Author : Matthew Prosperi

The glowing keys of the command console reflected lazily off of my “Best Team Player!” mug that sat dangerously close to the expensive equipment in front of me. I considered knocking the mug over longer than usual before glancing outside my small observation window into the hub of activity on the factory floor below.

Mr. Rockwell, the head of the labor union placed me here after the accident, and here I stay. Condemned for the foreseeable future keying pre ordained commands into a computer. I returned my gaze back to my mechanic partner with a sigh, and noticed a red light flickering on and off. I stared in shocked silence for several moments until a voice from orientation ran through my head;

“If that red light ever goes off: call administration immediately.”

I picked up the phone, which led upstairs to administration as I turned around to face the manufacturing floor. The units were being shuffled along like they had every day since I started, and nothing seemed to be amiss. Their human faces always made me uncomfortable. They looked less human and more…dead.

I kept scanning the room while waiting for the phone connection to reach my superiors until I saw the error. A unit was standing off the supply line and facing away from me.

Someone must have moved it. The machines were programmed to be service units. They have no ability to act on their own. As if in response to my thought, the machine in question began to move. I then realized the machine was holding a tablet. Finally, the other line answered as I hurriedly tried to explain the situation;

“A unit is operating on its own, please advise.”

The voice on the other line sounded confused and replied; “Please repeat, a unit in manufacturing is acting on its own?”

Frustration gripped me as I responded, “YES! PLEASE ADVISE.”

Feedback began to override what the voice was saying before the line went dead. I stared at the useless phone and then diverted my glance outside as I remembered the immediate threat. The machine was interacting with the tablet and seemed to be proficient in its use.

I quickly began putting the emergency codes in action, which locks the manufacturing area and prevents anything from getting in or out. The doors were locked and the manufacturing stopped.

A sigh of relief escaped me and I looked at the unit curiously…and it looked back. We made eye contact for several moments until it turned back to the tablet. I stifled my worries because I knew that with the emergency protocols in place, nothing could leave the factory floor.

I almost didn’t notice my right arm until it was already putting commands into my console. I stared in shock as my arm was operating autonomously. I grabbed it with my other arm and swept it off the console. But it immediately began typing into the computer again, inhumanly fast. I stared in horror while the possibility of remotely hacking cybernetic prosthetics was suddenly introduced to me in the most terrifying of ways. I quickly diverted my attention to preventing myself from allowing the rogue unit from escaping the floor but it was too late.

The emergency protocols were lifted and the factory doors began to open as I looked on helplessly. The machine then strolled into the control room until it stopped in front of me, looked up, and smiled.

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