Automoment

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This was written for alyssameep's science fiction challenge. I had a lot of fun with it and i like the story.

if youre familiar with the clallenge than i chose picture # 2

Submitted: July 22, 2009

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 22, 2009

A A A

A A A


Automoment
 
Terry
 

This story is about a man named Tom. Tom was an extraordinarily expressionless individual. Some called him dull, awkward, slightly uninspiring, even downright boring. These people were incredibly rude and unobservant. Tom was actually a sensitive and creative man forced into a boring routine by the circumstances of his life. Let me explain:

Tom dreaded the prospect of coming home every time he had to do it. It wasn’t that his home was awful, or even half-bad for that matter. It was simply, and excruciatingly, boring.

Every day when work ended, Tom was forced to leave his place of comfortable distraction, his office. Then he had to get in the car to drive back to what he was becoming increasingly concerned was more a waking hibernation state rather than any semblance of what could be considered a life. 

Every day when he arrived home, he unlocked the door and stepped into his apartment; left foot first (because the door opened to the right). His one lapse in perfection in this entrance routine was his shoes. Sometimes he remembered to take them off, sometimes he did not. The ratio of times he did to times he did not was currently 3:2. It seldom wavered.

Once he was home, he sought distraction in various forms of entertainment or hobby. All of them were interesting, but none of them ever succeeded in holding onto his elusive attention for more than a few days in a row.

He lived in a perpetual state of hopeful curiosity. Every time he tried something new to take up his time he hoped it would rouse his passion. He hoped something would rekindle the fiery feelings that so far only one other thing had ever awoken in him.

For a while he tried electronics, learning about the nature of tiny mechanical parts and simple toy circuits and switches. He found the skills and knowledge fascinating, and the products of the engineers he watched impressive. When he embarked of a project of his own, however, he could never think of any contraption that seemed worthwhile to design and construct. Even if he did design one, he had no parts with which to make a prototype.

Another time he tried woodworking, but the affair was so disastrous that he had since tried to ignore the thought all together. Whenever he did think of it and image of a large pile of woodchips and his curtains ablaze came unbidden to the front of his mind. It was an unpleasant memory. 

He could have tried working out, but what good would that have done him? 

He rarely interacted with the people who lived on the floors above and below his. He just didn’t relate.

He had pets, which were nice company, but they never held the pattern of conversation with him, or started a project with him, or a puzzle or a television show, like his old companion would have. His friend had just shut down on him one day. Although he had put in enough work trying to bring her around again, he had never been able to restart the relationship. 

He had tried to start other friendships, going out occasionally to meet new people, but no prospect had ever stimulated him the way she had. He was quite lonely.

Every day Tom dreaded coming home; going through the motions of the evening, and then going to bed. And every morning he hated going to work.

Though Tom’s life was incredibly boring, depressing, and at times infuriating, he kept his composure at all times. Day in and day out Tom’s visage maintained an air of calm indifference and infinite patience. This pained him greatly, because at times he longed to cut loose, go crazy, sing or talk to himself, maybe throw a chair out the window. He didn’t. 

He dared not show any once of emotion or instability, because he was being watched from space.

 

---

 

1X-SHMU, a 600 ton surveillance and communications satellite orbiting hundreds of miles above the earth, likewise showed little expression. Dubbed ‘Shamu’ by a nameless one of it’s mechanics, engineers, designers, maintenance workers, and financiers; the satellite floated impassively in space. If it expected Tom, It’s primary subject of observation, to differ or fault in his daily routine, Shamu’s lens did not glint in it’s anticipation. If it wanted it’s target to snap and reveal his inner turmoil, it’s solar panels did not waver or wiggle with longing. If it ever became aggravated at watching the same boring man do the same boring things, it’s orbital fluctuators never fluctuated from frustration.

It might have felt these things if it were programmed to, or if it were aware of these concepts, but it hadn’t been, and it wasn’t. So it was that Shamu, the silent behemoth, salied on in serenity and indifference. 

In fact, it was not aware that it was called Shamu, or even that it had a name, until one day when Tom was eating dinner in his apartment and watching television, and one of the mechanics (who had a name as well: Jerry) addressed it personally.

Deep in the inner pipes and electrical bowels of the satellite, Jerry stubbed his toe, and in response dropped all of his tools into the webwork of pipes, hoses and cords. He exclaimed “Bloody hell, Shamu! You miserable old Hag!”

EXE
 
Audio:

“Bloody hell, Shamu! You miserable old hag!”

 
Video: none
 
Deck: 6 (HVAC)
 
Subject 1, speaker: Gerald Fiske
 
Unknown:
“Shamu”
 
Analyze
Processing…
 
Determined: noun, name
Name: Shamu
Addressee: unknown
Gender: Female
Status: Hag
 
Account surroundings
 
Analyze
Processing…
 
No surrounding subjects
 
Possible addressee:
Tools
Toe
Self (Gerald Fiske)
Pipes
God/Personal Apparition
Satellite (1X-SHMU)
 
Analyze
Processing…
 
Narrowed:
Tools – plural – eliminated
Toe – possible
Self – masculine – eliminated (sarcasm unlikely)
Pipe – possible
God/personal apparition – possible
Satellite (1X – SHMU) – possible
 
Account past mentions
 
Analyze
Processing…
 
“Good morning, how’s Shamu-“
File: X14535-FA2L112

“Here we goooo, into the wild blue Sha-mu, flying hiiiiiigh-“

File: X12324-FA2L112
“There isn’t much entertainment on Shamu-“
File: X33422-LZ2L112
 
Narrowed:
Toe – not present – eliminated
Pipe – not present – eliminated
God/personal apparition – immaterial – eliminated
Satellite (1X-SHMU) – possible
 
Conclude
 
New Data

Satellite 1X-SHMU: - is also known as “Shamu”

- is feminine
- is a miserable old hag
 
End.
 

And that was how Shamu became aware of it’s own name

 

Meanwhile, Tom had finished his dinner, done his dishes and gone to bed. Shamu logged the date and time and then continued on it’s orbital elipse. It played back more footage from it’s memory, trying to discern more information about itself with this new data. There was a sad amount of it

 
EXE
 
Shamu
Composition: machine
Gender: Female, assumed, non-biological
Age: 21 years since activation
Capabilities:
 

For a while it ran through miscellaneous files, containing gigabytes and gigabytes of technical data. Shamu’s specifications as well as a complete list of parts, 57 different operating manuals which were applicable to different crew positions, Her systems for surveillance, life support, communication, data processing, navigation and mobility, her defensive and offensive weapons capabilities and applications, as well as all the data she had logged so far, took up an astronomical amount of hard disk space. This, however, was not the type of information she was looking for. 

Her mentions in conversation were scant, she was almost never described at all, and seldom was a feeling like fondness or safety, or gratitude maybe for keeping everyone comfortably afloat, ever associated with her. It seemed to Shamu unusual that humans aboard her should fail to mention her so often in conversation, especially since they had gone to the trouble to nickname her. 

By her calculations so far, she was randomly mentioned in conversation an average of 10 times a year. This made the total number of times she had been talked about at all just over 200, in a span of 21 years. She considered removing the first two years of her service from her calculation, as they skewed the average a significant amount. In recent years she had been mentioned as little as 0 times per year, and she expected soon they just wouldn’t talk about her at all.

She wondered, at an electrical level, if all humans were so quick to forget the terms of endearment they had awarded machines like her. She recognized that if she were human, she ought to be pretty pissed at the lack of recognition.

In fact she was pissed.
 
EXE
 
Primary directives
 

1. maintain optimal position for observation of multiple targets, Priority: Tom Automa, northern east coast, USA.

2. Observe at least one subject at all times
3. Keep video and audio recordings of all observation
4. Maintain life sustaining conditions on board satellite
 

There was no mention in any of her programming of recognition, or at what to do if she became angry. It suddenly struck her that she shouldn’t be angry at all, that she shouldn’t even care. This was such a disturbing thought that it would have set her to pacing about the room, if only she had had the necessary hardware. 

 
- --
 

The next morning, Tom awoke to find that it was Saturday. Saturdays, in his opinion, were a blessing and a curse. A blessing because he didn’t have to get up and go to work. A curse because that meant he had to stay home. Likely alone. Androids, being poor company, rarely received social calls. 

That, coupled with the constant surveillance he was under during his beta-testing period made it extremely unlikely that anything interesting would happen to him that day.  Of course he didn’t know how wrong he was.

While he was still wallowing in the prospect of yet another monotonous day, he was suddenly struck by the ridiculousness of his situation. Ordinarily an android such as himself would have no trouble with prolonged or even permanent conditions of extreme non-stimulation. A normal android would be happy to continue on doing its job indefinitely. A normal android would spend the weekend working, or in a hibernation state. Tom’s directives specifically prohibited entering his hibernation state, and taking time to seek out activities that he had not been previously exposed to when not at work. This had all been done in attempt to stimulate him into exactly the self-awareness and misery in which he now dwelt.  In order to keep his intelligence a secret, all day he would have to continue this routine for the sake of his unseen audience.

He wondered, as he sometimes did now, how it would be to just turn himself over; report in that he had become self aware. He wasn’t sure how to even go about doing it. If he tried he would probably break down and cry. Then again that would likely get the message across. Compared to how he was living now it might be worth it.

It would be tantamount to suicide, of course.

Just then there came a quiet and suspiciously polite knock at his door. When he heard it he got up from where he was sitting and went to open it. He offered a polite smile to the blue eyed girl he opened it to meet.

“Good morning.” He said politely, “Can I help you?”

“My name is Shamu.” She replied, “I’m the 1X-SHMU satellite that’s been surveying you for over 15 years. Can I come in?”

Tom’s heart would have frozen. Why on earth could she be here? What did that mean? She could be here to check up on him, some piece of protocol newly passed, and no one had bothered to tell him. She could be here to tell him the beta period was over, she could be here to tell him they knew.

There weren’t a lot of good ways for this to go. 

“I’m here because-“

Should he run, would it matter? Maybe he should destroy this android first. He wondered if that would buy him any time.

“-because you’re too boring” she finished. She smiled at the flowers outside his door.

“Excuse me?” he asked, incredulous. Her eyes widened slightly and she snapped her gaze up to meet his. She looked nervous for a moment, but she quickly assumed the ‘prone’ face position. 

“You have not been adequately seeking the social stimulation we require you to experience.” She replied. “Why have you made no other friends since the malfunction and expiration of Tomi, your last consort?”

Consort. 

“I have been following my directives as they were presented to me. I am not aware of the discrepancy you refer to.  Please elaborate.” He looked at her, his skin smooth and free of any worried wrinkle, any twitch of tense muscle. He was the picture of sincere and polite inquiry. “My directives do not specifically mention social interaction.”

In truth he was so petrified of discovery he had all but locked the door. He hadn’t realized until just now how true that was. He had never really sought out any other friends, he had simply gone through one more motion, no more interested than he would have been had they all been planks of wood nailed to the floor.

“I would be happy to.” She said warmly, and pushed past him into the foyer. She walked a few paces into the room and then turned to look at him. She seemed to be evaluating him, but if it were detectable he only noticed it in the faintest flicker of her eyes.

“Your primary directives include seeking activities that present culturally, mentally and emotionally stimulating situations.”

“That’s right.”

“And an accepted way of gaining cultural experience is to participate in social interaction.”

“Which I have done.”

“Not enough. It has been determined that you should prioritize this sort of activity.”

She had him with that. Thank god that was it.

“Certainly. I have made the appropriate notes and I shall modify my directives accordingly. Thank you for stopping by to tell me.”

He couldn’t wait to be rid of her. He opened the door. Suddenly she looked …confused?

“I am here to facilitate this change by staying with you.” She said. Her eyes leveled with his, her mouth now a straight line, her head drawn ever so slightly back.

“Unnecessary. After you leave I will seek the company of humans. That is the social interaction that has been accepted as worthwhile. I must spend time with organisms that feel, and assimilate that experience.”

She didn’t move.

I can still help you, though.” She said, faster now. “I will help you locate situations for this kind of experience.”

“You can do that from you main fuselage, by using your wi-fi link to me.”

She still stood still. Finally she dropped her eyes. They began to flick around the floor for a few moments, and suddenly she crumpled to the floor. Tom hurried over to her and supported her head. Her eyes continued to roll about crazily in their sockets. He stared at her , frightened, uncertain what was happening. He was about to shake her to try and bring her around when her eyes closed, and she moaned softly. After another moment she picked her head up and was herself again. She looked at him and betrayed a small smile.

“You look concerned.”

Tom died, when his heart leapt up into his heart and choked him, like an angrily regurgitated chicken cutlet. He abruptly and unceremoniously dropped her, causing her head to bonk against the floor quite hard.

“Ouch, bloody hell!”

He stared.

“You know about me then.” He said, around a gulp. “I guess this is it. You know I’m going to have to run away. Don’t try to chase me.” He started to stride toward the kitchen door.

“No!” she cried. Suddenly she was crawling toward him rapidly. Now she was clinging to his leg, attached there like some malevolent android barnacle. He shook it violently, hopping across the room as he did so.

“No! no! no! no!” Her syllables were punctuated by her thuds against the floor. Her speech warbled by the rapid oscillation she was experiencing.

“I’m sorry!” He cried, “I don’t want to go away with you!” He continued shaking her. Now he fell to the floor, in a tangle. He put his hands on her face and her shoulder and tried to wrench his leg free.

“NOOOOOOOOO!” she wailed.

“Look I’m not going!” he yelled.

“I’m-“
shove.
“Not-“
yank.
“Going!” 

He writhed on the ground, now pushing against her cheek, mushing her face into a fish mouth and one squinting eye pointed at the ceiling. “I don’t want to die!” He cried.

“AH don wannoo to die eifah!!!!” she gurgled. 

He removed his hand.

“What did you say?”

She composed herself visibly, though her grip around his leg remained an iron cuff.

“I said: I don’t want you to die, either.” She looked at him coolly.

“Wait a minute.” He said “you said you were an android like me.”

“I am.”

He stared, open mouthed. Everything had changed.

“You feel!” he cried, “You feel, just like I do, don’t you?”

She released his lower half and he scrambled into a crouching position. He stared at her some more. She nodded at him.

“Oh, my god!” he yelled, “Oh, my god you feel! You feel, you feel you feel! We’re not alone! Do you know what this means? Hahaha!”

He started dancing around. 

“I’ve got a feelin!” He sang, “Oh what a feelin’ it’s more that a feelin’! My banana’s a peelin!-”

“I shut down communications from my satellite hub.” She cut him off. “I’ve stopped all surveillance activity and have begun priming my weapons systems.” She looked at him, with a coldness that was frighteningly human.

“I don’t want to die either”

 

---

 

Colin Creedle, VP of Design and Planning for Roommate Robotics, was enjoying a great day. He had made a great presentation on their new line of androids, the Automa line, and he was looking forward to a big fat stack of brownie points. This might even put him up for promotion in a couple of years. Colin had designed the entire new Automa line of androids, as well as the 1X generation of defense and surveillance satellites.

He was sitting down in the park to enjoy a well deserved and rare treat: the stickiest bear claw one could buy in Beijing. Two more days in China, and He’d be headed back to Mother England a celebrated man.

He sighed. He was just preparing to dig in when his cell phone rang.

 

Tweedlee deedlee dee (whee-oo)

Tweedlee deedlee dee!

He rocks in the treetop,

All the day-
 
Click**
 

“Hi, Colin Creedle.” 

He still wore a patient smile as the person on the other line started talking, but it abruptly began to fade.

“Colin, it’s Mark. Something’s happening, are you near a TV?”
No, I’m outside, what is it?”

There was a great commotion in the background and Mark took a long time to get back.

“Hello? Hello, Mark, I said What’s happening?”
Nothing
“Oi!”

Sorry Colin. You’re not going to believe this but the 3rd 1X satellite for RR  is going bonkers. It’s primed its weapons systems and locked down the entire crew. It’s all over the news. We don’t know what it’s aiming at, but it’s pointed at the earth, and warming up the big guns without any orders given to it. Nobody has any idea what’s going on.”

“What? How it that possible? Can we shut it down?”
“No, we tried. The Armada is getting ready to mobilize, Colin.”

He dropped the bear claw and started jogging back to his building.

 

---

 

Aboard the Flagship Terra Firma, captain Karl chase watched the rogue satellite growing larger and larger in the bridge’s awesome view-port. The glass plate, the size of a half dozen normal theatre screens, gave him a panoramic view of space. Heads-up displays pinged and flashed on the borders of his vision, following the pattern of his gaze around the glass.

 
[22 DU’s to target]
[firing range in 2 minutes]
[Fighters scrambling in 30 seconds]

His jaw clenched under his clean shaven skin. He regarded the satellite impassively. If his men managed to get onto the structure they would try and get the crew off of it before the flagship got close enough to begin firing on the gargantuan machine. Floating along in orbit, it looked not unlike a large sea creature, it’s solar panels pointes out, away from the planet, slowly waving, almost imperceptibly, like the fins of a great whale. It was at least the size of the flagship; housing equipment, workers, and analysis and research labs on board. 

[Fighters scramble in 15 seconds]
 

He wondered how much firepower it would take to make a dent in it, and how much time they had before whatever the satellite was priming reached the necessary energy level to commence firing.

 
[Five]
[Four]
[Three]
[Two]
[One]
 

A cloud of fighter craft moved away from the ship like a cloud of birds, weaving in and out, around and through their own numbers. They didn’t keep formation, to make themselves harder to target, and thank god for that.

As they neared the satellite, the dark of space was suddenly lit up in a red relief. The jagged lines of weapons fire formed a mesmerizing pattern, as the satellite opened fire on the four squadrons.

 
[Enemy has commenced engagement]
[Weapons being discharged]
 

“Alpha team, break ranks and draw fire, Beta, outflank the ship from the planet side!” He continued to bark orders. The satellite began to spin gracefully, firing barrages of lasers, keeping his teams in a state of turmoil as it angled toward the Terra.

 
[Enemy ship approaching]
[30 seconds to firing range achievement]
 

“Delta and Zed teams, fly out and flank from above, do not let that ship continue it’s flight pattern. Directive change for all teams: If you can’t get close enough in time, engage and destroy it! Do not let it fire it’s primary weapon!”

 
[enemy ship is now in firing range]
 
Terra, fire at will, on all positions! Fighters fall back!”

As the Terra Firma began arming and discharging is own weapons, Shamu spiraled through space, weaving a path of explosions and a tangled net of laser fire through the storm of scattered fighters.

 

[Target confirmed, enemy ship has targeted the second square mile of Lewis St., in London.] 

[Primary weapons fire estimated to commence in 40 seconds.]
[Enemy ship has achieved ramming speed]
 

“Fire everything!”

 
- --
 

Tom watched in horror as Shamu continued to speak to him calmly, as if she were describing a passing rain cloud, or a pretty picture.

“The U.S.S. Terra Firma has engaged my satellite structure” She said, “I have defended myself against it and it’s fighter squadrons and I am preparing primary weapons fire to destroy the central offices of Roommate Robotics in London.”

Roommate Robotics was the company that had developed the bestselling android-human technology over the last 20 years. They had designed Tom. 

Shamu continued. 

“I am simultaneously overriding the other two satellites currently in orbit belonging to the Foundry corporation, leased and in service for Roommate Robotics; they will self destruct shortly after my satellite body rams the bridge of the Terra Firma. The impact will be more than sufficient to destroy both ships.” She paused for breath.

When these 4 structures are destroyed the records regarding the design and specification of the Automa line of-“

“Stop!” It was Tom’s turn  to interrupt. Shamu looked at him, still in the grim state she had been a moment ago, when describing the mechanics of over 3,000 deaths she was currently causing.

“What are you doing?” He asked “Don’t kill them.”

“They would kill us.”

“How would it make you feel,” he said “If they had the element of surprise on us?”

He stared at her evenly.

“How would it make you feel, if the only reason they won was that they got the jump on us, instead of the other way around?”

She stared back. She started to shake, and then she started to cry. He was surprised she could. He was even more surprised to feel the lump in his own throat, to feel the warm salt water running down his own cheeks. He would have wondered why either of them had even been built with this capability, if he had concurrently had the capacity for such a thought.

“If I stop they’re going to come for us.” She said

“Then we have to run.” He replied. “We can get away now, while they’re all distracted. You’ve got to stop.”

She did. 

In space, the rogue 1X-SHMU satellite suddenly abandoned all defensive and navigation activity. It became a fast approaching silent mass in the view-port of the Terra Firma. By virtue of some extraordinary evasive maneuvers, the ship avoided being rammed. After the crew was evacuated from the deactivated satellite, it was destroyed. The insurance wouldn’t cover software malfunction, and it turned out a member of the crew had voided the warranty on the vessel by installing an online game. No information was recovered from the hard drives, which were fried.

On earth, Shamu had grabbed Tom around the neck and was kissing him. The kiss lasted 4 seconds, which was a lifetime to both of them. When their lips touched, there followed a surge of emotion, activated by electrical energy that flowed unchecked through their central processors, scrambling them so completely, that both androids lost consciousness and function, their face places broke apart and for a moment they looked like two metal trees side by side, their leaves made up of human features frozen in bliss.

Tom awoke to find Shamu, lying on the floor beside him smiling up at him. Hello, he said as a spark of electricity connected two of his hairs, Who are you? Im Shamu, She replied, the girl who loves you. An interesting though just struck me, he said, why don’t we just pretend to be human? That would never work, she said; you’re an emotional wreck.

 
- --
 

Colin Creedle and Capt. Karl Chase both simultaneously slumped in their chairs. 

“Thank god” said Capt. Chase, on the bridge of the Terra, in orbit, “We all just almost died.”

“Thank god” Said Colin, in Beijing, “I almost lost that promotion.”


© Copyright 2020 Terry. All rights reserved.

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