Amazi Book 1 Excerpt: Automations for Peace

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In those days, I was called Joseph Kraflenko. Later my name became Americanized to Joe Kraff. I grew up in Russia, in Saint Petersburg, the capital city of that time. It was a time of much construction – homes, monuments to our Czars and poets, bridges, theaters, and palaces for our growing royalty. People were proud that Saint Petersburg was becoming a modern capital city.

I was growing up as well but not necessarily in a good way. While I was blessed with loving and wise parents, I disobeyed them at every turn. I thought that I knew better so there was no need to listen to them. I did well in my studies but was not satisfied with my education. I thirsted to know more about philosophy, art, beauty, and science. This dissatisfaction led to my hanging around older unsavory revolutionaries. They were unemployed, talked big and full of passion, and did little else. Through them, I was exposed to anarchism and the works of Mikhail Bakunin. I greatly enjoyed my companions and their wild analyses of each assassination or bomb attempt that took place. I liked their talk but wanted some action to bring about real change (or so I thought). Then at 18, I joined some real revolutionaries that schooled me in the art of kidnapping, making bombs, and the best way to kill someone.  Anything was justified to overthrow the repressive regime of the Czar.

Within three months of joining, I received my first task. To stand and watch for anyone that might stop my companions in deploying three bombs that would blew up a military barracks beyond   recognition. I looked at the barracks grounds and saw the faces of the men there. The words from an old text clearly appeared to me: “Hatred doesn’t end with hate.” I ran home without looking back

Even though I wasn’t there, I imagined how the scene took place. My former companions overjoyed as each bomb went off analyzing the impact of their work, checking out the last moments of the two hundred brave men in and around the barracks, and finally, the senseless array of bodies and blood intertwined in grotesque fashion across the thick snow. I cried while running home and felt so ashamed. I saw how wrong was the path that I had taken and felt horrified in what I had participated in. I also saw how much such an evil deed would hurt my parents and others.

From that day forward, I decided to follow a new road leading to a better world. At that time the vision was still emerging. In my spare time, I enjoyed inventing things. However, little came of it. But at this time, I set myself a new high goal – to somehow create an automaton with human will. Why? I was not certain other than it might help mankind. But this raw ambition seemed a distant dream. I did not have the knowledge or the resources to bring it to fruition.

Besides, I had bigger and more immediate worries -- the secret police was attempting to round up the perpetrators of the Nevsky Massacre. My former companions had gotten the word out of my betrayal and were looking to kill me to serve as an example. It couldn’t be any hotter. I had to hide and I made it home and quickly explained the circumstances to Momma.  (Poppa had died a few years earlier after losing hope that things would change during the reign of Czar Alexander III.)  I told her that I felt great remorse over my actions. Momma knew right away what I had to do – I had to leave. She gave up some hard-earned savings and made some arrangements. I left with some friends that were heading to Ukraine. From there, I found rides through Poland and eventually stumbled into Hamburg, Germany. Once there, I went to the port office and bought passage to New York City, United States of America.

I took a ship called the Alena. We encountered stormy seas and had to spend most of the voyage below deck in the dank, crowded, smelly steerage section. I didn’t like the lack of privacy and sunlight. Soon I had a fever and had lost the urge to eat. I was now 102 pounds having been 151 when I got on the ship. Emaciated, weak, and barely conscious, I took my first steps on Ellis Island and fainted. It is little hazy what happened next. But I was told that I was in the hospital for three weeks. The first real memory of America was being looked at by a doctor. He said I was good enough to go to processing. Once there, I had to declare that had 15 American dollars in my pocket and that I was neither an anarchist nor a polygamist. After several more minor obstacles, a week later I was cleared to enter the country.  I took the last short ride to New York City. My mother’s brother Isaac was at the entrance as I made my way off the gangplank. He had been faithfully checking each day for all these weeks. We embraced and I headed to my new home in my new land.

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