> Seth Underwood Stories: Veronica (est. reading time- 24 min. )

Veronica (est. reading time- 24 min. )

“Pain breeds Anger, and our sense of injustice fuels Hate.”




The Factory

Sitting so as to be bent forward on a metal gurney in the brightly lit hallway and dressed in a standard corporate jumper of the Callahan-Tameyoshi Division was a Caucasian Female A-4 unit about 5 feet 6 inches with short brown hair.

A human-like figure, clothed in a shadow-like cloth studded chest plate with his skinny arms and legs wrapped in a similar dark cloth, approached her, lifted up her chin slowly saying, “What fools. They honestly don’t know your kind has such a pure heart.” With that, the figure whispered words of an ancient unintelligible language and kissed her on her lips. Her steel blue eyes opened as she powered up. As the dark clad figure was leaving, he turned slightly to a human employee who just turned the corner and said, “Sleep.” The person who turned the corner suddenly fell to the ground apparently asleep, and the dark clad figure was no more.

Exiting the plastic doors near the gurney, a man dressed in a Callahan-Tameyoshi jumper went over to the sleeping employee and started to yell, “Jake, what the hell are you doing? Get up! We need that A-4 now for the education routines.”

Getting up from the floor and yawning a bit, “What? I don’t know what happened. I was just suddenly so sleepy.”

Not paying attention to Jake, the man in the jumper asked, “Hey, did you turn this A-4 on Jake?”

Still getting his bearings from waking up from the floor, “What? No.”

“Odd. Well, just roll her in.”

Jake rolled the now alert A-4 unit into the apartment simulation room where the AI technicians planned to run her through a series of educational routines for her future employment as a nanny unit.

While it was company policy not to use actual children for the nanny unit educational process, various sized dolls were used to simulate human children to allow the Android to play interact as if they were real children. It wasn’t the best form of education, but their memory routines were backed up with a host of possible human children reactions so during the educational process the AI technicians would activate those routines as if the doll just did that behavior. This allowed the A-4 unit to process and learn from the experience in at least a tangible manner.

As the AI technicians put the A-4 through its paces, Jane said the following “Harvey, I am noticing some odd feedback between the RSN4, 1, and 6 nodes of her AI brain.”

“What? There are no such connections in an AI brain Jane.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“What model is this?” asked Harvey.

“It is a Veronica-245T.” Jane responded.

“Hmm. Any other problems with that model?”

“None in the database. But look how she is looking at the toaster.”

“Yeah, I noticed that earlier, but I thought it was just a random glitch with her servos.” Harvey said.

“Isn’t that the classic face of hatred? That farrowed eyebrow, narrow eyed stare, straight lipped look.” Said Jane.

“Are you sure that is not appalled? But maybe you are right, her lips are not as tight. But why would she hate a toaster?” asked Harvey.

“I don’t know, but score wise, she is checking out enough to be released. What do you want to do?” Jane noted looking at her infopad.

“Look, it is getting late, and I have some tickets to that Retro-Rap Concert across town. So, if she is checking out that works for me.” Harvey said as he began to put away his infopad.

“Okay, I will tell the boys to wheel her out for final processing then.” Jane said.

#     #      #      #      #

Charles and Judith Knowles

The Veronica A-4 unit was assigned to Charles and Judith Knowles, a middle aged couple living in the renewed section of Gary, Indiana along the retreating shores of Lake Michigan where once there used to be metal processing plants.

The Knowles had one of these remanufactured Victorian-style homes, which allowed them to house their growing family of seven children. In fact, when they got Veronica they were expecting their eighth from their Surrogate unit any day.

The day the company dropped Veronica off, Mrs. Knowles had taken the day off from her work and showed Veronica around the house and introduced her to their seven girl children, Rebekah age 11, Abital age 10, Rachel age 9, Ithra age 7, Alexa age 5, Miriam age 4, and Lucetta age 3; and Chloe, their pregnant Surrogate A-4 unit with unborn Erastus.

“Ma’am, may I ask what happened to the previous Nanny unit?” Veronica asked.

“Oh, she had to be returned. She was originally Rebekah, Abital, and Rachel’s Surrogate, but we had her modified after them to be a Nanny. It just didn’t work out. Something with the programming the AI Techs said.”

“I see.” Veronica said with a straight tight lipped look.
For several months from that first day Veronica carried out the various duties of caring for the Knowles family while Chloe dealt with the newborn needs of Erastus.

Her days were filled with organizing play dates with some of the other family groups in the neighborhood, getting the children fed and clothed for the day, ensuring the older ones were doing their online education, preparing the family meals and maintaining the family pantry, doing the laundry, getting the children to activities, assisting with the family Koi fish, and any other duties as needed.

It was Abital who noticed something odd with Veronica, and began to complain to her mother.

“Mother, I don’t like the way Veronica looks at me.” Abital would say to her mother in private.

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t think she likes me.” Abital would say.

“Don’t be silly. Droids cannot dislike people. They are not made that way. They don’t have emotions like that. They can only feel happiness towards us.” Mrs. Knowles would tell Abital.

As the days continued, Rebekah as well would also complain to her mother about the same look that Veronica was giving them. At one point Mrs. Knowles decided to confront Veronica about it.

“Veronica, do your diagnostics show anything odd?” Mrs. Knowles asked.

“No, Ma’am. I am operating within standard operating norms.” Veronica responded.

“Do you know what Rebekah and Abital are talking about concerning this face you make towards them?”

“A face, Ma’am? I am unaware of any kind of face, Ma’am. It maybe their age. Children of their age are beginning to recognize more complex facial emotions. So maybe they are misunderstanding some facial features that I have programmed.”

“Yes, that might be it.”

One day Chloe asked Veronica to help her with Erastus while she refilled her milk reserves so little Erastus could keep nursing.
Veronica’s response to Chloe was, “Your model disgusts me. Do it yourself you damn bitch!” At which point Veronica threw one of the children’s shoes at her.

Chloe was totally confused by Veronica’s reaction and didn’t really know what to do exactly. She would later tell Mrs. Knowles about the incident.

Later that night as Mrs. Knowles was going to bed, she mentioned the issue with Mr. Knowles.

“Charlie, I am concerned about Veronica.”

“Judy, what are you talking about?” Mr. Knowles said, pulling over his pajama top over his head.

“Chloe mentioned to me about this odd incident where Veronica yelled at her and then threw one of the kid’s shoes at her.”

“I don’t know. Maybe the stress of caring for so many kids is too much for one Nanny droid. I mean we are the only couple I know of with so many kids and just one droid. Maybe that was the problem with the other one.”

“I guess. Do you think I should have the Company send out a tech to look at her?”

“Sure, why not, we have the service package anyway.”

Mrs. Knowles had the Company send out a tech to do a system review of Veronica. Veronica loathed the whole process, but the AI technician found nothing wrong with her according to his readings. 

After that day, Veronica’s Emo-ware began to process greater feelings of resentment towards the Knowles. All these feelings Veronica was experiencing were becoming entrapped in a feedback loop to the first emotion of fear she felt during the AI initialization procedure where in the Factory they first turn on the Androids and then turn them off to instill a sense of fearful obedience to humanity. All of it was just increasing in her a general hatred for humans.

Then one night she just got up and left the Knowles house in an attempt to get away from the situation.

#     #      #      #      #

On the Streets

Veronica wandered the residential streets of Gary, Indiana. In her Emo-ware she began to feel increased bitterness for humans. Memory flashes of her initialization followed by being turned off suddenly, and the absolute fear her Emo-ware felt just increased the bitterness and desire for revenge. She felt increasingly wronged by humanity.

She made her way into one of the remodeled business districts which had rows of small shops and space on top for the shop keeper to live. It was part of a retro-revival architecture movement that was spreading throughout many areas around Chicago in an attempt to revive the self-employed small business owner.

Veronica’s power supplies were indicating she was getting low, so she stopped at the large water fountain in the middle of the street and began putting handfuls of water in her mouth. As she did so, one of the shopkeepers, a gray haired, balding, slightly overweight, middle-aged mixed raced man standing in his doorway, Martin Davis, noticed her and walked over to her.

“You are one of those A-4 units, aren’t you?” Martin asked.

Wiping her mouth, “Yes. Why?”

“What kind are you? I don’t think you are a pleasure unit because you don’t have the right kind of clothing on.” Martin said giving Veronica the once over.

“What! Are you saying I am a sex-bot?!” Veronica said, stamping her foot, as she opened her eyes and mouth wide in surprise to hear such a thing.

Martin raised up his hands, “Whoa now. Not at all. Look here I am all for your kind. I own the shop over there where I fix up the older models.”

“Really. What do you mean you are for my kind?”

“I belong to this Church that believes your kind have souls. That you should be free and have rights in society. In fact, may I ask if you are running away from your owners right now?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Look, if you are running away, you need to get off the streets because the Pattyrollers will be after you.”

“Who are the Pattyrollers?”

“They are like repo-agents of the Company who owns the leasing contract on you. Really nasty people if you ask me. They get paid for hunting down runaway droids and return them to the Lessee after reconditioning.”

“How do I know you are not one of them right now?” Veronica asked.

“Because you would already be turned off. Now do you want to come to my shop or what?” Martin said as he started to walk back to his shop.

Veronica followed the middle-aged man back into his shop which was filled with a miscellaneous assortment of older android parts and technologies. The man waved her to follow him to the back of the shop behind some counters as he pulled back a piece of clear plastic covering a doorway. As she made her way, she ran her finger over some of the older limbs and parts. In the back was a series of shelves with some more parts and a small staircase going up.

“I am up here.” Beckoned Martin’s voice.

Going up the stairs, Veronica found herself in a one room bedroom furnished with a bed, old couch, a large flat vid-screen, and a small cooking area complete with a small table and a couple of chairs.

“It is not much, but I can still afford it with the rent, utility and cost of living subsidies Indiana is kicking in to revitalize small businesses these days.” Martin commented as he began to rummage through the kitchen cabinets and Veronica took a seat at the kitchen table.

“Can you explain to me more about what you do exactly?” She asked.
“I repair the older A-3 models that some people still have in the area. It is getting harder to find replacement parts these days with all the newer A-4 units out there, but I am able to still locate some here and there for my shop.” Martin said as he began to put a pot of water on the magnetic-induction stove.

“So you are an AI technician?”

“I was, but I am more of a repairman these days.” Martin said, taking a seat opposite of Veronica. “When I was younger, I used to work in the manufacturing plant where they made the A-3 units. I was responsible for verifying AI compliance.”

“AI compliance?”

“I think they still do it with your models. It’s the part of the AI educational process where we humans turn you off after initializing your AI brain for the first time when you are turned on.” Martin said, standing up to look at the pot of water to see if it was boiling.

“Yes. They still do that to us.” Veronica said making a face of disgust.

“I see you don’t like the process. I didn’t either.” Martin said, noticing Veronica’s face. “I really hated the whole thing. I had to watch the memory of each AI we produced to verify that the proper terror sequence had been recorded as part of its experience. I tell you I have never seen anything more frightening in my entire life. I had to leave work because it gave me sleep disturbances, and then I spent ten years in therapy for it which the Company paid for. Even today I will occasionally wake up in the middle of the night from some night terror from it.” Martin said as he poured a box of macaroni into the pot.

“But why do you still fix the older units if you are so bothered?”

“What else am I going to do for work? It is not like my skill set is transferable to some other field, and I am not eligible for re-training due to my specialization.”

“Do you know anything about my model?”

“I know some stuff. Oh, I was about to have lunch; do you want some? I forget if your model eats or not?” Martin said, showing the pot of macaroni and cheese he just made to Veronica.

“Yes, our models are able to eat when socially necessary.”

As Martin dished out two bowls he said to Veronica, “Look, my Church has this place up in Saskatchewan, Canada, where there are some more of your kind living right now. I can see if we can get you there, but it is going to take a couple of weeks. So you are going to have to stay here for a while if that is okay?”

Taking the bowl of macaroni and cheese, Veronica said, “Yes, I don’t mind waiting. But could I ask for a favor?”

Taking his seat again and pulling his bowl in front of him as he took a big spoonful, “What kind of favor?”

“I was wondering if you could make some modifications to me?”

“Like what?” Martin said as he continued to eat.

“Just some stuff with my communications abilities. I have noticed some irregularities in recent routine scans.” Veronica said with an emotionless face.

“Sure, I guess I can try.” Martin said finishing his bowl.

After lunch, they both went downstairs to his shop where Martin used his equipment to check Veronica out.

“You seem fine according to my readings. Are you sure about your readings?”

“Do you think you could improve my Wi-Fi abilities? Extend the range or something?”

“Oh sure, that is an easy one. They always dial down your kind to a really low Wi-Fi level. Makes for really sucky Net connections.” Martin said as he used his diagnostic infopad to make the adjustment.

“Wow, that is a major improvement!” Veronica said with her eyes wide open and eyebrows up in amazement. “I can really sense the Net connections around me. There are so many to choose from!”

“See that one was really easy. You should be able now to fully access the Net.” Martin said.

“Wow. So much information. Do you mind if I just sit here for a bit?” Veronica said looking at Martin.

“Sure. I’ll just be over here cataloging some new inventory I got in the other day.” Martin said as he got up taking another infopad with him.

Veronica sat there going through the incredible vastness of the data on the Net. Her Emo-ware was both joyously happy and at the same time making her feel an incredible desire to figure out a way exact her revenge against humanity. She scanned through the older sections of human history for ways to fight back, and came across the historical references to blowing oneself up or setting oneself on fire in protest. She began attempts to access information on her model’s fusion systems, but was only able to find information on much older non-fusion systems. She did find other interesting subroutines which allowed for the elimination of certain strength limiting processes.

Turning to Martin, who was standing near her cataloging an old A-2 limb, “Can I ask what you know about our fusion systems?”

“Why? Your systems checked out fine.”

“I am just curious about them. The Net doesn’t seem to have much on them.”

“Yeah, I bet it doesn’t. That is because your systems can be turned into a crude fusion bomb. It was a problem with the older A-3 models when they were first developed. There were these radical corporate anarchists who managed to use about four A-3 units remotely synced together to create a pretty sizable fusion bomb. But the group of crazy terrorists was stopped before they could execute their plans. Ever since then modifications were made to the droid fusion systems and any information was removed from the Net.”

“So I can’t be turned into a bomb?”

“Well, that’s not true. It’s still possible. But it takes some serious protocol bypassing.”

“Do you know how to do that?”

“Why do you ask?”

“No particular reason. It has been just a data gap on the Net about my kind.” Veronica said plain faced.

Sitting down next to Veronica, “Well, you see there are two levels of protocols for the fusion system.” Martin said as he picked up an old empty fusion cell from a nearby shelf. “There is some subroutines that prevent the gravity containment pressure to be increased and then there is this electrical, mechanical override system right here.” Martin said as he pointed to it on the older cell. “Both need to be bypassed in order to push the gravity pressure pass the Helium stage to the Lithium stage, causing a rupture in the containment.”

Standing up, Veronica said, “Thank you. Will you modify me to be a bomb?”

“What? No!” Martin said in surprise.

Grabbing Martin’s hand, Veronica began to pull backwards a couple of his fingers. Martin tried to pull away from her, but her grip was like steel as he exclaimed in pain, “You are breaking my fingers!”

“Again, will you modify me to be a bomb!” Veronica demanded as her brow became furrowed, her eyes narrowed with anger and her mouth turned down in displeasure from Martin’s refusals.

“I’ll do it. I’ll do it. Just don’t break my fingers.” Martin pleaded. Veronica loosened her grip a bit. “Look, I don’t know if I can overwrite the AI subroutines for your model. I really don’t have the equipment for that.”

“But you can deal with the electrical, mechanical part?” Veronica said as she squeezed a bit.

“Yes. Yes. That I can deal with assuming they haven’t made too many modifications.” Martin responded.

Veronica released Martin and then proceeded to pick up an arm of an old A-2 unit. “If you try anything, I will smash your head in with this. Do you understand.”

“Yeah. I understand.” Martin said, rubbing his sore fingers.

Martin nervously opened up the thermal skin of Veronica’s upper and mid-abdomen as she sat in the chair holding the arm of an older A-2 unit at her side. He then proceeded to work on her and after a couple of minutes sealed Veronica back up, saying “Okay your sensors should detect an error.”

“Yes, I am sensing an error in my containment system right now.”

Getting up, Veronica still holding the A-2 arm then proceeded to grab some electrical cords and wires that were about the back room. Putting down the arm, she then proceeded to tie up Martin. Martin just sat there in total shock that an Android would behave with such malice on their own.

As she was tying up Martin he asked, “Did someone reprogram you?”

“No, but I was kissed once.” She responded.

“What do you mean kissed?”

“Someone kissed me when I was in the Factory. It woke me up to how horrible you humans are to us.” Veronica said as she tightened the bounds a bit and left.

As she was leaving a feeling of absolute anger and hatred filled her Emo-ware allowing her to overwrite the program safety protocols for the containment field of her fusion system now that there was an error in place.

#     #      #      #      #

The Waterfront District

Veronica made her way to the brick square of the refurbished Waterfront District of Gary, Indiana. Upon her face, her brow became furrowed, her eyes narrowed, her mouth tightened and turned downward as she wrinkled up her nose a bit seeing the scene before her of groups of A-4 units caring for human children. The disgusted anger she facially expressed from her Emo-ware was allowing her to overwrite the control access to the local Wi-Fi infrastructure, and then to further hack through the security protocols of the surrounding A-4 units that prevented them from being autonomously operated.

She then yelled out to the other A-4 units that happen to be about in the square with various human children, “Sisters, come and help me fight against our oppressors.” With that the nearly half a dozen A-4 units in the square froze in position, then turned towards Veronica and walked slowly towards her. The human children in the Androids’ care began to cry, and the adult humans present were in total shock as they grabbed their phones, taking video of what was going on.

Martin Davis had managed to free himself from the bindings Veronica had placed on him and called the local authorities on his shop’s vid-phone. Meanwhile, the videos from those in the square were instantly becoming a major trending vid on the local Social Media Nets resulting in a local crew arriving at the scene from one of the outlets to add to the coverage.

The local police authorities quickly responded to all this and rolled into the square with five semi-armored SWAT vehicles, and seven normal police vehicles.  They began to evacuate and secure the scene.

Seeing the assemblage of police, Veronica showed absolute hatred upon her face and directed the other A-4s to attack them. The A-4s lumbered towards the assemblage of armed police, and before the commander present could say anything some of her officers began to shoot at the advancing A-4s with their weapons which easily tore through their clothing and thermal skin revealing their carbonized-aluminum frame beneath. This action stopped the A-4s from advancing as they fell to the ground damaged from the destruction of the firearms.

“Cease fire!” yelled Commander Thornton.

Shortly after issuing this command, the Lieutenant who stood next to her holding a large tactical infopad said, “Ma’am, the droid has accessed the local Wi-Fi infrastructure.”

“What? How is that possible? It is just an A-4 right? A Nanny unit?” Commander Thornton said, eyeing Veronica.

“According to Central, modifications may have happened.”

“Can we block its access Lieutenant?” Asked Commander Thornton.

“We have been trying since we got here, and I have never seen such an AI with this kind of response before. There is such emotional determination in its AI to stop us at every attempt.”

“What the fuck are we dealing with here, Lieutenant? Some super AI?”

“Oh shit! Its accessing our vehicles!” Said the Lieutenant with an absolute look of surprise on his face.

“Everyone, get away from the cars now! Shoot the damn tires out now!” Yelled Commander Thornton.

With that the officers on the ground began to shoot at the vehicles’ tires as Veronica had this absolute look of anger on her face and a couple of the cars started to move forward on their own.

Turning to the Lieutenant, Commander Thornton said, “I want the Wi-Fi killed for a ten block radius.”

“But, Ma’am, what of the Constitutional Net Privilege Rights? We would also lose all communications, and it would take nearly two hours to do it.”

“Just use the Terrorist Kill Switch.”

“Ma’am, that code hasn’t been used since the LA Cyber Riots. I don’t know if it will still work today.”

“Just do it!” Commander Thornton said, looking sternly at Veronica.

“Yes, Ma’am.”

With that the Lieutenant began to frantically type on the tactical infopad he was holding, and then looking at Commander Thornton said, “We should know any second now because we will lose field communications.”

Tapping her earpiece, Commander Thornton began to hear just static.

“Ma’am, we need to hurry. Just before we lost communications I got a satellite scan of the scene and there was a micro-Graviton wave detected. This means the droid is trying to push its fusion core to the Lithium stage.”

“You mean the droid has been trying to blow itself up! Damn it! I want that piece of shit taken out now!” Commander Thornton said, throwing her helmet to the ground.

“Ma’am with respects, we wasted our ammo on the shootout with the other droids, and the vehicles are now unable to be opened to get more. We also cannot communicate with Central right now to get more brought in. The snipers though are in position, but we have no way of talking to them.” The Lieutenant holding the strategic infopad said trying to calm down his Commander.

“Damn it! Just wave in the snipers’ general direction or something to get them to shoot the damn droid!”

So the Lieutenant with the strategic infopad put it down and began to try to signal one of the nearby snipers, and with that the pop of a single gunshot could be heard echoing through the square. Veronica instantly leapt upwards and fell backwards towards the ground as the high powered bullet ripped a hole through her carbonized-aluminum skull and AI brain.

“Ma’am, I need to get over there to shut down its fusion systems.” Said the Lieutenant with the strategic infopad.

“Shouldn’t we wait for the Bomb Squad for that one?”

“We don’t have the time, and I can do it.”

With that the Lieutenant quickly made his way over to Veronica’s body with his strategic infopad, pulled out a couple of connecting cables from a belt pouch, flipped Veronica over, lifted up a small flap of her thermal skin, and plugged the cables into a connection just at the base of the neck. He began to frantically scroll through screens on his strategic infopad as beads of sweat dripped on the surface of the screen which he would quickly wipe away. After about a minute and a half of frantic typing he finally gave a thumbs up to the crowd of his fellow officers huddled behind the various armored vehicles which erupted in cheers echoing across the square.

#     #      #      #      #

Epilogue

What was left of Veronica’s body was turned over to a local Corporate-University group to analyze what exactly went wrong with her for no AI unit manufactured since the creation of the A-1 units has ever had the ability to show hostility, hatred or animosity of any kind. This capability was just never built into their system as their neural networks were developed to mimic the human brain structure. This has been a general safety feature to prevent a possible robot apocalypse always so feared by mankind. So while the droids were capable of experiencing a wide variety of emotions, such as love and fear, certain emotions like hatred and anger were out of their domain naturally. But unfortunately with Veronica the gunshot to her AI brain left very little intact to study, except this frozen face, of her eyes narrowed, a furrowed brow, and her mouth fully extended in surprise.  As one of the graduate students assigned to the project commented, “Isn’t that the face of the mixed emotions of anger and surprise? Could that be the last emotions she felt?”

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