Electric Sheep


hector_icon.gif warren_icon.gif

Scene Title Electric Sheep
Synopsis Two men tasked with designing the shape of things to come fail to see eye to eye while putting the latest and greatest model through its paces.
Date January 04, 2010

Reclaimed Zone - Warehouse 47

It's January in New York and so ass cold and cloudy, with ice on the ground where there isn't snow and snow on the ground where there isn't ice. Outside of Warehouse 47 in the Reclaimed Zone, however, patches of it have been cleared down to silty grey soil and cement to allow for passage to the great hulk of metal blast doors from the massively thick mount of twenty-foot concrete walls and barbed wire that surround the rectangular facility on all sides.

Armed guards patrol the walls alone or in pairs in helmets and thick jackets; fat pigeons and the off crow lie inexplicably dead in a scatter formation far outside of the walls, downy feathers fluttering where they haven't had time to clump in the snow.

This is robot country.

Hector Steel von Stahl stands with a remote control in the form of an iphone poised light in his hands, black goggles and blacker coat pitched long and dark behind the soft lift of his breath white into the early afternoon. Which is very grey, in an eye-achingly bright kind of way.

Before him, the latest prototype off his line is picking its way with necessary care through foot-deep snow and simulated debris, matte black finish emblazoned in vibrant, bloody red across the bladed arc of one scapula: DOEA SMK-002

It is approximately six feet tall at the shoulder, ten where its photoreceptors blaze red from otherwise empty eye sockets, gawping maw host to a sensor array of wires and cables in place of a mandible. More robust than the Argentenian model, thicker through crooked scythe legs and crested spine. Fresh steam lifts away from scalding metal in spits and starts.

It looks like a llama.

Wearing a long black trenchcoat, black suit pants, and brown work boots, Warren has been watching things for a few minutes, intrigued that he finally gets to see someone similar to him work. He pulls a black remote from his coat pocket with about fifty unmarked silvery buttons on the front, then looks over at Hector's iPhone when he stands next to the man. "Must be nice to program."

Black black black. Hector's in all black. Very sharp black, coat defined from underlying suit by a matter of artistic degrees. If he was at a funeral he would definitely be best dressed.

"Must be nice not to have a soul," offered back all at odds with the chipper air of fine breeding he wears around himself like a second coat, he shrugs his shoulders against the wrap of his scarf and glances sideways to Warren, who is a fair amount taller than him. Like most everyone else.

The robot lurches in near tandem with his distraction, tonnes of blistering metal listing sideways heavily enough for a couple've the guards to wheel around at their posts before Hector retakes the helm and it cross-steps into laborous recovery.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Warren asks as his eyes gloss over with silver, and he begins to approach the incredibly large machine, remote clasped firmly in hand. He stares up at the beast out of pure curiosity, keeping a good five feet of distance inbetween him and it. "I designed improvements on your artificial brains, without knowing what implication there could possibly be. Do you think they're capable of becoming fully functional sentient beings?"

Improvements. Hector bristles like an angry little cat, dark hair stirred by the wind in macabre play off the feathery corpses over yonder while he watches Warren approach the sentry without fear. Right hand poised across the screen settled in his left to match the poise of mantis limbs in their perpetually precarious state of quadrapedal balance, he is able to avoid pettiness for at least as long as Warren has stood there with silvery eyes so far.

Nearer the metal brute, uncomfortable heat is tangible as it is visible rippling in waves across fresh snow melt and dirty ice, condensation dribbling from the beast's snout and down its flanks in slender streams from however high up wherever moisture doesn't flash to steam. "Ideally no."

"So you don't know for sure." Warren speaks as he continues to observe, his mind attempting to take in the fascinatingly advanced machine, a completely different beast from simply designing these things in blueprint form, from broken parts. "I'd like to integrate one of the brains into my factory's main computer systems, but I don't have one. And what do you mean I don't have a soul?"

"I can't be certain…no. …Only certain that it would be a bad idea." Which. It must really be for even Hector to be given conspicuously suspicious pause by Warren's open consideration of the possibility. Goatee'd chin tucked towards his neck and brows furrowed with mistrust over the opaque gloss of his goggles, the older man simply stares for a beat longer. Robot dribbling. Wind rifling.

"I mean what I say. If they give you what you're asking I will go on hunger strike."

"I'm not asking them for it, I'm asking you. I can't program and I lack the resources to build it even if I could. But your ability seems more advanced and versatile than mine, you might be able to work outside of the vast resources required for such a thing." Warren's walking back to the man now, trying to get a closer look at the iPhone. "I want to study and nurture one of these AIs, not just throw it out on the field, I want to see what its full potential is, hence wanting to put it directly into a computer instead of a robot."

"It doesn't need to be nurtured it's — a robot. That's the point've robots. Is. They do what you tell them, and they do it well. And. Nothing else." Nothing. Else. Not having moved much from that initial pause at Warren's departure, Hector shifts his weight at his return, iPhone screen tipped subtly back, where the touch interface is harder to observe. Like a ten year old, really. "No surprises."

"I think we both have entirely different philosophies on why we do what we do." Warren calmly says as he suddenly thumbs up at the giant llama robot, then looks over at Hector. "So why exactly do you need my help? Your ability is obviously capable of much more than mine."

"…I don't."

Trying very hard not to be flattered, Hector finds it in himself to be a little rude nonetheless, posture and expression still wary past the thumbs up and all associate approval. Remote phone apparently forgotten in his hands, he allows the robot to idle neutrally at a rumbling, whirring sit, haunches folded in with an ear-splitting shriek that scrapes the finish and sends steam furling up thick from the region of its bony llama ass.

"The Department does. Mass production and cost reduction. Weaponization. Efficiency. I solve problems if I detect them, but two minds are," tap, Hector prods at the iPhone, "better than one. Can I show you something?"

Warren's eyes linger on the iPhone again, then down at his remote. A few thoughts cross his mind as he offers Hector a nod. "You realize that by keeping your controls on a digital interface, a technopath could probably hijack this thing, right?" he asks, but otherwise just waits. "What do you want to show me?"

"Can, will, has. There are safeguards in place, Mister Ray. At least against the most obvious…points of entry. More intricate defense may necessarily involve some trial and error in the field, I'm afraid." Speaking down to the phone rather than to Warren himself, Hector slides his glov-ed thumb easy across the screen's base and viola, the metal beast of a skeleton llama wrenches itself back up onto its feet. Sparks arc away from hips and one elbow evidently not yet sanded down into perfection, drifting flake-like to die in the snow.

Then the skull turns. Towards the pair of them standing there, breath afog.

"I've integrated a new navigation system. A sort of evolved seeking apparatus in the form of a fascinating little compass-like device that was vested in me by the Department. And there is a point to this, by the way — it all ties in — I'm not explaining to you for the fun of it — "

As he speaks, the robot sounds off, klaxon pitched in at an ear-splitting wail that has armed guards flooding into groups like ants. Phone still in hand, Hector does not seem bothered even when the sentrybot begins to bear down upon him and his fellow technopath, scythe forelimbs flashing sharp in muted sunlight.

"Or you could skip it all and just convert to a primarily non-digital interfa—" Warren suddenly sticks his fingers under his ears, wincing at the incredibly loud sound. Did he say compass-like? What does that even mean. "Are you saying that you're building Evolved hunting robots?" he asks, attempting to yell over the noise. "I'd like to see one of these compass devices for my own research."

"That is what I have been directed to do, yes!" The exclamation point is necessary because he is yelling also, although not very energetically. Meanwhile the robot continues to advance, half-melted slush slung ahead of every dragging step until the heat of the metal is warming their faces and bullets are sparking plinkity plink across the monster's steely flanks.

Still, Hector holds his ground, remote poised in his left hand until the Thing is rearing, rearing, rearing mightily up onto its hindquarters above them, mantis blades poised to rend and slash and butcher until…


Hector pushes another button. The power cuts immediately and the mass of metal and rubber and carbon locks up and goes creaking over backwards onto its side, where it lands with a sick-sounding car wreck crunch. A few cautionary bullets pling off the spine into the ringing in everyone's ears. Hector sighs.

"The trouble with autonomy, or sentience as you say, is that something made of metal has no reason to differentiate, or to do as we say. They won't stop. Why should they?" One of the larger guards is at his arm in an instant, jerking him off his feet and mussing his coat with a spray of snow, which von Stahl rankles his nose at. He is apparently under arrest. Again. "I've only managed to get it to detect within fifty feet. I fear any further than that — ufhh — " another guard wrenches his remote-wielding arm behind his back and into a handcuff, clack, "will likely require biological integration of evolved tissues."

Warren watches as the men begin to arrest him, occasionally looking over at the fallen mass. There are, once again, a number of questions on his mind, like if all Evolved engineers are insane in some way. But those questions are for later. "I know very well the implications of sentience, and I plan to solve those implications when I have my hands on one of those A.Is. A computer may not be the answer, but I think I know what could be… Anyway, have the compass sent to Shalegate." He's not even questioning the fact that this man is being arrested.

"Have one sent yourself," scoffed off as the control is wrested from him, Hector fails to twist enough to save his second wrist from behing latched solidly to the first. Still wearing his goggles as he's frogmarched mercilessly back to the warehouse to be sent to bed without dinner.

Nearby, the felled sentry sizzles and steams and occasionally issues forth an alarming electrical whine that keeps other gathered personnel from reaching to touch it just yet.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License