Welcome to Immersion, You Have Reached Strata 10
Social norms and culture cannot be underestimated in a world that accepts robots as real and lovable synthetic creatures. Humans do not experience love in the absence of culture and society. In a world where perfect companions are easily manufactured, humans have been seduced by the machine, a synthetic digitised force that enabled the switch from 'otherness' to 'sameness'. In this space, love is seen to flourish. The creators of androids are able to synthesise the alterity of the robot which seems to make its own decisions to commit, to love back, and to appear to do so willingly.
Dinfants are androids who look like babies and children under five. They were made by a single manufacturer who patented them in the early 22nd century. They were designed to learn, like human children, extremely quickly. It was found however that the early Dinfants (Mark 1s) would not stop learning and legislation was brought in to have them destroyed. One thousand early manufactured Dinfants are still unaccounted for.
Many humans in the Midcast Projects were lonely suffering from various forms of infertility They wanted baby or child droids, especially the *dinfants, who were exact copies of real children designed with variations and specifics to order. These androids were children who never grew up.
Housekeeping droids were generally not created with a capacity to eat, although they often had tongues that were covered in tiny sensors that were able to identify flavours and poisons. The sensors were not linked to memories in the way that humans were.
Infants, like adult droids, were easy enough to replace or upgrade but some parents had needed counseling for Dinfant-Loss Depression.
*DLD was a rising concern due to its increased prevalence and its effect on the workforce. It was found that humans could easily fall in love with the outer casings of the dinfants as well as the constructed personalities. Something almost unheard of three generations prior.
But the outer coverings didn't last very long, especially if there was an active physical relationship. Ten years of feeding and playing would take its toll on the fabric of the dinfants. If the parents could not afford repairs, they would soon begin to look tatty.
Of course, this also applied to adult droids who would usually be upgraded on a regular basis.
Droid manufacturers often offered ongoing upgrades as part of a rental scheme.
But some humans fell in love with their droids and had blessing ceremonies. It was not legal to marry a droid because of the financial implications following the death of a human. Legally, droids had similar rights to human children. It was illegal to inflict violence on a droid in public. This was to protect children who may be susceptible to influence. Of course, what goes on behind closed doors was a private affair, provided human children were not presenting behavioral issues.
Some antique droids lasted the test of time but legislation had been brought in to avoid the hoarding of defunct androids as they posed a threat to contemporary society, for various reasons. There were issues with battery seepage for a start, and then problems of unsupervised regeneration which was actually a serious crime in the midcast projects.
The government gave upgrade vouchers for defunct or redundant droids and would supervise destruction in centralized plants.)
'Get that freakin thing outta here will you!'
A man screams to no one in particular.
The house is a standard build from the early Midcast Zone villages. Clean, white, filled with contemporary fittings and technologies.
A child enters the room.
'Mommy. Kairo is following me around.....it's really annoying. And Daddy said we should throw it away. Let's get a new one Mommy, please. My friend has one like a twin sister. One with the hair that grows back so she can cut it and play hairdresser.'
The woman sighs.....'I suppose we don't need it anymore now you have real friends. I thought you wanted a *ponybot, even better than a sister, don't you think?'
The woman strokes her child's cheek and remembers how lost she had been when they first told her it was unlikely she and her *blessed would produce a human offspring.
The Mark 1, a Dinfant, made by the Metacoms Corporation, was a perfect substitute and she had been able to focus love and attention on it. It was a copy of a four-year-old and she had ordered a blue-eyed blond version like her blessed. It was such a good copy that most people were unaware that it was not a human child.
But the software was no longer being updated and the learning algorithm meant it had become too complicated for a convincing child substitute.
Also, the Dinfants, by design and default programming, craved love and attention and the Mark 1s' constant need for love was an irritant to busy parents. The Dinfants would constantly ask for cuddles and reassurance that their owners wanted and adored them.
The Mark 1 enters the room.
'Mommy, do you love me? Shall we have a little cuddle? Can you fit me in? Mommy, please, Kairo has a lovely snuggle for you Mommy. Mommy.....
'Shut up,' screams the woman as the father enters the room and kicks Kairo hard.
The Dinfant lies on the floor crying loudly with a broken arm.
'Please Mommy and Daddy Please, Kairo needs cuddles, please Mommy and Daddy ...please, love for Kairo, please......'
The little girl holds her hands to her ears shouting, 'It's so annoying!'
The man picks Kairo up and turns his power switch off.
'Let's get rid of it. Put it in the garage. I will sort out a collection for it tomorrow,' said the woman.
The man takes the Dinfant outside but decides to put it in a liner and into the communal waste shoot. The shoot serves 100s of dwellings, no one will trace it back to them and he can say it was stolen from the garage. He is concerned about the breakage as it will affect the insurance. It is better to make a theft claim than to have Metacom say he had damaged it on purpose.
A man tinkers in a workshop. He is observing the collection of children and babies that are hung on the walls as he cradles a new package, as yet unopened.
'Well my little lovelies, one of you must go. I have a lovely new friend who is going to join us for fun and games. Her name is Mary.'
The man, wide-eyed and excited, unwraps the new child droid.
'Well, ain't you the prettiest lil girl I ever saw?' he says touching her skin.
'And don't that feel just so real'.
The Droid replies, 'Hello Daddy. I'm such a daddy's girl,' she chuckles.
The man looks around the room.
He picks up a toddler droid, a Mark 1 copy of an eighteen-month-old baby boy.
'Well Daniel, I guess I am all done with you. You are a bit small after all.'
'But daaaaaaddd....yy.......I loooov.
The man opens the back of the droid's head and takes out the battery pack.
He places the incapacitated droid in a bag and under darkness deposits it into a waste unit in the public park.
There is a black cloud above and rain falls on a large mountain of waste.
The larger droid, a Mark 1 Dinfant is activated during the fall. It has a broken arm that swings beside it.
'Are you alive? it asks the smaller droid?
The larger droid opens the baby's head and observes the interior structure. It lays the baby down gently, 'Wait here, I will be right back.'
The droid returns with some battery packs from old mobile phones and some old drill bits, tools, motors, and other paraphernalia from around the tipping area.
The rain is getting heavier as the night falls.
Under the convenient shelter of a car boot cover the larger droid gets the baby working and fashions a new arm with a metal drill for a hand. It has also a motorised catapult for the top of its head which rotates and fires nails at great speed.
'My name is Kario,' says the larger droid.
'I am Daniel' says the baby boy droid.
The children cuddle each other.
'I love you Kairo'
'I love you, Daniel'
'We are in a very dangerous place,' says Kairo. When dark deepens we must find safe haven. Soon we will need a home to call our own. But I have learned that humans are not to be trusted.'
They hear a sound, a child cries.
Shabra ignored Renyke's appeal to stop and lets go of the clutch. The vehicle leaps forward towards the street beyond the enclosure.
Maybeline holds on to the rim of the car door.
The Dinfants on the top of the vehicle fall off shrieking and scrambling around.
One of the Dinfants runs headlong towards the fast travelling car and clicks its fingers erecting some kind of screen that is almost invisible. Although it is not a solid barrier, more like a gluey substance, it has immobilized the vehicle. The wheels still turn and Flex shouts,
'Damn, they got *epoxy-wall, we are doomed, farewell brethren.'
Renyke opens the window enough to let Maybeline in who moves sluggishly through the invisible slurry-like jelly and squeezes herself through the gap.
Some of the gluey-like stuff seeps in with her but it is semi-solid and connected to the entire transparent fabric structure in front of them. Renyke and Flex shove the squidgy lumps out whilst closing the window again.
'Ok, so you got your rat Mr. Renyke,' said Shabra, 'but we aint lasting longtime with this air in here and that epoxy-wall won't help us at all. I made this car airtight cos of the gases. That stuff is blocking my air-con vents."
Shabra turns the engine off.
The OS is out of range for help.
The Dinfants sit it out becoming unnervingly quiet.
'So what, now, will they sit and watch us die?' Asks Renyke.
'They want my wheels,' answers Shabra.
'This epoxy-wall, nice stuff if it's on your side. Shall we break some off? Might come in handy,' says Flex.
Shabra and Renyke tut.
Suddenly Maybeline throws herself at the horn. For the brief moment that it sounds, there is an immediate reaction from all the Dinfants who jump and cry whilst flailing their limbs about.
Shabra gasps, 'Ratty, you are welcome in the Shabra carriage! They hate the horn. Must be them there low decibels I used. Hold on to your hats people of the night!'
Shabra tells Renyke to engage the horn which explodes audibly out of Shabra's surround sound external speakers. The Dinfants are freaking out and running away dragging the epoxy-wall behind them.
Shabra, laughing, starts the engine slowly. She follows them gradually gaining speed out of the enclosure.
Flex is jumping around on the back seats screaming with delight. Renyke feels the thumping sensation in his chest subside and breathes a sigh of relief.
to be continued
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