Anger for Edward – Excerpt

by WJ Davies on January 25, 2015

Here’s a fairly rough sample of the book I’m working on. This scene takes place shortly after the conclusion of part one of Empathy for Andrew. And hey, how about that cover?


Deep in the heart of the Center for Robotic Research building, two technicians sorted through a pile of debris in front of them.
“Ugh, what a mess,” one of them grunted. His name was Bob, and had been working in the parts reclamation department for years.
“Tell me about it,” said his partner Jim. “I heard this one offed itself in less than a week.” He separated the ruined brain casing from the robot’s body and dumped it into a scrap metal bin. “That’s some kinda record, isn’t it?”
“Sure is,” Bob said.
“So, what does it mean?”
Bob leaned in close. “It means they’re close. Really close.”
Jim frowned. “But they invented AI ten years ago. What else is there?”
Bob laughed. “You’re looking at it all wrong, kid. The creation of a computer program that could reason was just the start. It was like inventing the radio. Sure you can broadcast music and voices, but what about pictures? And when they figured out how to send those through the air, it was only in black and white. It took decades before color came along. And then decades more before they had flat-screen and high rez. And another decade to get 3D, and then—”
Jim put up his hand. “In other words, they’re creating the HD of AI.”
Bob smiled. “Now you’re talking. And as the resolution, so to speak, of these robots increases, they become more and more indistinguishable from humans.”
“How far will they take it?”
Bob shrugged. “Who knows? With enough time and money, scientists like Doctor Hawthorne will create a new future.”
Jim suddenly looked worried as he stared at the dismembered parts in his hands. “But what about, you know, the robot apocalypse or whatever they’re calling it?”
Bon’s face went serious. “Ah, yes. Definitely something to worry about. Many of us believe that the robopocalypse is nigh, and that humans have but few precious years left. All this stuff with Beijing is just a prelude, meant to distract us while the robots overtake us from within. All it takes is one of them to infiltrate our security networks and it’s over.” He grabbed Jim’s arm, staring into his eyes. “So don’t forget to lock the doors on your way out.”
Jim looked at him a moment, then saw the hint of a smile on Bob’s face. Both men burst out laughing.
“I knew you were shitting me.”
Bob put up his hands, as if in defeat. “Hey man, anything’s possible. It’s a brave new world.”
Jim’s face became worried again. “But don’t they have some kinda built in fail safe, you know, so they can’t hurt people and all that?”
Bob nodded. “Yeah, all that Asimov shit. But that stuff is just code. Who’s to say a bot can’t get in there and alter its own programing? There’s too many variables if you ask me. Maybe that’s what they’re testing with the next experiment.”
Jim’s eyebrows went up. “What experiment?”
Bob lowered his voice. “I overheard one of the techs. They’re going to see if they can get the next bot to kill someone.”
“Seriously?” Jim whispered.
Bob nodded solemnly.
“Okay, now I know you’re shitting me.”
“Honest,” Bob said. “That’s what I heard, take it or leave it.”
They worked in silence for a few more minutes, and then Jim spoke. “Hey, do you ever feel sorry for them?”
Bob gave a little chuckle. “Seriously, Jim? Put it this way; do I feel sorry for the cows in a field, or the pigs in a pen? Yeah, maybe a little bit somewhere deep down inside. But honestly, it is what it is and there’s not much anybody can do about it. ‘Cept maybe become a vegetarian or some shit.”
A light flashed on the other side of the observation window, the silhouette of a man entering the room, a door opening and closing.
“Maybe there’s another option,” Jim said as they got back to work.
“Yeah, what’s that?”
Jim glanced at the window, where the shadow of Doctor Hawthorne stood watching them. He looked back at Bob. “You could become the farmer.”

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