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This compilation offering includes all four of my posts made specifically in participation for the Rule Of Three blogfest/writing project – writers coming together to write a series of stories based on our shared world, the town of Renaissance. It now has its own official home here: Welcome to Renaissance. I am delighted and thrilled to have been included in the “long list” of 11 out of 65 entries.

My three main characters are: One Male, Two Male and Three Female. I hope you enjoy my contribution. Thank you.

Part One – The Meeting

The room itself was pretty much standard issue. The three of them sat at a round table, spaced out as if it were square. There were two males and one female. With downcast eyes they examined each other with their periphery vision.

The door suddenly flew open. Six eyes looked expectantly to an empty doorway. Several seconds ticked by. They were just about to look away when an attractive man in a good fitting and well pressed uniform swept into the room. He was carrying a stack of notebooks, file folders, books, and papers that was at least a foot high. He dropped them onto the round table with a heavy thud. Hands on hips, he regarded the three participants.

“Good morning. Welcome to the Renaissance Assart Instillation, otherwise known as The Espadon Retreat, or Fort Espadon, located in the remote Assart Forest overlooking the scenic Espadon River, in the town of Renaissance.” He paused and watched them exchange nervous glances at each other. He placed his hands on either side of the paper paraphernalia stack and leaned toward them. When they did not move, he flapped his hand indicating for them to lean in as well. Very quietly he told them, “I am legally bound to inform you of where you have arrived just…in…case.” Slowly, carefully he straightened. A few seconds later, the three sat back in their chairs, six wide eyes stared at him.

He cleared his throat, “I am Major Paul Temple. On behalf of the Humadroid Corporation, thank you for your participation. Of the three of you, two of you are androids and one of you is a human. But none of you know which is which, correct?” He waited, they stared. “Correct?” He repeated. Three heads quickly nodded yes. The Major sat down, realized he could not see over his stack of paper products and stood back up. “You will be greeted with various situations throughout the remainder of this month. At the close of this experiment, you will be expected to be able to identify which one of you are, in fact, the human.” He looked closely at each of them. “Enjoy your stay.” He stepped over to the door, opened it and waived his free hand indicating they were now to leave.

As soon as they stepped into the hall, the Major shut the door behind them. They heard the lock click into place.

“Do we go right or left?” One Male, according to his name tag, asked.

“Only a human would ask such a question,” drawled Two Male.

Three Female walked off.

Down the hallway, One Male and Two Male bumped and shoved each other. As Two Male rubbed his shoulder, One Male teased him, “Does it hurt, Human?”

“Stop calling me that,” Two Male growled back.

“Look, if I were the human, I’d be feeling hungry by now,” One Male responded.

The two males, not noticing she’d stopped, almost ran into Three Female. She gazed at them with a bored expression, “I think the whole study is already flawed.” Getting no response, she continued, “It seems, there are two humans and one android, not the other way around.” Three Female watched them uncomfortably shift back and forth, then turned and continued on down the hall.

“Where, exactly, are you going?” Two Male called after her.

Without slowing or turning, she answered, “To find the cafeteria. I’m hungry.”

Part 2 – Remembering

This sucked, but it was still better than being in the Compound. Two Male hated the Compound. That was the only reason he’d signed up for this Experiment. Everybody knew the Experiment was a ticket out of the Compound. If, that is, you were found by the other participants to be the human. Two Male eased himself down onto a large boulder and surveyed his surroundings. Three Female was further down. Geez, she was nimble. No way she was the human. He turned and glanced back up behind him. One Male was way off to the side inching along a cliff edge. Two Male shook his head. They had agreed to stick to the center area, away from edges that may cave in. Part of the Kastanes caverns, passages created when the area was mined, ran underground here. If one of them was to fail to return, it was over for the other two as well. The Experiment would be ended as a fail.

Major Temple had given them the assignment to work as a team, reach the summit of the Main Gauche and return to the Espadon Retreat. At least it had been one of the smaller hill chains instead of sending them off to the Roundeli Mountains further to the North. Looking at them so far away, Two Male was not even sure if they were an illusion or real.

Much like life in the Compound, illusion or real? Two Male knew, only those that were “somebody” got a name, a real identity. In the Compound, every one is given a number. Different age groups are kept in different areas. As you “grew,” you were put in stasis at a certain age and moved from one area to the next. This was done to prevent any kind of possible contamination from outside the Compound during the move. Your new set of memories appropriate to your new age set were also installed and you were given a new number at that time, human and android alike. Two Male picked at the rocks and reflected, they never let you know though, if you were human or not. That would mess up any future Experiments and the Humadroid Corporation could not afford that kind of a loss.

A shriek and a yelp from up behind him startled Two Male. He jumped up and turned, scanning the area for One Male. There was no sign of him. Two Male cursed irritably and began making his way over to where he’d last seen him.

Yup, there was One Male hanging on for all he was worth to the edge of a cave in. His feet peddled in the air, inky blackness below him. Two Male knelt near the edge and crossed his arms.

“Pull me up, Man!” One Male bellowed. Two Male watched him wiggle his fingers around trying for a better handhold on the rocky edge. “Pull me up!” One Male screamed.

Two Male scratched his chin. If he let One Male fall, he’d go back to the Compound, but he’d also be able to go back to his studies. Two Male’s studies were all he’d ever known.

Three Female rushed up and grabbed one of One Male’s arms. “Grab his other arm,” she calmly, almost conversationally, said to Two Male.

Two Male looked at her. Slowly, he drawled, “If you’re found to be the human, what will you choose for your prize?”

“A name,” she answered.

Two Male thought about that for a moment. He remembered when he had a name, reached down and grabbed One Male’s other arm.

Part 3 – Defined

“Okay. Now, I’ve been a good sport about this, but that was not funny.” One Male glared at his companions. Two Male scanned the line at the food counter and wondered at his chances of getting seconds. Three Female, eyes closed, savored the taste of her dinner. Realizing he was being ignored, “Hey, I’m talking here!” One Male proclaimed with a whack of his hand against the table top.

Still studying the line and calculating in his head his chances for more food, Two Male drawled, “You’re always talkin’ Oney Boy,” got up with his plate and headed toward making his second run at the food line.

“Hey,” Three Female called after him, “bring me another piece of that chocolate pie.” Then after a short pause added, “Please.”

Without looking back, Two Male replied, “Sure thing, Darlin,” letting the words slowly string their way out like thick molasses.

One Male stared across the table at Three Female. When she did finally look over at him it was to ask if he was going to eat his pie. “Yes, I’m eating my pie,” he curved one arm protectively around his dessert plate. “You know, you might have a problem,” he added nodding toward her pie plate, “I mean, if you’re human, you know, and all that sugar.”

Three Female looked at One Male as she licked the last of her chocolate pie from her fingers and fork. “For someone always making the jokes, you sure do worry a lot. I think you got a faulty circuit somewhere. You know Tech Support could fix that for you.”

Three Female’s eyes lit up when a second piece of chocolate pie appeared before her, as Two Male resumed his place at the table with a second dinner plate. “Why thank you, Sweetness,” she cooed. One Male rolled his eyes and feigned a gag.

Two Male took his act in with a glance, “Yeah, could be more like a whole board’s gone bad in there.”

One Male leaned forward, “Human,” he began in a low, conspiratorial tone, “is defined as: One, pertaining to, characteristic of, or having the nature of people; as in, human frailty. Two, consisting of people; as in, the human race. Three, of or pertaining to the social aspect of people; as like in human affairs. And four, sympathetic; humane; like in a warmly human understanding.” He paused and leaned more toward Three Female, “And we all know who among us is the most lacking in number four,” adding a thumb-jab in Two Male’s direction just in case it wasn’t as clear to her as it was to him.

Two Male looked at him with a tolerant, but bored, expression, “It’s alright, for you, we make allowances.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” One Male demanded.

Two Male swallowed a few more bites of food and thought about his answer. “We know all your lame jokes are just a cover for the pain you live with on a daily basis in your life’s quest to be human.”

Three Female’s reply choked on her chocolate pie. Tears came to her eyes as she coughed. One Male watched her wipe away the tears with a look on his face that said he’d just been kicked in his gut. He reached out and grasped Two Male and Three Female by their arms. Ignoring their surprised faces, his voice thick with emotion, One Male cried, “I knew it!” He looked from one to the other, “I just knew it. You guys really do care about this poor lost boy that has been cast here among you.”

Part 4 – Our Decision

He reached out and ran his fingers through her hair. It was much softer than he had expected it to be, pleasant even. He tangled his fingers into the silky strands and then yanked, hard.

“OooooOOoooo,” Three Female shrieked, “that hurt, damn it!” and slapped at the air where Two Male had been standing next to her.

He turned her face up to his. “Tears,” he said softly.

“Well, what did you expect?” she demanded and glared at Two Male. “That hurt. Why’d you pull my damned hair anyway?”

Two Male studied her a moment longer before releasing his grip. It was a pretty face, glare and all. He waived his arm in the direction of the watery and red-rimmed eyes of One Male. “That’s two that can cry.” He looked at their blank faces. He sighed and directed his comments to Three Female. “If two of us can cry, then the fact that he,” jerking a thumb at One Male, “can’t stop crying does not indicate he’s human.”

“Damn!” One Male exclaimed and flung the towel that been sopping up his tears down onto the floor. “Rats! I mean, now what? That was absolutely the best I had. And man! I put so much effort into it. I mean, you have to admit, that was a good cry.”

Three Female and Two Male stared at One Male then at each other.

“Look,” One Male continued, “I can’t go back there. I can’t take it, being number 99874, then 41736, then One Male. New assignment area, number, memory… It’s making me crazy.” He was a little surprised when he felt a real lump in his throat. His voice sounded oddly emotional in his ears, “They’ll probably for sure wipe any memory of this.”

Two Male watched a tear roll down Three Female’s face. He knew it wasn’t from the hair pulling. “Okay,” One Male and Three Female looked at him expectantly. “I have a plan.”

They were seated once again around the table in the room where they started, waiting silently for Major Temple to appear. This time his entrance was quiet and empty handed. He studied them a moment then joined them at the table.

“On behalf of the Humadroid Corporation, I’d like to thank you for your participation in this experiment.” The Major waited, getting no response, he continued, “I will now register the designated human and choice of prize.”

Two Male spoke, his drawled voice slow and clear, “You, the Corporation, have to abide by our decision, who we select as human, correct?”

Major Temple processed the question, receiving confirmation, he replied, “Absolutely. The decision is entirely up to the experiment participants. We merely monitor and provide the experiment setting. I will, now, register your decision and the human’s choice of prize. You will then be directed to either the Prize Actualization Department or to the Memory Re-appropriation and Assignment Department.”

“Okay,” Two Male said, “it is our decision that all three of us are human.”

Major Temple sat quietly for a moment, ‘remarkable’ he thought to himself, “You are denying that two of you are android?”

“We are saying,” Two Male continued, “that how or of what we are made is inconsequential. It is our decision that we are all three human.”

A smile spread across Major Paul Temple’s face. He remembered when he and his two experiment partners had made a similar decision. It was a shame, he felt, they all could not come to this conclusion. “And your chosen prize?” the Major asked.

Two Male smiled, “We each want a name.”

Addendum

Some FYI relevant to the original posts:

Rule of Three Part 1 – The Meeting
Prompt(s) used:
・There is an argument
・A bit of humor, and
・who knows, someone might fall in love before we’re done.
Word Count – 575

Rule of Three Part 2 – Remembering
Prompt(s) used:
・Someone is killed or almost killed
・(I also used just a hint of) One of the characters is revealed to be not who he or she is.
Word Count – 598

Rule of Three Part 3 – Defined
Prompt(s) used:
・Relationships unravel or strengthen
Word Count – 600

Rule of Three Part 4 – Our Decision
Prompt(s) used:
・Relationships mend/are torn asunder
Word Count – 598

Total Word Count – 2,371

This is a link to my Rule of Three Part 1 – The Meeting
This is a link to my Rule of Three Part 2 – Remembering
This is a link to my Rule of Three Part 3 – Defined
This is a link to my Rule of Three Part 4 – Our Decision

Thank you.