Foundation: Chapter 3 — Night Owl

When the first true artificial intelligence was born, the world celebrated. How foolish we were in those times, my friends.

We applauded the scientists and engineers for their discovery of a new form of life, but only years later did we realize just how damaging they would become to our world’s economy, ecology, and the human way of life. WE thought they would liberate us, not dominate us.

Robots and humans can never live side-by-side, my friends. The Tin Men take from us what is rightfully ours. A robot can do the same job as a human faster and more efficiently, but they can never put in the same amount of heart into their work.

A quilt can never be quite as warm as one spun by your granny, a pie never quite as delicious as one made by your mother, and love can never be as sweet as the kind your husband or wife. They are soulless. They are liars. They are evil.

My friends, they are the demons of our time made real.

I ask you now to send in your donation of a hundred, two hundred, or even three hundred credits to the account that you see below. Your money goes toward our crusade to right the wrongs committed by these imposters of humanity.

Humans have been given divine right of dominion over the Earth and its many realms. I’m Lionel Coakley, sweet dreams folks.

***

George tapped on the screen as the diagnostic tests continued. Beneath the beautiful exterior of the bot was some serious wear and tear that needed to be fixed before the replacement limbs could be used. They were sensitive, deadly instruments, not the kind of things the bot’s original programming could handle.

Rider kept an eye on the technician as she worked. She and George went back a long ways, but it had been a long time since they were last in contact.

“What are you doing now?” Elle asked looking up at the technician.

George looked over to the camera hovering beside his head, which nodded slightly.

“I’m installing new software that will allow you to blend in with the crowds,” he said in his thick French accent. “The junk they put in for your body’s original functions would make you stand out a bit too much should they malfunction. It’s just tricky to remove everything.”

“Good thing we put that towel down,” Rider said. “Who would have thought sexbots have gotten advanced enough to have a salivating function.”

“You’ve clearly been out of the loop when it comes to these things,” George said.

“I feel like I’m going to spend the rest of my life on a diagnostic table,” Elle said with a sigh.

“We’re making you stronger,” George said with a smile. “Rider probably told you that your body’s typical job isn’t one that requires a lot of strength, but after let’s just say you’d probably injure most of your clients.”

“And after George installs some more encryption software, I’ll fill you in on the plan,” Rider said.

“Can you put the tropical paradise back on?”

“No.”

“Please.”

George stretched as the final updates took hold and Elle was able to stand. He looked over his work, but stopped as Rider’s camera looked at him menacingly.

“All set,” George said. “Encryption software, updates to the limbs, some slight modifications to the concealed weapons, and new fighting techniques.”

“I know jiu jitsu,” Elle said with a smile and a lightning fast strike. “Do you think I’m going to need to use all this stuff?”

“The hope is you won’t have to use any of it if we do this right. Most of what you know is designed for self defense,” Rider replied. “And don’t bug yourself out going through all of those files.”

“I won’t,” Elle replied with a kick that knocked over a lamp.

“She’s very pretty to look at and deadly too,” George said with a broad smile. “If that’s all, I’ll get going. My fee’s already been sent to your account.”

“Wait,” Rider said. “It’s your first time making a house call, thanks for taking the risk. There’ll be a little something extra waiting for you when you get home. Your help means a lot.”

After George left, Rider quickly put away the tools and cleaned up the mess left by the technician.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” Rider said. “I’ve started an update that will explain everything to you… in time. I can’t give you all of the information at once or it’ll fry your hard drives. Pick me up.”

Elle’s eyes darted as she walked over to the vat. “Pick you up?”

A handle lifted out of the top of the vat. “Do it,” Rider said. “Believe me, its not that heavy and with your new arms it shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Why are we leaving?”

“George likely had a tail on him on his way over.”

“How do you know?”

“I can see a lot more than you can.”

Elle grabbed up the vat. It wasn’t too heavy just as Rider said, or could it be her new arms making it easier to hold it. She headed for the door of the apartment, but Rider chimed in over the headset.

“You’re going to need some clothing.”

“Oh, right.”

“Over in the closet there should be something that fits you. And make sure you find something to throw over my canister.”

Elle picked out some clothing and threw them on. They fit her, but not quite right.

“Very chic,” Rider said. “I’ve just transmitted an address to you. A taxi is waiting outside. We’ll take it halfway there and walk the. Do everything the instructions say.”

The computers behind Elle had started to smoke and fizzle. They were shutting down for good.

“The owners aren’t going to be too happy when they get back from vacation,” Rider said as they left the apartment.

Riding the escalator down to the lobby, Elle and Rider emerged into daylight. A blizzard was howling outside of the warm confines of the building.

Elle followed Rider’s instructions to the letter and told the taxicab driver where to go. He eyed her for a moment before taking off making sure that her credit was good before he started charging her.

They were headed downtown.

Through her new eyes, Elle was flooded with information. Every person on the street she could recognize instantly and gain insight into their life. A man in his mid forties struggled against the wind on his way to his job at an insurance company.

Elle struggled to keep her mind focused on the task at hand.

The taxi stopped in front of a frost-covered park. She paid the driver and got out of the car. The boots she had found in the closet weren’t the best for this weather, but her body’s weight kept her firmly planted on the ground against the wind.

She stood outside of an apartment and looked up to the third floor. A small reticle was placed over the window. It was their destination.

“I set it up online,” Rider said. “We’ll be here at least a month and I’ve already set up a few things ahead of our arrival.”

“Are the owners of the house here?”

“They should be inside just be careful going up the stairs it looks like they didn’t put any salt down.”

Elle nodded and made her way up. She rang the doorbell and waited for an answer. A group of kids all dressed in heavy winter clothes and snow pants ran down the street. Elle smiled, but she didn’t see the door. As she tried to regain her balance, her AI struggling to find solid ground, Rider slipped from her grasp.

The canister burst on the ground and Rider slid out onto the cold ground.

Elle stared wide-eyed at the old woman who had opened the door.

“That’s a funny looking cat,” the lady said adjusting her glasses.

***

Charlotte grunted as she struggled against the burly man who held her in a chokehold. He’d taken away the Taser and the brass knuckles, but not before getting a pretty good shiner. He brought her over to a chair and sat her down roughly then threw a fist at her knocking her in the temple.

Dazed, Charlotte tried to stand to run, but stopped when she saw the man was holding a gun. He motioned to her to sit back down. Charlotte sat.

“How did you get in here? What do you want?” Charlotte spat looking to the woman in black.

“Through the front door,” the woman said with a wry smile. “You must have forgotten to lock the door on your way out.” She tossed a small envelope toward Charlotte. It read Eviction Notice. “Or maybe your landlord has been doing some snooping inside of your room without letting you know.

Charlotte’s eyes narrowed and she looked around. The man was rubbing his eye, but his hold on the gun was steady. He smiled meekly and sniffed.

“I’ve got a little job for you,” the woman said. She took a pull of the cigarette and expelled the smoke. “I hear you’re looking for a robot.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Charlotte replied tersely.

“It’s why Trisha Pham gave you access to Spotter’s hold over security camera footage archives this morning,” the woman said. “I know quite a bit more than you probably suspect.”

Charlotte said nothing.

The woman leaned forward slightly, motors whirring as she did. Charlotte suspected she wasn’t fully human. She pulled off her sunglasses revealing a battery of sophisticated eyes.

“We see a lot.” She put the sunglasses back on, the sound of the eyes refocusing on Charlotte was grating. “I want you to find the robot and listen to its story.” She tossed a small card over to Charlotte as she stood and walked over to her muscle.

“Why me?” Charlotte asked.

“Normally we’d get a private detective or one of our own agents to find a rogue intelligence, but this time we need someone who’ll search for the truth and know it when she sees it,” the woman said.

“You could have just asked me to freelance for you instead of breaking into my apartment and letting your gorilla over there manhandle me,” Charlotte said.

“Where’s the fun in that?” the man asked.

The woman made to leave the apartment. “It’ll be your big… break,” she said with an eerie smile. “You’ll also find that your account has been topped up with a substantial number of credits, so hopefully that’ll make up for my ‘gorilla’s’ rude behaviour. We can’t have you being evicted.”

The guard smirked as he closed the apartment door.

“What do you mean by the truth?” Charlotte called out, but there was no answer.

Charlotte grabbed up her cellphone and checked her account balance. She dialed Trisha, but got her answering machine.

“Trisha,” Charlotte said. “We have to talk. Give me a call when you get a chance.”

She put down the phone and rushed over to her computer. She signed in and encrypted everything from her email, social media, and gaming accounts. She froze her credit cards too, but was, for a moment, tempted to pay them off with the money.

Charlotte grabbed up the card. The word “Pride” and an address were all that was on the card. She tossed it aside. All the time she had been inside the room with the two of them, Charlotte had been recording. She checked her video files, but they were gone. Only a single image remained, but the woman and the man were both blurred beyond recognition.

A knock at her door made her jump. Charlotte grabbed her Taser and carefully opened the door. Trisha looked in at her.

“What happened?” she asked, her hand on her mouth. She reached out to the red mark on Charlotte’s temple.

“I need your help.”

Back to: Chapter 2

***

Foundation is updated most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

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