Friday, October 29, 2010

Murder In Skin City - Part Seven

Dex stood idle in a corner of the command bunker, trying his best to look like he wasn't guarding me. His bizarre animatronic face was literally trying to look sheepish. It was so damn funny I wanted to cry. We weren't a brand new species carving out a new evolutionary path. We were humans who had no idea how to be human.

I stood suddenly and watched with genuine amusement as Dex whirled, a small pulse cannon emerging from his forearm. I stared blankly into his wildly blinking "eyes" until he dropped his arms to his side. The cannon retracted and it looked like his shoulders might have slumped just a bit.

"Sorry sir," he squawked, rubberized lips synched up perfectly.

"No worries kid. Looked like you were about to blow a hole straight through me there," I chuckled.

"Oh no! I would never... that would be unthinkable!"

"What? To shoot me down? Why is that unthinkable rookie?" I asked, curiosity getting the better of me.

"Robots don't kill each other sir!" he squawked lamely.

"Of course they don't. They do have to shut down an occasional corrupted shell, though. There's no killing involved because they just download a damn backup! If you think I'm rogue, you damn well better be prepared to put me down! I wouldn't hesitate," I explained.

"Yes sir. You aren't corrupted, though, are you?"

"Nope. Of course I probably wouldn't know if I was. Seems to me that I'm thinking perfectly straight. I got history with Billy Hallister and that got me fired up. End of story. Bastard shouldn't even be here."

I sat back down as the main door hissed open. Simon entered haughtily. Dex almost literally snapped, he snapped to attention so quickly. Simon dismissed him with a wave.

"You should rejoin the rest of the security force outside. They will need you for routine patrolling," he said smoothly.

It was a lie, of course. They didn't need him, but the director needed some alone-time with me. After Dex had departed, Simon slowly crossed to me and sat down. It was some time before he spoke.

"I really do not understand why Billy Hallister was with the humans brought to this facility. All candidates were thoroughly vetted before selection. You can guess how meticulous we would be about something like this," he said at last, something like concern in his voice.

"Yeah. I can imagine. I guess that's one reason I was so shocked to see him. It didn't ever enter my mind that he would be here. He had been gone from Dead Man's Ranch for over a year," I said.

"Dead Man's Ranch?" Simon asked quizzically.

"Oh. Sorry. Reservation SW-005. Dead Man's Ranch was the human name for it," I explained.

"Ah. I see," he countered. "It would appear you have picked up more from them than you realize."

Ain't we all pal, I thought and glanced at his swirling, gilded adornments. At least we don't all accept it gleefully.

"At any rate," Simon continued. "There is something very strange about this. It warrants looking into."

"You want me to poke around?" I asked, hoping he would decline.

"No. I will handle it. At this stage it requires a careful touch. Perhaps it is nothing, but I suspect otherwise," he said thoughtfully.

"Maybe just a case of incompetence?" I offered.

"Possibly, but still troubling if that is the case," Simon retorted. He paused for a long moment, then said, "Now then. What to do about your little outburst."

Great. He probably wanted relocate me. Would that have been so bad? It might have been nice to return to the reservation. Maybe even move to a brand new facility to start fresh.

"The chief was quite upset about it," Simon remarked, cutting off my speculation. "He wants a squad he can rely upon. I have managed to calm his concerns somewhat. There were those on the council that wanted to remove you from the position. That, also, has been mitigated. You will see a counselor twice each week to deal with any latent issues from your time on the reservation."

"Which one of the council will I see?" I asked lamely.

"Not that type of councillor, I'm afraid. I mean a psychiatric counselor," he explained.

I laughed. Out loud. Loudly. For quite some time. Simon was not amused at all. He tried to stare a hot hole through my chest until I finally stopped. The paralyzing fear that he was serious slowly crept over me. Obsolescence! Were we really at that point? Head shrinks?? What was next, life coaches?

"This is quite serious, Zed. I strongly advise you to treat it thus. You will report to your first session tomorrow morning. You will not be cleared for duty until the session is completed to satisfaction. Good luck and good night."

I sat staring mutely at the door after he left. I had started the day as a highly valued asset to a state of the art security force. Now, I was off active duty and was scheduled to have my head examined. Oh well, the doc was damn sure gonna have his hands full with me.