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ForumsShowcase → Made In Japan (SF short story / 1,680 words)
Made In Japan (SF short story / 1,680 words)
2010-03-14, 9:58 PM #1
Hey guys. This isn't the first draft, but it's still pretty rough. Lemme know what you think! As always, thanks a bunch in advance!


Made In Japan


Jake heard that when a yakuza did his Master wrong, he’d cut off a finger in apology. He hoped that the rule did not apply to foreigners.

As the thought flew past, the tall retro-futuristic door slid aside, and he stepped into Yamoto Castle’s entrance hall. It was already too late for hesitation.

An indoor cherry garden took the spotlight here, cherry tree petals lining the wooden floors. Half a dozen spider bots crawled around the garden, tending to the trees. One of the petals hovered down to the ground, only to be caught by one of the bots. It stood up on three of its mechanical legs, flashed its camera eye at Jake, and dashed off about its business.

Jake had instinctively touched his bracelet. The trinket could produce a short electromagnetic pulse, not enough to take down an android, but it’d do for little buggers like these. Anything that can take a faulty robot down had truly been an indispensible tool in his line of work.

One of the wall partitions slid aside and a plump man in a brown kimono stepped out. The kimono’s sleeves were rolled up, revealing intricate tattoos running up his forearms. He was one of the ZX-35 models, now slightly outdated, but still lethal with all forms of cold weapons and firearms known to man. Jake designed the model’s weapons circuits himself.

“Welcome to Japan, Mister Harness,” said the ZX-35, “I hope you’ve had a pleasant flight.”

Jake cracked his fingers. His flight was anything but pleasant. Twelve sleepless hours of turbulence, and, to add insult injury, the pretty stewardess confiscated his laptop once he refused to turn it off.

“Please follow me,” said the android.

They passed the garden and scaled a brief flight of stairs, and then continued through a maze of corridors, the double-crossed “Y” symbol of Yamoto Corporations decorating the rice paper walls.

As they were crossing yet another paper corridor, Jake noticed a spider bot following them from a safe distance. Now, anyone else probably would have dismissed the matter as needless grounds for paranoia, but Jake had been all too familiar with modern robotics to know better than that. He stopped.

The spider bot’s eye camera turned from green to red and then it jumped. Its body turned into a blur, but the android was faster. He reached out his arm so fast that Jake’s eyes didn’t register him move, and grabbed the bot centimeters in front of Jake’s face.

ZX-35 tightened his grip, and the bot’s metal surface cracked with a short electrical burst. The camera eye faded, and the android dropped the spider bot’s remains to the floor.

“You didn’t have to do that, you know,” Jake said, “There’s a switch on this the underside, turns the thing right off.”

“Thank you for your observation, Mister Harness” said the android, “But I’m afraid the scope of my programming does not cover basic troubleshooting.” The repair crew must love this guy, Jake thought.

“Anyhow, what was that?”

“I’m afraid the scope of my programming does not cover basic troubleshooting,” the android repeated.

“Must’ve been a faulty actuator. If the actuators break down it drives the little bastards haywire,” Jake said, and then remembered that he was speaking to a machine. He frowned.

Finally, they walked up to a double door made of solid oak. ZX-35 pointed at it in what Jake hoped to be a friendly gesture, and he saw that the android was missing a pair of fingers on his right hand. Suddenly, he wished he was back on that flight, turbulence be damned.

Jake pushed the door open.

Three men sat behind an oval conference table. Jake identified Yamoto's Chief Technical Officer by the distinct scar on his forehead, and the other two, while unfamiliar to Jake, looked at least just as important.

"Mister Harness," said the Chief Technical Officer, standing up briefly to make a quick, formal bow. "What a pleasure to finally meet you."

“Pleasure’s all mine, Mister Kojima,” Jake said with a nod, “Thanks for flying me out here.”

“We value or employees, Mister Harness, and we especially value our best.”

“While tradition and politeness are important, especially in the country of the rising sun,” said the man on Kojima’s right, “For us, your time is much more so. Mister Kojima had as always understated your importance to our company. You are not simply our best engineer. You are our Renaissance man.”

Jake shifted his weight from one leg to the other.

“But alas,” Kojima continued in his colleague’s stead, “Our innovations dictate the market and then the market dictates innovations. And would we were to go against that, then we would have failed a very long time ago.”

“With all due respect,” Jake said, “This is not about loyalty or money, no matter how big the offer. It’s a principle thing.”

That one's even true, in one sense or another, he thought. Only it hadn’t been the principle of not building an artificial human per se, it was the principle of not engineering for mass production and then getting devoured in the aftermath.

“Artificial humans are simply the next logical step from androids,” said Kojima, “A product that any government in the world would pay anything for. We just need the product, and for the product, we need you.”

“Like I’ve said, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to head this project,” Jake said, “But I’m sure that there are a lot of talented engineers who would be more than up for the task.”

“Mister Harness,” said the executive on Kojima’s right, “We’ve booked the best room in the Penninsula Hotel for you, and we would appreciate it if you would choose to stay a night in Tokyo to consider our new offer.” He handed Jake an envelope from across the table. Jake took the envelope and put in into his sling bag. Staying in the city’s famous luxury hotel for a night was not an entirely unwelcome prospect.

“We will see you tomorrow,” Kojima said. Jake expected him to add something, but he never did. He said his goodbyes and left. ZX-35, who had been patiently waiting on the other side of the doors, escorted him back to the main hall.

Jake stopped to admire the blooming trees, happy that he still had five fingers per hand. He had to be honest to himself. An android in knowledge and thought identical to that of a real person, practically a real person itself, would have been something to be remembered for. True, the political repercussions would’ve been dire, but the practical applications. Espionage, warfare, entertainment, companionship, you name it. Not to mention the money, lots and lots of money.

Either way, he had the whole night to think it over. Jake turned for the exit, only to find himself staring at ZX-35’s expressionless face.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

Something cracked in the android’s throat.

“I am afraid there had been a slight complication, Mister Harness,” said the ZX-35 in the Chief Technical Officer’s voice.

“Yes, Mister Kojima?” If he had decided to direct link to the android instead of just calling Jake’s cell, something was most definitely wrong.

“The Penninsula Hotel had refused your reservation at the last possible moment. However, we would be more than happy to accommodate you here, if you so agree.”

“Thank you, but I think I will have no problem making my own arrangements.”

“I’m afraid I must insist.”

Jake raised an eyebrow.

“No, really, I’ll be alright,” he said, and tried to walk around ZX-35. The android put his hand on Jake’s shoulder. He tried to break free, but it felt like his shoulder had been locked in a vise.

“What’s going on here?” he asked. As a back thought he wondered why he didn’t feel particularly scared – he felt that by this point he should have been positively terrified.

“Please, Mister Harness,” Kojima said, “Kindly accompany the ZX unit and I promise that you will not be hurt.”

Jake let the android lead him half away the hall, back in the direction of the stairs. As they were passing the cherry tree garden, he activated his bracelet. At least five of the spider bots produced a high-pitched squeak and leapt for the android. If anyone deserved some digital punishment, it would’ve been, without a doubt, the man who let the faulty actuators pass.

ZX-35 let go of Jake’s shoulder in an attempt to defend himself, and Jake fell to the ground. First he crawled, then raised himself to a half-crouch, and finally, rushed for the door. A spider bot slammed into the wall near him, leaving a dent in the brickwork.

The door dutifully slid aside. He ran down the stairs until he finally reached the street at the foot of the castle. Jake knew the spider bots wouldn’t hold them for long. He jumped in a cab and screamed, “Drive!”

He tried to catch his breath as the taxi put distance between him and Yamoto Corporations HQ. Running down flights of stairs hadn’t been exactly his usual modus operandi, but now, things were starting to become more or less clear. He remembered one famous detective once saying, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

Jake pulled out his cell and dialed his London apartment.

“Jake Harness,” said the man on the other end.

Bollocks, Jake thought. Aloud, he only said, “Hey Jake.”

“Oh, bollocks,” said the man.

Jake threw the phone out the window. He looked at his fingertips. He’d have to look into how he was built. Check out the functionality, learn the full physical and mental capabilities that the real Jake… That he gave himself. And after that, a small facial reconstruction procedure was in order.

Perhaps he could open a practice, something to do with android repairs. But then, he had no money to open up shop. Maybe he should have thought bigger. Once he’d remove the safeguards, he should technically be as strong and fast as any android, and that’s not to mention that apparently he could feel no fear. He looked at the Tokyo streets drifting by his passenger window and smiled.

The yakuza might have to make an exception for a foreigner after all.
2010-03-16, 2:52 AM #2
Any takers? No? :D
2010-03-16, 10:19 AM #3
Actually I read it and then forgot to comment. I thought it was nifty. Will you be selling it?
2010-03-16, 12:58 PM #4
Hey man, thanks a bunch for your time! Cool, glad you liked it! As for selling, well, I will most certainly try. :)

I'm pretty sure that it'll have to be rewritten a couple of times before I start submitting, though, I'm just not sure exactly how yet. I'll put this on as soon as I get my participation ratio up to a level that'll allow me to receive crits, and will roll from there.
2010-03-16, 3:52 PM #5
Perhaps I need to re-read this again at a later time, but the ending felt as if the twist was thrown in for just being a twist and not to build a genuine (fitting with the story) surprise.

However, I rather enjoyed the story up to that point. There was something I liked about a combat-ready android being plump as I kept reading which I didn't like when I first read it, because for some reason, I came to the conclusion that "an android needs more mass/space" and its "fat" acted as shock-absorbers or something. It was different but not utterly illogical to me.

Keep it up, Koobie. :)
The Plothole: a home for amateur, inclusive, collaborative stories
2010-03-17, 2:53 AM #6
Hi Geb, thanks for taking the time to read and comment, as always, much appreciated!

I definitely see what you mean about the twist here - I think that maybe extending the story a bit (so that it's not at the very end but, say, bottom middle) might help, so I probably should give that a try.
2010-03-17, 7:58 AM #7
I really liked the story, some parts of the story were quite hard to grasp for me (but that's probably because I'm not a native english-spekaer), to be specific, the beginning and end. I know what the parts mean, but it took a couple of seconds to understand.

If you're going to 'improve' the story, you would write more 'hints' that Jake is actually a android, but these pieces of the puzzle should only fall in place at the end of the story, that way his androidism is not just a twist in the story it is a part of the story.
2010-03-17, 10:44 AM #8
Hey need help, thanks for reading, glad you liked the story! :)

I'm in currently in the rewrites stage, and your input's very very helpful. I feel kinda silly for not thinking about adding hints/details when I was writing the story - it would help make the the twist much more natural (also addressing Geb's concern), thanks a bunch!
2010-03-17, 12:46 PM #9
Were you inspired by William Gibson?
2010-03-18, 12:38 PM #10
I've got to admit I've never read Gibson, though some day I def. should). From cyberpunk I've only read Dick and Stephenson (Snow Crash FTW). Recently I've been catching up on Asimov (Clarke's next on the list), but this wasn't really "inspired" by anything except of me wanting to write a story. TBH, my biggest concern with it is that it's not particularly original, but then again, nothing's new under the sun. :)

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