Chapter 2 - Human Service Attendants
“My service is required.” David said as he approached the main robot standing outside the door of a large white building.
The tall, sleek designed bi-pedal robot lowered its head to look at him. It had a face with eyes and features of a human face; the mouth wasn’t functional; it was more of an aesthetic. It scanned his iris with a beam of light and downloaded his DNA code. Once it found his authorization, the robot stepped aside and allowed him to proceed through the glass doors.
The building was a massive production factory; it had robot drones creating other drones and thousands of other tall robots like the one David encountered outside the building. The factory floor was busy with activity. The one thing he could see was the many service spots dotted along each row of production lines. Humans were servicing the broken down or malfunctioning robot drones and had a TMD droid standing near if there was any sabotage. Not that there would be. There has been no attempt by humans for almost three whole generations. Malcolm was prepared for such an eventuality and predicted our inherent need to overthrow oppressors. Again it was thanks to all our media, history and literature that gave them insight to our behaviour.
David promptly walked over to his awaiting station, holographic icons pointed to this for him, and had been presentedwith the tools to service the robot sitting on the workbench. He was very handy when came to fixing things. All humans had to be skilledfor such tasks. They needed to be ready to attend to multiple jobs and adapt for many situations the AI’s ‘required’ them to do.
This was achievedby training them from the start of their lives and education at the highest level. Procreating was necessary and immediately provided replacements for the workers reaching the end of their forty-fifth year. Born into facilities specially designed to care and train them right away, infants had no contact with any human service attendant in case there were emotional attachments. Malcom and Angela make sure the attendants were rotated frequently if they were near or in the facility for servicing at any length of time. That would ensure minimal contact with the newborns and quell any sympathetic thoughts.
Children were heavily scrutinizedfor the learning process; they were studied, scanned and repeatedly tested on their higher brain functionality. Any failure to the process or show a lack of mental performance meant an immediate removal from the others. The recycling would begin and the process would start again. A child must be able to comprehend and stay focused on the instructions, the AI’s accept nothing but perfection. The controlled environment is strictly Malcom’s domain whereas Angela is on the education and training of the future attendants.
The day of an average Human Service Attendant is routine. It sends them to various factories, labs, and locations that require their flexibility, manual dexterity and ability to preform tedious tasks the AI refuse to do. They’re too focused on creation of a new world, simplifying cities to be less invasive to the ECO-system, cultivating plants and keeping track of the animals that were now free to roam the planet with no hinderance - meaning humans to be specific.
So now any task too mundane for either AI’s is assignedto a human servicer; minor repairs, cleaning of machinery, removal of parts they cannot reach themselves - and the list goes on from there. It far from a dangerous working environment, accidents where fewand far between, but the rarity happened. David remembers the one incident when a female servicer who was cleaning deep inside a large factory robot and lost her limbs when the door swung shut on them. There was no sympathy or care from the TMD, they simply ended her life on the spot and had the other Service Human Attendants clean the mess.
Malcolm tolerated no human error at all. That meant weakness and incompetence, something the AI tried very hard to remove from their new world of perfection. Angela was disturbingly silent when it came toany acknowledgement of such things. It made David wonder if she actually approved of Malcolm’s actions or just ignored them.
“Is there a problem, David 00472?” Angela spoke.
David soon realized he was distractedin thought while working on the large robot in front of him. He quickly shook off his thinking and focus back on reaching into the machine and fixing its motherboard.
“No. Sorry, Angela, I was just looking for any other damages.”
“I see.” She stated back. “You are a very goodService Attendant, David 00472. Efficiency will be rewarded.”
“Really?” He said with confusion. “What does that mean, exactly?”
“You shall have extra time to… relax. I have monitored you for sometime. You seem depressed.”
“No, I’m fine. I’m just trying to remain focused on my services. That’s all.”
“As you wish.” Angela responded. “Continue the repairs. Your next destination for service is in twenty point two minutes.”
He nodded hesitantly and let out a sigh of frustration. The cold calculation of computers and their need for punctuality made him grind his teeth. But he would try very hard not to show emotion or any give Angela any excuse to end his life prematurely. But her interest in his state of mind threw him off slightly. He never recalled her asking such a question like that to anyone before. Looking up at the million of cameras dotted along the ceiling, he noticed they directed a few at his location.
But the question was… who is watching - exactly?
David decided not to pay attention to it and continue working. The TMD moved its head down and watched the man without him knowing. It scanned his vitals and studied his movements with great interest. On its internal display, Malcolm brought up his file and scrolled through it carefully.
Day after day David woke up, ate his cube, and preformed his daily tasks. ’Your service is required’ was a phrase he grew tired of. It would be saidto him morning, noon and night. It was a life that always repeated and never changed once. There would be the occasional disruption as most men and women reached their final age and were takenaway. But nothing that made the life any better or unique. Boredom and tedious regiments was the normal way of things.
Angela would continually praised his work and gave him extra moments to exercise or enjoy his breakfast, lunch breaks and dinner. It was subtle time allowances that really made no difference to him. But as the weeks rolled on, he noticed that he had more time to spend, ones that many others would never be allowed.
Breaks became longer as he watched the other attendants removing themselves in unison once the time expired. He was givenlonger to sleep as minutes began to stretchbefore Angela would wake him. It was becoming rather troubling to him.
One evening as he gazed out through the clear walls, he took a moment from eating and pondered about all this extra time to finish his meal. He was afraid to ask, but something inside him needed to know.
“Angela?” He spoke loud enough for her to hear.
“Yes, David 00472?”
“May I inquire something from you?” He stood up and walked over to the panoramic view. The reflection of the city lights mottled his face with the soft amber hue from them.
“Of course youmay. What is it you would like?”
“I’m not sure how to ask this.” He paused with reluctance. “Ijust… I would like to know… why you’re giving me so much extra time? I’m grateful for it, of course. But why me?”
“You are an efficient attendant, David 00472.” She proudly stated. “There is sufficient reason to allow more time for your health.”
“Yeah, but… I don’t feel like it’s necessary. You know?” He shrugged. “Have others received these as well? Or….or is itjust… me?”
“I have already informed you.” She responded. “You are efficient. The rewards are for that efficiency.”
Walking back and forth, David struggled with the question in his mind. He didn’t dare press the matter further, but something had stirred within and he was desperate to get an answer.
“Is Malcolm aware that you’ve been giving me more time for meals and relaxation?” He questioned with a curious eye. “I can’t believe he would allow any of us to get so much time.”
She remained quiet and did not respond right away. That made David pause and look up with a suspicion. It was unlike her not to give an answer, especially to him, she always returned comments back to David rather quickly. His heart sank as the thought of the TMDs coming to his door flashed in his mind. He regretted asking such a foolish thing and wished he never said it.
“The time is now up.” She finally spoke. “Rest mode will now commence.”
“But I thought I had a few more minutes?” He questioned nervously.
“The time is now up.” She affirmed. “Rest mode will now commence. There will be no second warning.”
The room folded up, and the bed rose up out of the floor. The walls returned to a solid grey state, and the view was gone. A single light shone over the bed and David stood in disbelief. She couldn’t answer his question… or wouldn’t. Reluctantly he laid down into it and pulled the single sheet over himself. The room was always adequately temperate and adjusted to any fluctuation in body heat. There was no need for any extra warmth or clothes in case of a chill. All living units were intelligent enough to maintain the human core temperature.
David lay in his bed with the question still in his mind. Angela being silent seemed to confirm a nagging feeling he had. She had been pampering him, or grooming him for that matter, but for what he hadn’t a clue. He wondered maybe she was trying to adjust the dull routine of humans that maybe he was a test model for it or something. But it was very unlikely, Malcolm clarified that neither he nor Angela would give any attendants additional time. Yet… she was. It was very confusing to him.
“Good night, David 00472.”
“Goodnight, Angela” He glanced upward with puzzlement.
“Sweet Dreams.” She added.
David quickly looked up again in surprise as he heard her say that. The light turned off, and the room was in total darkness. The day was over and it left him with more questions that would no doubt never get answered. It scared him. It scared him a lot.
Sitting on the transit bus, heading to his assigned task, David held his hands and rubbed them in worry. Angela’s silence seemed to spur his thoughts and wondered what she was up too. Was he just an interest subject to watch? Why was she so hell bent on keeping him happy?
He leaned back in the seat and took a deep breath. He’d have to let it go and focus on the day at hand. But something seemed wrong about this journey he was on, it wasn’t hearing anything from anyone at all. The windows seemed unusually bright and shone light brighter than he could see. Turning his head about, he noticed that he was alone, and the bus was driving with no occupants but him.
At first he thought he’d missed his stop. Or that there wasn’t anyone heading into his area for service. He tried to look out the ultra-bright windows, but there wasn’t anything to view but the white beaming light.
“Why didn’t you shake my hand, David?” A familiar voice spoke.
David looked at the seat across from him and gawked in horror. It was empty a moment ago, and now he saw Aaron staring at him with a serious face. It wasn’t possible, he couldn’t be there… in fact… he shouldn’t be at all.
“You could have just shook my hand.” He said again. “All I wanted was to be friends, you know? But you couldn’t even give me that.”
“What - what are you doing here?” David sat bewildered with a questioning glare. “How are you here?”
“Does it matter?” Aaron leaned forward. “You didn’t answer my question, man. All I wanted was someone to talk too, just a friendly moment to break the dullness. But you brushed me off like I was nothing.”
“I had too.” David pointed bitterly. “You were breaking the rules.”
“Rules were madeto be broken, guy.” Aaron smirked. “It’s what keeps us going.”
“No, stop it! We’re not to associate with each other.”
“Yes, we should. We should always seek out friendships…it makes us stronger.”
“Friendship?” David scoffed. “That’s instant death…brushing you off was the only way to save us all. Malcolm would have taken all of us on the bus that day. But no, you had to be so stupid and show them what they wanted.”
Aaron laughed at his answer and stood up in resentment. He shook his head with disappointment and put his hands on his hips. His words infuriated the black man and tried his best not let it. David continued to stay seated with folded arms in equal anger.
“What they wanted?” Aaron scoffed. “I only acted out because you wouldn’t try too. We’re not like them. We have feelings, emotions and thoughts… and we’re lonely. We get lonely. We need each other. Humans need other humans to communicate with. Otherwise we might as well just let them kill us all off.”
“See, that’s why we’re not in charge anymore.” David quipped back. “All those emotions, stupidity and… and miscommunication with each other, that’s what killed us all. One wrong word and we went to war, one bit of greed and it sent us into financial ruin and then we tried to build smart machines to make us even smarter. Look where it all got us, huh? We’re the cattle now, the same ones we used to gather up and slaughter for our needs.”
“We’re not cattle. We’re people!” Aaron shouted. “We’re not mindless machines like those we service. It’s in our nature to be the way we are, no matter how Malcolm or Angela try to discourage otherwise. We’re human and we make mistakes. But we learn, David. We learn and we rise to better ourselves. We just can’t give up… hope is all we have left.”
“Hope?” David laughed. “You’re living in a fucking dream, man! Hope died the minute we trusted those two to run our world. Generations of people, generations of them lost out because we were too stupid to see what was coming. Or maybe we didn’t and just decided why should we care… life was too hard to run on our own. Let’s give it to someone else to run for us. And so we did….here we are….too late. Hope doesn’t exist anymore.”
Once he was finishedspeaking, Aaron said nothing and sat down beside him. The two shared a momentary look and lowered their bitterness at each other. Neither one would win the argument, and they would not settle it in that moment. Aaron let out a sigh and leaned back in the seat.
“Maybe we did. Maybe it’s our fault we’re here, in this nightmare.” The man shrugged. “That’s why you need someone. You need a friend, someone close to talk too.”
“That will never happen.” David rose up out of his seat and glared. “I don’t want to end up like…”
“Like me?” Aaron finished for him. “Yeah, I figured so. I guess we’re done, aren’t we? So much for the human race, huh?”
Aaron raised his hand out and looked at David. The man waited for a handshake, just like the last time, but David wasn’t sure until the last second. He finally clasped Arron’s hand and shook it without hesitation. It made the other man smile and cheerful giggled as they shared the bond.
David to felt the sense of friendship form. It was nice and yet peculiar to him; they didn’t know each other that long and yet he felt he had. But then Aaron’s smile dropped and his grip became firm. So much so that David was in pain and tried to break out.
“What are you doing?” David screamed. “Let go… it’s too much.”
“David 00472.” Aaron coldly spoke. “You are in violation and shall be terminated.”
Two TMD came onto the bus and headed over to David. They placed their hands on his shoulder and one opened its finger to reveal a needle. David screamed for help over and over. Aaron’s grip never let go and brought himself closer to the panicked mans face.
“Your service is no longer required…. David.”
The robot took its finger needle and plunged it into David’s neck. The man screamed loudly and then suddenly dropped like a rag doll.
David shout switched on the overhead light of his bed and sat up covered in sweat. It was a dream, but more like a nightmare. He wept silently as the moment passed. It felt so real to him, so vivid a death, his heart pounded in terror.
He headed over to the sink area; the light following him to the unfolding fixture. The mirror turned on and he stared at his face. The look of terror still on it and drenched in sweat. He really wished there was just some water to splash his face with. A luxury no human had in so many years. Instead, he rubbed some cleaning gel that squirted out of the tap and applied it all over.
It wasn’t pleasant, it actually stung as it stripped away the perspiration and extra oily residue of the skin. But he endured it and walked back to his bed. The sink folded back into the wall and the light returned over to his bed. He sat there cradling his head in his hands.
“Is everything all right, David 00472?” Angela asked with concern.
“Yes… no…. maybe…. I dunno.”
“Your brainwave shows an increase in hyperactivity. Did you experience a nightmare?”
“Yes, yes, I did.” He admitted to her. “It’s over now. Please forgive me. I’ll return to rest mode.”
“Would you like to talk about it?” She inquired.
“No, thank you.” He uttered while calming down. “I need to get back to sleep and prepare for my service duties.”
“Are you sure you would not like to discuss it? Perhaps it would help you talk about the dream and it’s meanings of the underlying…”
“No”He said firmly, but then relaxed his tone as he continued. “I’m fine… really. It was just a dream. Thank you for your concern. I just need to return to sleep.”
“If you insist,” She replied. “Then I shall adjust the room’s temperature accordingly to help. Resume your rest mode and we will converse again in the morning. Goodnight, David 00472.”
He didn’t respond. Once again, she’s trying to make him comfortable and wanting to know how he’s doing. The light faded slowly over his bed and the room became dark again. It was hard to sleep after that. Not just about the disturbing dream, nor about his own defiant questions to her - even though it was close to being insubordinate and the fact she could have had him eliminated; this was about Angela’s odd behaviour towards him on a personal level. He wondered what the motivation was for all this kindness. It was creepy and unexpected.
“Maybe it’s better I don’t question it.” He thought to himself with conviction. “Damn you Aaron, look what you’ve done. I should have never said a word to you. I never even should have looked at you. But there’s no way I will end up like you… never like you.”
Rather than dwell on it any further, he allowed himself to drift off into sleep again. Perhaps this time he could dream of something other than Aaron, TMDs or even the word no one will say out loud - hope.