‘Databound’ by Toby Long, year 11, Westcliff High School for Boys

The smog-tarnished sky over Habitation Zone 45 left little sign of the pleasantries of life, not that there were many left. The perfectly cubic home of Family 316 lay bleak and desolate; blank white walls coat the exterior, windows now an antique. A pristine lawn basked in fake sunlight, with no lawn mower in sight – a small bed of pure-white roses stood emotionless in the uncaring.

On the porch sat an automaton, motionless and resolute, frail but powerful arms tucked into folding storage. Its silvery skin glimmered when hit by the rare ray of sunlight, yet its eyes remained pinpricks of the abyss, silent. On the large blue rectangle that made what some called a face, the dot-eyed smile was positioned over the bold red text “At Creation Site G1, awaiting return.”

In the waiting room of this site, one man alone was waiting impatiently, flicking through ‘The Daily AId’ wincing at the reports of increased labour hours. This man found himself hollow- he knew little about himself, and what he did know was a guess at best. It was a certainty that he was taller than most, but his birthday remained an enigma, along with his age, hair colour or anything else exterior. However, around his very neck, an orange datavest hung around his neck, broadcasting to all that which he sought:

Identification: GXB5

Age: 32, DoB 18/3/2742

Lineage – 17.32.40.7.4

Family 316, HZ 45

Production worker (rank 3)

It was taboo to discuss someone’s datavest, with enough childhood myths to reach the clouds of kidnappings for those who spoke up, but it was always brushed off as imagination. Nonetheless, the man was content with his life, his wife was his sun through the smog, his job was rewarding and his robot, AInsley, had never let him down.

An energetic jolt through his cufflink swiftly jerked the man upwards, as another small automaton trundled over. With swan-like grace, the arm swung outwards with no sound, handing the man a keypass; across its face, the bright words “Creation success! Follow Service-Bot to destination” were excreted, along with a chipper but monotone audio of those same words.

Excited, the man replied, “Success? What does that mean?”

“Your wife has survived, and given birth to twins. They are waiting for their father.”

A fist of shock went right into the man’s gut, knocking him to his knees before the cufflink launched him upwards again. In the back of his mind, he called himself stupid for being surprised, they had known for 9 months after all.

As he entered the room to see his wife, however, he realised something was wrong; red alarms flared, screaming in fear as security drones swarmed the room like hornets. One child lay wailing in a cot, while the other was limp, motionless in the arms of one of the drones. As the father tried to intervene, he looked at the vests in his final moments, before bullets pierced his chest:

Identification: Adam