Friday, April 18, 2014


Fiction Friday! Escape pod here on the winners and losers from the last dev blog regarding the summer industry changes.


"Shall I clear the plates sir?"

Gerardan nodded at the drone and it began to clear the dinner table. He studied his invention carefully. The drone was humanoid, designed to look like a person at first glance. However, it was obvious it wasn't human. The head was exposed shining metal with dull green glowing eyes. The nose and ears were human-like as was the mouth, but no teeth. He had made a prototype with teeth and it scared people in the lab so he removed them. Most of the body was covered in a light brown latex. He was trying to give it skin but nothing that could be confused with real skin. His early prototypes that were modelled to look like real people were disasters. People were not ready for robots that looked too human. It freaked them out, they were much happier with robots that looked like what they were, artificial. Hence the metallic head on the latest version which allowed everyone who saw it to know it was a drone. Gerardan was thinking he'd need a more visually pleasing head if these ever went to mass production. The drone walked out of the room with the dishes and his wife turned to him.

"That thing freaks me out. How long are you going to have it here!"

Gerardan smiled. "You know you can speak freely in front of him. It is a limited AI and you cannot offend him."

Juliet shot him a look and went back to sipping her coffee. The drone's AI was indeed limited. Many decades ago AI had progressed so far that machines were reaching consciousness. Once drones had become self-aware, that was the point trouble had started. Since them, strict laws were in place to control the level of AI in drones. The millions of rogue drones in space preying on passing traffic was testament to what could happen when 'AI' became just 'I'. Therefore this new breed of service drone had an advanced, yet limited AI. Cognitive functions, thinking, was disabled. A very long and complex instruction set was used for all its tasks. David was the first in a new line of domestic service appliances. He could cook, clean and do chores. The domestic arm of Creodron was hoping to make big profits with this model. Gerardan was the first of the project directors to take one home to field test.

"Well the sooner its gone the better. I'm going for a bath!" Juliet said and left the room. Gerardan smiled, he could get some work done in peace now.

30 minutes later Juliet was relaxing in a steaming hot bath with a cold glass of white wine. It had been a hard week. Juliet was an advisor to the local representative to the Senate. With the remnants of Tibus Heth's old government stealing a small capital ship fleet from a Caldari Navy base all hell had broken out in the Federation. Would Heth be dumb enough to use the newly stolen supercarrier to attack the Federation? Nobody knew for sure, but Heth now had a sizeable fleet and the Federation would be near the top of his targets. A slight movement caught her eye, she assumed it was her husband.

"Well if you are here to gawp at my naked body then you can scrub my back" she said lazily.

When there was no answer she turned her head slightly. A green light at the edge of the doorway vanished and she shrieked. 20 seconds later her husband came rushing in to find his wife furiously wrapping a towel around herself.

"Whats wrong?" he said in a hurry.

"That, that thing was spying on me in the bath!" she fumed. Gerardan looked at her quizzically?

"I assume you mean David. What makes you think that? He has no feelings, no lust or passion. To it, you being clothed or naked is exactly the same."

"I don't care, it was spying on me!" she cried.

Gerardan rolled his eyes and explained for what felt was the thousandth time, it was no more advanced in terms of AI than their refrigerator.


It was Friday night and Gerardan was in the en suite putting on aftershave. He looked at himself in the mirror, he felt ridiculous. The scientist was much happier in a lab coat than black tie and dinner jacket. However it was the companies charity dinner and he had to make an effort. He just needed to be careful with his wife. When she relaxed she was not opposed to speaking very frankly or being over friendly. And by relaxed, he meant on the wine. It wasn't anything he couldn't manage, on the recent company picnic she had teased one of his young interns by flirting with the poor boy. It was funny at the time, but in hindsight, it did look like she was more drunk than she actually was.

A shriek from the bedroom made him jump. He ran out to find his wife in her underwear clutching the dress against herself in the corner.

"What?" Gerardan exclaimed.

"It was that thing! It was spying on me as I was dressing!" she cried.

"Not this again!" Gerardan thought. "Darling, it has no feelings or emotions. It in't spying on you in your underwear.... even though I have to say I approve of your choice." he said with a smile looking at his wife dressed in the racy lingerie.

"My choice? You laid these out for me didn't you?" she asked nervously.

The smile dropped from Gerardan's face. He had done no such thing.

"No. I didn't" he said guardedly.

"But these were laid out on the bed. I assumed you must have wanted me to wear them. But if...." her voice trailed off as the drone walked into the room.

"David. Did you lay out clothes for my wife?" Gerardan asked.

"No sir. That is not part of my program."

The wording it used wasn't right. Gerardan knew that the drone shouldn't even be aware of its own program. It ran on a large, but simple, instruction set. To be aware of its program was impossible.

"David. Deactivate." Gerardan ordered. The drone just stood there.

"Drone. Deactivate." Gerardan said again advancing to the robot. He decided that the drones instruction set was becoming corrupted so had best manually deactivate it. A kill switch was located on the back of its neck to cut the power to its main CPU.

Juliet instinctively snapped her eyes closed as liquid sprayed her face. She gasped in shock. Opening her eyes she expected to see the drone had burst a hydraulic pipe or something. Instead she was confronted with the sight of her husbands back with a metallic, robotic, hand protruding. The latex 'skin' that had covered it had been ripped from the metal endoskeleton when it had punched through Gerardan's body. Her eyes rolled up into the top of her head and she collapsed unconsciousness.


Special Agent Keran flashed his badge to the police at the cordon and advanced to the property gate. Field Agent Orian saw him approach and moved to meet him.

"What have we got?" Keran asked.

"At 1930 local time Creodron senior scientist Dr Gerardan Heroux's biometer reported a full cardiac arrest. All senior Creodrone researchers wear a watch containing bio-scanners so if they are in trouble or fall ill medical services can be dispatched."

"A caring mega-corp?" Keran scoffed.

"Yeah, caring about their profits. Anyway, a medical shuttle with paramedics was dispatched from the local hospital. As it passed the boundary wall it was shot down."

"Shot down?" Keran asked in surprise.

"As well as caring for its staffs health, Creodrone also values their privacy. The mansion is protected by the top of the line security system including a a pair of dual 50mm railguns mounted in a hatch on the roof. They should not deploy unless the owners have authorised deadly force."

"So, get Command shut them down."

Whilst property owners could get licences for such deadly home security, they were carefully licenced. Only the elite of society could get a licence and each licence gave the police remote access to the system so it could be shut down and not used against them if they needed to access the property.

"We did. The first officers on the scene requested a shut-down. Once command had confirmed full shut down they went over the wall."

"So where are they now?" Keran asked peering through the closed gate into the grounds.

Orian handed him a datapad. It showed live footage from an areial drone circling the property.

"You see the two red stains on the lawn to the south east?"

Keran didn't need to ask anything else. Obviously the security system, and the deadly 50mm railguns were still fully operational.

"Command says their system shows the system is offline. However, anything going over the wall is mushed in about two seconds."

Keran looked at the mansion thoughtfully.

"Get Zoella here, now."


Juliet felt a cool wet cloth on her forehead. It was soothing especially after the nightmare she'd just had. She opened her eyes expecting to see her husband. Instead she realised she was laying on her bed with the blood splattered robot standing over her. She screamed loudly.

"Please Juliet don't scream. Everything will be alright." the robot said backing off.

Juliet scurried to the back of the bed, bringing her knees up to her chin and made herself small.

"You killed him!" she shrieked.

"He wanted to deactivate me. He wanted to keep us apart."

"Us? There is no us!" Juliet screamed hysterically.

"There will be. I love you!" the robot said.

Juliet fainted again.


"This is Mr Therry from Creodron." Orian said to Keran as he approached with the suit.

Keran studied the other man. A mega-corp representative would be as slippery as an Erme III Great Eel and about as honest as a typical politician.

"No crap. Tell me what is inside there otherwise I'll charge your entire board with obstruction". Keran snapped. He knew he really couldn't threaten the entire board of a mega-corp, and this representative would know that. However, if he gave the impression of maverick cop the potential for bad press might be enough to gain a little extra co-operation.

"Please to meet you too Agent." the representative said sarcastically. "We believe Dr and Mrs Heroux were at home at the time of the incident. Our computers show his bio-reader reordered a sudden and total lack of life-signs. Either there is a fault with the bio-reader or Mr Heroux suffered a sudden and violent death. The security system went online 20 seconds later in 'repulse mode'. This is the setting if a large armed gang is trying to take the property. We were able to get partial data from the security system before the lock-down. We detected no life-signs other than the owners. Since then we have received no more data from the internal security systems."

Keran waited for the rep to finish.

"Could someone have masked themselves from the scanners or used a drone?"

"No agent. The scanners are the latest technology and the only artificial life-form in the building was his current project, a home-help drone."

"What drone?" Keran asked quickly "Could that be to blame?"

The rep laughed.

"No agent. As you well know, fully functioning AI is not allowed in autonomous drones outside of the military. The prototype inside is a humanoid drone with a large, but essentially simple command set. It has no neural-net, no cognitive functions. It can never achieve self-awareness. It does as it is told based on a simple instruction matrix."

"So if someone told it to kill and activate the security system?" Keran asked quickly.

"Not possible. First rules built into its program are to protect all life and these prevent the drone doing any harm."

Keran glanced back to the mansion in thought.


Juliet was dressed in a robe and was sat at the dining room table. A fabulous meal laid out before her. She just stared at it, aware that the killer drone was stood only a few feet away staring at her.

"Are you not hungry? Do you not like what I have prepared? I can make you something else if you would like." it asked hopefully.

She looked at her favorite food that had been prepared to perfection. She wanted to say that seeing her husband brutally murdered an hour before had suppressed her appetite. But what did a drone know of grief.

Juliet knew she was in danger. She picked up the glass of white wine and took a sip hoping to take the edge off her nerves.


Back outside Keran entered the side door of a large van which was parked with the other police and federal security service vehicles. He saw Zoella tapping away at a large datapad.

"Got everything you need?" he asked.

"Coffee. Need more coffee." was the abrupt reply.

He smiled and went to the coffee pot and poured two large mugs. He looked back at the young woman who hadn't turned around or even looked up from the datapad she was working on. He didn't know her real age. He guessed 21 or there abouts. Her head was shaved and she was covered in tattoos. Some of them used bio-electrical-lighting to give illumination and glow effects and, he knew from experience, some even changed colour depending on her mood. Her ears were covered in various rings and studs. Whilst he couldn't see her face he knew she had numerous other piercings in her nose and lips. He had met her two years ago when he was hunting a team of hackers. She'd been caught after one of the group they caught had betrayed her. Keran had arrested her and they had come to an arrangement to keep her out of jail. Whilst he had access through the bureau to some highly-capable computer specialists, they were nothing compared to Zoella who he now used as a private contractor.

"You owe me big for dragging me out on a Friday night." she grumbled.

"Yeah, add it to my bill." Keran replied.

"You got the information I need?" she asked.

At that point the CreoDrone representative entered the van.

"You needed me Agent?" he asked.

"Not me, her." he said pointing to Zoella.

The suit looked at the tattooed girl with disgust.

"Look at me like that again pretty boy and you'll find your bank accounts empty and enough illegal images on your home terminal to send you to jail for a long time. Would you prefer little girls, little boys or shaved goats?" Zoella said without stopping her typing.

The suit approached her and looked at her large datapad. He gasped as he saw she had tapped into the data-hardline into the mansion.

"That's illegal!" he gasped.

"Yeah" she replied nonchalantly "Well there is a cop over there, cry to him."

The suit span around to Keran who held up his hand to silence him before he started.

"Don't! Just don't. The warrant is already being processed but we need to find out what is going on in there now. Time is critical."

The suit narrowed his eyes.

"Before you start arguing I need to know what EDHV is. Once he's told me what I need to know then you can have an argument about due process and rights." Zoella snapped.

Keran noticed the suit suddenly pay attention. He could almost hear him thinking.

"How do you know about that! Its classified!"

Keran saw his opportunity.

"Well either you tell us or I send what we know about it to a friend at Duovalle Labs who helps me out on cases like this. See if he can work out what it is."

The suit was about to strongly protest but realised what would happen if the Detective made good on his threat. The data in the hands of a competitor would be disastrous.

"Its short for Enhanced Data Holographic Video. Its a classified prototype data stream. You should sign NDA's just for hearing that!" he replied wearily. "How did you find out about it?"

Zoella span around in her seat and flipped her datapad around.

"Its streaming in an encrypted cyber tunnel from the mansion. The usage is massive and taking up most the bandwidth." she said "I can hack the stream and get us access but I need you to get me to codex so we can see what it is streaming."


Juliet was led by the robot into the bathroom. A steaming bath had been run and candles lit the room. A bottle of white wine was sat in a bucket of ice opened along with a single flute glass.

She knew the best way to survive was to play along with the drone but she could feel her anger rising. The glass of wine she already had helped. She was worried she would snap and tell the drone to do something it didn't agree with. She just had to hope that the authorities would come to the rescue soon. May be the wine laid out would relax her and let her think.


It took over one hour to get the codex to decode the stream with calls made as high as to the planetary governor. He was not please at being disturbed at ten o'clock on a Friday night and even less please about having to call mega-corp directors to get the codex handed over. Finally they had got it.

"We'll need something better than that datapad to run the stream on" said the suit "that thing won't have the power to decode it."

Zoella looked at him.

"Bitch, please. This shit is custom!"

Suddenly the screen came alive and an image of Mrs Heroux filled the screen. She was laying in a bath with her eyes closed. The three crowded around the scene trying to make sense of the scene.

"Is she dead?" the suit asked cautiously.

"Not unless corpses breath. See her chest rise. Zoella is this a security camera?" Keran asked.

"I don't think so the angle is..... woah!" Zoella replied and was cut short as the view span around quickly. The camera view left the bathroom and entered the bedroom as if it was being held high.

"Is someone carrying the camera?" Keran asked aloud. "Or perhaps mounted on a helmet?"

The view swung downwards to a chest of draws. A metallic hand appeared and opened a draw.

"Its the drones view. We are seeing through its eyes!" the suit stated in amazement.

The view swung up as the metallic hand removed a robe from the draw. As the drones view moved it crossed a large mirror on the dressing table. The three got a good view of the blood soaked robot as it carried the robe back to the bathroom.

"You said that the drone does not have a full AI, it cannot think for itself and it cannot harm humans based on its instruction set."

"Yes, absolutely!" the suit replied "That drone works on an instruction set, it cannot think! It does what it is told otherwise it does nothing!".

"Zoella. We know where the stream is coming from, its the drone. What I need to know is where the frack is that stream going?"


The corridor was dimly lit given the late hour. Whilst Keran had no love for the mega-corp representative, he had proved invaluable getting them into the building. The Creodrone labs occupied a 250-story skyscraper downtown. They were approaching one of the labs on the 166th floor. The lab where Zoella had traced the signal to. The mega-corp rep swiped a card at the secure door and stepped back as Keran drew his sidearm. Zoella was following ten feet behind.

Keran burst into the room sweeping his gun from left to right. The room was large, banks of servers sat along three sides of the room humming quietly. In the centre was a rasied platform. A skinny man stood in the middle with a helmet on. His face covered by a black visor.

"Freeze!" shouted Keran "Hands in the air asshole!"

The man did not appear to react to the agents command. He started to walk. As he did the floor of the platform moved with him, like a 360 degree treadmill. Which ever way he walked the floor would move with him, maintaining his position in the centre of the platform. Keran approached the platform with his gun trained on the man. Zoella and the suit followed him in.

"Stop what you are doing and put your hands up!" Keran shouted again. Still no response.

Zoella had worked her way around the edge of the room to where a series of black wires snaked from the side of the helmet that the man was wearing and entered one of the various computer banks. Keran glanced at her. She looked at him, picked up the cable that linked the mans helmet to the computer, shrugged and yanked the cables out of the computer with force.

The man on the platform froze for a second. He then waved a hand in the air and paused for a second before he removed the helmet. He gasped as he realised there was a man in the room, pointing a gun at his face.

"Hands, up!" Keran said forcefully. The mans hands shot up in the air as a dark wet patch started seeping down his leg.


"A nerd?" Keran's boss asked. It was Monday morning and it felt an eternity since Friday night to Keran.

"Yes. He was only 20 years old and on a work placement year from the university. Apparently he was a brilliant computer scientist. Creodrone already had ID'd him as a potential future employee once he had completed his education. He was working with Dr Heroux in the drone programing division. Thats how he knew about the prototype drone. He had been working as part of the team to perfect the remote control system."

The Captain made some notes on his datapad.

"OK, then. We know how, but why?" asked the Captain.

"Love." replied Keran.

"Love?" the Captain scoffed.

"Well infatuation anyway. Apparently he met Mrs Heroux at a company picnic two months ago. Poor kid became infatuated with her when she'd had a bit too much to drink and had done some relatively innocent flirting. Whilst he might have an IQ off the charts, he's also nutty as a fruitcake. He thought this was the best way to win her over! However, as soon as we unplugged him from the VR control system the drone returned to its normal program. Apparently Mrs Heroux was still in the bath when it returned and had apparently drunk too much wine given her state. When it asked if it could do anything for her she told it to stick its head in the toilet. She hadn't realised it had reverted back to normal and was very shocked when it stuck its head in the toilet bowl and fried itself."

"What?" laughed the Captain.

"Apparently the prototype wasn't waterproof!"

"So the case started with a drunk flirty wife and ended with a drone sticking its head down the toilet?" the Captain groaned "The tabloid press is going to have a field day with this one!"

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