Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

James was sick of his grandfather’s racism. He didn’t care if he was a war hero.

“They’re not people, Jimmy. They have no feelings.” His grandfather shouted from the other room. James loaded up the dishwasher, closed it, and took a deep breath, preparing for going back into the living room. Once a week, James came by to cook his grandfather dinner and keep him company. It was getting to be more and more of a test of patience.

“I mean, I have a brain, right? I know I’m smart. I was raised differently than them. Not in a lab. I had a mother and a father. I know how to be kind to other people. People, Jimmy. People. That dishwasher in there has more compassion than them. I’ve seen what they do to people like you and I on the ‘vision.”

His grandfather was referring to the war footage from the nightly news. Recently the automated soldiers had invaded parts of Eastern Europe to keep the peace. It was their first solo campaign and it was successful. Video of their angular heads and antennae bobbing through the ruined villages was run constantly with updates of our victorious battles.

“I don’t care about these intelligence tests and emotional accelerators they keep talking about. It’s all smoke and mirrors. They’re not flesh and blood. They’re just equations. They don’t eat, they don’t have trust issues, they don’t cry, they just follow orders. They’re just guns that can walk around.”

In recent years, the A.I. on the automated soldiers had gotten to a point that they’d been given basic rights. Some had been promoted. None of them had been granted civilian status yet but many of them had been given passes and allowed supervised visits outside of their compounds with other soldiers.

Soldiers like James. James was fourth generation Army.

“I have to go, Grandpa. I have friends to see. It was a nice dinner.”

“Well you just be careful. I worry about you. The army isn’t what it used to be. Don’t trust those tin cans.” His grandfather said with an angry jut of his chin.

Outside, James clambered into his patrol vehicle to return to base. A body with an angular head and antennae sat asleep at the driver’s wheel. When James closed the door, lights blinked on and the construct at the wheel woke up.

“Hey. Sorry. I was recharging. How’d it go? Do I get to meet him tonight? I mean, that’s General Daimus in there. Some of his strategy helped us win War IV. I’ve reviewed the records but I always get more from someone who was actually there, y’know?” said an articulate voice from the front faceplate of the construct.

“Not tonight, Darren.” Said James. “Maybe next week. But don’t hold your breath.”

“I have no breath to hold,” joked Darren898. James didn’t laugh. Darren898 felt bad immediately. Humour was a hard thing to understand and he knew he’d gotten it wrong this time. Again. Even though both of them had been through three battles together now and saved each other’s lives a few times, Darren898 still couldn’t make James laugh after a visit with his grandpa.

They drove back to the base in silence, both lost in thought and trying to shake the shame they felt for different reasons.


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