I found this gathering dust not long ago, decided to take a break and upload it.

My first proper attempt at writing, started writing this jointly with a friend, continued with just me.

Don't shoot me over it.


Ben woke up with a ringing in his ears, the last moments of his dream played across his mind, Distorted by the weight of the waking world he saw figures and heard a burst of light, saw sounds and eldritch creatures playing across his vision, from a flaming rip in reality.

A door at the center of their activity's leading somewhere… Something... else, not a world but a plane of existence, unlike anything he had felt before.

His contemplation was shattered by a call from downstairs, "Wake up its time for educational social interaction." He shook his head with disgust, he had read about the old concept of "schooling" that children had once used.

Now the greater convenience had taken over and the empire had created a cerebral imprint unit that operated directly on the neural tissue to shape connections and give skills interactively. The process was slow to prevent trauma so the concept of ESI had taken over.

During sleep the subjects were conditioned with useful skills while the waking hours were filled with mandatory social interaction. The other children had lost ambition and drive, they were self centered, and relying on the annual personality shift's to keep them from complete sloth. He always dodged the personality shifts and found himself a social out cast in class.

Being physically disadvantaged (He had decided to never touch cyborgdom, or genetic structuring) he was always behind in sports. He found an innate fondness of electronics and old fashioned narrative, they didn't judge you he thought bitterly, the bed began to fold out of his living space as the final alarm sounded.

He donned his PET suit and dashed to his window savoring the crisp taste of the morning air. That was one aspect of life he treasured, he could never understand post apocalyptic fiction, since with high level technology came the ability to create self sufficient bio domes while the earth recovers from industrialization.

Launching him out the window, which irised close behind him he jetted on the plasma cascade propulsion unit attached to his back, contemplating the dream as he rushed to the ESI facility? The war between the ARM rebels and CORE mechanoids had ended decades ago with both sides reaching an armistice.

The C.O.R.E agreed not to tamper with humans and share their technological ability's if they were supplied with specialists who had recently died, were terminally ill ECT. In this way C.O.R.E had been helping humanity to survive and thrive with NIOIMS system. As he touched down at the school he saw a sign up regarding construction work that had been happening for the last few months.

Jetting in next to an eight foot cyborg his helmet received the information and beamed it directly to his retina.

WELCOME TO THE NEWEST ADDITION TO THE WORLD TODAY. Mechball, a stadium has been built outside YOUR ESI faculty to provide YOU with ONE K-bot EACH. Sign up today to be the owner of YOUR very own KBOT. Safe, Reliable, Customizable AND Personal. THE Sport of the NEW WORLD, MECHBALL.

And then in smaller type:

Rules change from match to match, to join a mechball team forfeits any right to sue and or charge personal damage incurred directly or indirectly from any company owned KBOT.

"Well" his suit AI personality uplink to CORE control commented, "I bet you didn't expect a battle arena". Ben smiled at the tone of the AI, unlike the lazy students of his ESI he had created the personality himself giving it a few nonstandard quirks that meant it could pass for human in low light. "At least this sport doesn't required physical fitness' he replied drolly.

"Don't sign up just yet" Said the AI as she highlighted the line at the bottom of the announcement below the fine print. Ben swore as she revealed the text hidden to all but the deaf with text speaking units or an AI who saw the document as data. After reading the pages of hidden information for a few minutes he swore.

"They are going to remove our right to forfeit. This is going to make us slaves, forced to battle under dangerous conditions, in DECOMISSIONED Kbots, with no Holovision rights or pay." He was almost shouting by the end of it, and was about to broadcast the fine print on an open channel, when the second broadcast came and was immediately signed by the majority of students.

He tried to communicate but open comm's was shutoff. "This is not good" commented AnnI in his ear. He saw many of the student's jet off and knew that they were having their suits controlled by remote taken to the hanger to be trained. "Oh bugger" was all he could manage.

Suddenly he remembered the emergency comms, the pulling of which out of an emergency was enough to get you on protein pills and water for a month. "Still it is worth it" he thought as he dived for the lever and broad-casted the message to the remaining students.

"Nice move Ben and you didn't force me to reveal my illegal knowledge of the communication blocks." AnnI whispered smoothly to him.

"When did a impressionable person like you learn of those." He managed saving his breath for the scorching he was going to receive for saving students from servitude.

"It was when I used the communication channels to increase my paging files and taking over the space of those who use their AI's for sorting movies." She replied as cool as only a computer can be.

Suddenly the comms unblocked and a wave of chatter directed at him from the students now crowding round. AnnI Broadcasted the amended message in full with the text blown up so that the students could see the source of the con.

Then the gas capsules in his re-breather were activated and before AnnI could vent it out he was unconscious.

The last thing he saw was his fellow ESI members falling to the ground drugged, until his vision swam like a watercolor picture.

He woke up in a steel room with two chairs and a table. He was in a white polycotton jumpsuit and sitting in front of him was an interviewer in a featureless black three piece suit.

A thin briefcase was on the table and his exquisite rollox, antiquated clockwork, but as thin as a sheet of paper glinted in the harsh light. Without attempting to this man managed to be more dangerous than the near invisible guards that stood on either side of the smooth steel panel door.

The man had dark glasses, and his earpiece was a deep blue with a crimson sheen. Speaking in crisp, clear and clipped tones he began to speak:
"Benjamin you are hereby enlisted into the designated ESI Mechball robotic combat sport; trademark of the Kbot foundation, as a voluntary combatitant through the consent of your parent or guardian, given during the revision of your ESI contract. You must however within two days submit a valid entry form to the ESI or you shall be impounded until such time as you are deemed suitably adjusted to release."

Before Ben could speak a word he was herded out of the room suited up and sent on a preprogrammed course for home. Assessing his situation he realized two things. One: the legal proceedings required his signature; the consent of his parent was a minor concern, although if he didn't chose to enter they had the right to adjust him till he did.

Two the form he handed in need not necessarily is the one they handed out, he could beat them at their own game a free himself through a concealed loop hole! AnnI sounded in his ear and banished his confused thoughts, her calm tone washing over him.

"Good morning, you were in there a long time and our rules mean that you lost the chess match" "That's not fair and you know it AnnI". "Well in other news your guardian took an unscheduled trip to the recreation "Eden" biodome seven." "Well that's quite a nice touch by our nervous friends, trying to remove psychological support do you think?"

The scenery rushed by and he exited the dome to his new designated domicile for a singular entity. Well the counted on breaking me in, but they didn't think AnnI would be more support than mother, Psychoanalytical scumbags. I bet they still think I attended those bloody personality "Adjustment" sessions.

He thought as the pre programmed course of the unit was overridden by the house controls and guided through the hydrostatic, pollution filter to the airlock. "Hang on a tic, I should have been interrogated because I used the emergency comms, they have no legal rights over me the ESI contract is MY responsibility… THOSE BASTARDS ARE USING A SIM ON ME. Right, all I can do now is close my mind and to refrain from doing ANYTHING that constitutes a contract. AnnI wait… she gave me the signal that imbedded in her official drives. They are pumping me for info… shit………………

An official sitting at an observation panel shouted to the supervisor "Chief! I got a resistor! He just stopped, I got record of his conversation but the brain wave imaging translator in that room is on the blink again."

The supervisor jogged over, and peered at the panel readouts a mixture of lights, sound and odor that gave a 90 percent faster assimilation of information than any normal display. "Right" he said after a moment "The odor is treble acid-lavinder, and the light display reads AUGU so we know he isn't in a coma, If the imager wasn't on the blink we would know if it was meditation… there is nothing for it, inject able juice and start questioning the bugger. He stirred e'm up in the first place, bloody synth."

Ben opened his eyes and closed his ears, with the help AnnI he had been training himself with nonstandard imprintation information intended for espionage, it had been both for fun and if the time came when he was deemed in need of readjustment.

Slowing his breathing he let his discipline take over and he tensed his muscles in time with the rhythm of his body as he used his senses to the fullest to absorb his situation. A man came into the room, concentrating he inhaled lightly and as he came up to him stopped breathing.

Careful not to tense his muscles he slowed his pulse to a level of hibernation. The guard without formal medical training saw his "dead" body, grabbed his wrist and released the straps of the table. Sprinting to grab a defribulator from the corner, he did not witness Ben's unconscious body noiselessly rolling off the table and lying behind it in the camera blind spot. Ben regained consciousness moments later and heard the guard speaking into his radio.

Springing over the table he knocked it out of his hand and hit the man in the windpipe. Working quickly he hauled the man to the table and strapped him in including the gag; he left his weapon but took his id and radio earpiece before bolting out the door. As he sprinted through the hall way, muscles screaming he saw the rooms on either side of the passage were full of children.

Knowing he'd regret it later, he pulled out the radio and switching it to the direct command link shouted into it "WE HAVE AN ESCAPE, REPEAT WE HAVE A ESCAPE; I AM IN PURSUIT BUT REQUEST A LOCKDOWN AROUND THE FACULTY REAR. Recommend extraction or lockdown of subjects as he may try and release them." A startled and flustered reply echoed through the headpiece "I am afraid that is not possible we have all subjects accounted for and…" Ben cut him off "Oh yeah! try looking in room… 43 The subject is missing and there's a man knocked out on the floor. His radio's missing." "What!" the man yelled "Quickly then we need to change to secure freq five; he might be listening in!" Ben knew he had a winner, the idiot was going to activate the alarm and he wouldn't doubt the security of the communication channels. Thus giving him an advantage in evading the guard's.

He put the communicator on his belt and pulled a fire alarm; He knew he was being monitored now and they'd immediately attempt to box him in. with care he lifted himself up on a camera's bracket and pulled the plug; Allowing him to safely reach up and open the plaster ceiling panels. As he'd suspected there was a crawlspace, which he entered and pulled shut the plasterboard behind him. It took approximately four minutes for the guards to reach this part of the building. They were puzzled when none of the team reported seeing their runaway subject. A few tried the doors on either side of the corridor, but they were held fast by the lockdown; They radioed in for the lock-down to be lifted and the holding cell's opened. At that moment Ben lifted his stolen radio and punched control. Changing his voice to a wheezing gasp he spoke "That little… shit… east wing elevator, he… headbutted me!"

The controller radioed back "Hold until back-up reaches your position, but he cannot have reached the east wing, he was last sighted in the central holding cells!"

"He was… In the … fucking sub ceiling! Did-ja… sight him there?" On the other end the man swore excessively. "That's why he disabled the (%&#! Camera. Backup is coming!" Below Ben the soldiers dropped what they were doing and ran off. Leaving the now unlocked and untended cells to be opened by their, no longer under electronic sedition, respective occupants. "Oi… Cut the power… if he's taken the elevator then… he'll be trapped." Ben gasped, hoping to fool the coordinator one last time.

In the control room the security consultant scratched his chin, considering the potential prospects of the power prevention proposal. If he cut the elevator power, then it would leave the rest of the building without power, as the elevator was directly connected to the main grid and other subsystems received power through it.

The building power shut down and emergency floor glow strips illuminated the way to the exit. The other ESI members started to filter into the corridor and like sheep followed his sprint to the exit. He had counted on most of the faculty to take the simultaneous lockdown and fire alarm as a drill rather than an escape attempt.
Using the stolen id and earpiece he touched the button to activate its tiny projector and examined a map of the building on the floor as he ran. The tiny dot indicating his position showed that the correctional faculty was part of a large building and could be shutoff if need be, it also showed the positions of all other security patrols now spreading through the corridors.

Seeing a gap in their methodical sweep he deviated from the path laid on the floor with about half the group following him. Soon he was in a cat and mouse game, and when the earpiece became a beacon he tossed it down a staircase from thirteen floors up aside, relying on his metal picture instead.

One of the ESI members following him spoke up after another five minutes, "They didn't deactivate my implant, so I can hear them closing in now and they are about two minutes away from spitting distance." Ben while reviewing the map in his head asked his remaining followers "any other useful implants". A slim girl offered "Mark three muscle enhancers, and enhanced neural reaction time."

A few more spoke as Ben led them on but only one other useful one was revealed, a boy said "Complete hand replacement, artificial, unlisted, with attached circuit interface cold heat soldering tool/cutting torch. Twenty thousand degrees centigrade, Extreme fine motor coordination and a Dazzler." Ben turned to look at him in amazement "How did you keep that a secret!" he exclaimed.

"I lost my hand in a structure collapse and the doctor gave me one of his own because my family could not afford a governmental sanctioned model. The hand looks real and feels real, the doctor never told anyone he was disabled and never wanted any one to find out; People didn't trust the semi-crippled when he lost his arm. My father was his friend and told me this unit cost thirty thou STU (standardized exchange units) I had to get a new skin to match my own though." The boy explained.

Ben skidded to a halt outside a turbo tube and without needing instruction the girl forced the doors open. "The bottom of the shaft leads into the maintenance network, but its one hundred and twenty floors down, Any ideas on how to get there?" the boy with the artificial hand yanked the control panel open pulled the skin from his middle finger with a shower of blood substitute, and used the now red stained metal digit to modify the elevator control panel.

Soon an elevator was humming down in defiance of the building lockdown and emergency power restrictions.

The inner doors opened and the children piled inside, Ben counted them, 10 and eleven including him. "Well" he thought as the floors ticked by, "At least I managed to save some, these might be the few people in the ESI capable of independent thought." Glancing over the faces of the few that had remained with him he noted that none were crying or exhibiting discomfort, most seemed to be examining their environment.

"I wonder why I never…" He never finished his thought with a bone shattering jerk the elevator stopped and they were flung against the ceiling, Ben hit his head and lapsed into unconsciousness.