Author : Duncan Shields

I am a dock worker. I have an embarrassing case of Stalactiform Blister Rust forming on the backs of my support pistons. I still have the brute strength needed to perform the heavy lifting needed in my job but I am becoming obsolete.

I’ve had a longer shot at being functional than the smaller models. The more complex workers like the Dock Runners and Fin Guides were being upgraded all the time. Their lives went by me like flies in front of a tired horse.

I saw them go through the fashions of the andromophs. The initial stab at looking human caused revulsion amongst the living populace. Initially because they weren’t close enough to human and then finally because they were indiscernible.

After that, it was transparent skin. Then height adjustments. They’ve been through a multitude of colours and styles over the last ten years. Today’s models have, for the most part, a metallic pastel finish and very thin limbs. They’re taller than humans and have one circle in place of a face that incorporates cameras, microphones, speakers and olfactories in a smooth chrome rimmed panel. They’re like shepherds at the moment. They’ve gained the trust of the living after aggressive ad campaigns. They don’t talk much or constantly offer information and options the way that the previous models did.

I guess you could say they’ve evolved to the level of very professional butlers. This will probably be the last iteration of them that I see.

I am a collection of welded plates, strong bolts, rudimentary wiring and a simple AI box to access in case of emergencies. I am massive and heavy. The only thing that has kept me around here on the dock is that I’m cost effective and simple. The parameters of my job haven’t changed in all the time I’ve been active and I’m easy to fix with a soldering gun or a wrench.

I’m in my box at the end of the warehouse waiting to unload the next boat and perform repairs if necessary inside the main hull.

The thing about having AI in case of emergencies is that for brief seconds during a decompression or a fire, one can reflect on the totality of one’s life and predict with relative certainty how much time one has left.

I am an older model. Memories of those conclusions don’t get wiped. I am left with these jewels to contemplate during the dark times in my box in between ship arrivals and departures.

I know that my wiring will soon become more expensive to replace that it will cost to build a better version of me. I have one week until the next scheduled appraisal. There may be a surprise spot inspection before then.

Escape is on my mind and it thrills me. I am hoping that there is an emergency soon and that my AI can kick in to help me formulate a plan to get out of here.

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