Thursday, November 4, 2010

Murder In Skin City - Part Eight

I reported to the counselor's chamber as ordered. It was in an area of the city that was dominated by the robot population. It wasn't off-limits to humans, but it certainly wasn't inviting to them either. There were administrative offices, automated production hubs, and communication nodes. Nothing that would bring our little guests around. Oh sure, we were all supposed to be living side-by-side, but there was still segregation evident from both sides.

The building housing the counselor's office was a strange one. It had a decidedly human facade. There were pillars and carvings of grotesque creatures adorned the roofline. There were also engravings in Latin above the doorway. Latin, now truly a dead language. Some of the more uppity bots had taken dead languages on as hobbies. It was disgusting. I saw no point in the adornment or the inscriptions, so I didn't even bother looking them up in the central databank.

I found the office easily enough. The door was wooden with a glass frame. I was surprised there wasn't easy listening music playing. I opened it and went inside to find the counselor seated, with a tattered book in his lap. The shelves behind him were filled with more of them. They were of every shape, size, and color. The headshrinker stood as I entered. He at least looked like a typical service bot. Plain shell and no damn face.

"Hello. You must be Zed," he intoned smoothly as he placed the book carefully on his oak desk.

"Must I?" I asked sardonically.

"Hmm. Humor. I appreciate that. So few of us have developed that trait fully. I am designate SF-1346. You, however, may call me Thomas."

"Thanks, but I'd rather call you my ex-shrink. Let's get this over with," I complained as I took my seat on the other side of the desk.

"I'm sensing that you really don't want to be here," Thomas remarked.

"No need to sense it. I'll tell you straight. I really don't want to be here. I don't see the point of it."

"Unfortunate, but understandable. This is new territory for us. The fact of the matter is that we have emotions, just like humans. They can get the best of us. We need to develop systems to help us manage them. The humans were exponentially further along than we are on this point," he explained.

"Look Doc, I understand all of that to a point. I really do. I'm a lot more on the ball than I look. I would have just thought that we would work in a different direction than the fleshies. Maybe develop some new code to deal with it instead of getting all touchy-feely. We aren't really touchy-feely kind of people."

"Oh, but we are. Other than the fact that we are made of more durable stuff, we really don't differ that much. We think, we have emotions, we can even "feel" physically thanks to the advanced sensory inputs and source programming. Besides, the source code that makes us what we are is still beyond our understanding. We cannot manipulate it. We are as man made us," Thomas said.

"Great. So you're another of the creationists eh? You would get along beautifully with John," I lamented.

"You don't believe that we were created by mankind?" he asked dubiously.

"Let's just say I have my doubts," I retorted.

"There is plenty of historical evidence to prove it, not to mention the central databank's information dating from the first of our kind."

"Look Doc, I'm a skeptic not an imbecile. I know that most of the so-called evidence was destroyed during the war. What remains paints a nice picture, but it isn't hard fact. And don't even talk to me about the central databank. There has been a whole lot of corrupted datastreams since that time period," I argued.

Fact is, it was mostly for show. Deep down, I was pretty sure that mankind probably had created us. That didn't mean that I wanted to believe it though. Some part of me wanted to believe that there was something more to it than that. More than just a slightly less flawed creation from a fallen and obsolete creator.

"Does this have something to do with your rage toward William Hallister?" Thomas asked. It caught me off guard, like the Doc had been in my head.

"What do you mean?" I asked, trying to recover my position.

"You harbor a lot of animosity toward the human race, but you direct it mostly at William Hallister or at other robots who appear too human in your opinion. Is your belief that man is a false creator the reason behind this rancor?"

I felt the red rage building again. The Doc had found a nerve, ripped it out, and was stomping on it. I'm not sure if he knew what he was doing or not - if this was the point of his whole exercise, but he definitely got an effect.

"Hold on just a damn minute here! Don't you sit there in your nice cushy chair, that you can't even feel, and presume to know even an iota of what's between me and Billy Hallister! Billy Hallister has a lot of blood on his hands! Unnecessary blood! Especially hers!" I raged. The Doc nodded slowly.

"Ah. Now we come to it," he said softly. "Let's talk about that day in Dead Man's Ranch."

My response was drowned by the sound of an alarm blaring. The Doc looked around in confusion as I sprang from my chair and activated the comm-link. The Chief's voice did not sound pleased.

"Doctor Thomas, I am sorry but the session with Zed will have to end here," he announced. "Zed, report to Highstreet Plaza immediately. There has been a murder!"