Welcome to Story 8, we’re back in sci-fi territory this week. This is set in the same universe as Story 3, you remember, the one about the robot private police. Well I advise you checking out the last story before you read this one.
It’s 1330 words and, by far, the fastest story that I’ve ever written. Clocking in at one and a half hours before editing. I hope you enjoy this weeks story time …
Illegal Police, Enhanced #2 – Coffee Break
It’s dark and I’m inhaling my coffee on the small round table, one in from the door. It’s better than drinking the coffee; my system doesn’t pull much from coffee. I’m also on the phone. William Wickerson, unfortunate name, is berating me. I encode my VOIP and it comes out in Wickerson’s cubicle, not quite perfect but they are probably having bandwidth issues. Cutbacks.
“I was hired. Check the log.”
“Doesn’t change a damn thing.” Bill says slowly, his is voice controlled, but he’s pissed at me.
“Makes it legal,” I say with bluntness.
I’m a private cop. So whenever someone hires me, I have the same authority as a government cop. More, as I have no state, or country, boundaries like they do. I’m also not human.
I’m a robot, classified as C5, the first generation made by AI and not human algorithms. C4 are the unrestricted AI made by humans, C5 are role based AI, C6 are unrestricted AI made by AI. Creating new C5, C6 and beyond, if such things exist, is illegal. Most of the C6 were EMP-ed, then bombed to dust.
“Georgia,” He sighs, using my previous name. He’s earned the right, so I let it slip. “People are talking. You did something … freakish. You scared them.”
“You know me, I move quicker than most people think, right?”
“Yeah …” Less guarded now, his emotions flaring and retreating as quickly as usual.
“You realise he was enhanced?” I hadn’t been told he was enhanced, part human, part … more. He’d almost punched my head clean off my shoulders.
“That’s the only reason you’re not in a cell right now.”
“Bill, I’ll keep my head down for a bit. Good enough?”
“Yeah, but -” he pauses. I guess he is weighing up how much he’s told me off and if I require any more. Damn government cops.
“Hold up. I’ve got to go.”
“Hang on, -”
I cut the line. It’s not that I couldn’t do this and talk to him, but it would feel wrong. I’m a role-based AI, so I have most of the same cognitive limits as a human.
I’m far enough into the store to watch him come in. I can time his steps and I can see the backup with him. I’m also near enough to the front of the store to keep an eye on the spotter they have outside.
The one in front is the fat-man. He moves easily like he’s still well muscled, though now going to seed. In his hand is the boy’s, so small that beyond his wrist it vanishes into the meaty fist. I hazard a guess at the direction the boy’s wrist is facing as he is towed along like a birthday balloon behind a zeppelin.
As he passes, I lean over, take hold of the fat-man’s left wrist and turn it counter-clockwise, sharply. In a fraction of a second I feel it grind, then the joint pops. Doesn’t matter how strong he is, he won’t be holding anything in that hand for quite some time. He makes an inarticulate yelpl. The boy screams, I hope it’s surprise and nothing else. Either way, he’s no longer being held.
The fat-man’s backup is a few steps behind him, I kick the chair in front of me into his knee, something cracks loudly and he spins, going down. The fat-man splutters, his incoherence doesn’t last.
“You!” He’s bright red, cradling his wrist. Pure hatred blotches his face. I stand up as he moves his arm, getting in close as he pulls a gun from inside his pocket. It’s a bad angle for me to do anything and he’s quick. The gun’s a dull brown colour, short and snub-nosed, with a wide barrel. I’ve no idea what make it is. I hate guns.
I punch his left shoulder. It moves his wrist, which must hurt like hell – it also changes the angle. As his gun comes up I slap down and towards me. It breaks his grip and the gun hits my shin painfully. The fat-man leans into me, brings his hand to my sternum and shoves. I flail backwards into the counter, hot liquid splashes into the small of my back.
In the aisle, the boy is standing still, eyes wide, his mouth catching flies. Behind him the other man is back up, gun drawn. I have a moment to consider whether the fat-man really is the lead like I originally thought. Just in case, I duck behind the fat-man, out of the line of sight of the gun. A sound like controlled baritone cough erupts, once, twice, the fat-man grunts and jerks. That answers that.
I grab a coffee canteen off the counter and run forward, as I reach the fat-man I push him hard, he doesn’t seem to notice, just steps back, teeters and starts to fall. The confined space of the store defines everything, if the backup was smart he’d have fallen back to the street and opened fire. He wasn’t.
As the fat man goes down, I throw the canteen. The backup doesn’t see it until it’s right in front of him. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. He opens fire on the canteen, coffee erupts in an arc then as the canteen splits up a wide spray that covers him. He steps back, trying to cover his eyes, leaving one leg well in front of the other. So coffee is healthy, at least for me. Not so much for the backup guy. I kick his knee so hard the joint reverses direction.
For a moment I dip into my power reserve, push my body far faster than a human, my arms blur. My side of my hand connects with his temple, my other holds his gun hand toward the ceiling as it fires a single reflex shot before he crumples, the gun skittering toward the door. It reminds me that the spotter is there and I have a spike of panic.
Moving to the door I check where he was standing, but the spotter’s gone. I’m not sure when in the last 30 seconds or so he decided to run, but I’m glad he did. I’d made a rookie level mistake and luckily this time I didn’t have to pay for it. Turning back, I see the boy still standing in the middle of the store.
I walk over and kneel by the boy and smile. It’s no surprise to me that doesn’t work. My police bedside manner was never up to much. I touch his hand and he looks at me, as though seeing me for the first time.
“You okay?” He gives the smallest of nods. “I’m police. You’re safe now.”
“Police?” He manages.
“Yes, police. You’re safe,” I repeat myself so it sinks in. It seems to work. His face crumples and he starts crying, loudly. He grabs my trouser leg and burrows his face into it. I pat his head but he doesn’t really notice. He’s on auto-pilot, the fear, stress and relief are pouring out at once, overloading him.
I stand up and look around. The few other people in the cafe are staring, yelling, or talking through various channels to either the press of the police, I guess. Not much difference. It’s getting harder to tell those two apart. I pull out my badge and start turning around, showing it to anyone who will look.
“Detective George, C5, Private Police. My apologies for the disturbance. Please stay calm,” I’ve already dialled Bill, he picks up just as I can hear the first of the sirens.
“Hey,” He answers, “What do you mean by -”
“Bill.” He hears the note in my voice at once and stops talking at once. “You know when I said I’d try and keep my head down, well, I was working a kidnapping case…”
MJ Cook: I’m pretty happy with this one. The action is well paced with the story, I can see a couple of areas I’d clean up if I were to do a version two. It’s not super clear that the robot is just sniffing the coffee in the opening. A lot of exposition here is for the universe, not just the story, and that’s hard to justify and place in such a short piece. I hope the background information on the AI levels works for the casual reader. As usual I’d love to read your comments. VOIP is Vioce Over Internet Protocol, basically using computer networks to make phone calls.
To republish please email firstname.lastname@example.org
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA.