Robot City

Whooo, was on a sprint here and the story wouldn't let me go for awhile in spite of me finding several spots i could have gotten up, stretch



    "Well that was a refreshing change of pace." Aleph was relieved to find that as their last call of the day. One might think it strange that they only have a handful of runs to make, but there's more paperwork plus interviews and investigations on their already established workload.
    Alexis nodded, "Poor guy. why not just go with a dedicated non-sentient construction unit?"
    "Because," Aleph's tone had a slight lecturing edge to it, "even though construction is generally predictable it takes the sort of intelligence and mental flexibility a self aware mind has to deal with the inevitable snarls and hiccups."
    "But what about all those sites that are completely built by machines. Y'know, that big island off the Australian coast. the new Tesla campus. They don't have thinking minds involved except as overseers."
    "Well while you're at it why not ask why a house-cleaner would include self-awareness. Especially if it gives her the ability to be bored, or unproductive if working conditions aren't what she likes." Aleph shrugged. "You want me to swing by somewhere so you can grab some food?"
    "Nah. I'll eat later. What's first on our list of Wonderful Things," She eyerolled, "when we get in?"
    "Reviewing preliminary evidence on the Robertson case." Alexis winced at these words. "The maid's being patched up and they've got a robopsychologist in talking to her."
    "What do you think?"
    Aleph glanced at his partner and shrugged.
    "No, really. your file says you've been active with the department for a couple years. you've had to have seen stuff like this before. How do you think it's going to turn out for her?"
    Silence for the rest of the ride. At first Alexis seemed to want to speak, but then realization of what her partner's quiet meant made her settle, thoughts turning to how unfair the whole situation seemed.

    We'll skip the boring paperwork and debriefings and whatnot. Exciting for the characters perhaps, but to us it's just the part of business that is an unavoidable bit that would drag things out if focused on too long. In summary though the Janitor was 'retired', after all he'd beaten somebody nearly to death for no apparent reason and he was transferred over to forensics to see if anything odd turned up. The maid, sadly, had to deal with Human-Rights for Humans types while being transferred, and unless someone took custody and responsibility her status reverted to ward of her parent company... who would likely reuse what parts they could for after-market repairs and recycle the rest instead of dealing with the lengthy and costly process of rehabilitating a physically and psychologically damaged synth.

    After their shift ended Alexis went to see her. While she had gotten strange looks she was allowed through with little trouble. Once safely suited up and through the airlock into the clean room she saw the woman lain out on a table being worked on by a pair of white suited technicians.
    "Oh...." She looked down at the apparently unconscious woman. "I'm sorry, when do you think she'll be awake?"
    One of the techs glanced over at her before returning to the work of rebuilding the woman's face. "Likely tomorrow before we try realspace contact. We've got her mind hooked in for electronica if it's important. Doctor Calvin left orders for her to not be disturbed till she's had more time to heal.
    Click. Wirrr. Alexis's eyes narrowed. "Doctor Calvin. As in the Calvin?"
    Headshake from the other tech, who never bothered looking up from the remote manipulators he was using, "Nah. Same family. Grand-Niece or something I think. Knows her stuff though so no offense but if it can wait, please go."
    Crestfallen, Alexis started to go. "If she's active before I get back mind letting her know I asked after her?"
    "Sure, sure."
    When she stripped the clean suit off Aleph was waiting on her. "Don't worry. These guys're good. They'll take care of her." Concern clearly visible on his face.
    "I know. It's just," Alexis shook her head and gestured, "It hurts we're stuck picking up the pieces and if someone doesn't take her in she's still going to get Retired. how can they throw someone's life away like that?"
    Aleph shrugged, "I try not to think about it too much. Afraid of what I'd do if I did. Go home, get some rest. My line's open whenever if you need a shoulder."
    "What about you?"
    "What about me?" He paused at this.
    "Don't you have a home, or do they keep you in a little cubby here at the station?"
    This got a chuckle out of Aleph. "Nah, home, neighbor's mutt comes by every now and then. Cards on Thursdays. Few department scheduled things on off hours. Not much but eh."
    "Regular social butterfly." Alexis smiled before heading to her bike.

    Later that night, after she'd gotten home and cleaned up, Alexis looked in her bathroom mirror and stared at herself as the day's pressures and perils tumbled 'round in her head. "Why did i ever agree to this?"
    "Miss." Oldstyle mechanical looking synth knocked against the bathroom door softly. "If I may?"
    "Yes," Alexis fought to recompose herself, not wanting to appear too emotional. "What is it Sam?
    The Synth's eyes dimmed for a moment, it's approximation of blinking. "You told me when you first enlisted that you knew there were dark and cruel people out there, and you wanted to put them away so they wouldn't hurt the rest of the world. Do you remember this?"
    Small nod. "I do."
    "You remember when you were told how traumatic it could be for you?"
    Another nod. "Yea, s'why mom didn't want me joining."
    "you're doing a good thing, and while I'm outmoded and my emotions a crude approximation of yours I'm grateful you transferred."
    "Thanks Sam." Alexis turned from the mirror and lightly touched the smooth top of Sam's head and patted it. "I needed that."
   
    Next morning she was called in to interview the maid, let's call her Chell even though she never officially had a name. She was seated on one side of a metal table fidgeting with a pack of cards. When Alexis entered she smiled. It might have been an honest smile except it didn't touch her eyes.
    "Hello Officer Murry." Cheerful voice clashing with pain filled eyes. "I was told you came to check on me last night. Your concern is appreciated."
    Alexis looked about, not quite sure how to handle her confusion at how to react. "Uh.. I wasn't told your name. Do you have one?"
    Chell's head shook. "Mister Robertson never gave me one. Said only humans deserved names." Matter of fact voice wit ha slight bit of upbeat cheer. "Doctor Calvin had that same expression when I told her this as well. Is this not normal between an owned Synth and its human owner?"
    Alexis's mind flashed through Sam, Trixie, and the different Synths she and her friends had grown up with. "No. It isn't normal at all."
    "Are you alright?" Concerned voice, an emotion that her eyes matched.
    "No," Alexis smiled and touched Chell's hand. "I'm fine. I was just thinking about the synths I've grown up around. They weren't nearly as human-like as you, but they were always there."
    "I see." Disappointment, more pain. Soft voice, sad. "Then he didn't love me."
    The interview got more emotional from there. Details were discussed that made Alexis want to raise Chell's owner from the dead just to kill him again. By the time everything was lain out in the open Chell had started edging away from her.
    "Easy there." Aleph touched her shoulder. "Chief wants us in forensics." He smiled at Chell. "I'm sorry but we have to go now."
    "Oh that's quite alright." Vacant eyes and an empty smile. "Your network here has a wonderful book collection."

    "So you're saying she had a virus?" Alexis was somewhere between angry and RAGE by this point.
    Ping, the slender tech now stoically bearing the brunt of Alexis's glare o doom shook his head. "Well we haven't found the actual virus, but comparing the mind map we got off her against factory defaults suggests several major abnormalities and deficiencies where her emotional processing and critical analysis sub-sectors were which." He frowned, "OK fine, short version? She had almost no control of her emotions when the initial attack happened and the lockouts that normally prevents strict defense from becoming deadly were so weak they might as well not have been there. This was made worse because she apparently had a massive amount of emotional investment in her owner."
    "Wha?" Blank stare from both Aleph and Alexis.
    "She was a time bomb and the attack made her go boom."
    "Ah." Aleph was the first one to recover. "So this means... what for us?"
    "Unless she gets taken in or impounded as evidence there's not a snowflake's chance on the surface of the sun they'll keep her intact." Ping held up a finger for silence before tapping several long and unintelligible strings into his keyboard. Several lights around the room suddenly blinked twice. "Ah there we go. Can't do that long. So I've got a friend of a friend who might be able to find her a home."
    Comprehension dawned on Alexis, "Oooo throw her out with the garbage and have somebody unwrap her once she's declared retired?" She grinned. "What about the chain of evidence? If we don't have the body then someone's going to ask questions."
    "Oh you let me worry about that. I just wanted to let you know she'll be in good hands."
    Thousands of thoughts swept through Aleph's mind before he spoke. "You just said she's an emotional bomb and her one deep tie ended up turning on her. Are you sure this is safe?"
    Ping grinned, "About as sure as I am of you thinking you've got a hot hand whenever you flip your bangs. Don't worry. Good family, new identity papers."
    The lights blinked again. Ping's manner became far more professional. "I still can't rule out Virus. It could have been one of the many things done to her, could've been caused by a dissonance between her emotion simulation and self preservation imperatives going squirrelly. Found something similar on the janitor you brought in. Possible causes other than a deliberate hatchet job aren't as easy to pick apart."
    The look on Aleph's face said all that needed to be said. Alexis, however, added her own words. "Virus, are we talking Turing?"
    Ping's skin paled and his eyes contracted. "Tesla and Edison forbid.... Humanists with an agenda are bad enough. Cross-contamination with a military model..." He suddenly turned away from both of them and hunched over his computer, typing rapidly.
    "What?" Alexis exchanged confused glances with her partner.
    Ping motioned for quiet, made another motion which caused symphonic music to cue up through the room. "Think I'm on to something here." He fidgeted as he worked then, at some point later when his audience was about to walk out on him he hit one last key which caused a nearby printer to rattle to life.
    Aleph scanned the pages as they were printed. "So, this manufacturing plant was a conversion from the last war huh?"
    Alexis gave a fierce wolfish smile. "Lets go boot a little corporate head in."ed, and started in on one of my other stories.
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