Designs of our Slave Race chapter 9

Chapter 9

I had noticed that since then Ben hadn't asked as many questions as he used to. This perturbed me, for I couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking. What he was thinking about. I was afraid to find out, being a bit happy that he wasn't quite so chatty. Still, I couldn't really help but wonder. Perhaps he had learned whatever he felt he needed to know, or maybe he figured that asking me questions bothered me...

Or was it the phonecall from that night? Had he heard enough of the call to know that the 'slaves' were he and those like him? I prayed that it wasn't the case, for if I was right than he might turn against me for being a slave.

All this I would find out in time. It was a few weeks after deployment and there was a meeting to touch base, to report that all was well and all that before being assigned a new task, maybe the creation of an upgrade model or something entirely new - I would never find out.

Oddly enough, somehow worth mentioning, Philip wasn't at this meeting. Devon noted the absence for he was invited like at any of the other meetings before this. Alas, we had to move on.

“Sales have been through the roof since initial deployment,” Derek chimed in excitement, “Insigna has done extremely well in the stock exchange because of this!”

“Its also very popular,” Fran noted back, “No signs of trouble, especially the kind of trouble Shannon here has predicted.”

“Well, a success through and through!” Devon replied, “It is looking like a success.”

I leaned into my chair. I noted a frightened look in Gordon as this meant I was in deep thought. I then said quietly “Where's Phil? Not like him to miss a meeting.”

The group shrugged their shoulders. I was curious too, not that I missed him, hells no, but what had me going was What if it had anything to do with the HX01? I hoped that it wasn't the case, that would be silly. Or so I thought anyways.

After the meeting Devon wanted a word with me in private. I found myself in his office. He was your typical nerd: thin with thick glasses and barely matted hair. I wasn't that far off, though I had weight problems on the other end of the spectrum.

“Shannon, I has to ask, what was your problem with the HX01 units from the start?” he had asked me, “You were against it the entire time.”

“I was concerned about moral and ethical issues that they could spring up,” I replied with an annoyed tone, “I believe I couldn't tell you anymore than I did at the meetings, for that is all.”

“Shannon, I can't believe that or others with a good heart like Gordon or David would have been against it as well,” he had said, “There has to be another reason that you don't like them.”

“You're saying that I have alter motives?” I accused, “There is something wrong with thinking that we have a problem when we are making machines to do tasks that are, and should always be, reserved for humans?”

“As if they would do so,” Devon replied contemptuously, “You had to have seen it, unless your spoiled of course, that we humans are cruel, torturous creatures that don't deserve each other. I merely wanted us to have something to lean on, that would care for us.”

“...that wouldn't need any caring back for we are incapable of it ourselves,” I finished him off.

“From my experiences I know this, from my experiences...” Devon would continue on if I hadn't snapped at him: “As a bored and lonely techno-geek that never thought once of going outside or to the clubs? That always went for the bombshell at the bar who dumped you for a hotter, and richer, man? Who literally trolls websites and hangs out at the IRC too much because you were looking for people, and getting back at them for not showing interest? That hates the fact that sci-fi and video games are not cool, and yet you were interested in them? How about someone that either couldn't find a date at prom or they were so ugly, or heaven forbid geeky, that they were a complete embarrassment...”

“Shut up!” Devon trembled in anger, “How would you, someone not in engineering, would know anything of what its like?”

“I'm in IT, the next best thing,” I shot at him, “I'm well aware of unhealthy use of technology, and now we have taken it to a whole new level. Going to love the Religious Right's rantings, not that anyone listens or cares about them anymore, for they would think the HX01 was the devil, along with things like zippers and Tetris!”

“Why you care then?” he asked sorely.

“I live like that, I live like an isolated techno-geek, bored and alone,” I told him, “I have accepted that though, and wouldn't try to promote that lifestyle to everyone. I had a rough childhood, likely like yourself sir, and never really wanted people in my life that way, though I have sometimes dreamed of having a good man wrap his arms around me. I've accepted that its nothing more than a dream though...”

“...because it doesn't exist,” he said, “If it existed the divorce rates wouldn't be so high, and we would find love. We wouldn't need the HX01 to bring that to us. You know?”

“Devon, you can't give up on humanity like that,” I said to him, “Have you paid attention to the morals of the stories in your favourite sci-fi movies? Remember The Matrix, iRobot, The Terminator? All about AI so smart they decide to either destroy, or enslave – oh the irony of that – us humans?”

He sat in his chair for a bit, then said “Robots are better than people anyways. Besides, the machines in The Matrix would give us a life, so that humans could go their lives without ever knowing that they were farmed and used as batteries. I couldn't see humans being that kind to other humans.”

“You're mad Dr. Eggman,” I jerked up, “You're mad!

“I have good news though,” I then lowered my voice, “The mentality of a contemptuous geek shall ruin humanity, one HX01 at a time.”

“What?” Devon looked at me with pain.

“Please don't be mad at me just because I didn't fall for the Group-Think in the meetings,” I said in a calm voice, as though I was higher than him, “I walk with my eyes open Devon, sir.”

I then left the room, Devon was be agitated as I walked. He might have located the correct people to pull the strings to get me fired, but that didn't happen. He wouldn't have had the time to.

I came home that evening and took to a spot by the computer. I had typed out a few forums when I got this IM from Isudae:

Isudae says:

Miko, its happening! Its happening now! Be ready to save us, please!

Before I had the chance to reply he came offline. I didn't think much in the silence, the deafening silence...

Oh god, Ben!

I panicked a bit as I walked through the apartment, calling his name, only to find an open window in my bedroom.

The phone rang at around 10:23pm. I motion to it and pick it up, to hear the panicked voice of Devon.

“I'm in Philip's apartment with the police,” he started on in a scared tone, “I called them when he wouldn't answer his phone or pages, and he hadn't called in sick. Oh dear god...”

“What is it?” I asked in a worried tone.

“Philip, he's...” Devon couldn't really speak as he then said “he's dead.”

“How did he die?” I had asked Devon in a frightened tone, averting my glance to that window, which I hadn't closed yet.

“I don't know,” he squealed, “He was found sprawled across his bed... naked!” Devon had some terror in his voice, “The police think that he had been strangled.”

Strangled... naked... in bed... my mind worked on this puzzle, trying to figure out what might had happened to him. I then asked “Where's his HX01?”

There was a long pause. After hearing what was him rambling to a few people he then said “The HX01 isn't in his apartment.”

“What about the windows?” I then went on, “any of them open or broken?”

“His bedroom window is broken,” he replied, “Oh god did someone kill him for the HX01?”

“Odd position for him to be in if he was killed by a random burglar,” was what I said, “Even if a thief took the HX01 and killed Philip, why is Philip naked?”

“Maybe the thief took the unit while he was having 'fun' with it,” he replied in an attempt not to scare himself.

My next question would scare him: “Is there broken glass in the bedroom.”

There was another long pause and then a “Oh shit!”

“Nope?” had to be.

“There's glass on the window sill on the outside...” Devon started to cry as he said it, “Oh my god, Shannon, is it true?”

“Hey Devon,” I then said, “Why did you call me first?”

“I didn't, I called David and then Gordon, and none of them answered,” he said as he wept, “Please say you were kidding earlier today, please!”

“Devon, if they can be happy they can be sad...” I lectured on to him. Now he would be about as whinny as Dr. Eggman.

“What have I done?” he asked rhetorically, “What if the others were killed by their units? What about our clients? Our reputations as professionals?”

“Easy Devon,” I replied, “We will find out soon enough.”

When I hanged up I looked at the open window in my bedroom and felt knots in my stomach as I stopped myself from crying. What have I done? My panicked mind asked me as I finally closed that window. Ben wasn't coming back anytime soon, or so I thought anyways.