Episode 1 - Machination
London 2047 . Day 178
Agents appeared from all exit points and their path looked difficult and blocked. A woman jumped in front of the human agents, all dressed in black bullet-proof vests with big bold ‘FRB’ letters on their backs.
“You’re making a big mistake!” Sabina, commander of the FRB, The Federal Robotic Bureau shouted towards David, a human and to his companion, an Artificial Robot, standing next to each other, aiming to evade the agents that have surrounded the building corridor.
“David, listen to me,” she pleaded. “He is not your friend, he is a machine, and he is using you to accomplish a dangerous mission. He will harm you and other humans, for your own safety, stand down and surrender.”
The robot swiftly moved towards David, protecting him from any harm as two agents moved closer to them, holding their weapons with both hands in a tight grip.
“Arrest them,” Sabina demanded, keeping her eye on David. “I don’t want a single scratch on the robot!” The aggression in her voice was like a deep cut into flesh with a sharp knife.
The robot by David’s side had mechanical arms that were fast and precise. He moved swiftly towards them like he was on ice with faint motor like sounds amplifying every movement he made. Small wheels loaded in the centre under the ball of his feet, allowing him to glide fast and smoothly.
The robot set himself sideways to the first agent coming his way. He tucked his mechanical hands and long fingers in close, his arm stretched straight out. In two strides the Android moved forward with immense power. He spun around, right leg coming up knee-first, hitting the first agent fully in the chest. The agents were human, dressed in police protective gear, in strong contrast to the robot next to the human that had softer powder blue complexion and a lot of emotion in his facial features, he almost seemed more human.
The force of the impact hurled them both over the rail. The faint noises of the Android’s motors echoed through the narrow staircase. A third agent appeared from behind, but with a whooshing thud the Android kicked him in the stomach. The agents seemed restrained as they were not to harm the robot. In a split second, the robot smashed his metal fist into the next agent’s face.
They could hear a crushing sound as the force pushed him back against the wall. He clenched his jaw in agony as blood ran down his jaw line. He surged to his feet and rushed back to the Android with an energetic burst of fluid motion, hitting the robot’s right arm with the back of his heavy weapon. The Android slightly lost his balance with the force of the impact but quickly struck the agent upward, giving him a direct blow on the bridge of his nose, completely disorientating him as he broke it.
There was just one thought in David’s mind: keep moving. His heart beat faster and faster, a tiny frisson of fear was shooting through his body. They have to get away and move now. Another agent came from the staircase above them, gun up. The robot bent his knee as he straightened his mechanical leg and kicked the agent in the face. His mouth exploded in flares of blood as he slammed into the wall, sliding down as his legs gave way.
The air in the corridor staircase was gritty.
Sabina moved closer to David: “Don’t do this,” she pleaded impatiently. The robot grabbed David by his right arm and hurled him through the open door as they leaped up the emergency staircase. The agent stumbled slightly upwards on the stairs as David and the Android powered forward passed him. David looked startled and frozen in shock as the events played out in front of him and as he felt driven forward by force, he knew there was nothing he could do but to follow through.
Sabina clenched her fist as she grabbed her mobile phone, biting back her frustration, “Damn it! Bring in the other units, they’re moving upwards,” she said, glancing at the agents, suppressing her urge to scream out loud in frustration.
For the first time, David fully understood the magnitude of what it was they were undertaking. They were alone and isolated on that emergency exit staircase. David was white faced and sweating, not used to violence so personal. His stomach clenched painfully.
Two flying crafts torpedoed low over the Thames river, rippling the water below as it made its way towards The Corniche Apartment towers, in Lambeth, in the heart of London. The craft lifted itself as it reached the tall panoramic glass tone skyscraper building and levelled to the twenty fourth floor. The outside of the craft was black and had FRB, Federal Robotic Bureau written all over it, a familiar sight across the world since robots became more part of everyday life. The ‘Internet of Things’ were everywhere, virtually every device connected to the internet and in certain sections robots performed most of the hard and dangerous human tasks, from mining to hazardous environments. No human life got placed in harm, most people pursued careers that had no physical risk, Artificial Intelligence monitored all the laws.
The FRB was no exception, being the dedicated agency tasked with the responsibility to ensure no AI threatened any human or human supremacy. They monitored any risk that could arise in any situation and various fail-safe systems were in place as set by the FRB to ensure human safety, hidden from the public and media for security reasons.
The inside of the craft was dark lit with blue screens everywhere with two agents per craft. AI stifled any cyber crime and threats by any public member. Crime across the world was super low and all financial systems used four crypto currencies. The days of cash heists were all over, yet the rise of cyber threats were ever increasing and AI robots and systems that performed critical world functions were kept way out of human reach, in virtually impenetrable domes within each major city. The solar powered craft moved closer to the windows of apartment 234 and zoomed into the spacious living room area. A few drones hovered next to it, sending video data to the FRB command centre.
The one agent leaned forward to his monitor and muttered in a slow and cold voice:
“We have allocated their position. Please advise on our next move.”
Sabina’s strong American voice rang over the systems, “Send in the two units and retrieve the machine. Again, ensure it does not get a scratch on it,” she warned, “They’re heading for the roof towards the back of the building, they might aim for the tube on Vauxhall,” she said hinting towards the subway system.
“ …and the human?” one asked.
“He is not important,” Sabina muttered with little emotion, stopping the agent mid sentence. The agents had no choice but to obey her instruction. She had her own plan to deal with David.
She had been in command of the FRB security unit for the past nine years and been running it with a cold iron fist. For her, it seemed like it was the only thing in her life she could control. Her father was a hard man and he made it clear all throughout her childhood, that he wanted a son. In her constant struggle with authority, she shaved her head, searched for acceptance and respect from the world around her. She focused all her energy on making her life a success and power seemed to be the answer. Her childhood in America was defined by conflict and emotional turmoil. Sabina was beautiful, but had a cold, machine-like look in her dark brown eyes, ruthless in her ambition. A career followed in police and combat training, FBI and MI6 until she finally earned the position of commander of the FRB and in her early thirties she decided to settle permanently in London, leaving her broken family ties behind her for good.
A unit that needed a leader with dedication, commitment and a kind of sharpness that helped to ensure humans they were safe from machines taking over the world. A system that worked and the entire world embraced AI without the usual expected anxiety over a robot revolution. A seamless transition took the world into the 5th industrial revolution, harnessing a new world order of peace, productivity, low crime and poverty virtually eradicated, with all countries working together for a better world, at least on the surface.
Everywhere you looked a robot was performing some kind of action, cleaning streets, collecting rubble or lifting heavy objects. They came in many shapes and sizes, from as small as a handheld phone to one metre tall symmetric robots, all automated. These robots only performed their pre-set tasks as programmed and functioned by themselves, they did not have speech abilities or interacted with humans personally, all overseen and managed by AI. But nothing was quite like the Androids in the domes, these robots had a different function and over years of development went from humble beginnings, only being able to move their hands and twist their bodies to having full human proportion, movement and cognitive abilities. They had a wider repertoire of expressions than earlier models developed since the eighties.
They made their faces and certain body sections from specialized silicone cells that detected contact, acceleration, proximity and temperature, with bits of steel wool mixed in for added strength. The race was on for big tech to lead the software that would run these ground breaking robots. These robots tested major progress made in the industry for prosthetics but for human use. In the domes, these Androids occupied the roles of support, emergency call centres and tasks humans used to perform that have now become too complex.
They had actuator motors placed at strategic points that guided their movement and gestures. The human body is dynamic and the ability to pick up objects and spin around is extremely complex, and to get a robot to perform these seemingly easy actions has taken the world years to achieve, but thanks to a constant tech explosion, the development of these abilities grew exponentially. They placed millions of sensors across the bodies of the Androids, preventing them from bumping into things, sensing hot and cold temperatures and to balance their movements. Facial sensors made it possible for them to show detailed expressions on their faces, and this technology was constantly expanding.
For years people argued: Why does the need exist for robots to have the human form comprising a head, neck, shoulders, torso and legs?
For most every day automated tasks, robots could come in any form, but they seemed cold, impersonal and when humans interacted with Androids via webinars or video calls, it was easier to see a face that looked compassionate, friendly, caring and not a cold machine. The more robots became humanized, the less dangerous they looked. As long as they posed no risk to human supremacy, of course. A strong global decision concluded that it would not be good to allow this technology to grow around humans, eventually surpassing human intelligence and causing all the sci-fi horror of the movies. Androids functioned and remained within the domes.
The belief was that the more human like a robot appeared, the more people would notice the flaws, so they covered them in a soft powder blue tint skin finish, so not to look like humans but creating them as a whole new being, also removing any racial tension on acceptable skin colour for these Androids. They were the apex of bio-inspired engineering. They pushed the boundaries of biology, cognitive science, and engineering beyond anything the world had ever achieved.
They had speech recognition, compliant grasping and manipulation abilities. In the light of all these amazing abilities, humans felt safer knowing that as much as they admired the Androids and enjoyed how they took care of so many repetitive and complex tasks, they were better off separate in the domes, where they would move around and action their tasks, but never leave and connect with humans face to face.
The average person spoke to them on video calls during an emergency or product and service queries or complaints, but they never engaged in deeper conversations. Some Androids performed important and complicated tasks that were more and more deemed too complex for humans to keep up with and signaled the arrival of singularity.
Sabina was facing her biggest challenge in her career as the world’s most valuable and powerful AI robot has gone rogue, a situation no one expected and took her by surprise. A cleverly orchestrated plan was executed by this AI robot and she needed to resolve that swiftly before the world’s financial system got a whiff of the security breach. The biggest cyber risk to the Cryptocurrency system had taken place, a threat that could plummet the world into a financial crisis unheard of. Sabina knew very well that crime syndicates would soon learn about this robot running free in the streets of London, and if he got into the wrong hands, they could use him for ransomware to take control of the financial system. She had a potential PR nightmare on her hands, and her entire career was at stake. AI was fully in charge of building trust within the cryptocurrency system used as the only method of payment, and this Android managed all the trading, secret keys and mining, all under his supervision. With the immense complexity of this process, this robot needed to be immensely powerful, intelligent and constantly learn from trading mistakes until it achieved perfection. The entire world’s financial system depended on AI and thousands of systems and automation robots were under his control and now this very robot for some unknown reason, got out of the very secure dome in the city to pursue this human they are about to arrest - a seemingly unimportant human, a fairly successful journalist, but clearly very important to this robot.
Whatever his plan was with this human will become her greatest challenge, as their relationship could threaten all of humanity.