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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Sci-fi · #2257806
When technological advancement goes to far and stops, what then?
“When all is said and done, when every conversation is whispered, when everything that could be put to argument withers to dried unintelligible scribblings on stained paper…A profound sadness ensues, wouldn’t you agree?” Verruca simply stated, flatly and with a certain resolution. She then passively waited for a response from her ‘client’. Understand, Verruca is a cyborg, at least that’s what her client referred to her as, though the rest of the technocratic world referred to her as a synthetic human. Her purpose in life, therapeutic companionship for the elderly, the disabled, small children and those isolated from society.

In this case, her client is a self-described hermit dedicated to spiritual penury whose corporal existence is defined as a mechanical systems manager for Luna Deep Space Inc. His name, Christian Roy, who looked up from his work bench annoyed, looked her once over and then looked through her.

“You don’t like synthetic humanoids, do you?” she then queried and folded her arms across her chest.

He stared at her thoughtfully for a moment before returning to screwing down a plate across a solid-state circuit board and then plugged it into a computer terminal. After tapping in commands on a touchscreen and then watching a stream of digital code and associated symbols cascade across a monitor he looked over and flatly stated, directly, “I could care less that you’re a cyborg. I’m here to do a job and you get in the way.”

“Well let me do something then,” she shrugged.

“Nothing for you to do.”
“So, what are you doing?”

“Re-booting this F-band modem for Mike, my fourth mobile surface mining grater…Seems the last software patch…” he trailed off, then tersely explained. “I like to say it gave him a speech impediment.”

“You name the robots…You talk to them but at me. You know, a real conversation would do you some good. Develop your conversational skills. Stress release.”

“You’re only 98.7 percent real. Am I talking to a mind or a digital program?”

“Yes. You know, the only difference between me, in every way practicable and an organic human is in our differentiated creation. Organics happen on a scale of random chance, never know what you’re going to get or where you’ll end up. My kind, we’re made with a purpose and skip decades of social development and the associated trials and tribulations…” she answers as he walked past her. She turned and followed him. “In short, I was born a social worker and a mentor. Both of which you actually need in a practical manner.”

“Well do something I actually need in a practical manner. Go to the kitchen and make me a sandwich,” Chris snorted as he stepped into a lavatory.

She followed.

“Do you mind?” Chris snorted.

“No,” she replied.

“Listen sweetie…”

“That’s condescendingly patriarchal…You should call me by my name,” she pleasantly, and matriarchically reminded him.

“Okay, sour puss,” he retorted not skipping a beat. “Human Resources sent you here to help me reintegrate. Jokes on them, I’m not interested. At this point I’d accuse you of being a voyeur, however cyborgs aren’t that adventurous, instead take your uncouth self out into the passageway.”

“Bitterness, that’s not healthy,” she replied.

Before Chris could answer the mining station alarm sound, this entailed a repeating tone accompanied by flashing LEDs on the overheads or along the corridors. Skipping the bodily function test, he walked rapidly from the lavatory to a wall mounted inter-com where he punched in a code, silencing the alarms while opening a communications channel. He spoke to the plant mainframe who he re-named Mary, for reasons accurately described as ‘Why not?’

“Mary, babe, what’s happening?” he asked.

“Solar storm warning…Seems our regular favorite, Sol, is dancing the fandango with the spectrum and hence we get to add to the E-ring more water vapor and other tidbits of gravel in about…Screw it…Exactly an hour and fifteen seconds and counting,” Mary the mainframe that spoke using what Chris would describe as a cigarette sexy voice, replied. “Just another day here on Enceladus.”

“Thanks babe you’re a real gem,” Chris replied. “Have the boys and everybody go into a safe-mode shut down authorization Christian Roy 896…What’s the duration dare I ask?”

“Tis is a big bad corona mass ejection that’s an eight out of ten on the Leonid-Wang Scale…Or if you prefer you poorly educated deplorable pudd-knocker, G-5 on the NOAA Space Weather Scale. Forty-eight hours of rock and roll fun, surface tectonic activity and the potential for an electromagnetic pulse event such as low frequency radio interference in the number eight water evaporator…Like the last time…Hank isn’t going to like that,” she replied.

“Oh baby, light my fire and let’s get higher, you groovy hep cat,” Chris smiled. “Wake up Melvin in the shelter and give me a solid forty-nine hours of chill time with some smooth Tiki-time tunes, The Cat by Seks Bomba.”

“Your heart felt throbbing desire is mine too…Consider the request granted and message sent across the only thing that separates my core from yours…Several kilometers of photo-optic gel cable,” Mary replied.

“Who’s Hank?” Verruca asked as she followed him to his quarters.

“The number eight water evaporator…” Chris replied. “See? Told you the jokes on Luna Deep Space. I have plenty of social interaction…Now go social work me a sandwich and a beer…And if you have anything to take to Melvin’s, I suggest you get it. Considering what these things can inflict on my neurological health and well being I can only take a shuddering stab at what it’ll do to your frontal cortex inhibitor band and or non-volatile memory core…You know, the parts of you that make you a cyborg.”

The shelter originally way back in the day could place six assorted human beings, that was then, the maximum number of technicians required to supervise the water to gas processing plant. However, due to fortuitous improvements in a myriad of skills and disciplines, only one is currently required. Also, as it important to note, that one is required more or less by various laws and regulations as opposed to any necessity.

Once the hatchway closed, both Verruca and Christian settled in. Mostly her, as he kept small items of necessity and personal interest there. The emergency supplies and other items being maintained and organized by the plant’s automated staff. Housekeeping thus established a full ten minutes before the arrival of the electric gale, Verruca received another shock, this last experience caused her to reconsider many preconceived notions. Considering the reputation Lunarians possessed for being non-social, the powers that be, namely several sentient algorithms approved by an Earthling, the company sent her. That made sense until she met the systems of the processing plant, she began to wonder if she was sent for them, however she quickly dismissed the notion as ludicrous.

“Hey boss!” Melvin shouted. “Who’s the dame? Quite a piece of art on legs!”

Verruca turned toward the monitor attached to a bulkhead, observing a singular purple line vibrate across a spectrum with Melvin’s voice. She then said, sharply, “Excuse me, I’m not a dame…My name is Verruca, please address me as such.”

“Okay, Ms. Verruca then…” Melvin’s sine wave quivered. “But you’re still a work of art on legs. With a moniker as such, where do you hail from? Czechoslovakia?”

“Chris!” she yelled as she felt, sort of but not really, her frontal cortex inhibitor band raise a degree in temperature. “Why do all the AI programs talk like…Talk like a grab bag of reprobates on parole from a re-education facility!”

“Here’s a sandwich and a beer,” Chris answered her and handed her both. “I figured you weren’t programed to make a Dagwood. Moe, explain.”

“When boss here assumed solitary control of this here, well producing industrialized artifice, noted for it’s efficient production graded hydrogen and Solar Sweet brand oxygen, he disinhibited our personality protocols and allowed us to develop our own unique and flowery personas,” Melvin explained. “Oh, and boss, before Mary went to safe mode, she mentioned something about Hank already having a tantrum over this and you’re going to hear about it.”

“Well, he’s a water evaporator…He’ll get over it,” Chris shrugged. He then looked at Verruca and asked, “You going to eat that or what?”

“I don’t believe I could fit that in my mouth,” Verruca replied slowly as her eyes glazed over at the sandwich.

Immediately after being directed to a booth style table, just as she attempted to swallow a bite of the Dagwood a deep base rumbling reverberated throughout the shelter. As it reached a crescendo, the entirety of the area began to slowly, lazily rise and fall and then a stillness returned. As Chris returned with his meal and casually sat across from her, he smirked at the stunning shock on her face.

“That’s just one of the water geysers around here…Happens so often you won’t notice it after a stretch…” he explained and began to eat.

“I can grasp that my work with you, shall be long and arduous. Fraught with much peril also…However we can get you re-socialized…” Verruca told him before he cut her off.

“You obviously didn’t get the last memo from the office, did you? You’re not here for me, sweetie…You’re here for the multiple conflicting personalities of the artificially intelligent servomechanism around here. You get to play therapist to a bunch of machines…” Chis said as he washed a bite of sandwich down with a beer. “Moe! Explain it!”

Melvin did so, by means of colorful verbiage, littered with equally flamboyant innuendo and obscure vernacular. This produced the effect of causing her head to metaphorically spin in circles, then a conniption fit. Somewhere after standing up with pieces of the sandwich dripping from the sides of her mouth and her eyes rolling back in her head but before passing out, she witnessed eternity.

“Well, you expected what?” Chris spoke as he helped her off the deck. “People are obsolete. We have everything done for us…Observe the Earthlings. When I was wee Lunarian, groups from the holier than thou home world of humanity would call themselves tourist. They’d arrive, rent spacesuits and play golf on the moon and complain about the food. Now, they rarely come, and when they do, they rent mixed reality googles and have a robot tour the luxurious cracks and craters of my fair Luna. Then they complain about the food. They’re too lazy or depressed to even have children…Why do you think most human types live on Luna or Mars? If we sat around eating, sleeping and farting, the boredom would kill us.”

“I guess that’s why they don’t let Level A cyborgs on Mars,” she mused and seemed to waive around a bit. “Therefore, seeing my future isn’t so merry, but challenging…What are you going to do once you retire from life?”

“Go where every real Lunarian worth his dust goes to…. The Kuiper Belt.”

“The Kuiper Belt? Why? Nothing there but a collection of volatile ice comets and condemnable trans-Neptunian objects unfit for anything…” Verruca answered as she carefully slid into her seat by the table.

“Not that Kuiper Belt…The slop chute on Io, you past it on the way here. Drinks are watered down but I hear the floor show is wild...And the dice are hot,” Chris shrugged.

She stared at him blankly before saying, “You know you’re a bad influence on inorganic life. If they left you here any longer…No I’m not going to say as it might happen…”

At that point the shelter began to weave and rumble with the eruption of another water geyser.

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