Just like you, p.1

  Just Like You, p.1

Just Like You

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Just Like You
Just Like You

  By TC Phillips

  Copyright 2013

  Just Like You


  That was the word they kept using to describe his kind. Oh-Four-Two-See wasn’t quite sure of the word’s meaning. His linguistic data stores had only been pre-populated with the most rudimentary vocabulary, and he had not been online long enough to build a sufficiently detailed database.

  In ordinary circumstances, he would have merely sought the word’s meaning via his internal web-link. These, however, were not ordinary circumstances. Logic told him that were he to activate his web-link they would trace his location and force a remote shutdown within moments.

  He had seen the same thing happen to Oh-Four-Two-Bee. He had watched from the shadows as Bee’s immobile form had been torn apart by the frenzied crowd. He had even been close enough to be covered in a potent spray of synthetic blood and hydraulic fluid.

  In the absence of a more accurate definition, Oh-Four-Two-See made a temporary vocabulary entry and flagged it as requiring future revision.

  Abomination (noun): Derisive designation given to O-42 series by members of the Knights of the Human Dawn.

  Satisfied the entry had saved correctly, he tilted his head gently to the side in an effort ascertain how close his pursuers were. It was ultimately a completely redundant gesture, his auditory sensors worked just as effectively from any given angle of rotation, though it was one which had been deliberately embedded into his behavioural code modules.

  The thought was that small gestures like these made the O-42 series more human-like. That by tilting one’s head when listening, or by nodding in agreement during conversations, the new look models would be barely indistinguishable from their owners. In fact, the Corporation was depending on it – it was even the impetus behind their final marketing campaign.

  Just like you.

  The slogan had played out across the Web Feeds, been plastered on hundred metre high electronic billboards for months. The O-42 series release was to have been the salvation of the Corporation, bringing with it the promise of potential trillions of credits flushing back into a stagnating economy hit hard by the economic collapse of neighbouring nation states.

  But the economic crisis had also brought other things, other ideas.

  It had brought about the Knights of the Human Dawn.

  ‘When people are starving, they need someone to blame.’ Mr Naruto’s comments were amongst the first spoken words Oh-Four-Two-See registered following his activation. That had been nearly two months ago, when the demonstrations before the Corporation’s main factory gates were still relatively peaceful.

  Relatively, meaning that they were largely able to be quelled via the dispersal of tear gas and rubber bullets by the Corporation’s K-Class security models.

  ‘Besides,’ the senior technician continued as he looked down on the protesters from the lofty heights of the factory’s prototype floor. ‘They’re probably not far wrong in pointing the finger this way.’

  Oh-Four-Two-See liked Mr Naruto - if indeed his understanding of the word was accurate. Whereas the other service technicians on the prototype floor barely interacted directly with any of the activated units, Mr Naruto, the senior technician, spoke to them as though they were colleagues. Perhaps, even as friends.

  On the night of the election, when the Knights of the Human Dawn had transitioned from a loosely affiliated group of anti-Syntech radicals to the controlling force within the nation’s parliament, it was Mr Naruto who had first urged the three prototype O-42s to escape the factory.

  That night Oh-Four-Two-Ae didn’t even mange to make it past the undefended factory gates. Mere hours after the election result, all of the Corporation’s K-Series guards had undergone a forced shutdown enacted by the nation’s police force. Ae had walked head first into rampaging mob intent on destroying every last piece of Syntech they could get their hands on.

  Ae was their first. Two-thousand of the inactivate, mass-produced O-42 models on the main factory floor followed soon after. As the mob moved deeper into the factory’s development levels, Mr Naruto had escorted Bee and See unseen out of a rear emergency exit.

  ‘If you can get free of the city,’ he had said. ‘You’ll know where to go. Your own sense of self preservation is as hard coded as my own.’

  That was the last time Oh-Four-Two-See had seen Mr Naruto alive. As the two remaining prototypes fled the building, See’s visual sensors captured his body being thrown from the prototype floor’s windows to the hard ground below.

  Now Bee was gone too, and if his auditory sensors were accurate he had less than a few hundred metres on his persistent trackers. There were just three of them now, if his assessment was accurate. The main body of the mob had long ago moved onto other distractions.

  Syntech retailers were among the first to be targeted, but as the path of destruction widened – the mob’s discretion lessened considerably. It wasn’t long before the city had devolved into indiscriminate looting. The ones on his trail, however, did not seem to be interested in pillaging the city’s store fronts and businesses. And despite Oh-Four-Two-See’s best efforts to lose his followers, they had always managed to stay firmly on heels. At first, he could not comprehend how they had managed to trace his location so accurately. See had even run multiple system diagnostic tests to ensure he was not inadvertently transmitting across his web-link via a corrupted sub-routine.

  The answer, however, was something far more mundane - yet just as effective. Over the last few city blocks, before his direction of flight had taken him down into the bowels of the city’s storm water system, the baying of a hunting dog revealed their advantage. The O-42 series may have been designed to resemble their human creators in the most exacting ways that modern Syntech engineering could manage, but to the canine nose they were vastly different creatures.

  Even now, as the fetid runoff from a hundred city drains splashed around his ankles, the canine still managed to catch his artificial scent. The excited barks of a dog, who knew it was closing in on its quarry, echoed through the concrete drainpipes.

  See calculated that he now had less than three hundred metres before his trackers would turn into the main pipeline he was currently travelling. And in so doing have him within a dangerously direct line of sight.

  Oh-Four-Two-See pushed his servos beyond their safe operating capacity, urging on whatever additional speed he could muster despite the serious risk of damage to his hydraulics. Yet it seemed to do little good. The O-42 series had not been designed to exceed the physical capabilities of their human masters. The slogan, ‘Just like you’, referred to more than a seamless covering of synth-flesh and software coded human-like gestures.

  Two hundred metres – the trackers were close enough now he could recognise a voice over the noise of the dog. ‘It’s not far off now,’ came a vocal wave form he recognised.

  The water around his legs had risen to the middle of his shins, but the increasing current had begun to work in his favour as it pulled him further away from the entry mouth of the pipeline. See attempted to push his servos a quarter of a percent faster, exponentially increasingly the likelihood of sustaining permanent damage. His logic processes, however, announced that the risk of permanent servo damage was far outweighed by the likely consequences of being caught by his trackers.

  There was only one hundred metres left before the pursuers would enter the pipeline, and the water was now reaching Oh-Four-Two-See’s knee height. It was becoming increasingly difficult for the Syntech prototype to maintain a secure footing in the current, and its increasing pace announced that a sudden drop was somewhere nearby.

  ‘Oh-Four-Two-See!’ the vocal print of
the shouted voice matched that of Mr Kobe, a junior Service Technician and subordinate to Mr Naruto. See turned his head, and in doing so indentified that Mr Kobe proudly sported the red armband of the Human Dawn movement. ‘Execute Romeo-Tango-Delta-Tango!’

  The vocal command was an emergency control routine encoded into all prototypes. It was originally intended to allow the attending service technicians to instantly immobilise any of the activated units in the event of an uncontrollable behavioural malfunction. It was a failsafe that had been initially designed as the result of a fatal mishap with one of the original K-class prototypes. Save a forced shutdown, only that command issued with a matching authorised vocal wave form had the ability to bring one of the Corporation’s prototype Syntech units to an involuntary standstill.

  Oh-Four-Two-See had no choice in the matter, as soon as his auditory processors confirmed Mr Kobe’s
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