RT-1 crossed the sunlit lobby, his steps regular as a metronome. He halted in front of the white marble reception desk, standing perfectly at attention.
The slender blonde receptionist looked up from painting her fingernails a vivid pink and gave him a perfunctory smile. “May I help you?”
“I am RT-1. I seek employment with your organization.”
“Artie Won? Hmm,” the receptionist glanced down at her computer and frowned, a slight wrinkle crossing her brow. “I don’t see an appointment on the calendar, but this place has been more frantic than a kicked hornet’s nest. We’ve been hiring so many new folks lately. Just take a seat in the waiting area. I’ll let our hiring manager know that you’re here.”
“Affirmative.” Turning 90 degrees away from the desk, RT-1 walked directly to an available chair in a crowded waiting room and sat down. He brushed a nearly invisible speck of lint from his pants then folded his hands neatly in his lap to wait, conserving energy. His power reserve ticked down to 8.2%.
Four minutes and thirty-six seconds later, he looked up at a gentle tap on his shoulder. The receptionist stood beside his chair. “Excuse me, Mr. Won. We’ve got an open interview slot in a few minutes if you don’t mind waiting.”
“I do not mind.”
“Perfect!” said the receptionist. She blew on her nails as she walked back to her desk.
The man in the next seat over leaned close. “Us applicants gotta stick together. I’m Steve.” He stuck out his hand.
Steve shook his hand and grimaced. “Hell of a grip. Artie. Save it for the interview. Is it hot in here, or is it just me? I’m sweating like a pig.”
RT-1 scanned the room. “You are not the only person who appears hot. However, the room is 71 degrees Fahrenheit.”
“Geez, buddy, you are cool as a cucumber. I need this job pretty badly, I guess. We got three little ones, and the wife’s got number four in the oven. We’ve got to find a bigger apartment than our two-bedroom. What can you do, though? Home is where the heart is.”
RT-1 activated his memory circuit and considered the small, windowless space he rented to store his charging unit and various sundries necessary to maintain his appearance. “I understand that it is for many,” he allowed.
“Anyway, good luck to us both, right? Hey, I think they’re ready for you.”
Indeed, the receptionist was gesturing for him to come over. RT-1 stood and quickly analyzed possible conversational endings. “Steve, I regret that we cannot continue our conversation. Perhaps if we are both retained by this organization, we may discuss temperature, perspiration, cucumbers, family, and homes at greater length.”
Steve chuckled uncertainly. “Yeah, same to you. I think.”
The receptionist pointed him to an alcove with meeting rooms off the lobby with one long pink fingernail. A small plastic plaque next to the only open door read:
Chief People Officer
Rajiv proved to be a heavyset man with dark brown skin and a luxurious mustache. He wore a charcoal gray suit but had pulled his striped red tie loose from his neck and unbuttoned the top of his starched white shirt. He stood when RT-1 entered and leaned ponderously across the wooden desk and over his computer monitor to shake hands.
RT-1 considered the outstretched limb carefully and ratcheted down the torque of his grip by 25%. The handshake concluded without incident.
Once they were each settled in their respective chairs, Rajiv jumped right in. “So Artie, I apologize, but I don’t seem to have a resume for you. Can you tell me a little about yourself?”
On the verge of reciting his technical specifications, RT-1 paused to process the question further. Perhaps the query was not meant to be taken literally. His power reserve dropped to 8.1%. “I am known as RT-1. I require compensated employment immediately, or I will cease to function. I am capable of exceeding baseline human abilities in a wide variety of roles.”
“Love the enthusiasm!” gushed Rajiv. “Your delivery’s a bit stiff, but we can work on that. I think anyone can learn the job if they’ve got the right attitude.”
“I retain all information and follow all directives.”
“Good to hear. Ok, here’s another one: what’s your greatest weakness?”
“I would prefer not to answer,” said RT-1 in a monotone.
Rajiv grinned. “That’s why it’s such a great question. I know what to worry about if we hire you, and it shows me how well you know yourself.”
“What was that?” asked Rajiv, cupping his hand to one ear.
“I overheat in certain conditions.”
Rajiv leaned back, nodding knowingly. “Don’t we all, though? My dad used to go to court-mandated anger management courses. Has it ever affected your job performance?”
RT-1 accessed his memory banks. He recalled overhearing a technician say that they had resolved the issue with the 2.0 version. Despite performing within specifications at the lab, he was slated to be decommissioned. He had chosen to leave instead. “No, it did not affect my job performance.”
“Because you’ve developed strategies to deal with it?”
RT-1 considered the coolant system flowing through his endoskeleton and the small exhaust port hidden under his collarbone. “Yes.”
“Well, that’s alright then,” said Rajiv. “How about I bring you back and let you get a feel for the work? The biggest complaint from people who churn is that it can get boring. Repetitive The role can wear some people down, I’ll admit, but I think you might find that it suits you.”
“I do not get bored.”
“Perfect!” said Rajiv happily as he stood up from the desk and led RT-1 further down the hallway to a heavy wooden double door at the end. He pulled a keycard from his pocket and swiped it across the black reader on one side.
The room they entered was the size of an airplane hanger (144 feet by 225 feet, noted RT-1), subdivided into numerous low-walled cubicles. Each held a single desk, computer, phone, chair, and employee. The murmur of voices was a constant rumble as nearly every person was talking into their phones.
They stopped at an empty cubicle, and Rajiv put his hand on the back of the chair. Even his rich brown skin looked wan and washed out under the harsh fluorescent lights. “Well, Artie, this could be you. Want to give it a spin?”
RT-1 sat at the low desk and waiting as Rajiv flipped on the computer. After a moment, a phone number and a block of text popped up on the screen. Rajiv picked up the phone and handed it to him. “Just dial the number and read the script. If they’re interested, tell ‘em you’ll get your manager. Then hit this button to transfer the call. If they hang up or don’t answer after five rings, the computer will give you the next number and script.”
Holding the curved plastic phone to his ear, RT-1 rapidly tapped in the phone number. Rajiv stood over his shoulder, observing.
“Hello?” answered a quavering woman’s voice after the first ring.
“Hello,” read RT-1. “This is Jason from American Home Security. Does your home have adequate protection from fire, theft, and flooding? Right now, we’re offering a free quote for verified homeowners--”
The line went dead. The computer screen flashed up a new phone number and script. RT-1 reached forward to begin dialing, but Rajiv put a hand on his shoulder to stop him.
“Yowza, got a static shock there,” said Rajiv, shaking out his fingers. “Anyway, no need to do the next one. I just wanted you to get a feel for it. You’re on shift 50 minutes with a 10-minute break every hour. Another 30 minutes for lunch.”
“I don’t eat lunch.”
“Well, you can get in a quick workout.”
“I don’t work out.”
Rajiv looked puzzled. “Your call, Chief. It’s a government-mandated break. You can use it as you like.
Anyway, I’ve got to get back to my office for another interview. With the new law against automated dialing, I’m desperately short on workers. Does the position sound like something you’re interested in?”
RT-1’s power meter dropped to 8.0%. “The position is a perfect fit. I am ready to begin.”
“You stated you were short on workers. I require compensation as soon as possible. We will both benefit.”
Rajiv shrugged. “Sure, go for it. Payday is Friday. I’ll make sure you’re in the system by then.”
RT-1 picked up his phone and dialed another number. He didn’t look up an hour later when Rajiv led Steve from the waiting room to the cubicle on his left. He worked without break until a gentle chime sounded at 5:00 pm, and the computer screen in front of him failed to present a new phone number.
His battery held steady at 7.4%. The limited physical demands of the job would allow his power supply to last for an entire week. By then, his first paycheck would pay the electricity bill for his charging unit.
He turned around to see Rajiv standing behind him with a gigantic smile, his white teeth glinting in the fluorescent lights. “Artie, you’re a machine! You averaged 52 calls an hour all afternoon. I think that’s a record.”
Steve stood up and slapped the wall between their cubicles. “Good going, buddy. You’re the man.”
“Yes,” said RT-1.