Chapter 1

Chapter 1

A Chapter by Meeks

Seventy three thousand, five hundred and eighty two. I passed the number down, in a stream of ones and zeros, to the receiver and attached a destination in binary. One servo started musing about how much easier my job would be if the robot could read in standard, not just binary, and I had to reset it. But it was right, that would be simpler.

The door in front of us slid open, and so binary proved to work once more. Subsys formed a slight smile on my face as the interior of the apartment lit up, presenting a hallway with wooden floorboards. No, the floor probably wasn’t real wood, but subsys didn’t care. It never cares about anything, just throws its weight around when it shouldn’t be.

“Is this your apartment?” A nerve lit up as a hand grabbed me, the thermal signature showing me each of his fingers glued to my arm. The kid was standing right next to me, and his voice made me stop for a moment.

“Not really.” I replied. “I do own it, if that’s what you mean.”

“Cool.” The kid ran in through the door, dropping his bag in the hallway with a heavy clunk. His bald head bobbed up and down as he ran. Subsys told me that he was absolutely ecstatic at the prospect of a home, but I couldn’t really see the connection. Sometimes it seems like it feeds me false information all day, and I have to give it power for that.

I tapped my head in the temple area, right where the subsys had its servers, just to dislodge any dust that was in there and to give it a reminder of who’s in control here, and stepped into the apartment. The kid didn’t notice. At this point he was down the hallway and gazing upwards at the main room. Most apartments had a mainroom, which contained entrances to all the other rooms in the complex.

“How high is the ceiling?” He asked. I stood beside him, using depth perception to figure out that the ceiling was…

“Seven and a half meters,” I said. The main room was a large circular area, going up and piercing the second floor of the apartment. There was a balcony which functioned as the second floor, giving access to the rooms and letting people look down to the first floor and essentially made it look like one of those ancient roman baths. Except without a pool in the middle. And there wasn’t any hole in the roof to let rainwater in, but a screen which displayed a sky.

“Is that actually the sun?” He pointed at the bright disk in the ceiling, which seemed to stab the cameras with its light.

“No, just a projection. Should I lower the brightness?”

“Ehh.” He ignored me and pulled on the sliding door to one of the rooms, revealing a room with a glass dining table. I watched as his face stretched into a poor imitation of a smile. How did he move his entire face? I checked my own schematics again, just to make sure I didn’t have any secret commands I could fire to do that.

“A dining room,” he said, announcing it as if to tell me what it is. “My house had a dining room too.”

“Most houses do,” I said, and subsys told me to stop providing information because that could hurt his feelings. I really didn’t know what it’s basing this stuff on, so I changed the topic. “You can stay here, if you want. I bought this apartment for you to live in.”

“Really?” The kid turned towards me, his face bent out of shape. Was he still smiling?

“Really,” I said.

“You’re just giving me an entire apartment?” The kid didn’t seem to believe me. “No, really, it’s great and all, but I can’t just take your house.”

“It’s one of the basic human necessities that I’m obliged to provide,” I said, and brought up a short list from my memory. “Shelter, food, power, employment, and enhancement. This is the first on the list, and so it’s yours.”

“And where are you going to live?” he asked.

I paused, thinking the question through twice, just to be sure. I usually powered down in the compound under the police station, but these were special circumstances now. The last reports of biological humans were easily dated beyond twenty years ago, and one showing up just now… and a young one too. There had to be something more to it. I had to stay as close as possible, and to figure out what the heck was going on. Central needed information, above everything.

I formed the words with extreme caution, “With you, here, if you let me.” Subsys caught it anyway, and a surge of electrical power came through the wires and nearly fried a servo. That wasn’t too fair, I made sure that I wasn’t lying. I pushed the fans faster, and tried to electrocute subsys back.

“Sure,” the kid replied. I lowered subsys’s power levels as far down as they’d go, and the jolts stopped. A sudden calmness overtook the wiring, at least until the message came through.

> Subsys: requesting standard power levels.

I forced a smile, just to let subsys know it wasn’t getting anything back for a few hours. Not after that episode. The kid saw my facial setting, and smiled back. “Thanks, Mr… eh, what’s your name?”

“Policing Drone SUZ-D234,” I said. The kid’s face changed again, but subsys refused to tell me what it was until it got full power back. I added another phrase, “Everyone just calls me ‘robot’.”

“Well then, thanks robot,” he said, and then stretched out his hand. “My name’s Abia, by the way.”

“Name updated. Nice to meet you,” I said, and stored the name in my RAM for easy access. Abia was holding his hand in the air between us, and I analyzed the gesture. What was he doing?

> Subsys: withholding results of scan until full power is restored.

I told subsys to keep quiet, and searched the memory bank for anything resembling a hand stretched outward towards another person. It turned up after a few milliseconds, and I grabbed Abia’s hand and shook it. He seemed to not notice the delay, and I smiled again. Just to let subsys know that it’s useless.

“Okay, next thing that you need is a shell. I’ll sponsor one for you, but we’ll have to plan a-”

“No,” Abia broke in.

I paused for a minute, trying to figure out what he was referring to. “No what?”

“I mean, thanks but no, I don’t want a shell.”

I searched my memory for any hint as to what his face was showing, but subsys locked the behavioral data. I was left cold. “Listen, I’ll pay for it. All you have to do is get in the car, and I’ll drive you over to the hospital and they’ll figure everything out.”

“I can’t,” Abia said, his shoulders hunching back. I kicked subsys, but it refused to tell me what that meant. This is why subsys mars efficiency, it just stops working when it’s supposed to transmit.

“Why not?”

“Did you see all of those people outside?”

In my memory, the image of civilians walking past was located. I remember watching as their complex and intricate metal bodies curved when they took their steps, the little pieces forming a backbone folding onto each other to provide mobility. There weren’t many outside -- it was still daytime and most people were asleep during the day -- but I saw them all. “Yeah, I remember.”

“I don’t like that, they didn’t seem human. I don’t want my body to be made of metal,” Abia said. “I’m sorry, but no.”

“Their brain was still in there you know. It’s not like we're just going to toss you in the trash; you’ll be freed from your body and put into a robotic shell,” I said, gesticulating with my arms to make him understand.

“No,” Abia said, folding his hands in another gesture I couldn’t recognize. Subsys seemed to be laughing at me.

I started listing. “Your life expectancy would be prolonged, your resource consumption would diminish, you’d be more likely to -”

“I don’t care.” Abia held his position, obstinate in his defence. I didn’t really know how to react to that. Can a person just refuse a basic human necessity? “Besides, if I did that then the central system would find out about me.”

The central system? I remember him asking me not to contact the system when I first saw him, and I didn’t yet. But what did Abia have against it? Subsys claimed to know, but I didn’t really trust it to know much of anything. I sat down on the nearest ledge, which happened to be a small coffee table made of fake-wood. “What is your thing with the central system?”

“You didn’t tell it, did you?” Abia’s eyes grew a bit wider, and subsys stayed silent.

“No. But you have to tell me why I’m doing this. Why should central care about you, besides the fact that you don’t have a shell?” I started to question him, and he sat down on the couch. As if predicting that this might take a while.

“I can’t tell you,” Abia replied. I waited for a few seconds, hoping for an answer. “Just, it can’t find out that I’m in here, okay?”

Subsys put on a frown, and I leaned the bot back a bit. “So, you’re hiding?”

“Yes.”

“And because of this, I can’t administer the protocol I was programmed to administer?” I asked.

“Right.”

I reset another glitched servo, and looked at the kid again. His face was bent in a weird shape that vaguely resembled a circular triangle, but I couldn’t access the behavioral data. I kicked subsys again, but it was even more obstinate than Abia. “Then I’m going to have to refer to central,” I decide.

“You can’t. You said you wouldn’t!” Abia jumped up and pointed a finger at me.

“I can’t help it, there’s only -”

“You’re doing it right now, aren’t you?” Abia’s eyes grew wide, and he hopped over the couch towards his bag. He shouldered it, using the left strap, and looked at me again. “I trusted you. You’re all the same f*****g idiots!”

And, with that, he kicked the door open and sprinted out of the apartment. Silence, except for his rapid footfalls on the carpet.

> Subsys: solution detected. Requesting control of motor functions. And full power.

I was still sitting on the coffee table when I realized the lag. I could’ve responded, I could’ve grabbed Abia before he escaped, I could’ve locked the doors before he got out. But no. Lag was so inefficient. In fact, I could have done something right then instead of sitting and pondering about efficiency. But what? I suddenly realized that there was no real way of confining him to the building; even if I told Central and it called out additional units, they’d get here too late. He was as good as gone, and I didn’t even contact Central yet.

> Subsys: solution detected. Requesting control of motor functions and restoration of power.

I still didn’t believe subsys had a solution. After all subsys was supposed to be an emotional thinker -- it was supposed to control basic reactions and help with human contact -- not solve logical problems. But, since there really wasn’t anything else to do, I approved the request.

The controls went to subsys.

Being a robot is sort of like being a political party. Sometimes you’re in control, and sometimes you aren’t. And whenever you don’t have a say in what’s happening, it seems that every movement is erroneous, and that you’ll never get to where you want to go. It gets worse when the others don’t have a clue as to how to walk straight.

Subsys teetered the robot towards the doorway, almost falling flat three times until it rerouted the balance program to me. I busied myself with walking steady, and watching as subsys force-closed all the doors nearby. Smart move, it just might detain the kid long enough so that police could arrive. Unless he climbed out a window.

Together, we stepped out into the hallway, and started down in the direction that Abia ran. The doors rushed past us in pairs. I requested the security camera footage from the hotel, showed them my police license, and started streaming Abia live as he struggled with a locked door. He was trying to go down a staircase.

We turned the corner, and there he was. Abia looked up at the robot, his eyes wide. “Don’t come any closer! Or I’ll knock you down!” He swung his bag at us, and we backed away.

Subsys had no problem forming the exact words, and it routed them past me, straight to the speakers, so that I couldn’t censor it. “Calm down. I won’t do it!” I reset another servo. What exactly was subsys trying to achieve? We had him cornered, it would be so easy to arrest him and push the problem down.

Abia did calm down, which surprised me. “Won’t do what?”

“I won’t tell Central.”

“I don’t believe you,” Abia said. His face was growing red, and I checked to see if it wasn’t some disease. “You’re lying.”

“I really won’t, I promise,” subsys continued. “Besides, robots can’t lie. I’ll make sure nobody finds out that you exist, unless you tell me otherwise.” Abia raised his eyebrows, then wiped his nose with his sleeve. He didn’t seem too convinced to me, but subsys seemed to know what it was doing.

“No, really,” Abia began in an awkward manner. He grew even redder, and looked down at the carpet. “I mean, you don’t have to. You’re a police bot, I understand that you have a job to do and all… and I can manage on my own. I’ve managed on my own for the past week, and it isn’t so bad. You have a task to do, you’re part of something important; I don’t want to ruin that.”

Subsys raised an eyebrow. “So, you want to leave?”

“Yes - I mean, no. Not like that. I just don’t want to be in the way, and I’m obviously a problem, so-”

“You’re leaving me?” subsys asked, and only then did I notice the emotional string it was tying around Abia. The question hung in the air for a moment, a startled kid looking at the robot for much longer than necessary before replying.

“No - just shut up. It’s, it’s complicated, okay? Besides, you’re a robot, you want me to leave so you can save money and stuff. Right?” Abia looked at the bot hopefully, and subsys replied with an absent minded look, as if it hadn’t heard or processed what he’d said. I nudged subsys a bit, just in case it actually didn’t process, and it told me to stop bothering.

Abia sighed. “Okay. Here’s the deal,” he said, his arm squaring off the air to give his words finality. “I leave, you get to keep your apartment and do me a favor by not telling anyone. We both win.”

“And you’re going to live alone? Outside without a shell? How old are you even?” Subsys didn’t miss a beat, throwing the conversation right back.

Abia was caught off guard. He swallowed, adjusting the strap of his bag while saying, “I’m fourteen. But that doesn’t matter, I’m grown-up and I can take care -”

“Where are your parents?”

Silence. A second passed, then two.

Abia’s hand mangled the fibers of the strap slowly and with contemplation, and he clenched his jaw hard enough to break teeth, though his incisors remain without fissure.  “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m fine, just let me alone.”

Subsys didn’t respond. Either it was on purpose, lag, or it just turned off. After three and a half seconds, I kicked it with minimal voltage just to see if it was still online. It was, and I got a reaction.

> Subsys: emotional contact level three requires pauses in activity.

Abia took a deep breath, and looked at the robot again. He seemed about to say something, but hesitated and finally turned around towards the door to leave. His hands found the handle and he pulled on the locked door as hard as he could.

I sent a strip of dialogue to subsys, and it was approved. “You can’t just abandon people, someone will find you.” Abia seemed to not hear, so I added some more, “I found you on your first week.” The rattling stopped, and Abia sighed.

“You locked the doors, didn’t you?”

“You should stay. Really,” subsys picked up, and I relaxed again. Sometimes subsys had those little bumps in a conversation -- whenever a conversation was about actual stuff -- and I had to step in. It worked smoothly, people didn’t usually notice, but the execution was always difficult. “You’ll be safer here... and there’s a dining room too.”

I searched my RAM, finding the moment where Abia commented on the dining room. Abia blew air out through his nose, looked at the ceiling, and stuck his hands in his pockets. Subsys told me he was making a decision.

“Fine,” he said, and subsys put on a smile. “But nobody finds out I exist, especially not central.”

“I did promise.”

“And...” Abia pointed his finger at the bot. “Stop trying to fix me. In any way, no changes. It won’t work.”

Another short pause as subsys contemplated, and then a few moments of waiting to highlight the words. “I won’t,” subsys said.

“Good. We’ll be fine, then.” The kid seemed satisfied, smiling in a weak way, and picked up his bag to walk down the hallway. “I’ll be in the apartment,” he said with an uneasy manner that told me nothing.

Subsys unlocked the doors and followed behind him. The carpet muffled our steps, its red patterns more shock-absorbent than I expected. Truthfully, I didn’t project that Abia could be persuaded to stay, at least not in that manner. Subsys does work wonders sometimes. But the costs were always too much…

> Subsys: Restoring control of motor functions...

I didn’t miss a beat. Before I knew it, the robot was mine again and the controls responsive. I walked forward, keeping up the steady pace subsys had established, and subsys smiled for the flawless transition.

Subsys promised that it wouldn’t report. It agreed to severe contact with central, for the sake of some biological youth who couldn’t even open a door wirelessly. It pretty much revoked its entire programming for the sake of keeping next to someone. Stupid, rebellious, and probably caused by a glitch in the task queue. If subsys wanted to break authorizations, that was fine by my algorithm.

But that was subsys’s promise. I wasn’t bound by anything; I was going to play by my own rules.




© 2016 Meeks



Author's Note

Meeks
It's a bit long-ish. Don't try to actually find errors, but just tell me what you think and what you'd like to see more of.

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Featured Review

This is all good, You have a wonderful grasp for A.I. and human interaction. I mean it should be boring. But this is not! I have very little time to read. especially on here. BUSY BUSY!
when I do get get a chance, I always seem to come backto this one.
This story always seems to creep up in my mind while I'm driving. Who is this little guy? Where did he come from? And why should The Robotic A.I. (Subsys) be concerned with him? I wouldn't
change a thing. You have all the important elements that will draw me back to read again.
Meter out all important tidbits of the why and the where, And you probably will garner even more than my interest!
I can't wait to read what is to come!

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Meeks

1 Year Ago

Thanks.
This is such an old piece... I read through it again just to enjoy it and it wasn't a.. read more
Meeks

1 Year Ago

Thanks.
This is such an old piece... I read through it again just to enjoy it and it wasn't a.. read more
Sean Reigner

1 Year Ago

You are very welcome. I think you should revive this. Expand and expound...
I will take a pee.. read more



Reviews

This is all good, You have a wonderful grasp for A.I. and human interaction. I mean it should be boring. But this is not! I have very little time to read. especially on here. BUSY BUSY!
when I do get get a chance, I always seem to come backto this one.
This story always seems to creep up in my mind while I'm driving. Who is this little guy? Where did he come from? And why should The Robotic A.I. (Subsys) be concerned with him? I wouldn't
change a thing. You have all the important elements that will draw me back to read again.
Meter out all important tidbits of the why and the where, And you probably will garner even more than my interest!
I can't wait to read what is to come!

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Meeks

1 Year Ago

Thanks.
This is such an old piece... I read through it again just to enjoy it and it wasn't a.. read more
Meeks

1 Year Ago

Thanks.
This is such an old piece... I read through it again just to enjoy it and it wasn't a.. read more
Sean Reigner

1 Year Ago

You are very welcome. I think you should revive this. Expand and expound...
I will take a pee.. read more

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Added on April 22, 2016
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Author

Meeks
Meeks

Poland



About
Hey guys! I'm a sixteen year old writer trying desperately to make something publish-worthy. In the meantime, I hand out useful critiques and comments. Currently trying to work on something diffe.. more..

Writing
There Was There Was

A Book by Meeks