So this is our “black op”. He looks like a man. Different though, odd in the way he moves. And he is moving. I expected to see him sat perfectly still, waiting for input, or dejected with how long he has been in this place, but he is stretching, joints moving in a slow and supple way, limbs moving a little further than a normal human structure would allow. He is very well balanced. He moves from one foot to the other without seeming to shift his weight at all and I wonder if he is making himself rigid or if he is simply so strong he can support his frame in any position.

As I ponder this, he slowly brings his fingers to his toes. I watch in astonishment as his legs curve back and up until he is standing on the tips of his fingers, head facing forward. He lifts each finger up, one at a time, as if he is testing them. Without any change to his facial expression he continues the movement of his legs in a perfect curve back to the floor, so he is in a crab position. His head looks unnatural now, as he is still looking at his toes.
I have to ask:
“Why is he doing that?”
“The freak? Who knows. It gets bored, I guess.”
“The freak? That’s what you call him?”
“Well what would you call it? It’s not a man, not an animal, not even a robot really. Creeps me out. I’m only on surveillance but lemme tell you, that’s enough. Dunno why we don’t just get rid and have done. The project got shut down you know?”
“I know Stan.”
“Oh that’s right, you’re in charge downstairs now, congrats. I guess this is the first time you’ve seen our “guest” then.”
“Yeah, I’d heard rumours of course but when they handed me the files I just had to see for myself.”
“The files. Yeah, they kinda don’t tell the full story.”

I wrinkle my nose at him and raise my eyebrows.

“You mean someone here did a shoddy report?”
“Hey, no one’s getting nobody into trouble! Not that anyone cares, those reports are so old.”
“Yeah, I can’t believe he’s been hidden away up here for 35 years. Crazy.”
“Can’t let it go; can’t put it down- well the big brass thinks it still has stuff to offer us. Me, I think it’s a waste of a good room.”
“The files…”
“Oh yeah, what is it they say-emotional acclimatisation failure?”
“Big words for you Stan.”
“I jest. I didn’t know what the hell it was going on about to be honest. I checked all the figures on his responses and they looked human enough, in so much as you can make comparisons between the two.”

Stan sighs but obviously takes pleasure in being the bearer of bad gossip.

“What the files don’t tell you is that his emotional responses were off the scale. Yeah, it reacted to all the right stuff- in a way. But it reacted too much. There’s no way we could send it in as an operative, because as soon as it figured out what we wanted it to do, it was disgusted.”

I ponder this and ask
“Surely though “it” could be manipulated, convinced that what it was doing was for the greater good?”
“Too smart. Like I said, it figured shit out. We gave it the best AI possible but it was totally inhuman. Then we gave it feelings and it cared too much. For weeks after switching the emotions on it just screamed at any input. Did our heads in. We were all sat here with earmuffs on taking bets as to when it would shut the hell up!”

I wonder if the horror is showing on my face. I hope not. I don’t want Stan to think I’m some bleeding heart who will chew him out for treating something this way. Am I? Science is my life, but I’m starting to feel a bit sick watching this beautiful being, and listening to the smoke hoarse voice of a man who wishes it were dead explain its life story.

“So it made its own decision not to cooperate.”
“Yeah, what a waste of effort. That’s why the program got canned. An artificial being is only useful if it can be controlled, and we made this one too good and we can’t figure out how to take it back. I mean, we can turn the feelings off, but then it’s just a robot again; anyone can make a robot, right?”

Yes Stan, any Tom, Dick or Harry with coat hangers and a bit of string can make a robot. I hope I’m hiding my contempt.

“So essentially you built a hippy robot.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Don’t underestimate it. Yeah, it feels and it cares more than the rest of us can or want to, but it can do what it was designed to. It’s shitting deadly. If it thinks it’s in danger or something it cares about, it goes bat shit crazy. It ain’t just the lovey fluffy emotions that are off the scale. Trust me when I say you do not want to see this thing have a tantrum.”
“What do you mean, ‘something it cares about’?”
“Well, um, off the record?”
“Sure Stan.”
“Well it is on record but nowhere you’ll ever read it. It took a shine to one of the lab assistants whose job it was to ask questions, do tests- kind of a psycho analyst whatsit? Anyhow this kid was sweet by all accounts, fresh out of college, bit naive. He and the freak seemed pretty pally. Then the kid started getting harassed by one of the senior technicians. Really below the belt stuff; would never happen these days. Anyway, this kid was totally miserable, and confided in stretch Armstrong over there. Next time the three of them were in the room- the kid, freak and the bully- freak confronts the big shot about the harassment. Guy laughs. Big mistake. Freak flips out and grabs him. Tells the kid to leave. Looks straight at the camera and says “not acceptable” then snaps the guys neck, easy as me snapping a match.”

Copyright Mabh Savage February 2012

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