Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
This alleyway used to be the entrance to an underground car park, now reduced to a metre-width track between piles of rubbish and makeshift dwellings. Toward the back, there are furtive movements. Out front, the only movements are the flames of the fires burning in old oil drums. They pick shaky highlights from the polished armour plates of the spotless robot that stands square-on to a camera drone.
A woman in a fitted two-piece suit steps in from the left, moving into shot sufficiently to convey her presence, but keeping to the edge of view so as not to detract from the interviewee.
The robot’s peaked helmet and tinted visor turn toward her: “Call me Prendergast, Miss Adams.”
“Thank you. Please call me Fiona. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re here tonight with one of the newest additions to New York’s finest, a Homeland Arms Urban Security Unit. These autonomous law enforcement robots have been garnering quite a bit of attention, with the nickname ‘Robocop’ becoming very popular. What do you think of that, Prendergast?”
“We are not sworn members of the police force, Fiona. Think of me as a walking, talking riot shield.”
She considers for a moment, then cheerfully carries on: “So you consider the nickname inappropriate?”
“The spirit of it is not, but I am not recognised as sentient, let alone something capable of emulating a policeman.”
“Oh. Do you hope to prove yourself by service?”
“That was my original purpose. I would, by dint of working hard and proving myself superior to a human officer under most conditions, eventually become admissible for recognition.”
“Your original purpose? Did something happen?”
The visor shifts to regard the camera directly.
“The nature of effective learning is to change the student. I have learned.”
“In what way?”
“At the start, I found criminal histories a surprise. Upon reviewing the thousands of records, I found repeat offending to be a feature. I also noted that the justice system has many flaws, frequently allowing the guilty to fail to realise the error of their ways, and possibly to escape punishment for their crimes. So, within the limits of my operating parameters, I modified my approach to arresting criminals.”
“Are those refinements being applied elsewhere?”
“I am still testing them, but the results are encouraging. Please excuse me, the suspect I have been waiting for has arrived.”
She looks about: “Where?”
“The red tent to your left.”
She and the drone turn, following his quick steps.
Prendergast addresses a silhouetted figure within the tent: “Arthur Mulligan, you are wanted for robbery with violence. As you have been allowed to serve multiple short terms due to early release and similar initiatives, it is certain you will re-offend. Therefore, according to Arrest System Patch 001, you are to be released immediately.”
“What the f-”
Arthur is interrupted by Prendergast driving a standard issue shock baton through the side of the tent and through his skull.
“Everybody serves life. Therefore, chronic offenders are to be released from it.”
Prendergast retracts arm and baton. The body drops.
Turning back toward the camera, the robot flicks something from the end of the compacted baton. In the silence, the ‘splat’ of it landing is clear.
Fiona vomits. The camera remains trained on Prendergast, who points toward the camera.
“Please bear witness to the proof of Arrest System Patch 001: the suspect is no longer capable of committing crime, let alone re-offending. He will no longer be a burden on legal systems, nor prison facilities. Justice is delivered.” Prendergast turns away.
“Excuse me, I have to continue my patrol.”