A worker droid reports his discovery, but finds himself the subject of an intense investigation. Short story about paranoia and secrecy in a post-human society
Robots | Bone
“But what is it?”
“Don’t you know?”
“No, that’s why I brought it to the Security Station.”
“Where did you find it?”
“I’ve told you already, it was in the main facility, in the underground park. It was covered in rats when I saw it. Picked it clean they did. They’re starving down there. Since the humans were eliminated they have no rubbish to sustain them.”
“What were you doing there?”
“Nothing unusual. I often go there, as do many of my colleagues. It’s on my way back from the interior garden. Look, am I in trouble?” I brought it to you voluntarily.” The worker droid gestured at the long white object that rested between them on the table. “I don’t understand why you’re questioning me like this.”
The three robots sat together, around a triangular table, in a, bright chamber, the debriefing room at the centre of the Solid State’s Security station. The high titanium walls were interrupted at the junction with the ceiling by long narrow windows.
“We ask the questions. You answer them. Understand?” The wider robot, with no neck, and eyes which peered from beneath heavy lids, was aggressive.
“I, I’m trying to do that Sir. Are you not satisfied with my answers? I can refer to you my Controller who will show you my full maintenance record, and––”
“We have the records.” The other interrogator, taller and sleeker than his partner, pulled a small tube from his pocket, opened the lid and poured the silver liquid it contained onto the polished surface of the table. He seemed a little agitated.
“Oh, so you have my entire history there. That will show you the full facts.” The worker droid was relieved. The records could not be falsified.
“Yep. Let’s speed it up.” The tall interrogator placed the metal fore-finger of his left hand close to the liquid and watched a probe arc out. He clenched the other fingers of his hand and a curiously arcane mechanical sound ground out, ejecting a drop of black liquid.
“What does that do?” The worker droid had heard rumours amongst his co-workers about this ‘Speed’, a process used by Solid State, for investigating crime.
The wide interrogator leaned forward and brought his flat face within an inch of the worker droid’s nose. “I said, we ask the questions.”
The worker droid shrank back. He didn’t understand how he could be treated this like this. It would have been so easy to throw the thing away, or leave it for someone else to find, but instead he had done his duty, But now he was away from work, had not been able to report in to his Domicile and he was being treated like something from the old movies, with the humans and their gangsters.
“So, here,” the taller interrogator gestured to the rapidly forming liquid in front of them, “is the view of your last week.” The molten fluid had built into a large shape the size of the worker droid’s chest and began to transform into a scene of buildings and highways, with tiny robots rushing around, unnaturally fast. “That’s the speed, it does what it sounds like it does.” The taller robot smirked at his colleague, and looked furtively up at the windows above.
The worker droid watched in great fascination as his entire last week spun in front of them, the liquid flow of shapes and events swirling around the air. He was comforted by this show of technology: it could only prove him to be blameless.
“So you really don’t know what that is?” The tall interrogator leaned back on the gear-arched chairs, motioning to the long white object.
“Er, of course I can guess, with all this fuss.”
“What fuss?” the wide robot leared.
“Well, I just thought I’d hand the thing over to the Station and it would be investigated, or forgotten, or returned to whoever owns it.”
“That seems a little unlikely.”
“But why? Was it not correct to bring it in?”
“Oh sure, but we watched you as you approached the station. Look.” The liquid scene in front of them had moved to within a few hours of the interrogation.
“Hold on, don’t you want to look at the bit where I find the thing?”
“Don’t you want us to see what you did on your way here?”
“Of course, but why not see the original act? That will show you I have nothing to hide.”
“Really? Nothing eh?” The tall robot looked directly at the worker droid, “then why don’t you want us to look at the section where you bring it to us here?” He seemed to twitch slightly.
“I do, of course, but you’ve jumped over the point which shows what I did, how I found the thing. Why don’t you look at that?”
“Now, now, don’t get so exercised.”
‘I’m not. I’m a robot. We don’t get ‘exercised.”
“Oh yeah, that’s true, isn’t it?” The tall one looked at the wide one. He leaned towards the worker droid, “so why exactly don’t you want us to look at this part of the view?”
“I do!” The worker droid found his circuits had started to heat up. Since humans had been replaced by androids and robots, the tiny amount of DNA implanted into the spinal core was all that had been allowed to continue of the humanity that once had created the robot race.
“You are getting a little over excited.” The tall one leaned back again. “Is there anything you want to tell us?”
“Apart from questioning your interrogation and wondering what on earth is going on.”
“On earth? That’s a curious turn of phrase, for a robot.”
The worker droid was confused. He had never encountered the Solid State Security staff before and they did not behave as he thought they should. He would have to report them when he returned to his Controller. The matter was entirely puzzling.
He looked up and noticed that the long wide windows just below the ceiling were packed with faces.
“I put it to you that you have brought a dangerous object into our facility.”
“I put it to you that you don’t want us to see what you did before you came here.
“That’s not what I said.”
“I put it to you that your behaviour is suspicious and demonstrates an undue influence of your human DNA, that you might have been infiltrated.”
“Why are you saying this?” The worker droid banged his fists on the table hard – hard and loud.
The room fell silent. The robot investigators jumped back from their seats. The faces in the windows mouthed their surprise.
The tall robot resumed. “With the powers invested in me by Solid State Command, I conclude you are a danger to yourself and all of those around you. You have brought an object into the building, one that is contrary to the inventory of legal items, and may indeed be part of a human body.
“You must be crazy.” The worker droid shouted back.
The tall interrogator looked across at the wide one. The table in front of them had finished its simulation and fell to a quivering liquid pool.
The worker droid grabbed the long white object, and waved it in the air. “Don’t come anywhere near me!”
“We have no choice?” The tall robot looked at the wide interrogator, who nodded his agreement. “The law is sacrosanct and must be upheld. We are obliged to carry out our sentence immediately and offer our condolences to your immediate colleagues.”
The interrogators raised their hands, and blasts of pure white light spilled from them, leapt across the chamber and lashed into the worker droid. The titanium surface of his body cracked, splintered, then crumpled into fragments. His entire form fell to the floor as a pile of metal shavings and dust.
From the corners of the room a horde of nano-bots emerged and swept across the floor to consume the detritus, then returned rapidly to the opposite side of the chamber.
“Wooh.” That was close!” The tall interrogator put a hand on his wider colleague, with a glance behind and up at the audience behind the window. He knew the whole department would hear about the scene, and his secret would be safe for another day, another week.
They walked to the door and punched the control code. As the exit slid open , a huge box descended, engulfed the table, the liquid and the bone, consumed it and returned it to the ceiling.
At the end of the day as they waited for the lift, the wide-faced robot pointed at the taller interrogator’s arm which seemed to hang limply by his side. “Hey, what happened to you?”
“Oh, just got it caught in the lift this morning. I need to get to maintenance later.”
“Ouch. Sounds Nasty. Good thing we have no feeling like those old humans.” They laughed, and stepped into the lift and waited in silence. At the next floor they both exited “Well, see you later.”
Yeah, you’ll be the talk of the whole department tomorrow my friend.”
“Oh, sure,” As they separated, moving towards opposite ends of the walkway, one to the tall towers of the central core, the other to the wide fringes of the domiciles, the tall one checked back at his colleague, then rubbed his shoulder.
“Yeah, that sure was close.” He sighed. He pressed an alarm on a hidden communicator, then fainted with the pain of his missing arm.
Text, image, audio © 2015 Jake Jackson, thesefantasticworlds.com. Thanks to Frances Bodiam, Elise Wells for the fantastic voice performances), Logic Pro, the Twisted Wave Recorder App, Apogee Condenser microphone, Rotring pens and inks, Daler Rowney acrylic ink, and Alfons Schmidt’s fantastic Notebook app.
More next week…
There are 18 other stories in this series, including:
- Ophelia A.I.
- A Gift
- Snake Pit
Here’s a related post, 5 Steps to the SF and Fantasy Podcasts