We have a contrasting pair of figures for today's Concept Art Writing Prompt: a regal lady straight out of a fantasy scene alongside a rather militant looking cyborg, or perhaps an android. So what are these two doing in a single scene? See if you can come up with a story to match this image.
As always, we invite you to write a story inspired by this image and post it in the comments. We'll update this post with your stories over the course of the weekend. This painting is "White," by artist Nikolay Yeliseyev (via Super Punch). Give it a look and see if it inspires you.
My story is a shameless rip-off of Frank R. Stockton's short story "The Lady, or the Tiger?":
There was on a neo-feudal planetoid a helium mining stakeholder with only one child, a beautiful daughter. This stakeholder had plans to marry his daughter off to a great asteroid plantation owner so as to secure favorable trading terms on produce. So he sequestered his daughter away, without boy or girl as her peer. Her sole companion was a genderless android, ND-43.
ND-43 would follow the lady as she strolled the grounds of her father's estate, chasing off any housekeeper who murmured hello or gardener who dared a friendly wave. The lady came to dread the blare of his wordless alarm and the menacing flash of his facial LEDs.
She would stomp and storm to the edge of a nearby lake, burning up her annoyance. There, she would sink onto a stone wall, pull her hood over her head, and sang the songs that she had heard over the audio streams. Her favorite was "The Girl Who Loves the Boy I Love," from Dima Dimatini's unproduced operetta of the same name. She longed to someday feel such passionate longing. Once she had finished that song, she would whirl around and snap at ND-43, commanding zhim to follow her back to her quarters.
One day, though, when she turned around, she found ND-43 with his head cocked to one side. Zhe had heard this song hundreds of times before. Was it possible zhe was listening with genuine interest? When she commanded zhim to follow, her voice was for the first time, unsteady.
When, a mere three weeks later, the stakeholder found his daughter in bed with ND-43, the android's LEDs flickering suggestively, he shouted for his personal guard, a pair of tank-like cyborg thugs, to rend the android to bits. But the lady, dressed only in her twisted bedsheet, threw herself at her father's feet, begging for ND-43's life.
And so the stakeholder devised this game of chance, so that ND-43 might possibly survive. ND-43 would walk into an arena as the entire planetoid looked on. Zhe would find a pair of identical twin girls dressed in matching livery, save that one uniform would be red and the other green. Each girl would be holding an identical covered silver tray. Beneath one cover was a swarm of nanites that would dismantle ND-43 in under a minute. Beneath the other sat a tiny harddrive that, when inserted into ND-43's port would install a companion program. Once the program was installed, ND-43 would have no room in zhis circuitry to love anyone but that companion program.
Before ND-43 stepped into the arena, the lady found zhim and saw zhim once last time. After their final embrace, the lady whispered, "Green. Choose the girl in green."
When ND-43 made zhis choice, under the eyes of the stakeholder, the lady, and all their vassals, zhe pointed an articulated finger at the girl in the green liver.
Now I put the question to you, dear reader: When the girl in green lifted the lid from her tray, did she reveal the companion program or the nanites?
In vidvamp01's story, one of our pair looked very different the last time they met:
There she was, waiting as he asked, to be there on the day, that special day when they knew they loved each other. There she was, as she promised... But, he was not the same as she knew him.
He told her when he went to war, he loved her, that he would come back to her. But, his broken body made him doubt he was still the man she loved. He felt deep inside, that if he was not what she wanted to see, what she needed to see, that the man inside would not be the one she loved. Repaired with devices and machines, they were the military way, to look uniform, to be a mechanism for war. But, to have his old body back, at least as it would seem to the human eye, would cost a small fortune.
She loved him when he went to war, and loved him still. She was waiting each day as he said to do, for the moment of his return to her. She let her heart race, closing her eyes to think of him, reminiscing back to time spent making love on the shores of the sapphire sea. The sound of his voice, the smell of his breath, the caress of his touch, made her smile to herself. She had his message, that he was coming home, and she knew she would not stay away from him.
He was a patriot, a soldier, but his duty was done, he served his planet well. But the war took its toll on his body, would she still accept him, would she know him, was he too much machine and not enough man to be the one she once loved with so much passion. He had an offer, a great deal of money, a mercenary salary could pay to have his body repaired. Was it worth the cost, keep his soul and leave his body a machine, risking that she could not love him for what he had physically become, or embrace the killer mindset, to become the physical embodiment of what was nothing but a superficial want so that he could look like a human once more.
But to his surprise, she said, "I know it is you. Hello again my love..."
All he could do is stop, and look at her...
Ghost in the Machine paints our regal straight lady as a master of tactical espionage:
So far everything was going according to plan. Bree had presented her carefully forged invitation at the mansion's entrance and struggled to look at ease as it was scanned. She had given in inward sigh of relief when the guards had let her pass.
Bree sauntered casually into the ballroom and took stock of her surroundings. There was no way she would be able to get to the upper levels using the main staircase without being noticed. She would use one of the servant stairwells after seeing how the security guards were circulating around.
Her heart nearly stopped when she saw the Mark VII cyborg in its distinctive black garb. A scanner behind the smooth faceplate was reading the retinas of everyone in the room. Her sources never mentioned there would be a Mark VII present. Her cover would be blown if her eyes were scanned.
As the Mark VII approached Bree sat on a low wall with her back to the cyborg. She was counting on the cyborg having instructions to be discrete and unobtrusive. She could almost feel the cyborg's gaze on the back of her head as it passed behind her. The Mark VII continued on, making a mental note to find and scan her in a few minutes.
Bree rose and headed for one of the ballroom's side doors. The sooner she could get upstairs and finish her mission, the better.
Shawn Stanford spins a tale of love lost:
The crowd parted before him, as it always did, as it always had. On hundreds of worlds across tens of thousands of light-years it was always this way. The blankness of the helmet and darkness of the uniform concealing his enhancements and what remained of his humanity from the humans around him.
And it was good. He had known this was how it would be. This what what he wanted, this was his goal in surrendering to a life in the Security Forces. But it had not always been so.
He had been young once, and far away, and in love. An unimportant world with nothing to give it significance among the many, many worlds of the Dominion. And on this unimportant world, his had been an unimportant town. A small community supporting a web of surrounding farms, his family's farm neither the smallest nor the largest. But it was a good life, with the many satisfactions of bringing food from the soil and being surrounded by those you know and love.
She was so very beautiful. And they had both been so very young. And it was so long ago.
He wasn't political or especially curious, focused as he was on her, and their life, and family there were just beginning. He was never sure what brought their world to the attention of the Dominion. Most didn't think them important enough, never mind the circumstances. But, as he came to realize much later, examples must always be made. And even as examples must be made of unimportant planets, examples must also be made of unimportant towns on those planets. Towns like his, with their farms like his, and families like his.
For most, it seemed madness for the Dominion Security Forces to later recruit at such places. But to some it made perfect sense and presented a perfect opportunity. It was a place away from the memories of what was. Those memories receeded further as he was consumed by the training, enhancements and conditioning. His life achieved a metallic gray sameness that buried what he had been. He and the others like him moved from world to world and task to task as required, without introspection or remorse. Bringing him, eventually, to this place; where they had executed their task as before, restoring the Dominion, causing a precise amount of mayhem while doing so.
The crowd parted before him and there she was.
Something awakened and a single though exploded through his mind, "IT'S HER!". He managed to suppress the instinct to shout aloud, He moved along automatically, unconciously turning to gaze at her as he passed. In the next instant, he knew it wasn't her. That in all of creation, there are finite ways to put together a face. He should have known that someday he would find himself here, in the presence of the very image of all he had lost; the loss that had brought him to this world. And he very nearly stopped. Then he didn't. And he knew this was how it would be; this was how it must be. But he also knew as he sought shelter in the crowd that things for him would never again be as they were.
Meanwhile, Dee Kat's tale is anything but a love story:
As SeHeath moved towards his target at the end of the open plaza his auditory preceptors picked up a sound that froze his heart, well not his physical heart because he had lost that when he was reformed into Cyanth's assassin. But somewhere within him he could sometimes almost remember feelings. This went beyond that. He turned his sight preceptors towards the source of the sound. On the cold white marble forming the wall of the courtyard white silk flowed around and away from a small form. The sound analyzed at the moment of seeing what must be the shoulders of a young female human shutter was that of a sob of pain. Only her back was visible to him but the shape of the form, the characteristics of the voice that were behind the sob pulled at him.
He had few memories of who he had been before he was changed by the Cyanthians. Images would sometimes be 'seen' in his mind's eye but he knew not the story behind them. What he saw most often was a young woman with skin a pale creamy white touched by the color of a sunrise on her cheeks and lips. Her eyes were ever changing, sometimes a stormy grey, other times the turquoise of the stones of Tersawthiz and rarely the blue of the night sky on Meriodia.
His work required that he know what emotions were and how to interpret them by body and facial movement and form. He did not have feelings or at least he had not had feeling since the change but he could interpret his bodies responses. His visual mechanism was dilating to allow in more light even though the lighting conditions had not changed. His blood flow was increasing though his physical activities had not. He did not have a heart but if he did it would be pounding. All thought of his target was gone. His client would not be please and it did not matter. All that mattered was that he see and know who was hidden in this clock of white silk.