Chapter Six: A Bot Named Pia

November 10th, 2004 by Mabel
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161st Day of the year 3031 (7th May, 3031)

The Tech Lab was a small, quaint little room that had been transformed to look like a scientific lab with the barest furnishings and ancient of equipments – a row of steel workbenches littered with electronics and hydraulic machines, three fibre-optical microscopes, one cryogenic storage unit, and several hastily assembled 1st generation bot assistants. Aglaia had remembered the thoughts that ran through her mind when she first stepped into the Lab. Well, it wasn’t exactly like home where we had the latest technology and machinery, not to mention android assistants that were so human-like. But never mind. This was better than the fields, hot sunlight from the Great Star. At least I am in an environment that I know best.

Upon her arrival, Aglaia had set up several tasks for herself despite orders from the lab coordinator to do otherwise. He had casually informed her that she was just around to offer help only when necessary. Before he could enquire more into the true nature of her job, he had turned away, whistling rather happily to himself. So she decided to spruce up the place a little despite the lack of support from the other lab technicians.

Her first mission was to fix up the 1st generation bot assistants, Pia, Bev, Tom and Via with what little spare parts were available in the storage units behind the lab. Strange names for bots. Normally their names would have been reflective of the technological software or at least the model but it isn’t here. Were these Fallens actually attached to their machines? If so, why? She picked Pia – a TX-100 salvage bot – to accompany her to the storage unit to go through some spare parts. The TX-100 bot was a first generation bot made during the end of the first millennium to take over certain tasks that were deemed dangerous for humans, such as working in scrap metal junk yards and dumpsites – common areas that were very much part of human society then. They were designed to be compact, light-weight and resistant to extreme temperature and weather fluctuations. Not only that, the TX-100 bot was one that was very much made to be a worker – it was capable of dragging along massive pieces of metal for reconstruction and even has compartments for storing smaller, hand-sized pieces of parts for transport to manufacturing sites.

Pia, a tiny, silvery-purple looking bot was no different from her TX-100 counterparts except with several modifications. Her speech and thinking patterns were very much different from a robot – boring, machine-like – in reality, she was very much like an android saved for her external stainless steel shell.

Bots were seen as different from androids. Due to advancement in the technology behind artificial intelligence, androids were considered second to only humans with innate abilities for learning emotions. The fact that they were very human in appearance, due to the ingenious use of living tissue as an external covering, and behaviour suggested to the Council that they were a growing part of human society and thus accorded the status of citizen. Androids developed all the necessary personality skills and characteristics that allowed it to be part of society and were accorded special rights to adopt and even marry. Some Immortals have been known to seek androids as platonic companions and in a few rare cases, as life-partners.

Bots, on the other hand, due to the nature of their coming to being – first beginning as cold hard machines with simplistic programming and metal external finishing – were seen as machines, just like a coffee maker, a MOT (Mode of Transportation such as a car or bike), and even a note-pod. The connection an Immortal would have with a bot was purely owner-property relationship. Any more and the Council would be informed of such travesty. Aglaia had read reports on how this one Immortal owner found his bot desirable and requested for its brain to be transplanted into the body of an android. The Council considered his request and instead of granting it to him or rejecting it, they placed the Immortal under arrest and had his brain lobotomized for further studies on the relationship between bots and humans. Such were the consequences of emotions.

However, the bots in the Tech Lab were different from the ones Aglaia were used to in Caelestis. They had their programmes modified and their electronic brains were calibrated differently. These bots were set to learn through observation and interaction with humans – a trait only existent in androids until now. I wonder if it is a good idea to programme them this way and then unleash them into a society that feels and decides on emotions rather than logic. Are bots capable of feeling anger? Or even learning what emotions are?

“Is this the spare part you require, Aglaia?” droned out Pia as she handed over a piece of scrap metal for inspection.

“It will do.” Pia dropped the salvaged piece into a container that she dragged along with her for this purpose and stood still for a moment, looking around. Aglaia paused for a short moment, behind digging for another piece of scrap metal. “Tell me, Pia…”

“Yes?”

“Do bots have emotions?”

“Emotions? Well, we do know of it. We have learnt of it. It has been programmed into us. We observe it all the time, but a bot does not have the capacity to feel the way you humans do…or at least not yet.” The little bot continued navigating through the large storage unit, using the plasmic keyboard to search for certain spare parts. Aglaia followed her path, observing the bot as it weaved in and out of shelves and narrow passageways. The storage unit was just like any other Earthly warehouse, except that it was fully secured and computerized. Everything was catalogued and stored away in fibre, vacuumed tight casings. On Ancile where the people were dependent on the things they had brought from their homes many years ago or wreckages, spare parts were a precious commodity.

“Feelings are not an inherent part of bots. To bots, an emotion is another chemical reaction that takes place in the human body for purposes design to utilize certain parts of the brain. While we have learnt that to be human is to feel, bots cannot seem to understand why emotions are seen as just positive or negative but never both. Emotions, man failed to realized, are a double-edged sword for the human race. Emotions require a delicate balance and humans are still incapable of searching for that balance,” explained Pia as she whirled towards Aglaia with another spare part in her robotic hands. “This one as well?”

“Yes. And going back to the topic – why do you say that humans are incapable of such a balance?”

“Simple. Humans have never been able to look at things logically. If they did, history would tell us a different story. It would tell us of a world that would have continued to exist if it hadn’t been for humanity’s greed, lust, hatred, pride, paranoia and even anger. Iconic representations of the negativity of human emotion such as Hitler, Zawwin and Bran is a clear indication of what humanity is capable of doing without.” Pia rambled on, as she rolled side by side Aglaia on her hydraulic black wheels with scraps of metal and spare parts in her belly compartment. “Us bots have been around for a long time. We have seen civilisations crumble and come back to life. We know that nothing is forever, even for one with bolts, microchips and metal such as me. We know the power of the heart, of emotions when placed in the hands of different individuals. We know that the heart has the ability and more often than not, the power to rule over logic and rationality. Despite your best attempts as a species, you have still failed.”

Aglaia stopped, pondering the impact of Pia’s final words. Was it true what the bot said about us? Have we failed?

Humans have always been extreme individuals. The incidents of Hilter, you’d think, would have thought us about the dangers of unfounded hatred on another ethnic group. You’d think that it would have been enough to deter us from repeating the same mistake again. But no. It happened again; despite our best attempts – or should I say my Earthly ancestors’ attempts – to educate people, to ingrain a sense of logic, rationality and scientific basis into the minds of the regular public.

Nearly half of the world’s population died during Zawwin’s reign as world leader during the later part of the first millennium. He had abolished the world council known as the Senate and replaced a global democratic governing system with a dictatorship in which he went on a killing spree, slaughtering millions of ethic minority groups. His targets included the Arabs, Asians as well as Africans. Within his reign of a short five years, he wiped out the Asian and African race from the face of Earth, citing their barbaric habits and strange appearance to be off little use to the rest of mankind. It was genocide and the worst that we had ever seen. Because of Zawwin’s campaign to cleanse Earth of its ‘filth’, humans were now a homogenous group of Caucasians interbred with Arabs and Europeans. The podgy man of Middle Eastern-Caucasian descent had spent his life growing up and educated in the most traditional of educational institutions in small enclaves in Europe. He saw Arabs, Asians and Africans as a burden in his rich Anglo-Saxon community. These were the people living in the ghettoes and responsible for the cities’ crime rates as well as the spread of diseases.

I sometimes wonder if his reasons had stem further from just the obvious. Many argued that Zawwin had been denied certain riches as he was growing as a teen, others favoured over him and thus was more fuelled by revenge and petty jealousy that service for the country. Nevertheless, when he rose into power, he set in motion the plans that would see the end of the three other mighty races of the Earth. He was still adamant that he did the right and necessary thing to ensure the survival of humanity even as he was forcibly removed from office.

Such was the power and influence of emotion.

We thought that by enacting laws, changing the way we run our governments, and redefining our constitutions to protect the Senate, we would be able to avoid putting madmen like Zawwin into positions of power. We did not realize that they were other ways of killing people and it did not have to involve politics at all.

All it took was a little intelligence, a dash of ingenuity and a generous amount of emotions.

Aglaia gently worked the nano-screw out from Pia’s belly, her eye magnified by the enhancement lens to a huge, laughably proportion. The spares parts that Pia had picked out earlier were extensions of the belly compartment for the TX-100 bots and since Pia’s compartment was in dire need of servicing, she went first ahead of the others. The bot started fidgeting around and Aglaia frowned, her eyes narrowing in consternation.

“Quit moving, Pia.”

“It tickles.” Aglaia paused for a brief moment. I thought bots can’t feel. How can this be ticklish? Placing the nano-screwdriver down, she wiped her hands clean with a rag and examined the new compartment extension. Running her fingers gently around the edges of the compartment, she peered closely.

“It tickles.”

“I thought bots don’t feel anything. That this is just hard and cold with no nerves or sensors whatsoever,” claimed Aglaia as she knocked on Pia’s shell several times casually.

“You humans always think that everything has to work your way, don’t you?” drawled out Pia. “Touch creates friction. Friction creates the tiniest of frequencies which is vibrated throughout material, hard or soft. The friction created from the slightest touch of human fingers or even a nano-screwdriver vibrates throughout the shell and into the wires which are directly connected to the ‘brain’. Thus, we can tell if we have grazing an object or human, accidentally burnt ourselves with acid or if someone is attempting to access us illegally. The only difference between us and humans is that we do not equate touch with emotions.”

“What do you mean?”

“Have you ever noticed the way people interact here? Perhaps it is different from your previous home in Ancile.” Aglaia grimaced. She hated being reminded of the fact that she came from another planet; the reason why she was clearly hated by the many on Ancile. “What people do when they greet each other on Caelestis?”

“We bow. Sometimes we shake hands, if it is a platonic relationship and if we know that person whom we are meeting with. But normally we bow.”

“Then you would not have realized the significance and relationship behind touch and emotions,” drawled Pia as she tested the belly compartment by opening and closing it. “Humans touch and when they touch one another, they feel something. A hug projects feelings of intimacy, warmth, attraction, desire. When people shake heads, the touch of the hand, the firmness of the grip projects confidence, self esteem, and enthusiasm. The development of human relationships have made us realized that people often project feelings of desire and love through coitus. Is it not true?”

“I am not too sure. I supposed I have never seen it that way before. For us, the human touch were just gestures, a sign and symbolism of respect, nothing more,” explained Aglaia as she put up some finishing touches on Pia’s other body parts.

“You have been trained from young to know only that which is familiar and normal. Therefore you cannot see beyond what you know. Even if you do, you cannot grasp the concept. It is alien to you. Bots and androids, which have been programmed to merely exist as an assistant to humans, are aware of the perspectives possible to this. Perhaps where you come from, humans are no different from bots,” mused Pia. “Yes, I have heard of the humans of Caelestis. They are known as the unfeeling ones because of their inability to grasp the simplest of human emotions.”

“How do you know of this? I read your records. You were saved from wreckage, from a pod that was heading to another part of the cosmos. You have never been to Caelestis.”

“At times, you amuse me, Aglaia…if I could be amused in the first place. Bots know no humour. Nevertheless, that is another matter for discussion. Anyway, one need not be in a place to know its people and the norms there. I hear things. I learn from my surroundings. People talk. I am sure you are well aware of that,” explained Pia. Aglaia nodded, attempting to concentrate on screwing back the T-section on Pia’s side. “Humans of Caelestis look at history and logically assume that all life forms must be emotionless in order to survive. They concluded based on logic and rationality that emotions were the sole cause contributing to the spread of war, and disease. They saw no good in emotions, failing to understand that the very thing that makes a human unique was their ability to feel. Once you removed that element, humans became no more different than bots. Do you see the relationship?”

“Yes, I do see it but you don’t understand. Emotions bring nothing but confusion and chaos. Emotions have never been of any good to the world. Emotions are…wrong.”

“Ah,” Pia smiled in her own way, an electronically configured flash of light surged across her screen, depicting the picture of a human smile. “If that were so, Aglaia, why do people fall in love? It is an emotion, is it not? Is love wrong? Does it bring you confusion and chaos? More importantly, it is an unwanted emotion?” Aglaia paused in thought. The bot is right to a certain degree. If emotions are a bad thing, then why are the people here partaking in feasts of love? Why are they seeking companionship with one another? Why are they such a vibrant society? “Emotions allow for us to live. Truth be told, being a bot is boring. If I could choose, I would have loved to be born human with emotions. Having the life of a bot is the worse thing you can suffer during your lifetime.”

“But you are a bot! How can you even grasp the concept of your own existence?”

“Because I have thought of it. Contrast that with yourself where you have not even questioned the very reason behind your existence on this world. You are so bot-like, even though you don’t know it, Aglaia,” teased Pia as she whirled away to continue with her daily tasks. Was it true? Are Immortals like myself no different from bots? Am I really a bot by nature, incapable of grasping the nature of human emotions? Incapable of questioning my own existence in this world? If we are really emotionless, just like bots, and therefore are not fully human, what are we then? Such a conclusion could lead to the disruption of the Codes and the laws of robotics itself. Were emotions really negative in the first place?

It happened again.

This time man’s propensity to feel and to equate touch with emotions, as Pia had mentioned, was used against him. I can never understand the world my ancestors once inhabited. How could a madman like Bran scaled the heights of scientific fame and go on to kill thousands of people in what he termed as an experiment only to die, ravaged by the very disease he created?

Bran, the son of a religious minister, was a scientific genius with the gift and flair for discovering new vaccines and cures for the world’s deadliest diseases then. Awarded the Omega D plaque for discovering a cure for Hebola – a combination of HIV and Ebola – Bran was at the height of his career when researchers deduced that he began to go mad. Some excused it to the dwindling health of his personal life – he was unattractive and most women found him dull – others excused it to constant governmental pressures.

Whatever it was, Bran went on to create a killer disease that was unseen to the human eye and easily transmitted through the sense of touch. Kissing, shaking hands, a brush of skin on skin, any gesture which involved contact with naked human skin allowed for the Chimera to be transferred on to the victim. Once in contact with its human host, the Chimera – a micro-virus – proceeds to destroy living tissue, causing its human host to literally melt within several days. No one knew the cure and by the time they got it out from Bran who was infected with the disease himself, thousands of people across the cosmos had died from the disease. Touch at that time was not outlawed and many societies around the cosmos greeted each other by touching.

The tumultuous period also saw the beginning of a new chapter in human society – it was the period in which the first group of Immortals were born, born to women who had survived the Chimera through vaccinations.

I often wondered if there was a relationship between the Chimera and the evolution of the human species that lead to the birth of the first Immortal. Could it be that the form of transmission for the Chimera sparked a chain of reactions that lead to the need to create a species that could survive threats which utilized its past weaknesses? The Chimera had the power to kill many due to the inherent nature of human beings, due to the physical nature of our society and of our social relationships.

If we were not a species that thrived on emotions, which in turn drives us to express these emotions, would it have been possible to foil Bran’s attempts? If our evolution was indeed natural, was Pia right in saying that humans were very much like bots? Was she right in saying that being emotionless was not natural to begin with?

If that was the case, what is natural? What makes a human being human? Was it our propensity to kill each other that made us unique? Was it our capacity to think and deduce things intelligently? Was it our ability to love, heal and soothe using emotions to guide our senses?

What is it that makes us different from other species in this cosmic world that we live in?

Looking back, Pia was right to say that Immortals were very much like bots. What made us worse than bots were the fact that we were unaware of our existence and our abilities and nature as human beings. We were so blinded to the fact that despite our best attempts to breed a sterile, unfeeling world, we were in actual fact a good part of it on a daily basis. General Priam’s outbursts and tirades of rage, my seemingly good-natured sarcasm and annoyance with him (or anyone else that crossed my path), Lady Evania’s gentle guidance…all those were prime examples of human emotions in play.

Yet we deny them the proper place that they should ideally have in the human heart. Yet we blind ourselves to the truth time and time again.

Immortals were never emotionless beings. We were living a lie when we said we were. We were living a life based on the fear of the unknown, on our past failures, on logically deductions that were grossly misleading; we were living a world that was never meant to be in the first place.

By denying the true nature of the human heart and mind, we were in actually fact repeating the mistakes of our past.

We were actually our past reincarnated.

Aglaia spent the next few weeks enamoured with fixing bots and observing them as they went about their chores within the Tech Lab. At first the other technicians had teased her about her newfound interests in the TX-100 bots but she ignored their jibes. Aglaia found that bots had developed new ways of communicating to each other and even developed a language of their own to the human ear were varied sounds of clicks and beeps. At times, she wondered what their conversations were about. She wondered if they were talking about each other, their day at work, and their owners and even about other people around them. Thinking back to Pia’s words, Aglaia wondered to herself if bots were really different from humans. They laughed, smiled, joked and interacted with each other in a unique manner similar to the way the Fallen communicated amongst themselves. Looking at a group of bots and then turning to observe the lab technicians, Aglaia mused on the matter.

“Are you having a good time?” Her hand, which was supporting her chin, slipped, causing her to stumble from her work bench and sending a few tools crashing onto the floor. The technicians turned to look at the commotion and Aglaia bashfully smiled back, hoping that they would say nothing. Instead she received a few cold stares as they turned back to concentrate on their respective chores.

“Careful there! We can’t afford to have you injured now, can we?” warned Giles, as he assisted her back to her seat. Aglaia sat back, brushing off some shavings of metal as Giles picked up the tools from the floor. She had not spoken to him in weeks, since the time they kissed; only watched him from afar, drunk in visions of his laughter and smiles, as he interacted with the people of the colony.

“So…” drawled Giles as he sat down by the corner of the workbench.

“So?”

“So how are things going for you here? Is it better than the fields?

“Definitely! At least I don’t have to suffer from blisters anymore!” gushed Aglaia excitedly. “And I don’t have to put up with those god-awful people. Just before the transfer, I had been telling myself that if I heard one more word of how I must have been a murderer for them to exile me here or about how I came from Caelestis, I was going to scream, walk up to the duty station and tell the shift manager to shove the hoe up his ass! Thank god for the transfer! Although I did tell him to shove the hoe up his ass. You should have been there…the look on his face was utterly hilarious!!!” Aglaia admitted rather bashfully. Giles laughed heartily at her animated gestures and face. This is extremely refreshing. It sure as hell beats getting upset or embarrassed at him for no reason whatsoever. Although I must admit, he has the most gorgeous green eyes I have ever seen!

Clearing her thought in order to distract herself from the train of thought in her mind, Aglaia picked up an electro-clamp and began to concentrate on fixing one of the bot’s spare parts. She found it amusing – a trained psychologist like herself working on fixing mechanical robotic parts in a lab. Luckily for my extensive exposure to mechanics and the fact that me living alone meant learning to fix everything on my own. I should thank the Council for those lessons in Robotics and Android Construction. She giggled out loud, causing Giles to lift an eyebrow in curiosity.

“Anyway, what are you doing here? I don’t recall you being stationed at the Tech Lab for work. Something special going on?” asked Aglaia as she tightened a bolt.

“What if I said I came here to see you?” admitted Giles. He attempted to make his question sound as nonchalant as possible but inside, he had hoped that she would at least feel some form of emotional stirring for his comment. Something along the lines of attraction, perhaps. Aglaia looked at him quizzically.

“You are just joking. Come on. What are you really here for?”

“Alright, alright. I was just teasing you. Although I do think that you rather liked that, didn’t you?” Giles teased her again and this time, Aglaia kept quiet; a flush giving her away. “I came here to check up on how the boys are getting along with Eden and-”

“Eden?”

“Yes…Eden. She is the baby of this entire Lab. Our very existence hinges heavily on her success. But anyway, I came here to see you as well. There is a signal for you. From your father.”

“My father?”

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 10th, 2004 at 10:42 am and is filed under NaNoWriMo 2004. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response

  1. Lina

    Hey, love the story. I’ve completed Chapter 5 and moving to Chapter 6. Can’t seem to stop reading :)
    Keep it up :)
    Cheers!

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Sincerely Yours™ is all about honesty and candid thoughts plus a dash of creativity here and there. Expect a little dash of humour and even craziness as the author takes you on a literary journey.

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