July 22, 2024
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July 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chapter 1: The Finding of Isaac

Author’s note: This will be a fictional series that takes place in the distant future after several technological advancements and the popularization of robots. I imagine that Moshiach would have come before this time period, but this is a work of fiction. (Going forward, there will be a recap that describes what happened in the previous installment.)

Devorah’s Thursday evening began with her driving home, which was how it often did. However, she didn’t expect to see her neighbor, Yosef, walking down the road.

She stopped her car and rolled down her window. “Need a lift?”

He shook his head. “Not right now. I’m looking for Isaac.”

“Isaac?” she asked.

“My cat,” he explained, “Well, my robotic cat, really. One of those robotic ones.”

“Never heard of them running away,” she admitted, “Usually, once a person becomes a robot’s designated owner, the robot in question stays in the general area of where its owner leaves it. Fortunately, dealing with abnormal robots is what I do for a living. What does Isaac look like?”

“He has white fur,” Yosef said, “His left eye’s yellow and his right eye’s blue.”

Devorah parked her car and got out. “Do you remember what company designed it?”

He thought for a moment. “I think it was Mechamata or something.”

“Strange,” she said, “They’re usually careful when it comes to making sure that their products don’t have … quirks before being distributed. If you’re being honest with me, Isaac is a very rare robot. Good thing you came to me first.”

“Yes,” he said, “Baruch Hashem.”

Devorah flinched. Though she was Jewish herself, her connection to Hashem wasn’t perfect. She cleared her throat, hoping that Yosef wouldn’t notice her surprise. “So where did you last see Isaac?”

“Right between those two buildings,” Yosef answered, “I saw him enter it, though he isn’t there anymore.”

“Have you tried looking down?” she asked, gesturing towards the paw prints left on the muddy ground.

He stared at the tracks curiously. “How can you tell that they don’t belong to a regular cat?”

“Look closer,” she said, “See how deep these tracks are? Robotic animals are heavier than their non-artificial counterparts since they’re mostly made of metal. As a result, their feet sink slightly further into the ground.”

Yosef nodded, taking the information in. The two followed the trail in silence, occasionally stopping to call Isaac’s name, before he broke the pattern. “You said you deal with strange robots, right?”

“Something like that,” Devorah answered, “Why do you ask?”

“Do you believe in the existence of the Metal Beast?”

The Metal Beast was an artificial being that supposedly had the ability to change its shape to imitate whatever it wanted to flawlessly. Nothing else was known about it aside from rumors and video “evidence” posted online. In its first documented sighting, it took on the form of a bird and dove after a person who fell from a bridge. Shortly after, it pulled him out in the form of a dog, only to return to its previous shape and fly away.

Devorah heaved a sigh. “I’m more concerned about some of the people who do.”

“What do you mean?” Yosef asked.

“There’s a large amount of speculation surrounding the Metal Beast,” she explained. “I’ve heard theories that it’s a government drone or a spy robot sent by another country. Some people think that it’s not even a robot, that it’s an angel, a demon or something along those lines. I’ve even heard a rumor that there are people who worship it.”

“You’re joking,” he said.

She shook her head, “I wish I was. People keep coming to us and asking if we’ve captured it, but there are rules in dealing with anomalous robots. For example, if what makes the robot abnormal proves to be beneficial or non-dangerous, we’re not allowed to confiscate it. We can’t even study it due to the possibility of accidentally causing permanent damage. Since the Metal Beast hasn’t actually hurt anyone, we can’t bring it in. Besides, it’s not as if we have the means to—” she stopped herself. “Sorry for the rambling. It’s been a long week.”

“It’s fine,” he said.

The two of them stopped in front of a garbage can that marked the pawprint trail’s end.

“Isaac?” Yosef called.

A faint noise emerged from within the garbage can. A few moments later, Isaac emerged.

Even now, Devorah was still fascinated by how similar robotic animals looked to their organic counterparts, even down to the way they moved. If one had placed Isaac next to an identical living cat, it would be nearly impossible to tell them apart at first glance. However, under the right light, one could see that the “fur” that covered Isaac’s body was fake and that the surfaces of the robot’s “eyes” were made of glass.

“Isaac!” he picked his artificial cat up with a surprising amount of ease, “There you are. We’ve been looking all over for—”

Their reunion was suddenly cut short as they heard the sound of approaching footsteps.

The two of them turn to see two Geards, large bipedal robots with glowing red eyes built for security. Unlike robotic animals such as Isaac, Geards were built not only to look imposing, adorned with spikes and painted dark green, but to also use force when the need arose. They would wrap their winding metal arms around their targets to prevent escape while using sirens to alert anyone to the presence of trespassers. While it was uncommon, Geards have been known to squeeze the lives out of their victims.

What struck Devorah as odd was the fact that the Geards were here, of all places. Usually, they were only owned by the particularly wealthy for the purpose of protecting mansions and the like. Seeing not just one but two in a random alleyway was odd, but this had been an odd night up until now. She and Yosef ducked behind a wall, taking Isaac with them. While they hid, she noticed Yosef covering his eyes and muttering to himself. She was about to tell him to stop, fearful that the Geards would hear them, but it occurred to her that he might be saying Shema. Well, she thought to herself, it’s not like I could tell him to stop without speaking louder anyway.

Suddenly, Isaac pried itself from Yosef’s arms and ran, placing a difference between him and itself before approaching the Geards calmly. However, they didn’t seem to notice and continued to walk towards where Yosef and Devorah were hiding. In response, the robotic cat arched its back and produced a series of non-feline clicks from its mouth, somehow causing the Geards to slump forward as the glow left their eyes.

Rather than joining Yosef and Isaac in celebrating their miraculous survival, Devorah examined the deactivated robots curiously. The thin layer of dust coating their exterior indicated that they had been exposed to the elements for a while. She looked at the backs of their necks for their ownership labels, only to find that they had somehow been cleanly removed. Stealing two Geards was one thing. Removing the labels without damaging them was another.

Why go through all this effort just to neglect them? Devorah wondered. She turned to Yosef and cleared her throat. “Yosef, there’s something I should tell you.”

He clutched Isaac tightly. “You’re not going to take Isaac away, are you?”

“No,” she said, “Your robotic cat is safe for the time being. As I said, we only take in abnormal robots that prove harmful, which Isaac hasn’t. However, I suspect that whatever it is that your artificial feline has gotten us into might be something bigger than I had originally anticipated. You’ll have to be brought in for questioning.”

Noah Motechin is a summer intern at The Jewish Link and an English major at Rutgers University. He has an affinity for Torah, writing and the natural world.

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