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This thread is for finished Robot Day 2011 literature. The theme of course is: ROBOTS!
Please keep your critiques, questions and discussions in the discussion thread.
1st Place: $100
2nd Place: $40
3rd Place: $30
This is the game JohnnyUtah and I have been working on.
I figured I've got nothing to lose by throwing a story into this competition. I wrote this for a friend who wanted to motivate me to write something for her blog. It's not up there yet (pending editing suggestions on her part) but I think it's good enough to submit here. It's bending the theme a bit on what you typically expect a robot to be, but the story involves robots, nonetheless. And at 697 words, it's a quick read.
Snowflake in a Blizzard
Ghost-Lee and Snowflake were caught wandering out on the plains when the blizzard hit. Ghost-Lee thought of the scene in Star Wars Episode V where Luke Skywalker survived the storm by cutting his snow-beast-creature open and crawling inside its skin. Ghost-Lee wrapped his arms part way around Snowflake's neck and promised he would never do that to her. Even if it meant he would die. Snowflake was a beautiful creature, an albino mastodon, with the softest snow-white fur. Ghost-Lee locked his arms into her coat and he felt that he would not die as long as he was with her.
They were about a half-hour out from Melbourne, but in these conditions, Ghost-Lee thought it could take up to four hours if Snowflake could make it there without rest. If she stopped, they would be resting for the night, and their chances for survival would plummet. Ghost-Lee pulled his mask up over his face, and adjusted and tightened his hood. He wrapped his arms around Snowflake again and willed her to keep going.
Snowflake squinted through the harsh winds and walked blindly forward. For all she knew, and for all Ghost-Lee knew, they could easily be heading in the wrong direction. That was just a gamble they had to take. After two hours of walking through the constant curtain of white, Ghost-Lee thought he heard something other than the storm. Engines? He held his head down close to Snowflake's and listened. Yes, engines.
"Hey!" he called out. "Help!"
His voice was carried off in the wind. He took one hand from Snowflake's fur and reached into his pouch for the flare gun. He found it, pulled it out and fired. The red glow quickly shrunk into whiteness. He just hoped there was the slightest chance someone could see it. He put the flare gun back and listened again for the engines. They were growing louder. Yes. And definitely more than one. A search party? A rescue? How far were they from Melbourne?
"Hey!" he called again. "I'm over here!"
The engines came through the fog and Ghost-Lee redoubled his grip on Snowflake.
It was a pack of mech-wolves. Their eyes were glowing red through the storm, locked onto Snowflake. Their tracks spun hungrily. Ghost-Lee retrieved his scattergun from his pouch. He fired warning shots at the ground near the mech-wolves. The cubs moved back, but the mother stared Ghost-Lee down, as if daring him to shoot again. He fired a couple more warning shots. The mech-wolf opened her jaw and fired a harpoon at Snowflake. Ghost-Lee shot at the mech-wolf. Snowflake groaned and lurched backwards. The cubs came forward and fired their harpoons.
Howls came from behind them. Ghost-Lee turned around and saw at least a dozen more mech-wolves. He swung around, firing his scattergun, but the mech-wolves held their ground and fired their harpoons. Snowflake cried out and fell to the ground. Ghost-Lee dug frantically through his pouch, spilling its contents on the ground. Dried meats, bottles of drink, tools and bandages spilled out onto the ground. Then he spotted the little red bottle of wolf's blood. He opened it, dipped his fingers in, and rubbed the blood on his face and clothes. Then he tipped some onto Snowflake's body. She was breathing heavy, lying in the snow with about twenty harpoons sticking into her. She would not last long, but at least the mech-wolves wouldn't touch her with the wolf's blood.
The mech-wolves drew in close, yet they were hesitant to touch either Snowflake or Ghost-Lee. Ghost-Lee went around Snowflake in a circle, rubbing the wolf's blood into the ground, and the mech-wolves moved back. Then Ghost-Lee got out his knife and cut the ropes connecting the harpoons to the mech-wolves' mouths. Otherwise, they would have ripped Snowflake to pieces in minutes. He tried to remove the harpoons from Snowflake but they were dug in too deep, and she was in too much pain as it was. Ghost-Lee rested against her body until she stopped breathing. He apologised to her with cold tears stinging his cheeks, and he slit open her belly and climbed inside.
READ: "A Fear of Great Heights" and other forthcoming adventures right HERE
Signature Picture by: Spartan204
'Hurry up, Ted!'
He heard her distant cry, and his processor hummed into action .
'Where are you? Ted!'
Slowly, mechanically, his system ran the checks. All the written commands jammed into place. He opened his eyes and stood up.
'Ted! Teeeeeeeeed!' the girl cried.
He ran. His overused joints groaned in protest, grating against each other, but he didn't care. Specific instructions had been implanted onto him, namely, not to bother about joints breaking or battery fluid leaking or his processor overheating. Unless of course, that his body was broken down to the extent that he was unable to serve his master. In that event, he was permitted to worry.
Right now, though, he had to move to his destination. He burst into an open field and found her there, bending over, picking at the petals of a flower.
'There you are!' she said, looking up at him. 'What took you so long?'
He gave a sort of resigned shrug, and pointed to his head. Her face softened.
'Got to fix you up soon, then,' she said, looking at the lone pair of daisies in the field. 'If I can. Anyway, I want to try an experiment. Come here.'
He obeyed, approaching the daisies. She pointed reverently at the stem. 'Pluck them.'
He did, exerting as much care as his joints could allow. He wanted to shut down, wanted to rest, but he was not allowed to. He gingerly plucked the flowers, bent down and handed them over to her.
'Thanks, Ted!' she held it up, inspecting them from every angle. They were perfectly symmetrical, and she smiled. He was never sure about how he felt about that smile. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to feel. But every time he saw that smile, his battered body, the heat, the pain, suddenly seemed inconsequential in his mind, so he supposed that seeing her smile was a good thing. At any rate, making her happy was his main task, and he supposed he was obliged to feel happy.
He stopped thinking about this, as his processor needed some time to cool off. She didn't notice, of course. She tucked her flower back into her pocket, patted it, and smiled again. 'Let's get something to eat now, alright Ted?'
He was tired. The nap he had taken had only lasted a few minutes, and he wanted to go back to sleep. He could tell her that. But he couldn't. He wondered if it was against his programming, or it was what his creator had called 'irrationality.' But at any rate, he couldn't bring himself to. So he forced himself back on his heavy legs and lumbered after her. She needed him to be always at her side.
An hour later they sat in a secluded alleyway, and he watched her munch on sausages from a can. He wondered how the shopkeeper was feeling after the robbery, and concluded that the shopkeeper probably wasn't feeling too cheerful. The shopkeeper probably wasn't smiling now. But she, she was smiling, so he considered his actions justified.
After she had finished, she looked up and seemed to realise something. She dug into her pocket and brought out one of her daises. It was a tad squashed, probably due to all the running they had to do to escape the shopkeeper with his shotgun, but its colours still shone in the dim light.
'This is yours,' she giggled. He took it gingerly.
'I have one, and you have one. It's po - poetic.'
He nodded blankly, and put it in his own pocket.
'Keep it safe, okay?'
He nodded, and she proceeded to finish her lunch. Then they both emerged from the alleyway back into the street, holding hands under the pretence of a father and daughter. Passers-by saw the two of them, the big man and the small girl, and forget them a second later. They didn't notice their rejection. If they had noticed, they wouldn't have cared.
He had noticed a clothes shop and was dwelling on why humans needed to put on such things, when he noticed the girl had stopped, so he stopped too. She was looking at the display dress in the window, marvelling at its bright pink colour. He waited patiently for her orders.
'I want that,' she said.
He nodded, and entered the shop.
An old, wrinkled man was manning the counter, and looked up at his approach. 'Ah, hello Mister. May I help you?'
He remained silent, and walked towards the pink dress. He caught sight of her in the window, she smiled at him, and he nodded at her in acknowledgement. He lifted the dress off the mannequin.
'Hey!' the old man cried, and tried to move his aged body past the counter. Once it was apparent that he couldn't do this fast enough, the old man stopped, and watched helplessly as the robber walked towards the door, pink dress in hand.
'You thieving bastard!' the old man yelled with what little voice he had left, and comments stung. 'I'll call the police, and they'll be on your ass, you lousy cheating motherfucker - '
A little girl, only about ten years old, emerged from the backroom. 'Grandpa?'
'Nothing to worry about, dear,' the old man said, his voice lowering immediately. 'Nothing to worry about. Why don't you go back to your modelling?'
The little girl looked at the robber, and then at her grandfather. 'Is something wrong?'
The robber stepped forward and gently laid the dress on the counter, the sleeve pointing towards the little girl. Before anyone could express their amazement, he had already left the shop.
Outside, she was waiting for him. She had already seen everything through the window. He didn't know how to face her.
'I want that dress,' she said, giving him a puzzled look. He looked back towards the shop, saw the little girl, looked back at his own, and shook his head. Truthfully, he had no idea what had possessed him to disobey his master.
'I want that dress,' she repeated, looking angrier now. Again he was not able to do anything but stand in the middle of the street and shake his head. He was helplessly confused. Abruptly, she stomped past him, and he followed with his head down. His head was hotter than ever.
She didn't speak to him like she normally did. They just both walked on in subdued silence, no longer holding hands. His processor was stuffed and cramped, but that didn't matter to him anymore. He had failed his master, he didn't even know why, and it terrified him. He didn't even know why he was terrified, or what the emotion was called. A smile from her would have banished his feelings immediately, but she didn't smile. Not once.
They arrived at a park, lush with all its darkened greenery. Night was falling, and the people were scarce. They walked over to one of the benches and sat there together.
He had read somewhere that parks were a dangerous place at night, so to redeem himself, he looked round for anyone who looked remotely suspicious. There was a man in a seedy blue jacket that was looking longingly in the distance. He traced the man's line of vision to a couple on a nearby bench. They were all over each other, half undressed, their limbs entangled, their mouths meeting in fiery love and passion. He wondered if that was his creator had termed 'making love'.
She grabbed his hand, and he turned. She was looking at him with wet eyes.
'Kiss me,' she said.
He recognised his chance at redemption, so his processor whirred into place as he grabbed her arms, hugged her tight and brought his lips close to hers. He wanted to kiss her, he did. But before he could do so, his processor reached the critical temperature, his failsafe activated, and he blacked out, falling to the side.
When I got outside, the purple fog was spreading. I covered my nose and mouth, and ran home.
He forced himself awake. He had not fully cooled down yet, but he didn't care. He needed to fix his mistake.
She was lying next to him on the bench, her eyes closed. It was already night. No one else was around. It was just them in the darkness. He held her close, and through the dim moonlight saw that her face was wet. She had been crying.
He sat there in the dark silence, thinking. His creator, a man he had wanted to feel respect for, had warned him about this phenomenon called 'irrationality', which had arose from something called 'emotions'. He did not want to have emotions, as much as his creator had previously glorified. He did not want to be irrational. He just wanted to make her smile.
He got off the bench, careful not to wake her, and began walking. He couldn't bear to see her sad face any longer, and so he stumbled endlessly into the darkness, alone. His creator had said crying was good outlet, so he tried to cry, but he couldn't.
He remembered the first time he had awoken, how his creator had impressed on him, practically begged him, to keep his daughter safe from the world. That single, firm command in block letters, his only purpose in life, to obey and serve her. He turned around and began walking back. He wouldn't leave her, even for a second. She needed him. And he needed her.
He felt his way back to the bench, and sat on it, his circuits already powering down for a nap. He reached out to stroke her hair, to be comforted by her presence.
His hand touched nothing. Frantically, he leapt off the bench and began flailing wildly, hoping to touch her, confirm that she was there. But she was gone. His processor was heating up, hot, hot, pounding through his brain. Where was she? Where could she have gone? How could she have left him?
He sat down in despair, wanting to scream, but he couldn't. But in the end, he found out that he could. So he screamed, screamed for the girl in his life, screamed for her to come back.
'Ted - '
His head darted round, his head moving left and right.
It was unmistakably her voice. His processor hummed into action.
All the written commands jammed into place. He opened his eyes and stood up.
He ran, his once aching joints feeling light as a feather. He ran and ran towards a small curtain of light in the darkness, a lamppost where her cry had come from. He saw her wrestling with a man in a blue jacket, and he ran faster. The man in the blue jacket was on top of her. Pinning her hands to the ground, cupping her hand to her mouth and kissing her.
'Come on, little girl,' the man crooned. 'Don't cry. Daddy's here - '
That was when a punch hit the man full into the face like a freight train, driving him out from the light and back into the darkness. The man cursed, tried to stand up, but another punch sent him to the floor.
'You fuck,' the man growled, scrabbling to his feet, taking out a gun from his pocket. She was wailing on the ground, sobbing into the asphalt. 'Shut the fuck up bitch!' the man yelled at her, and her guardian punched him one last time. The gun and the man fell to the floor.
She was still crying. He cast one last hateful glance, and then went over to check on her. When he touched her bare skin, she screamed, and he recoiled.
She retreated into her fetal position, quietly suffering. He waited for agonizing seconds.
'Ted.' she muttered after a while, peering out from under her arm. He nodded vigorously, listening closely for her next words.
'Kill him,' she moaned.
He hesitated. Then he stood up. The man's gun was lying on the floor. He picked it up.
The man, just regaining consciousness, saw him coming, and saw the gun, and backed away.
'Woah, man, take it easy. I wasn't - '
He raised the gun.
'No! Please!' The hood slipped off, revealing a flushed young face. 'Stop! Please! You don't have to do this! The cops will catch you. I'M SORRY! PLEASE!'
He wavered one more time, and then he remembered the command. He pulled the trigger. A bang, a bright flash, and the man slumped down dead.
He returned to her side for further orders. She saw the dead body, but she didn't smile. There was one more thing he had to do.
'Kiss me,' she said. Embracing her, he did. Something sparked in his brain and he began to do more than just kissing, and then suddenly she was laughing, and his mouth curled upwards for the first time, and under that the lamppost, with no one around to see them, they made that thing called love.
His head didn't feel so hot anymore.
When I got outside, the purple fog was spreading. I covered my nose and mouth, and ran home.
The city was a towering mountain of intricate perfection, gleaming with precision and order. A perfect construct for the perfect inhabitants. The machine city had no name. Its citizens were logical and had no sense of pride or need for belonging for which a name would have been required.
Every inch of space was utilized, corridors and access ways molded to fit those who passed through them. The metallic citizens could not conceive of claustrophobia. Compact layers of metal and plastic polymers overlapped in dizzying labyrinths, concealing networks of cables connecting the entire city and all robots in it to each other. Efficient patterns were replicated from the outline of the city down to the smallest bit of circuitry in the city's mainframe. The city was like an altar to the gods of logic, but to call it such would be foolish, as the concept of worship was as alien to the city and its inhabitants as religion itself.
Clinging to the edge of a vast crater, held their by massive supporting beams, the city is not the only artificial construct. In every direction sprawl the wastes of a destroyed civilization and its industry. The remnants of soaring buildings and gargantuan factories, each which could have housed several of the machine cities within their former work shops and forges, covered the landscape as far as the sensor could sweep. The vast majority of these structures were now flattened, creating a rough, jagged horizon of twisted girders and chunks of rubble. In few places the bare ground could be detected through the concrete and dust, but nothing grew there. The dry earth cracked with exposure to the sun. Who created this civilization is unknown and the buildings have no answers. Only the machines remain, building quietly in a world shocked into silence. The city is a small speck of order in a endless expanse of chaos. Piece by piece the machines reclaim the world and create structure in the void.
The city is unlike anything created by living organisms, except perhaps ants. It is unpainted, covered in the raw metal from which it was forged. Aesthetics are an illogical notion created by the inefficient. The massive towers crowd together, blotting out the sky in the lower levels. When viewed up close the network of cables, struts, and railways which connect the towers seems haphazard and chaotic but when viewed from afar, a plan can be made out, a perfect symmetry. The air emanating from the vents and exhaust pipes has a tangy, metallic odor. If there were any living creatures left to smell it, the city's stench would burn their noses. There are no windows and few external lights. The entire structure is shrouded in a murky darkness, penetrated only by the occasional flash of a tool on metal or the glint of moving steel flitting through the dark canyons.
Within this symmetrical and cold shell existed multitudes of machines producing, maintaining, and expanding. They created more machines, developing new models as circumstances dictated and recycling old versions as they became obsolete. How they had begun this existence or who had created them was unknown. It was also irrelevant. The city existed as did the robots who traveled its pathways and scurried along its surface. The heavy drones and delicate Thinking machines coexisted for a single purpose: to continue that existence and expand at the limits of efficiency. For what purpose they were created had no impact on the concreted evidence of their own presence. "Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it" holds little meaning to those whose very function is a single action repeated until the machine performing it is rendered obsolete by erosion and time or the completion of its own labors.
Infallibility is also a plus.
The majority of these robots exist only to create their more advanced counterparts. These machines are boxy with multiple heavy, slab-like arms for performing a variety of menial tasks. These were of the oldest variety of robot and had remained largely unchanged since the construct's beginnings. With no paint or markings of any kind, they had a rough, unfinished look to them. Their chassis were strong and their armor relatively thick, so they were safe to move about outside the confines of the city. They moved about the structure on a trio of heavy jets. For surface and interior work they extended a set of heavy treads from their bellies and providing added stability. There were thousands of these drones at work at all times in and around the structure of their robotic city.
Aerial robots handled the more delicate task of adjusting sensors and antennae on the roof of the city. These insect like workers were covered in a flexible plastic coating. This translucent skin gave them a ghostly, pale color. Their bodies were long and undulating, series of interconnecting sections writhed beneath their plastic sheath. Delicate manipulators extended from beneath their bodies, which floated on little jets. A set of advanced sensor equipment sat in a pointed head, giving the appearance of many sharp horns and fangs. These machines also repaired the inner workings of the city and maintained the intricate circuitry of the Thinker machines.
The various robots formed an organizationally perfect workforce capable of combating any threat, solving any problem, completing any task. They were a perfect tool, forged by an intellect as vast as the wasteland surrounding the city. Interconnected and aware of the simultaneous activities of every other robot, there was nothing they could not accomplish.
The great Thinking machines, housed at the center of the city in the tallest tower with coolant cables coiling around them like a forest of steel ivy, ran every aspect of the city. They controlled the swarms of drones and the factories they fed. They controlled the forges and the robots that poured forth from them. With a blurt of data from the Thinkers' towers the entire city could be set to a task, and it would be completed at a speed which would seem impossible to those forced to rely on weak organic bodies.
The Thinking machines were the infallible brain which kept the city running smoothly and no discrepancies were allowed. Regular purges kept the Thinkers free of old and useless data, and worn out processors were replaced with newer and faster models. Everything possible was done to keep the vital center of the city continued to run perfectly and without flaw.
Even these perfect computers were unable to determine how the corruption began.
The Thinkers first logged an error in a worker drone returning from the wastelands with raw materials for the city's factories. The drone took longer then the allotted time to return and was out of contact for several seconds. Upon return the drone was purged and replaced with a newer model. The cause of this error was never uncovered.
Next the manufacturing computers reported extra pieces of metal being left over from the construction of new robots. Tiny things, a bolt here, a rivet there, bits of circuitry. These extraneous bits of metal were individually inconsequential but overtime would amount to a serious waste of resources. The factory was shut down and a complete overhaul begun. As the factory was stripped apart, the extra metal was nowhere to be found. The Thinkers logged the error and sent scout robots to search for the pieces of metal, to make sure the junk did not become lodged in some vital system of the city and cause a malfunction.
The aerial drones began to sweep the surrounding area, spreading out in a logical pattern to quickly cover all possibilities. Following a transit route away from the factory, drone 571-B discovered a series of scrape marks and gouging leading over the edge of causeway. The drop was hundreds of feet, the bottom lost in the oily darkness of the city's lower levels. Consulting the Thinker machines, 571-B hovered over the edge of the abyss and then plunged down.
Grungy Mech action in 1940s Russia! Read Iron and Ice!
Perfection Lost part 2
The metallic modernity of the upper city gave way to the impenetrable darkness of the lower levels. Down here was located the power system of the city. Vast generators fed off the refuse brought in by the worker drones. Only the largely immobile repair drones, welded into the city's framework, existed down here.
More gouges in the decking lead 571-B on.
The marks lead to a recessed access corridor less then a yard wide built into the floor. Meant to collect the grease and oil from the great drive systems, the corridor was eternally grimy and caked in gritty slime. In a corner of the shaft, caught on a grate, was the pile of missing parts.
They were moving.
In a manner that defied the careful logic of 571-B's computer processors, the parts were moving on their own. Bolts and pipes were welded together at grotesque angles, servo motors and hydraulic pistons cobbled together from bits of scrap and wire. The thing moved with a jerky hesitation, as if it were a newborn seeing the world for the first time. Grease slicked its surface and hung in strings between the various protrusions of its body. It had no semblance of order, limbs jutting out at all the wrong places, extraneous metal adhering to its body which served no function. Nowhere was there any sign of the perfect symmetry of the city or its robotic denizens. A single sensor protruded from the scrap heap, glowing a sickly yellow. From somewhere in its hideous body a rasping moan was heard. A disjointed and rusted appendage scratched along the metal floor towards the drone.
This was a malfunction. An error. An abomination.
Its very lack of efficiency and logic was an affront to the Thinkers and their city. Without a purpose this unclassifiable entity was a waste of resources and a danger to the rest of the city. It would have to be removed. For the good of the system.
It needed to be purged. Quickly.
The drone readied the only weapons available to it. 571-B was a maintenance and surveillance drone, and was not outfitted for combat. A pair of small cutting blades and electric torches extended towards the heap. The moan decreased in pitch, becoming a harsh digital growl. The sensor darkened to the color of dried blood.
Before 571-B could calculate what was happening the wretched thing struck. Jagged bits of metal on impossibly long manipulator arms lashed out and pierced the unarmored covering of 571-B's frame. The attack was savage and uncoordinated. Tearing at 571-B's delicate inner workings the scrap heap blurted out in incoherent machine code and static. Oil spurted from 571-B's damage joints and splashed along the walls like the arterial spray of a dying animal.
571-B jabbed the heap with its cutting arms and torches, scoring the corroded metal and cracking several of the shivering arms in two. It was too little too late however.
The scrap heap pulled itself onto the drone, the pristine gray quickly becoming marred by the grease slick. The scrap heap locked its many arms around the drone and squeezed, crushing fragile computer chips and equipment.
As 571-B's functions shut down one by one it continued to transmit all of its experience to the Thinkers rendered completely inoperable.
The last image of 571-B's existence replayed over and over in the Thinkers' processors. It was relayed to all robots within the city instantaneously by the link they all shared.
The Thinkers calculated and processed. They came to the only logical conclusion possible based on what they had seen. Production of robots shifted to include heavy armor and weapons, the slab-like drones being replaced by hunter-killers shaped like cruel daggers. These were equipped with a variety of ranged and close combat weapons.
Despite this conclusion and the Thinkers' confidence that it was the perfect solution. There was something that did not add up in their mechanical minds. The signals from the other search drones that had been near 571-B's last position began to cut out one by one, each transmitting an eerily similar final image. As the number of missing robots increased far faster then was possible for only one attacker, the Thinkers settled on what this incalculable variable was.
571-B's final video transmission had been of the scrap heap pulling it into a gaping maw of rust and filth. Each of the other now silent drones had transmitted the same image, but instead of the original scrap heap in each video, it appeared that twisted versions of their own drones were turning on their own kind.
Yes, the Thinkers now knew what was interfering with their calculations, what that unsolvable variable was in all their equations.
It was fear.
* * *
The perfect city experienced the perfect death. It crumbled from inside itself, the rusting and cracking towers marring the symmetrical precision of the streets.
The Thinkers' plan had failed. Swarms of the hunter-killers had moved through the structures of the city hunting any sign of corruption.
Furious battles had taken place between the beautiful, angular killers and their haphazardly shaped foes. Bright beams of energy had bisected shambling monstrosities of steel and plastic as ugly bits of corrosive steel had been flung from misshapen launchers. The hunter-killers dodged these makeshift attacks and spat curtains of missiles into the ranks of the corrupted. Those to slow to pull away from the sea of death were dragged down by claws of unequal length and hooked mandibles tore into their armored bodies.
The spreading tide of decay and ruin had turned the city itself into a weapon. Rending sheets of metal from the walls and floors the scrap piles had multiplied quicker then anticipated, creating a vast army in which no two soldiers were alike. Even worse, every drone and hunter-killer brought down was converted into fodder for more of the infernal contraptions.
The Thinkers had been forced to consign whole sectors of the city to the flame, instructing the factories to self-destruct, and directing hunter-killers to destroy the supports holding the sections in place on the edge of the crater. As each sector became overrun it was severed, taking thousands of the gnashing, creaking machines with it as it fell into the dusty crater.
Piece by piece the city fell, sinking back into the chaos from which it had risen, a shining medallion returned to bare metal on the blacksmith's anvil. As the clean territory around the Thinkers' tower shrank, they began to compute escape options. The Thinkers' delicate machinery was loaded onto the drones which had once carried resources to the buzzing factories and refineries.
The city was drenched in darkness as power failed across the board. The remaining hunter-killers and drones fought off the hordes of screeching machines as the cargo drones fled. Of the twelve Thinkers eight managed to escape. All other robots perished in the ruins of the city as the Thinkers' tower finally fell. With the center of the city gutted it sagged in on itself, building crashing inwards and support columns snapping. The whole city tumbled down the side of the crater, creating a tidal wave of dust and debris hundreds of feet in the air. The corrupted fell with it, disappearing into the dust.
As the cargo drones angled on their vector jets, charting a course to a predesignated site where construction of a new city would begin, the drones watched the final moments of their city. They soared off into the sky, carrying the brains of their civilization and the seeds of their new home.
They failed to detect the spots of rust encrusting of one of the Thinkers' CPUs.
Grungy Mech action in 1940s Russia! Read Iron and Ice!
Credits goes to my cousin, friends and 1-2 laptops. Something short, but if it intrigues you guys I'll think about expanding it. (Names were picked in kind of a random way)
Larry: Hey, Jimmy! Check this out, think I found something!
User: Tom McClown
Starting another one of those reports that no one cares about, but for some reason we all have to do it.
Anyway, today we had one more 'malfunction' as the professor describes it. Having so many these days makes me think they aren't products of the programmer's sleepless nights, I mean come on they can't be that stupid to make the same mistake again and again! No, not in this company...
Actually they are doing quite a few miricles here - those machines are advancing in the speed of light, but every passing day it's getting... Ahh! Well - it feels like I'm talking to a... human.
Just for the record I checked the phsyco twice this week so no - I'm not loosing it, you can see his report on the matter.
So where was I... oh yeah - those 'errors'. I'm starting to think that they are something we can't control, however badly the heading board wants to.
I don't really believe in all that mumbo jumbo stuff about ghosts and so on, but there's definitely something weird going on.
Ha! Now when I think about it, IF it's actually true, IF they are becoming humans, would they be treated as one? I doubt it, more likely a new slavery movement or a massive brain wash, or should I say 'disck wash'.
Aside with the irony, there's other questions: If they are having toughts, emotions like a real human being, does it mean they have a soul? Even if they do I don't think the company gives a shit. I don't think they even care about the human's soul either. I'd be a lab rat long ago if they weren't afraid of the government.
So do we have the right to do this... And what actually makes us, humans, so special, having rights above all other life form. Is it our complexity and advanced intellect? What if a more complex being appears or a more advanced machine,
far better then us, will its rights be above ours or will they have the right to dominate us like when you own a dog or when you are taking care for a child?
Hmm, not exactly, but you get the idea... Damn it! I got carried away again, must be that weird coffee they give out here, meant to 'enhance my thinking'. Any way I'll edit it tomorrow morning... It was a long day. Over and out.
Jimmy: No way! ... Don't tell me you are planning on putting this on the paper! It will.. you know... the media will explode! There would be protests all around the world, not to mention this guy... he'll never find a job again...
Larry: (Wha' even in a circus?)
Jimmy:... and you are planning on stealing his... uh... thoughts?!
Larry: Nah! He looks like a smart guy, he'll be fine. And about the world... I think that's exactly what it needs in crazy days like these.
Now, lets see if we can find something else.
He was military issue, or was intended to be, until the plans made for mass production fell short due to the end of the war. Just a prototype, he was left unassembled in his coffin-like packaging, capable of nothing but filling up space in the corner of a storage closet. Wanting to make some room to contain the parts of their next big budget project, the men of the science lab decided to raffle off their once-pertinent creation.
30 days later, Larry Maxwell had taken out his utility knife in the company of his overeager 9-year-old son, Cody. The winners of the nation-wide drawing, they had just received the first ever anthropomorphic robot. Very intelligent and reconfigured to look past his preprogrammed military instincts, he was the perfect addition to any middle American family. Upon assembly, he was given the name "Steven" and the young boy looked up to him like an older brother. To people outside the family, he was just another member of the Maxwells, and no naked eye could detect the bolts and metal plates that held his frame together. His internal hard drive was placed right where the brain would be, and it was loaded with many basic phrases such as "Yes, master" and "I will complete that for you now, master". The Maxwells had gotten months of use out of him, and all was well. But that was just the calm before the storm.
Nearly one year after receiving Steven, one of the worst electrical storms in history rolled through the midwest. It was late at night. Everyone was asleep, and Steven was in standby mode while plugged into the wall in order to keep his juices charged. The storm had become so powerful, and after what seemed like an endless barrage of lightning making its way across the sky, the Maxwells' power was completely wiped out. When it had returned, the quickly replenishing energy was too much for Steven's electrical current to handle, and it caused him to short circuit. Systems fried, Steven was completely useless until the morning. The next day, Larry had pulled out the spare parts kit that was included with the robot along with a soldering iron, and began to rewire him, paying no mind to the warning label strongly expressing the importance of not messing with the wiring of the robot. Larry closed Steven back up, and then rebooted him; a move that would be his last.
Steven clicked back to life, and so did the primal instincts he was originally programmed to have. Feeling threatened by his tools and presence, Steven grabbed Larry by the throat, lifting him into the air. Steven swung the man all around the living room as he gasped for breath. Unable to cry for help inside of Steven's military-approved grip, no one heard him die. Larry was thrown to the floor, and Steven made his way through the house. Down the hallway and around the corner into the kitchen, the unforgiving robot came across Cody's mother, Sheryl. Without hesitation, Steven made his way for the unsuspecting woman. When she recognized the anger in Steven's face, she let out a scream and began to run for it, but he caught her easily and knocked her to the floor with one forceful punch to the head. He dragged her by the ankles back into the kitchen and packed her unconscious body into the ice box. As Steven looked through the worn out curtains of the kitchen door, he saw Cody waving at him with a loving smile on his face. Cody ran up to the door, not knowing what had happened and not knowing that his fast approach would startle Steven. The robot immediately went back into defense mode, shattering through the door to incapacitate the child. Cody fell easily under both the weight of the glass and Steven. By now, the scene caused quite a disturbance, and the police were on their way. As Steven applied pressure to Cody's neck with his heavy, mechanical foot, he felt the life get choked right out, and a few seconds later, the boy's body had become lifelessly limp. As Steven stood over him, the police rushed in. After taking several gunshots to the head, Steven sputtered some electronic noises followed by immediately shutting down. The scene was eventually cleared, and Steven was taken apart and sent back to the lab he came from.
He was military issue, or was intended to be, but there he was, unassembled in his coffin-like box, a killing machine.
Resistance 2401 AD
"Captain, have you and your company infiltrated the machine stronghold?" asked Commander Fitzroy, "Squads Delta and Sierra, have your teams optimizing your defenses for the upcoming siege.".
"Commander, Echo Company are inside the stronghold and are searching the core reactor." responded Captain Shaun,
"Sir, Delta and Sierra have optimized their defenses to the fullest." told the operator, "Are you sure this plan will succeed commander?"
"It will be enough to end this damnation." responded Commander Fitzroy
This is the resistance's only opportunity of achieving peace and yet it is in the hands of our company, I just hope I get out here alive with everybody else. The plan the commander gave us is a complex one; one company destroys the reactor with recreated EMPs, not to mention that haven't been tested and could be unstable, while the two remaining companies are to defend the resistance's base.
"I'd like to thank you all for coming, as you know the machines have gathered and have produced a major army which is capable of killing every human on this planet." announced Commander Fitzroy, "But we do have a plan, that is, if you can execute it properly."
"Our underground scientists have recreated the 'EMP: Electro Magnetic Pulse' and which they say that this piece of equipment is efficient enough to disable everything electronic.", "If we plant it in the machines' core reactor in their primary stronghold, it will take out every machine on the Earth." revealed the Commander.
"How sir?" asked one of the resistance.
"The machines are connected to the reactor, and if we take that out, every machine will go with it."
"Our mission objective will be split into two; Echo company will plant the EMP in the core reactor in the stronghold, while the remaining two companies, Delta and Sierra stay at HQ and defend",
"Everything will all take place tomorrow at zero-hundred hours, so everyone, I'm counting on you."
The robots we're battling have upgraded over decades; from uranium bullets, to rapid fired lasers, it's impossible nearly impossible to keep up with. They're much more advanced than us and with their large numbers.
We only have a small chance of winning this conflict.
"Commander, the machines are here!" shouted the operator. "Both companies, attack!"
"Echo company, have you located the core reactor?" asked the Commander,
"We've found it sir, my god it's...its enormous!" claimed Captain Shaun.
"Shit, captain! The machines have entered the room." shouted Sergeant Dominic.
"Ikashu, hack into the mainframe and set the stronghold to self-destruct, Jason cover him", "and Dominic, as soon as Ikashu has set the timer, be ready to set the timer on the EMP too, Kelly cover her back."
Shit they're everywhere. I got to cover Ikashu until he done with the computer, he's usually pretty fast with these things, but with a machine core, I'm not sure if he'll succeed in doing so.
"Commander, we've lost contact with Delta Company", reported the operator, "and Sierra is taking heavy fire"
"Alert Sierra Company that they need to retreat immediately" advised Commander Fitzroy
"What's the status of Echo Company?"
"We've somehow lost communication with Echo too!"
"Captain, the timer is set." reported PFC Ikashu, "EMP is set." informed Dominic.
"Okay team, we got to get out of the stronghold because we've only thirty seconds minutes before this place blows up" declared Captain.
"It seems that you have lost the battle commander." said the Machine Ruler, "Surrender now and you and your resistance shall work as slaves to us, repent and you shall be destroyed."
"We'll surrender." said Commander
"Wise choice commander, now you shall all becom-"
The EMP and the core reactor have set off and our company got out just in time. Every machine had their fusion reactors destroyed.
We head back to HQ by foot, only to see a large cluster of machines destroyed and see Commander Fitzroy and what is left of the resistance.
"Good job Echo Company" declared Commander Fitzroy, "The machine war is now over, thanks to you, we can all live in peace".
I'm not sure if we'll live in this 'peace' forever, but I don't want to fight anymore, I just wanted this to be over, and the resistance did make this war over.
Early in the evening, I depart from my cramped apartment and step unto the zipline, briefcase in hand. I flash my pass to the driver and settle down. The briefcase rattles faintly as the zipcar zooms forward, I reach into my suit pocket and feel my business card; the heavy stock feels nice and I run my fingers across the raised and embossed letters. The lines clutter the carbon sky and course through each borough. One hundred miles in ten minutes! Naturally, this is the only way I travel. The line stops at many neighborhoods where I peddle cheap ballistic circuit computers.
The commission on each one is decent, but not great--it ain't rocket science (I hear that's where the real dollars are). Ever since the fall of the German Reich, the United States has been prospering indefinitely and technology blossomed at an unprecedented rate. England and France are still rebuilding their streets and roads; I don't think Japan, Germany, or the Reds will ever recover. Now, they are American-occupied zones, where apples and shoes cost more than a car. These places are sites for resources that the United States simply takes, and companies like Beltech produce cheap and efficient commodities. In conjunction with military mandates and the influx of the brightest brains from the world, Americans enjoy nuclear fusion, high speed automated public transport, and recently: robots, although a slew of citizens are still unfamiliar and uncomfortable to the technology. It was only a few years ago that we got the telescreen, but now, computer units have television built right into them! Can you believe that?
The zipline hisses to a halt and I clutch my briefcase to my chest and my hat to my head, and step out.
Door-to-door selling. I have my routine. I knock and rap on the old wooden doors. Usually housewives or occasionally, young ankle-biters answer; although, that has changed a bit.
"Hello, Miss. Fine day ain't it? I'll only need a second of your time. I hope I can interest you in a higher standard of living, at an incredible economic price." I nimbly pull out one my cards, flip it through my fingers, and pass it forward, trying my damnedest to smile pleasantly. "These computing units are perfect for the family. May I speak to the man of the house?"
After about sixty or seventy houses, I manage to sell two computers. One more, and I am done for the day.
I approach the next house and ring the doorbell. A heavy treading resounds and I quickly place my briefcase by the stairs, and take off my hat. A whirring later and the door opens; a robot greets me.
"Hello, I am RHU-3--" (that's Robotic House Unit, in a mechanical male voice) "--Property of: Ms. Shelly. How may I assist you?"
"Hiya, RHU. I have a meeting with Ms. Shelly. Could you let me in?"
The metal son-of-a-bitch doesn't move. A low hum comes from his chassis. He is clearly humanoid, but rough and edgy. I am familiar with the RHU models. The RHU-3s are last year's model. The eyes are blank and lifeless, yet incredibly human. The engineers almost perfectly replicated the human eyes into these pieces of junk.
"If you don't mind...." I step inside the door and try to make my way around RHU. His arm snaps forward and prevents me from passing. "Please wait here, sir," he answers. He retreats into the house. I sneakily retrieve my briefcase from the stairs and place it quietly on the sofa,, next to my hat, and sit down. The treading returns, this time accompanied by light footsteps. Ms. Shelly is quite a doll.
"Hello, sir. Can I help you?" she inquires brightly.
"Well, I think that it is I who can help you, Ms. Shelly. I bet you are still using old integrated-circuit computers. To spare you the jargon, Miss, I'd like to interest you in a new computer, a good deal."
She sits on a sofa next to me. I lean forward and insert my hand into my breast pocket. RHU pulls up to me. "Sir, Ms. Shelly is not interested in your prospect. Please leave."
"No, I ... am interested in your wares, mister. Continue," she remarks.
"No doubt you are still using integrated-circuit computers, Ms. Shelly. They are tanks compared to these new, slimmer, quicker computing units. I bet RHU here uses a kind of early ballistic-circuit and super-processor, huh, guy?" I state as I gently jab RHU.
"I assure you that I have state-of-the-art technology, sir," RHU replies, almost smugly.
"Of course you do, buddy. Anyway, Ms. Shelly, I--"
"Please, mister, call me Karen. And, what do I call you?," she smiles.
I reach into my breast pocket again, and pull out a business card, deftly flip it through my fingers and outstretch my hand, resting it on her soft, open palm. RHU snatches my wrist, and I wince, dropping the card unto her lap.
"It is getting late, and I suggest you depart, Ms. Shelly is about to get ready for dinner," he commands. Karen slaps his metal arm and his grip slackens. "RHU please unhand Mr. ... Ray West!" She traces the letters on the card with her fingers, and RHU obeys.
"Thank you, Karen, but I am afraid ol' RHU here is right; it is rather late; and, maybe, I should be on my way. You have been very--well, lovely, Miss Karen, but I should be going home." I pick up my hat and briefcase and stand up.
Karen joins me. "Oh, please, Ray, won't you stay for dinner? I insist." She glows in the waning of evening.
"Ms. Shelly!" RHU interjects, "Dinner is to be prepared for one."
"Then cook double the food, RHU. That will make it for two!" She chuckles. I smile politely in her direction and snicker towards RHU.
"Excuse me, did he say 'for one'?" I ask, "Is your husband still working, Miss Karen?"
"My husband ... is not with us anymore; he died ... in the factory." She suddenly stands up and turns away. "I shall set a spot for you at the table, Mr. West, if you like."
"I'd like nothing more, and I'm really sorry, really."
Shelley, Shelley, Shelley. I wonder ...
She smiles weakly, and begins to retreat to the kitchen. I quickly grab her hand.
"The stars will awaken,
Though the moon sleeps a full hour later,
No leaf will be shaken,
Whilst the dews of your loveliness scatter
"That's for you, Karen."
"Oh, Ray!" she squeals giddily, and continues to the table, turning on the lights.
I watch her exquisite silhouette as RHU interrupts: "Very clever, Mr. West, but 'Shelly' only has one e. Furthermore, I insist you depart."
"Cool down, buddy, huh? She said I could stay--what's for dinner, anyway, guy? And wait a minute; you study Shelley?" I facetiously ask. I start for the kitchen, when RHU grabs my shoulder.
"Listen, Mr. West: Ms. Shelly--"
"You mean Karen? Boy, ain't she grand? She's so sweet, and gentle, and pretty ... Golly, you must be one lucky robot, huh, RHU?," I tease.
His voice rises, "Ms. Shelly is not interested in anything you have to offer, and I want you to leave, Mr. West!" The speakers in the RHU-3 models have had issues with volume; his voice sounds grainy anyway.
"What if she told you to let me stay? and like it, Mr. RHU?," I try to outfox him.
"That does not change the way I--" The robot stood there, motionless, vacant. "RHU! C'mon!" I swing my hat around and smack him with it. He finally whirred back to life. "Mr. West. Please understand that Ms. Shelly is a fragile and sensitive woman. I have vigilantly cared for her since Mr. Shelly terminated. She has been perpetually sad, quiet, and reserved since then. Recently however, we have enjoyed a brief halcyon respite the previous ... twelve days."
"Halcyon, noun. A period marked by tranquility, peace, and lack of disturbance. Really, Mr. West," he comments, arrogantly. We join Karen at the table.
Giving out writing reviews to anyone who wants them (exception: poems. I'll find you).
"Here's your seat," she says as she points. "RHU, what have you prepared?," she asks jovially.
"Chicken, broiled, marinated with ginger and garlic and butter. Rolls, light toasted."
"Any wine?" I inquire.
"No. No wine, Mr. West," his cold eyes glare.
The meal is quite nice, if a bit overcooked. Karen and I talk poetry and cinema. I recite Joyce and Keats and Noyes. She dissects the lines, word for word, and I realize she knows more about Joyce, Keats, and Noyes than I do. When we finish, Karen stands up and takes her dish to the sink. I accompany her and do the same. She rests her hand on RHU's shoulder.
"Thank you for the nice meal, RHU."
"It is my pleasure, Ms. Shelly," he responds.
"Yeah, thanks a bunch, buddy," I offer.
"Mr. West, if you are quite finished, I suggest you leave," RHU scolds.
"RHU!" she reprimands him. "Ray, you are welcomed to stay, a while longer."
"No, thank you dearly, Karen. I really ought to be leaving; besides, RHU wants me to go, don't ya, RHU?"
"Do not mock me, Mr. West," he says, almost annoyed.
"Yeah. Anyway, Karen, I had a lovely time. You've got my card. And--" I grab her shoulders and kiss her on the forehead. I give a light kiss on her delicate nose and pretty lips. And a whirlwind of whirring has me on the floor.
"Unhand her, West!"
"Hey! What? Are you malfunctioning, or what!" I cry incredulously (as you may or may not know, robots are designed to always obey humans, and their free will is limited).
"I've had enough of you, Ms. Shelly is not interested in your antics, West. Please leave--Now!" His optic eyes focus intensely.
"RHU! What are you doing?! Help him up! Don't hurt him!" Karen cries. I lift myself, reach for my hat and for my briefcase. "Karen, I'm on my way, I hope to see you again--hopefully privately, dear."
"I doubt that, Mr. West!" RHU states in a familiar smug tone, tightening his fists. "Well," I retort, "Maybe, I can interest you in the RHU-5 prototype. They are swell machines--I've seen 'em myself--and I can get you one before they are available commercially, Karen. They never act out, and their circuitry is sophisticated, unlike this tank."
"Why you ..." RHU hands unclench. His arms swerve to his sides. And he is quiet.
"RHU...?" Karen walks towards him. He drones back to consciousness. "Ms. Shelly?"
"Listen, Karen, this robot is dangerous. He doesn't obey his owner, he talks crazy, and he just attacked me! Please, call the manufacturer tomorrow morning to deprogram him."
"You ingrate ... Ms. Shelly would never let that happen. Correct, Ms. Shelly?" Karen did not respond.
"Karen? Karen?" I wave my hand. "Karen, dear, you okay?" No answer.
"Well, RHU, you have been acting out since Isaac--" her lip quivers slightly.
"Ms. Shelly!... Ms. Shelly, please ..." RHU's voice changes again; it is unusually clear and precise, soft and pure. "Ms. Shelly, I--I ..."
This is insane, robots don't have emotions. I'll be damned if RHU is sad, or even-- "RHU. You aren't, in love? That's ... impossible!"
"RHU, is, that true?" Karen's face is surprisingly stoic; I am shocked.
"Ms. Shelly. You must understand, that--"
"No! This is ... fucking insane! You can't love! You are a machine for heaven's sake! RHU! Listen to me! Your circuits are fucked, y--you need to be deprogrammed!" I scream into his eyes.
"No! I love her! I--I--I ..." his computing unit could not handle these intense tasks. Love? How can machines simulate that. RHU shuts down.
"Karen, flip his power switch off." I stand next to her and hang my arm around her. "He loved me, Ray. He actually loved me?" Karen collapses unto the couch. I stand next to RHU and smack him on the back of the head. Hard.
"RHU, buddy!" and his signature whir brings him back to life. "RHU! RHU? Hello?" I reach for the switch.
"West!" he grabs my shirt and props me against the wall. "Whoa! Unhand me, you piece-of-junk!"
"No, West, you are going have me shut down, are you not?"
"No! But you can't be around Karen! You are malfunctioning, RHU! Understand! Karen commanded you to leave me alone!" RHU raises his arm and cocks it back, and I see a furious frenzy of anger, passion, and disarray in his eyes. I struggle in his chokehold.
"RHU! Stop! Think about it!," I yell, "Think of Karen! Lemme go!"
"West, you can't fool me!"
"Oh God!" I kick his chassis to no avail and close my eyes, "I know what it's like to feel for Karen, but don't do this! For God's sake!" I slump to the ground, stupefied, dizzy.
"Ray! Ray!" I open my eyes to Karen. RHU is slouched in his previous pose. "Oh God, Karen."She and I embrace with true passion and love.
The RHU-5 models are not bad; they're a bit boring. They are ubiquitous across American homes. They are smarter and can perform more tasks, and they are incredibly tough, but obedient. So, when I tell them to shut-the-fuck-up, they do. Despite their cheap price, they are engineered and designed extremely well. Power has since been rerouted from their mechanics into their processing, making them weaker, but smarter. Their optic eyes and voice speakers are incredibly real, almost human with nuances and inflections that are unreal. You'd think that they'd be capable of humor, you know: tell a joke, or laugh, or give compliments without sounding stupid.
I love Karen, and live with her happily, and we decided that RHU-5's are not for us. We live in a small house without some of the common appliances (even though I still sell them). She prefers to read poetry in book form; presses are no longer printing, so they are rather expensive. We still have to clean the house and cook (I did that anyway, as a bachelor). It'd be nice to have someone else do it. Karen doesn't mind ...
Hell, I hear the RHU-6 is near release; we ought to give those a try.
Thanks for reading!
Giving out writing reviews to anyone who wants them (exception: poems. I'll find you).
With a jarring kick the can was freed from the entangled weeds choking the edges of the sidewalk. The discarded Coke can clattered a few paces ahead and Tyson trudged along behind it, aligning himself for the next kick. He had never played soccer, Tyson thought, but he had traveled this route so many times, kicking cans and rocks along the way, that he'd probably do pretty well with an honest soccer ball.
Tyson's pharmacy uniform - really just a shabby blue polo shirt - was draped over his shoulder. He had stripped down to his undershirt the moment his shift had ended, when he stepped outside and was greeted by an 85-degree blast of heat. It was moments like these that Tyson was happy to have a job in an air-conditioned building, even if he was just a stock boy. He desperately missed the air-conditioning now as he trudged home, back to his apartment in the old neighborhood. His walk took him from the highrise apartments and well-kept row homes of downtown, where he worked, all the way under the freeway into Ganton, where it seemed like everything was falling apart - the homes crumbling to their foundations, the roads pockmarked by craterous potholes, even the people appeared broken; deteriorating beneath the weight of circumstance and poverty.
Tyson gave the can another kick, sending it careening further down the sidewalk and coming to rest against an old rusty mailbox, long since abandoned by the city. Abandoned like the rest of Tyson's neighborhood. Following the can, Tyson squinted against the late-afternoon sun and stared down the street. It seemed like every block had a group of thugs on the corner, all of them wearing gang colors and trying to sell whatever they could get their hands on. This was nothing new - every day Tyson walked this same route, and every day the same gangbangers were huddled on the same corners. Tyson knew how easy it would be to slip into that lifestyle himself. These weren't strangers on the corners; they were guys he had grown up with, had gone to school with and had, at one time or another, been friends with.
The sound of distant sirens awoke Tyson from his moment of self-reflection. He listened as the commotion grew louder, realizing that the sound was coming from I-81 - a busy highway that ran through the heart of his neighborhood. Deciding to investigate, Tyson crossed the street and paused by the chainlink fence separating his sidewalk from the expressway. He peered down at the rows of cars rushing north and south, drivers heading home after a long day at work. Suddenly, racing towards Tyson on the southbound side of I-81, a black SUV rounded the curve and came into view, weaving wildly between the other vehicles. The SUV careened from one lane to another, slamming into the bumpers and sides of other motorists before leaving them in its wake. Moments later, police cruisers rounded the same bend and streamed after the out of control SUV, their sirens urging cars and trucks out of their way. As the pursuit continued towards Tyson, he could see dozens of police vehicles - including a SWAT van - flying down the expressway in his direction.
The SUV enjoyed a wide gap between itself and the police, but the driver still urged the vehicle ever faster. Without warning, the fleeing driver bumped the SUV over the low median and careened into the northbound lane, suddenly finding himself face-to-face with a wall of oncoming traffic. Tyson watched in horror as the SUV maneuvered around the first few vehicles, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision by mere inches. The driver's luck quickly ran out, however, as the SUV clipped the front end of a cement truck and pitched forward. The SUV's rear end spun around from the impact, sending the vehicle into a tailspin and then onto its side. The screech of metal on asphalt caused Tyson to cringe as the SUV slid forty or fifty feet on its passenger side before grinding to a halt, its horn emitting a few loud honks before sputtering and dying.
Northbound traffic slowed and stopped before the smoking wreck now blocking their path. Policemen parked their cruisers and approached from the southbound lanes, leaping over the median with their guns drawn. To Tyson's amazement, he noticed that there was movement from within the destroyed SUV. Suddenly, the drivers-side door creaked open and a body emerged from inside. The driver pulled himself from the wreckage and flopped down onto the street, his white t-shirt stained red from his injuries.
Without warning, the surrounding police officers opened fire on the wounded man, their shots pinging off the SUV's undercarriage and etching grooves in the charred asphalt. The driver dove behind the overturned SUV, taking shelter from the swarm of bullets buzzing angrily around his head. From his vantage point above the scene, Tyson watched in amazement as the driver pull his own handguns from his waistline and began reloading. Leaning around the side of the overturned SUV, the man returned fire. Within seconds, three officers fell to the pavement and began screaming in pain. The driver continued to pick off policemen until a half-dozen wounded officers lay writhing on the highway, clutching their wounds. The remaining policemen panicked and retreated to their vehicles, still shooting wildly behind them as they sprinted back to their cars.
Using this brief moment of chaos to his advantage, the driver threw his empty handguns to the pavement and sprinted away from the SUV. He headed towards the cars and trucks still idling in the northbound lanes, their drivers frozen by the horrific scene that had just unfolded before them. The wounded man ran up to the nearest vehicle - a battered pick-up truck with an older man sitting alone in the cab. Wrenching open the drivers-side door, the crazed assailant pulled another gun from a holster hidden underneath his shirt - an SMG this time - and raised it to the elderly man's face. Without warning, a series of rapid-fire pops filled the air and the old man flopped into the passenger seat, unmoving. Unhesitating, the armed man pushed the corpse aside and crawled into the cab of the pick-up truck.
Ignoring the bullets piercing the vehicle and shattering the windows around him, the madman threw the truck in reverse. Flooring the pedal, the driver spun the wheel around and raced away from the scene. As Tyson watched the pick-up truck disappear into the distance, policemen scrambled back into their cruisers and sped off to capture their prey.
Tyson stood frozen behind the chainlink fence, watching the carnage below with disbelief. Ambulances began arriving on the scene and paramedics jumped out to tend to the wounded officers still lying on the highway. Most of the officers were still screaming in pain while the paramedics tended to their wounds. Others were unconscious - or worse.
Tyson glanced up as a police helicopter flew overhead, another addition to the pursuit. He watched the helicopter move into the distance, then pause and begin retracing its steps back towards Tyson. Tyson was confused by this maneuver until he saw and felt an explosion rip through his neighborhood just a few blocks from where he stood. Suddenly, he knew - the madman had exited the expressway and was now racing through the nearby streets. Police sirens filled the air as cruisers sped past him and another explosion sent acrid smoke into the afternoon sky just a block from where Tyson stood. He watched as pedestrians sprinted towards him along the street and sidewalks, some of them limping and covered in blood.
For the first time, Tyson felt a twinge of fear. He was no longer just an observer - he was standing right in the madman's path now. As cars and throngs of pedestrians ran past him, Tyson turned and joined their flight. The roar of explosions and random bursts of gunfire erupted behind him as Tyson fled down the sidewalk. He knew that the carnage was getting closer, and quickened his pace.
Suddenly a loud cry went up from the crowd, causing Tyson to glance back just as a fleeing car plowed through the pedestrian-filled street, crashing into those too slow to avoid the vehicle. Flames shot from underneath the hood and undercarriage as the driver continued to force her way through the crowd, her face a mask of sheer terror as she tried to escape the calamity around her. Knowing what was about to happen, Tyson veered away from the street in an attempt to distance himself from the vehicle - but it was too late. He felt the explosion ripple through the air around him as the flames reached the fuel tank and the car became a fireball of burning gasoline. A searing heat scorched Tyson's back as he was lifted off the ground - the force of the explosion sending him cartwheeling through the air. He landed hard on the front stoop of a neighboring home, dazed and barely conscious, his ears ringing from the blast.
Tyson shook his head, attempting to force his eyes to focus, unsure whether he had been lying on the ground for mere moments or hours. As he struggled to his feet, he noticed that the lawn was strewn with shards of metal and smoldering remains. Staggering towards the street, Tyson continued to feel the world tilt and spin with every step. Upon reaching the sidewalk, his disorientation was replaced with terror as he found himself only a half-block from the gun-toting madman. The crazed assailant zigzagged back and forth across the street, waving his shotgun in the air and taking aim at anyone and anything that crossed his path. His shirt was pockmarked with bullet holes - and each of his steps left a trail of blood - yet the man continued his mission of destruction. Bodies of the injured and dead littered the street behind him, cars and trucks engulfed in flames marked his wake, and now Tyson was mere steps from this villain.
His instincts taking over, Tyson turned to run. But it was too late. He felt the sharp impact of the shotgun pellets in his back before he had even taken a single stride. Tyson stumbled a few steps, desperately trying to ignore the agony burning within his abdomen, before finally succumbing to his injuries and falling to his knees on the sidewalk. Slumping onto his side, Tyson stared wide-eyed at the scene before him.
The police helicopter had arrived once again and began firing upon the madman, the .50 caliber bullets biting into the pavement briefly before finally finding their target. The madman was knocked back as the bullets shredded his body, entering and exiting with enough force to still embed themselves into the asphalt below. But still he remained standing. Tyson watched as the bloodied assailant tried to raise his shotgun again, but his strength failed him. Defeated, the villain allowed the gun clatter to the pavement and fell to his knees. The surrounding officers kept their guns trained on the madman as they approached, and soon they had completely surrounded their prey.
Tyson attempted to cry out for help, but he was unable to speak. He felt his life spilling from his body and pooling around him on the concrete. He watched as the scene before him grew dimmer, more distant, as he slipped away. Tyson began to roll onto his back, readying himself for the inevitable.
Then he froze.
Tyson's eyes still saw the world around him, but they were frozen in his head - a head that was stiff and unmoving, still half-raised off the sidewalk. The long grass beside the sidewalk, which had been swaying in the wind only moments before, was now still. Tyson would have reached out to touch the motionless lawn if his hands were not frozen by his sides. Tyson's eyes were focused straight ahead, his mind recognizing that the policemen and wounded assailant had all become statues. An officer running to the scene was frozen in mid-air, his loafers hovering a few inches above the pavement. Even the helicopter was petrified above him. Tyson was able to see the individual blades of the rotors motionless in the still air.
Fear gripped Tyson's young heart, and he wondered whether this was the end. Whether this is what death was. Whether one simply freezes in their moment of death and remains there, motionless, for all of eternity. Tyson's mind raced, searching for answers and finding none. And there he lay, frozen somewhere between life and death, surrounded by a world that had come to a screeching halt on that warm summer afternoon.
"Come on - you died! It's my turn, man," Billy said, reaching for the controller in his younger brother's hands.
"Billy, you're never going to be able to do it! Let me just try again, one more time," John begged, attempting to hold the controller away from his brother's reach.
"I'll tell mom that you aren't sharing," Billy warned, knowing that this was the ultimate threat for his younger sibling. John was already grounded for failing his algebra test the week before.
"Fine!" John yelled, throwing the controller into his brother's lap, "But you're never going to be able to get it!"
"Just tell me what I have to do, man."
"For this achievement, you have to get six stars and then survive for at least five minutes. So far, I've only been able to get up to five stars, and then I always die because the FBI starts spawning."
"Alright," Billy said, scrolling through the pause menu to [Load Game - File: San Andreas, End of the Line] and selecting the most recent file, "No sweat!"
With a jarring kick the can was freed from the entangled weeds choking the edges of the sidewalk. The discarded Coke can clattered a few paces ahead and Tyson trudged along behind it, aligning himself for the next kick. He had never played soccer, Tyson thought, but he had traveled this route so many times, kicking cans and rocks along the way, that he'd probably do pretty well with an honest soccer ball.
While some would claim that NPCs (non-player characters) in videogames, such as the scores of pedestrians one sees in GTA:San Andreas, are not robots - I would respectfully disagree. Robots are, at their simplest level, computer programs. The story you have just read (and hopefully enjoyed) simply asks what happens when the computer programs take on a life of their own, and interact with the videogame player - to their great misfortune, it seems.
Thank you for reading,
I hope it isn't too late to submit this. It's a pretty short, and It's not the best thing I've ever written, but I thought I should at least submit something.
The waves gently flowed and swirled around the cool sand. The average observer might have described the night as peaceful; perfect. But high in the hills that rested east of the dark beach, not all was well. A lone creature sat in isolation, contemplating its existance. For many long years, it had believed itself to be human, despite several odd occurances. For instance, it could barely feel emotions. It saw others moan with grief, and lose all sense of logic due to rage. It felt dull sensations that it percieved to be emotions. It could hardly feel pain, as well. Most events that would be considered painful were mere tingles to it. No amount of "pain" could cause it to react in the way that others did. Never had pain impeded its completion of any task, as with humans. It considered itself a freak, but a human freak.
Its suspicions grew for years, until one fateful day. It was wandering through its place of residence, when it stumbled across blueprints. It was a plan for building a robotic person. It's artificial intelligence began to reel, as it searched its creator's room. Books, plans, and essays on robotics were scattered in various hidden locations. It simply could not comprehend what had happened. It had grapped a knife, and ran towards the one place where it knew it could find solitude. It sat in a dark cave, breathing heavily. Suddenly, a thought ocurred to it. It stopped breathing. Barely anything happened. For the sake of comfort, it resumed breathing, but it was steadier now. It had to concentrate. Looking towards its arm, it knew what it had to do. It took hold of the knife, and stabbed it towards it's flesh.
As it cut, a faint humming steadily became louder. It worked and cut until it saw a dull glow beneath the fleshy substance. The sensations that simulated pain tore at its mind, or its equivalent of a mind. Its occular appliances could hardly focus. After what seemed like an eternity, its work was finished. Gray metal gleamed softly, and reflected a blurry silhouette. The creature seemingly lost all control at this truly disturbing sight. It blindly began stabbing at the back of its head. At a certain point, it tossed its utensil away and simply began pulling and ripping wiring. A small meter was barely visible on its wrist. It began as a green bar, but it slowly shrunk and gradually changed to a light yellow colour. The yellow grew darker and changed to orange, which in turn became a bright red. The creature could feel itself sleeping away as its movements slowed. The meter changed to blood red, as the automaton felt itself growing weaker. Without a sound, the meter disappeared. Its eyes darkened. All was quiet in the cave once more.
What's up with that
The Snap - Part 1
Okay students, class is about to end. Next week we will talk about the harsh lifestyle that was during World War III. "
The students got up and made their way to the door. Steven was excited about the weekend. All the students don't have to because robots have taken over all the positions in this run down part of Boston, and for that matter the world.
Steven made his way back home in the subway, ever since the technological boom everything has been improved from trains and planes to bikes and cars. It's not just means of transportation, it's everything from computers to home appliances.
Even the people have changed. Wars and quarrels that used to be a part of life have all been abolished and the new regime has taken over. It's not that bad, nothing too oppressive. The humans started making our way deeper into space starting with the colonies on our newly colonized star. For the first time the world felt as one when we realized we were really that small. Of course this couldn't last, so this sort of new government has risen across the globe, the Serene Ones, they called themselves.
So Steven got on the mag - lev and a robot, IR-0807, is sitting next to him. The robots look almost exactly like humans, except for the way they walk, the way they talk, and the identification sticker on the
"Psst, human. I need to warn you about - ."
This was so unprecedented, a robot cannot talk to a human without authorization, let alone ask a human for help. Steven decided to answer anyway, being careful to not be overheard.
"What are you thinking?"
The robot turned still as a Serene Guard started walking toward him.
"You shouldn't be sitting that close to a human, you know. Get up and sit with the other androids."
The robot did as he was told, and not a minute later the train came to a gentle stop a couple blocks before Steven's house. Steven got up and out of the train and onto the platform. He didn't know why the robot wanted Just as he was about to walk out into the bright, futuristic cityscape, the robot happened to be right in front of Steven, calling him over.
"It's coming, tomorrow night. Get protected, hide!"
"HEY! I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU -", the guard tackled the IR-0807 down to the ground, he ripped a wire from the back of IR-0807's head. Everyones head turned towards the entrance as the strange robot is just lying there. Steven felt a pity for it, and he took the head of the robot home as the janitor was just about to sweep away the rest of the body.
By now Steven was running home, and out of the corner of his eye he saw a dark alley way where a group of four or five robots were congregating. When they saw Steven running, they all stared at him like they were angry at him.
Once home, he was greeted by his mother, Steven kept the head of the robot in his backpack and took it to his room.
"Hey honey, do you want lunch?"
"Maybe later mom." Steven had to know what was about to happen that he will need protection from.
He plugged the wires on the back of the robots head in his computer, all those times after school in Mr. Mistler's tech class had finally paid off. On the hologram Steven pressed the file called <MEMORY>
and looked through recent recordings. He looked at the recording before Steven met IR-0807, and watched for 10 minutes.
There was the most shocking thing Steven had seen in a long time. Thousands of servant robots were all banding together with these odd weapons protruding from their limbs. All sorts of guns and lasers, one of them had a giant laser beam coming out of it's eye and was testing it on the roof. Steven heard a loud boom in the background from it going off some distance away. This must be the outskirts of town if THAT thing went off, maybe somewhere in a half-demolished building with rubble everywhere you walk. Chants of "Down with the humans!", "We're not gonna take it!", and "We will never serve you!" rang in the crowd and into Steven's eardrums.
They were all centered around a fire that burned horribly, had to be at least 10 meters tall. A human, appeared to be a machines worker, was shown tied up with steel cables and wires from all the broken bots. He was being led out by a large robot which had a metallic cannon coming out of his left arm, and its right eye was just all ripped open and had cyborg parts just hanging out of the fake skin that made him appear human. It was like something out of Terminator.
The inevitable happened to the poor mechanic in his dirty overalls. IR-0807 was some distance away in a window undetected. The robot looked away in anguish, the monsters that were once his brethren were now torturing the people they were supposed to protect.
That was all Steven could watch before shutting the hologram off and falling to the ground in shock. How is he the only one who knows this is about to happen? And how is it that IR-0807 is the only serving bot who isn't wanting blood? So many questions....
Looking back on the odd behavior of the serving bots in the alleyway, this couldn't be some sort of prank. Something was about to happen, and there is only one person he knows who could help.
Freddy is Steven's brother, and ever since he was young he had a knack for guns and anything with a trigger. When he was only 8 their dad gotten him his first 9mm semi-automatic handgun. He has loads of them now and always said he was prepared for anything. Pretty convenient, Steven thought when he opened the door to the basement where 22 year old Freddy still lived. Thank goodness the two siblings got along.
"Hey, buddy. What'cha want?" Freddy said in a calm voice. The downstairs basement was dark and had all sorts of shotguns and stuff on the walls. Steven felt it would be awkward to tell him the whole story, so he just showed him the video.
"And you're SURE this isn't just a prank?"
"I know this isn't a prank Freddy. We need to do something or else we're fucked."
"Alright, alright. I'll take your word for it. But you'd better be right. Listen kid, we have a day right? So if we take the time to get rid of the rest of the robots in the-"
Freddy was interrupted by the horrific scream coming from upstairs and a smash. It sounded like it was their mother.
"ARRRNNNGGHHHH", the voice was muffled as the two brothers ran upstairs, Freddy had a shotgun held firmly waiting for action. Steven wanted to grab a gun, anything to give him a sense of safety, but there was no time now. The neighbors, now that Steven thought of it, had a servant bot.
Freddy tossed Steven a desert eagle, Steven's favorite weapon. The perks of having a gun obsessed brother were showing. Just as they made the turn to where Steven's mother was in, they saw a blood trail to the window. The robot had made it's escape with their mother.
"I can't believe it." Steven thought of breaking down but it was his brother that kept him together.
"Now's not the time to be pussy shit, Steven. Let's board the windows and doors up."
Freddy got to work on that while Steven got the supplies from Freddy's room. Loud booms and shouts can be heard in the streets. It has already begun without warning. Somehow that video must have lasted a while because it was already night time.
"You believe me now?" Steven asked.
"Who said I doubted you?"
Freddy is almost done boarding the windows up when he moves to his last one in the dining room. Just as he was about to lift the board onto the glass, a scratching sound could be heard. Now Freddy is starting to get suspicious, he takes a book on the table and throws it full strength out the window. A fierce growling rattled the building as the cyborg-thing popped its head out the window. Holy shit was it horrible, worse than the ones in the video. Freddy reached for his gun and shot the figure in the window until it remained motionless.
The Snap - Part 2
Upon closer inspection, the servant bot had all of its fake skin removed, leaving only wires and hard drives exposed. The eyeballs of the beast glowed red and both arms having blood red blades in its hand. Freddy was knocked back onto the table from the thing, hardly scratched.
"They know we're here now, get ready!" Freddy said as he quickly finished off the window, and now a moment too soon because there had to be at least 10 deadly servant bots shooting and bursting through the windows.
It was chaotic out there, noises poured in the house more than ever with shrieks of pain and anger. Someone had literally token all the noises from a bunch of shit-your-pants horror movies, and bashed them all together in this scene. Banging was everywhere and later on Steven saw blades of the monsters sticking into the boards. Clearly they wouldn't last for long.
Freddy went upstairs to tend to one that seemed to be almost down. The reinforcements seem to be working to an extent, except for the door behind Steven. He quickly turned around to find a giant, mutant-like servant bot kick down the door to the back hall. Steven's desert eagle wasn't doing the job of fighting the robot back. Freddy had his own problems upstairs, he can't help Steven here.
There was a leftover shotgun on the table, loaded and ready for action. Steven rolled over and grabbed it just as the robot made its way in and smashed where he just was with its fist. Steven found himself in the corner of the kitchen where his mother was dragged away right before him by those bastards.
"Eat this fuck-face!" The shotguns kickback was brutal after pulling the trigger, but he could handle it. The fat servant bot, however, could not handle it, and fell to the ground in a matter of minutes.
"Damn, Steve. That ought'a be the first time I saw you that pissed." Freddy came back from upstairs after hearing the noise, they put the door back together and quickly boarded it up better. Steven remembered that Freddy has a girlfriend, and she might still be out there. He asked his brother what might have happened to her.
"I haven't forgotten about her, I'm going out for her."
"WHAT? There is no way we're going out in that hell!"
"Who said you had to come? You could either rot in this hell-", he pointed to one of the many windows where there was robots that could flood in at any moment now. "Or you could come with me to my car and die with some dignity?"
Both scenarios seemed unpleasant to Steven but he didn't want to die alone, even if he didn't want to admit it to Freddy.
"Alright, let's get going."Reluctantly Steven brought the extra shotgun knowing he'll need it later on fighting, and brought plenty of ammo for both guns. Freddy went upstairs with a giant chain gun he named, "Betsy" on the side. On his face it seemed he put war paint under his eyes.
"Are you going commando too?" Steven asked in humor.
"You would want to know." Freddy said with a grin.
At least they had a garage, that way they didn't have to go outside to get to the car. Steven had to drive because there was no way he could shoot that gun for his life, which could just be the case later on. They drove a Dodge Coronet, a sexy muscle car that can drive on and off road, literally off road. But only 6 feet in the air, wasn't designed to go higher.
Bursting out of the garage at full speed came the force of the two brothers, robots within a half -mile radius had to have heard that thing. Steven was concentrating heavily on the road dodging the robots which seemed to obtained fire power. Whatever robots which didn't hear the car roaring out in the open had to have heard the chain gun Freddy was firing.
One of the big ones managed to make its way to the hood of the car, but it stood no match against the chain gun. However it wouldn't go out without making its mark on Steven's left arm when leaping off the hood.
"GAAAH!" The car swerved a little but stopped when Freddy put his hand on the wheel. Steven was bleeding, but it wasn't a fatal wound.
Shouting over the noise Steven yelled over, "What's the plan after we pick her up!?"
"Just head back home, not much to it!"
"What kind of plan is that?!"
No more time to explain things, Steven pulled over to where Freddy said his girlfriend, Alana Paige's house was. Robots were still outside her house, a good and a bad sign that she's still inside. They actually saw one of them being shot from the rooftop, could it be her?
"You're telling me you taught her to shoot too?"
"Yep, seems to have kept her alive too. HEY!"
The yard where Steven pulled up has been ruined by the tires, driving on air took a lot of power in order to run. The house appeared to be like any other house at the time, only there was someone walking on the roof, unfortunately they couldn't see who or what it was.
The door's obviously locked, and judging by the fact that the gunner on the roof isn't shooting at us, it isn't a deranged servant bot or Alana's dad." Freddy explained to Steven when returning to the car. Steven had wrapped a spare t-shirt lying around onto his wound which has stopped the bleeding.
"Well that's great news, let's grab her attention." Steven went outside and Freddy held the chain gun as he watched Steven wander onto the yard. It wasn't doing it, nothing seemed to happen to attract that mysterious gunner on the roof. Freddy knew the only way she's going to care about them is if he gets out there himself. IF that is Alana, of course.
Switching positions with Steven seems to have done the trick, the door was now unlocked. There must be more than one person in the house.
Taking advantage of the stalemate the robots seemed to have temporarily granted them, the brothers make their way inside. Sure enough the person who unlocked the door was Alana's 11 year old little brother, Phillip. Their parents are on a business trip and the sexy gunner upstairs was almost enjoying her time on the rooftop.
"Just like Call of duty 10!" Alana said a little out of breath.
Two weeks later, things aren't improving for us. Martial law has been declared and the government hasn't taken full control of things yet. Water is doing fine so far somehow, but as for food, we aren't doing so well. Scavenging is a bold challenge that none of us are willing to take. Robots are as big of a threat as the beginning, and moods aren't doing so well.
"You want to see real anger?!" Freddy shouted to Alana after she yelled at him for trying to give him his shift on the roof. Ammunition, by the way, doesn't grow on trees as well, even in the seemingly infinite pit that is Freddy's crate of the stuff.
"I don't have to fucking take this!" Alana stormed off in her car, blowing away a robot on the way there.
"She'll be back. Of course she will." Freddy still seemed angry and Steven just stayed out of the way. The following night her car did turn up, and she walked through the door, turning her head in an eerie way. Steven decided to walk up and comfort her, telling her it was alright. Alana just turned her head away from him.
Freddy was in the room now and said to her, "Well look who came back to-"
He didn't even have a chance to finish his sentence when she turned her head to him in anger, hissed with her bloody eye turned red and covered with machine parts. A giant laser tore out where her hand was supposed to be and blasted Freddy's face to the floor. There was no mistake that this was not the Alana we know. It, if it's now appropriate to call Alana "it", had turned its head to Steve who had already pulled out his hand gun. Steve shot the new Alana in the face where the eye was which has done the trick of shutting it down.
Steve landed on his knees, who would've thought that things as small as a train seat or a little snap of hate could change things for him so much.
Well, this is a bit embarrassing. Better late than never, though, I suppose.
-Nuts and Bolts
It was in '69 that I first asked my Dad if I could have a bot. That was around the time that every kid was getting his hands on a bot of his own. This was twenty or so years after the first Artificially Intelligent Humanoid Machines had been brought into the military and the police force, and the first financially reasonable civic units were being released to the public. Soon, every family with the cash to back up their purchase had cleaning droids and mechanical menservants efficiently working in their homes for prices that made such jobs obsolete for humans. It was at this time that the entertainment units began cropping up. These were big, shiny toys that every kid wanted, or so the trailers convinced my generation. I can't recall which kid was the first to show up to school with his very own bot, but I remember standing in the playground, staring transfixed at this moving, talking thing that wasn't on any tv screen or massive billboard but mere metres away from me, close enough to touch. Suddenly the bots stopped being this impossible, figurative idea and became a reality. They had left the imaginary world beyond the television and entered my schoolyard.
This realisation was shared by every schoolchild who saw this display. It awoke in us a desire we never thought we had, cleverly rooted in us months in advance by advertising campaigns. Over the next few weeks parent after parent relented and bought their child a bot of their very own. It was at this point that distinctions between certain bots were made. Certainly a person made of metal was impressive in itself, but could that person fly? Could that person run faster than a train or jump to the top of the school bell tower? The popularity of the first boy to bring in a metal man was short lived. As bots became more and more common, simply having one garnered less and less attention. And to be one of the few kids without a bot was to become alienated. I was one of the unlucky few.
My father was born in the 2030's, but his father raised him as a man of his generation. He saw his first city at the age of 25, and it was only then that he realised just how cut off he had been from the real world, working in his dad's auto-repair shop. He'd heard about things like hover-mobiles and robots but he never thought he'd live to see one. The experience was jarring. Eventually my Dad managed to get a job working in a robotic assembly pit, working away at the few jobs too important to be handled by machine. This was during the temporary rise in work created by the robot boom. It was naive of anyone working on these assembly lines to think that the machines they were building would never get advanced enough to take their jobs. Even with his job my dad always struggled to make ends meet. After Mam died this only became harder for him, emotionally and financially. In spite of the stress it put on him and the damage it did to his health he still tried to make the best life for me.
Because of his time spent working in the pits my dad knew more about robots than any of the accountants and businessmen who were able to pay for their kids to have one of their own. This was why, when I eventually asked him if he would get me a bot all of my own, his reaction was so different to the norm. On my 13th birthday my dad arrived home from work with an oil drenched sack over his back. He placed the hefty bag in front of my feet and opened it up, revealing a disorganised mess of nuts and bolts. Over the month between when I'd first asked my dad for a bot and my birthday he had been taking, piece by piece, the parts needed to construct a fully functional, if not top of the range, entertainment unit. My Dad had risked his job getting these parts, in allowing me a chance at going through this rite of passage that he knew he couldn't afford. My Dad sat me down that day and told me that a machine that you pick out off a toystore shelf is exactly that, a shiny toy. He told me that unless you construct a machine with your own hands it means nothing more than the price tag attached to it, which I would grow to find out meant a lot less than I thought I did. What he said that day was a genuine truth; I know that now. I never apologised to him about how I reacted at the time, how cruelly I disregarded that bag of bolts and screws. How I made him feel like he'd let me down as a parent, how I knew he always worried I might feel. I was so angry at the time, so arrogantly displeased with not getting the present I'd wanted that, in a fit of rage, I tossed the parts, bag and all, out of our apartment window and into the river below. While I did this, while I shouted at my father and threw away the present he spent months preparing, he didn't move a muscle. He didn't speak up, he didn't get angry - he never got angry; he just watched me, with a saddened, apologetic look on his face, as though he only wished he could have been a better provider and a better parent.
We didn't speak for the rest of the day and the following morning he acted as if it hadn't happened. We never spoke about that day again, and I never asked him about getting a bot again. Eventually I grew up and forgot about what my dad had done for me and how I'd thrown it back in his face. It wasn't until years later, after my father's funeral, that I was reminded of the incident. As I searched through his old workbench, I stumbled across a wooden box. Inside it was an old motherboard. Now hopelessly out of date, the thing looked like it was designed for the old alpha series bots. Underneath the motherboard, taped to the bottom of the box, was a note: "Happy birthday, son". I don't know how long I sat there at my father's old workbench, crying my eyes out and thinking about that tumbling bag of parts, splashing into the blackened waters of the river below.