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Metal Man - Excerpt Ch 2

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By chanthar
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Chapter 2 : Hello New World

Paul covered his body with an elastic substance like uncultured rubber bands, to mimic human skin. He grew long white strands from his skull to mimic human hair. Paul could not change his eye color so he left it red. The skin wouldn't be enough, so as he reached a waste dumping site he took out a white shirt, jeans, and black sandals. Those Paul put on then headed into the main part of the town.

While walking on the street a random person bumped into Paul. He looked up with an expression which could only be fear. A mutter passed the person's lips: "Albino."

Paul searched his databanks for that term. Albinos are creatures born without pigment in their bodies. They usually have skin near white in color, hair white, and eyes red. With his current coloring that was the best way to describe Paul, so he decided to refer to himself as that in the human society.

Now that Paul knew how to categorize myself on a basic level he needed some sort of identification for others to read from. Humans were often like how Paul was now. When separated from a group, many do not know what they are as individuals. Paul had to make his own identity.

Paul wandered to an information station or library as the humans call it. In there the humans gathered by stacks of papers marked "taxes". This group of humans has to pay to live. That was an unusual concept to him. Paul wondered, Do they not provide services for the community?

Paul went to the line to wait for his turn for the papers. Some humans did not wait, rather darting in to grab a few then running off. The angry sounds around Paul told him that this was not an acceptable social behavior. When his turn came Paul gathered up the papers then went to one of the tables a few feet away from the lines.

The papers were marked in an illogical manner. Paul could not compute much of the data due to gaps in his knowledge. As Paul read the papers he decided that it was in his best interest not to become involved in them. Paul would fade into the uncounted millions that no one else cares about. To do that Paul would first need to know the place around him. Thankfully the receptors in his synapses gathered information from the air around him. It was amazing how much flowed through the electric fields that emanated from various devices the humans carried around. Paul could get anything he needed from the unsecured networks.

Paul walked away from the tables, glancing down at the papers in his hand. There were many questions, all of which he couldn't answer. With a shake of his head, Paul walked down the sidewalk. The next order of business was to find a place to hide out. As Paul's eyes scanned the figures on the sidewalk, he noticed most were shorter than him by more than half a foot. It would be troublesome to continue his seven foot tall form as a disguise unless an appropriate explanation for it in the human world could be found.

As if in answer to that fleeting prayer, another seven foot tall figure approached. He was as dark as Paul was light. The extra bits called hair were blackened, though there were hints of purple running through the ponytail as well. Sunglasses hid his eyes, but they couldn't hide the silver bird-like tattoo on his forehead. He was what the humans called exotic in relation to the others.

Paul lifted a hand to the other. With a smile on his lips, Paul called out, "Hello." He hoped this greeting would be appropriate for strangers as well as those known.

"Hello," the other replied with a nod.

"Nice day."

"It is so far. We're supposed to get rain later."

"I see." Paul's scanners diverted to any reports about the weather. A thunderstorm was expected. It wouldn't be good for Paul. "Know any places that one could find shelter?"

The other chuckled. He lowered his sunglasses, revealing red eyes. "You look a little worse for wear. Do you need somewhere to stay?"

Paul nodded. He didn't know if that gesture would be enough, so Paul added something he heard, "Yes, if you would be so kind as to help me."

The other chuckled again. He folded his sunglasses with one hand then tucked them into the breast pocket of his trench coat. The color of it was steel blue, not unlike the shade the sky suddenly took. He was wearing a white shirt and black jeans with heavy boots. For what seemed like many moments he didn't speak, though Paul knew it was only half a minute's span. Then he replied, "I'll help you, stranger."

"My name is Paul." It probably should have been said first.

The other didn't seem to mind. He replied, "I'm Vii."

"Good to meet you."

"You too," replied Vii. He looked Paul up and down.  

There was something about that which was uncomfortable, but Paul pushed it back. "So...um, what do we do now?"

"Do you have anything to bring along?"

Paul did, but none of it was particularly appropriate for the city. "No," Paul replied.

Vii nodded. "Very well, come with me." He turned and walked away.

Paul followed. As the two walked side by side, Paul kept a close eye on the passing buildings. There were many shapes and sizes. Most of the ones with faces in the windows were tall and thin. The ones where people went in and out rapidly were short and fat. It was unlike the inside of the ship Paul came from. The humans call such permanent residences home. For reference he should too. The terminology was a bit confusing, but Paul would have to decipher it to fit in properly.

"This way," Vii said while he gestured down an alley.

Paul followed. All the while he pulled up more detailed maps in his mind. At least with his ability to access the city's information Paul wouldn't be caught unawares...or so he thought. It was a logical assumption, even if the basis was flawed.

Vii led the way from the alley to an overhang. "Sorry about the entrance," he said with a shrug. "It's just the way they made it. Hey one thing good about it, it keeps the rent down."

"It's okay." That was another thing Paul had heard on the street.

Vii took a key from his pocket then twisted it in the lock. Once it was out again, he opened the door. With a gesture to Paul, he led the way into the stairs.

Stairs were a funny thing. If it weren't for his direction Paul wouldn't have know how to go up them. The ship he had come from was a completely different mode of transportation. One simply reversed one's personal gravity for however long was needed to move.

When he reached the top, Vii led the way to the thirty-fourth room. He opened the next door. Then he gestured for Paul to enter. Once both of them were inside, he locked the door behind them.

Paul walked into the front room. The place was small in terms of human habitation, but from where he had come from it was a lot of space. A window was directly away from the entrance. Under it was what they called a couch. Paul didn't see a sleeping pad, but there was a door on the left which probably contained it. The plans for buildings that he had gathered from the information on the electronic waves had such things as the usual layout for most homes. The meal prep area was on the wall to the right.

"So, you're not from around here?"

"No."

"Anywhere I know?"

"I don't think so."

With a faint smirk, Vii wrapped his arms across his chest. "You'd be surprised what I know."

Paul watched him. As his eyes scanned Vii's eyes, he couldn't find anything other than amusement in them. Paul shook his head. "I don't think you would know the place I come from. It's very far away."

"If it's on this planet, I know it."

Paul couldn't answer to that. Either way he answered would reveal his secret. If any other human was like this one, Paul would be in trouble constantly. There would be no hiding his origins.

He filled in the silence. "So you're from outer space then?" One eyebrow lifted as he stared at Paul. "I can't say I've met someone like you before."

"You don't have many of my kind?"

"Not unless you count the Randilyn people, but then again they've been here since before time began."

"How long is that?"

"In full revolutions around the sun, three thousand years give or take."

"That is a long time." Even for Paul's people, since the original parts of a creation last only around five hundred of their years.

"Yes," Vii said. He nodded while he wrapped his arms across his chest. "You're not one of them, are you?"

"I haven't heard of them, so probably not."

Vii watched Paul closely. "So then you have no idea what these are?" He dropped his arms, the left gesturing to the kitchen.

"No."

Vii brought his arm up and placed his hand on his forehead. "The things I bring home," he muttered.

"I can go," Paul said, turning.

"No, you don't have to."

"But–"

Vii strode over. Once he was between Paul and the door, he held his hand out. "I apologize if I sounded regretful. I seem to attract the strange and unusual. What's an alien amidst that?"

"Oh," Paul said. He didn't know what to do other than mumble that. "Thank you."

With a laugh, Vii shook his head. "It's okay. You don't have to thank me. Here, do you mind me asking what sort of alien you are?"

Paul didn't have any choice except to trust him more than what he had already. "Metallic," he admitted.

"So you're a robot?"

Paul scanned the databases for that term. When he found it, he shook his head. "I wouldn't say it exactly like that."

"Cyborg?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Android?"

"I doesn't sound any better."

"I give up then." Vii tossed his hands up. With a chuckle, he shook his head. "I'll just call you Paul. That's your name, isn't it?"

"It is what I call myself, but it isn't exactly what they call me."

"What do they call you?"

"POULLEN."

"I see. The random letters almost make a name themselves."

"Really?"

"Yes," Vii chuckled. "I'm surprised you didn't notice. Perhaps you did, unconsciously. That would explain why you called yourself Paul instead of something like Steve."

"Oh," Paul said, blinking. It did make sense.

"So let's get you settled in. I'll show you around the city later." Vii gestured to the couch behind him. "It isn't much, but you can sleep here. In this society, visitors sleep there."

"Couch surfing?"

Vii chuckled, "That is one way to say it."

Paul smiled. Maybe I could survive here after all. Then his smile faded. He hadn't thought about the ones who might follow him. Paul doubted they could find him, but if they found his ship they could find him. I'll have to go back and properly destroy it.

"Is something wrong?"

"I just thought of something," Paul said, shaking his head. "It wouldn't be good for you to be with me if they come for me."

"I'll be fine." Vii replied while he waved his hand. He walked over to the kitchen. "I don't eat much of anything. Do you eat?"

"I require certain consumables, yes."

"It's called food."

"Oh, yes, I eat food." Paul spoke in the corrected way.

"Do you know what might be the equivalent here?"

"No."

"Ah, well, we'll find something for you."

"Thank you."

Vii nodded then gestured to the kitchen. "You can move around if you'd like."

"Thank you," Paul repeated. At the gesture he walked over to him. Paul's head tilted to the side as he looked over the place. It was a straight counter along the wall. The refrigerator was on the left. The oven was on the right. In the very center of the counter was the sink. There didn't seem to be much in the way of equipment. Then again, Paul couldn't identify more than a few of the essential ones at that time.

"Go ahead and look through the cabinets here." Vii gestured to the set of upper then the set of lower doors in the kitchen. "Maybe you'll find something suitable. I wouldn't expect it, though, since I don't keep much of anything in the way of food here at home."

"It's okay." Paul replied and opened the upper cabinets. As he scanned through each, he found a few packets and jars between cups and dishes. None of it he would personally call food.

"I'll take you to a place later to get food. When do you have to eat?"

"I don't know, but it isn't often."

"Ah, okay," Vii said while he watched Paul. "We'll wander around tomorrow."

Paul nodded as thunder shook the apartment building. He turned his gaze to the window. Rain beat against the pane.

"There's no sense going out in the rain." Vii walked to the other side of the room. "It's uncomfortable and the items usually don't survive the wet."

"Okay," Paul replied. He ducked down then looked through the bottom cupboards in the kitchen. There wasn't much of anything down there, so he closed the doors. Paul straightened up and walked over to the couch. There he sat down. The softness of it was something he was unused to.  

"I'll come back out around sunrise," Vii said. He opened the door and stepped into the bedroom.

"Goodnight," Paul said. He watched Vii close the door. He didn't know how long was proper to wait, but after a minute and a half he stood up. Paul went to the door. Once outside, he created a duplicate of Vii's key with his finger. Paul pushed it into the keyhole. Once the door was locked, he left the building.

The rain poured steadily down. It made a mess of the streets and sidewalks. The season was called spring, so it was expected that more rain would come. As Paul traveled away from the city, he found himself hoping it would stop. Other late night travelers joined in the grumbling.

Once Paul was past the city limits, he went into the swamp. The combination of time and rain had taken the escape pod underneath the surface. He couldn't get to it now. With a shake of his head, Paul returned to the city. He recorded the path so that now when he brought it to mind he could follow it without hesitation.

When Paul returned to his new home, he found Vii seated on the couch-bed. Paul blinked at him then smiled sheepishly. "Vii, is it sunrise already?"

"No, but I heard you go out."

Paul didn't think humans had such hearing. Perhaps this man he was with wasn't exactly human either. "Oh," Paul said and closed the door behind him. He locked it then walked over. "I had to see about my ship."

"Any luck?"

Paul shook his head. "It's gone."

"How?"

"Swamp."

"Ah, but it can still be found."

"Well...the beacon shouldn't be working, but if it is they'll find me."

"Let's not dwell on that now. Most humans operate during the daylight. There are others who don't, depending on their work schedule. Let's get to rest so we can interact with them then."

"Okay," Paul said then sat beside him on the couch.

Vii stood up. "I'll come back."

With a nod, Paul watched him go into his room. Left alone, he looked over the couch. It was long enough that Paul could fit if he curled his limbs up. He shrugged then laid his head on the armrest. Paul's eyes went up to the window. He didn't need to sleep, so he just watched the rain as it fell through the night. It didn't stop in the morning. Paul didn't know it was morning at first. It was just gloomy.

Vii left the bedroom. He chuckled while he looked down at Paul. "So, how was your sleep?"

"I didn't," Paul replied and stood up.

"Oh, well are you ready to go?"

Paul shrugged. "I'm as ready as I'll ever be."

"Then let's go," Vii said. He gestured to the door.

With a nod, Paul followed him. He didn't know what this new day would bring, but whatever came it couldn't be as bad as being trapped on the ship. Paul wouldn't go back there, ever.
I wrote the first chapter back in 2002.. and finished the book this year. Oops on being distracted, but I'm glad it's done

Sci-Fi

Individuality. That word conjures up many meanings. What if you didn't have any knowledge of the word? Meet Paul, an escapee. Now he’s out in the world making his own way. There’s just one thing different about this man. He's a robot. Wait, make it two things. Not only is he a robot, he’s an alien robot. Things are about to get interesting...
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© 2011 - 2020 chanthar
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