- Nikita Soklakov
Under a Metallic Shell
It awakened - immobilized - inside a cylindrical glass tube. The lights of the area blinded the eyes, but it was unable to close them or use an object to block its view. As it adapted to the light it attempted to make out where it was: a modern store that looked to be selling robots. It looked around, and seeing motionless robots inside other tubes deduced it must be a robot too. The robot darted his eyes around seeing signs depicting statistics of the bots and their specializations.
A low-pitched, monotone melody signalled the entry of an interested buyer. Not loud enough to distract the other customers, but enough to announce his entry. The buyer walked around slowly, stopping to examine the signs. When he finished reading one he moved on to the next, and the next, and the next. Soon the buyer stood in front of the tube that the robot was in.
After reading the statistics - which the robot could not see - being unable to turn its head - the customer turned his back to it.
He walked away and attempted to get the attention of a nearby worker in the shop. He and the worker had a mumbled chat, with none of the words being distinguishable. The buyer turned around and retraced his steps with the worker following behind.
He then pulled out a credit card and swiped it on a raised padlet. The glass tube opened and without any control the robot took a step onto the floor. The worker was guiding the buyer on what to do.
“Firstly, name it, please,” the worker said politely.
The customer stood with his hand to his chin trying his best to think of a name. After a good half a minute he came up with:
Dave was outside mowing the grass and plucking weeds. After a while of mowing he stopped to view his current progress, which he was immediately disappointed with after Dave found he had only trimmed 10.5 percent of the lawn.
Dave started up the rusty lawn-mower again, which required a hefty amount of pulls on its pull cord. Suddenly, Dave saw a black figure out the corner of his eye and quickly turned around not stopping the lawn-mower.
Dave observed a couple of bushes lined up behind a crooked wooden fence. Turning it off, he called out with some shakiness in his voice, “Anyone there?”
He felt a little embarrassed that people might think he was dysfunctional. The bushes shuffled but it was hard to tell between the wind or if there was anyone in there.
Dave thought it was the wind and turned around and mowed the lawn like nothing ever happened.
Once he finished the lawn and plucked out any last remaining weeds he felt satisfied and carried that emotion like an aura through the doorway. The owner caught sight of his optimistic attitude and questioned with a sloppy voice.
“What are you happy about? The yard work? You best have finished it.”
“I have completed the yard work and I just feel well,” Dave responded politely.
“Alright, scrap,” the owner chuckled.
“What’s, funny sir?” Dave asked with uncertainty in his voice.
“Your so oblivious to anything and just take everything with a smile. So, I’m just laughing cus’ you are just…”
He paused trying to find the sentence, “Too optimistic for the world, it’s unhealthy. You’re property and you don’t even care. It’s irksome.”
“Do you want me not to be optimistic sir?” Dave prompted.
“To a certain degree, alright? I don't want you strutting in here like you just got served royal treatment in this slum,” his owner attempted to explain, “it feels wrong.”
“Ok, sir, I will attempt to act to your description,” Dave stood with a tall posture.
“Job-stealing rust,” he muttered, clearly bothered.
Dave was setting the table when he noticed his owner coming by.
“I have finished setting the table, sir,” Dave said, in a formal voice like a butler.
“Stop calling me sir,” replied Dave’s owner, putting a mocking emphasis on ‘sir’, “call me Michael, because this ‘sir’ thing is freaking me out, alright?”
Dave corrected his response, “I have finished setting the table, Michael.”
“Good, now do the rest of the things I told you to do.”
He made a flicking of his wrist and sat down on the couch, reaching for the remote and putting on a comedy show. Dave looked down at his wrist and on it was a counter that showed how much battery he had left. It was beeping red.
Dave was hesitant, but he had to tell his owner that his battery was low. He thought about it for a moment and decided to take the risk. He walked over to the side of the couch and stated:
“Michael, I regret to inform you that my battery is low and that I cannot do my tas-”
Michael interrupted him “Go charge yourself.”
Dave required Michael’s input to charge himself so in response he hesitantly said:
“Michael, I require your input for me to get charged.”
Michael looked at Dave with a sour face and said “well, I guess you will just die for a while.”
Dave hated ‘dying’ it felt like getting knocked out. First you became dizzy, then you slept, and then woke up after a long time. Sometimes information that the robots had stored in their memory chips became lost and that can could a detrimental effect to their productivity and code stability.
“I cannot do my tasks if I am not charged,” Dave responded in desperation hoping to convince him.
This did not help. Michael slowly turned his head towards Dave, switched off the TV, got up from the couch (which was rare for him to do), and put his face really close to Dave’s.
Michael shouted “CAN YOU GO FOR ONE SECOND WITHOUT SPEAKING?”
Out of nowhere he punched Dave in the chest only to regret it as he fell to his knees holding his knuckles which were bruised. Dave did not flinch or react to his surprise attack but instead, attempting wit, responded:
“If you keep doing that you are going to damage me and yourself, so I will advise you not to do that in the future.”
Michael looked up at Dave but instead of throwing another punch he just said, “Fine.”
He got up from his knees and violently grabbed Dave’s hand and put his arm in a machine which was designed to inject a type of decayed uranium into his body.
Michael typed in the code to the machine to authorize the transplant of the substance into Dave:
“Here, happy now? Hm?” Michael said passive-aggressively.
“Yes, Michael,” Dave said out of fear of retaliation.
Michael walked over to the couch and slumped himself on it. Dave stood there waiting for the charge to finish when all of a sudden he received a message from an anonymous sender. Normally Dave would read this message to Michael but only out of spite for him and to not upset him he read the email anyway only in his head.
Dear Dave, we have observed your behaviour and your owner’s behaviour, and we have concluded you have been a sufficient candidate to send you a proposition. I and many others have established a group which believes that robots must be free from servitude, and humans and robots can become equals. Our proposition is only that we ask you to join us in our cause. If you agree to join you must be at this location and this time, and then we will hand you further details.
The rest depicted a date and a location which was addressed as “Central Square near the statue.” This excited Dave because this was what he wanted all along, so he was going to meet them.
Dave had reread the message over and over again because every time he did it would fill him with excitement. Today was the day that Dave was going to meet these unknown individuals. Individuals that were apparently going to hand him details to get invited to this group which he did not even have a good understanding of. Sure, Dave knew what their intentions were, vaguely, but how were they going to convince the public of their intentions? He stopped thinking soon enough because he was stressed that he was wasting time.
He stepped out of the charging booth as he was full and turned to see Michael sleeping on the couch. Michael was making a noise that sounded like a mixture of snoring and gurgling, which Dave was disgusted at. Dave did not want to check Michael’s sleeping state in fear of waking him up, so Dave slowly opened the door and walked outside.
Dave stared at the sun with wide eyes not flinching. He did not care or feel the effects of staring at the sun, and he did it because he was curious about what the sun looked like. Unfortunately it was a blur of yellow since his light receptors were getting overloaded, and he could not properly make out a perfect circle shape. He looked away from the sun and started speed-walking to Central Square which was only a 5-minute walk.
After the short walk, Dave was standing below a statue that depicted a man and a robot holding one hand in union and raising it up as if to give a symbol of companionship and togetherness. He looked around to see if anyone was there. It was a barren stretch of flat concrete bricks that covered the floor to make a circle shape. The only inhabitants were some old folks sitting on a bench feeding some pigeons.
He felt warm fingers tap his shoulder and when he looked behind him, a man who sported a homeless attire looked at him and said in a slightly Texan accent.
“Are you the new r-r-r,” he paused and slapped himself in the face in humiliation. “Sorry, it's a speech impedifment,” he giggled at the end. “Anyfway, you're the new guy right?”
Dave answered, slightly confused, “yes?”
“Alfright, let’s go.”
The man stumbled across the large expanse of the concrete flooring away from the statue. Dave followed. They both reached an alleyway which had a door on the left. The old man tapped on the door with his crooked fingers and groaned “four, feven, ftoo, five” the door made a loud metal roar as it awkwardly slid into the wall.
A bulky man stepped out towering over the man.
“You got the recruit,” he said in a proud manner, “thought you would tumble in between journeys!” The man laughed.
“Shut up” the old man said with annoyance in his voice while rolling his eyes.
Dave walked in while both of the men talked about the old man’s journey to get Dave. As he entered Dave saw a white light dimly illuminating a small room with walls that had flaking green paint and crammed bunk beds that had humans lying on them. Some were awake and some were not. “Hey,” a voice cried out in the direction of Dave.
He looked over to see a tired chubby man that was sitting down on the bottom bunk on his bunk bed looking at Dave.
He made a gesture to beckon Dave to come over to where he was sitting and Dave, intrigued, walked over wondering what he was going to say.
“I know it looks like an under-funded homeless shelter, but we all call it a temporary home,” he presented.
“My name is Bob and I'm not exactly like you but we have the same thing that we want.”
Dave, curious to hear Bob’s response said “I would like bots to not have to work for humans and I wish we would have the same labour laws as the humans.”
Bob was ecstatic “I want the opposite of the same side of your coin,” he said excitedly.
“I want to get my job back because I’m not in the best situation when it comes to cash right now and all the jobs I can possibly get are all taken by robots,”
He teared up a little.
“it’s so unfair because the jobs that require the smart guys don't have any robots.”
His mood changed from an energized hopeful man to that of a depressed slug as if his words reminded him of his sad life.
“I'm gonna lie down, I'm tired,” Bob groaned.
He stretched his legs and fitted his body in a comfortable position on his bed.
Dave turned around and found robot sleeping pods. He found an arbitrary one that was unowned and claimed it as his.
Before he entered a man came out and spoke in a brave voice amongst the silent members: “Get some rest, we have a rough day tomorrow.”
Dave did not mind, he went inside his pod and it automatically turned himself off.
He was woken up by a loud shout ordering every robot to line up on an even line. He stepped out of his pod and looked around to see a perfectly organized line in the middle of the room. A man with a tall posture and bold chest faced the line.
Dave joined the line in the back not being noticed by anyone except Bob giving him a little wave while sitting on his bed. The robots had signs with writing on them that included phrases such as:
“METAL AND SKIN CANNOT SEPARATE US,”
“WE DON'T DESERVE PAIN.”
“Today you all in this line will walk together and protest throughout the street and send a message to everybody, human and machine,” His voice boomed.
“Turn right, exit the door, and good luck,” he gave us a lazy salute.
The robot in front turned right and walked out of the building. The rest followed and so did Dave, wondering why only the robots were going. Once they exited the building they formed a tight square formation. They eventually walked down a street with very little traffic and chanted the phrases on their signs.
As they protested they were viewed with a mixture of worried, bored, and angry faces. Some threw insults at the robots. They came to a stop as a police force about the same size blocked the road. Dave got an instinctive feeling to run, a feeling he had never felt before which only intensified it more. He ran.
The police without warning raised their weapons and started firing upon the robots. Dave managed to silently slip away into an alleyway. As he turned back saw the bots drop and their metal plates and energy showing under their realistic features. Dave did not care anymore, he had temporarily lost any feeling of logic and had one primary goal which was to get out of the area. He was running as fast as he could and the high pitch screaming of every single thing surrounded him and it felt like he was in a different world.
Dave navigated through the alleyways and finally stumbled upon one that led to Central. He walked across the stone pavement and the place was still empty. He gazed up back at the statue and as he saw it a burning feeling of rage built up inside him. Dave wanted to shout as much as he could at it and tell it how much of a lie it was. Unfortunately, he could not work up the courage to.
Dave remembered the pathway to the underground H.Q and tapped on the door. He did not hear anything and was confused then remembered he needed the passcode. Remembering what the old man said he repeated:
“Four, Seven, Two, Five”
The door opened and the same bulky guard stood there in confusion.
“Uh, so you're the last of the robots I'm guessing? We here saw the shooting on the TV.”
“Ok, come in,” the guard stepped out, creating a pathway inside the cold, green coated, sad excuse of a comforting place.
Dave walked and turned his head towards a blue door that stood out against the rotten green paint like a sore thumb. As he entered the same man that was giving the speech a while back became surprised and got to his feet.
“You're supposed to knock!” he said in annoyance
Dave knew he was supposed to knock, of course, but he did not care and got straight to the point.
“Why did you sacrifice all those robots?!”
Dave continued “They trusted you to keep them safe and to make their dreams come true and you violated both of those things!”
The leader spoke up, “we all have to make sacrifices even when lives are on the lines.”
He continued, “these androids knew what would happen, and they did it with their consent. Who are you to tell them how they should operate their lives.”
Dave had something to say back, so he quickly said, “You brainwashed th-”
The leader seemed to not like the word “brainwashed” and he interrupted Dave “I did not brainwash them, I convinced them, I did not use force or convince them with force they had the opportunity to leave, but they stayed.”
Dave could not say anything back since those androids technically did stay.
“What about me?” Dave said, trying to get the leader talking.
“Hm?” The leader was confused.
“First day I was here we started a protest and I think new recruits should not be dragged into an environment like that without training or any time to warm up to your group.”
“You sent me to death on the FIRST DAY!” Dave smashed the table with his fists.
The leader shouted back “THAT’S ENOUGH!”
Dave backed away.
“I will consider your request to not use androids in violent situations, happy?”
Dave wanted that, so with satisfaction he said “yes.”
The leader was also sharing satisfaction that they have come to an agreement, “now you may leave my office at once.”
“Oh and just in case you’re curious.”
Dave turned around.
“My name is Malcolm, so we don't have these awkward conversations not knowing each other’s names.”
“My name’s Dave,” Dave responded in a sort of trade of information.
Dave turned around to leave the room and went back to his pod to shut down.
As Dave opened his pod he turned around to explore his surroundings. Bob was asleep, and the TV was on describing the android protest as an “uprising” and other negative terms, which got on Dave’s nerves. Malcolm opened his office door at the back of the room and darted his eyes towards Dave. He walked in at a careful pace towards Dave and once in arm’s length he spouted:
“I was wrong for sacrificing androids, I should have known they would have killed them all without remorse because there was nothing to protect them.”
Dave felt a little better about his apology.
“I will try using humans because they can't shoot humans right?”
“Right,” Dave responded.
Malcolm attempting to deviate from the awkwardness said “we had a new influx of humans after the protest, which means they had time to get used to our area, so we should be good. Anyway, I need to say something to everyone.”
Malcolm backed away and walked towards the same pedestal he used before.
“ATTENTION!” he barked.
“All humans in this room will be participating in another demonstration against the government.”
Everyone cheered on.
“Line up in front of me”
Dave watched as humans put on face masks to conceal their identity and picked up signs that some said:
“UNDER THE METAL IS HUMANITY”
“WE UNITE AS ONE”
They lined up in a line that was crooked and nothing compared to the line that the androids made before.
Malcolm quietly said, “I wish you all luck.”
He pointed to the door and the humans marched outside.
Dave waited on the bed and realized that Bob was out there. He hoped for Bob’s safe arrival and waited for any channel that would pick up on the human protest.
After some waiting a news channel picked up and depicted a reporter near the protest describing what is happening as a camera zooms in on the concealed faces of the humans shouting the slogans on their signs.
They start advancing but the police stand their ground. Once they get close enough the humans start pushing on the shields of the riot police and it is enough to slowly push back the force.
A voice erupted from behind the police. A man in riot gear with a megaphone spoke: “Disperse immediately or you will be tear-gassed!”
Some humans ran away and Dave looked on hoping one would be Bob, but he could see him with most humans keeping tightly packed together pushing consistently. After a few minutes, a low-pitched “bung” was heard and a ball with white smoke leaking out of it landing in the centre of the human crowd. Coughs and screams of agony could be heard and many more dispersed and again Dave wanted Bob to leave, but he kept together with everyone else. The gas blew away in the wind, and they could breathe well again. They shot multiple times, but they never gave up no matter how many times.
Until, the defensive formation broke, and the shield men’s formation split. The humans thought this was a chance and rushed into the crack. Once there were in the defensive formation closed but instead of rushing to get to the opposite side of the protestors they turned around and closed with such a heavy and tight formation signalling “We are not going to advance or retreat.”
The humans knew something was up, and they turned around to break through again but through the looks of it was impossible. Rampant stamping could be heard and when the humans looked back it was a group of riot police armed differently than the defensive ones. They had smaller shields but were armed with batons that looked to be made out of metal that was heavy enough to break a skull.
The humans knew they would charge and instead of wasting time on attempting to break through in formation, they, themselves, would defend themselves against the aggressive police squad. As they approached the protestors got into a thick wall of themselves. The further the humans were at the front the more stressed they were with the front praying and the back having their hands in front supporting the ones in front ready for anything.
Once the police got close they smashed the heads of one of the humans and everyone realized they had to do something. One human used their sign’s handle and whacked the riot police over the head stunning him onto the ground. He got up and charged at the attacking protestor beating his face also. Many dispersed but the ones remaining tackled the police and one even managed to steal a baton attacking the police but was quickly suppressed.
The humans were outnumbered and could not defend themselves so the best thing they could do was send a message. They bashed on the defensive walls pleading for help but the riot police kicked them down and bashed their heads in until they were all twitching helplessly on the ground with blood bleeding out from their bruised skin.
One skilled protestor managed to get up and dashed to collect a baton from a weakened riot police officer and smashed another in the head knocking him cold onto the bloody floor. Tons charged at him, but he managed to take a shield and bashed one of the riot police away and smashed some in the leg to get them down to a low level then, with all his strength, smash their heads which would knock their helmets off. The hero whom Dave did not know managed to take some officers down but was surrounded and was beaten relentlessly for a minute then was left a husk of bruises and bleeding and to everyone he was dead.
Dave focused on Bob and luckily who surprisingly was not dead, he charged into the defensive formation and since they were not concentrating well he leaped over the shields and made a run for it in the streets. The riot police left the scene and were all chasing for him. He had blood shot eyes and had a slightly caved-in head running for his life crying through his way hoping he would not join his fellow soldiers in physical state. Bob ran into the central square and began climbing the statute that in the centre and began shouting vile slurs against the statue and the government.
One of the riot police brought in a gun with a large barrel. Bob was hiding behind the head of the statue but it was too small and the officer fired on Bob which hit his shoulder with such force it looked like it dislocated it and knocked him off the statue which landed him on the ground and his head started bleeding from behind slowly making a puddle.
Dave was in shock, he could not believe what he just witnessed. “Nobody will believe the protestors that they were violent.” He said to himself. He hid his face from the spectators spectating the TV and cried softly since Bob was the only person in his entire life that showed him respect. However, there was hope.
Through the mist of tear gas and the natural fog emerged a crowd of humans, not ones that were originally part of the group but new ones. They surrounded the police and demanded justice for the humans who surrendered their lives for equal rights. The police, overwhelmed by the sheer number of newcomers and protestors capitulated and retreated towards their station while the protestors were chasing them from behind.
A few hours later the president made a statement interrupting the news broadcast. “I will declare emergency laws that are as follows.”
He blabbered about laws that gave the androids rights and equality such as property and even their own means of reproduction. Dave was not hiding his soft crying anymore hew as full-on bursting into tears. He did not know if he was crying joy or crying of regret because Bob’s sacrifice was one that Dave and the world will remember forever.
Dave now has a happy family, an android wife, children, and a comfy house near a nice park. His life is happy and he can live in peace. However, in the back of his memory, he can remember the traumatic events that led to his peace and when he remembers it in his sleep he cries knowing that his only friend at that time sacrificed himself so that Dave could live a peaceful life. Dave died from his systems shutting down due to age.
Malcolm is now widely seen as a hero who led the humans into battle and got a governorship position in a wealthy city. He died soon after from a silent brain cancer that slowly grew in the back of his brain.
Bob was pronounced dead and was transported to a morgue, where his body cremated.
Many countries around the world have been moved by the riot and consider androids as equals.