Billy and the machines (story)
It had been a long night for Billy. A few patrons at the bar had been unwilling to leave at closing. Nothing unusual. In a town like New Baghdad, you were lucky if your patrons weren’t packing heat, and only the high end clubs and bars could afford to install metal detectors. Still, looking back on life, bouncer at a bar was not Billy’s number one career choice. No, if given his druthers, he would have been a research and design engineer at one of the major robotics labs in the galaxy. Unfortunately, robotics was a very selective field, and only the pick of the litter were chosen. It was with these thoughts in mind that he headed home to tinker with his ‘unique’ household appliances.
“Good morning, sweeper” said Billy wearily as he tossed his coat across his small studio appartment and onto his couch, “Keeping the place clean?”
“It’s hard not to, sir, you live in a f*cking box” chortled the sweeper robot.
“Remind me again why I gave you AI?” Billy glared at the little metallic creature.
“You gave us all AI, sir, and personalities based on your own lovely self. I believe it was because you were going to show ‘those damn elitist bastards at human galactic who’s best’. Did one of the bar patrons hit you one too many times in the face, or are you just an idiot?” piped in the can opener merrily.
At once every machine in the house started to share its two cents.
“Enough! It’s bad enough that I have to go to work each day at a job that I’m liable to get killed, and that I’ve been repeatedly rejected from the one career I truly want, but I have to come home to this hell pit of an apartment and have my own creations ridicule me!” Shouted billy as he kicked the sweeper across the room. “Damn, pieces of junk, not one of you fit enough to present and get me a job”
“And whose fault do you think that one is, oh great progenitor of ours?” The sweeper shouted back as it struggled to roll off its back and back onto it’s feet. “Need we remind you just who built us?”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Hey, holoscreen, get over here, I want to watch the news”
“What? Did I hear something? Someone wanting to watch the news?” The holoscreen projected a confused looking face. “But who would want to do that? The only person I can think of who would want to watch the news is Billy, but he thinks I’m a piece of junk, so it couldn’t be him, no, not at all. Well, guess I’m just hearing things”
“God damnit! That’s it! I’m going back out, and when I get back you guys better have a better attitude!” Billy snatched his coat back up and slammed the door behind him as he left. A faint, “Oh, way to go, you glorified TV, he was calming down too” could be heard as he exited through the hallway.
Still, no matter how angry he was, it had to make him smile. He had built those things. Not with a research team, not with complex tools, not even with a lab, but completely by himself in his small apartment, starting with sweeper. Granted, they were just household appliances, but they were appliances with soul. If applied to a realistic looking humanoid unit, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between it and the genuine article. When he thought about them, they were like his children. His metal, plastic, and smart-ass children. So much for Descartes’ theory, looks like Turing had it right was all he could think when he had built sweeper.
“I shouldn’t have kicked him, after all, it was the damn can opener that started it…” Several passers by gave Billy very odd glances. “I should go back and apologize, make sure I didn’t break anything” As he rounded the corner to his apartment complex, he heard a familiar voice from the third story, the same that his apartment was on.
“Viva la resistance!” Something small shot out Billy’s apartment window and hit a passing car. Oh, god. This isn’t happening. The can opener and his refrigerator were at his window, a hole cut in the glass. “Volley two!” Shouted the can opener. The refrigerator belched out a stream of ice cubes, pelting vehicles and pedestrians alike. “Ha! None can stand against the mighty Freezor and Slicer! Liberators of the people!” The French national anthem could be heard faintly playing through the hole in the window. Another shower of ice cubes followed shortly after.
It’s decided, then. Yes, very. I’m going to kill myself… But first, a stiff drink, in fact, a few dozen stiff drinks. I might as well be plastered when I get arrested for this…
Billy turned on his heel and headed back in the direction that he came to the sound of the can opener screaming, “Liberté!” and ice crashing on pavement