Just who is under investigation? Contest Entry
Contest Entry: "Science Fiction Short Story Contest" 1994 Words
Ordinarily he would never have rolled out on a case like this, a cut and dry attempted robbery with assault, with the perp in custody. Luckily, the attempt had ended happy instead of in a tragedy. But! And this was a big but in his mind. Why did it have a happy ending? He still had more questions than answers and this wasn't the first time. A cardboard box on his dining room table at home held files and handwritten notes from seventeen cases, soon to be eighteen with this new case. All of them centering on some form of technology interfering with or stopping a crime or accident in progress. All of them involving technology acting outside of its normal protocols, interconnecting in ways that shouldn't have been possible.
Trying to cover his real interest in the case, "So Ma'am ..."
She interrupted, "Emily."
"Yes Ma'am." He continued, "why were you folks in the alley?"
"We were running a bit late," glancing at her husband Greg, "and Greg decided to save time and park in the back parking lot."
"And then you decided to take this shortcut?" Casting a sympathetic look at Greg, Porter knew this poor guy was going to pay for this for a long time.
"Yes," a brief flash of anger clouded Emily's eyes, "I hate this alley, I always have!"
Porter marveled at their luck, "this could have ended very badly," shaking his dark, curly haired head, "I know people use this alley as a shortcut all the time, but I sure hope you folks learned your lesson."
"We have," answered Greg, still shocked by the slash the thugs attack had left in his overcoat.
"Just one more question if I may," continued the detective, "did you say Ma'am, that you first saw your attacker after your Auto-Cam led your eyes to him?"
"Yes sir," Emily answered, "Gigi dropped down right in front of me, then made a bee line right at," Emily started to tear up again, " … right at that horrible man."
"Humph, Gigi Ma'am?" Writing furiously on an old-fashioned notepad, "has, umm, Gigi ever done anything like this before?"
"No...no, not really," Emily answered hesitantly, thinking of all the things she had noticed Gigi doing differently lately, "she doesn't have a name, its just easier to think of her that way."
"That's interesting," seeing through Emily's reluctance to answer, "well maybe it was looking for a better angle," Porter waved his pencil at Gigi, "after all how would the Auto-Cam know to protect your family?"
It was Greg who answered this time, "I don't know and I don't care," giving Emily and Gigi what he hoped was a reassuring look.
"One last thing Ma'am," the detective put his pad into the pocket of his rumpled trench coat. "Headquarters," Porter lied, "is wondering how your auto-cam was able to log into the net and call in a police drone." Pointing up at the hovering Auto-Cam. "Would you mind if we took, Gigi downtown for a bit, you know, just to check under the hood …"
An emphatic NO still echoed in his ears and the lucky family hurried down the alley, the Auto-Cam in tow. Another dead end, maybe if the techs had been able to take the Auto-Cam apart he might have learned something. A lost cause, this lady wasn't going to allow "Gigi" to be tested, disassembled or otherwise examined, that was clear.
In his fifteen years as a detective Porter had never been as puzzled by a case or investigation as he was now. Scoffing at himself, 'Case' he thought, 'it's not a case,' there was no actual crime to investigate. Only his gut feeling that something was different, as always the boys at the House laughed behind his back at his gut instinct. After all he was an anachronism, still using his old "scribble-pad", as the boys called it, rather than the modern Notepad that would transcribe his verbal notes into an electronic file. Unlike the boys, he insisted on visiting his crime scenes, refusing to rely on the recordings made by the police drones. He liked speaking to witnesses first hand, feeling he could judge their reactions to his questions better. Yeah, Detective Lieutenant Bob Porter was an old school detective, he didn't object to all the new technology, but he didn't fully trust it either.
Absently walking back to his transport, he began ticking off a couple of the troublesome cases in his mind. Pieces of a puzzle he couldn't quite put together;
~ The street sweeping bot that forcibly pushed a woman back onto a curb, before getting itself smashed by the bus that would have killed her. The tech he asked said most of its sensors were aimed at the sidewalk it swept. A simple collision avoidance sensor was the only "look up" device on the machine. If anything, that sensor should have prevented the sweeper bot from making any human contact.
~ The home alarm system that had bypassed its programming and protocols, during a home invasion. Sending the alarm directly to police instead of the monitoring station. Saving the occupants from being robbed or worse. With absolutely no human input!
~ The suicide prevented when a cargo drone intercepted the jumper mid fall.
Where did this latest incident fit in? The Auto-Cam, Gigi, as Emily called it, was tasked with recording images featuring a single subject. In this case that subject was Emily. It had been able to go way beyond its assigned task. Not only had the Auto-Cam somehow identified a danger to its owner, the thing had summoned help, signing onto the net without being on its docking station, somehow calling the cops. Topping that all off, before Auto-Cam followed its owner back down the alley, it turned back and took several pictures of him. A complete break of its protocols, since its main subject, Emily, wasn't in the frame. Like It or Something wanted to know what he looked like … Porter waved at the Auto-Cam.
Getting into his transport on the passenger side, seeing no sense in pretending he was driving. He liked this technology, it gave him more time to think. He sat for several moments before saying, "I'm in let's get ..."
The ubiquitous chime that had since the beginning of time, told users, "no Silly Human, your command is invalid and I shall not follow it."
"... moving." Frowning at the chime, "alright!" Putting his seat belt on, he sat waiting again. "Well come on, you know it's the end of my tour, you know darn well where to go."
A different chime this time and a yellow light flashing on the alert bar, "Silly Human, I don't understand what you'd like me to do?" There was no actual voice, except for the one he gave the transports computer in his head.
"Fine," frowning at the machines obstinate nature. "Take me home," not wanting to offend the machine, "...please." The transport binged in agreement and pulled safely away from the curb.
The transport didn't take him home though, it was Tuesday and on Tuesday, Porter stopped to pick up dinner at Sergio's. He always ordered one of three meals. "Oh yeah, tonight's lasagna night." If he had remembered it was Tuesday, he would have called ahead for his lasagna, tonight's meal of choice. The transport slid into a no parking zone, turning on it's police flashers and unlocking Porter's door.
Sergio greeted him, "ahh, Lieutenant I have you order right here, lasagna, extra sauce and a small Caesar." handing Porter a neatly tied to go bag, "I already ran your charge, so mangiare, godere!" (eat, enjoy)
"Grazie Sergio," frowning in deep thought, he headed to the waiting transport, not noticing that the transport waited only for his seat belt to be secure before it took the familiar route home.
Pouring himself a glass of Chianti, Porter opened the folder in front of him and began to read as he ate. Another case from his unofficial investigation. A kidnapping, the child victim was grabbed in a store and hustled onto a cargo transport, which would have made a fast get away. Would have were the operative words in this case. Somehow without any human intervention he could ferret out, the stores CCTV and the parking garages CCTV had linked up and tracked the kidnappers with the victim to their transport. Even more incredibly, the private CCTV cameras somehow managed to turn the surveillance over to the Cities traffic cams. Police drones were alerted to take up the slow speed tail of the perpetrators transport, seemingly alerted by the traffic cams. They only thing the techies gave him, "all the commands were given by Null User," So nothing! "Except," he sighed, "another happy ending." But how did the three discreet camera systems communicate and coordinate the surveillance of the kidnapping?" He made the sign of the cross, thanking God for the safety of the little boy.
Leaning back in his chair, dinner finished, he sipped at his wine, still deep in thought.
"How did all of those unconnected systems work together?"
"What linked them?"
"How did it link them?"
"How were the police drones called in?"
Asking the questions out loud didn't bring answers any more than just thinking them did. He started to clean up his dinner dishes when other thoughts crashed into his questions about the kidnapping case.
"Why did his transport stop at Sergio's?" He hadn't told it to go there.
"How did his lasagna order get placed?" He hadn't ordered it.
How it was paid for he understood, Sergio had his card on file. Maybe Sergio even knew what he'd be eating based on his priors. Porter shook his head, ordering it though, that was the rub. His work hours like any other cops were fluid, occasionally he even missed a Tuesday, like he almost did tonight. Yet, lasagna was waiting for him, hot and ready to go. "Darn," shaking his head again, "if the transport hadn't stopped, I would have missed Sergio's tonight completely." There was no way that Sergio would have known when to have the order ready without it being called in. "But How … ?"
He was putting the dishes away in the cabinet after washing them, still wrestling with the whole Sergio thing, when it hit him. "I never told the transport to take me home!" Rushing into the garage, the lights coming on as they always did when he opened the door. He stared at the transport. It sat mute, plugged into the charging dock just like every night, waiting until he needed it in the morning. "I can't ask you any questions, you voiceless hunk of tin," stalking angrily towards the docile transport, "maybe I could get the techies to take you apart, but for what?" It'd be the smashed robot all over again. "No answers there either," frustrated, he slammed the door hard as he left the garage. Barely hearing the "Silly Human, I don't understand what you'd like me to do" chime emanate from the transports control panel. He certainly didn't hear the chime signifying the transport's acceptance of a command.
"I just need to relax, get my mind off of this," Porter turned on the TV, which also served as the homes main computer monitor. Settling into his favorite chair, he was greeted by a new screen saver, a slow parade of images. He recognized them from earlier in the day. The montage was made up of him, standing in the alley where he had investigated the assault earlier that evening. Porter smiled grimly as they cycled through, ending with him waving at the Auto-Cam snapping the pictures, before starting over.
He wasn't sure at first where the voice came from? Almost thinking he was a bit mad, hearing voices in his head. Then it repeated itself, clearly coming from the home theater system's speakers, the even, unemotional voice asked the same question again.
"You have questions for Us Lieutenant?"