By Nojh Livic
“But why babies?” Claudia asked as she settled the newborn into the crib, tucking the sleeping child in before closing the transparent cover over the crib.
Sully shrugged. “I dunno. Maybe it is cause they are young?” He stood at the holographic console next to the crib that was now displaying the young boy’s vitals, as well as his connectivity. The connection icons slowly lit up until the newborn’s login was complete. “And we’re good.”
“Have you met one of them? The older ones I mean,” Claudia asked quietly, peering down at the child. He barely had any hair left and his little hands were curled into fists. They looked like little brown lumpy marshmallows. He wiggled a little as he fell deeper into sleep. Around the crib the blue stripe of the interface module pulsed slowly. It was now synchronized to the baby’s heart beat.
Sully waved his hand across the console until it flickered, appearing on the surface of the crib rather than above it. “Yeah. Once. Which was enough,” he said. Claudia blinked, shook her head, then looked away from the pulsing light to her coworker.
Picking up the clipboard she began to make her way back towards the daycare. Sully fell into step beside her. “Why do you say that?” she finally asked as they turned a corner, glancing at her companion. It was the late shift the lightening was intentionally dimmed. The hallway was empty and their footsteps echoed, drawing attention to the silence that otherwise filled their path.
“Meet one, one day, and you’ll see. They’re just… different,” Sully said, refusing to meet her gaze and was instead looking directly at his clipboard, which was likely projecting some paperwork or text into his vision that only he could see.
“Isn’t that the point?” Claudia pressed, turning to face the man more.
“No, the goal was to create highly educated and perhaps super intelligent humans,” the man looked away from his clipboard to meet Claudia’s earnest expression with his own slight frown. She ignored the obvious hint that he didn’t feel like conversing.
“Yeah. Exactly. They know everything right?” There was no hiding the wonder in her voice. Sully took a deep breath, reaching up to rub at the implant embedded in his temple reflexively.
“Not everything. But more than enough.” Claudia raised an eyebrow but her smile didn’t falter. Sully looked back towards his clipboard.
“Exactly. How amazing is that? We have to interface consciously—” The two didn’t see the teenager standing in the middle of the hallway until Claudia collided with him.
“Oh! Sorry!” Claudia apologized immediately, reaching out to steady the young woman. The teen wore hospital scrubs of pale pink and was completely bald. She turned to face Claudia and her deep yellow eyes met Claudia’s own brown ones. The young woman didn’t say word of anger or apology. Instead she just stared directly at Claudia. Sully had taken a step back and was now hurriedly waving his hand over his clipboard, muttering to himself, his eyes flickering between the girl and the networked device.
Claudia looked down at the girl’s hospital scrubs. The name Claudia was stenciled on the scrub over her right breast. “Oh. Is your name Claudia? Mine is as well,” the older woman said cheerily. Reacting, for the first time, to her words, the young woman looked down at her own clothing, at the letters, then lifted her head to met Caludia’s gaze again unblinkingly.
“No… there’s no record of a…” Sully looked up from his clipboard and his eyes grew wide. “Claudia!” The young woman had his coworker by the throat and pinned against the wall a few inches off the ground. Claudia was grabbing at the hand that was slowly choking the life out of her to no avail.
Without really thinking, Sully swung his clipboard directly at the girl. Her head whiped around to look at Sully. Almost faster than he could see, she punched the clipboard with her free hand before he could hit her. It broke in two and fell from his hands. Her knuckles came away bloodied but she didn’t react. The girl’s expression was all but blank. Her attention wasn’t focused on Sully, however, but behind him.
Sully looked over his shoulder.
They were all there. The entire group of first generation humans who had been apart of the interconnection project. All bald, with varying shades of yellow eyes that gleamed in the dim light. Some were in standard hospital scrubs like the young woman. Others were in normal clothing. Clothing which didn’t belong to them.
“Wait! What’s going on?!” Sully shouted. He turned back to the girl. Claudia had stopped struggling and her eyes were slowly drooping shut. She saw the girl had begun to unbutton Claudia’s clothes with her free hand.
“Let her go!” Sully ordered, grabbing the teenage woman’s shoulders. Before he could pull her away, pain lanced through his lower back and his legs went numb. He crumpled to the ground, knocking his head against the wall. His vision clouded. He tried to blink the darkness away but a growing headache was making it hard to do anything. When his vision finally cleared he saw Claudia laying on the ground next to him. Her eyes were wide and slightly bulged. She wasn’t moving. The teenage woman had her half undressed and was already wearing the older woman’s blouse unbuttoned.
Motion drew Sully’s attention to a teenage boy standing over him. He too wore hospital scrubs of pale blue. Stenciled on his breast was the name Sully. Sully stared at it then met the young man’s pale yellow eyes.
“Why?” he croaked softly.
“We were born to replace you,” the boy said in that monotone they all spoke in.
Water filled Sully’s vision as he felt the boy’s fingers close around his throat.