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A Reason to Worry

by L.L. Richardson

Monica and I were home when the authorities smashed through the door of the apartment across the hall. All we heard at the time was a tremendous crashing, but we had no idea what was going on.

I jumped up from the sofa and headed cautiously for our apartment door, Monica so close behind me that I could hear her power pack’s cooling fan kick into high. I put my ear to the door but could only hear muffled shouts. I turned to my wife and asked her if she could make out anything being said over there.

“I’ll increase my audio reception gain,” she whispered.

“Jim, it’s the FBI. They’ve told Brandon to get down on the floor with his hands behind his head.”

I put my right hand on the door. Reading the microchip embedded between my thumb and forefinger, the door unlocked with a faint click. I slid it open a few inches. I saw Brandon, who was wearing a white dress shirt, charcoal slacks, and shiny black shoes. He was face down on his living room carpet surrounded by city police.

A woman in black had her knee pushing down on his back as she snapped a set of handcuffs around his wrists. A male agent stood over him, reading the Miranda rights. Heeding my better judgment, I slid the door closed. “Damn, I wonder what that’s all about,” I said in a low voice.

About forty-five minutes later, two FBI agents were in my apartment, asking questions about the neighbor man. I didn’t really know all that much. Brandon was a clean-cut guy who worked in radio advertising or something like that. He was quiet, lived alone, and kept to himself. He was, as far as I could say, a perfect neighbor.

“Did he ever give you any reason to suspect he belonged to one of the humanist groups?” Agent Jones asked. Humanist; now there’s a strange word. It used to refer to something positive and good. Now it means something sinister. “The FBI has been watching him,” she went on. “We believe he has ties with the Gutfeld Resistance.”

“Holy cow,” I blurted out. I looked toward Monica; she could see the worry in my face. The Gutfeld Resistance, the GR, was a bad bunch. Just recently they had gunned down a noetic gynoid in a mall shop.

“We may have enough evidence to put this guy away for a long time,” Agent Clark remarked. “But once the GR has picked a target, they don’t like to give up.”

“Are you saying my wife is in danger?” I asked. “Why her? What has she done?”

“Probably nothing at all,” Jones replied. “That’s the way this group operates. They pick targets at random. Usually it’s businesses that employ servbots, like fast-food places and retail shops.”

Yes, I knew about that. Robots had put a lot of good folk out of work in blue-collar positions. You go into a burger place, and that person behind the counter isn’t a person at all. It’s a servbot who works there all day, then at night cleans the place and restocks the buns and fries and stuff. It never takes a day off, never calls in sick, never complains. And you know what? It loves its job because it was programmed to.

Oh, and how much do you think it is paid? Zip. Zilch. Nada. Sure, a business has to pay a tax for each human employee that’s displaced by a bot, but that doesn’t make the human feel any better about losing his or her job.

“But,” I said, “my wife isn’t a servbot. She’s a noetic android.” More precisely, a noetic gynoid. Noetics have been around for just a few years, far fewer than the servbots. They’re almost human, and that’s another problem people have. You should have heard people scream when the government gave noetics legal status as “persons.”

“There’s been an uptick in attacks on noetics,” Jones said. “Particularly those who work in professional fields. Do you work outside the home, Mrs. Reed?”

Monica told the agents she taught science at Brookdale Academy.

“My boy Billy goes there,” agent Clark said. “He’s in the the third grade this year.”

“Oh, yes, Billy Clark,” Monica said with a warm smile. “He’s such a sweet boy. And so precocious.” At this I had to stifle a chuckle. Monica’s a teacher; she’s programmed to say flattering things to parents, pretty much like “real” teachers.

“He came running into the house after his first day of school this year, yelling, ‘Dad, my science teacher is a robot!’ He was so excited. And I said to him, ‘She’s not a robot, she’s a noetic’.”

The FBI agents left us a business card and told us we should call if we have any concerns. And I was concerned, of course. Concerned that my wife might be in danger simply because of what she is. The rest of the evening I guess I was quieter than usual.

After we got ready for bed, she put her arms around me and looked me in the eyes and asked me if I was worried. “Yes, I’m worried. Aren’t you?” I asked.

She smiled that warm smile of hers, kissed me on the mouth, and said, “Sweetheart, I’m not programmed to worry.”

Copyright © 2017 by L.L. Richardson

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