Kindlegraph

Friday, February 5, 2016

Servo 33:1

Servo 33:1

“Have you heard from him?” Otto asked. It was midnight and Dad had arrived at Servidyne two hours prior.
“Not lately. His last message said he was waiting for the night crew to leave.” I sat on the bed with the tablet in my lap. Suz and Rory had gone out to a late movie. I figured they would be back any minute. With luck, the transmitter on the radio had picked up the wireless signal so we didn’t have to hide out near Servidyne.
“Did they do anything to him?”
“No, just set him against a charging station.”
“Okay, good.”
I yawned and rubbed my eyes. I’d been staring at the tablet screen for several hours. There had only been a few messages from Dad. So far, everything seemed to be going well. I wondered how long it would be before he could start the mission.
The tablet screen blinked a few times and a fuzzy image appeared. I tried to adjust the focus somewhat to see what was going on.
“Jonah?” Dad said softly.
I touched the “talk” icon on the tablet screen. “Yes, I’m here.”
“How’s your visual?”
“Kinda blurry.”
“Stand by.”
I heard mechanical whirring through the speakers. “What are you doing?”
“Trying to adjust the optical gain. They weren’t too gentle in loading me in the transport truck.”
“It got bumped?”
“Yes.”
The image on the screen became clearer. “That’s better,” I said.
“Good.”
He stood and I watched him cross a pristine white room. Along the wall sat dozens of bots. Some were old, some appeared quite new. I wondered why they were at the repair department. “Dad?”
“Yes?”
“Why are new bots there?”
“I dunno.” He approached one. “This model is only a year old.”
“Software glitch?”
“Maybe. I’ll find out when I tap into the mainframe.” Dad went to the door and opened it. Through his eyes I could see him peering into a hallway. Everything was painted white. I remembered my days of tagging along with him and being in awe of how clean the place looked. Unfortunately, it was so clean that a dirty old bot like Dad would stick out like a sore thumb. We’d cleaned and polished him the best we could, but even with the new exoplates, he still looked shabby.
“All right, I’m going to head toward the mainframe systems block.”
Otto wandered over and sat next to me, watching Dad’s progress through a seemingly endless maze of hallways. “And he knows where he’s going?”
“He worked there for years. Of course he does.”
“I wasn’t sure his memory core held all that data.”
I shook my head slightly. “I have no clue how much data we actually uploaded or how his consciousness got into the machine, but he seems to remember everything from being alive.”
“Truly amazing.”
“Still don’t know how we did it.”
“I remember you mentioning the barn got hit by lightning.”
“Correct.”
“Think that had something to do with it?”
“Perhaps. Like Frankenstein’s monster was reanimated, so my Dad came back to life.”
“Just as a tin can.”
I regarded Otto and chuckled. “Better than a manhole cover.”
“Almost there,” Dad whispered.
“You haven’t seen anyone?” I said.
“Surprisingly, not a soul.”
“That’s good.”
“Just some service droids cleaning the place.”
I saw his viewpoint; a lone droid was polishing the floor in the hallway. Droids differed from bots in that they had no artificial intelligence, no socialization programming, and ran simply on root programs to perform a specific function. They tended to be boxy in appearance and many rolled around on wheels.
“How long do you think it’ll take you to upload the virus?”
“Just a few minutes. After that, it will take several hours for it to fully infect the system.”
“Enough time to get out of there.”
There was a long pause before Dad’s reply. “Enough time to hopefully find my killer.”
Otto reached over and pushed the talk icon on my tablet. “How are you going to do that?”
“I’m going to access the database admittance files from my lab. Whoever killed me should be on record as having been in there.”
“And what are you going to do if you find out who it is?”
“I’m not sure.” He continued on for several more minutes, saying nothing. Then he stopped at an imposing door. “Oh, no.”
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“The cyber lock.”
“What about it?”
“It’s changed hourly. Only those with a rotating user I.D. badge can access this area.”
“How did you plan on getting in?”
“I was hoping the interface port on my arm…But they’ve done away with that function.”
“Now what?”
He turned his back to the door, facing the hallway. “I need to think.”
Otto craned his neck, getting a better view of the tablet. “Mr. Blackburn?”
“Yes?”
“Are there any security cameras in that zone?”
Dad scanned the area looking high and low. “Not that I can see, but I’m certain there are several in the mainframe rooms.”
I sat back against the headboard and sighed deeply. We’d come all this way and gone through too much to fail now.
“At this hour there aren’t many people in the building. And I’d certainly be caught if I accosted one and took their badge.”
A loud clanking noise came from the speakers. There was no way to tell where it was coming from. “Dad?”
“Yes?”
“What’s that noise?”
He turned his head, changing our vantage point to another hallway. A battle bot clomped by, disappearing from sight.
“Are they patrolling the building?”
“Unsure.”
“That’s bad news,” said Otto. “If one of them catches him, it’s all over.”
There was more clanking. Dad swiveled his head to the right. Quite a distance down the hall came another battle bot.
“Oh!” he said.
“Dad, hide!”
“Were?!”
“What’s next to the door, Mr. Blackburn?” Otto chimed in.
“A short hall with one door on the right. I think it’s a power supply closet.”
“Go down there, maybe it won’t see you.”
“Right.”
We watched as he quickly made tracks into the hallway and tried the door.
“Locked.”
“Can you flatten against the left wall and remain stationary?”
“I’ll do my best.”
Our picture from his eyes was the door across the hall. A text message appeared on the screen:
I’d be holding my breath right now if I had lungs.
Despite all the drama going on, Dad was trying to be funny. When he was alive, he always had jokes to share with us. Mostly they were silly jokes, but now I realize how much I missed them. In his new form, he didn’t seem as witty as before. Maybe when this was over and we were home safe, I could do some tinkering to try and bring that side of him out again.
The noise grew louder. Another text:
So close now!
“Don’t move a muscle,” I said.
Ha, ha, very funny. Was his reply.
We listened as the clanking came and went. The battle bot failed to see him.
Oh, that was too close for comfort! Dad texted.
“You still haven’t figured a way into the mainframe room have you?”
“No,” he replied softly.
Otto held up a finger. “Umm, do those droids go in there to clean?”
I poked the talk icon. “Dad, do the droids go into the mainframe room and clean?”
“Yes.”
“Can you wait until one of them goes in and sneak in behind?”
He walked to the end of the short hall and peered around the corner. The service droid was still buffing the floor, but moving closer to the mainframe doorway. “Maybe.”

Friday, January 29, 2016

Servo 32:3

Servo 32:3


Two days passed and things were at the pinnacle of readiness. Otto and I had thoroughly tested every part of Dad’s systems. He was good to go. Now all that remained was to get him to the collection point so he could be taken to Servidyne.
I waited impatiently in the hotel room while Suz and Otto went to the facility to inquire about bringing Dad in. They wanted to make sure nothing bad was going to happen to him when they dropped him off.
“What’s taking them so long?” Rory asked as he lounged on the bed.
“I dunno,” I replied, “I hope Otto didn’t get stopped by a battle bot.”
“He’s using his fake name, right?”
“I hope he remembered.” I glanced over at Dad, who was standing by the window. “Think they’re okay?”
He turned. “What?”
“I said, do you think they are okay?”
“Unsure. This whole plan concerns me.”
“You’re not the only one.”
The door opened and Otto strolled in, followed by Suz.
“Well?” I said.
“I think we can pull this off,” Otto replied. “But we need to act soon.”
“How soon?”
“Like now.”
Dad approached Otto. “Now?”
“From what the guy told me, Servidyne is going to start collecting old bots for reclamation.”
“Destruction, more like. I know what that means.”
“He said right now, they are still repairing them. Next week, however…”
“Then we must go.” He went to the door. “Otto?”
“Yeah, okay.”
I went to Dad and stood in front of him. “Please be careful.”
“You know I will.”
Without thought, I wrapped my arms around him, hugging him as tightly as I could. Rory and Suz joined in. A couple tears rolled down my cheeks. I couldn’t bear to lose the father I’d already lost once before.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He gently pried us off. “I’ll be careful, I promise.”
When the door closed behind him, I went to the window and stood watching. I hoped it wouldn’t be the last time I’d see my father. There was no backup for him, no way to reproduce him again if he was lost. He was as unique as he’d been when flesh and blood.
Below on the street, I saw Otto hailing a cab. Dad stood next to him, looking tense—if you could call it that. A cab arrived and he paused, looking up at our hotel window. He gave a slight wave before climbing in. At that very moment, I felt like my world was collapsing.  
I watched as they drove away, disappearing around the corner a few blocks down the street. There was a nagging ache in my stomach; I feared the worst. If Servidyne was starting to reclaim old bots, Dad would have a huge bullseye painted on him. We’d done our best to camouflage him as a newer bot, but if anyone started poking around, the gig was up. The plan was for him to get into the facility, but discreetly excuse himself from the repair section and get to the mainframe computer. Once in, he could upload the virus and hopefully make an escape while everyone was in a panic about the system. Best laid plans…
“Are you going to watch?” Rory asked. He was sitting on the bed with my tablet.
“Yes. Although we’re powerless to help.”
“I know. It stinks.”
I sat down with him and he slid the tablet over so we could share. The video was grainy, but not as bad as I’d expected. We could see him looking out the window of the cab, buildings going by. In the background, I could hear Otto and Suz talking quietly. The tablet beeped and a message appeared in the lower right-hand corner:

Are you receiving me?

“Hey, it’s Dad!” Rory said.
I quickly typed: Loud and clear—signal is good.

He replied: Excellent. I’ll keep you informed on what’s going on.

Rory uttered an audible sigh. “Let’s hope the signal strength holds.”
“Can’t see why not, there are transmitters all over the city,” I said, watching the video feed. “They only way we could lose him is if Servidyne has some sort of shielding in the building.”
“Oh, do they?”
“Dad doesn’t think so. The bots there all run on the shared connectivity drives.”
“Let’s hope that’s the case. It would be bad to have done all this and lose him.”
We watched as the cab stopped at the collection center and everyone got out. I could see Otto paying the driver while Suz stood next to Dad. He kept his head moving so we had a great view. The door to the building opened and a younger looking man walked out. He nodded to Otto. “So this is the bot you were telling me about?”
“Yes,” Otto replied.
“It’s like we have a front row seat in a play,” Rory said.
I held an index finger to my lips. “Shhhh! Let’s listen.”
The man looked Dad over. “It’s certainly seen better days. Sure you don’t want it reclaimed and get a new one? The 255s are state of the art.”
“No, no, we like this one,” Suz said. “It’s been with us for quite a while and has all our profiles down pat.”
“Suit yourself, but there might be a few software upgrades we can install to make it run better.”
Otto waved his hand. “A simple diagnostic panel will be fine for now.”
“All right. Since it’s Friday, and late, they won’t get to the bot until Monday.”
“And you can assure us that it won’t get mixed up with those being reclaimed?”
“I’ll put a tag on it to make sure.” He shook his head. “What is it with you folks and old bots?”
Suz cleared her throat and lifted her head slightly. “As much as technology is nice, bots like this become part of the family. See, we lost our parents a few years ago, and this bot has made all the difference. It has many fond memories stored in its memory core that we cherish. So you must exercise the utmost care when dealing with this bot. Got it?”
“Yes, yes, I understand.” He nodded. “We’ll take the best care of it.”
“Thank you.”
Rory and I watched as Suz and Otto got back into the cab and left. “Oh, no, they didn’t use the story we’d come up with. If they scan Dad and find out he’s been reported missing, what’s going to happen?” I said, feeling my heart pounding.
“I dunno. Maybe they won’t scan him.”
Dad was led inside the building and placed in a line of ten other bots. The man went to a desk, retrieved a sizeable tag with a piece of wire, wrote on it, and attached it to Dad’s chestplate. “All right, let’s turn you off to conserve battery,” the man said. He reached behind Dad’s head. We heard a click and the video feed went dark. A message appeared on the tablet:

So far so good…

Friday, January 22, 2016

Servo 32:2

Servo 32:2

The streetlights had been on for a couple hours when we made our way to the grocery store. It wasn’t a far walk, but we had to dodge three battle bots along the way. I swear, each day there were more and more of them. They patrolled the streets like packs of hungry dogs, their dead, red eyes taking in every minute detail. It was obvious the citizens were terrified; few, if any people were on the streets at night, and not many more during the day. The oppression was palpable. I wondered how much longer our stories would be bought by the Enforcement Department. At some point in time they would begin to question our behaviors. I only hoped this mission would be done in the next couple of days so we could make our escape.
“Think he’ll show?” Otto said, checking his watch.
“Said he would. He was very intrigued.” I replied.
Dad stood against the wall in the shadows. “I still hate the idea.”
I heard footsteps approaching. We were tucked away behind the trash dumpster, as out of sight as possible.
“Jonah?” a male voice said.
“Here,” I answered, stepping into the dim light.
“Sorry I’m a bit late, had to answer to two nosy bots along the way.”
“We had to dodge three ourselves.”
Curtis looked around. “So where is he?”
“Over there.” I led him around the dumpster. “We wanted to stay out of sight.”
“Good idea.” Curtis looked my father over. “Is he supposed to be a Model 209?”
“Umm, yeah.”
“But what model is he really?”
“A 106.”
“Good God! That model is ancient!”
“We found it in my grandpa’s barn—it was all he had. Bots are kind of illegal in the Outer States.”
“And it was like in a million pieces,” Otto added.
“So what exactly did you do?” He got closer, scrutinizing our remodel job. “Did you steal parts from a 209?”
“Some. The majority of the unit is still the 109.”
“And you say your father is in there?”
“Well, his memory bank and millions of lines of code.”
Up until now, Dad had remained relatively motionless. I knew he was assessing Curtis as friend or foe.
“Just how do you know it’s your father? Does he have any present-day memories stored in there?”
“I’m sure he does.”
Curtis got really close in Dad’s face. “Why doesn’t he say something?”
“Because I didn’t have anything to say,” said Dad.
“Holy—!” Curtis jumped back.
“Jonah says you’ve been helping him.”
“Yeah, I gave him the radios.” He approached with trepidation. “So you really are the famous Thomas Blackburn?”
“Yes, but not so sure about the famous part.”
“I was shocked to hear about your death.”
“I was rather shocked to be dead, and then reanimated.”
“You had a brilliant career ahead of you.”
“Prematurely cut short by someone at Servidyne”
I watched Curtis’s mouth hang open. “You were murdered?!”
“Yes, but I never saw who did it. And that’s another reason I need to go back there.”
“Jonah said you have to stop the war.”
“That too.”
Curtis reached into his pocket and removed a small plastic bag, handing it to me. “Here’s the camera. I wish you the best of luck on your endeavor. If you need any more help, you can count on me.”
“We appreciate it,” Dad replied.
“You better get back to your hotel, don’t want to get caught by the battle bots.”
“Thank you.”
“I wish I could stay and get to know you better, but things are too dangerous.”
“Should things go bad here and you can escape, we live in Broken Bow, Nebraska. It’s a small town, not hard to find someone. We’d be happy to help you.” Dad offered his hand, Curtis paused a moment before taking it.
“I hope you can stop this madness. Nebraska sounds like another world.”
“Believe me, it is,” I said, “None of this is going on. It’s peaceful there.”
“Sounds nice.” Curtis turned to leave. “See ya.”
With that, he disappeared into the darkness.
Our journey home was no less perilous. It was everything we could to do avoid four bots this time. Upon returning to the hotel, we collapsed in utter exhaustion. Dad sat at the table fiddling with the camera. I was too tired to install it that night. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Servo 31:2

Servo 31:2

“I’m going with you,” Otto said as he tucked in his shirt. We’d spent the better part of the previous night installing the radio in Dad’s head. It worked, but was going to be questionable at that range.
“Is that a good idea?” I replied. “You’re an outsider; you don’t have an I.D. chip.”
“Make up a story for me.”
“What kind of story?”
He folded his arms. “Well, can you tell them we’re here to apply for school?”
“Mmmm.” I pondered his line of thought. “That might work. Kind of thin though.”
“Well, what other logical and legal reason would an outsider have for being here?”
“I’ve been using the ‘we’re visiting family’ rouse for the time being.”
“How about visiting family and applying to some schools?”
“Fine,” I grumbled. “Let’s get going.”
“Can you show me the bot collection center? I wanna see how they’re processed.”
“It’s several blocks the other direction.”
“The air will do me good. My brain is fried from all the work the last couple of days. And I want to make sure Suz and I won’t draw any suspicion.”
“Okay.”
We left the hotel and immediately saw three battle bots eyeing us. My mind began to piece together a reasonable story that might keep them off our tails. As we walked down the sidewalk, one approached. “Stop citizens.”
Otto and I complied. “We’re going to the store,” I said, pointing. “The electronics shop. My tablet isn’t working right.”
“Present your arms for I.D. scan.”
I held up my arm. “This is Otto, he’s from the Outer States. He’s here visiting family and we’re both applying to the Bryn Mawr Bio-Technical College.”
The bot scanned my chip. “Jonah Blackburn, temporary citizen.” Then it turned to Otto. “Present your arm for I.D. scan.”
Otto looked at me, a hint of terror in his eyes. I gestured to him. He held out his arm. “I don’t have a chip; I’m visiting from the Outer States.”
The bot attempted to scan him. “No I.D. chip found. State your full name and place of current residence.”
“Umm, my name is Otto Arkman—.”
I cut him off. “Otto Arkmanning. His name is Otto Arkmanning.” I gave him a quick wink.
Otto returned with a slight nod. “Yes, my name is Otto Arkmanning. And we’re staying at the hotel right back there.”
The bot stood silent for a few moments. I could only speculate that it was accessing the data base looking for an Otto Arkmanning. It wouldn’t find one. Had Otto used his real name, the bot would have discovered he’d spent time in the detention center. That would surely have drawn suspicion and caused us trouble.
“Duration of stay, Otto Arkmanning,” the bot demanded.
“Uh, maybe a few more days.”
“If you plan to stay longer, you must register at the nearest civilian immigration station.”
“Oh, yes, right. I think we’ll be leaving fairly soon. If we get into Bryn Mawr, we’ll make sure to register.”
“Carry on.”
“Thank you,” Otto said with a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
We continued to the electronics shop. The same man was at the counter.
“Hello, back again?” he said.
“Yes.”
“Did the radios work?”
“Yes. Installed one last night. Wish it had a longer range.”
He rested his elbows on the counter. “Sorry, that’s all I had. Need something else?”
“A small wireless camera if you have one.”
“Might as well be asking for the world.”
“So you don’t have any?”
“Not any on the shelves. The Ministry of Enforcement won’t allow any cameras to be sold.”
“Why not? We used to be able to buy them quite easily.”
He leaned close to me. “You know why.”
“I was hoping to have both audio and visual feeds.”
The man looked at Otto. “Who’s your friend?”
“This is Otto, he’s from the Outer States. He has skills in robotics.”
He lifted and arm, stretching out a hand. “I’m Curtis.”
We took turns shaking his hand. “I’m Jonah,” I said, giving him a firm grasp.
“Your father, was he Thomas Blackburn?”
“Umm, yeah.”
“I did some research after you left. Like to know who I’m dealing with.”
“My father was murdered, I’m sure of it.”
“No doubt in my mind. He probably knew too much.”
“He wants to find his murderer.”
“Your mostly dead Dad wants to find out who killed him? Kid, now you’re speaking garbage.”
“Mostly?”
“Yeah, yesterday you said your dad was mostly dead. Now what is he?”
I looked at Otto for some sort of reassurance, but found none. “Umm, well, he’s a bot now.”
“You took a bot and are calling it your dad? Ridiculous!”
“No, he really is my dad.” I growled under my breath in frustration. The last thing I wanted was someone else knowing about our secret. But he seemed to be interested and in favor of our plan, so I had to confess. “I took all the memory sticks of my dad’s work and loaded them into an old bot. Somehow, after a lightning storm, the bot came to life. He’s got my dad’s personality, his knowledge, and intuition.”
“It’s just a bot!” He uttered a deep belly laugh.
“No, he’s not,” Otto defended. “It’s his dad, I swear. I helped get parts for the bot, but it’s not just an old service unit. It’s Thomas Blackburn.”
“You really expect me to believe that? You’re just kids.”
“Do you know where I can get a camera?” I said, trying to bring the conversation back to task.
“Nowhere. There aren’t any…But I might be able to help you.”
“How?”
“I’d like to meet that bot of yours.”
“Out of the question!”
“If he’s real like you say he is, then I could find it in my heart to get you a camera.”
I felt like I’d been socked in the gut. This had to be wrong. How could I trust a guy I’d only just met? Curtiss seemed genuine; he’d given me the radios, but that might have been a ploy to bust us with a modified bot. How could I pull this off?
“Excuse us for a moment,” I said, grabbing Otto by the arm and leading him outside. “Help!”
“With what?”
“What should I do?”
“You think it’s a good idea to go showing off your dad to a bunch of people?”
“No, but I really wanna have that camera.”
Otto walked in a small circle. “Gimme a minute to think.”
I scanned the area while he contemplated. Two battle bots watched us from their positions on the street corners.
“All right, I got it. We get your dad to a neutral location—like a few blocks away from the hotel and then let Curtis meet him. But you tell your dad to act like a service bot until he’s sure Curtis isn’t one of the bad guys.”
“You think that’ll work?”
“Maybe, maybe not. But we have little to work with right now.”
“True. Okay, we’ll go with that. I only hope Dad agrees to this.”
We went inside and I approached Curtis. “Meet us behind the grocery store at ten p.m. — and be alone.”
“Fine. If he’s what you say he is, I’ll have the camera here tomorrow for you.”
“Deal.”
“I know you’re being protective, but I am on your side.”
With a single nod, we exited the shop.
“Now on to the collection center,” Otto said. “Which way?”
“North.”
He held a finger in the air as if trying to figure out which direction. I turned left and led the way. Since we carried no merchandise, the battle bots ignored us as we walked quite a distance to the center.
Upon reaching it, Otto crossed the street to a deli. “We can watch from in here.”
“I am kind of hungry.”
“Do they actually have real food?”
“Umm, probably not.”
“Yuck.”
“I miss grandma’s bacon.”
“You have some money?”
“Yes.” I removed the tablet from my pack. “A few hundred left.”
“Pity it’s for fake food.”
“I just keep reminding myself that we’ll be home soon.”
Otto opened the door, holding it for me. “Can’t take much more of this.”
When we entered, we were greeted with a surprise behind the deli case glass: real meats! My eyes almost wanted to pop out of my head. I approached the counter. “Is this all real?”
The lady behind the counter wagged a finger at me. “Shhh, don’t you go blabbing.”
“But they’re real? How did you get them?”
“We have a source in the Outer States.”
Behind me, Otto groaned with pleasure. “Oh, yes!”
“How come you’re in business? Why hasn’t the Ministry of Nutrition shut you down?”
“Those idiots always announce their inspections. When they come, we just switch the good stuff out for the approved and utterly tasteless varieties.”
“I want a large turkey, ham, roast beef, and cheese sandwich with everything on it!” Otto announced. “And a soda if you have any.”
The woman chuckled. “You sound like you haven’t had anything to eat in weeks.”
“Truthfully, I haven’t. This poor excuse for food is killing me.”
“And you’re not from here, are you?”
“No, Ma’am. I’m from the Outer States.”
“So what are you doing here?”
“Umm, I came with my girlfriend. She’s from here.”
“Are you staying?”
“No, hoping to leave soon.”
“Good, you’ll be safer out there.” She opened the deli case and took out an armload of meats and cheeses. I watched with wonder as she created some of the biggest sandwiches I’d ever seen. Each one had to be a foot long and nearly half a foot tall. My mouth watered at the thought of sinking my teeth into the giant delicacy.
She slid over a tray piled high with sandwiches, chips, and two cans of soda. “There ya go, boys. That’ll be twelve dollars.”
I looked at her in shock. “That’s all?”
“Call it the lunch special. And since the battle bots have been around, business has taken a nosedive. I need any profits I can get right now.”
“I have plenty of money, I can pay.”
“No, that’s okay. You look like good boys. Twelve is fine.”
I took out my tablet, aimed it at the price point interface, and paid for lunch. Of course I felt pretty bad about things and left her a fifteen dollar tip. Our lunch specials should have cost twelve dollars each.
We sat down at the table by the window and promptly devoured lunch. I felt so much better after having a real meal for once. Otto had quite a bit more color to his face after eating. “That was so good!” he said, wiping some mayonnaise from his cheek.
“Yeah, it was. Can’t wait to get home.”
“Me neither.”
Across the street we observed a bot being brought in. A male worker came out to the vehicle, which was driven by a woman. He opened the door and retrieved the bot, walking it into the building. The car drove off. We watched as the man put the bot against one wall, lining it up with the others, and switched it off.
“Oh no!” I said. “They turned it off.”
“I expected that. How are we gonna get around that problem?”
“Maybe we can see if Dad can go into a power save mode and trick them into thinking he’s turned off.”
“That might work.”
“I hope he can do that. Can’t risk turning him off, he might not be Dad when he comes back on.”
“That wouldn’t be good.”
“Come on, we need to get back and do more work.”

Friday, January 8, 2016

Servo 31:1

Servo 31:1


I returned to the room with a renewed sense of vigor. My friend at the electronics shop had been most helpful; not only with giving me the radios, but bringing me up to speed on what was going on in the Inner States. We had to get this plan rolling.
“Dad?” I said, sitting down at the table.
“Yes?”
“I heard that the government is taxing citizens to the breaking point.”
“Where’d you hear that?”
“Oh, the guy at the electronics shop told me.”
“Why did you go there?”
I pulled the box from a bag. “I got these so we can stay in communication when you’re inside Servidyne.”
“I can’t be seen carrying one of those around.”
“You won’t. I’ll strip it out of the case and directly implant it into your head.”
He picked up the box and studied it. “Hmm, good idea.”
“And he also told me that you can’t just go to the main building.”
“Why not?”
“They won’t let anyone near there. Malfunctioning bots have to be brought to a collection center.”
“Did he tell you where one was?”
“I found one about five blocks to the north of here according to my tablet.”
“That will certainly make it much safer for Suz and Otto.”
“So we’ll need the radio to keep in contact with you.” I opened the box and fought with the annoying plastic packaging.
Dad chuckled as he watched my frustration. “What’s the range on it?”
I looked on the back. “Umm, about a mile.”
“Not very far.”
“Well, it was all they had.”
“That means you’ll have to be close enough to Servidyne.”
“I figure we’d take a taxi to a spot I found on a satellite overview map. There’s a low hill just to the southwest that might be a good place for us to wait.”
“As long as you don’t draw suspicion.”
“Don’t think we will.” I assembled my tools and set about disassembling one of the radios. Inside the package were two voice activated microphones. That would be very handy for Dad; he wouldn’t have to key the radio each time he wanted to speak. But it also meant we’d hear everything he said, and quite possibly everything going on around him.
As I worked, I wondered if there was a way I could see what he’d be seeing as well. My tablet was outfitted with a wireless video input. All I’d need was a small camera implanted behind one of Dad’s eyes and I could watch his every move. Maybe tomorrow I’d go see my friend in the electronics store again.
Otto sat down at the table and watched. “You think this plan will work?”
“Unsure,” said Dad. “But we have to try.”
“We did our best in getting all the new plates put on; still some small holes from where the other bot’s plates fit differently.”
Dad looked at one of his arms. “Yes, I see. And they might too.”
“Some elasto-polymer filler should do the trick.”
“Hardware store?”
“Probably.”
I glanced up from my work. “I was planning on going out tomorrow. I can pick some up.”
“Yes, do that. I can’t be compromised on this mission.”
“That’s the last thing I want to have happen. We need to stop what’s going on here. It’s bad,” I said, pulling the “guts” out of the radio. “And when it’s done, I want to get out of here fast.”
“We all do,” Otto replied. “I miss home. This was such a stupid idea. Who was I to think I’d fit into a society like this?”
Suz wandered over and joined in the conversation. “You’re a really smart guy, Otto, but right now things aren’t good. If it had been different, I’m sure they would’ve treated you more fairly.”
“No, this isn’t the world for me. I’d rather get kicked by a cow than live here.”
I uttered a little laugh. Despite Otto’s intellect, he still possessed a back-country humor about him. The same kind of humor that filled Dagwood up to his eyeballs; oh, how I missed my friend. How long had we been gone? I’m sure it couldn’t have been more than a week or so, but it felt like years.

My tablet sat on the table. I poked at it, bringing up a calendar. At the end of the month, just a mere two weeks away, was a date circled—the beginning of the school year. I hoped we’d be back by then. Even though we were schooled in a different manner than the rest of the children, I still felt I was learning an amazing amount. Mrs. Graham kept our tiny class flexible when it came to education; she rarely had a structured lesson plan, and the tests were downright difficult. I had grown to love it. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Servo 30:3

Servo 30:3

Later that afternoon and several coats of paint, I had the skullplates done. They looked pretty decent. Not the factory applied polymer composite that was rendered onto the frame of each bot, but a reasonable facsimile thereof. I hoped it would make it by the service intake personnel.
Back in the room, Dad was looking a whole lot different. His body was clothed in silver-gray plates rather than shiny gold. He was becoming less recognizable—a good thing.
“Dad?” I said, placing my work on the table in front of him.
“Yes?” He picked up the faceplate, “Looks good.”
“Thanks.”
“What?”
“Can I go out?”
“Where?”
“I have an idea.” I didn’t want to tell him about the idea, rather I wanted it to be a surprise.
“Idea? For what?”
“You’ll see.”
“Be careful and be back by dark.” He regarded me. “Why don’t you take Rory?”
“I’m tired, Dad, I don’t wanna go,” Rory moaned.
“Very well. We can’t chance Otto going out, and Suz looks content to lounge on the sofa.”
“I’ll be all right, I’m not going far.” I picked up my backpack and looped it over one shoulder. My tablet was inside, which was most important. Down the street a few blocks was an electronics shop. I hoped they’d have what I needed. If I couldn’t be with Dad in person on his mission, I’d be with him another way.
Leaving the hotel, I walked along at a reasonable pace. The store was about six blocks away and every intersection seemed to have a battle bot stationed on it. I still felt fearful despite being logged into the Inner States as a guest. It would take nothing for a bot to have me arrested for the smallest infraction. There was no way I was going to that evil detention center.
I wandered along for what must have been twenty minutes. As I passed shops, I’d glance in the windows to see what was there. Many of the stores seemed to be lacking inventory; shelves were nearly empty. Was this the Outer States broadening their protest of low payment for their goods? Or was there something else going on?
At last I reached the electronics shop. I entered and found many of the shelves bare. A younger man stood behind the counter, his face drawn and despondent. He leaned against the counter. “Need some help?”
“I’m looking for a set of very small two-way radios.”
“Only got one.” He stepped from behind the counter and guided me to a shelf. “Here.”
“How come things are so empty? I noticed most of the shops have bare shelves.”
“You don’t live here, huh?”
“No, just visiting for a few weeks.”
“From the Outer States?”
“Yeah, Nebraska.”
“How is it out there?”
“Rather peaceful actually.” I picked up the box and scrutinized the product. “I live on a farm with my grandparents, younger brother, and older sister.”
“Where are your parents?”
“Dead.”
“Oh, sorry to hear that.”
“My Mom was a GEE and she died of the flaw. My Dad worked at Servidyne, and he died of an accident.”
“Servidyne?”
“Yeah.”
“That place is up to no-good.”
“How so?” I was intrigued by the young man’s candor in speaking out about Servidyne.
“Have you seen the place?”
“Uh, no.”
“It’s like a giant fortress—battle bots everywhere! They don’t even let citizens in who don’t work there.”
“So what do you do with a bot that’s malfunctioning?”
“They have collection stations set up. You have to bring them there.”
I nodded slowly, my mind going a million miles a second. “I see.”
“And the government is cracking down on any and all types of bot mods.”
“Mods? You mean modifications?”
“Yeah, especially software and core processor mods.” He gave me a sidelong gaze. “You’re not modding a bot, are you?”
“Uh, um, no.”
“If you are, don’t let them catch you. I heard it’s three years in the detention center and another two years of government dictated labor.”
“Rather harsh.”
“They aren’t playing around. Things are getting tense here.”
“I can see. All the battle bots on the streets. What on earth is going on?”
“There’s talk of the government suppressing the civilians.”
“Why? Don’t most people here happily follow the rules?”
“They used to. Seems the government is getting greedy.” He looked out the window as if checking for passing bots that might overhear our conversation. “Taxes have gone sky-high, not enough food, lack of electricity, and each day, more battle bots.”
“I heard the bots were protection from thieves and looters.”
“Who do you think those thieves and looters are?”
“I dunno, I thought maybe Outer States people who came here to steal things.”
He shook his head. “Nope. The government has taken so much that there are now poor people living in the Inner States.”
“Poor?”
“Yeah, like dirt poor.”
“That used to be unheard of.”
“There’s so much corruption in the government, they’re greedy and don’t care who they hurt to get their riches.” He returned to his place behind the counter. “You’d do best to get out of here as soon as you can.”
Somehow I felt a connection with the man. He seemed genuinely upset with the current state of things. “We do plan on leaving soon…After…” I let my voice trail off, unsure if I should be blurting out the plan to take down Servidyne.
“After what?”
“Uh, nothing.”
“You’re here for something, aren’t you?”
I wanted to lie, but somehow I couldn’t. “Yes.”
“What?”
“I believe my father was murdered at Servidyne.”
“You’re here for retribution?”
“In a way, yes.”
“Good luck. Like I said, that place is impenetrable.”
“It won’t be me going in there.”
“Going to hack them?”
“Yes.”
“Won’t happen. I’ve tried dozens of times. The last time the ministry of cybersecurity almost caught me.”
“You’d have done some serious jail time for that.”
“Darn straight! But they’re big and powerful and soon we’ll be their slaves.”
“I won’t let that happen.”
“Yeah? You and what army?”
I placed the box on the counter and opened my pack, removing the tablet. “I have a way in.”
“You can’t be serious. You’re all of what? Fifteen?”
“Fourteen, actually.”
“And you’re getting into Servidyne?”
“Not me, but a bot.”
“You created a bot bomb?”
“Not a bomb, per se, but a virus,” I whispered.
A broad smile curled to his lips. “Beautiful.”
“I didn’t write it, my Dad did.”
“Since he worked there, he’d know how to take it down.”
“And that’s what he’s going to do.”
“I thought you said he was dead?”
“He is, mostly.”
His eyebrow raised. “Care to explain that?”
“Umm, I actually can’t.” I turned on the tablet and accessed the bank account. “How much are the radios?”
He looked from side to side. “Shhh, it’s on the house. If you can take down Servidyne, it will be worth it.”

Friday, December 25, 2015

Servo 30:2

Servo 30:2

I burst into the hotel room with Suz right behind me. She managed to trip me and I fell flat on my face with a resounding whump.
“Sorry,” she said, stepping over me on her way to our father. “Daddy! The bots are hurting people!” She fell into his arms, hugging him despite Dad’s lack of exoplates.
“What?!” he replied, looking at me as I got up.
I put the can of paint on the table. “We saw one hit and step on a man, accusing him of theft. The man had a receipt for his purchases. The bot drug him off and threw him in an enforcement vehicle...It broke the first law.”
“Yes, yes it did. That’s not good.”
“So we need to get you put together quick.”
“Definitely.”
I gazed around the hotel room at the wide debris pattern of exoplates. It seems that Rory and Otto had them everywhere. Some appeared to be sorted; others tossed about in a seemingly haphazard way. “What did you guys do?!”
“Don’t worry, we can get your Dad put back together,” Otto said.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, Jonah, we can. Despite what this mess looks like, we do have some organization,” Rory added.
“Let’s get to work; I’m afraid our time is running out.” I grabbed Dad’s skull plates along with the can of paint and went to the door. “I’ll take these around the corner by the dumpster and see if I can get them painted.”
“We’ll put Dad back together in the meantime,” Rory said. “Suz, can you help us?”
“Me? What do I know about putting a robot together?”
“You can hold the plates while I drill the holes. Otto can put them on.”
She uttered a loud huff. “Oh, I suppose I can help.”
“We ALL need to get out of here, and soon,”  Dad said, “This once wonderful world you knew and loved is going to be turned upside down if we don’t stop it.”
“I see that now. Do you think it will ever be like it was?”
“Can’t say for certain. But stopping the war will be a start.”
“Why would the Inner States turn on its own citizens? I thought the Great Separation was fought between the haves and have not’s,” I said, my hand resting on the door knob.
“It was. This war seems to be shaping up different. From what I can gather, the government wants to control everyone, not just those who speak out against them.”
“But those living in the Inner States have always followed the rules,” Suz interjected. “Why would they want further control?”
Dad tapped his finger against his exposed cheek framework. “That I am not certain of. Something sounds very sinister. I might be able to learn what’s going on when I hack into Servidyne’s system.”
I was so afraid for my father. He might be going on a one-way mission. The thought of losing him had my stomach tied in knots. However, he was right, the war needed to be stopped. America couldn’t afford to be torn apart again. I tried to convince myself that there would be no nobler sacrifice if my father didn’t make it out alive.
The lights in the hallway were dim as I headed to the back parking lot. On the way, a few of the wall sconces flickered. I wondered if it was the power plant failing. I paused at the back door a moment. Outside I could hear noise. I wasn’t sure what it was so I quietly opened the door a small bit to see. A garbage truck was emptying the dumpster. In the driver’s seat was an older looking service bot. It had golden “skin” and glowing amber eyes. My best guess was it had to be at least fifteen years old. Why was it still in service?
With a loud bang, the truck replaced the dumpster against the hotel wall and left. I crept out, keeping a keen eye for battle bots. If they caught me with bot parts, it would be a difficult explanation. Only Servidyne was allowed to have parts; bot owners were required to take their units to the factory for repair. That way they could be scanned for malicious user uploads which couldn’t be caught on the standard wireless interfaces the bots used on a daily basis.
I surveyed the area. It was surprisingly quiet now that the truck left. A few birds sitting in trees chirped a lively tune. How I missed the farm life. The multitude of distinct calls that prairie birds made along with the occasional crowing of Dagwood’s roosters; that seemed like heaven to me now. And I missed my friend, terribly. I longed to see his simple-minded face beaming at me in wonder of our next great adventure. Home, I needed to get home.
Taking the rear skull plate, I decided to start with it first in case I made a mess. I propped it up against the curb and gave the can a thorough shaking. The marble rattling inside echoed in the small alcove surrounded by multi-story buildings. I hoped no battle bots had heard.
When I was confident the paint was mixed, I squeezed the cap and gave it a pull. A few grunts and groans and it finally came off. Then I set to work; gently pressing the spray tip to deliver a light, even coat of paint. In a few minutes, the plate looked pretty good. No paint drips, and it seemed to be sticking to the shiny surface below. I knew I had to apply several coats to hopefully ensure it wouldn’t get scraped off.
Next I took the faceplate. As I looked into the hollows where Dad’s eyes sat, I felt a sense of dread. Although he was technically dead, I loved my father with all my heart. I wanted nothing to happen to him. If there was some way I could be with him during his perilous mission, I would. But he had already warned me of the dangers, and I was told to stay with the others.
My stomach knotted harder making me want to vomit. I don’t think it was the fumes from the paint, no, I was in panic mode over Dad. The phrase “you can’t lose him” kept repeating in my mind until I felt physically ill. There had to be some other way I could help.
Another vehicle pulled into the back lot. I about jumped out of my skin. Luck would have it there was a man driving the van. He pulled into a parking space on the other side of the lot and went inside the building across from our hotel. I breathed a little sigh of relief. And then I noticed what was written on the side: Lansdowne Communication Systems. Yes, there might be a way…