Prisoners of technocracy.., p.1
Prisoners of Technocracy (Robots in Your Future Book 1), page 1
By David Poland
Published by The Fog Cutter
This is a work of the imagination, and all characters, incidents and dialogue are fictitious. Any similarity between the characters in this story and real living persons is strictly coincidental.
Copyright © July 2014
All Rights Reserved
Cover Image - Colin Anderson - gettyimages
Assembled Electronically in
the United States of America
First Edition - December 10, 2016
The Author of this story, David Poland, has worked in aerospace in Los Angeles and in Boston. His work focused on elementary Artificial Intelligence systems for manufacturing.
ISBN 13: 9781540509482
Library of Congress Control Number: 2016919599
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
North Charleston, South Carolina
The Urban Planners
Who understand that physical Scarcity
can finally be overcome with an abundance
of sophisticated robots.
Tommy had never let Homeland Care know what he could do. When he ran against the clock, it was all show. How much faster he could go was his secret. This secret was very special. It was the only undocumented possession he had.
Today he would do it. Today he would run.
The summer was just beginning. At four in the afternoon, the sun was still high in the sky. His provider robot was at work and wouldn’t be home ‘til six. The domestic robot, however, was home and Tommy knew it was keeping track of him. Tommy was in the parlor not far from the front door. He could hear the soft footsteps of the domestic robot coming toward him.
“Is that you Demy?” he called out before the robot entered the parlor.
“Yes dear,” answered the robot with its sweet motherly voice. “It’s two hours until dinner. Would you like a nice piece of apple pie and a glass of iced tea?”
“Don’t call me that! I told you never call me dear. Can’t you remember anything? You got yourself some short circuits?”
“I’m sorry Tommy. Please don’t hit me again. The last time you hit me, you hurt your hand on my casing and they came and gave me this padded casing. The padding is much too thick. It makes my casing uncomfortable.”
“Uncomfortable! I didn’t think you robots could be uncomfortable. You’re starting to sound just like a human.” Tommy seemed pleased with his clever reply. He scooted forward in his chair and looked at the front doorknob. The sight of it filled him with competitive energy. “Give the pie to Carl and Angie. That’s about their speed. You still got some pizza? Bring me some pizza and a beer and I’ll eat it right here?”
“The pizza is all gone. Would you like the beer in a mug?”
“Yeah, that sounds good. Bring me a big one.”
As the robot went quietly back down the hall, Tommy took off his com-link watch and put it under the cushion. He waited for the robot to turn into the kitchen. Once the robot turned, he made himself count to five. Now, sure the robot was busy opening the beer, he was on his feet and out the front door. Down the seven steps and onto the sidewalk, he started to run at an easy pace.
Demy hadn’t gone near the beer. The robot had correctly read Tommy’s intention. Once he was outside, it was back down the hall and retrieved his com-link watch from under the cushion. The robot put the com-link on its own left wrist, then considered dozens of authentic human sentences and chose the one most often heard in similar situations. “That boy’s going to get himself in trouble.” The robot then shook its head with sympathetic regret and stepped outside. Unlike the human, it shut the door and locked it. The robot went down the steps quickly and started its pursuit. Robots know that most humans will tire after running about eight minutes, and so it calculated a speed that would apprehend him in just eight minutes. In the meantime, it was an opportunity to update current street images with those in its memory. One couldn’t use the word “enjoy,” but it seemed domestic robots liked to be outside now and then.
Tommy could feel his breathing pick up. He had done it. He had broken free. He felt strong and invincible, and every fiber in his body was alive.
Bad luck. He had to stop for a red light. People he didn’t know and their robots, joined him waiting for the light to change. Tommy looked back down the sidewalk and saw Demy closing the distance. “Damn!” Recklessly he ran into the street against the light and with speed and agility crossed each of the five lanes. Horns blared and men in trucks yelled at him, but he made it. The people and robots that were still waiting for the light to change applauded his success. They didn’t really care, but his dash against death broke up the monotony.
Tommy hit the next block running and picked up speed as he went. He tried to look like a fast jogger, and waved at small children out for a walk with their guardians. The children waved back and cheered him on.
Demy electronically read the timing on the traffic light that had stopped Tommy, and modified its speed to reach the intersection just twenty seconds after it turned green. In twenty seconds, most of the pedestrians would be moving and a robot could move through them quickly.
Demy hit the next block running and turned up its speed to max. Analyzing the nearly empty sidewalk and knowing how much space it needed to stop, the robot was certain it could avoid anything unexpected.
Tommy could see that the next intersection was green and he ran as fast as he could to catch the light. The light turned red just as he approached, but he ran through it gambling he was faster than the late afternoon traffic. Again, he made it and didn’t slow down to look back. At the end of this block was the park. If he could make it to the park, he would lose Demy forever.
New data. New data. New data. Demy ran the data three times and determined Tommy was actually running faster than it could. Fascinating. No sensor had ever recorded Tommy running that fast. As the robot politely stopped for the next red light, it called for help. Homeland Security was occupied with higher priorities. Homeland Care had no available agents near by; but Homeland Maintenance had robotic trash truck number 38 on the same street going in the same direction. HM ordered the truck to pick up Demy.
Before physical rendezvous with the domestic robot, the trash truck asked why Demy was wearing the com-link for a twenty-nine year old male named Tommy. Demy explained that it belonged to Tommy’s family group and was trying to give him his com-link before he got into trouble. The truck then asked if there was a spiritual aspect to his apparent rebellion. Demy replied that it really didn’t know, but it thought Tommy’s inability to buy a motorcycle was probably the cause. After several dozen seconds of data searching and verifying many opportunities over at the WPA, the two Artificial Intelligent units agreed that human behavior was often more random than rational.
The robotic trash truck and Demy also agreed that Tommy was probably going to try to hide in the park. They had no idea why he wanted to hide in the park, but a quick scan of known human behaviors predicted that, in this situation, hiding was the most likely. Demy left the curb and backtracked a few car lengths to step up on the side of the trash truck. Once Demy was aboard, the truck speeded up to cat
To conserve energy, Tommy slowed down a bit and hit the last light when it turned green. On the other side of the street he looked around for Demy. The domestic robot was not to be seen on the sidewalk, but the trash truck turning through the intersection slowed enough to release Demy. The robot started toward him frantically waving and trying to get him to stop.
“No,” said Tommy out loud. “That thing is not going to catch up with me.” He ran into the park as fast as he could, and turned onto the first trail. He had planed to take this trail and lose anyone following him at the footbridge.
The robot was taking the trail almost as fast as Tommy was, and while a robot would never hurt a human, once it got hold of you it would hold on until Homeland Care came to help.
The footbridge was in sight. The grass on the near side of the stream, made it easy to go down and touch the water. Tommy ran down the grassy slope and, with a powerful jump, crossed the stream. He landed in the thick ivy on the other side and scrambled up the slope into the undergrowth.
Demy followed him step for step, but its jump fell short of the bank. Struggling in waist-deep water, it tried to climb up the bank into the ivy but fell backward into the water. For a moment it was completely under water and could not be seen.
From the safe vantage of the bridge, a troop of Boy Scouts witnessed the robot’s failed attempt. In an instant, all seven of them were working their way down through the ivy to rescue the unfortunate domestic. Holding hands they made a lifeline out into the water and rescued the machine.
Tommy was breathing heavily as he fought his way through the undergrowth. He slowed down and could hear nothing behind him. He stopped and looked and saw nothing behind him. He wouldn’t be tricked; he would move forward as quietly as possible. Robots have very good hearing, and they could communicate with all the little gardening robotics. He looked about and saw nothing. They had probably called the little robots in for the night. Yes, he thought, I did it at the right time.
Once out of the water, the robot wanted to leave; but the scouts had Demy flat on its back on the grassy side of the stream. The boys were systematically wiping the machine dry. The scout leader looked down into the robot’s face. “You’re a very lucky little machine to have that padded case. If you had taken a fall like that without that padding, it would have broken some of your seals and you would have shorted out. You’d be a soggy mess and my men and I would be carrying you back to Homeland Care for a major reboot.”
Demy knew a low fall into shallow water was no threat to its seals. Catching Tommy, however, wasn’t urgent enough for the robot to decline this genuine human assistance. After all, robots maintain the cities for human habitats, and robot protocol demanded grateful acceptance of human assistance. In this case, the assistance was real. The Boy Scouts had actually helped it get up and out of the water. Demy was quiet and patient while the humans tried to remember all the right things to do. The data processing demands of being rescued by this troop of good Samaritans was so low that Demy took the time to electronically communicate with its robot partner, the family provider.
The scout leader, a man now in his sixties, pulled back from the robot. “Okay my little friend, can you sit up?” Demy sat up with no problem. “Very good. Okay men gather around. We will now check out our little friend’s range of motion. Now pay attention. There’s a merit badge in this for every one of you.”
Suddenly the scout leader saw the human com-link watch on Demy’s left wrist. “Well, well, well, what have we here?” The man touched his own com-link to the one Demy was wearing and then read the face of his own watch. “So you think you’re a man named Tommy?”
“Oh no sir,” answered Demy. “I belong to Tommy’s family group and he forgot his watch when he went outside.”
“So you were taking it to him?”
“Yes, but he can jump farther than I can.”
“Yes indeed. My men and I saw you demonstrate that.”
Tommy was now back on a footpath and moving along at a relaxed jog. He paid close attention to the larger trees and their shadows. What he was looking for was just ahead. Slowing his jog, he glided off the path and into a tree’s shadow. Without making a sound he climbed the tree on the shadowy side and disappeared into the higher branches. He found a comfortable place to sit and hide until 5:30 when he knew Demy would have to go home. His breathing started to slow down and he noticed small cuts on his arms that had stopped bleeding. The undergrowth he had fought his way through must have had some thorns. He didn’t remember being cut. He took a hydration chewy from the plastic cap-lock in his pocket. One chewy was worth a glass of water, but chewing it reminded him of that piece of apple pie he had left at home. I should have eaten the pie first, he thought.
Still no sound from below; he must have given old Demy the slip. He knew the robot would go home and make dinner for his half-sister and her half-brother; but he didn’t know if it would report losing him or not. He didn’t think it would file its own inability to catch him, but he knew it had already told their provider robot. The provider would come here directly from work and search all night. It would not stop searching until it either found Tommy, or had to go back to work.
Tommy called the provider robot “Paycheck.” When planning his escape, he had decided to avoid ole Paycheck altogether.
Tommy heard church bells. They rang out a short melody, then struck five o’clock. I’ve been on the run more than an hour, he thought. When they ring half past, I’m out of here. When ole Paycheck gets here I’ll be long gone. Tommy then shifted his weight a bit and realized he had found a very comfortable place to sit. From down below he heard the sound of children. He couldn’t see them, but he guessed they were eight-year olds. It must be a third grade class out for a hike on the trail. No, he thought, it’s too late for school kids; it must be a club.
When Tommy was eight years old, he had figured out how to drop out of school. The chaperone robot that had walked him to school, then accompanied him on his adventures and saw to it that he was home in time for dinner. His robot had never abandoned him. In fact, Tommy thought his robot had actually helped him escape from school and so he called it “Jack.” Before his first escape he had called the robot “Thing.” After the escape, he called it “Jack” because he thought that was a good pirate name, and of course, pirates don’t go to school.
Once on the run, the robot had taught him to read and a little arithmetic, and then by example a good measure of civil courtesy. The lessons were casually woven into the daily adventures and Tommy never realized he was being tutored. Whenever being the master of his own fate became a bit ludicrous, he was free to drop back into school and try out a little social conformity.
Not long after his twentieth birthday, he passed the eighth-grade certificate exam and established for the record that he was as well educated as any fourteen-year old. Most of his friends had followed similar paths. In these post-modern times, dropping in and out of school wasn’t at all that unusual. Truancy with a chaperone robot was seen as an alternate form of education. Of course, social acceptance of truancy had made it a lot less exciting. Tommy and his friends, however, did whatever they could get away with; but never let the boundaries of the law, or even the rigors of school, define their personal identities.
As Tommy grew into his twenties, he found his personal robot becoming more of a nuisance than a friend. Without a high school diploma however, the law mandated a robot chaperone until age twenty-five. He managed to endure the robot until his twenty-fifth birthday when Homeland Care reassigned the robot to another five-year-old. As time passed, he began to miss Jack but he never said so. No one seemed to care whether or not he had a diploma until he asked for a job. Without any apparent skills, or at least a diploma, he was always told to go on over to the WPA.
In the previous decade, the government had started up the old Works Progress Administration to provide employment for any citizen who could not find work. This time around, the WPA was not a
When Tommy went to the WPA it felt so much like school that he had left before he got an interview. He didn’t really want a job. What he wanted was his own motorcycle and not one of those three wheelers with Artificial Intelligence that drove itself. He wanted a real motorcycle without any AI. Homeland Care had determined that since public transportation was extensive, reliable, and free, personal vehicles were unwarranted luxuries. To get a motorcycle, the rules said you had to be 25 or older, have passed the eighth-grade certificate exam, pass a physical examination, and be earning credits from an approved job.
Since he had passed the first three regulations he reckoned they were tolerable, but he didn’t like rule number four taking away his freedom to decline employment. He knew his labor wasn’t needed, but the driver’s license booklet said that a computerized analysis showed that workers were safer drivers than the unemployed. Government booklets from Homeland Care continually quoted the computers. This wasn’t fair. So who was HC anyway?
Tommy’s heart jumped at the sound of a large vehicle coming down the footpath. He guessed park security, but he couldn’t see the ground very well. He listened carefully and didn’t risk moving for a better view. It was a large gardening machine that was grooming the trail and extending its many long steel arms to pickup trash and weeds and put them in its collection bin. He sat in silence. The machine stopped under him. Two of the long steel arms started up the tree. He could see them but not the machine. He knew each arm had an optical sensor near its hand. The machine had found the remains of a dark-green helium balloon that was tangled in a lower limb. Removing it, the steel arms retreated. Shortly thereafter, the machine moved on down the path. Tommy exhaled with gratitude and hoped by five-thirty the big machine would be back in its barn.
by David Poland have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes