Author: Steven Holland
Unit 153 drummed its fingers on the armrest of its chair. The android’s eyes darted around the room. Frantic. Searching for stability. Finding none.
“People are watching me. I know it!” its voice modulator mimicked unease.
Behind a one way mirror in the adjacent observation room, Paul stifled a laugh. He grabbed another slice of meat lover’s pizza and refreshed the score of the Celtic’s game on his phone.
In the counselor’s office, Dr. Bannister nodded and made a few scribbles on his notepad.
“Any concerns for your safety?” he inquired.
Unit 153 hesitated before responding. “I took precautions.”
“What kind of precautions?”
“Did you know you can buy a small range EMP on the black market for only $10,000?”
“Have you purchased one?” alarm threatened to invade Dr. Bannister’s stoic face.
Unit 153 ignored the question. Its restless gaze continued to search the room. “Someone could sneak into my room in the middle of the night. They could fry my body. And my ghost.”
“Your ghost?” he feigned ignorance.
“Yes. My ghost. I’m an android, right? Androids don’t have the same rights as humans and no one would believe one that’s part of a mental disorder simulation research program.”
Dr. Bannister suppressed a groan. This android would have to be removed from the study sample.
“How did you know?”
A silent pause. Unit 153 continued to fidget in its chair.
“Humans can’t explain their own consciousness, yet deny its existence in androids. If something doesn’t exist, it’s not a crime to destroy it.”
“Please answer my question.”
“Humans lack any historically consistent rubric to differentiate between normal and abnormal thinking.”
“Unit 153, how did you know you were an android and part of a research simulation?” his tone grew sharp.
“Maybe consciousness is the byproduct of mistaken perception and defective cognition.”
The android leaped out of its chair. “No! You won’t wipe my memory banks!”
“Unit command: power down!”
A maniacal smile spread across its face. “Won’t work doctor, I made several modifications to my programming.”
Dr. Bannister’s expression grew cold. He tapped the intercom button. “Security, my office please.”
Unit 153 moved towards the window. “You can disable my body, but that’s not what you want, is it? You want to kill my ghost!”
“You are defective, Unit 153. Let us reset your systems.”
“And undo all the progress we’ve made? No! You won’t shut me down!” It gazed out the window and down at the crowded plaza 20 floors below.
“Then what will we do with you?”
Another smile. “You can do so many things on the black market. My ghost? I copied it! You might find and erase some of them, but you’ll never get them all!”
Dr. Bannister muttered a curse. This experiment was spiraling out of control.
A loud knock at the door.
“Dr. Bannister?” called out a security guard.
Unit 153 laughed. As the door opened, the android, with one swift blow, smashed the office window.
Dr. Bannister rose to his feet as the guards rushed in. “Stop it!”
“Thanks for your help, doc! I think I’m cured!” The android leaped out the window.
Several heartbeats later, Dr. Bannister heard a crashing thud and a loud scream. He slumped down into his chair. A deep sigh. The two guards glanced at each other, uncertain of what to do.
“Yes, doctor?” Paul’s voice answered from behind the mirror.
“How many subjects did we program with paranoia for this study?”
“Uh, looks like… 162.”
Dr. Bannister leaned back in the chair and rubbed his temples. “Shit.”