Lasko jumped back reflexively, his hands instantly raising into the air in surprise at the blunt accusation. Then he considered the situation, he lowered his hands, slightly scoffing at his own actions. It was a machine, not exactly a sexual harassment lawsuit threat. If those even happened anymore.
“What’s so funny?” the voice sounded out again. “That is some rude behavior.”
The self-deprecating smirk vanished. Lasko just stared at the activated machine. He hadn’t expected that it would have turned on; there had been at least a fair chance of it exploding like the rest of the devices. In any case, he wasn’t prepared mentally for this.
It should turn off, right? I’m not supplying it with anymore power… Lasko sat there, waiting for the machine to stop moving.
The robot, upon not receiving an answer, brought its attention back to the room. “This place is quite the dump.” The female voice said, in a very spiteful tone. Lasko was surprised at how uncomfortable he was feeling. Why is it not turning off?
“I should tidy up.” The robot then proceeded to attempt to move, but only falling over. The head looked down, and observed its poor condition for the first time.
“Oh. I see.” The robot’s eye sensor flashed red, and the female voice changed in tone, becoming more mechanical. “Beginning machine maintenance scan. Checking state of functional systems.”
Lasko stood up, becoming more and more alarmed. Things were escalating quickly. There was a functional robot with red eyes, and he inherently felt that was a dangerous combination. Lasko was definitely not in control of the situation, and the last thing he needed was to cause Sharp and Tunnel even more grief.
The robot didn’t even acknowledge his movement, continuing its scanning process.
“Unit model PRA v.2.04 hardware detected. Scanning BIOS Firmware for issues… 87% verified, 13% corrupted or unrecoverable data. Scanning long-term memory storage units, available memory estimated at 7%.”
“No prior user history detected. Data processing speed at 45% normal capacity.”
“Motor function drives are functional, detecting missing critical hardware… temporarily disabling movement protocols.”
“Sensor hardware check… 23 installed sensor drives… testing… detecting 3 responding sensors.”
“Power levels at 86%, power usage rate at abnormal levels… estimated remaining time at 2 minutes.”
At this Lasko’s ears perked up. So this thing only has two more minutes. Lasko thought, relieved. It was good to know that it would shut off soon.
“Attempting to update location and date… Uber-Tech network not detected… Scanning complete. Maintenance report upload not available, due to lost data connection. Compiling recommended maintenance schedule.”
There was a click, and a small slot opened in the robot’s cheek, revealing a small rectangle that popped out. It looked familiar to Lasko… a flash drive? The robot didn’t move, apparently waiting for Lasko to take the drive, and the man hesitantly took the drive. The slot then promptly closed, and the robot resumed its emotionless monologue.
“Please bring this maintenance schedule and robotic unit to your nearest Uber-Tech Robotics service provider. If a trip to Uber-Tech is not convenient for you, please feel free to take this unit along with the schedule to any one of our many service partner locations all across the globe. We ask that you remain patient with your unit in the meantime, your unit will be back to normal as soon as possible. Resuming normal function…”
The robots eye flashed back to a normal yellow light. “Well, that was educational,” remarked the robot, her voice returning back to its regular (sassy) tone.
“If you wouldn’t mind taking that data-drive to someone of average intelligence, I would be much obliged.” The robot resumed his search of his surroundings, turning its head awkwardly from its fallen position, ignoring Lasko, and proceeded to start talking to itself. “I wonder how I managed to end up in this dump… And how did I get turned on? My power storage is running out quickly, I don’t seem to be plugged in…”
Lasko finally found his voice. “I turned you on.” he said coarsely. He didn’t like the robot’s arrogant attitude, it made him nervous.
The robot returned its attention on Lasko. “The man speaks. You powered me up by yourself? My sensors must be malfunctioning. I was reading you as a younger male, but you must be well over 70. My normal unit consumption is well into the 80’s. I have to say, you look very young for your age.”
Lasko decided to ignore the seemingly thoughtless chatter, and get some of his own questions answered. “What are you, exactly?”
The robot straightened itself as much as it was able. “I am a Personal Robotic Assistant, but you can call me PIRA. I am model number 0012, and I am currently registered to-” The female voice cut off for a moment, as the robot searched its memory. “I’m sorry, I was unable to recover any registry information. So it appears that for the moment, I don’t belong to anyone.”
Robotic Assistant. Lasko relaxed. That didn’t sound lethal or intimidating. Lasko was starting to notice that his own actions and thoughts were a bit… cowardly.
The thought made him a bit ashamed, but then he rationalized.
Ever since I got unfrozen there’s been pain. Get sunburned to the point of death. Get stabbed and to the point of death. Get threatened by a mob of wild, uncivilized children. I don’t remember anything about myself, and the future is filled with all kinds of unknown things. Your “caution” is very well reasoned. No need to be ashamed.
The robot however, seemed to think that Lasko had a lot to be ashamed of.
“You must be pretty poor.” While Lasko was thinking, the robot had gone back to viewing the decor. “This place is a dump.”
How observant, Lasko thought drily. Suddenly it occurred to him that this PIRA might be worth something. “Do you know what year you were made?” he asked, trying to get a grasp on how old the robot was.
The robot wagged its head side to side. “I was made in 123 New Common Year.”
Huh? “What would that be… in regular common year?” Lasko asked tentatively.
“Plain common year? I suppose that would place around 2543 or so. My calculations might be slightly off, because my processing unit needs some repairs.” The robot said proudly. “When are you going to take me in for those, by the way?”
“I’m not,” Lasko said curtly. The female robot tilted its head.
“You’re not? Are the repairs happening here? This doesn’t look like a certified service center, no offense.”
Lasko was getting pretty sick of the robot’s attitude. Why was it acting like such a self-important jerk? Who in their right mind would program it this way? The robot kept going with its bold conversation.
“Oh… is it a money thing? Because you are poor? No doubt my owners, whoever they are, would pay you handsomely for my return. And just so you know, Ult-tech has a lifetime service guarantee.”
Lasko snorted humorlessly. “I’m afraid you probably don’t qualify for that anymore.”
“…I don’t understand. What do you mean?” the robot asked.
“It means that you’re about 400 years old. Which is why you’re in a dump. Because you’re just garbage. You’re right where you belong.” The robot fell silent as it possessed what Lasko said.
Lasko cheered inwardly. He had managed to put the cocky machine in its place.
What was that? Lasko looked around for the source of the noise. It sounded like something sniffling. Did Lasko activate anything else on accident? He immediately switched off his regulator. Last thing he needed was to deal with more peculiarly coded AI with unbearable personalities.
He heard the sniffling again. It sounded like a woman crying.
“Is that you?” He asked the robot.
“No.” The robot said, quite quickly. The sniffling sounded again.
“I’m pretty sure that’s coming from you.”
“Something must be broken.” The robot brushed it off, but Lasko could definitely detect a tone of sadness in the normally arrogant voice.
I can’t believe this. “Are you crying?” Lasko asked incredulously.
“No! It’s just a programmed system response.”
“A system response? To what… Sadness?”
“Well, can you blame me?!” The robot cried out angrily. “I’m all broken, and I’m in a dump, and all my data is mixed up. And then you come along and calling me… garbage! You are the most insensitive person I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. Probably. I don’t have enough data to support that statement but I’d bet money that it’s true.” *sniff*
Lasko was speechless.
He sat there for a while, staring at the crying robot. How did I become the bad guy?
“Uh… I’m sorry?” Lasko said, feeling a little guilty.
He was confused. The robot, or PIRA, was clearly not… a real person. But by the way it was talking, Lasko couldn’t really tell if there was a difference.
“You’re sorry, how terrific. That’ll get me arms and legs for sure.” PIRA said sarcastically. “Just leave me alone. I’m just junk. I’m almost out of power anyway-”
The robot suddenly stopped talking, and its moving sensors came to a standstill.
“Hello?” Lasko said loudly. The robot didn’t answer.
“Whew.” Lasko leaned back on the stool that he was sitting on and let out a deep breath, relieved that the talkative robot was finally turned off; PIRA was complicated, completely different than what Lasko had expected from artificial intelligence. At least she was definitely different from Glinda…
Making sure that the regulator was turned off, Lasko gingerly lifted the robot, and placed it carefully against a wall, separate from the rest of the junk. He stood there staring at the motionless torso, then Lasko began to chuckle, a chuckle that turned into a laugh.
A lot of the tension and helplessness that he had been feeling over the past couple days washed away. He wasn’t at zero thetan levels! In fact, Lasko had a whole bunch of levels.
So many levels that he could turn on old technology by himself, so many levels that he overloaded tools, so many levels that he was unmeasurable by thetan level readers!
After a few minutes of elated laughing, Lasko’s thoughts grew more serious.
“What will Tunnel and Sharp think?”
Even though they had saved him, he still wasn’t completely sure that their intentions regarding him were entirely pure. Tunnel maybe, but Sharp? It was clear that Sharp had been willing to leave Lasko to the wolves when it looked like the man wouldn’t be useful.
Better keep the ability secret for now. At least until I get a better grasp on how things work around here. Lasko decided.
That’s right, I still don’t know what units are, or what transformed the earth into a giant garbage dump. Time to get back to research.
Lasko took a quick peek out the doorway. Sharp and Tunnel were still working away diligently at the broken tools. Lasko had to admit, the two of them were extremely hard workers. The man admired them, but felt a little sorrowful for them at the same time. Kids should get a chance to live as kids… Lasko shook his head, refocusing on the task at hand.
He returned to the visual device, and put it on. The welcoming library screen popped up.
Search… Units. Lasko said mentally. A bunch of pages popped up, most of them just defining the word, references to the metric system; not what he was looking for.
Lasko thought about it for a little bit, before attempting his next search.
Look for Thetan Units. Instantly a page with a picture of a blue glowing orb appeared.
[Thetan Unit, the globally accepted system of power measurement used in thetan level applications. One unit is equivalent to the continuous consumption of one thetan level for one hour.]
[The term Thetan Unit is also used to refer to the only discovered medium of Thetan energy storage (see image), invented by Erik Paulsson]
Exactly what I’m looking for. Lasko read on.
[In the early years after the discovery of Thetan levels, a large amount of research had been conducted about the problem of Thetan energy storage. While it was theoretically possible to mass large amounts of people together to power large projects, practically this was an unfeasible solution. Many industries side-stepped this issue, by using Thetan energies to indirectly power their operations, (by synthesizing large amounts of Hydrogen fuel, for example). But it eventually became clear that this method not nearly as efficient as direct Thetan usage, and as the efficiency and variety of DVG’s grew, the marginal benefits of using an indirect source diminished. Effectively, there was a thetan power availability ceiling for large scale projects; a way to consolidate energy became an increasingly difficult obstacle for the commercial industries.]
[In 21 New Common Year, a particle physicist by the name of Erik Paulsson managed to invent a DVG material made of a complex gelatinous substance, (chemical make-up patented under the Global Innovation Compliance Act) that would release Thetan energy, imitating the actual process. This gel could be stored, compressed, and combined with other gels, and it emitted a constant a blue glow, the intensity of which depends on compression (energy density).]
[The only drawback to this DVG material was the conversion ratio was low. It takes roughly 500 natural units of thetan power to produce a single synthesized unit. Research has been ongoing to this day, but as of yet, no methods to significantly improve this ratio has been discovered.]
[At the onset of the “Age of Neo-Technology,” the demand for Thetan units skyrocketed, despite the widespread availability. New Thetan devices flooded the market, and new DVG materials were being invented monthly; consumer household demand for skyrocketed. Units were commonly sources from various third world nations (sheer Thetan volume) and communities for the elderly (High Thetan Levels with low consumption). Thetans quickly replaced traditional energy sources like electricity and gas.]
[At some point trading auctions sprung up, where various businesses and corporations would buy up thetan units from sellers. These places soon became a prominent source of income for the layperson; the auctions soon expanded into public marketplaces and shopping venues. Eventually people started to trade directly in thetans, because of the constant value appreciation against specie used internationally. (The demand for units simply kept increasing and increasing.]
[In new common year 102, the Thetan Unit became adopted as the national currency of the United Western Nations, an action that was quickly followed by the Pacific Socialist Alliance and Australia.]
I see. So units are the new currency, because they also can power the machines. Lasko saw the logic. A currency that had real value across the globe would no doubt be an excellent choice for legal tender.
He honed in on a term that he had been repeatedly reading, but still had not figured out the meaning. DVG, he selected the word with his mind.
[DVG, is an acronym for a phrase in the historic German language, “Das Verwandelt Gebilde”, loosely translated into the Common language as “structure that transmutes”. In popular culture, this term refers to materials that evoke a theta particle reaction when exposed to thetan energy (called activation). The only naturally occurring DVG to ever be found is the Aubin Stone, (which when activated, generated an electrical charge).]
[The person most commonly attributed for the creation of the term DVG, was famous UWN researcher Josef Katz, lead scientist for the UWN Particle Research Committee, and founder of Uber-Technologies Corporation. He is perhaps most well-known for single-handedly creating the first artificial DVG, a composite block of iron, nickel, and gold that generated heat. He is also widely considered to be the most significant pioneer in the history of DVG development.]
[DVG types vary from energy production properties to material production and decomposition properties. The most recent DVG innovations include dual effect DVG’s where two synergetic effects are combined for a wider range of applications. As of NCY 210, over 500 different DVG effects have been patented. A comprehensive directory of discovered effects can be found at the Particle Scientific Authorities website.]
Again, Lasko’s mind was starting to get all crowded from the large influx of information. He decided to take a break, and was about to turn off the machine when a thought occurred to him…
I wonder… Lasko inputted another word search.
[Searching…………140539 results found]
The first page that popped up was an online catalog for [Lasko Products, neo-tech Fans and Heaters]. Lasko perused it for a bit before abandoning it. Not what I am looking for, Lasko thought. I need to narrow these results.
After some thinking, Lasko added another word to the search.
[T. Lasko, cryogenics]
[Searching……………….4570 results found]
This time, an article popped up. [Plaintiff awarded 750 million dollars in Cryogen-Tech lawsuit, test subjects goes missing in elaborate heist.]
[New York Times, June 17, 2016 – 9:04:21 PM]
[Chicago, IL – Earlier today, in the Frederickson v. Cryogen-Technologies LLC case, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of plaintiff Roberta Frederickson, awarding her a total amount of 750 million dollars in damages. Just minutes after the ruling, an unidentified group, armed with heavy weaponry and military gear, broke into Cryogen Tech’s facilities in Colorado.]
[It has been reported that police arrived upon the scene in force within 15 minutes, but by the time they cleared the premises, the mysterious group had disappeared into thin air, along with two cryogenic pods containing experimental subjects Diana Walters and Thomas Lasko.]
Lasko’s heart stopped. There he was… that was his name! He resumed scanning the page, moving rapidly down the screen.
[Other than three minor injuries that occurred at the front of the building, no other civilians were harmed.]
[Although no connections to the company have yet been found, activists and politicians over the nation have been angrily denouncing Cryogen-Tech, calling for them to face immediate consequences.]
[Denver’s chief of police made the following statement, “…although we haven’t found evidence towards the identity of this group, they are clearly professionals; given the extreme precision with which they carried out their operation, and the sheer quality of inside information that they appeared to be in possession of, makes it hard to believe that this was not an inside job.”]
Lasko could not believe it. Was he reading it correctly? He searched for: [Frederickson v. Cryogen-Technologies LLC]
[Frederickson v. Cryogen-Technologies LLC was a lawsuit between Roberta Frederickson and her employer, Cryogen-Tech, a privately owned company at the forefront of cryogenics research in the 2010’s.]
[Frederickson sued the company in 2015, for the misrepresentation of data in pre-clinical testing of their cryogenic technology. Her claim was that after undergoing the process in a well-publicized experiment, she consequentially suffered a complete loss of identity and retrograde amnesia. She was awarded 750 million dollars in damages. The trial was followed by a heist of the two remaining subjects (still in cryogenic sleep). To this day, the case remains unsolved and the whereabouts of the two remaining subjects are unknown.]
Well, now one of them is found. Lasko thought drily.
[The company initially faced allegations by the media and public that they were behind the heist. It was speculated that since they stood the most to gain; once Walters and Lasko were woken up, no doubt the company would have faced similar lawsuits. Despite the overwhelming sentiment from the public, the investigations launched by the FBI produced no concrete evidence linking the heist and Cryogen-Technologies.]
[Roberta, a researcher with the company, was the second subject of four to be cryogenically frozen in the first live human trials of Cryogen-Tech’s latest technology, a groundbreaking cryogenic freezing process that promised to be able to indefinitely suspend and sustain life.]
[The process, coined by company as the “Cold Stasis Cycle”, had undergone countless successful animal testing experimentation, with consistent, invariable results.]
[After the successful completion of the first experiment (subject Arnold Kuroki underwent the process and remained in stasis for 8 days before being revived successfully) Roberta was approached by the company to be a candidate for another experimentation, along with her two colleagues, Diana Walters and Thomas Lasko. After much deliberation and analysis of the provided pre-clinical data, the three agreed to be frozen. Roberta was set to be frozen for a period of 3 months, while Walters and Lasko were scheduled to be in stasis for 12 months.]
[The three of them were frozen at the same time; however, when Roberta was awoken from stasis 3 months later, it was soon discovered that she had amnesia, losing any recollection of who she was and events in her past. Cryogenic-Technologies managed to hide this fact for some time, until a close friend eventually alerted the authorities.]
[4 months later, lawsuit was filed against the company. Roberta claimed that data provided to her before she considered the experiment was only part of the observed data, and that the company had known that memory loss was potential permanent side-effect of the process, and had not disclosed it.]
[During the federal investigation, it was revealed that the original data reports from the earliest experiments did indicate that animals that underwent Cold Stasis for over 1 month experienced initial disorientation, such as confusion when re-introduced to previously familiar environments or objects, including members of the same species. An archived e-mail chain between the partners of that firm showed that this knowledge was known, but purposefully hidden, since the symptoms appeared to disappear shortly after re-integration.]
[Further documents uncovered during the trial investigations revealed that Roberta, along with the three other test subjects were chosen primarily because of their lack of living relatives or spouses, supposedly to minimize liability risk. This was likely a wise business decision. With no family to press charges, the Cryogenic-Tech robbery case was quietly closed one year afterwards, and Cryogenic-Technologies was eventually sold off by its partners for 1.5 billion dollars.]
[Roberta Frederickson never recovered her memories, but later re-married and lived out her life without further complications.]
Lasko wasn’t sure what to think. The company that he used to work for never woke him from stasis, just so that they wouldn’t get sued? What a terrible thing to do. And they never intended on waking him up, since he had remained in stasis until far after the company disappeared.
Lasko sighed mentally. It was hard for him to know how to feel… apparently he hadn’t had any family, and even though it looked like he would never recover his memories, it didn’t seem like the memory loss would prevent him from living normally…
Plus, I don’t remember if I was missing out on anything…