Whitebox

The Story 

A world primarily inhabited by machines

And controlled by artificial intelligence….

Because humankind became unsuitable for co-existence.

Another normal workday…

For a Woman trying to survive…

In the disguise of a Android.

 White Box

by loujen haxm’Yor

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

to Isaac

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sanctuary.

She initiated her sign language password. And the big screen monitor morphed from its midnight saver into reflector mode.  She stretched her mouth wide open.  She smiled.  She frowned.  Squeezed her eyes shut until she could feel the humming in her ears.  Inhaled a deep breath.  Then let her face go stone cold.  Her body stirred in precise deliberate movements, while her voice went into an automated mode of commands and responses.  At length she felt secure with her superficial exercise.  She scoffed at her uniform.  So very plastic.  She blew a kiss at the mirror and her image disappeared into its rekindled blackness.

SM Unit 1-18T.

Time to get my act together.

 

Her mechanical voice was cleared by the audioscan.  Past this, it was the same old noise.  From the cutting and grinding and polishing and assembly line interactions.  The same old smells.  From the chemicals and first hand exhaust.    Didn’t bother any of her fellow workers.

Same old dirt from yesterday.  Dammit!  It’s been since ____  She was thinking since Thursday.  But that was meaningless.  Days of the week were superceded into numerical string dogtags.  So were all the rest of those godly proper names denoting time.  Still she did her best to retain her former creature-of-habit education.  If only within the cramped quarters of her inner self.  Creature.  Sounded so upbeat now.  She cursed at the temptation to trace her finger onto the paneltop and write Clean me!  When are they gonna fix…

“Priority Red!” It was the familiar cords of Overseer R15.3K, as he set a tray of mattemeniscus molds on SM Unit 1-18T’s console.  “Acknowledge!”

What a gorgeous man… he would be.

After thoroughly deciphering the instruction plate with a cupulitic probe, SM Unit 1-18T singled out the pertinent data for a proper reply: “OS SEPTEM 35’S, 6-250’S, Priority Red!”

“Affirmative.  Disregard Spotchecker And Deliver Completion To Unit BR-21.3 For Supercritical Observation.”

Such a handsome face, but…  Too bad.

“Directly To Unit BR-21.3.”

Satisfied with her response, the PanelMaster about faced for the preliminary inspection board.

A smile was secretly kneaded within SM Unit 1-18T.  This was a special assignment.  Her magnificent work performance at Nereidian Teloptics had escalated her to a prominent status— the cherished Self Maintenance Degree.  Any supervision conducted towards her was only a formality in the chain of command.  And now, because of this new priority, her lifeline traversing her future employment would be most comfortable.  Temporarily, her fears regarding social contact could be better quarantined.  Priority Red meant no interruptions.  Furthermore, in SM Unit 1-18T’s case, it was important that employee interactions be minimized, least the slightest responsive irregularity be disclosed as questionable.

Okay.  SEPTEM.  6-250.  Takes a seven program. 

She felt more relaxed now, while contemplating the sequence for matrix refinement.  Less base.  More cylindrical stroke.  Dwell— about here.  MR force?  Let’s see.  We’ll start with three lenticular grams.

She made a conscious effort to remain aware of her surroundings.  To her right, sharing the picowave kiln which separated their consoles, was ED Unit BOBO— who was awaiting transfer to Aerial Programmatics.  With his back towards her was Unit HU15.N7, whose permanent sinister face fronted upon  Unit 8A-12’s.  Across from 1-18T, industriously occuppied, were the rest of the refinement series: Units10S/5Y… Z15.L9… MA2-5L… and…

Oh, yes.  The most recent vacancy.  A quadrifocular station once employed by Unit KH15-U1 (presumably at the mercy of cannibals in the spare parts house.)  Such an unfortunate accident, she thought.  He was so easy to fool.  When no one else was around she could call him George or tell him Good evening or Say hi to the kids for me and he’d either get caught in a loop or play right along— such was his dinosaur programming.  Still, in this far-from-tea-time atmosphere he was the best thing anywhere (if not the only one anywhere) for conversation.  Too bad.  His upgrade would never be a liker replacement.

As she prepared her polishing sera to the required densities, happier times were recalled.  Friends.  Laughing aloud on Phobos Carrousel.  Cheering on the ring buggies at Cassini Speedway.  Cocktails at the Bi-Planet Pub— Pluto’s solitary hotspot.  R&R at Earth’s Tropical Park— then the only  rainforest area, with about a thousand square miles and a six year waiting list.

And the lovers.

Yes.  The good ole days.

Before the fever.

That accurst Galactic Fever!  Which weakened everyone— who was human.  Not a fatal disorder— by itself.  But together with a chronic recuperative period, an unforeseen New Fear arose.  Bred by the genius and stupidity of the Memory Merchants.  Until the crippling Coup.  And finally— de Grace.  Only by diffusing a New Fear disciple and doctoring the Personnel Register had SM Unit 1-18T survived.

How in heaven’s name…

“Console Sweeper 712 Reporting For Service.”

Suddenly awakened from her reverie, Sm Unit 1-18T turned to see the janitor who addressed her.  Oh, no!  Not the backup!  He…it… belonged to the outdated VC Series and was only employed in the event of a Sterilizer 1230 breakdown.  Unfortunately, a subhematal pressure leak rendered the latter inoperable.  And so, for the fourth straight day an unusually sootish condition persisted in this division.

“Station 1-18T:  Priority Red!” reminded the Panelmaster.  And the Sweeper detoured to the next scheduled console.

While SM Unit Z15.L9 recessed for Self Maintenance, CS Unit 712 began removing (in his unsophisticated fashion) the unwanted film.  What was not vacuumed effectively was stirred into microdust devils, so minor a contamination factor as to be of little concern regarding the spherens product— particularly during the gelpitch graying process.  Scratches, pits, score lines and related abberations were commonly predictable.  Nothing that a deciminute of fine serum couldn’t finish.

Yet, there did exist an alien danger.  Another consequence of  pollution ignored by the Teloptics employment.

Pausing from her work, SM Unit 1-18T could sense the peril.  Her rhinal alarm tinkled.  Then rang.

Oh my God!

Till it hammered aloud within her.  Then subsided.  It’s really bad.   A sufficient excuse for Self Maintenance.   Gotta get outa here.   Fast!   But slowly.

She came prepared against any hunger pains.  Any bathroom attacks.  But this?  She began walking towards the nearest Diagnostics Stall, some fifteen meters away, when another stingful surge warped her movements.  Just slightly.

Must remain calm.  Fight it nonchalantly.  Stifle it…  Stifle it…  Sti____

Despite her best attempt to choke it off— she sneezed.  A very loud sneeze… with all the body language to go with it.

I should have run.  (As if I could have made it.)

There was a moment of silence.  A stillness that might even rival the voice of the Memnonian Sands on a summer’s night.  And if something could be heard, it was the artificial attention directed towards one distinguished felon— the pariah of this flock.  SM Unit  1-18T.  Staring blankly.  Sensing the slow arousement of the Thunderbird.  Helpless… and afraid.

She could hear the approaching march of the Overseer.  For the first time he appeared more like his real machine self.  A faceless face.  Humanform cosmetics masking a high tech black box.  Even his speech sounded like some awful monotone recording.

“All Refinement Operations: STOP!”  And he joined the others in attack scan condition.

This is the end, isn’t it?  For me?  So whatever I do now won’t really matter, right?  Except provide these cow chip brains with some data for their experience banks.  She started to laugh.  Cow chip brains.  How ingenious!  I wish I had spray painted that somewhere.  Like when I stuck that KICK ME sign on the back of Unit Z15.L9.  Boy, did I have these droids locking up or what!

She looked at all the workers and their statuesque postures and programmed glares.  “Cow chips!” she told them.  “That’s all you are.  Cow chips.”

After an encouraging breath, she withdrew the contents of a leather carrying case (from a neatly disguised pocket), wiped the framed lenses with a flower patterned kerchief, and saddled her specs— proudly.  Then, in like harmony, she addressed her company with part of a song:

“My dearly belov’d Sight

unveil:

that She might

caress the distance

with Clarity…

and of Myself let the rest

Imagine a Meaning.”

The Overseer affronted his sector of the assembly line.  Their querying stares remained affixed on the culprit.  The virus in the New Fear Program.  The human imperfection.  The pseudodroid.

“Unit MA2-5L,” commanded the Overseer.  “VPRINT Error4/Error7.”

Without hesitation the worker responded, “DENDRITE CONDUCTION COIL.  DISCRIMINATOR MODULE.”

“Unit 8A-12.  VPRINT Error2/Error6.”

“COCHLIER DIAPHRAGM.  PHONEMIC DIVIDER NETWORK.”

“Unit Z15.L9.  VPRINT Error8/Error3.”

“THRESHHOLD DEVELOPER.  SYNAPTIC OSCILLATOR.”

“Unit 10/0S.5Y.  VPRINT Error5/Error1.”

“APPRAISAL EVALUATION CIRCUIT.  ACOUSTIC WAVEFORM.”

Overseer R15.3K then positioned himself directly behind the violator and with one hand placed a gentle grip on the back of her neck.  “SM Unit 1-18T.  CANCELL Test Mode Bravo Delta.”

She was somewhat mystified by the order.  She had expected immediate disintegration.

His   fingers   slightly   tweeked   her   neck.   “RESUME  Run Mode N.”

What’s he babbling about?  Is this a revision to the extermination procedure?

Another tweek.  “RENUM ErrorList.”

She ruminated over her co-workers recent replies.  Then she turned and looked at the Overseer.  Looked him dead in the eye.  It was almost like… he was delaying.  For her sake.  For her chance at some admissible response.  She felt another pulse from his fingertips.  And this time his eyes peered right into hers.  “TRANSLATE.”

All right.  I can take a hint.  Was it a hint?  Let’s find out.  Time to get my act together.

In a very monotone voice, she looked straight away from him, and said, “…Spasmodic… Involuntary… Action… Of… Air… Driven… Forcibly… And… Audibly… Out… Of… Mouth… And… Nose…”  She paused.  All of a sudden she was lost for words.  It was the kind of panic she would have undergone in her high school days during speech class finals.

“A Glitch In The Manufacturing Of Humankind,” began the Overseer.  “Sub Biomata Are Unaffected By Physiological Disorders.  Sub Biomata Do Not Recognize Tonal Combinations For Emotional Production.  Sub Biomata Have No Visions—  As Run By SM Unit  1-18T Demo Program.

“Test Mode BD COPY To Nonfragmented Sector.  All Refinement Operations: RESUME.  SM Unit 1-18T.  Report To Diagnostics Stall PM-3K For Self Maintenance.”

Operator 1-18T followed the PanelMaster to his personal test room.  Once inside he secured the entrance audiolock with a tuning reed.  Strange.  She often wondered why this was the only room in the entire factory with a door.  And one that locked.

All of a sudden she pinched her nostrils and muffled a sneeze.  Dammit!

There in the guise of Self Maintenance, Overseer R15.3K almost blushed at her.  And like a gentleman from the good ole days he reached into his pocket and handed her a handkerchief.   “God bless you… woman.

Her heart embraced his.  The flesh of her fingers massaged the bona fide flesh of his hands.  And they laughed and wept together.

“I’m Joey.  But now, we really gotta be extra careful.”

“Joey.”  She tried to remember the last time she said anyone’s name.  “Heather.  Pleased to meet you, Joey.  Test Mode, huh?  How clever!”

He was more than just gorgeous now.  More than just user friendly shareware.  He was a someone.  A real man.

to themselves they too Remain’d slaves

The decline of the power struggle had vaccinated Life from its Social Disease Aspect: “There are colonies… and hermitage… and vacancies.  But all the Living are privateers— torn between occupying a parking space and undeniable access to the freeway.”

 BOBO                                                                                                                                Operations Director                                                                                                            Nereidia Station

                                                             The End

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