of a reason for a name like that.”
Steve’s eyes lit up. “Sakura? That’s the nurse that took care of me. Do you know anything else about either of them? I’ll pay you for information if that’s what you want. But I only want information.” Christina sighed and let out a chuckle. “Fine.” She said, “My place? And maybe I can see your motorcycle?” Steve smiled. “I use the hidden compartment for a spare helmet and goggles,” Steve answered. And with that, Steve paid for his scotch and cigarettes, and he and Christina were gone. Jeff saw the two head out. “Pretty lucky for a guy that had nothing but a hospital bed a few months ago.” he thought.
The two made their way to Steve’s motorcycle. “Pretty nice ride,” Christina commented as she looked at the motorcycle. “If you hadn’t told me about the compartment in the sidecar, I never would have thought that this thing would be at a police auction.” “Yeah, my buddies I went to the auction with said that the thing was caught being used in drug running. Apparently, nobody expects the motorcycle with a sidecar.” Steve replied. Christina asked Steve to take her home. As Steve rode with Christina in tow, he saw the storefronts on the streets turn from greasy spoons and pawnshops and 24-hour bodegas to high-end boutiques and trendy bars with lines going at the door and restaurants with outdoor seating. The whole thing seemed rather surreal to Steve, and women eyeing his motorcycle as he waited at a red light only seemed to solidify that Steve was pretty much a fish out of water.
“So, Christina,” Steve inquired as the light turned green again. “Is it normally like this on the way to the West End?” “Is it like what?” Christina replied. “Do people around these parts normally balk at a guy with a motorcycle? I mean, I’ve never been around here, but it seems that I have all the eyes on me.” “Eh,” Christina answered. “There are nice and flashy cars all the time around these parts, and I don’t think you’re any different. If anything, they’re balking at the site of a sidecar, when normally a girl would be wrapping their arms around the badass biker in a ‘dating they bad boy your dad hates’ kind of way. But either way, you should be around here during the day if you want to see a touch of class. I can’t complain, some of these people pay pretty well.” Steve just sighed. “Don’t worry,” Christina said. “We’re almost at my place.” Steve rode on until he saw the outskirts of a park. The perimeter was scattered with restaurants and luxury condominiums and high-rise apartment buildings. Christina directed Steve to her building The Wharton. As Steve parked his motorcycle in front of the building, he found himself just mesmerized at the sight of the building, not noticing Christina put away the spare helmet and goggles in the sidecar’s compartment and he found himself face to face with a burly, hulking robot when he came back to reality. Further shocking Steve was the fact that there was four of the same model robot in a formation surrounding his motorcycle. “Don’t worry,” Christina assured him as she walked back outside. “They’re not going to hurt you. The Wharton has these things guard vehicles when it gets late, and they’ll disperse when you’re ready to leave. Unless you want to head to a parking garage, that is.” Steve just stared at the robot inspecting him as if the two were about to go into a fight. Steve adjusted his eye patch so his artificial eye and its red pupil could give an illusion of machine versus machine. “Did I mention that this service is free? And that there are cameras watching the entrance?” Christina added. “So there is, huh?” Steve replied. He readjusted his eye patch and patted the robot on the head and walked into the Wharton, following Christina into the elevator and into her dwelling Apartment Number 1017 and as soon as Christina said the words “make yourself comfortable” he was sitting on the couch, albeit gently as he didn’t want to disturb any of the high class that he found himself surrounded by.
“Would you like any refreshments?” Christina asked. “Just a water, I guess,” Steve answered. Christina came to the living room with a water bottle in hand and gave it to Steve. “So,” Steve said. “Tell me about this Karen Talley and this Sakura.” “Okay,” Christina began. “So, there’s this great scientist Dr. Haverford. He’s real great with robotics and whatnot and he’s made a fucking killing. He’s had Karen as his assistant for years.” Steve finished his water. “What about Sakura?” he asked. “Calm your balls, I’m getting there.” Christina retorted. “The thing is, everyone says that Sakura was his last major achievement. Because after he made Sakura, he just fell off the face of the Earth. Karen runs the lab now and she dedicates her time to taking care of robots and making prosthetics and just taking care of people’s robotic needs. Sakura helps sometimes, though, but you know she’s a nurse at…where did you stay?” “Dorsey Memorial,” Steve answered. “There you go. She’s a nurse at Dorsey Memorial Hospital.” “Hey, do you know if Karen is looking for this Dr. Haverford by any chance? Because you just said he disappeared after he built Sakura.” Christina thought for a moment. “Actually”, Christina answered. “I have something that can answer that question. I’ll be right back.” Christina left the couch and headed to a room in the apartment. When she returned, she had a poster and a manila envelope. At the top of the poster in big letters were the words MISSING: DR. CONRAD HAVERFORD. “Karen has been printing these out pretty frequently. I know that because it’s one of the jobs that always seem to find its place on the job board at every bar and club advertising. Must be some cops and detectives that aren’t scared to tangle with my kind of crowd, even if it’s just a way to get leads about things that leave them scratching their heads.” Steve looked at the poster, studying all its details, from the picture of Dr. Haverford to the bottom of the poster talking about the reward being offered for his safe return and/or information leading to said return. As Steve prepared to put the poster in the envelope, Christina snatched it away. “Hey! What’s the big idea?” Steve asked. “It’s a surprise,” Christina answered. “I don’t do it for everybody I give information to. I’ll do it for you because you seem pretty cool.” As Christina answered, her phone rang. “Hello?” she answered. “There’s a guest at the front desk for me? What is she wearing?” A brief moment of silence followed. “A trench coat? Stockings? Black high heels? Sounds like someone I’m expecting
As the elevator returned to the ground floor, Steve gave a small hello to the doorman and Christina’s guest before heading back to his motorcycle. He placed the envelope in the sidecar compartment, but on his helmet and goggles and rode off. He let out a sigh as his traditional sights of old apartments, neon beer signs, and the streetlights above convenience stores returned and adorned the streets. Steve slowed down as he reached Nutter Street, he turned left and slowed when he saw the shine that came from the Chinese restaurant that told him one thing: he had reached home. Steve turned left and stopped, pushing his motorcycle past the sidewalk and turned left into the alley behind his building and putting the kickstand down and opening the compartment to retrieve the envelope before putting his cover over it. “Perks of a police auction.” Steve thought. “They were nice enough to throw in a goddamn cover.” Steve walked out of the alley and walked into his building and trekked up the stairs and into his apartment. Looking at the place, he took in his dwellings and realized that there was pretty much no chance that he would live in as posh dwellings as Christina, even though he was pretty content with that knowledge. As he walked in he heard a meow and a rubbing at his feet. “Hey, Felix,” Steve said to the cat. “You definitely won’t believe who I met tonight.” Steve walked to the kitchen table, sat down and opened the envelope, followed by Felix who jumped onto the table from a chair. When Steve flipped the envelope and shook out its contents, out came the missing poster, along with some other papers. Upon closer inspection, it turned out that the surprise that Christina had prepared was pictures of her in provocative attire and provocative scenarios. Along with the pictures came a note:
You seem pretty interesting. If you go looking for Dr. Haverford, I wish you good luck. Thanks for the ride home, by the way. Consider these photos a way of repaying you. I’m here if you need some muscle…or a good night.
After reading the note, Steve put his hand into the envelope to see if there was anything left Christina placed to surprise him with, and all he found was a card that had Christina’s phone number. “Check it out, Felix,” Steve said to his cat. “She’s really something, isn’t she?” Felix meowed and jumped off the table and walked away. Steve just sighed and put the pictures and card back in the envelope, took it and the poster to his room put the envelope in his dresser and pinned the poster to his wall with a thumbtack. As Steve looked at it, he contemplated. If he could find Dr. Haverford, he could be done with his medical bills for good. And maybe he could buy something nice for his place as well. Not as swanky as Christina’s or any place on the West End, but it would be something. And in the millions of thoughts that raced through his head, Steve thought if he started the search for Dr. Haverford, maybe there was a chance he could figure out how he wound up in the hospital all those months ago. That’s what Steve knew was involved in the location of Dr. Haverford: answers. Feeling good about all that had transpired in the last few hours, Steve finally got into bed and went to sleep. As Steve slept that night, he dreamed of the search for Dr. Haverford on his motorcycle.
The next morning, Steve was up bright and early with the rising sun. The first thing he did after taking a shower and putting food out for Felix was look at the poster. He saw the bottom of the poster and studied the address. As soon as he got the address down pat, he took the poster down, folded it, put it in his pocket, and headed off toward Karen’s lab. Once there, he saw the storefront that read HAVERFORD ROBOTICS and the balcony above featuring an American flag hanging from it. From that image, Steve figured that he had the right place. Before going any further, Steve went into his phone and dialed a number. “Hey, Bobby. Yeah, I’m going to be a little late coming in today. I just have some matters to attend to before I come in. I won’t take too long to come in.” And with that call, Steve only had one thing on his agenda to do: talk to Karen. He walked up to the door and knocked on it. When the door opened, he saw a redheaded woman sporting goggles and a lab coat. “We’re not open yet.” The woman said looking at her watch. “Come back in about three hours or so.” “Are you Karen Talley?” Steve asked. “I am,” Karen answered. “And I told you before, and I’ll tell you again, we’re not open yet.” “Sorry,” Steve replied before taking out the poster and unfolding it. “I just came to see if you had any information on Dr. Haverford I could use before I head off to look for him and bring him back.” Karen’s eyes widened and she took off her goggles. “So that’s the case, huh? I’ve heard some people reach out to me about him, but never come to the front door of my lab, which is right below my residential dwelling.” “Yeah, sorry if this is a bad time. I’ll come back later.” Before Steve could head off, however, he felt Karen grab his arm. “Come in. Come in. I can talk and give you some information.” And with that, Steve was pulled inside Haverford Robotics. Inside, there was a slew of projects, blueprints, and tools littered around, albeit in some form of order, like multiple states of organized chaos. Karen sat Steve down at a table, holding a picture of her and a man that he concluded was Dr. Haverford after looking at the photo and the missing poster.
“Dr. Haverford was my first major job in the field after I got out of college.” Karen began. “He was a really smart guy, a real man who liked to help people. I’ll admit he came a little eccentric and had some out there stuff.” Karen walked off to a wall and came back with some blueprints, unrolling a set before Steve. “Like these gloves he created. The idea was to just punch into a generator or a power circuit or some other appliance and the electricity will spread through the thing giving it power. I feel like he came up with the idea after watching a Happy Days marathon.” Steve chuckled at the story. “That actually makes a lot of sense once you think of it like that. Or at the very least, the idea that you could come up with an electric glove after watching Happy Days. “And then, all of a sudden he just disappears after getting a real lucrative job. He left a note. A note! Said the whole thing was hush-hush and classified, tells me to look after the lab in case he doesn’t call back, and after a few months, Sakura shows up at my door, and she has a note saying how to keep her at full power, that the doc had set everything up so that she will have a job at the hospital as a nurse, and telling me to look after her. I just want to know why he just skipped town and didn’t even freaking write. The least he could fucking do was write, for fuck’s sake! And I’m hoping that he turns up soon because if it turns out he’s kicked the bucket a long time again and the thing had been under wraps for whatever reason, that’ll be a fucking headache for me with all the legal hoopla. I mean, I can run this place by myself pretty well, but I have this gut feeling that he’s out there, and he’s still alive and kicking. I’m not ready to give up faith yet. I mean, maybe he’s doing something to make money to keep the lights on here, who knows?” Karen sighed. “But, at the end of the day, I can’t complain. Because all things considered, Sakura is a great android, and there isn’t anything or anyone like Sakura.”
“Did someone here ask for me?” Suddenly, a rather monotone yet feminine voice piqued the attention of Karen and Steve. The source of the voice was a five-foot tall woman. Or, as Steve and Karen knew, an android made to resemble a woman. She had a small smile on her face as if it was calculated to give the appropriate facial expression to make an impression on the people in the room she was entering.er mechanical mind granted her. “Oh. So you’re the Steve that Sakura was telling me about these past few months.” Karen said. “It’s nice to finally meet you and have a face to the name, and it seems that your appearance matches Sakura’s description.” “How are you doing yourself in the time since you were in the hospital?” Sakura asked. “I’m doing fine,” Steve answered. “My artificial eye is still scanning the names and vitals of people and the models and serial numbers of robots when I look at them with it.” “Ah,” Sakura noted. “It seems that must be a downside to the eye. If you were an android like myself, you would be able to process the information and have it stored in your memory banks in a matter of seconds. Instead, you have to do something to retain the information somehow. Your predicament seems rather unfortunate. But, as in the time of your rehabilitation, you do not seem to be reacting negatively to the situation once you realize the actual situation. But there one thing I do not understand, Steve. What are you doing here?” Sakura tightly embraced the poster and ran off with it. Karen walked off and returned with a new poster for Dr. Haverford. “You’re…you’re most likely not going to get that back, so here’s a new one for you. It’s got the same information and everything.” Karen said. “Like I said, I haven’t seen Dr. Haverford since he left on what I can only assume is some classified project and the last I heard from him was Sakura arriving here. I hope whatever he was doing wasn’t too shady. I mean, I know I sold those electric gloves I showed you to a bounty hunter. I’m not one to dive into crime. But I will tell you, if anyone tries to hurt me or Sakura, I will fight back.”prosthetic arm on a worktable in another room. “I’ll leave you to your work now. I got to get to work.” And with that Steve made his exit, hightailing it on his motorcycle to get to work.
The Hungry One Diner wasn’t the most luxurious diner, but to a lot of people, Steve includedwere twenty minutes you were late by, then we’d have to start talking. Also, next time I probably won’t be so lenient on you.” Bobby hit Steve on the top of his head with his fist. At least you called me and told me this might happen, so I can’t be too angry. But still, ten minutes. TEN MINUTES!” Steve couldn’t tell if Bobby was playfully being angry or was genuinely pissed, but judging by the way Bobby was talking, Steve guessed that the former was the more likely option. “How’d your morning go?” Bobby asked. “Pretty well,” Steve answered. “I just talked about this.” Steve pulled out the missing poster. “I was wondering if we could put it up on the wall because we have announcements about all the other stuff going on in the community. And in case something happens to me, I thought someone would try to go for this.” “Whoa, whoa, whoa, “Bobby retorted. “What’s going on? Are you really telling me that you’re talking about jumping back into the game, man?” Bobby pulled Steve’s eye patch and watched as it snapped back to its place over Steve’s eye. “Do you remember what happened last time?” “Yes, I do,” Steve answered. And no offense, but being a cook won’t pay my medical bills as fast as a bounty would, man.” Bobby sighed. “You’re right about that, I just want you to have a place where you’re safe. But, I guess I have to assume that these underworld jobs are things that just keep calling back to you, I guess.” And with that, the conversation ended and Bobby and Steve went inside. As for the day that transpired? It seemed like things would be a normal, run of the mill day at The Hungry One. Bobby and Guy took care of the front of the front half of the restaurant, and Steve would kill it in the back half of the restaurant with the occasional assist from Guy when the occasional swamp of tickets hit, though that particular thing didn’t happen on this day. Instead, it was rather slow, with Steve being lucky enough to catch the occasional news update on TV. Steve had come up with a plan: work for about a month or two, make enough money that he could save for a trip of indefinite length, and head off to look for Dr. Haverford, and find him and bring him home or die trying. The rest of the day, Steve thought that he had a great, concrete, bulletproof plan, and he mused to himself all the things he felt he would need. However, Guy’s metallic voice would break his line of thinking. “Steven, you are needed in the dining room. I can take your place from here.” “Uh…sure. Thanks, Guy,” Steve responded. After making his way into the dining room, Steve stopped in place at what he saw. “Sakura, what are you doing here?” Sakura merely bowed her her head for a brief moment to greet Steve before she spoke. “You intend to go out and searching for my creator,” She said. “I intend to go out with you. Is it possible that we begin our departure and instigate our mission tomorrow?”
Oh man. It’s done. It’s finally done. With over 5,300 words written in just over 12 hours, writing pages 6 to 15 is probably my most laborious writing effort (or at least the one I had the longest time doing in a quite a while). Anyway, I decided to call this long thing Answers because that’s what seems to be the thing that’s being sought after in this thing. What do you guys think of that title? Does it fit? Do I suck at coming up with titles? The other things I had a bit of a hiccup with were Sakura’s lines if only because I wanted to capture that cold, calculating, monotone voice that’s usually associated with robots and androids. Also, I hope I did a good job in building a coherent narrative. I know that sounds weird, but I usually have the idea for the plot points in my head (with some visuals of the scene as well), and I come up with the dialogue as it comes into my head, and everything snowballs from that. I kind of feel like I’m making a manga in a way…if that makes any sense. Either way, tell me what you guys think. Also, thank you all for reading my story. I sincerely hope you enjoy it.
-Martin White II
May 30th, 2016