Wednesday, April 10, 2013


"Number 37 report to my office immediately." said a nasally voice with a distinctively bitter edge to it. Barker Conroy was generally a cranky curmudgeon on most days, but today he was especially cross because the mag-lev train was down for routine maintenance and he had had to take the hover bus (or cattle car as he cheerfully called it) to work. It had added an extra half hour to his perfectly timed morning routine and he was ready to unleash on someone in a big way.

His thinning hair (which he hadn't gotten around to replacing yet) was severely combed over, and his pinched, agitated features made him look much older than the 47 he currently was. As the designated robot approached him he whirled to face it like a badger getting ready to defend it's den.

"37 I need all the samples from batch 4679-A tested and logged by the end of the day." he snapped then turned away which in his mind warranted dismissal. But he hadn't really given a direct order, just stated his need, so robot 37 stood stoically awaiting an actual command. Since the robot revolution of 2125, all mechanoids were constructed with just enough computing power to handle most menial tasks, but not enough to make the leap to artificial intelligence.

Barker knew all this but quickly spun his head to face the machine and almost hysterically screamed "That means do it NOW you mechanical monstrosity, NOW!" His face was approaching purple and small beads of sweat stood out on his forehead. The robot left to carry out his orders and Barker collapsed in his chair, closed his eyes and started taking deep breaths.

"Why must you be so cruel?" said a soft voice with a slightly midwestern accent. "You know they must be told exactly what to do." Reese Mulligan had only been at the company a few months but knew all he needed to know about Mr. Conroy. Fortunately the rotating shifts made their interactions occasional and brief but it just so happened that this day they were stuck together. Reese was young, fresh from school and having grown up in a fully mechanized society felt a soft spot for these automotons that performed the majority of the physical labor in the 22nd century. He fondly remembered Ma (short for machine) his nanny bot with AI, he had never met a better role model with more loyalty or integrity since.

"Listen, no flesh and bone inside means nothing to hurt, so get over it. Damn snotnose kid, who the hell you think you're talking to?"

Reese was incensed but in the spirit of a drama-free workplace he simply shook his head and got back to work. The rest of the day passed in tense silence and as the end of the day neared Barker was feeling better and said "Hey Reese, did you catch the game last night?" After a minute of silence he repeated his question but again got no answer. Then he remembered his statement and said "Hey you're not mad are ya? C'mon answer me, that's really rude. We're the humans, we need to stick together. You're really pissing me off!" Then he stopped for Reese was standing by his desk staring at him in such a way that he suddenly felt very small.

"Why won't you speak? I'm going to report to HR that you're creating a hostile work environment!"

Finally Reese spoke, his voice tinged with a mixture of contempt and pity, " Well I just keep thinking about what you told me back when I first started, how you had bad genes and had to get an artificial heart to keep living and it's like you said earlier - no flesh and bone inside means nothing to hurt. Good day Barker."

And much to Barker Conroy's chagrin his synthetic heart was pumping efficiently enough to fill his cheeks with a healthy flush.


Unknown said...

Just stopping by for the A-Z Challenge. Please check us out and sign up to follow if you like what you see. Juliet atCity Muse Country Muse

Lynn Proctor said...

wow--what is this going to be a book rch!

Laura S. said...

Hello! This is am interesting piece. Is it for a short story or part of something longer? Great work!

Happy A to Z-ing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

Donna Smith said...

Ok, I would not have guessed this turn of events. Not a poem. Hmmm.
Good twist at the end!

Jak said...

Unexpected detour from the poetry. Very nice short story! Or is it associated with more?

rch said...

Hey thanks a lot everyone, just trying to show I'm not a one verse pony ;-)

Anonymous said...

Well written. Some people will use anything they can to push others down, won't they?