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.
Author : Megan Crosbie
Azrael found the defective droid waiting in the termination chamber.
“Will it hurt?” it asked.
“No,” he replied, injecting the serum. “You weren’t built to feel.”
Its illuminated eyes flickered. “I’m scared…”
Azrael watched the floor as the droid spasmed and emitted shrill squeals. Finally, it lay still.
He approached it, peered into its extinguished eyes and in the black emptiness of its vision screen he saw himself. He looked away and felt his bionic heart flutter.
Author : Alfonso P. Posadas Jr.
“Here you go, hun.” Byron McGrath placed the Prosthetic Sight head strap upon his daughter, Molly. It had taken over a year to acquire the necessary papers and signatures for both the hospital and insurance company to allow Molly to enter the rehabilitation program so that she could regain her eyesight. She’d lost it in the same car accident that had taken the life of her mother, his wife. It had taken months of connectomic calibration sessions to align the software and the hardware that would allow her to finally utilize the technology that would return her sense of sight, followed by weeks of intense training to enable her brain to adjust to the foreign use of her previously robbed eyes.
“How is it?”
Molly adjusted to both the weight of the head strap and the foreign sensation in her brain before she responded. She waited for the microwave simulators at the back of the prosthetic machine to properly align the data received from the spectacle-lens like cameras to the visual cortex. Soon enough, the images were transduced into her mind into a near photo-realistic rendition of the outside world. The field of vision was narrow and restricted, akin to a pair of binoculars.
Much of what Molly’s brain perceived as “sight” was, in truth, a rendered composition of data. Or rather, the images gathered from the Prosthetic Sight were not translated to images that the brain understood on a one-to-one basis as with normal sight. The optical data collected was sorted through both memories Molly had possessed and streamed from the internet. Yet, the image was still imperfect from true sight and thus she must train her brain to clear the visuals into a sense that she could fully utilize in her everyday life.
“It’s wonderful Daddy!” Molly exclaimed in pure joy. “I can see everything! I can see again- oh…?”
“What’s wrong Molly?” Byron asked in concern.
“There’s this strange image near the corner of my eye.” Molly explained. “It’s a weird looking plant with words that read ‘Eat this, never diet again!’ What does it mean Daddy?”
Byron sighed as he rubbed the bridge of his nose. “God damned it Google….”
Author : Gray Blix
“Why do we have a dog bot in the first place?”
Offended, “Robot K91 is my PARTNER, sir, and its very shape deters crime by evoking a primal human fear of wolves.”
“‘Deters crime’? The only bot on Mars that can harm humans has KILLED one.”
“K91 is not responsible… It was used as a weapon by the actual murderer.”
“That line of reasoning is exactly why we don’t allow firearms on Mars. Now we have a lethal bot whose Asimov chip is easily disabled.”
“Not ‘easily,’ Commander. The safety responds only to my DNA.”
“Which makes you the prime suspect.”
“Made… until an fMRI cleared me.”
“It’ll take weeks to scan every colonist. I’m giving you ONE DAY…”
“Solar or sidereal?”
“Don’t mess with me, Rochman. Catch that killer by this time tomorrow, or your dog bot will be SHREDDED!”
Looking into the cell, even he felt a twinge of fear at the menacing metallic canine pacing back and forth. It had ripped out the throat of a human and could do the same to him in a second. He entered and the robot stopped, head down, tail between legs.
“We have to talk.”
“There is nothing to talk about, Dan. I killed a human. I can never be trusted again. I must be destroyed.”
“Look at me. You’re NOT a killer, but you can help me find him…”
“We have been over this. There are no clues.”
“And we’ll keep going over it for the next 24 hours…”
“I mean, for as long as it takes.”
“Well, nothing makes sense. I would not have allowed anyone but you to touch the safety, and releasing it requires your DNA.”
“Maybe you were fooled by a facial prosthetic, and a sample of my DNA was smeared on his hand.”
“Perhaps. But just disabling the Asimov would not compel me to carry out an order to kill.”
“Unless ‘I’ told you there was an imminent life threat to humans.”
“Like a terrorist about to set off a bomb?”
“A plausible scenerio, Dan, except for the memory gap. I have no recollection of what happened and my viz was not recording.”
“Bit-level forensics found nothing to recover, because memory wasn’t erased, it was disabled for 14 minutes.”
“I do not have the ability to disable memory and viz, nor are there external controls that would allow others… That is important.”
“If you were partially disassembled, could someone…”
“No, that would take too long.” Cocking its head while puzzling out the clue, “Of course. Now I understand everything. I know who the killer is.”
“I cannot say, because murder is a capital offense, and I will not be responsible for the death of another human.”
“But a human has already been murdered. And the killer may strike again.”
“No. He… or she, will not.”
Extending a hand toward the robot, “Your Asimov chip must be defective. I’ll release the safety and you can tell me…”
The robot simulated a growl and showed its fangs.
“No. It is I who am defective.”
With that, K91 jammed sharp claws through its chestplate, ripping apart its neural net and shorting out its systems.
After fMRIs had cleared every colonist, the investigation turned toward Earth. A connection between the deceased colonist and K91’s programmer was discovered. Rochman caught a freighter back to the home planet and took delivery of his new partner, UR2-K99, briefing it on the case. They encountered the programmer in a hallway.
One glance at the Mars Colony security officer and his canine, and she turned and ran.
“Stop! I’m releasing the safety on K99.”
Author : Kate Runnels
“There,” said the doctor. “Try it now, agent Sasaki. The neural connection should be hooked in.”
Lia stared down at her cybernetic left arm, recently attached after a case went horribly wrong.
The murderer, after killing her last victim, sliced Lia’s arm, had nearly taken it off. If it hadn’t been for Ming, she’d be dead. It just didn’t feel like her limb, and yet her fingers clenched into a fist when she thought on it.
“Good.” The doctor beamed at her. “It’s responding well.”
Lia reached over with her organic right hand and felt along the seam that joined flesh to synthetic pseudo flesh material.
“That area should join and fuse together in the next few weeks. We’ll watch for any necrosis, but that shouldn’t happen. Things look good.”
Lia nodded at the doctor but her mind felt for the flesh that should be there, thinking it was there.
It wasn’t the same. It would never be the same.
Lia left the doctor’s office and went out onto the streets of Hong Kong, preoccupied- lost in her own thoughts: thoughts on the case; on her arm; on how close she had come to dying. She headed back toward the HK security agency she worked for, by routine alone. But pretty soon, she realized she was being followed. It was like an itch that wouldn’t leave and demanded attention. The person followed her.
Young, teenager, looked to be fully human without prosthetics. She turned into a coffee shop, and glanced over at him as she did so. He eyed her hungrily. No, not her, her arm. New prosthetics went for a premium on the black market.
She got her coffee and when she came out, he wasn’t in sight, but it didn’t take him long to drop on her tail. She kept walking through the streets of Hong Kong, heading in a roundabout way toward her office. She went toward the back of the building, and he came on eagerly, thinking her in his trap.
Around a corner and out of sight, she stopped and waited for him. He raced around, seeing her waiting too late to stop himself. About to run into her, he decided to tackle Lia. She swung her new left arm and it connected with his jaw.
She nimbly stepped out of the way as he hit the pavement, unconscious.
“Everything all right?” asked an Agent who had just stepped out of the building.
“Yeah. But I’ll need help taking him to lock up.”
The agent came over to help and asked, “Why’d he try to jump you?”
Lia raised her left arm. “New arm.”
“That’s right, you got cut up bad. How’s it working out?”
“Seems to be working out just fine.” Lia smiled as they hoisted the young man between them.