Rank Three: Chapter 1

Kristin Schmidt

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“And in other news, the CEO of Allen Robotics has unveiled the newest model of the T987 home assistant droid, nicknamed the ‘Clarice’ model. This newest take on the popular home droid has an upgraded power module, a more advanced AI, and several new functions that CEO Williamson will reveal later this week at the Expo.”

“Can we please watch something else? This is boring.”

Natalie glanced over at her sister, brow raised. “The news is important, Anna,” she said.

Her sister scoffed, “This isn’t news, this is an ad for Allen Robotics. If you want to listen to the news, TREL News isn’t the place to do it. All they do is kiss up to that asshole Williamson. Switch it to FNN, at least they talk about real things.”

Natalie laughed, “And all they do is complain about mechs and droids, they don’t both to cover important things. Liberal propaganda isn’t news, little sister.”

“Excuse me! Liberal propaganda? Trying to help people isn’t propaganda, it’s called being a decent person,” Anna hissed.

“Droids and mechs aren’t real people, they’re made of metal and code, not flesh and bone,” Natalie argued.

“Yes, they are, are you stupid? Mechs are human too, just because they have robotic parts doesn’t make them droids!” Anna yelled.

“Are you two arguing again?” their mother hollered. The sisters winced. “If you can’t decide on a program, shut off the TV and go do something productive! Otherwise, quit yammering!”

Anna shot her a nasty glare, jumping off the couch and flipping her hair. She strode out of the room, and a moment later the house AI announced that she had left the residence.

“Geez, drama queen,” Natalie muttered, reaching for the remote on the coffee table. She turned up the volume and tried to listen to the reporter ramble on about the Robotics Expo, but she lost focus after a few minutes. Grumbling, she turned off the TV, stretching out on the couch.

“New voice message for Natalie from Bear Bear,” the house AI said, “Read message?”

“No, send to my phone. House, text Anna: Damn it, don’t change my contact names! This is the third time! End message,” Natalie growled, reaching into her back pocket to grab her vibrating phone.

“Message sent to Little Sister. Send another message?”

“No,” she muttered, powering on her phone and playing the message.

“Hey, girl!” the phone chirped, “it’s Brit, so me and some of the other girls were thinking about seeing that new movie on Friday, ya know, the one with the guy who goes into space to terraform Mars? Hannah said the guy who played Jack in the Terra Chronicles is in it, so she and I want to go, but you said you weren’t a fan of him. Anyway, tell me if you wanna come!”

Natalie tapped the screen, opening Brit’s contact page to reply. “Sure, sounds good. I’ll have to ask my mom, she’s weird about the whole watching PG-13 movies before I’m thirteen, but if she says yes, I’ll show up. I’ll tell you tomorrow during class if I can go.” She sent the message, along with a small smiley face. Standing up, she shoved her phone back into her pocket. She sighed and walked out of the living room, walking into the kitchen.

“Hey, Mom can I go to the movies with the girls on Friday? They want to see the Sanderson movie that just came out,” she asked, leaning against the doorframe.

Her mother turned around, taking the oven mitts off and setting them aside. She raised a brow, a small frown on her lips. “What’s the rating?” she asked. There was flour on her cheek, the white powder standing out against her dark skin.

Natalie snorted, “Mom, you’ve got some stuff on your cheek. Also, why are you baking? You never bake.”

Her mom wiped her sleeve over her cheek and rolled her eyes. “I am allowed to try out new things, and don’t think you can distract me, girl. What is the rating.”

Natalie sighed, “PG-13. But it’s just because of swearing, it’s not violent or anything like that and there’s no nudity.”

Her mother made a noncommittal noise, “ I’ll think about it. Did your sister say where she was going before she stormed out? She has to leave for practice in half an hour, and if she ain’t here she ain’t going nowhere.”

Natalie shrugged her shoulders, “I don’t know, she just jumped up and left.”

“User: Anna Stossel, has not left the property,” the house interjected.

“Is she just sulking in the hallway?” she asked incredulously.

“House, tell Anna to come inside and get ready for practice,” her mother commanded.

A few moments passed before the house said, “User: Anna Stossel, has entered the residence.”

She slammed the door, and stomped over to the kitchen.

“Your uniform just came out of the wash, the ‘79 should be folding them now,” their mother said.

Anna nodded and left the room, glaring at her sister.

Natalie crossed her arms and glared back. “Stop antagonizing your sister and go find something to do.”

“Yes, Mama,” Natalie muttered, pushing herself up. She walked back into the living room, grabbing her backpack off the couch where she had dumped it earlier. She went past the TV into the hallway, making her way to her room. She could hear Anna shuffling around in the bathroom, angrily muttering to herself. Natalie walked past her, stopping at her door.

“Unlock door,” she muttered, grabbing the handle. With a click, the lock disengaged. Pushing it open, Natalie stepped in and dropped her backpack on the floor. She kicked it shut behind her and pulled out her phone. She turned it on, clicking open her texts before shuffling over to her bed and flopping down onto it.

She scrolled through the messages from friends, responding to the important ones before clicking out of the app. Listlessly, she opened the news, perusing the headlines. There wasn’t much, some B List actress was pregnant, there was a large storm a few states to the south, and a short report on Allen Robotics.

Bored, she turned off her phone, starring up at the ceiling. A loud growl came from her closet, and when she turned to look, her cat was trying to free himself from a discarded shirt. “Really, Cap? Why are you in my laundry?” she asked.

The cat hissed loudly, and disentangled himself from the flowy red sleeves. He shook himself, loose blonde hairs falling all over the carpet.

Natalie groaned, “You are the reason this room is never clean, Cap.” The light brown tabby meowed loudly, padding over to the bed and jumping up. He laid down next to her, purring. Natalie smiled and reached out to stroke his head.

“Hey, cutie,” she said, rubbing the base of his ears. Cap happily bumped his head against her hand. She laughed and leaned back, closing her eyes.