Sunday, 19 June 2011

Do killbots dream of electric reporters?

This flash fiction challenge was actually pretty easy to write up. The theme this week was robots, and given that my top sci-fi influences are the novels of Philip K. Dick and Ghost In The Shell in all its adaptations I had plenty of reference material to work from. Thanks again to Chuck Wendig for coming up with these crazy ideas and please feel free to leave lots and lots of comments. Oh yes, and I hope you enjoy!

    The androids’ metal casings were smooth and shiny, so much so that Liana Turing could actually see her reflection in them. She felt tempted to reach out and feel the cold surface, but she hesitated. She recalled the battlefield demonstration, how the androids with their sleek, vaguely humanoid bodies, had used their missiles and machine guns to blow apart their artificial targets with ridiculous ease. She thought about how, soon enough, they would be deployed against living people, human targets not made of synthetics but of bone and flesh. She stared at the large blue sensor array that took up most of the android’s ‘face” and shuddered.
    “I’m glad you all made it to the facility today,”the project director’s voice rang out. His voice was deep and low, and had almost a primal quality to it. It seemed like the voice of someone always just on the edge of civility and who would and could switch to violence at a moment’s notice.
    He walked towards her and the other reporters around her with smooth, deliberate strides. At first, during the introduction before the demonstration, he’d reminded her of a big cat, like a lion or tiger or another one of those animals that’d gone extinct during the last century. Now though, she saw him for what he really was; calculated, mechanical, prizing efficiency above all else. A machine, just like the automatons that surrounded them, albeit fully human. His finely tailored smart suit only added to this impression.

    She briefly wondered why it was the director who was chosen to unveil the androids to the press. The only explanation she could come up with was one she felt very uncomfortable with.
He was meant to help scare the holy shit out of them. Well, whatever shit was left in them after the demonstration they’d witnessed.
    “Please remember that taking photographs or pictures of any kind is restricted while you’re in the facility. If you require any further elaborations on this please consult the press disclosure agreement you all signed before entering.”

    Not that they had a choice in the matter, Liana reflected. It was standard practice nowadays that anyone in the press had to sign these disclosure agreements every time they covered a government or hegemonic sponsored event or interview. They were always specially tailored for each instance, but they always boiled down to limiting what could be published. And those were just the mild ones. Other disclosures basically stated the government or corporate hegemons could review and edit your work at their own fiat. 
    The director waved his hand, indicated the robots. “Clarketech Industries is very proud to be working closely with the military on this project. These robots are built with the most cutting edge technology available today.  Propulsion packs make sure that the androids can be mobilized to any terrain available on earth and beyond. They sport the latest in anti-EMP hardware and hack resistant firmware. Additionally their new target recognition software means they can notice and remember faces and bodies for reference in future encounters. They are the ultimate design to supplement the existing military forces and are perfectly suited for the most difficult operations where nuclear or air strike solutions aren’t viable.”

    Liana raised her hand. “Director, can you elaborate on these intended ‘operations’?”she asked.

    The director’s mouth continued to smile but his eyes were a different story; they narrowed and scowled at her with distasteful recognition.
    “Of course, Ms. Turing. My purpose today is to provide you all with as much information as confidentiality will allow. The activities that the androids will be assigned to include hostage  rescue operations, limited urban policing engagements in foreign nations, and selective engagements against individual enemies of the public order.”

    “By ‘engagements’ do you mean assassination, Director?”she asked him.
    This time the smile left his face.
    “As you well know Ms. Turing, such a thing is illegal by both international and federal law...”
    Liana cut him off.
    “Well, let’s just say hypothetically if these machines were used by individuals who weren’t as well versed in the law as you seem to be, they seem like they would be the perfect tools for assassinating opponents to the new order.”

    The director’s eyes narrowed even further. She suspected that her editor would be getting a call after the press tour noting her ‘erratic behavior’ during the event.
    “I’m not here to debate hypotheticals with you. And to suggest that they individuals who would be authorizing their use, our elected government liaisons to the military, would use them in the fashion you’re implying is borderline treason,”he told her, then turned his attention to the other reporters. “But enough about that. Perhaps you would be so kind as to allow other members of the press to ask their no doubt relevant questions now?”

    They asked their own prepared director in a routine order, all of them softball questions about the androids and Clarketech Industries that were . Liana wouldn’t have been surprised to find out that the hegemon had sent the questions to all their editors ahead of time. The director’s replies were always polite and curt that technically answered their questions but gave away nothing of significance. He then invited them all to another section of the facility to view the hegemon’s newest civilian android models. These demonstrations would no doubt have another, friendlier tour guide, and would no doubt be showcasing the androids’ newest smart phone integration utilities or some other distracting tripe. She cringed at the thought that most of the other reporters would focus on the civilian androids and only briefly mention the military types for their own articles.

    Liana lingered a bit behind the others. She turned back to see the android’s single eye shift and focus on her, as if it was watching her as she left. She couldn’t help get the feeling that it was marking her face and body, noting her face and body, remembering her, perhaps even as a reference for some future encounter.


  1. Hmmm

    marking Liana?? cool!! Your style is cool!!

    with warm regards
    Another Author

  2. What an engaging piece! You have a gift for placing your reader at the centre of the action. Although 'robot' related work has been done to death over the last few decades, there was something new and vital about this piece. Super job, I really, really loved it!

    best wishes,

    chris y