When 22nd Century Technology Fails
Michael I. Oster
copyright 2013, all rights reserved
9:02 am, Happy Playground Day Care
I'm pretty sure I was dreaming about Sarah when unfortunately, my telescreen's beeping woke me up. I think I was playing the part of her pleasure bot because.... Well now that's over. But really, it wouldn't work between us anyway. We're just from two different worlds. She's rich, young and gorgeous and I'm…. Meanwhile I had business to take care of. I splashed some water on my face and was on my way.
Happy Playground Day Care was about 10 miles from my 'Shithole Palace'. I arrived and found kids and staff running everywhere. It was complete madness. There were several nanny bots on the grounds every one of which seemed to be in some state of malfunction. The bots were flailing about, throwing toys and children all over. I started screaming at the staff to get the kids out of the way. The fewer 'friendlies' the better. I pulled out my pulse gun, punched in the lowest setting and began to chase one of the nanny bots.
I picked one that didn't have a child in its grasp. I aimed, and then fired. A partial hit, but enough to take it out of action temporarily. I turned to the right and saw two other bots each gripping and pulling apart on the same child. The kid was of course shrieking bloody murder and I really don't blame him. I fired at the left bot and singed its side. But it still held on. I shot again, and this time I hit a more sensitive spot and the bot let go. Now the other robot was free to drag the kid across the ground.
I focused on that bot and aimed as far away from the kid as I could. The shot grazed the back part of the bot which just ignored me. So I chased the bastard down and kicked it right in the head. It still wouldn't let go of the child. I aimed again, and this time I was so close that I blew its glitching head right off. The rest of the robot's body was intact and it still had a grip on the child, but at least it couldn't hurt him anymore.
There was still one more bot left and it was smashing itself against the jungle gym. Several kids had climbed up to get out of reach so they weren't in any immediate danger, but they were scared nevertheless. This was a pretty easy shot. I moved in for a close-up and pulled the trigger just inches away from the back of the robot. That was it. I blasted the hell out of that bot launching fragments of it across the playground.
I went back to each one of the injured bots and finished them off. Four kills in 5 minutes. Not a bad show. I guess the children weren't all that impressed because they were just milling about and sobbing. Then, behind me, another nanny bot busted its way out of the school. Kids started screaming and running again. I had a brief thought of, "Why the hell didn't you tell me there was another?", but this was no time for questions.
I checked my gun and raised its power setting, aimed and fired at the bot. Fucking bullseye! I blasted that shiny waste of metal backards into the room it came from. Fire and smoke started billowing from the windows. Kids were still panicking. "Are there any more? Any more?" I asked to the nearest staffer. "I don't think so." she replied. "Fire department's on the way", she added.
Quickly, I had her fingerprint my pocket screen. Usually I have the clients do that before the job, but this was an emergency and children were in danger. No time for formalities. Good thing there wasn't too much collateral damage.
11:44 am, Police Station, Precinct 5
I knew this place seemed familiar. Hell, I was just here. Different shift, and a different desk sergeant meets me. He starts to brief me and give me directions. From the sound of it, this thing's pretty big. Not 'construction bot from hell' big, but definitely bigger that what I just disintegrated here some twelve hours ago.
Then he hits me with the bad news. They have a Mark IV Law Enforcement Unit that's gone to shit. Probably picked up the bug from that mopper I wasted last night. Whatever. I've got major problems. The Mark IV is armor plated and armed with a variable output pulse cannon. It stands over seven feet tall and weighs about 800 pounds. And just as the sergeant is giving me those details, we hear the first cannon blast. That explosion triggers an evacuation alarm and now the 'boys in blue' are moving swiftly towards the front exit. No escape for me, however, as I've got a job to do and am pretty much screwed. The sergeant then politely leaves me to my business.
I've never put down a Mark IV before. I don't know of anyone who has. These things are supposed to be immune to "Patterson-Jones" and similar codes, but I guess this one didn't get the memo. Glad I have my new gun.
I check my weapon and set the output to "MAX". Then I just follow the sounds. This is going to be one hell of a show. As I weave my way down the halls of law enforcement central, I'm reminded of the construction site and how I almost lost my ass. As I got closer, the sounds got louder. Soon after, I found it.
The Mark IV was in the transport bay violently destroying police hover cars, armored vehicles and other miscellaneous LEO equipment. There was smoke and fire everywhere. It was randomly firing unaimed energy pulses into the floor and ceiling. Also, it was leaking oil. This robot was definitely under the influence of a malicious code and if I live through this, we'll probably have a new case study.
I didn't have a lot of time as the smoke and fires were growing fast. The metal beast was unleashing an all-out mechanized terror and was now about to break through the back wall to the outside world. I aimed and fired my 'work of art'. It emitted a blinding green light and lashed out with an explosion that was insanely loud, but barely audible over the destructive sounds made by the Mark IV. It was a hit to the bot's mid-section which punched the unit forward into the buckling wall. The bot then turned towards me. It errantly fired its pulse cannon upward, blasting a massive hole into the ceiling. Contents from the floors above now rained down onto the huge robot as the flames and smoke continued to spread.
I fired off a succession of rapid shots. Five, maybe six or eight. I lost count. The light was blinding and smoke was beginning to veil over the Mark IV. The robot fell back into a sitting position and fire started to break out from inside its guts. It was sputtering and slamming its arms on the floor. I think I got it. I moved in closer, fired and hit it three more times just to be sure. This Mark IV was now just a heap of lifeless burning metal. Time to get the hell out of here.
I quickly worked my way to the front of the building. The heavy smoke and flames were not too far behind me. At least the fire department was here now.
Here's where it got kind of strange. Even though it was a robot, this Mark IV was technically considered a law enforcement officer. It's not like I was in trouble for doing my job or anything. It was malfunctioning, causing heavy damage, and very dangerous, so I was covered. But I did find it odd that the cops were planning a memorial service for it. I even got an invite.
9:28 am, 144 131st Street, Apartment K-10
I got a call to head to a not-so-nice section of town. I've been to worse, but this was pretty bad. I arrived at Apartment K-10 on the second floor. A sloppy middle aged man wearing a stained wife-beater and ragged pants met me outside. I could hear the sounds of robots trashing the place along with the high-pitched yelps of a small dog. The man was overweight, sweaty and spoke like he had a constant mouthful of saliva. He was frantic about his dog which had the unbelievable name of "Cumshots".
He told me that in the back bedroom, his dog "Cumshots" was getting killed in the middle of a '2 pleasure bot meltdown'. One minute, everything's going fine. The next minute, the bots went haywire. I had to contain myself, I mean, I'm a professional. But what kind of name is that for any living thing? I had the man fingerprint my pocket screen, then I proceeded inside.
The apartment had a nasty, thick smell that I didn't want to be exposed to for any longer than I absolutely had to. I knew exactly where to go. As always, I just followed the sounds.
The door to the back bedroom was open and I could see what was causing the trouble. Two pleasure bots were literally destroying the place. They were flailing uncontrollably, leaking oil and making the usual synthetic gurgling sounds typical of malfunctioning robots.
Cumshots the dog was yelping over the sounds, but I couldn't tell where he was. I set my gun to the lowest output, aimed for the closest bot and then fired. I blasted the living shit out of that miserable pile of trash rendering it pretty much inert except for some smoking wires.
I aimed for the second bot which was still in the midst of an all out seizure. It was then that I got my first glimpse of the dog known as Cumshots. It was a tiny white poodle thing and it was yelping from the shelter of a small closet. Seeing that the dog wasn't in my line of fire, I pulled the trigger and sent the second bot straight to machine hell or wherever those things go when they're disintegrated.
Once the robot sounds stopped, the wife-beater wearing man entered the room with an extinguisher and smothered the flames. He sure was happy to see his dog alive and the dog must have felt the same way. As soon as the man set his extinguisher down, Cumshots jumped right up into his arms and showered his face with wet doggie kisses. It was touching, almost poetic.
The relieved man then told me his story. Not that I really wanted to hear it, mind you. But sometimes it helps people who are coming down from a stressful situation. I pretty much just wanted to get the hell out, you know. But considering how fucking weird his dog's name was, I figured, I'd give the man a couple of minutes.
He said his name was Lester, Lester Herman. Though in retrospect, I doubt it was his real name, but whatever. He was in the adult entertainment business. Basically, he made porn. Not that he appeared in any films, thankfully. He just produced them. Today he was working on some 'hot robot on robot action' as he called it. He told me that there was a actually a very profitable niche market for those kinds of films. He said that he'd been in the business for almost 30 years and told me how the business had changed in that time.
He also proceeded to name off some of the titles that he'd worked on. Sure enough, I was familiar with some of his movies. And to tell the truth, they really weren't bad for low budget porn. I guess you could say I was a fan of his and didn't even know it. But, I really didn't see how people could get into pleasure bots doing things to each other. Whatever floats somebody's boat, I guess.
Meantime, Lester was so happy that I saved his dog, or just the fact that someone would listen to him for more than five minutes, that he transferred copies of several of his newest titles over to my pocket screen. Hopefully, it's not weird like that adult robot stuff because the only thing I like to do to robots is vaporize them.
12:51 pm, Shithole Palace
Home, sweet home. I grabbed some leftover slop and a cold beer, then uploaded Lester's movies to my large telescreen. The first one was an alien theme titled "Bad Girls From the Fourth Nebula". The title gave me the impression that there was actually a story going on. In reality, it was just two aliens going at it for an hour and a half. I really didn't have any interest in blue creatures with three vaginas doing unspeakable things to each other, but because the movie was a gift, I figured I'd watch it.
I quickly recognized the small bedroom where the movie was shot as the one where I blasted those two pleasure bots earlier. And I admit that, for a brief second, I felt a little pride for having been there. Truth was, Lester did have talent. He had an eye for angles and perspectives. Plus, the lighting wasn't half bad either, though a bit underexposed for my tastes. His music selection did leave a little something to be desired, but most people don't watch these things for the soundtrack.
"Cumshots" the poodle dog even had a cameo when he unexpectedly scampered into the background. Cute. The timing of it was perfect as the dog introduced a brief comic break into the action. I don't know if Lester meant for that to happen or not. I guess it didn't matter. But Lester's 30 years in the business definitely did show in his work.
I was going to have to wait a while before watching Lester's other films as my telescreen interrupted with an emergency call.
1:48 pm, 22481 Ridgebury Street, Sparkey's Antiques
Sparkey's Antiques was a legend. At a little over 90,000 square feet, it was the largest antique store in the region and had been in business for over 50 years. It offered a little of everything from furniture and appliances to clothing and toys. Sparkey's also sold old collectable robots.
I arrived and found the store roped off and evacuated. Spectators were gathered around the perimeter. The day manager intercepted me before I could enter the store. He was trying to brief me, but all I really needed was to have him fingerprint my pocket screen and then follow the sounds which would lead me to the problem. I politely thanked him but told him that I had it from here.
I walked inside and started tracking down the bot. I could hear the sounds of things being broken along with the gurgles and gabber of a malfunctioning robot. Then I came across the telltale path of destruction which was impressive. Whatever this thing was, it had done a really good job of fucking shit up. I continued following the trail and the sounds which were increasing in volume as I got closer. And there it was literally trashing the place. It looked like an old beat-up trashcan on stubby legs with flimsy metal arms. And that's exactly what it was: a trash bot. It was a relic, probably something that was on sale here.
Trash bots were basically smart trash cans. They picked up garbage and then emptied themselves out into larger cans or dumpsters. They were a really great idea that had unfortunately had a limited purpose. Later on, multi-function helper bots came along and rendered the single-use trash bots obsolete. Nowadays, if any trash bots were in service, they were more a curiosity or relegated to low income buyers who used them as cheap status symbols.
Despite the limited capabilities of this trash bot, it had done a respectable job of destroying the place. The damage so far was well beyond what I'd have expected from such a relic. Nevertheless, I had to put it down. I set my pulse gun to the lowest power output and then fried the miserable heap. The blast of energy sent the bot skidding down the isle leaving a trail of oil mixed with bits of smoldering robot parts in its wake. It was a real easy kill. I almost felt bad for how simple this job was.
And that's when a second bot came crashing through the adjacent aisle. Holy fuck it scared the hell out of me! I wasn't expecting another robot. I probably should have listened to the manager. I quickly regained my composure and then identified the model and classification of the second unit. It was a maintenance bot and it was much newer and stronger than the little bastard I just wasted.
This bot was crushing everything in its erratic path and was probably the one that was responsible for most of the real damage to the store. I bumped up the power setting on my pulse gun then aimed and fired. I missed! The blast went just to the right of the staggering robot and hit what looked like a collection of expensive heirloom furniture which quickly ignited into a raging fire. I aimed and fired again, this time hitting the bot dead center. It was almost a complete disintegration of the unit with a few fiery fragments flying off in random directions.
Now there were several fires burning in Sparkey's. Time to get the hell out of here. I ran for the front entrance as smoke and flames filled in behind me. Seemed like a typical escape for me, especially with the manager screaming obscenities at me for torching the place. At least he doesn't have a robot problem anymore and fortunately for me, I had a waiver.
9:56 am, 102 East Second Avenue, Business District
I'm looking at the dumbest fucking idea ever implemented in human history. It's an 82 story robot. That's right. Some brainiac asshole decided that in the name of ultra efficiency, they'd make a building that was completely automated. Doors, vents, plumbing, cafeteria, communications, elevators, escalators, hell everything was controlled by a central computer core. Not only that, but what made the building a 'robot' so to speak was that it had internal 'appendages' that would perform specific tasks which used to be handled by individual robots. All custodial, maintenance, pest control, food prep, and whatever else, was all automated and up to the discretion of the main computer core. And they had hundreds of people living and working inside of it around the clock. Idiots!
Well, the entire building had gone to shit and was catastrophically malfunctioning. My first instinct was to nuke the hell out of it, but there were people trapped inside. This time, I actually listened to the instructions offered to me. The Vice President of Operations for the building transferred blueprints of the entire complex to my pocket screen and off I went.
The blueprints put the primary computer core in a sub-basement level which fortunately was accessible by stairs. My progress inside was slowed by the random opening and closing of doors and there was no way in hell I'd get on an elevator. Every route was dangerous as the building's many internal appendages were going haywire, smashing into walls and breaking everything not nailed down. I set my pulse gun to the lowest output and made my way down to the main core.
Environmental control was completely lost as each room and hall were set to different extreme temperatures. This hampered my progress even more as it was just too damn uncomfortable and even dangerous. One room would be over 100 degrees, then I'd move into a hall that was just above freezing. It was like that everywhere. Vents were spraying unknown gasses in all directions. Lights were flickering off and on. Elevators were ripping through their shafts at speeds that would kill the average person. And every so often a service appendage would emerge from a maintenance port and lash out uncontrollably.
After about a half hour of hell, I made it down to the primary core. It was located inside a massive fireproof vault which of course was locked tight. I tried to bypass the locks using the outer service panel but that was useless. The only thing I could think of doing was to blast my way inside. I set my gun to MAX then backed up and took cover behind a corner wall. Then I aimed and fired. My gun unleashed a blinding green light and an energy pulse of unbelievable force. There was a powerful explosion. I peeked around the corner and saw that the door was damaged, but still intact. Great. I fired again and then again. I felt the whole sub-floor buckle under me as concussions from the energy blasts impacted the vault door.
Finally, my shots breached the door. Inside, there was nothing but walls of reddish lights and an eerie hum which made up the main memory core. I thought about vaporizing it, but more than likely I'd die as the core collapsed around me.
I thought for a minute and figured I had few options, but then got a great idea. I ejected the partially used energy cartridge from my pulse gun and inserted a fresh one. I programmed the gun for a controlled overload - a feature that I learned about from reading the manual.
I gave myself 10 minutes to get the hell out of there and tossed my 'work of art' deep into the vault. Then I proceeded to haul ass. I was moving like there was no tomorrow. Because if I didn't make it out in time, there probably wasn't. Up several floors, dodging all kinds of obstacles, several minutes later I made it up to the lobby. It was empty other than a few flailing building appendages. I ran out the front yelling for everyone to take cover.
A massive underground detonation followed only seconds later. It was huge and reminded me of a nuclear depth charge they used against submarines. The ground quaked and felt like it lifted up all around us. Asphalt cracked splintered everywhere. Gasses began to vent from underground and water plumed upward from a break in the main. The robo-building was still standing, but I could only imagine the damage that was done below. I hoped that nobody was caught down there.
Inside the building, everything stopped. Lights were dead, doors and elevators seized. Air stopped moving. Once they had determined that things were stable enough, the authorities sent in automated rescue teams and survey crews. Finally I was able to see how much damage I did sub-basement levels. It was amazing!
The explosion had turned the computer core into a pool of molten silicone and metal. It was too damn hot for anybody to get close to, but the images I saw were astounding. They rescued dozens of people from the building, some of whom were badly injured. It could have been worse though. Now I need a new gun.
12:03 am, Shithole Palace
It's been a long day. I rewarded myself by picking up a new gun and a case of cold beer. I put one of Lester's movies up on my telescreen. This one featured humans and it was also shot in the same bedroom as before. "That place gets a lot of action", I muttered to myself. Far off in the background, I heard a pulse gun fire. "Probably some kids having fun", I thought as I continued to watch the movie.
About 30 minutes passed and I was into my fourth beer, I heard another pulse gun. It sounded like 3 or 4 rapid shots and it was a little closer this time. Again, I ignored it thinking that it was just a couple of kids. Shortly thereafter, I dosed off.
Sometime later, I was abruptly awakened by an emergency flash on my telescreen. It was late and I was tired and still buzzed. I really didn't want to go out now, even if it was to disintegrate something. Then my pocket screen started beeping in harmony with the large screen. Both were flashing emergency messages so rapidly that I couldn't read them. I was able to make out some addresses and business names, but as soon as I'd get a fragment, a new message would replace it. "This has to be a joke," I thought.
I was jolted out of my disbelief by a much closer pulse blast followed up by something I hadn't heard in a very long time: primitive gunfire. Other than in the movies, it had been years since I heard a primitive firearm discharge. It was a little unnerving.
Emergency messages continued to flash across both of my screens and they were going so fast that I still couldn't understand them. More weapons fire continued nearby. It got louder, closer and more frequent.
Both my screens went blank briefly followed by an emergency graphic which at first, I thought was just a test. Not my luck. Then a talking head appeared on both screens and started to bring me and all the other viewers quickly to reality.
He started his message, "This is an emergency. In the past few hours, thousands of robots of all models and classifications have begun simultaneously malfunctioning. There has already been extensive damage and numerous human casualties. Authorities have waved all restrictions on destroying malfunctioning robots.
Citizens are to use extreme caution when dealing with such robots as they are very dangerous. You are advised to shelter in place until the danger has passed. The authorities will be initiating an emergency grid shutdown which will begin in exactly 30 minutes. Power will be restored when conditions are considered safe."
1:24 am, SHTF and Granddad's Machine Gun
I didn't have much time as the grid shutdown was just minutes away. I grabbed my new pulse gun and spare energy cartridges. Then I picked up a flashlight and my pocket screen. I took a quick inventory of my provisions which included some kind of mystery food and 7 cold beers. In the back closet, I had a large dusty box that was faintly marked "Only open in emergency".
This was an old military foot locker that my Grandfather had passed down to me. I opened it up and found a very special relic: Granddad's machine gun. It was an AK47 assault rifle that was over 100 years old. I don't know when he got ahold of it, but I do remember him taking me out to shoot it back when I was a kid. He told me that one day, it might come in handy. In addition to the gun, there were several empty magazines and a few boxes of ammunition. I downloaded some operational instructions for the weapon to my pocket screen so that I could figure out how to load the ammo and fire the thing.
After a brief but informative instructional video, I was loading magazines and making sure that the AK was operable. Outside the weapons fire was continuing to escalate. Then, the lights went out. It was a total grid shutdown just as the talking head had warned. Everything got quiet except for the outside gunfire.
I set my pocket screen to continue to receive emergency communications so that I could get some kind of handle on what was going on. It was basically mayhem out there. They had widespread out of control fires. People were trapped in buildings and homes. Swarms of robots carved paths of destruction in just about every possible location. First responders were stretched thin as there were too many calls to handle.
There was already speculation as to what was causing this to happen. The authorities believed that the "Patterson-Jones" code had evolved and become 'smart'. It was possible that an updated version of the code had infected almost every robot causing them to simultaneously malfunction. Fortunately, the authorities were working hard on a solution. Great. Meanwhile, every able-bodied person now had a free ticket to shoot at any robot that is, or that they think is malfunctioning.
I positioned myself and my essentials in what I figured would be the safest part of my house. I thought that the best thing to do was wait it out as long as I could. I didn't want to be a part of the chaos outside as I was probably just as likely to be hit by friendly fire was I was to be killed by a berserk robot. Because the grid was down, it was almost pitch black. The only light came in the form of burning buildings and flashes from the now abundant gunfire.
It sounded like a war zone for as far as I could hear and the emergency flashes on my pocket screen continued nonstop. This whole thing seemed to be spiraling out of control. That's when my front door was smashed in. I had company.
It was a malfunctioning robot and it was in my home! I aimed and fired. The flash of light was blinding and the explosion was more than I expected. I blew the living hell out of that robot along with most of the front of my home. I looked at my gun to check the setting but my eyes were still blinded by the green light. It took a minute then I saw my mistake. The gun was on a higher output setting, but fortunately not MAX. Nevertheless, I wasn't so safe in my own home anymore.
I stuffed some essentials into an old backpack as the sounds of war raged around me. I slid on my pack and then slung Granddad's AK over my shoulder. I was ready to move out when the time came.
It wasn't long before another robot entered my home. It was easy for them now since basically there was no front of my house to get in their way. The bot was obviously a malfunction as it flailed and flung itself inside. I aimed and started to squeeze the trigger.
My gun was just about to fire when the bot exploded forward - flying directly at me. I reflexed and raised my gun while still squeezing the trigger and the weapon discharged almost straight up. The blast blew a huge hole into the ceiling above me and what was left of my home started to burn. The exploded robot landed on top of me and it was then that I realized that it had been shot from behind. I pushed the thing off of me, grabbed my pack and got the hell out of there.
3:08 am, Somewhere
I took cover in a small park not far from where the Shithole Palace once stood. Fires were spreading from home to home and building to building. The sounds of constant gunfire kept what would have normally been a calm night at bay. I saw hover cars overloaded with people traveling around shooting at anything that moved. Then a lone streak would come from a dark house and hit the car.
Hell, there were people in cars shooting at other people in cars. It was insane. Like they couldn't tell the difference between a hover car and a malfunctioning robot. Maybe they didn't care. For me, I'd rather be facing down another Mark IV than dealing with this catastrophe. I didn't like the idea of a death by random friendly gunfire.
I heard something behind me. I turned to look and saw some kind of robot in the near dark. My gun was already in my hand so all I had to do was aim and fire. The blast disintegrated whatever kind of bot it was. Then gunfire started raining in my direction. I guess that whoever it was spotted the flash from my pulse gun. "Don't shoot, I'm a human you stupid fuck!" I screamed out. They fired a few more shots at me. Fortunately they couldn't hit what they couldn't see. Time to go.
Just as I got up to move out, more shots came in. I hit the ground fast and screamed out again, "Stop shooting! I'm a human!" The blasts landed close by and started a small fire which was now giving my position away. I moved forward towards some brush for cover and switched from my pulse gun to the AK. I got up to move out. They fired at me again! I hit the ground and then set my AK to FIRE.
I briefly stood up, then dropped as they shot at me again. This time, I was able to get their position from the flash of their pulse gun. It was coming from a small house across from the park that I was in. I aimed my AK at the house and pulled the trigger. Nothing. Fuck!
I quickly went over what I remembered about how to operate the thing in my head. Oh, right, charge the weapon. I pulled the charging handle, aimed and then squeezed the trigger. The AK unleashed a fury of fully automatic hell! It was amazing! I riddled the small house with a wash of old fashioned lead and then I dropped to the ground. Nothing came back at me. I waited a minute, then got up and got out of there.
(Jump to Part IV - Chapters 25 - 33)