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Fiction: Alumni Plaza hiding Pepsi army

Mark Sussman
Contributing Writer
By Mark Sussman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 22, 2004
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It was nighttime and a crescent moon hung above the UA Mall. The streetlights cast a sepia filter over the dead grass, and I could see my breath hang before me as I waited for the last couple of joggers to make their way past Old Main.

I was standing outside the razor-wired fences surrounding the alleged construction sight of the Alumni Plaza.

Yeah. Right. It was time to find out what the UA didn't want me to know. I slipped on a pair of leather gloves and pulled down my ski mask. Wire-cutters gripped between my teeth, I began to climb.

The fence itself was a bit curious. Its beige plastic casing concealed the half-formed mysteries of the site. One might imagine bulldozers lying dormant in the red-brown dirt, tools lying where they fell from the hands of off-duty construction workers.

Of course the official story was easy enough to believe: The UA was building a tribute to Alumni donors, the still- loyal ex-students who ponied up the dough and said, "Thank you, UA, for helping to make me the shiny and unique individual I am today."

However, what I found lurking behind the twisted metal of the fence was no warm-hearted homage to those who fulfilled their potential as productive, well-educated and financially secure members of society. Rather, there was something darker at work in there, something beyond even what the most cynical of us could have dreamed.

At the top of the fence, I took the wire-cutters out of my mouth. The razor wire was easier to snip than I had expected, and there was no security in sight. Still, I erred on caution's side and quickly hopped the fence. Gravel crunched beneath my feet as I landed and was still for a moment, listening intently for any signs of motion from beyond the fence. In there it felt oddly safe, but I moved gingerly.

The amber lamps glowed dully and lit the place just enough to make out vague shapes. I took a chance and flicked on my pocket flashlight. The beam sliced through the nighttime murk and landed on a hulking, metallic thing. The flashlight's circle was too small to encompass the whole of the object, but I could make out smooth contours and sculpted metal fading into the darkness. I approached the thing slowly when it dawned on me.

All of the shapes suddenly became coherent, and I realized that I was looking at a giant, grimacing robot.

And so in that instant, I grasped the implications of the massive thing before me. Mechanized armies marching up and down the Mall dispensing Pepsi products from their abdomens. Their eyes are like inverted bottle caps, and I'm sure there are lasers involved somehow.

I can hear the workmen clanging away from my apartment, attaching the serrated appendages, the gouging mechanisms on the forearms and used book drop slots in the back.

I wonder, writing this now from the pillow fort I've constructed in my living room, if the alumni know. Are they complicit? Were they given secret briefings? Are there still now midnight rendezvous with alumni and various shadowy upper-echelon administration officials? Plans? Itineraries? Schematics?

Perhaps this is all just the doing of a few at the very top. Sitting here in my fort, bicycle helmet strapped tightly to my noggin, back against a horde of canned and otherwise nonperishable goods, I realize that this is inevitably the end of civilization as we know it. Life from now on will be like "The Matrix: Reloaded" but without sexy dance parties. I, for one, am ready to weather the storm. When the robots come, all red, white and blue, buzz saw hands a-twirling, I will be ensconced in my fluffy annex.

And when the smoke clears from the battle (which will surely wipe out man and robot alike), I will be waiting, Campbell's Chunky at the ready, to start society afresh. Stay strong, people. Godspeed.

Mark Sussman is a junior majoring in English literature and creative writing. Though he is technically unreachable, messages sent to will be forwarded to him via carrier pigeon.

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