Collisions
Author: Othello Gooden Jr.

Chapter 7
Kaitlyn

In front of RIAS was a red and yellow striped hover bus in front of a crowd of students.

 

Professor Olive’s voice was heard over her class’ commotion, “Okay everyone. Remember when we get there, you’ll need to present the engineers with your team’s SECAI key cards!”

 

Her students looked at her. Some nodding in acknowledgement while others looked through their belongings to see if they had their card on them.

On Kayla’s team were Durk, Gordon, and Kira.

 

“Okay, who has the key in our group?” Gordon looked around to his team after catching up with the other three in line at the bus. He looked behind him to see some girls who he was talking to earlier. They waved to him. Gordon waved back with a smile.

 

“You’re late. Wasn’t you right behind—”

“Yeah, so?” Gordon raised his voice in sarcasm.

 

“Yeah, so?” Durk repeated. He then angrily sighed after a pause. He added, “YEAH, SO? DUDE, YOU ALMOST GOT LEFT!”

 

“Durk, chill.” Kira looked back at the two arguing.

“I’m here. Aren’t I? Just take Kira’s advice.” Gordon laughed.

Durk didn’t say anything else. He turned toward the front and grumbled.

“Anyway, who has the key?” Gordon asked again.

“Kira has it.” Durk grumbled, turning his head back toward him.

 

“Uh…” Kira hesitated as she looked through her belongings. She looked back to Durk as she came up short.

 

Kayla shook her head as she anticipated another argument.

 

Before there was, she slightly turned toward them and buted in. “Kira, you forgot, didn’t you?”

 

She took out a silverish, gold small rectangular credit card sized plastic object from her pants pocket and showed it to them.

 

“Where did you find that?” Kira looked at her suspiciously.

“You left it on the table in the classroom.” Kayla answered with assurance.

Kira folded her arms, turned to the side away from Kayla, and twisted her head up at her.

 

“Whatever. I didn’t want to be in this group anyway. Besides, I’m still recovering from my hand injury!”

 

She points to her left hand wrapped up in a bandage.

Gordon looked at her hand. “How did that happen again?”

“Bike accident.” Kira rolled her eyes.

 

“Then what about the bandage on that cut in your neck and those other bruises?” Durk tried to look at her neck more closely but Kira pushed him away.

 

Kira sighed. “I crashed through a window, okay?”

 

“Excuses! Look, I know how you don’t like working with others but it’s like that in school.” Kayla pleaded.

 

“So? It would’ve been better if the teacher let us choose our own groups!” Kira kept her stance, stubborn and unflinching in her ideals.

 

That’s when she remembered the words of Dr. Alexander a couple months ago. Amaris had told her that it was unhealthy for humans to be alone. Yet in Kira’s mind, the saying was all to general. She could care less about working with others. In school, she had to deal with working with people against her will. Kira was going to fight it to the end but then she had this strange notion of the “what if” scenario. What if they were all right? Kira put her hands down and sighed, remembering her failed relationships before meeting Aaron. However, she and Aaron had arguments too. Not just over Z.I. She felt their marriage wasn’t going to last because of them. Each day the arguments were more intense than the last.

 

Kira’s team looked at her stunned. Everyone else around them just ignored the group and stepped onto the bus.

 

“Kira, considering that we’re freshmen, we don’t get choice.” Kayla recalled, remembering how MCLT’s ‘group projects throughout the different grade levels weren’t all setup in the same way.

 

“Yeah, but I’ve taken this class already.” Kira grumbled.

“But you failed it, Kira.” Durk reminded.

Kira turned to him and screamed, “I WITHDREW! GET IT RIGHT!”

 

Durk flinched, turning away from her as the others in their group step onto the bus. He just shook his head. He wasn’t going to argue with her anymore. Durk sighed at the situation as he took his seat on the bus next to some of his classmates. Kira and Kayla sat next to each other on the bus while Gordon sat next to some of the girls in his class. Kira briefly peeped out into the center row to see where he was. The girls around him were all giggling at something he said. She shook her head and leaned back in her row.

 

The bus ride into downtown Sector B was long. The highway was congested with traffic. Kayla sat back in her seat remembering that it was comparable to Lunar-2. However, Sector B’s highways going through downtown and into the other two sectors were always busy. Even though Sector B was reserved for the student population on Zyra, not all students could afford to live in the dorms that were several hundred dollars a month. Some were more depending on the college. You had to either be on a scholarship or belong to a rich family to live in them. For those who didn’t, Sector C was their home.  In her senior year in high school, Kayla remembered the news mentioning Zyra’s plans to make more highways in Sector B to compensate for the large increase of students attending the schools there. Kayla shook her head with a grin as she looked outside her window.

 

“They’re gonna need more of them now!” She mused.

 

A half hour later the bus got off an exit leading into downtown Sector B, passing by business complexes. Both students and teachers alike owned many of these small stores. Kayla leaned up against the window as this part of town became slightly familiar to her. Then she stopped to look at the sign above a pizza parlor that read, “Gina Greene’s Pizza Joint.” He mouth dropped, gasping at another flashback of visiting “Nana Greene’s Pizza Joint” years ago.

 

“Eh?” Kira heard Kayla’s gasping, wondering why. She would’ve cared less about it but watching Kayla almost glued to the window caught her eye.

 

“Gina Greene’s Pizza Joint.” Kayla sat back in her seat and turned her head at Kira.

“Best Pizza EVER in the history of Zyra!” Kira grinned.

“Really?” Kayla blinked, raising an eyebrow at Kira’s sudden burst of excitement.

 

“She owns one of the few pizza parlors that have stayed around all these years.” Kira nodded.

 

“How long has she been in business?” Kayla was intrigued.

 

“Hmmm…” Kira paused, thinking aloud while trying to remember. “Her mother started it in 2019 in Sector A.”

 

Kayla’s eyes grew big as Kira told her. She grinned. “Would her mother so happen to be named Nana?”

 

Kira laughed. “Yep! Wait, you’ve met her before?”

“As a child.” Kayla turned her head back to the window, continuing to look at the businesses they passed.

 

“Aren’t you the fortunate one.” Kira sounded envious.

 

Kayla turned back to her. “No need to be sounding like that. I mean—”

 

“She was one of the top people in this world I wanted to learn how to cook from. Blah… Her daughter is too busy nowadays. If she were one thing like her mother, she would’ve BOUGHT OUT the time to teach others how to cook. Considerably enough, Nana was just as big up here as Mariana was down on Lunar-2!”

 

The mention of Mariana made Kayla turn away from Kira.

 

“What I say?” Kira’s voice sounded remorseful but only for a few moments as she added, “Oh, I see. You’ve met her too?”

 

“Uh huh.” Kayla’s voice was shaky. She closed her eyes in attempting to hold in her tears from the remembrance of her beloved mother.

 

Kira shook her head when she heard Kayla sniffle. “Emotional for a woman you’re not even related—”

 

“She WAS related to me!” Kayla snapped turning toward the window again as she was angered at Kira’s apathy. She shortly looked back to Kira and yelled, “Dangit Kira, how could you be so cold?”

 

Kayla’s loud voice attracted the attention of the few students around them. Kira just looked at them meanly.

 

Kira slammed her head into the palm of her hand and sighed. She mumbled softly, “Gah, okay. I’m sorry.”

 

The students were still looking at the two. Some looked at Kira with contempt, but more in disbelief in the sincerity of her apology.

 

Kira started feeling annoyed from all the onlookers and growled, “It’s none of your business, kay? NOW BUTT OUT!”

 

Gradually, the students around them started to go back to their own conversations.

 

“Kira, please, must you always yell at people like that?” Kayla asked while drying her tears with her arm’s sleeve.

 

Kira shrugged. “If they’re being a busy body, yes.”

“But why let it bother you?” Kayla looked at Kira straightly. Her face still red from tears.

 

“Dunno. Maybe because people always meddle in my business—yet you were just as guilty with your outburst!” Kira reflected.

 

“If you hadn’t have been insensitive like that I wouldn’t have had that outburst.” Kayla explained.

 

“Are you always like that?” Kira folded her arms.

“Like what?” Kayla sounded upset.

 

“You remind me of this little girl I know.” Kira sighed after remembering that she was referring to Laura. Highly emotional people like her came in second place of annoying people behind busybodies.

 

“As a matter of fact, no. Kira, seriously, how would you like it if I said something insensitive about your loved one… Say, yo mama?”

 

Kira shot her eyes at Kayla, raising an angry brow at her and threatened, “You leave my mama outta this!”

 

Kayla pointed at Kira as she felt more upset at how this argument was turning out. She was even angrier at how Kira instantly tried turning the conversation into making it look like she was the bad guy. Kayla just sighed and raised her voice, “See? You’re sensitive about your mother! What makes you think I wouldn’t be insensitive about mi—”

 

Kayla stopped, quickly covering her hand over her mouth. She didn’t want to have it start all over again.  The common people on Zyra worshiped Mariana more than the lunar colonies. This made Kayla feel uneasy as she anticipated on her world about to get more cluttered.

 

Kayla, really? Great. Here come the fakers all because of your BIG mouth!” She thought.

 

A few moments of silence developed between the two young ladies as the conversations around them didn’t stop. Kayla kept her closed mouth pose, looking around with her eyes in paranoia.

 

“Everyone has secrets.” Kira shrugged.

 

Kayla took her hand off her mouth, pointed at Kira and warned, “Just don’t tell anyone, kay?”

 

“It’s not even worth exposing.” Kira looked at her, uninterested.

 

“How do I know your just not telling me this?” Kayla felt more paranoid, not believing Kira’s answer.

 

Kira shook her head. “If you knew some of my secrets, you wouldn’t be bothered with me anymore.”

 

“I’m not asking for a trade. Look, if you don’t know how I—”

“I know the feeling.” Kira interrupted.

 

Kira’s words made Kayla feel slightly at ease. “I’m going to assume that you’re related to someone famous too, huh?”

 

“Not many people here know. But I tell you this—they’re from Earth.” Kira grinned.

 

Kayla smiled back. “Okay.”

 

The bus turned a corner and into the lot of a giant factory. In front of it were two armored SECAIs. The students on the bus crowded to their windows looking at the high-rise building. There were large Plexiglas windows on each floor. You could see a mixture of human and SECAI walking to and fro within the complex.

 

The students filed behind Professor Olive on their way off the bus. She showed her RIAS school badge to the SECAIs at the front door. The two bots nodded at Olive and the door before the lady opened up with a hiss.

 

Inside was a long desk in front of several sliding doors matching the length it. On opposite sides were doors leading into office spaces at both ends of the building. Suddenly a SECAI dressed in an all-dark green suit came out the office room on the far right and greeted Professor Olive.

 

“Ms. Olive. How nice to see you today!” The robot and the teacher shook hands.

“You the same! Are they ready?” Professor Olive asked, cheerful.

 

“Yes Ma’am! Right this way!” The robot answered and walked toward the center of the room.

 

The bot stopped infront of a desk and pulled out a lever from its side. It stuck out like a sour thumb. He then pushed it forward. The wall before them opened up. Before them were sliding doors. He walked up to the sliding doors and they opened up with a mechanical drilling sound. Professor Olive and her students followed the robot through the doors. Closer to the center of this large inner room were the factory workers soldering together SECAIs parts while others were repairing damaged military bots. A layer of shiny Plexiglas closed off the working area.

 

“Mr. SECAI, what can you say to my students about what we’re seeing?” Olive asked as the group turned a corner, passing by human and SECAI workers.

 

“What you’re seeing is the main robotic production site for Zyra. There are only three here on the space station. Sector B’s factory is the biggest of them all.” The robot explained. Some of the students sounded surprised at this information. While others just nodded in acknowledgement to what the robot told them.

 

They continued walking until the robot stopped at the end of the hallway marked by two windowless double doors. There was a computer panel with a keyboard on the left side of the door. The robot turned to the keyboard and started typing.

 

He poked the enter key and a young robotic male voice said, “Access Approved!”

 

The doors swung open. The robot, Olive, and the students entered a large gymnasium with dozens of SECAIs standing in a long line. All of them were dressed like students but their figures differed in size and age.

 

“Okay class, choose your robots!” Olive announced loudly. The students then rushed to the SECAI they believed looked the best.

 

“Okay, how about this one?” Durk asked, looking at a burly looking robot with glasses.

“Uh, no. Looks too much like you!” Gordon scoffed.

“Hey that’s a good thing!” Kira said coyly.

 

Gordon sighed, he seemed to be outnumbered. Then he looked around for Kayla who was browsing through the other robots that were left—many of them being activated by the students’ key cards all at once.

 

“Kayla!” Gordon yelled as he saw her several feet away. She was walking farther and farther down the line. The other classmates were quickly choosing their SECAIs. Gordon started after Kayla, continually calling her.

 

“Gordon, if we move, we’ll—”

 

Durk stopped as another group of students took the robot they were looking at.

“HEY! THAT WAS OURS!” Kira yelled at them.

 

“Technically not cuz your keys weren’t in it!” one of the students laughed.

“WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?” Kira yelled at the student, getting in his face.

Durk tugged at Kira’s arm. “Just let it go Kira. We’ll find another one.”

 

”Fine. I won’t let that bother me anymore.” Kira grumbled after pulling free from Durk’s grab. She shortly looked at the other student with a mean gaze then quickly turned around after Durk who went to go look for his brother.

 

Kayla came to the end of the line, looking at every SECAI she came across. She studied each one but grew to not liking the vast majority of them. Some were too muscular. Others were too skinny. Kayla cringed at the ones who were too tall, getting a crook in her neck at looking up at them. She remembered Taizosu was only a few inches taller than her but could grow in size becase of certain “mods” in his systems.

 

These SECAIs were no were near his min height as most seemed to be at least 6 foot, stacking them taller than Taizosu’s actual size. There were ones who were too short or fat—they made Kayla grimace. That’s when she came across this young SECAI. The fembot looked to be no more than 12. Kayla's eyes lit up with amazement as she saw this bot had the cutest, all white sleeves down to the wrists with a matching blouse. The young AI’s blue eyes complimented the arrangement of color, contrasting with the droid’s long synthetic dark brown hair. The young woman ran her hand over the synthetic skin. It was a giant leap forward as she remembered the SECAIs in MCLT-2 had plastic feeling skin. These SECAIs had skin virtually identical to that of a human’s.

 

Kayla knelt down to the robots height. Then a little lower to the ground, looking up at the light skinned bot. Something about this robot mesmerized Kayla. For a few seconds, she ignored Gordon calling her. The crowd of students followed him. More students from the other AR1 classes poured into the gym with their instructors and respective SECAI tour guides. Kayla took out the card and looked for the slot. It was located on the back of the robot’s neck.

 

Just as Kayla inserted the card in its spot, it dissipated.

 

“KAYLA, WHAT THE HECK?” Gordon yelled. Hee was rather appalled at the choice she made.

 

That’s when Durk caught up with him. “What are you yelling a—”

 

That’s when he saw the robot in front of Kayla turn on. “Oh, snap.”

“Dude, I am NOT gonna be bothered with training a little girl!” Gordon complained.

 

“Get over it Gord.” Kira sighed. Kira butternecked Gordon and walked passed him. The slap was loud. She added in a British accent, “I think she’s adorable!”

 

“Adorable? Kira, me and children don’t get along!” Gordon complained as all of them crowd around the robot booting up. Her eyes were flashing green.

 

“Huh, what?” Kira looked confused for a moment. Then she said, “Oh, you mean with this bot? Na, I doubt it. Besides, you should be able to get along with her easily because of your childish ways!” Kira stamped, evily grinning in her sarcasm.

 

“And what do YOU know about… Oh wait… Nevermind.” Gordon folded his arms, turned sideways at her and shook his head.

 

“There you are!” Kayla said coyly at the robot. Its gaze switched to the other three who joined her.

 

“Hi.” The robot greeted in a childlike voice after the green glow dissipated.

“Do you have a name?” Kayla asked, her grin widening.

 

“No Ma’am. What would you like to name me?” The robot turned her attention back to Kayla.

 

That’s when Durk tapped her on the shoulder. Kayla gestured a ‘one moment’ sign with her index finger at the bot before huddling with her group. The robot nodded to Kayla, watching her and her crew’s movements.

 

“Okay. Names people.” Durk pressed.

“Lola.” Gordon thought aloud.

“Hecky, no.” Durk looked at him with an angry brow.

“Why not?” Gordon grinned.

“Cuz I KNOW about her.” Durk grumbled.

 

“Lemme guess, he dated someone named Lola?” Kayla looked at the Mellis brothers with slight shock, almost in disbelief.

 

“Yep, and I got dozens more!” Gordon laughed.

 

“Rules. NO naming her after a human you’ve dated, married, or birthed. Got that?” Durk looked at Gordon straightly.

 

Gordon kept quiet.

 

“GOT THAT?” Durk repeated louder.

Gordon sighed while shaking his head. “Fine.”

 

“Well that means YOU have no say Durk cuz I already know what you were thinking about naming her!” Kira laughed.

 

Durk looked at her in surprise. “When I tell you? Oh, yeah. Right. Before we got here. Dangit!” He sighed, looking away from Kira.

 

“How about we ask the one who forced the decision on us?” Kira’s voice sounded rude, yet Kayla could hear the sarcasm in it.

 

“Kaitlyn.” Kayla said with a grin as her team looked to her.

“Origin?” Durk asked suspiciously.

 

“Kaitlyn is a common name given to a female in the Lunarian Society. Key people in Zyran history named Kaitlyn—Kaitlyn Mokumura, a Japanese American who graduated from Zyran University with a masters in cybernetics. She and several others worked on Project Gravity Wielder, started by Evanston Incorporated.” The robot informed them, as if reading from a Wikipedia page. All of them turned towards the AI as she was talking.

 

“Holy smack, Kayla, where you come up with a name like that?” Gordon said in excitement, intrigued upon hearing the name’s origin.

 

“I dunno.  It just came to me. Didn’t know that much about her though!” Kayla laughed.

 

Durk turned to Kira. “Kira, what do you think?”

 

“Eh, it’s okay?” Kira sounded confused and the asked coyly, “What about you?”

 

“Oh, um, uh, I think it’s good.” Durk stuttered, caught off guard by Kira politeness.

 

Kayla turned around toward the robot. “We’re going to call you Kaitlyn.”

 

“Thanks, Kayla.” Kaitlyn smiled up at her.

 

“Wow, you’re a fast learner, aren’t ya?” Kayla complimented.

 

“SECAIs generally are. Even more so than the old school robos.” Kaitlyn said coolly.

 

“All right, listen up!” Olive said over a loud speaker. It was connected to a sound system setup at the other end of the gym.

 

The feedback in the room screeched as a female MC bot next to her adjusted the settings on Olive’s microphone. As Olive continued to talk, the feedback faded away. Some students in the room cringed at hearing the screech. A few SECAIs in the audience mimicked the same motion. Some of the students and teachers started laughing at the scene.

 

“Hey, the sound is only supposed to hurt our ears, not yours!” Olive joked. Some snickered at her witty remark while others just stood there quietly with a straight face.

 

Olive continued, “Anyway, now that you’re all partnered up, here’s the plan. Week 8 is the checklist to see how you and your SECAIs are farin’. And on week 16 is the final.”

 

Her audience looked at her attentively in complete silence.

 

“Now the plan is this. Each team member should spend a full day with their SECAIs, teaching them about life etcetera. The only rules of the game other than what’s stated in the school code of conduct is that your SECAIs should NOT be displaying in ANY form, signs of mental, psychological, or emotional problems. No MPDs whatsoever. Now if you don’t know what I’m talking about, ask your SECAI. All of em are pre-built with the most powerful search engine in history—Google! Any questions?”

 

One robot raised their hand. Suddenly one of the team members with them pulled their hand down.

 

“Nevermind!” One of them in the group yelled, embarrassed.

 

“Okay, then! If no one has any more questions, I’ll see yall on the midterm!”

 

All of the students with their SECAIs poured out of the gym and back on top the bus. However, the SECAIs got on another bus. Both headed back to RIAS before the evening was over.

 

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