Chapter 1- Kryselle
Sunday Night, North Burlow Heights. Marco Vital Building.
Ugh! First thing I’m doing when I get home is pouring myself a fat glass of cold wine.
I thought to myself as I continue to make my way down the long-marbled floor corridor.
I take my long honey colored braids out of the high neat bun that I had them in all day. I stayed at work for a few extra hours and had an oncoming headache. Yea, I was definitely ready to take these braids out and wear my natural hair for a while.
My name is Kryselle Nelson, I’m a 28 year old black human who lives on Saturn in the city of Burlow Heights. For four years I’ve been working as a Ringer Observer for Marco Vital Force Corporation. A Ringer Observer also known as an RO is exactly what it sounds like. I observe Ringers, among other things of course.
I dig in my pocket grabbing a piece of gum then pop it into my mouth. I had on a pink and black unzipped NASCAR styled jacket. My jean leggings were blue, and my feet wore black open toe high heel ankle boots. The boots had small faint glowing pink straps with a gold molding around the heel. Under my jacket I had on a loose pink long sleeved blouse that tightened at my wrist. The back of it had a small diamond shaped cut out which showed a piece of my long thin back tattoo when it wasn’t covered by my jacket.
I loved my tattoo even though I can’t even see it half the time. It wasn’t exactly about me seeing it though, it was about the meaning behind it. I usually try to make a habit of wearing partially backless shirts so I can show it off. The design is a written quote that changed between a metallic green, purple, and gold depending on where someone was standing when they looked at it. It was in Ringer computer code symbols that started from the back of my neck and traveled along my spine stopping right at the end of my back.
Back when I graduated my academy, it was one of the first things I did to celebrate. It was the biggest accomplishment of my life and I wanted to have something symbolic of it. As for what it says, to sum it up it ends with a saying that I liked.
“Watch your step, darling. For I’ve grown claws since last we met.”
Standing at 5′5 I had a deep bronzed butter scotch skin tone. Not the yellow butterscotch, but the brown butterscotch. I had slightly wide hips, C cup breast, thick thighs and a tear drop shaped booty. My thick natural hair stopped right above my shoulders but I liked to occasionally have braids in my hair when I was tired of dealing with it. Now, I was tired of dealing with my braids. I needed to make time in my schedule this week to get them out.
Anyways, I have a small mouth but pouty heart shaped lips, deep set brown eyes, long lashes, and a tiny black beauty mark under my right eye on my upper cheekbone. I was always told I looked naturally mean even though people ironically find out I’m a cool and sweet person. Well, I am when I’m not confronting bad Ringer situations at least. I have the training to kick someone’s ass but just because I apparently look like someone who will, doesn’t mean I’m just going around doing it.
Why do I have self-defense training you ask? Well why not? The main reason is because in order to become a Ringer Observer it’s a must. Marco Vital makes you train side by side with cops at the police academy. As an RO aka Ringer Observer, I work close with Ringers after they first wake up. For that reason alone you never know when you will have to take them down on your own. You’d be surprised how some Ringers first react to realizing they’re no longer human even though they knew it would happen. You also never know if you may need to assist the cops in issues related to your assigned Ringer. I guess I should explain what it is that I do exactly.
For one thing, Ringer is the name given to humans who become robots after they pass away. Its been decided years upon years ago that the term robot is slightly derogatory. To many Ringers It suggest that they’re nothing but inhuman machines. The debates I’ve heard on the subject can get both Ringers and humans pretty worked up.
Anyways, there are a total of five stages that humans go through in order to become a Ringer in society.
Stage one, you must qualify to become a Ringer. The Qualifying process is nothing but a ton of forms to fill out, background checks, and surgery clearance.
Stage two is getting an SOS chip implanted in your brain. It records who you were, who you are, and who you know while you continue living your human life.
Stage three, you pass away and get your SOS chip removed then stored. You don’t simply just get placed directly into a Ringer after you die. A Ringer body takes a few months to make, it’s a delicate process from what I’m told. Once the SOS chip is popped into a Ringers head, they become activated. After making sure everything is working as it should, they finally move onto stage four. They meet with their assigned Ringer Observer to begin their two week observation period. That’s where I come in.
As a Ringer Observer, we are usually referred to as a Ringers RO. I’m one of many RO’s who get assigned newly activated Ringers to observe them closely for two weeks. After those two weeks, I keep tabs on them for the months that follow.
A Ringer Observer plays a crucial role in deciding if whether a Ringer gets their new life or gets destroyed. It’s a big responsibility but at the end of the day we don’t literally make the life or death choice, the Ringer shows us the choice with there actions.
For two weeks a newly activated Ringer will live at the Marco Vital Facility that they were activated in. I have one on one talks with them and assign them an occasional test that I observe. Once they pass the two-week observation period with me, they can then move onto stage five. A Watchman Facility.
Those who fail the stage four two-week Observation period with me will not get to move on to stage five at a Watchman facility. Unfortunately, if they don’t pass the two-week observation period, they must be immediately destroyed. It’s not my favorite part of my job, but it’s the risk they signed up for and what must be done to protect the public. Ringers aren’t made of blood and bones; they’re made of a variety of metal’s and electricity which to many they are nothing more than walking deadly weapons. Yes they’re just humans who are placed inside of a machine, but not all of them can contain themselves. It’s just the risk that comes with wanting to become a Ringer.
However, when and if they do get through the observation period they live at a Watchman Facility with other Ringers. It’s like transitional housing if I could compare it to something, but for educating and helping new Ringers.
New Ringers are required to live at a Watchman facility for a minimum of four months and a maximum of seven months. The Watchman facility is meant to help Ringers become accustomed to their new everyday life as a Ringer. Its kind of a more laid back and less intense version of the two weeks they spend with me. If you cant adjust after a maximum of seven months, you will never be able to adjust.
Another part of my job as a Ringer Observer is linked to the Watchman facility. If the Watchman Facility discovers a Ringer is having a tough time adjusting on a repetitive basis, a Ringers RO will be notified. I was usually the last resort sense I had the responsibility of the final say. It’s always important to only contact a Ringer Observer under drastic circumstances. I have the responsibility and authority to punish my assigned Ringers when they act up or break bigger Watchman Facility rules.
There have been many circumstances where someone’s SOS chip just can’t handle the new reality of what they are. It’s a big adjustment realizing you’re made of wires and being able to open parts of your body like you’re just a piece of equipment. For some, the reality hits worse when they realize they no longer need to eat, breathe, or sleep. There are also those Ringers who use their new robotic body to cause problems. For some, knowing that some things that once could affect you when you were human is now nonexistent, tends to change some ways of thinking. Thus where I usually come in to check them and put them in line.
The two weeks Ringers spend with me at Marco Vital are meant to filter out the Ringers with issues that can’t be fixed. The Watchman Facilities on the other hand watches for problems that may not be spotted immediately but appear over time. Its important to know the difference between someone just being an asshole and someone who may prove to be a genuine problem in society.
Another crazy thing I should mention is the fact that Ringers get the 3 strikes you’re out rule within their four to seven months at a Watchman facility. If a Ringer Observer is reached out to for a fourth time, then usually a Ringer will be immediately up for a death trial in front of the tech board. At a death trial, the tech board is the name given to the top Marco Vital decision makers. They decides if they agree with the RO to destroy Ringers or not.
I guess its technically four strikes you’re out, but by the third strike there are no more chances to avoid a trial if you act up. Yea, It’s possible to get out of being destroyed if you have a good case, but it usually isn’t the positive ending that happens frequently. In most cases the tech board trust an RO and counselors’ decision.
These rules have applied to every Ringer I’ve dealt with until recently. One Ringer in particular has been gliding by while breaking rules and remaining untouched. Who is this Ringer you ask? Ugh, Elizabeth Lanthrop.
Elizabeth the horrible is the reason for my current headache. She has been at the Watchman Facility for an astounding nine months. That’s two months over her maximum Watchman Facility Period. The girl gets to live good with an entire large decked out apartment in a part of the facility that was made just for her. All the other Ringers had roommates in smaller apartments and they all couldn’t stand the chick. I don’t blame them.
Earlier, I was looking over a new Elizabeth incident that I have to visit her for. As I said before its three strikes you’re out, but this would be my eighth visit with her. Yea you heard me correct, eighth visit. Marco Vital will also probably just add on another extra month for her too, it’s ridiculous.
I bet your asking; well why does she get to get away with this crap while others get destroyed? Two words, Rich Father. Money lets you get away with even the most horrible things and Elizabeth was no exception of it. I’m sure she would love to graduate, but at the same time It’s not like she exactly feels tortured and held hostage. She doesn’t follow the Watchman Facility rules anyways so why be in a rush to leave? I’ve deemed her unfit for society several times, but her rich and important father always goes over my head and gets my reports denied. Just thinking about it is making my head hurt even more.
I continue my stride as I shake off the mental venting that just exploded in my head. I pass by dark offices that light up as I trigger the sensor lights. There were a lot of large one-way windows showing the lit-up city. From the outside, this building looked like a large pointy purple and black reflective mirror with the Marco Vital logo hovering above it in the sky. We could see out, but people couldn’t see in.
As I pass by an office that wasn’t dark, I see a co worker of mine named Tessie. She was hard at work as she sat at her desk which is no surprise. She too was a Ringer Observer and is known for being uptight and strict. I felt bad for any Ringers assigned to her. She was one of those RO’s who seemed to like getting Ringers in trouble. Like me, she too was a black woman but was a little heavy set and maybe a shade lighter than me. She always had a pretty Bantu knot hairstyle and wore a black pencil skirt with a suit jacket. She was pretty, but a bitch. Not to me or our other coworkers of course, but to her Assigned Ringers. Ringer Observers like her gave us all a bad name.
According to studies, Ringers being around any Ringer Observer is the equivalent to the unease you get when a cop drive’s behind you. You know you aren’t doing anything wrong but you’re still nervous anyways. I’m not the type of RO who keeps watchful eyes on every Ringer I come across, I’m no bully. Once I’m off the clock, unless its serious it’s not my business. Unfortunately, not every RO shares my bravado. There are those like Tessie who think it’s a 24/7 job and love to give Ringers a hard time. Luckily, they don’t have the authority to act on Ringers that they aren’t assigned to. All they can do is get a Ringers I.D. number and send a report to their assigned RO. I’ve received a few Ringer Delinquent Reports from her and a few others that were clearly an over dramatic way to get some of my assigned Ringers in trouble. Some Ringer Observers can be assholes.
Luckily, after Ringers endure dealing with people like Tessie and graduate from their Watchman Facility, most Ringers have fulfilling lives. Especially considering at least half of them are rich. The other half are contract Ringers who are working off the financial debt they owe for their new life. Yea, humans can take out loans then pay it back through work once they become a Ringer. Getting a Ringer body and the process isn’t exactly cheap.
As I was saying though, once a Ringer leaves their Watchman Facility, they aren’t surveyed and kept track of anymore by an RO. They are however, required to make two yearly visits to a Marco Vital Facility. It was the equivalent to a doctor’s appointment for humans, only this was nonnegotiable. Ringers only get so many chances to miss those appointments before they get tracked down. Marco Vital can even shut them down remotely If the situation ever calls for it, but it takes a lot of jumping through multiple approval hoops and a good thoroughly written up case for that to happen. The yearly appointments are important to make sure the Ringers programming, software and thought process is still all running smoothly.
Says Tessie who locks eyes with me at the last minute. I nearly jump at the call of my name from her. I thought for sure that I was practically in the clear from her range of sight.
I sigh and turn towards her office. I walk up and stand at her door that she annoyingly loved to keep open for this exact reason.
I say in a kind tone that hid my annoyance.
" Your Ringer Peyton has been having an attitude problem lately. Whats going on there? You know that once one Ringer starts acting a certain way the rest will think its OK too.”
I internally roll my eyes at her direction of this conversation.
" Its fine Tessie, Peyton can be a bit of a smart ass that’s all. Its nothing to worry about.”
Tessie scoffs at me then shakes her head.
“No, it absolutely is something to worry about. If they have no respect for us, they will have no respect for the law once they are set off on their own. My Ringers know better than to disrespect me or anyone while on my watch. My favorite thing to do is make pop up Watchman Facility visits. I keep my Ringers on their toes.”
I resist the urge to squinch my face at her. She is the only RO I know who goes out of her way to do that.
“Keep them on there toes for what?”
I asked her. Tessie looks at me like I’m an idiot.
“For punishment of course. My visit is a reminding fear that as long as I own a brain, legs, and a car, they will remain inches away from getting crushed like a soda can. My Ringers return to society as top notch citizens. As a matter of fact I email our superiors a report of my pop up visits occasionally.”
I fold my arms as I let out a sigh.
“If only we could all be like you.”
I say sarcastically under my breath. I’m almost more than sure that none of our superiors read that shit. She’s practically giving them extra unnecessary work.
“Whats going on with that Elizabeth Ringer of yours too? She’s been at the Watchman Facility for some time now. Its absolutely ridiculous,you need to get on top of that.”
Yup, I’ve officially had enough chat time with Tessie. Elizabeth was a sore spot for me. The last thing I needed was for Tessie the wanna be boss to be wagging her finger at me over the bullshit I have no control over.
" Damn, sorry Tessie I have to get going. See you later, have a goodnight.”
I turn to make an abrupt leave but her voice catches me before I could even make one step.
" A Ringer of yours named Amy graduated from The Watchman Facility this morning right?”
I nod my head.
“That is correct.”
Tessie sucks her teeth.
“When I walked by her at Watchman the other day she wasn’t looking too good. I don’t think she’s ready and I sent you over a report of my opinions earlier. Did you get it?”
I groan under my breath as I recall her two page essay and Amy’s Ringer I.D. number. Tessie apparently didn’t like that Amy always seemed Anti-social. Mind you, that has always been Amy’s personality trait even as a human. Like many, Amy dreaded coming across Tessie’s path. Tessie was a walking checkpoint. A walking test that you didn’t study for. A giant eyeball with legs and pursed lips. She always wants to dictate every single thing about a Ringer that isn’t to her personal liking’s. Her reports were so damn annoying. It’s a good thing Amy already graduated because this silly concern didn’t mean anything. Why doesn’t she just mind her business?
“You cant punish Ringers for being themselves.”
I say to her with a forced smirk. Tessie shakes her head.
" People like that shouldn’t be Ringers, its dangerous. Her silence can mean a lot.”
Ugh, is she serious? Humans can be very anti-social too but you don’t see us throwing each other to the sharks for it. I’d like to see her stop every stranger on the street and shame them for not speaking to her.
I sigh once again before I speak.
“Unfortunately, I disagree with your findings and your opinion. I’m not going to get into that with you right now though because I’m on my way out. Also, she already graduated so none of this really matters. Once again, I’ll see you tomorrow. Goodnight.”
She began to talk again but this time I kept moving. I was ready to get the hell out of here, I was exhausted. Tessie telling you how to do your job or talking about Ringers was like the way she initiated conversations or something. Instead of being so worried about other peoples assignments, the girl needed to get a man, or a hobby or something.
I finally arrive at one of the eight elevators lined along the wall and lift my wrist to access the door. After it opens, I step in then lift my wrist again.
I announce to the elevator. The elevator makes a chime noise before closing the doors.
“Now de-escalating to the Garage floor.”
The elevator announces.
I say out loud as another thought pops in my head. Speaking of someone needing a man, I needed one to be my date to the Kings Masquerade Ball that I was invited to this year. It was this Friday in Rashidi, the Golden city. That place is thousands of miles away on the other side of Saturn. Apparently, all first-time invites get a chauffeured sky access ride and hotel accommodations for the whole weekend. I have yet to even acknowledge to myself that I’m even still taking the trip.
Every year, a couple of employees from big companies get hand chosen for an invite. Marco Vital was one of many on that list and this year I was one of the invites. I’m supposed to be excited sense it’s a once in a lifetime kind of thing. People would kill to be in my place, I mean I am after all going to be among the King and Queen and other famous people. Thing is, I honestly feel like it’s just Marco Vitals way of kissing my ass for putting up with Elizabeth and her dad. I had a plus one invitation for a date, that’s a laugh. I’ll likely be going by myself sense I haven’t dated anyone sense my bad break up a few months ago. Fucking asshole. I’d invite my sister Anita but her, her husband and my niece are out of town until next week.
I sigh as I watched the floor numbers on the small screen count down from the 63rd floor I was on. This building had a total of 156 floors and each department had one or two floors.
" Now stopping on the 45th floor.”
The elevator announced before coming to a gentle halt.
After the elevator doors open, a man steps inside. He looked to be African or Haitian sense he had the somewhat high cheekbone and dark complexion combination. He wasn’t a bad looking man, I’d say he was probably around 5′11, close to 6′0ft. He had goggles around his neck and wore a tight hooded Gray T shirt with Jean’s that had electric craft gloves hanging out his back pocket. On his forearm was what looked to be a small tool belt sleeve. His fresh haircut, boulder shoulders and long torso matched good with the smell of his Cologne and nice teeth. It was a knockout combo. Hell, I take it back he wasn’t just “not bad.” he was actually kind of Fine.
He gives me a smile before facing forward and lifting his wrist.
I’ve never seen him around here before, but it wasn’t unusual to come across someone new everyday considering how large this place was. There were thousands of employees who walked the building. Everyone isn’t forced to interact with each other, especially if you worked in different departments.
“Its that time for you too huh?”
I ask him with a smile on my face. He looks at me with a smirk then lets out a sigh with a shake to his head.
“Yea, I’m beat, it’s been a long busy day on my floor.”
I nod my head.
“Yea same here, but on a brighter note my Friday week is next week and I can’t wait.”
“Damn, lucky you. Mine was last week so this is my Monday back.”
I respond by scrunching up my face in an apologetic way to show him that I feel his pain.
At Marco Vital Force we get an entire week off every month that we called Friday week. For the rest of the month we worked six days a week with a random day scheduled off. The floor this man just got off from was from the Tech Spector department. His department creates the parts built inside of Ringers called Tech Specs.
“Anything interesting today?”
I asked the man. He chuckles.
“What day isn’t interesting. Today we got a guy who use to protest Marco Vital and Ringers, he accidentally severed his hand and is now looking to get a robotic replacement. The irony never ends with people.”
I chuckle and shake my head.
“Yea, that’s the understatement of the century.”
The man continues to smile at me.
“I’m Seth, what’s your name by the way?”
“I’m Kryselle, I work in the Ringer Observer department.”
Seth raises his eyebrows as he holds his hand out for a handshake.
“An RO? Damn, is that job as tough as everyone says it is?”
I chuckle and shake his hand.
“It definitely has its days, but you learn to get use to it. How about you, how does the job as a Tech Spector treat you?”
“Honestly, it’s the best job in the world. Most of the people and Ringers who come to see me are happy to see me. Whether its fixing something or adding something, it’s always a more positive visit. Of course naturally I have those random days where I have an assignment that isn’t all sunshine and Saturn Rings, but for the most part all is well.”
I side eye him with a smirk.
“Well aren’t you lucky.”
I say to him with a hint of playful jealousy. A light beeping cello sound goes off in my ear. I was receiving a call on my Reo.
Most humans have what’s basically a phone now known as a Reo installed behind the ear and also in the wrist. They are made by another electronic company called Regals Electrics. Marco and Regal came to an agreement hundreds of years ago to work with one another rather than against one another. Usually humans who have a tiff or a problem with Marco Vital strictly stick to Regals products. Regal takes more of an interest in the humans more so than the Ringers. Although for the past twenty or so years Marco Vital began showing an interest in the humans too, which was moving into Regal territory. Usually what you can’t get from one you can find with the other, but lately Marco Vital has been slowly dissolving that. It’s a shit hits the fan kind of situation but its way too above my pay grade to worry about.
The Reo is a small thin circular disk that goes right under the skin near the human eardrum and in your wrist. All you have to do is talk to it and it can be linked to several things including Marco Vital electronics.
“Hey Kryselle, it’s me pick up!”
Says the voice over the Reo beep. I let out a sigh and roll my eyes at the sound of the voice. I tap my Reo behind my ear answering the call.
“Barcelo I’m off the clock and I’m heading home, whatever it is it can wait until tomorrow.”
“No I don’t think so, Elizabeth just threw an RO through a wall.”
“What!? How the hell did she do that!”
From my side vision I could see Seth with a raised eyebrow in reaction to my sudden outburst. The elevator announces its arrival to the Garage and the doors open. Me and Seth step out and he waves his hand to me while walking off in the opposite direction. I smile and wave still majorly distracted by the information I was receiving.
“I just think it’s best if you get down here immediately.”
I let out a frustrated grunt.
“Alright, I’m on my way!”
I tap my Reo and hang up the call.
“I’ll bet a thousand fucking bucks that Elizabeth had yet another visit with a Hopper!”
I say to myself as I stomp over towards my car while my headache began to pound even more. Hoppers are basically like illegal Tech Spector’s, but I won’t bombard you with too many things at once.
“Reo unlock and start car!”
I announce after spitting out my gum as I approach my dark gray and shiny silver Lexus. It starts up with a quick neon green light flashing then disappearing across the side to indicate that it was on. It begins hovering above the ground with a green light illuminating the ground below it. The driver’s door slides open as I take off my jacket then hop inside. After a wave of my hand over my center console, it slides open and I grab a bottle of store-bought painkillers. Within the next few seconds my headache should be gone. Last thing I needed was for it to turn into a migraine once I face this new situation.
My air conditioner turns itself on and the soft rock music I was listening to when I drove to work earlier blast out of my speakers. My car automatically turns it down as I put on my seat belt then take a deep breath.
According to history, or at least according to my college courses. 280 years ago, Saturn started transitioning out cars that had tires. Now the cars operate with flying technology. Thing is, it was found that giving the general population the responsibility of flying vehicles in the sky wasn’t the safest route yet. So the cars are built to hover closer to the ground. Only the military and police force have vehicles that have sky access. Also, the filthy rich.
I grip my steering wheel and back out of my space then begin driving down the garage ramp.
“Fucking Elizabeth, it never ends with her.”
I mumble to myself.