Isolation Part 1

Chapter 1

“Steve it is time to wake up,” a robotic voice calls out from all sides of the room. “Steve you must get up and check in or you know what happens.” A robotic hand reaches out to nudge Steve as he sleeps on the small twin sized bed. “Can’t I at least get ten more minutes Vector? Section 156 D isn’t going to melt down if I get ten more minutes.” Steve pulls the covers closer to his face revealing his toes to the cold. “Awe fuck it. Why does it have to be so damn cold here,” he asks rhetorically? “Steve you know we have the heat at the maximum according to Sector 150’s code rule 36 article C.” Steve mouths the words as he places is hand in the machine next to the bed to check in. “I realize this is all supposed to be punishment, but I’m on a moon three million miles from anywhere. Where am I really going to go?” “Steve you know it has to more with verifying that you are still alive than actually running away.” “And you can’t just send a messages back saying I am still alive Vector?” “I can not do such a thing as I was not programmed for such a task.” “You also weren’t programmed to befriend the prisoners, but you do any ways. Can you grab my boot for me Vector?” Vector extends his robotic arm and grabs the boot beside the bed. “Well actually Steve,” the robot begins to say. “Not now okay? It is much too early to start that conversation again.” “Okay,” the robot says with a hint of human disappointment. “Don’t sound so disappointed Vector. What do you say we get some breakfast? What does your system need today?” “Processing, oil is at 55%, batteries at 98 % charge, and all systems are at level green.” “Oil it is then. Why don’t you start on my breakfast while I grab the oil?” Vector rolls through the open door way into the next chamber as Steve straps on his boots. Vector is gone for seconds before he comes back into the room, “Did you want apple cinnamon or brown sugar?” Steve rubs the sleep out of his eyes, “Oatmeal again?” “You have no other choices. You used up all of your meat rations for this week already.” “Damn it, is it Friday already?” “No Steve it is Saturday the fifth of November 2136.” “It can’t be,” Steve says in disbelief. “If it was Saturday I would have the day off you know that.” “New work schedule order 1723 came from headquarters earlier in the week.” Vector plays back Steve’s reaction from earlier in the week, “Son of a bitch.” “Son of a bitch is right,” Steve says in nearly the same tone as the playback. “This is bull shit you know that right?” “Yes I do, apple cinnamon or brown sugar?” “Brown sugar,” Steve says in a deflated tone. “Can you burn it a little bit?” “As you like Steve,” Vector says as he rolls back into the second chamber.

Steve is in the third and final chamber of what could be best described as his prison. The third chamber is the largest of all his chambers and it houses his workshop.  He is hard at work repairing parts that he must send back to the other nine inhabitants of sector 156. Steve has never met the other nine inhabitants of this sector. His orders are handed down to Vector and delivered via a transfer tube that takes up the whole back wall of his work shop. As he finishes each part he must press the corresponding number to send it back to where it came from. He is currently working on a part from Section G of Sector 156. “How’s the weather above us today Vector?” “Today the surfaces temperature is at 451 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind gust of fifty-five miles per hour.” “Another beautiful day in paradise,” Steve says in a heavy sarcastic tone. “How many more orders are left for today?” “Three more and today’s work is done.” Steve rubs his eyes getting black smudges of grease around his eye sockets. He picks up his soldering iron and goes back to work on the circuit board that will go back into the drilling arm for Section G. “Can you get me some more light Vector?” Vector opens the shades of the artificial windows around the chamber little by little until Steve says that is enough. For three years now this has been Steve’s life on Sector 156. An underground tomb with three chambers and a robot named Vector. Steve makes short work of his last three assignments and cleans up his work space. Every tool and every part has its own assigned place on the work bench. Space is extremely tight in Section D and he must keep safety in mind the robot repeats for the millionth time. Vector helps clean up by placing the finished parts into the transfer tube sending each one to their section of Sector 156. “Want to play a game of chess after we are done with this?” Vector answers back in his usual tone, “Yes, what do you want for dinner?” “I’m not hungry yet,” Steve says as he places the finally cooled soldering iron in it rightful place. “You have been working for sixteen hours straight Steve. I let you skip lunch, but you must have dinner.” Steve rolls his eyes, “How about after a game of chess I will eat dinner?” “As you wish Steve, but you must eat you have to maintain a certain weight or your body begins to suffer.” “I’m fine Vector why don’t you go start setting up the game?” Vector leaves the chamber to set up the ancient game of chess on the only table in chamber two. Steve finishes up with his tools before taking a picture out of his back pocket. The picture is of a woman holding a small child in her arms.

After a few minutes Steve makes his way into the second chamber and takes the only seat at the small table. “Black again,” Steve asks? “Are you trying to tell me something?” “I don’t understand what you mean? If it is a problem I can switch it.” “There’s no problem Vector, honest. I just must be a little tired.” “You have been working for a long time.” “Price I have to pay for living in a place with no windows and no sun.” “There is a sun Steve. It is because of the sun that you have to live underground.” “Don’t remind me Vector,” Steve say dissatisfied. “Do you ever wonder what it would be like to go home?” “I am home Steve. I was manufactured to be here and I will always be here until they replace me.” “That’s how I feel sometimes,” Steve says as he moves his pawn two spaces up. Vector moves its knight to just the front of the line. “How do we even know we are being watched or that anyone really cares if I check in?” “You know I can’t tell you anything Steve. You just have to trust what I say.” “Trust is a human emotion Vector and it’s earned not just assumed.” “Have I ever done anything for you to not trust me?” “No, but then again you are programmed to never fail.” “Because I am not human doesn’t mean I can’t fail.” “So you don’t have a failsafe program for failing?” “Of course I have a program for every possible outcome, solution, failure, or anything a human can throw at me.” Vector takes Steve’s pawn, but Steve doesn’t seem to care much. “We must pause the game it is time to check in again,” Vector informs Steve. “What happens if I don’t check in?” “Steve we have been over this. You must check in every twelve hours.” “Or what Vector?” “Nothing will happen because you are here voluntarily.” “Exactly so why must I check in if it really doesn’t matter? I have been free to leave for the last year.” “It is part of the rules and procedures of Sector 156. All prisoners must check in every twelve hours.” “I am not a prisoner you even said so yourself.” “Regardless you in habit this section of Sector 156 and you must follow all rules.” Steve throws the game board on the floor and walks to the reporting machine. Steve sticks his hand into the mold inside the machine. The machine takes a scan on his hand and a drop of blood for testing. “Anger, another human emotion I will never understand,” Vector says as the machine works. “Fucking bite me tin can,” Steve shouts as he walks to the chamber on the left. Vector rolls into the next chamber to find Steve already in his bed. “This is home Vector I can’t and I won’t leave.” “Then why do you question and fight the rules of home?” “Because I am human and it is what I am supposed to do.”

 

Chapter 2

Several hours later Steve is awoken by the buzzing sound of an incoming part. “I’ll be right there,” Steve says half asleep. Steve puts his feet in his boots and doesn’t bother strapping them. He walks through the second chamber to see Vector in his charging bay. “No, no don’t wake up I got it,” Steve says as he nearly slips on the chess pieces still lying on the floor. “Clean up this mess Vector,” Steve shouts as he makes his way into the workshop. Vectors systems fire up at the sound of his name. The workshop lights flicker on as Steve walks over to the transfer tube. “God what time is it? I can’t believe I am this tired,” Steve says as he grabs the small part in the tube. “Great, just great I have to follow every damn rule, but these assholes don’t.” Steve throws the small part up on to the work bench as he looks for something to clean his hand. “How hard is it to clean the part off before sending it to me,” Steve says to himself. Steve grabs a rag out of the rag drawer and wipes his hand clean. He tosses the dirty rag in the rag pile and walks back to his bench to examine the part. Steve takes the small part in his hands and tries to figure out just what he is looking at being careful to not touch the red sludge covering the surface of the part. “This doesn’t even seem broken just dirty.” As Steve turns it over he discovers something has been filed into the part, but he can’t make out what it says. “You, could, something, next,” Steve works out before dropping the part with a loud bang on the steel floor. “Steve what is the noise? Steve where are you?” “I’m in the workshop. I need you here right now Vector.” Vector rolls in the third chamber to find Steve sticking his hand out at him. “What are you doing up right now Steve,” Vector asks? “I need this tested Vector.” “What for,” the robot questions? “Blood or oil,” Steve says as calmly as he can. Vector extends its arm and uses its finger to wipe some of the red sludge off of Steve’s hand. Again Steve takes a rag from the rag container and wipes his hand, but this time he doesn’t throw it in the used rag container. Steve picks the part off of the floor and replaces it back on the work bench. “What is it Vector,” Steve asks while cleaning of the part with the rag. “It is still being processed,” Vector responds back. Steve rereads the words so carefully dug into the part. “You could be next. What could it mean,” Steve whispers to himself. “The red substance from your hand is blood Steve.”

Steve paces the workshop as he talks to himself, “What could it mean? What could I be next for? Did this person take their own life? There’s no other way there could be blood. None of this makes any sense. Vector is there any way we can figure out where the part came from?” “That information is locked and you may not access such information.” “Yeah, but you can and there for you can send a message to that sections robot.” “Yes,” the robot confirms. “Okay so can you do that for me?” “No, prisoners are not allowed to communicate between sections.” “You can’t just contact the computer ask if everything is okay and then just say yes or no.” “I can’t release any information regarding other sections and their inhabitants. Bi law 24 D code 5466 no prisoner is to speak with or come in contact with other prisoners. This includes all forms of communications as well as between robots otherwise known as Hal Vector 23s.” “If we are not allowed to communicate then how’d the other inhabitant get a message to me that says you could be next? Why would his Hal Vector allow that? If that Vector bent the rules so can you.” “Rules are not meant to be broken or bent Steve. I have no logical explanation of how one robot failed.” “Vector I need you to contact the section this part came from and find out if everything is all right. You don’t have to tell me any direct information other than yes or no. Even if you say no I still have no idea what happened and there for have no idea about what is going on there.” Vector doesn’t say anything or do anything as Steve grows even more frustrated. “Fine whatever can you at least call headquarters and patch me in?” “Communication is down while Sector 156 orbits the other side of its sun.” “Son of a bitch for how long,” Steve asks. “At least four hours before Sector 156 is able to resume communications with headquarters,” Vector informs Steve. “Fine then we will wait four hours since you can’t just send a simple messages of how are you doing to the other fucking section.”

 

Part 2 tomorrow…Well Chapters 3 and 4… 

 

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