When 22nd Century Technology Fails
Michael I. Oster
copyright 2013, all rights reserved
They're Just Like Family
Back at the Shithole Palace. It sucks, but it's my home and it's all I've got. I set my pulse gun down on the coffee table, which in reality was just an old crate, then I grabbed a couple of cold ones. I sat down and fired up the telescreen. Great, a story on robots and the "Patterson-Jones" virus. How novel. This was like most other stories: a feel-good, bleeding-heart commentary on how we should pity the poor infected, malfunctioning robots.
They were trying to make the point about how it wasn't the robots' fault and that we really should blame people for all the damage and injury. Of course, they suggested rehabilitation for the malfunctioning bastards instead of simply destroying them. Funny, I bet none of those robot-huggers ever faced down a schizophrenic Mark II Security Unit before.
But most people didn't think of robots like I did. They viewed them as pets or even parts of the family. They interacted with bots as if they were lifeforms with personalities and some people even cherished them. It was pathetic, really, how most people said they couldn't live without their robots.
Then the story went into the history of robot communications. It showed how they went from tethered to wireless and how it was supposed to increase the efficiency between bots. But what it really did was provide an obvious entry point for the human created virus. Again, it was 'humanity's fault'.
I could handle about five minutes of that garbage before I switched over to some "B" grade porn and fell asleep.
11.38 am, Summerland High School
The simultaneous beeping of my telescreen and pocket screen woke me up. It was about 11am and an emergency message flashed across both devices. I splashed some water on my face, grabbed my pulse gun and headed out the door. Because this was a government job, it barely left me with anything after I paid the cab fare. The authorities always got generously reduced rates for their contracts and that's just the way it was. At least I got to enjoy the thrill of blasting the hell out of one of those malfunctions. Always look at the bright side and glass half full. Shit, whatever kept me going.
Summerland High School was on lockdown and they had initiated an emergency shutdown of all campus robots. It was standard procedure. But "Patterson-Jones" was made to override forced shutdowns once it was inside a bot. However, it did keep the virus from spreading to any nearby bots. The assistant principal met me as soon as I set foot out of the cab. He started to give me directions, but I really didn't need any. My experience told me to just follow the fresh trail of destruction so that's what I did.
As usual, it wasn't hard to find. There was the obvious tornado-like path of damage cut through the school. The halls were void of students. There were rows of trashed lockers, books and papers everywhere, broken glass and a stream of leaked oil. It didn't take a rocket scientist to track this fucker down. As I got closer, the noise got louder and I found it in the girls' bathroom in "C" Hall.
It was a cafeteria bot and it was even wearing an apron. How cute. Normally, its job kept it busy preparing food and serving the students. During off hours, it would be cleaning tables and mopping floors. Cafeteria bots were programmed to be pleasant and friendly, often making brief conversations with the students. But this one was seriously going apeshit.
It had virtually destroyed the bathroom. It wrecked the sinks and stalls, and smashed the toilets to pieces. Mirrors were shattered. Water was spraying in all directions from newly broken pipes. The sound of the spraying water had all but covered up the synthetic gurgling made by the malfunctioning bot, though I could easily make out the oil running down it's legs.
I didn't hesitate in putting that pile of shit down. I pulled out my pulse gun, quickly aimed and fired. The bright green light reflected off the thousands of scattered shards of mirror glass and briefly the bathroom lit up like one of those antique discos I'd seen in the movies. A direct hit from the energy blast sent the malfunctioning bot backwards against the tile wall with an unbelievable force. The bot instantly blew to pieces along with a good part of the wall behind it. "Hell yes!!", I shouted. I felt a huge smile on my face and an upwelling of pride in my gut. Another job well done.
5:28 pm, Sun Lake Towers, 12th Floor
I guess my dry spell may be ending soon as this is my second call of the day. Still internally gloating over my last kill, I'm headed towards the rough side of town for another job. Again, it's a government contract job but at least I get to vaporize something.
Sun Lake Towers is a subsidized housing project that's been around since before my Grandfather's day. It was pretty run down even back then and by some miracle, I guess, the complex is still standing. Hell the whole facility looks like a pack of malfunctions ransacked it and I haven't even seen the inside yet.
I make it up to the 12th floor and am greeted, if you can call it that, by a 300 plus pound screaming woman. For a brief second, I thought that she was the malfunction and I started to reach for my pulse gun. But no, she's the client. Well, she's shrieking on about how this thing is tearing up her home and scaring her babies and how I have to do something now. Well, that's what I'm here for.
So my instincts kick in and I follow the noise which leads me right to her apartment. Because the whole floor, I mean, building was such a wreck, I couldn't tell robot damage from the normal decor. That's where my ears paid off. Anyway, I entered her apartment and found a place that made my Shithole Palace look like a luxury estate. The smell was like a combination of a thousand rancid feet and a giant festering ass. It was fucking horrendous. It took everything I had not to puke up the contents of my stomach all over the place. The malfunctioning bot was making a loud racket as it was further destroying an apartment that was basically already destroyed.
The culprit was one of those ancients similar to the unit I disintegrated in the bar yesterday. In other words, it was a 'flea market special' that really wasn't good for anything. It was in what I guessed was the master bedroom and it was thrashing in the corner, gurgling and leaking oil. It was an easy shot and I was appreciative of that because I really wanted to get the hell out of there quick.
I pulled the trigger and blasted that bot to machine heaven which was certainly better than anything this apartment had to offer. Unfortunately, the energy blast caused a lot of collateral damage. Probably because of the thin walls and overall deterioration of the surrounding structure. Anything that wasn't nailed down went flying. There was a row of large smoldering holes through the walls that went into and out of the next unit and so on. I looked in and saw smoke rising and plaster falling from the ceiling in the adjacent apartment and then quickly ducked back. A thick haze started to fill the room. Time to go.
My client was now furious with me because of all the new damage. I was surprised that she could actually tell the difference. But, whatever, she was screaming so loud that it attracted other residents. Great, so instead of one 300 plus pound screaming woman, I had five, maybe six or eight of them all in my face. Hell, it was louder than when that damn robot was malfunctioning. The only thing that kept me from being attacked by the residents of the 12th floor was the fact that I had a pulse gun and I knew how to use it. The smoldering evidence in the form of molten robot remains and blast holes in the walls were proof enough of that.
8:12 am Corner of Broadway and 18th
I fucking hate these early calls. I'm still half-buzzed and my head is pounding. And, I think I have to take a shit. The location isn't that far from my place so I arrived pretty quickly after getting the call. It's a construction site that looks like they're building an office complex or something. About a dozen guys with hard hats are standing around. Some are holding shovels in 'defensive' postures for lack of a better description.
I'm greeted by the foreman who tells me they've got a bot on the inside that's gone insane. It's breaking a lot of stuff. Oh, and it's big. Very big. From the sounds echoing all around us, I could tell that he wasn't exaggerating. He also informs me that all his men are out so I don't need to worry about hitting any 'friendlies'. Good to know.
I'm feeling very nervous as I make my way onto the site. Also, I definitely have to take a shit. The sounds of destruction are much louder now and they're a bit different from what I'm used to. These are really big sounds. All I have to do now is just follow my ears. I continue on maybe a minute or so through this labyrinth of half-built whatever as the sounds get much louder. I'm getting closer and more nervous with each step.
I'm almost there now. My ears are hurting from the overwhelming noise and I can see flashes of light from around the next corner. I cautiously continue on. This is really bad. Just then, I get a glance of the hugest fucking construction robot I've ever seen in my life - or even read about. Seriously, this thing is the size of a small house and yes, it's got a bad case of the "Patterson-Jones" bug. It's smashing everything in its path and the flashes of light are from plasma torches that I guess it uses to cut steel. It's flailing its huge arms erratically as it randomly limps forward continuing on its destructive path.
I must be out of my mind because there's no way in hell my pulse gun will deliver enough punch to take this thing out with a single shot. Nevertheless, this is what I get paid for. My hand was shaking as I grabbed my gun. I inched closer to the bot as it continued to malfunction and carve out a path towards the outer edge of the building. I started to feel numb and my vision became tunnel like. It was 'go time'.
I squeezed off a pulse from my nickel plated weapon. A flash of green light and a percussive blast interrupted the giant bot's own generated noise. Boom! Direct hit on the bottom left of the bot's body. It's smoking and on fire, but still flailing hard. I'm so focused that I don't even notice parts of the walls collapsing around me. I fire again. A hit, but it's still going. Now it turns to me. Oil is leaking out of various ports and joints on the robot. It starts to growl, though I can't tell if it's a synthetic vocal sound or if it's the internal structural support of the bot failing.
I fire a third shot and the robot staggers back. More fires are breaking out on the bot and in the surrounding structure. I squeeze off three more quick shots. Two hit the robot. The third went off to the right and blasted out what was left of a support wall. The entire right side of the structure collapsed onto the robot and set off a chain reaction.
I start running as fast as I can to get my ass out of there. Walls and supports are falling like dominos and fires begin to engulf what's left of the building. Underneath it all, a moderately damaged, malfunctioning construction robot the size of a small house is continuing to pound away. As I make it out, I see the crowd of workers looking at the mass of destruction behind me. I turn back and see a plume of black smoke rising high into the air. "I'm not done yet," I gasped.
"The authorities will be here in a few minutes," the foreman calls out to me.
"We don't have a few minutes," I shout back as I check my pulse gun. A second or two later, the bot literally explodes its way out of the burning heap that was once a half-built office complex. The noise was deafening. Chunks of concrete and pieces of metal come raining down.
The bot was still malfunctioning as it thrashed uncontrollably, its parts partially on fire. The workers quickly scattered and I was instantly alone. Well, it was just me and this huge rabid mass of mechanized terror! I aimed and blasted off another volley of shots. I was so nervous, I didn't know exactly how many times I fired. They were hits, I think because the smoke and dust were now obscuring my view. But I did see the robot buckle back at least once.
It's coming towards me now. Fuck! I fire again. A hit, but it's still coming. Again I squeeze the trigger. Nothing. I slap the gun. Squeeze. Nothing! Damnit I'm out! I've never emptied my gun on any single robot, ever! I eject the spent energy cartridge and fumble for my spare as I back peddle away from the bot.
It's still coming towards me. I'm backing away but I can see that it's heavily damaged. A few more hits should do it. But what the hell do I know, I've never tackled anything this big before. I insert a fresh cartridge and charge my gun. I aim and then quickly fire as the robot closes ground. Boom! Two hits and it's staggering even worse than before. Thick black smoke is belching from most of the bot's ports and fire is burning on it's extremities. "Die bastard!" I scream as I pull the trigger as fast as I can. My pulse gun blasts out all the power that was left in it. Eight hits. Ten hits. I don't know. But I blasted that fucker right back to mechanized hell or wherever it came from. I completely destroyed that giant bastard. All that was left was a heaping pile of incinerated metal and a toxic plume of black smoke.
I felt a burning sensation in my right hand and reflexively dropped my weapon. It had overheated from rapid firing and was pretty much useless at this point. That's when the authorities arrived, late as usual.
I filed my report and fortunately was not liable for any of the damages, thanks to my waiver. But destroying this robot left one hell of a mess. By the time it was over, close to an entire city block had burned. Now I needed a new gun and I still had to shit.
A Bigger Gun
My pulse gun was toast. Most of its sensitive internal components were melted during my battle with that giant construction bastard. It was going to cost me far more to repair the gun than it was worth. Besides, this last incident had taught me one thing which was that I needed a bigger gun, ASAP.
I took a quick trip down to the local gun store and browsed their selection. I only had two requirements in a weapon. It had to be concealable and it had to pack a massive punch.
The salesman showed me several and I ended up leaving with one that I couldn't wait to use. It was a little bit larger than my old gun, but many times more powerful. In fact, it was the most powerful handgun a civilian could own. The new gun was flat black in appearance and had multiple blast settings. I thought about how much easier my last job would have been if I had this baby with me. Well, there's always the next victim.
I spent the next week fantasizing over and over about my blasting the living hell out of just about every model of robot ever made. Unfortunately, I was going to have to wait a while to disintegrate my next bot. I didn't get another call for what seemed like forever. Damn, I need to get a life.
3:25 pm, 7554 West Century Drive, Burger Burgers
Finally, a call flashed on my pocket screen. Malfunction in progress at a fast food joint. I know the place, Burger Burgers. I've eaten there many times so I'm familiar with the layout. Of course by the time I get there it's already been evacuated. No customers, but a couple of employees remain close by. The afternoon manager meets me and quickly fingerprints my screen. I know he didn't read the waiver, hardly any of them ever do. But in all fairness, I'm sure he just wanted to be rid of this bot quickly so he could get back to serving customers.
My experienced eyes and ears led me to the kitchen where I saw a cook bot laying waste to whatever the hell was back there. It was almost funny. Food products were flying everywhere, condiments spattered on every surface and the vocal gabber the robot was making sounded kind of comical. Then the bot went into some sort of an overload rage. Time to use my new gun.
I really wasn't thinking about the consequences when I set my pulse gun to "MAX". I wanted to see what it could do, and I guess that was a bit irresponsible on my part. Whatever. I aimed and fired. The green light from the gun was blinding and the explosive concussion just about made my ears bleed. "Holy shit", I thought.
All I saw was smoke and all I heard was a squelchy ringing sound. It took about a minute or so for things to settle. Turns out I blasted the living fuck out of everything. More like I disintegrated everything. I mean, the entire kitchen and back part of the restaurant was gone. Only rubble and dust remained from about knee level down. Nothing else was left. No walls. No roof. No robot.
I turned and made my way out of what used to be Burger Burgers. The manager was screaming something at me but my ears were ringing so badly from the blast that I couldn't understand what he was saying. I walked right past him and smiled. Job well done, though it would probably be a good idea that I take a few minutes and read the manual for my new gun.
11:45 pm, Police Station, Precinct 5
The great thing about my job is that I'm one of a very few people who are licensed to destroy malfunctioning robots. Even the authorities can't put one down. They have to rely on someone like me. So, no, I wasn't surprised at all to get a call from the police who were having a problem with one of their bots.
As soon as I get to the station a desk sergeant is there to meet me. He starts with the usual instructions and layout, but I had to interrupt him. I can clearly hear what's going on and I want to get to this robot quickly. Besides, this is a government job and I'm going to be lucky to break even on this gig.
As I head back, I pass several 'boys in blue'. I can hear the sounds of the malfunctioning robot further down the hall. Sure enough, it's a maintenance bot that's gone crazy. It looks like it was mopping the floors then just went berserk. Shouldn't be a big deal as it hasn't really damaged much yet.
I pulled my gun and made sure it was on the lowest setting then aimed and squeezed the trigger. The blast was much more subdued this time, but it was still enough to take care of the job. I blew that bastard into several pieces and laughed as the bot's body parts skidded down the hall. "What a work of art," I said to myself as I looked proudly at my new gun. Case closed.
1:30 am, Nudie Bar
I decided to treat myself, so I stopped at a nearby nudie bar. The beer was cold and the girls were lukewarm. Just what I needed to get my mind off of things. Seeing naked women pole dance to shitty music really put things into perspective. I mean, here I was at the top of my game, but life just seemed to be passing me by.
Most men my age were married and had grown kids. Some even had baby grandkids. Hell, many of them were probably living the dream and ready to retire to the tropics. Suckers.
And I'm the guy that gets to vaporize the robots that break their shit. It could be worse, though. I could be living in Sun Lake Towers with those screaming fat tubs of filth. But by my fifth beer the girls began to look hotter and the shitty music began to sound a little better. One of the bar bots brings me another beer and all i can think is that I'd love to disintegrate the hell out of it. Just because. Maybe I should get a dog.
3:17 am, State University, (Name Withheld) Sorority House
I've never been to college before, so there's a first time for everything. The yard of (Name Withheld) sorority house had been roped off by university police and the fire department was also present. Good, they're playing it safe. I'm greeted by one of the many beautiful, but hysterical female resident students. She kept repeating, "Sarah's trapped, you've gotta help!" That's what I'm here for. By the way, any one of these girls could easily qualify for the position of my "future-ex". They were half my age and very hot.
The girls were going nuts, shouting at me where to go and saying "She's trapped, she's trapped". Again, with the directions. Like I need that, really. The noise was so obvious and loud, I just had to follow my ears. Upstairs, third floor, fifth room on the right. I knocked, but the door is locked. I can hear female screams for help and the usual sounds of a malfunctioning robot's rampage. Three kicks and I've got the door open. It's a typical single-person dorm room. Small, bright and decorated with lots of girly stuff. Now it's in a shambles.
This time I'm dealing with a Class II pleasure bot. Late model, next generation technology, it features 4 fully rotating smooth-servo arms and wide gripping tracks for extra support. Back in the day we called these 'Mother's Little Helpers'. This particular one is a luxury unit with special add-ons that only rich girls can afford. I have a problem, though. The robot's got Sarah pinned in a corner with only a bed sheet between her and it. It's midsection is spinning and it's blindly thrusting its appendages in all directions. Because it's so close to her I can't get a clean shot. And between the screaming, the bot's blabbering, and my waning buzz, I'm short on patience.
So I started kicking the hell out of that high-rent bucket of garbage. I'm full-power, all out kicking the robot as Sarah screams. The bot is continuing to malfunction as it lands several unguided arm blows to both me and her. Finally, after a dozen or so kicks I get the machine to move to the middle of the room. I aim my gun and fire twice on the lowest setting. Flashes of green light, a couple of percussive cracks and it's all over. That little metal tub of shit is now laying in several sputtering, smoking pieces across the floor.
Sarah's in shock, I guess, because she doesn't seem to realize that she's dropped her sheet. She's got nothing on! Holy fuck! I tried to act like a gentleman by looking down at the dead bot and not at her naked body. I aimed my gun at the largest chunk of twitching metal and fired again. Not that I needed to, I just wanted to show off a little to my 'future-ex'. "Got to be sure," I candidly said to Sarah as I raised my left eyebrow. Then I turned and left the room. I know, I'm a classy guy.
(Jump to Part III - Chapters 16 - 24)