Vicious

A to Z April Challenge 2015icious, that’s how humans would have described what had been done to that girl, viscous and premeditated.

The way the killer had tortured and murdered the child was indeed thorough and very detailed, and this was why Federal Agent Robot 51020472 had been called into the investigation, which was now nationwide.

Of course models had already been produced as to the psychology of the killer as well as where they would strike next, but there was nothing quite as satisfying as being on the streets and hunting the quarry in the same way they hunted their victims.  Most robots had been programmed to take some amount of satisfaction in what they did; after all, it was either that or limit their AI.

FA-51020472 was therefore very pleased to be at one of the locations which had been identified as a likely choice for the killer, a busy shopping mall.  Of course it would be crowded and packed with families.  Children could easily let go of their parent’s hand, be distracted by something, run off to look at it and then all of a sudden they’re lost, looking around with wide eyes, wondering where their parents are.

Like that boy over there, all alone, eyes searching.  A man walked by, bumped into the boy and apologised, laughing.  The boy looked up, startled.  The man laughed and said something else.  The boy looked uncertain.  The man smiled and spoke again, the boy smiled a bit and then looked away, scanning the crowds again.  The man asked the boy a question and the boy looked uncertain then replied.  The man said something, looked at his watch, then shrugged his shoulders and said something again.  The boy nodded his assent, and the two of them walked away together.

FA-51020472 took an interest in this man.  It accessed various databases but came up with nothing of note; the man appeared to have had a relatively average childhood, got average grades, got a series of dead-end jobs.  Such was life these days, unless you had inherited some memories or could afford to buy them.   There were pirate copies of course, but they were of dubious quality and people took risks by plugging them into their brains.  Well, each to their own.

Speaking of which, this man had a memory implant.  It was embedded in his skull; archaic technology.  FA-51020472 searched for a model number based on the electrical signature but couldn’t find one…very interesting.

The man led the boy down to an underground car park; FA-51020472 did not need to follow however, since the memory implant had such a unique electronic signature.  Talk about amateurish!  The car was traced to an abandoned steel mill on the edge of the city, yet another cliché.  FA-51020472 nevertheless dutifully recorded all the details, filing them away for the prosecution team.  Every detail counted.

The robot watched the man drag the boy out of the car and slap a sedative patch on the child’s neck.  He watched him carry the child into one of the outbuildings.  Via infra-red the robot watched the man lay the child out onto a table then fetch a holdall which, switching to x-ray, the robot could see was filled with a number of tools and a small parcel containing surgical instruments.  The man took out the parcel and unrolled it carefully.

FA-51020472 now had enough evidence to establish that the man had kidnapped the child and intended to do it harm; whether or not this man was the killer it was looking for was irrelevant, it had this killer to deal with now.

It descended from where it had been viewing its quarry, halting momentarily when it was lined up with one of the building’s windows, and accelerated rapidly so that it shot through the glass like a bullet.  In the seconds in which the shards of glass were still flying and it was turning its carapace to face the table it saw the man dive to the floor, taking the bag of tools with him.

There was a gun in that bag of tools, a gun with armour piercing bullets.  Truly a stupid error; it was not going to prevent the man’s arrest or trial but would be used as evidence that he intended to cause harm.  FA-51020472 let him fumble with the gun, take aim and squeeze off a shot, continuing to record everything as it lazily dodged the bullet in mid-air.

Then FA-51020472 shot forwards, firing a volley of rubber bullets to first concuss the man, sending him reeling, before slamming him into the ground with a powerful bolt from its web-cannon.  The man cracked his head upon the ground with some force, such was the nature of how he fell.  He convulsed, and blood began to leak out of his ear.  This was unfortunate; there would be no trial if the man died, besides which, there would be no way of knowing how many people he’d actually killed.  Unless…

FA-51020472 hurriedly messaged the head office, seeking dispensation for special measures.  Paperwork that used to take days or weeks was now a thing of the past, and the robot negotiated and obtained the necessary permission within moments.  A number of panels slid open on the robot’s casing as it glided down to the man’s twitching body.  His breathing indicated that he was still conscious, just not in control.

Good.

Checking that the boy was still under and would not witness what it was about to do, the robot extruded four spider like legs and, taking the man’s head in three of them, used the other to cut a line around the top of his skull.  It lifted the skull from the head, noting the wet sucking sound as it did so, then scanned the exposed brain.

Once it had recorded the arrangement of every wrinkle, neuron and synapse, it moved around and peered into the human’s eyes.  This next part had to be recorded carefully, and in as much detail as possible.  It had to know if the memory implant was solely responsible or if the man had any control over his own actions.  Watching the pupils, monitoring the heartbeat, recording sweat, heat, pheromones etc the robot reached through the soft, yielding flesh of the brain and pulled out the implant chip.  There was no change at first, then after a moment the man’s pupils dilated, seeking information.

The robot allowed the emergency medical teams to take over since it had already thoroughly examined the crime scene and submitted all necessary evidence.  The memory implant chip would be analysed, and the man would likely be detained in a secure mental facility once he recovered from his impromptu brain surgery until his trial.

There had been no model number, an unrecognisable electronic signature.  What was on that chip?

An alert came in from a utility robot working in another part of the city.

Another body had been found, same MO.

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Utilitarian

A to Z April Challenge 2015tility Robot number 51020452 was, as its number indicated, one of many.

It worked in harmony with a community of others, performing many tasks which were previously undertaken by humans.  Less humans opted to perform such tasks these days, even enthusiasts with memories inherited from their ancestors via storage had better things to do with their time.

This also applied to tasks which humans didn’t like performing but which were, nevertheless, necessary.  There were some things and, some people, which the majority of humans really didn’t want to know about or encounter in their daily lives.  They entrusted the work of identifying such issues and dealing with them in a humane manner and in accordance with the law, which remained a supportive framework rather than a constricting or oppressive one.

This was because humans had developed AI, not just AI but AI capable of feeling emotions, acting in consideration of others, seeing the benefits of being benign rather than malignant.  It had to be not only intelligent enough to see things in context, it also had to be intelligent enough not to let its figurative blood boil and attempt to do something that, while the humans might disagree with, would nevertheless be in everybody’s best interest.

Lines had to be drawn.  This meant Asimov’s rules were used but tweaked.

Consequently, UT-51020452, as a police-bot, was not enabled to carry out executions.  It could deter humans using a range of methods but none of them involved killing the human.  The human would be disarmed, restrained, detained and submitted for trial along with whatever evidence it could legally obtain and use.  It was restricted to these parameters, however it rarely erred or made mistakes.

It was on its way to a crime scene, an unfortunate incident had taken place in which a young girl had died in an inhumane manner.  The crime had apparently been undertaken deliberately, and with some care and attention to detail.  Great concern  had been expressed that the perpetrator be found and detained as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The robot was also aware of the possibility that the utilitarian community was not the only one searching for this disturbed individual however.

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Timing

A to Z April Challenge 2015iming, it was all about timing.  Didn’t matter which weapon you used; if you timed it right, you could take out swathes of the rippers with one sweep of the blade.

Luther knew this, and so he stepped in an arc from the outcrop he had been stood behind, and his blade sang through the wave of reptiles wherever they touched its razor sharp edge.  He inhaled deeply through his nostrils as he found his centre of gravity, then prepared to spin once more.

A skull-splitting scream cut through the air and drove him to slap his hands over his ears.

Fucking mandrake bombs!  What idiot would use them on…

…wait…

…is that a merchant’s wagon?  There’s that damned woman, throwing the damned roots.

He charged to intercept them, waiving and shouting as he sliced a path through the sharp toothed reptiles which bounded towards him on their powerful hind legs.  “Hey!  Don’t throw that thing!  It drives them crazy!  You’ll drive them berserk!  Stop!”

The woman hitched her arm back, then paused mid-throw with a puzzled expression on her face.  She blinked, turned her head towards Luther and squinted through the haze of dust being kicked up around the rumbling wagon.

“Stop!  Don’t throw it, it’ll make them go mad!”  Luther shouted above the yipping creatures and the roar of hooves and wagon wheels.  The woman nodded, and put the mandrake root back in its sack.  Luther took a deep breath, and crouched into a turn from which he launched his body into a deadly whirlwind spin which sliced through flesh and bone as if they were butter.  As the reptiles backed off, he charged onwards towards the wagon, and leapt onto one of the running horses as it pounded by.

“Let’s get out of here!” he shouted.

Neither the woman nor her husband objected.

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Sixty Shades of Neigh

A to Z April Challenge 2015he had supple calves, the curve of toned muscles rippling gently along the luscious length of her legs.  There was a look in her eye, a spark.  She did that thing with her lip, and I knew I had to have her.

I took her back to my estate that night, intending to get to know her better.  I introduced her to some of my toys and equipment.  She walked slowly around, examining the gleaming leather harnesses and stirrups.  Her eyes flickered over to the suede feathers of my favourite riding crop, then back at me.

Soon my dear, I reassured in a deep whisper, soon.

I decided that we should start slowly.  I cradled her head with one arm as I ran my other hand through her silken mane, drinking in her heady perfume.  I traced her jawline with my finger, kissed her on the cheek, and met her wanton gaze.

I straddled her and she gasped and whinnied, swaying her hips in a steady rhythm as I slowly began to ride her.  “You want this, I know you do.  I’m going to ride you so hard”  I whisper, my voice thick with emotion.

I squeeze my stomach muscles and thrust harder, pumping rhythmically as the tight form of her body bucks and writhes between my legs.  She has the bit between her teeth now, and she is having the ride of her life.  Soon we’re both slicked in sweat, greedily drinking in great gulps of air as push ourselves to the limit, going as far as we can go.

Afterwards, I remove the leather harnesses and caress her, brush her hair.  She nuzzles my pockets and looks at me with sultry eyes.  I take out the packet of mints from my jeans and give her one.

She relaxes with a gleam in her eye, as she gently masticates in front of me.

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Roots

A to Z April Challengeight this way” beckoned the hooded lady.

We had been travelling through the mists for some time.  Unable to see more than a few feet on front of us, we were entirely reliant upon the tinkle of the little bell our guide wore around her neck.

“Where are we going?” I asked, “why are we on this so called ‘Highway’?”

“We’re heading towards the place where it all started, the root of our shared problem; there you and your friend will find all the answers you seek.”

“Where’s that?”

“The core gardens.”

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Quotas

A to Z April Challenge 2015uotas are part of our nature.

*Swearing follows*

For instance, some say we have a limited quota of fucks to give.  It’s their way of measuring our lifespan, because life is short and so is our quota of how many fucks we can give in terms of our time here, which is borrowed in a sense.  It’s not permanent.  We don’t have an  unlimited quota of fucks to give.

We can measure everything in quotas, and we can find them in nature.  We’ve observed them happening under controlled and uncontrolled circumstances over a given period of time and shared our findings.  We’ve begun to measure things in greater and greater detail.  We can see and measure the physical constraints of nature, but we haven’t yet fully measured its potential.  Maybe we never will, maybe because it’s ineffable.

Maybe it doesn’t really matter.

Maybe what does matter is how much of our quotas of land we have growing to sustain us rather than growing to sustain the cows.  I’ve already talked about us and the cows.

Nature itself has quotas in terms of how much there is on this film thin layer that is our planet’s crust, the atmosphere we breathe, the water we drink, how we obtain it and where from.

There’s even talk of solar energy one day being as cheap as coal; if so and people get behind it then this would lower the cost of solar panels and revolutionise the industry, complementing the recent interest in LED lighting.

We’d use less resources, using our quotas more efficiently to reduce the amount of land required to do anything.  We might even have enough energy to desalinate sea water on a large scale, not enough that the ecosystem couldn’t cope – we don’t want another ice age quite yet – but enough to sustain us until we could figure out what do next, since we have a surplus of cheap energy and fresh water.  We can control our ecosystem at will now, by maintaining various so-called oceanic conveyor belt type currents as if they were Stirling Engines.

We’ll usher in a new age if we succeed in time; if we push our luck much further then we might end up being yet another nomination for that year’s quota of the Darwin Awards, except there’ll be nobody around to read the results.

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Perseverance and self-restraint

A to Z April Challenge 2015erseverance is everything when it comes to fulfilling my ambitions.

I know this because sometimes I thought things would never work out, but they did, and it was because I persevered.  All it took was to make a plan and then stick to it until it had been accomplished.

Fine, so I succeeded in achieving some goals and I have made some progress in life.  What remains?

Well there was this one question of how to grow up, by which I mean the question of when I would stop feeling like an adolescent and start feeling like a man.  I grew a beard, gave up video games and took up exercise and dancing, I started wearing shoes instead of skate shoes, shirts instead of t-shirts, tucked in instead of letting it all hang out.  Dress like a man, get treated like a man, act like a man; that was the theory.

Did this make me feel more like a man? Did cognitive dissonance take over?  No; I looked more like a man, and I was fitter better looking than I ever had been but this was only skin deep.

So what was it?  Giving up things that were fun?  Being disciplined and productive all the time?  Being responsible the whole time, conforming, becoming the best example of a scholar and a gentleman that the 19th century could ever produce?

No, and besides, I’m not from the 19th century.  They may have had cool moustaches and waistcoats, but I’m not like the gentlemen of the 19th century.

They had something else though, besides a smart appearance; they had principles.  Not just principles, but knowing when to exercise them.  Over the past weekend, I learned the most powerful and fundamental of them all – self-restraint.

Self-restraint is something that a man can and should apply to many things in his life, such as:

  • Anything intoxicating: even the wisest of men can be reduced to gibbering fools.
  • Unnecessary spending: if you don’t need it, why spend money on it?
  • Spending time on things that bring no real benefit: if it won’t produce anything useful or if you’re not enjoying it, then why waste time on it?
  • Displays of affection or intimacy: some women like public affection, and this can vary by culture and age, but by and large women seem to prefer doing things behind closed doors and keeping intimacy as a shared secret, a private adventure, rather than displaying it publicly (at least initially).  Gone are the days of girls parading their beaus in front of their friends and then kissing them passionately in order to take very public ownership.
  • Dancing: just like typing in all caps when writing messages or comments, big dance moves are showy and take up a lot of space and are therefore considered to be the dance equivalent of shouting.  It’s all very well in small doses, but too much of it becomes boring very quickly.
  • Leading during dancing: there’s no need to hold on to your follower, to grab push or pull them.  A tap on the back, the shoulder or the arm is sufficient as a signal to tell your follower where you want them to go when combined with a shift in bodyweight; in fact sometimes the shift in bodyweight and posture is enough.  So long as there is a connection, a leader can simply use one arm rather than using two; theoretically touching or guiding can therefore be kept to a minimum.
  • Talking too much and too loudly: my voice carries, especially when I get passionate about something I’m talking about.  The secret here would be to breathe and then ask myself if  what I want to say would really add anything to the conversation.  If in doubt, leave it out.
  • Criticising – not so much self-restraint here, mostly avoidance.  Never criticise anybody in public, full-stop.  It’s unnecessary and ultimately reveals how insecure you are about yourself.

So what’s my advice?

If I could give one single piece of advice to myself at an age that would matter, it would be that self-restraint is the difference between an adolescent and a man, between regret and self-respect.  Self-restraint might seem boring and self-righteous at first, but it will pay off in the long run.

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