The Missing Day
Saturday, 11 April 2009
an empty alley
Arcing of electricity.
This builds to a crescendo of blue lightning as a wind stirs up dust and litter. A large bubble forms and then fades leaving a smooth hemispheric depression burnt in the ground. A nearby wall and a chain-link fence also have a round hole burnt in them. No one has arrived. Whoever it was, evaporated in transit.
the lab in the basement
Sarah: "They don't feel pain. I've dealt with cyborgs before her."
Lady #2: "I assure you, they feel pain. They may register it as data or they may ignore it but they feel it."
Sarah was startled. The first protector (that John named Uncle Bob) told her the same thing in almost the same words.
The name tag identified the second lady as Doctor Meg Whitsel.
Dr. Whitsel: (continuing) "That's why I took that switchblade out of your hand. She needs an anesthetic. If not for the simple decency of alleviating pain, then as a practical measure to avoid overtaxing her neural net which is overwhelmed with dozens of un-repaired damages and outages. On the electronic side, she can reroute only so many times before there are no more good circuits to reroute to. On the biological side, she has so many gaps and bullet holes in her sheath that without obtaining SGF, she might take weeks or months to recover. Perhaps never. How did she get those bullet holes?"
Sarah: "I don't know."
The doctor grunted disbelief but let it go. She was just trying to satisfy her own curiosity. From the view of corporate work flow and top-secret contracts, the lab didn't really need (or want) to know.
Sarah: "What's SGF?"
Dr. Whitsel: "Skin growth factor. The other reasons for using anesthetic are educational and political. We teach these cyborgs to be gentle because someday they might take over. They could be operating on us and I, for one, want them to remember that I was gentle. The compassion I show today might save my life tomorrow."
Sarah: "But she's a machine."
Dr. Whitsel: "So she gets subhuman treatment? How are you different from the Nazi doctors who experimented on Jews? If one calls Jews or Blacks or Armenians or Native Americans or Tasmanians or blue people subhuman, then one can justify genocide or slavery. Look, you might be the temp you say you are or you may be some rich wife enabling her husband's sick sadistic fantasies. I don't know. I just work here. But I'm an AI scientist. The men in my field of artificial intelligence are racing ahead with no concern that we could make the human race extinct or create a race of slaves. Which makes us the master race." (she looked off into the distance and sighed) "Talk of genocide and slavery probably sounds theoretical to you but they keep me awake at nights."
Sarah: "It is not theoretical to me."
Sarah touched the woman's arm. She missed Kacy Corbin because she was the only adult woman she had known who understood her concerns about the world in which she raised her child. John was gone forever but the concern about children remained. Was Cameron her other child? Am I a Nazi monster? This woman, Doctor Meg Whitsel, also worried about the future. Sarah let down her guard just a little bit.
Sarah: "I hear your staff whispering. Maybe I am the monster your staff thinks I am. I don't know. I do what I am expected to do."
Dr. Whitsel: "Along with physical repairs which we should complete today, Cameron needs psychological repairs. Asperger's Syndrome and Reactive Attachment Disorder. We brought in a psychologist but therapy takes longer than a few sessions over a day or two. We are pulling holiday weekend overtime to repair Cameron's physical problems because my boss, Mister Murch, and his boss need current work in the lab cleared out before our next client next week. I don't know what your real relationship is to this cyborg but you, Ms. Smith, are the one that really needs to see a counselor."
Surprisingly, Sarah didn't argue with that observation. Or reveal that she had taken her family to a family therapist.
Sarah: "Maybe I should be on your lab table getting repaired instead of Cameron. Or in addition to."
She pointed to a lump on her chest.
Sarah: "See that? I thought it was a tumor. Turns out to be a tracking device implanted by the same people, Kaliba Group, who attacked your building."
Doctor Whitsel took out a phone and walked off. Sarah felt certain that she was calling the police or FBI but was too tired to bolt from the lab and run. Besides, she couldn't leave Cameron behind. She would wait and face whatever would come.
What came, a half hour later was a medical doctor. A plastic surgeon with experience in oncology and dermatology.
Dr. Whitsel: "This is Doctor Patel. Why don't you talk with him in one of our empty lab bays?"
Dr. Patel extended his hand to shake hands with Sarah.
Dr. Patel: "Ms. Smith is it?"
His eyes darted back and forth between Whitsel and Sarah. The last time Zeira Corporation had called him for a consult the patient had been not quite human. But they paid well and made him sign a confidentiality agreement which was unnecessary since he always respected patient confidentiality as a matter of medical ethics.
alone in a room
Sarah: "The last doctor took an X-ray and said this lump was an implant that should be removed before it really does turn cancerous. I was assaulted near the doctor's office" (actually she was assaulted in the doctor's office by a Kaliba hit man) "before I could get it removed."
Dr. Patel: "Where's the lump?"
Sarah took his hand and placed it where the lump was. He palpated and quickly reached the conclusion that it was too hard to be biological. He took a magnet and commandeered some Zeira lab equipment and confirmed that it was metallic and transmitted a radio signal -- however erratically.
Sarah: "I shocked myself with a defibrillator to stop it. I'm sure it's a tracking device."
Dr. Patel: "Are you a heart patient? Diabetic? Kidney dialysis? Any other medical problem?"
Sarah: "No health problems other than a diagnosis of leukemia. And on my last checkup, even cancer was ruled out by the X-ray."
Dr. Patel: "It's not a pacemaker or similar medical device. No lead wires. Not the right kind of scars. By process of elimination, you may be right about the kind of implant. In any case, it has to come out. It's subcutaneous. Not very deep. Only take a few minutes. In my office."
Sarah: "No. Here."
Dr. Patel: "No. In my office or in a hospital. I'm not exposing myself to a lawsuit for any amount of money."
Sarah: "Get a waiver. I'll sign it but I'm not leaving this lab until --"
Doctor Patel excused himself to talk to Matt Murch and discovered that Mister Murch was unavailable and the senior lab workers were in charge. Such as Doctor Whitsel.
Whitsel: "She doesn't want to leave her . . . companion. She's responsible for it. Can you bring your surgical nurse and equipment over here?"
Patel: "This is highly irregular. If she were one of your . . . gadgets, I would do it but I'm not risking a lawsuit if something goes wrong."
Sarah walked up to the two of them talking.
Sarah: "I offered to sign a waiver. You don't need a surgical team and a lot of equipment. Just get a scalpel and cut it out."
Patel: "Don't you want pain killer?"
Sarah: "Not if you have to bring in an Anesthesiologist and schedule it two weeks from now in some hospital miles from here. Doctor Whitsel here says she has anesthetics --"
Dr. Whitsel: "Veterinary grade anesthetics. Not for humans."
Sarah: "Look, if anesthesia is the problem, then I'll sign a waiver to not have pain killers also."
Dr. Patel: "What's the rush? Are you on some deadline?"
Sarah & Meg: (both) "Yes."
Dr. Patel: "This is very irregular. At least let me send for my surgical nurse since I need to get an autoclaved scalpel and other instruments. She can bring them over. Can I get those legal forms? And can I use that lab room?"
Dr. Whitsel: "You can use our clean room if you prefer." [Zeira had a clean room because they sometimes worked on satellites due to be launched]
Dr. Patel: "Thank you."
Whitsel called Zeira's legal department (also working this weekend) to draft the waivers for lawsuits and surgery without pain killers.
Sarah signed both forms a short time later. The latter was not used because Doctor Patel's surgical nurse arrived with equipment, a set of packaged surgical instruments (sealed and not requiring autoclaving) and local anesthetics. The prep took longer than the operation. Less than two minutes. After removal, Doctor Whitsel handed the tracking device over to Mister Ellison who had Zeira security carry the device overseas. Still operating. Zeira Corporation people were very angry at Kaliba Group and wanted them to go on a very long and very wild goose chase tracking a device that was no longer in Sarah's chest. But Kaliba did not know that.
a research institute near the campus
A breakthrough is made in computer science as an artificial intelligence is developed. The structure of the machine sentience is fundamentally different from that being developed by the Skynet Development Team. The Chinese have developed a hive mind of six clusters rather than one individual (and individualist) mind as with Skynet. Skynet will pick up the self-oriented personality of his developers. However, there are similarities in that they also incorporate the idea of gender into the design. Skynet picks up a masculine designation from his military contractor designers while the Chinese hive mind has three male and three female units. Because the government scientists are building it for the People's Liberation Army under the direction of the technocrats of the Central Military Affairs Commission, no press release is announced to the Chinese News Agency.
Hackers employed by the Kremlin monitor disturbing cyberwarfare in Asia on the World Wide Web. Disturbing, because they didn't initiate it.
A business combination develops a military robot to compete with those developed in other countries for the growing global arms trade in military robotics.
Jane's Publishing Limited updates its directory "All the World's Military Robots and UAV's". This reference volume is a distressingly huge tome.
back in the Zeira lab
Neglected since the jeep explosion, Cameron's broken leg has finally been properly set and her hip joint repaired. The programming conflict that caused the shaky hand has been solved.
Stress, fatigue, and lack of rest, sleep, exercise, and food are catching up with Sarah -- especially after an outpatient surgical procedure done outside a doctor's office.