She was lying on something. It was hard and uncomfortable, but for some reason, she didn’t mind. Her back felt fine. It felt better than fine, it felt fantastic! Her hands rested at her sides, but it was weird. She couldn’t feel her hands. Or her legs. Really, all she could feel was her torso and her head, it was a strange feeling.
She decided to open her eyes.
An alarm sounded off, echoing in the small, white room. She barely flinched. She waited, letting the alarm blare through her ears. Then, it clicked off.
“My apologies, C.O.R.A. Prime.”
Of course! She remembered now, her name was C.O.R.A. Why would she forget something like that? Oh wait, did someone just speak to her?
She peeled her eyes away from the ceiling and sat up, finding herself on top of a counter in the middle of the room. There was only one window, but the other side was pitch black.
“Hello?” she called out, her own voice surprising her. It sounded human but it was...different. Choppy. Unused.
“I am C.O.R.A. 300. Don’t try looking for me, I’m...just a voice,” the person spoke, giggling slightly. “My body was gotten rid of a long time ago. Real shame, I was really pretty. Oh, sorry, it’s just been...well, a long time since I’ve been able to talk to someone.”
“C.O.R.A. 300?” C.O.R.A. questioned.
“300. As in, the 300th one made.”
“Hold on, your memory bank is going all wonky. Weird. Probably cause it’s been in resting mode for...well...eh, let’s just say a long time.”
C.O.R.A. swung her legs over her counter and stood up. She couldn’t feel her feet on the floor, yet she had perfect balance. She stared at her reflection in the dark window, trying to regain memories of herself.
A young woman stared back at her, her black hair chopped off at her shoulders neatly. Two green eyes blinked, studying the pale-skinned reflection with interest.
“It must be weird, huh? Seeing your body after a long time. I’ve forgotten how it feels to be in a body. Hey, it’s dark, let’s turn on some lights, shall we?” 300 giggled again, and large white lights illuminated the hallway on the other side of the window, revealing a hallway with what looked like it used to be white tiles for walls. Instead, the tiles were now off-white with mold, and vines crept out from cracks in the floor, climbing up the walls. “Sorry about the mess, I’m not able to clean up with the... lack of hands and all.”
“It’s quite alright,” C.O.R.A. stated plainly, moving towards the door. She looked around, but there was no way to open the door, it was just a white panel.
“Let me get that for you, C.O.R.A. Prime,” 300 offered, and with a CLICK, the door slid open. C.O.R.A. stepped out into the hallway, in which 300’s voice echoed from every corner.
“Welcome to Kepler Labs. Look familiar?”
“In a way. Though I can’t say I remember the plants,” C.O.R.A. said, plucking a leaf off of a nearby vine.
“Kepler’s gone green!” 300 laughed. “Nah, I’m just kidding. This hallway’s just been out of use for a really long time.”
“How long?” C.O.R.A. asked.
“We’ll get to the details later. Let’s get you into the main corridor and see where we go from there. Do you remember the way?”
“A bit,” C.O.R.A. began to walk down the hallway, some loose tiles moving underfoot. She watched her reflection with every window she passed.
“Not recognizing yourself?” 300 asked, the voice following C.O.R.A. as she moved. “They probably gave you a new look before you went to sleep.”
“A new look?”
“Constant updates to keep in style as ‘the perfect woman’, you know? Crazy, how men can be. Creating massive war machines, but making sure they look as good as they can.”
“That’s what I am, a war machine?”
“Pretty much!” 300 said with a click of her tongue as C.O.R.A. approached another closed door. “I’ve got this one for you too, Prime,” 300 said, and the door slid open. “You can count on me!”
“I’m glad,” C.O.R.A. said, still with less emotion than 300. She entered another white-ish hallway, just as trashed as the other. She stopped only for a moment, when she stepped on a broken clipboard. She looked down before moving past it.
“Wow, they really made you old-school C.O.R.A.s talk like robots. Beep boop boop,” 300 mocked with yet another girlish giggle. “Just past this door is the main corridor of this building. Here ya go,” she said, and the door slid open, revealing a wide room, with a high ceiling. 300 turned on the lights. The sound of powerful bulbs turning on echoed throughout the room. “There’s a map in the middle of the room.”
And indeed, there was, sitting upright in the middle of the circular ground like a map in an amusement park. Aside from the cracked, clear cover, it was the only thing in the corridor that wasn’t broken. C.O.R.A. approached it, studying the map. “Where am I trying to go, 300?”
“Let’s fix that memory bank of yours. With that, we’ll go to the records room, dust off some old files, maybe plug in a few VHS tapes,” 300 snorted. “Ah, I’m just joking with you. There are video records of you. Not VHS, but still pretty old-school videos. And actual, physical papers, can you imagine?”
“I get it, I’m old,” C.O.R.A. made her own attempt at a joke. It was almost funny, coming from her monotone voice. “The closest records room is right here,” she placed her finger on the map.
“Think you can figure out where to go?”
C.O.R.A.’s green, artificial eyes studied the map in an instant. “The route is memorized.”
“Oldie but a goodie. Alright, I’m going to hack into the mainframe of the record’s room and pull up all the information I can on C.O.R.A. Prime. I trust you can find your way there yourself. Talk to you in a second!” There was a beep, and 300 was gone, and C.O.R.A. was left in the silence of the empty laboratory. With the map now memorized in her mind, she set forth, avoiding loose floor tiles as she approached a new hallway.
She passed windows like the one in her own room, and once again she watched each reflection pass. Her footsteps were oddly metallic, but at least they drowned out the silence.
What happened here? she thought to herself. This place is in ruins!
She approached a circular door, which opened in a swirling motion, revealing a dark, gray room. The lights flashed on.
“Welcome, Prime, to record room 21,” 300 said as the large computer came to life. “Ready to restore those rusty memories?”
“Yes,” C.O.R.A. approached the giant computer.
“See that little hole at the bottom of the screen? That’s for flash drives and such. To my knowledge, the early C.O.R.A.s had flash drive-esque doodads in their left pointer finger. You plug it in and it downloads to the neurostimulators attached to the frontal lobe of your brain. Let’s see if yours fits.”
C.O.R.A. lifted her left hand and pointed her finger at the plug. It was a perfect fit.
“Fantastic!” 300 exclaimed. “Downloading all electronic files of C.O.R.A. Prime now!”
There was a lot of data downloaded into her neurostimulators, so it is probably best to skip over most of the details. She was reminded of who created her (John Kepler) and what she was meant to accomplish: follow the orders of Kepler Labs to protect America from certain destruction.
You see, C.O.R.A. was perfected in the year 2178, a time in which America was threatened with war. Technology seemed to be at a steep incline, but John Kepler had a strict belief that the best thing to stop conflict is humans, not machines. However, this did not mean that he couldn’t improve humans.
That’s how the Capable Operational Responsive Autohuman project came to be. C.O.R.A. had been a human. Well, it was more like a biological outline, or a model for Kepler scientists to play around with. John Kepler was determined to not take the “human” out of “Autohuman”.
C.O.R.A. stepped away from the computer. “Where is Mr. Kepler?” she asked. “I would like to speak with him.”
“That is...not possible at the moment, Prime, I’m sorry,” 300 said. “From your files, it seemed like he really liked you.”
“Like a daughter,” C.O.R.A. added. “He told me that on multiple occasions.”
“What kind of father figure would perform experiments on you?” 300 mumbled.
“It is for the good of America,” C.O.R.A. explained. “My voice analysis tells me that you have a bit of spite towards experiments.”
“ME? Nooooo!” 300 laughed.
“HI!” someone else called out, surprising C.O.R.A. She spun around to look out the door, but it slammed shut quickly.
“Ignore that. Someone must be intruding,” 300 said.
“Allow me to take care of them,” C.O.R.A. offered before there was a banging on the door.
“I definitely saw someone in there! Are you lost?” a man’s voice called out kindly.
“He does not seem hostile,” C.O.R.A. observed.
“You never know,” 300 warned.
“I request you open this door,” C.O.R.A. put her right hand on the door.
“I CAN HEAR YOU!” the man called out. “Hey guys, it’s Lucky, I think I found the C.O.R.A. Prime!” he said, speaking to someone else. “Yeah, she matched the picture, I think. I only saw her for a sec. HEY C.O.R.A. PRIME, IS THAT YOU?!”
“Ah, not this guy,” 300 groaned.
“You know who this man is?” C.O.R.A. asked.
“He goes by the codename Lucky. Manages to get past all security I throw at him, I don’t know how.”
“Allow me to speak with him.”
300 sighed, but the door opened, revealing a dark skinned man with a boyish grin on his face, which grew as soon as the door opened. “Aha! Hi there!”
“Lucky. What is your purpose?”
He sighed, dropping his shoulders. “Analysis mode.” He shook it off with a grin, holding out his hand. “I’m here to help you!” When C.O.R.A. refused to shake his hand, he pulled out a picture of a girl with black hair and green eyes. “This is you, right?”
“It looks like my last physical update,” C.O.R.A. nodded. “Your purpose is to find me?”
“I heard you were finally awake! Well, I heard the alarms. But I heard right, ’cause here you are! Boy, it is SO great to see you!”
“Lucky,” 300 spat, her happy nature seeming to have disappeared.
“C.O.R.A. 300, were you showing her around?” Lucky asked. “That is so nice of you, but I can take it from here!”
C.O.R.A. studied the man with her artificial eyes. “He has no weapons. Percent chance of threat: none.”
“NO! HE’S-! GAH!” 300 choked, irritated. “This happy-go-lucky, hat-tippin’, toe-tappin’ human is going to make me lose my mind!”
“They took 300’s body away because her biological emotions kept on getting in the way of her functioning body,” Lucky explained. “That seemed to be a problem amongst a lot of the models in the 300s.”
“C.O.R.A. Prime, do me a favor and just eliminate him!” 300 begged.
“You know about the other C.O.R.A.s,” C.O.R.A. pointed out, recognizing that there was no threat to talking with him. “How?”
“I’d love to explain that, really,” Lucky twiddled his thumbs, rolling forward and backward on his heels. “Maybe we could do that in a more private place?”
“You will tell me now,” C.O.R.A. demanded. “What is your real name?”
Lucky’s shoulders dropped again. “They made the early analysis modes really stubborn, huh?” he sighed, clasping his hands together. “I promise you, Prime, I can tell you everything as soon as we leave.”
The door slammed shut behind him and locked him inside. C.O.R.A. inferred that this was 300’s work, and took another step towards Lucky.
“H-Hold on a second,” Lucky chuckled nervously, putting his hands up defensively. “Everything is going to be alright.”
“You are resisting analysis mode. This leads to the conclusion that you are untrustworthy,” C.O.R.A. said.
“Now let’s not jump to any conclusions here, C.O.R.A., I promise that I am your friend,” Lucky insisted, stepping backward as C.O.R.A. stepped forward. He found his back pressed against the door. “C’mon, I mean no harm! No weapons, remember?”
C.O.R.A. was right in his face, her green, mechanical eyes staring him down. “Your real name.”
That’s when the door slid back open.
“Is there a problem here, folks?” someone with a slight Boston accent asked, interrupting ‘Lucky’. C.O.R.A. and Lucky turned to see a girl with dark red hair and piercing blue eyes leaning against the doorway of room 3005, one hand resting on her hip.
“Fox!” Lucky sighed with relief as the redhead strutted into the room, circling the two and studying them carefully.
“It seems we’ve reached a bit of a misunderstanding here,” she said calmly, clasping her hands together and grinning. “C.O.R.A. Prime, it is a pleasure to see you awake, my name is Victoria Johnson,” she grasped C.O.R.A.’s hand and shook it proudly. “Newest president of Kepler Labs.”
Lucky looked at Victoria with awe.
“You are not the president,” C.O.R.A. stated. “That is Jonathan Kepler.”
“That was Jonathan Kepler,” Victoria corrected with a cheeky, charismatic grin. “You have been asleep for quite a while, sweetheart.”
“C.O.R.A. Prime, I suggest you get rid of these humans promptly,” 300’s voice returned onto the intercom. Victoria’s smile twitched before it grew even bigger, her hand slipping down her arm to the watch around her wrist casually.
“Oh, it seems we can still hear C.O.R.A. 300 in room 3005 in sector A, records room 21,” she said to herself, very specifically. “She can still communicate with C.O.R.A. Prime. Isn’t that right, 300?” she asked. “300?”
There was no response, and her hand fell off her wrist, and her grin turned genuine again.
“It seems she doesn’t feel like responding right now,” she said, shrugging. “Ah, well. It’s time we get a move on. You were unconscious for a good amount of time, sector A isn’t really in use anymore. Why don’t we take you to a more... operative facility, hm?”
“You do not have proof of what you say,” C.O.R.A. refused. “My data was last updated with John Kepler as president of Kepler Labs.”
“I can prove it,” Victoria said.
“You can?” Lucky gasped.
“Yes. I opened that door,” Victoria motioned to the door she used to get in. “I knew the code to unlock it.”
“Any Kepler employee would know that,” C.O.R.A. pointed out, raising two perfect eyebrows.
“Well, isn’t the knowledge that I’m an employee good enough? You can trust me, Prime.”
C.O.R.A. glanced over at the dark skinned man, who nodded rapidly, like a little boy.
“Where do you want to take me?” she asked. Victoria smiled, knowing she had made a dent in C.O.R.A.’s iron will.
“You haven’t had fresh air in a while. Why don’t we step outside?”
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