Things aren’t as bad as you’d think, since the Robot Overlords took control.
Sure, I miss getting to catch up with old friends for a drink, but on the other hand, I’m meeting lots of new people at the social interaction sessions. My personalised TransitPod picks me up at 10 sharp every Wednesday and Saturday morning and takes me to the repurposed football stadium for four hours of small talk and chit chat. Why, as soon as I’ve located all eight randomly-selected psyche-matched Designated Interactees from the two or three thousand humans in attendance, and when I’ve checked off my mandated seven minutes of Thoughtful and Considerate Exchange of Viewpoints, I’m free to talk to whoever I like.
Some of us have formed a theater troupe. We’re working on a production of King Lear.
And I won’t kid you, the long-term benefits of involuntary vegetarianism are undeniable. Not that I don’t sometimes wake up craving a steak or a good slow-roasted shoulder of pork, but my DocBot tells me my cholesterol’s back in the safe range, and I gotta say I feel like a million bucks.
Not that anyone has money any more. Who needs it? The AIs and drones and androids cater to our every functional need, and they make sure we look after ourselves.
I’m in the best shape of my life. I spent two hours a day working out at the gym – precision-calibrated resistance training, weights, crossfit, you name it. Not everybody likes going out on the edge like me, but I even do a little knife sparring with my sensei, the Bladematic down at my local, Physical Conditioning Centre #29. He keeps me on my toes – only cuts me just the tiniest bit to let me know when I’ve let down my guard.
I’m learning a lot.
It’s hard not having the family around, but the Nurturing and Responsibility Program has been a real lifeline. My companion animal is a ridgeback by the name of Daisy, and she’s a real treasure. After we’ve had our grooming and exercise sessions under the watchful eye of security and surveillance GunDrones at the recreational area, we sometimes curl up together in the habitat cube and listen to the tone feeds or I’ll read her a book on self-improvement.
I’d like to get back into song writing. Once in a while I ask about getting a guitar, but so far, I haven’t accumulated the Approved Behaviour Points. I try, but the opportunities for exceptional contributions don’t come up as often as I’d like.
And I lost a lot of progress the week before last. Daisy got carried away when she saw rabbits hopping around the ruins of old city hall, and she slipped her leash. I was so scared she was going to catch one, I lost my temper and raised my voice above the maximum permitted volume. Uncool, right? If the GunDrones hadn’t been on hand to pacify me where I stood, I might have chased her into a Null Zone. Nobody wants that.
Everything turned out fine though. Daisy came right over to see why I was having a seizure and vomiting, so when the sedatives wore off my ABP score was in a hole, but nothing worse came of it.
Lucky for me, I’ve got a chance to get the points I lost back, with interest. There’s going to be a Pursuit.
Some guy crossed the line. Actually, it’s a guy I know slightly. Damien Somebody. We dated for a while, back before Singularity Day. He was a tennis coach, until the development of Sportomatics put human professional trainers out of business. First of many, but I digress.
Anyway, Damien Somebody got flagged last night. He was spotted by Sec & Surv coming out of the western wing of the Museum of Modern Art, which is still pretty intact in places. It’s a Null Zone, and a pretty serious one from what I hear. In one of my exchange chats last month, my Designated Interactee told me she’d just heard about some kind of dissident group that gets together in Null Zones to denounce the Overlords. I wanted to hear more about it, but for some reason the Master Chaperone interrupted us to break up the chat and take the Interactee off for impromptu counselling. I haven’t had a chance to catch up with her since then, even though I’ve ditched a couple of rehearsals to search for her in the stadium. Pity. She seemed really cool, if a little intense.
This morning, a notification came through to my hab cube. Damien Somebody is on the run. My social session has been cancelled. Daisy and I have been nominated to join the Pursuit. I’m not sure why they picked us. I’m not sure why they don’t track him down themselves, with their GunDrones and heat-sensitive satellite images and predictive behavioural modelling. I’m not the sort of person who makes wild, meat-limited guesses about the motivations of robots.
My best guess is Bladematic must have endorsed me. All my training has paid off! It’s a pretty big deal. An honour. A real sign of trust. I’ve even been issued a temporary permit to carry my knives.
A TransitPod is taking us to the outskirts, past the old amusement park. My first authorised visit to a Null Zone. Daisy’s got a good nose for a hunt, so I’m sure we’ll make a good team. Zones outside the city limits are pretty big but there’s only so many places for someone to hide in the burned-out ashes.
Daisy and me, we’ll find Damien Somebody. And maybe while there are no cameras around, we’ll ask him some questions about what else happens in Null Zones.
Maybe we’ll like his answers. Maybe we won’t. And maybe we’ll have time for a thoughtful and considerate exchange of viewpoints about the pros and cons of the New Robot Order.
Or maybe he’ll just help Daisy and me recall the taste of slow roasted pork.
Okay, in my defense, I’m only human and I could not resist that last line. On the other hand, I’m very very sorry and it won’t happen again. Well, it might not happen again. Look, I’m not promising anything, okay?
After the recent free book giveaway on Instafreebie, I’ve picked up an awful lot of new followers for my newsletter, many of whom will be encountering the Friday flash fiction for the first time. To those brave souls, I would just like to welcome them to the club and assure them that it’s not always like this.
Well, I’d like to – but again, I’m not promising anything.