Julian pressed his hand along the rough concrete wall feeling for the light switch until he felt the big switch click and watched as the basement research hall lights to flicker to life one at a time, revealing the rows of robot arms working tirelessly in the dark.
He pulled the phone away from his ear as the old land lady shrieked at him, ‘I’ve told you before Julian, you can’t bring home any cat you find on the street, I won’t allow it, it’s my building and I make the rules.’
‘It’s like zero degrees out, the poor thing would have frozen to death, I promise just a few more days, then I’ll take her to a shelter,’ he lied.
‘I’ll give you till tomorrow, or so help me I’ll deal with it myself, I’m not having that vermin in my building.’
He stabbed his finger at the phone to kill the call, imagining her face behind the little red button. He would have to keep the windows locked, the evil witch might just poison the poor thing.
Julian put on the coffee machine and surveyed the long narrow research hall. On each side rows of robotic arms swiveled and slid, pushed and pulled in a chaotic ballet of electro-mechanics.
They were all still moving which was a relief that he didn’t have to do any troubleshooting before his first cup of coffee. He picked up a clipboard and started his inspection. Each Bot was operating well, performing menial repetitive tasks that would one day replace most unskilled human labor. The first robot had two large multipurpose arms with prototype hands made from clear polymer rubber. Underneath the clear rubber hands he could see the fine motors and sensors where struggling with the task he had set up for them. The fumbling fingers struggled to tie the shoelaces on his old pair of sneakers. The shoe laces were threadbare and the shoe upper almost warn through from the thousands of times the robot had struggled to tie the shoe laces and failed. He made a note on his clipboard, “Improvement, 2-3 weeks, order more shoes and laces.”
The next robotic arm was moving so fast that he couldn’t see it perform its actions, all he could hear was the dull metallic buzzing sound of a machine moving at 50 times per second. He flicked on the disco strobe light and turned the dial slightly adjusting its frequency, magically slowing down the appearance of the robot arms movements and allowing him to observe the robot as it performed its tasks.
A large aluminum puzzle of 5000 pieces was laid out on a cutting table, each piece was blank with no picture to help a human eye, instead it was polished stainless steel, laser cut to a highly complex shape that could only fit together one way. He had tried to do the puzzle once, but gave up after 4 hours and 3 pieces, it was well beyond a humans patience and ability.
The pieces lay scattered on the table, the arm picked up a piece showed it to the camera, and placed it in it’s correct position perfectly. The system moved so fast that it completed the 5000 piece puzzle every 2 minutes.
He made a note, “Puzzlebot, 10/10 re-purpose for bricklaying test.”
The next Bot along the line was his baby he had spent most of his post-graduate years and a few papers developing. MED.USA was an A.I controlled surgical robot with four large gross movement arms, and on each arm where four micro manipulator snakes.
Each micro manipulator finger was able to move in any direction in 3D space and was fine enough to navigate through large blood vessels, yet strong enough to hold chest cavity open.
The bot was tirelessly working on Priscilla the Pig, who tragically passed away when a farmer accidentally drove over her with his tractor. She was hooked up to a heart and lung machine that simulated a live patient in a surgical environment and allowed the AI to tirelessly explore every aspect of her injury and learn invaluable data on brain and spinal injuries.
He reviewed the data collected and the rates of accidental damage had fallen to nearly zero, MED.USA was almost ready for the operating theater.
Next was Chefbot with its three long arms and cluster of optical lenses where a head would normally go. These would one day revolutionize the fast food industry, saving McDonald’s and Co billions per year in labor costs.
But something was not right with the Chefbot, he just couldn’t put his finger on it. Each of its long thick arms moved effortlessly in a small kitchen area preparing a bacon and egg breakfast, one of the perks of opening the lab in the morning.
The robot was holding the long sharp boning knife yet it was not busy with any prep work, only frying?
The Sensor cluster on the head of the robot turned silently towards him while he looked at the knife, its cluster of dark camera eyes looked at him like a spider would its prey.
In the robots optical processing core, the shape of the human became clear, the human took a step back and raised its hands. The instruction set came through in a millisecond, a complex sequence of mechanical movements where played out in another millisecond to verify intended performance, the consequences of the actions where reviewed, and the instruction was given in another millisecond.
The mechanical arm swung around and down at an impossibly fast speed, the razor-sharp knife slashed down hard into him smashing through his left Collarbone and pushed deep into his chest cavity, popping ribs off his breast plate like chicken bones. The blow struck him like a freight train, inhumanly fast and powerful.
He lay on the floor, his chest crushed in on the left side, blood pooled around him quickly. His face was ashen, his mouth in a grimace paralyzed by the shock of the force, he scratched around on the floor and slipped in his own blood.
Julian heard the door to the research lab slam shut, and the footsteps of help approaching. He tried to call out, to tell them to call an ambulance, but all his broken body could do was wheeze and gurgle.
The man walked up to him and knelt by his side. Julian reached a hand out to him for help, but the man swatted it away. He watched without a word, without calling 911 or trying to help. He watched as the last of his life drained out onto the concrete floor in heaves and squirts.