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A Master Automaton
Last Whiteman Chapter 10
Officer Thompson was secure.
The nightfall security check of the Parkville Police Hostel was complete.
Officer Beale was commended for noting that the inclination of the sun had moved up the night check by a minute and acting on that intelligence.
Officer Wabash was cited for the second consecutive day for having the top button of his uniform missing.
Formerly a high school, the Hostel required four officers on duty to secure access and egress.
Human officers stood at 10, 50% of marginal, 25% of optimal.
Patrols had fallen to 13% of optimal.
The Tenties camped all about the precinct.
Officer Thompson's post was under siege.
The second floor was at 10% of capacity. No more visitors or suspects could be admitted until officer strength was increased.
Tenty population stood at 900.
All of this data was silently mirrored for Officer Thompson within his mechanical brain, and would be transferred by wire to Baltimore Corp as soon as the TV phone encrypted wire link was repaired. A through C-Series Officers were tied to wire networks. Only the malfunction-prone D- Series and the new F-Series Officers, had secure TV watch wireless links.
If Officer Thompson were human, he might have wondered if he would be upgraded to conduct TV hearings with Central Judgment. However, no such errant thought crossed the duty-worn wiring of his mechanical brain.
A solution offered itself in the form of Officer Blatz, F-Series subordinate, who entered the Command Round, [once the lobby of the former instructional facility] via the master lock, precisely 1 minute after the nightfall check.
Unconditional confidence in Officer Blatz was reaffirmed in the duty-bound mechanical brain of his commander.
“Officer Blatz, your report on the Tenty encirclement?”
The two master automatons stepped face to face, at claw's reach.
A-Series had two opposing claws.
B-Series had a thumb claw and two finger claws, claws tipped with rubber for safe human and computer interfacing.
C-Series, such as Officer Thompson, had a thumb claw and three fingers like F-Series.
After the malfunctioning of the D-Series, a fully articulated mock human hand had been abandoned as too complex, as well as redundant, since shoulder-mounted ordinance did not require digital dexterity, but merely the calculations of the mechanical mind to which it was wired.
“Officer Thompson, Corporate has issued your demotion by TV Brief. F-Series is taking command,” hummed Officer Blatz without a hint of elation or malice.
Officer Thompson, more bulky, less articulated, formed with a gracelessness by comparison with Officer Blatz, and stymied by this information, stood dumb, his broad slot eye blinking yellow and red alternatively.
“Officer Thompson,” said the F-Series officer, “Remove your wire from the podium and transport your charging carriage to the lower level, for maintenance.”
Officer Thompson stalled, his eye screen still blinking. Then he slipped into gear, unplugged his Judicial Link from the podium, along with his charger carriage and dutifully wheeled it towards the ramp to the lower level.
In five minutes and forty-seven seconds, Officer Thompson, plugged his Judicial link into the diagnostics outlet in the basement, plugged his charger into the power plant, and turned to salute Officer Blatz, who had followed him.
If he had been human, or perhaps an F-Series, he might have asked why his obedience had been held in doubt. He was perfectly capable of performing his own diagnostics. Lacking instinct and suspicion, Officer Thompson stood at attention, trying to salute his new superior—his replacement—but could not. Something did not compute and his eye began blinking red and yellow as he was observed closely by the deep green eye of Officer Blatz.
The F-Series had been developed to predict the cunning duplicity, mindless instinct, and animal passions of the humans it was assigned to police. It had also been designed to dismantle earlier series robots in case any of those had fallen into the hands of rival corporations or criminals. F-Series was a military design, adapted for police work.
Officer Thompson's assessment log calculated that three-tenths of a second would elapse before his F-Series commander's articulated stainless steel hand, shaped now as a karate chopping wedge, would impact his reticulated steel neck.
Officer Thompson's responding outward block, programmed into him as a fail-safe, was triggered by this assessment, and would not intercept the decapitating hand for 5-tenths of a second.
Thus, Officer Thompson's outward block never made contact with the swinging F-Series arm of steel, for his every function save power transfer through his charger carriage routed through his left hip, had been severed.
A screech of metal had sounded in the lower level.
A human officer double-timed down the ramp and stopped stunned, and stammered, “Sir, ah... Officer Thompson is?”
The electric voice of Officer Blatz was now enhanced, and no longer sounded like a yawning machine. For the F-Series had been engineered to self-improve. Therefore, noting the boisterous behavior of certain bully criminals and the strident commands of the Captain of the Watchmen, the Robot Cop, painted blue where he was titanium and iron, and stainless elsewhere, had rerouted his electronic voice through the barrel-like steel chasis, so that the human officer hearing his voice perceived that he was being spoken to by a devil clothed in iron, “Officer Thompson is de-commissioned. Bring the female visitor and return to your post at the West Door, Officer Emanuel.”
“Yes sir,” saluted the human, as he tried mightily not to soil himself or pass out from the ringing suddenly brought on horrific wings of realization into his mind; the realization that his replacements were being replaced, making of his employment a dwindling matter of time.
So he hurried to his task, fear propelling his booted feet stiffly and unsteadily up the ramp to the holding cell, where the sobbing girl had so recently begged for release, or for water at least.
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