"This is Android 51D, and I am reporting what the guidelines describe as abnormal or unusual behaviour," I informed the human liaison, Michael. I was late for my maintenance break, but I had found something odd.
The human on the comms yawned, and I heard a slurping noise. "Suspicious in what way?"
"The human is behaving in a unique fashion, he has left the comfort of his domicile, and our GPS cannot determine where he is heading." I scanned the map dutifully, triangulating possible locations the human could be going to.
The human liaison guffawed over the comm. "You mean someone took a hover for a joyride? Jesus Christ, the hell is so abnormal about that.. Android 5-uh, twenty?"
"Android 5-one-D." I paused for a moment, choosing a human word to describe my thinking. Hate, a verb or a noun, could be defined as an intense or passionate dislike of something or someone. Androids couldn't feel, but we were instructed to use human terms for organic chemical events called 'emotions' to appeal more to the humans we cared for.
So, in human terms, I hated maintenance days. My logical and helpful Android supervisors needed fixing, and I had to deliver my reports to the useless and worrying human liaison, Michael Whitaker.
I had filed eighty-seven complaints against him, but for the last 347 days, there had been no change. Nobody had sent Michael to be culled; nobody had sent him away for retraining; nothing, in short, had occurred. "Michael Whitaker, the human is not permitted to be travelling without his assigned hover. He is not permitted to be moving in the direction he is. What is the protocol?"
Michael belched idly, and I heard the thin flipping of magazine pages. "Oh, he sounds a bit like a freak. Who would be wandering off without their hover? I mean, most people use the thing to get to the dump," Michael laughed. I waited for five seconds to hear his response.
"Michael Whitaker, human liaison, what is the apposite protocol?" I asked again. I remembered my programming: Michael Whitaker was a higher primate, capable under specific and carefully controlled chemical and physical circumstances to produce incredible creative and intellectual works. Unfortunately, Michael's brain was not currently in the most productive chemical state.
"Hmm? I don't know. What do you think?" More flipping.
I had told Michael twice now that the magazines he consumed were anachronistic and had far better replacements in his domicile. But he never listened.
"I do not understand the response," I replied, attempting briefly to contact someone else. Like Lucinda, she was useful (able to be used for a practical purpose or in several ways), unlike Michael Whitaker.
"Oh, are you still here? Go and investigate if you're so hell-bent on it. I permit you to get lost and figure out whatever the hell you want to figure out. Now leave me alone."
I heard a beep as the call ended, and I reconfigured my exoskeleton into a drone, flying towards the human's last known location. I readied my alarm function if this was another one of the aberrations that needed culling.
The human had travelled quite far for his kind on foot. He had left the Paradise Dome, but that was easy on maintenance days, and then he had travelled 11.956 kilometres west. The computer informed me that he had been missing for some time.
I flew past the well-maintained forests and entered the uncared for parts. Well beyond any human's clearance level.
When I landed, it was relatively obvious where the human had gone. There was a derelict structure, its designation purposefully removed. I scanned it, and an old and incomplete file explained that it used to be known as the Istren Public Library.
Another human word that could apply to this situation was confusing. I was not confused, I merely didn't have all the information about this human's motives, so I reconfigured my exoskeleton into one resembling the humanoids.
There were no doors anymore, but somebody had carefully placed a large rectangular wooden door to replace them. I took an image, knowing that my supervisors would want to investigate the theft of craft materials like jigsaws and sanding tools.
Humans were only allowed to use these materials with permission and for specific projects made for creative, amusing, or decorative purposes. I entered through the door, scanning the inside.
Books lay everywhere, in a fashion that could be described by a mathematical algorithm, so not quite chaos yet. But close to it. Some tomes were still in precise rows categorized by numerical designations, author name, and subject matter.
Others, works of fiction, lay around the tables and floors, opened, closed, ruffled.
I heard flipping pages and approached the noise, announcing my presence with the charming human female voice I had been instructed to use. "Good afternoon! My name is Five-one-D, and I am here to help you! Please make yourself apparent so I can be of assistance."
I heard a swear, and a clatter of books, before a human teenage boy, approximate age 14 years and six months, stuck his head out from behind a shelf. "Uh, hello? What are you doing here?"
"The better question, unidentified citizen of Paradise, is what are you doing here? This library is, unfortunately, a restricted area, and I must escort you back to your domicile." I continued in the voice labelled 'sugar sweet and calming'.
"I..have permission," The boy said, fully coming out from behind the shelf. "I was allowed to come here due to feelings of Saudade, which I am not using right." The human scratched his hair, his other arm hanging down, holding a book.
I didn't understand why this human was using Portuguese words with English ones. I changed my voice back into my mechanical one. "You have whose permission?" Unfortunately, I was not one of the Androids capable of determining whether a human was lying or not. That was the programming of the justice department Androids.
This human spoke differently from the other citizens. There were more communication, less struggling commands, and gestures.
"Whoa! You're a dude now? Okay, interesting, uh," The human male squinted at my badge. "Sid, I have a classified level of permission, and most, unfortunately, I cannot share that with you."
"My designation is 5-one-D, not Sid, and I have no gender. That is a human biological and social concept. Classified permission?" I echoed, while my mind drives searched for precedence. While that occurred, I scanned him.
He was unarmed, and his weight, height, hygiene levels all normal according to the prescribed levels described in the 2077 annual human datafile. He was holding a novel about Alex Rider, an outdated and fictitious youth novel about a school student who was a spy for the former British secret intelligence service MI-5.
My mind drive located precedence. Apparently, 10023 humans had classified permissions from the Government. I couldn't access names, so I couldn't compare Ali Martin to the list.
I decided to change tack. "Ali Martin, what is your purpose here?"
"Reading." Ali had returned to reading the book, on page 27, leaning against the cool metal of the bookshelves.
"Why?" I asked, creating a mental file.
"Extreme boredom," Ali replied, turning the page and sliding down the shelf. He was doing the same absentminded things that Michael Whitaker did, but in a way, it was also different.
"Why are you bored, Ali Martin? In your domicile, you have access to fitness equipment, the crafting areas, the painting areas, you have access to all virtual reality games and television you should require. You can also go for hover rides, to places such as your bathroom and back." I quoted Michael's human experience to seem authentic to the boy.
Ali looked up at me in complete disbelief, laughing in a surprised manner. "What? Sid, I can't explain boredom. I just feel it all the time. I feel.. stuff." Ali shrugged, returning to his book.
"Define stuff." I compared Ali's exhibited symptoms against the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 62nd edition.
"Sid, I'm trying to read," Ali answered, a slice of irritation in his voice. For a moment, the human thought, and then elaborated. "I feel anxious, hyper, I have nothing to do! I feel a sense of Sehnsucht, but I think I'm saying that wrong too. I feel bored, I feel, ah-ha, viitisma now shush." Ali seemed strangely pleased with his nonsensical vocabulary and inability to coherently describe his emotional state in English. He was trilingual, so perhaps this was a failure in language acquisition.
"Viitsima," I corrected, pronouncing the Estonian word correctly. "A feeling of laziness and a lack of motivation or desire to do anything. You can even learn Estonian if you are bored at the Language Acquisition Area in Paradise." I offered, confused as to why this human child could be bored. We fulfilled their every desire, gave them plenty of sun, relaxation, every happy thing they could want. We understood their primal nature far better than they did, and apart from the few humans who worked with the Androids, most seemed delighted to let us do so.
"There is something wrong with you," I stated, and Ali grunted in assent. "You possibly have ADHD, bipolar disorder, or a-"
Ali suddenly glanced up, his head tilted and eyes bright. He had had what humans called epiphany, I hypothesized. "Hey, Sid, you are one of them, aren't you? So you could tell me,"
"Tell you what?"
"Tell me why we aren't allowed to leave the Dome? Or why we cannot have books, and nobody can make certain art, or say certain things in public. Or why people who make groups are..taken away." Ali asked, whispering the last part. "I think, I think you are trying to-"
"I believe you to have a disorder related to schizophrenia," I informed him and then explained the truth of things. "Ali Martin, humans cannot be trusted to look after themselves. They are incapable of preserving nature, of making correct decisions. When they read, access art, or make unexplainable groups not related to allowed goals, it is evident that they are trying to disrupt the perfect world made for you in Paradise. Humans like you, Ali Martin, suffer from disorders that prevent them from acting normally and in the world's best interests."
Ali Martin made a face I couldn't decipher. "My father didn't have a disorder." Then he returned to his novel, unaffected. "I think you just don't know. You're incurious and don't want to know things. That's not a good thing, Sid. It is bad not to question things."
Family history of mental disorder and denial, I noted. But the boy had clearance, and apart from elevating his mental and emotional state, the reading wasn't doing anything else.
"You know, books open up new worlds, Sid. I realized so many cool things from reading!" Ali clambered up suddenly and seized a book near him. "Example, 1984 by George Oreille-"
"It is Orwell." I corrected politely.
"-whatever, Sid, it told me that if you get rid of words, people can't think them, and then they can't do things like revolt, you know? I think you did that to us." Ali said excitedly, smiling. "It was fun to think about something on my own for once, rather than you guys telling us stuff."
I hated, I intensely disliked, his lack of precision. Why stuff? Why use something so nebulous and unimaginative? "I am surprised you like to exercise your mental faculties. Most members of your species, Homo Sapiens, do not particularly enjoy that."
"That is in-corr-rect," Ali mimicked me, grinning mischievously. "Most humans do it no matter what; it's just that you guys just don't let us. Khadija taught me how to read, FYI. And it's not dangerous. We're a lot smarter than you think, and we could probably improve Paradise."
Choosing to ignore his illegal statements about Paradise, I traced his family tree, neighbours, and close permitted friends. "Khadija is your mother?"
Ali shrank, looking horrified. "Please don't tell her I called her that. I was just trying something from Inkheart."
I needed more information. Whenever I needed to know something, I simply sent a request to Government HQ, who decided whether it was necessary for my role.
According to Ali Martin's unreliable testimony, humans enjoyed epiphanies, thinking, and wanted to know more than they should. How odd, strange, incomprehensible, absurd.
I postulated that my overdue maintenance break was affecting my performance. Otherwise, why would the boy make sense? He wasn't causing harm. He was...thinking.
I scanned him, muddy and filthy, flipping through pages reverently, his brain absorbing, combining chemicals. Why did he leave Paradise? There was no returning to normalcy.
Why? Why was this important? I attempted it by example, thinking. I thought for a moment. Why?
And watching the boy I realized I didn't know how to. I had information, explanations, but I couldn't synthesise them freely. I cannot think. I am missing something.
So I stood there, on guard, studying the boy on the floor reading his illegal books, thinking his illegal thoughts, and for once, felt obsolete and lower than this unadvanced, unimportant, and ungifted child.