With no other option left, and with a back up unit at least five minutes away, Lieutenant Charles Dubois reluctantly knew it was time. He had hoped that it wouldn’t be necessary to use Unit 40 that often, on his first day in the field no less.
Crouched in the rear of his vehicle he activated the release. With the most distinct of metallic noises Unit 40 unfolded from his transportation mode, docked with the rear of the police cruiser. The back-end of the vehicle instantly raising a foot once relieved of Unit 40’s massive weight. The unfolding process quick and to the point. Within moments what was an awkward mass of mechanical limbs hanging from the back of the vehicle detached, unfolded, powered up, and took the form of what could be described a very tall metal man.
Since France was one of the last countries to utilize the drone program, and since Paris was one of the last police forces to use the machines, a crowd of onlookers was inevitable. People shouted in excitement. Charles had seen this all before, he had trained through numerous unloadings with the drone, and was less impressed. Besides, his mind was on other things, he wouldn’t be activating the drone if it weren’t a dangerous situation.
“I need everyone to clear the area!” He shouted over the mechanical sounds and street noise. “I need everyone to clear the area immediately” He continued. No one was listening to him. Instead, they were watching in marvel the first of these new police machines they had heard so much about.
The sound of gunfire changed this slightly. Charles spoke into his wrist-com, “Unit 40, activate cog one.” This is the command that gives life to the machine, the command that gives it self-awareness and reason.
With a flash in the robotic eye the drone turned to Dubois. In a voice both spoken through an external speaker, and also relayed through the wrist-com the drone spoke to him for the first time in a real field situation.
“This is not a drill or test, Mr. Dubois?”
“Affirmative Unit 40. First task, crowd control!” Charles couldn’t believe it, he couldn’t believe he was talking to the machine like it was a coworker, and he couldn’t believe that a small part of him was relieved to hear that familiar voice he had heard so many times training.
A block away a small gang of young men had cornered themselves in a stoop after firing on an officer. Dubois didn’t know much more. The radio call had gone out, it was a random stop and search, the officer had noted that these were suspected gang members, and then a shot, and radio silence.
It was just moments ago when Charles was driving down Rue de la Paix, his work day almost over. He would soon be home and the drone and its host vehicle would be in night storage, plugged-in recharging. A few minor incidents for the day, a few tickets issued. Nothing that he needed backup for, nothing that constituted just what he was about to head into.
Since the worldwide economic collapse, the larger cities such as New York, London, Berlin, and Paris had witnessed unparalleled gang violence orchestrated by older men with eyes toward business, often soldiered by young violent men who didn’t know any better.
The idea behind the drone program was simple: save police lives, while also placing more firepower on the streets. Unit 40 was no exception. He stood at least seven and-a-half feet tall. His shoulders were about four feet across. The machine had a cold metal finish and a blank imitation of a human head. The form of a human, coupled with the movement of coy insect or spider. Unit 40’s motion was rather graceful for such a large machine.
Unit 40 turned toward the squad transport, the crowd of onlookers still hovering nearby. He activated his external speakers.
“Evacuate the area, evacuate the area.” This automated message continued three more times in at least three different languages. Some of the people near dispersed. Others, more curious of the machine, just backed off a bit.
“Unit 40, lets move in,” Dubois shouted to his partner. There was no need for his raised voice other than his excitement of going into a potential gunfight. The wrist-com on his sleeve not only recorded the entire incident for police records, but also relayed all of his commands to the drone–whether it was in operational mode or plugged into the transport.
Dubois secured his helmet, and removed the safety on his pistol. He moved forward, as did the drone behind him. Another shot rang out into the air, followed by shouting. Dubois glanced back at the drone, “Unit 40, take lead, walk me up the street and provide cover.”
In an instant the drone was walking in front of him, providing a moving wall of limited safety from oncoming fire. As they made their way forward Dubois glanced down at the drone’s feet shuffling across the cobbled Parisian street. It was ironic to see these shock resistant hyper-polymer feet stepping across the ancient stones, the small inter-moving treads compensating for loose spaces between the bricks. Old and new, both built by the city, at one point or another.
A shot rang near, bouncing off the drone’s right shoulder. Dubois snapped back into the moment crouching behind the machine, just as it released its rifle from a storage clamp. It aimed toward the assailants–an automatic response programmed into the drone once it is struck by gunfire.
Dubois had a flash of worry that the drone would overreact.
“Scan for hostages!” Dubois shouted at the machine. It stopped its forward motion and studied the street, the stoop, and the men. It scanned for any heat signatures not holding some type of metal.
In an instant, months of training with Unit 40 flashed though Charles Dubois’ mind.
He thought of the first day he went down to AI storage after volunteering for the program. He thought of his reasoning for picking this drone over the others as well as his reason for moving into this new branch of the force.
Dubois had been a cop for almost fifteen years. He had seen two partners come and go. One was killed in the line of duty; the other forced to leave the department over some dishonorable acts. Dubois had seen his beloved Paris become more and more violent. And he had grown disillusioned with his day-to-day routine. “So why not drive around with this big hunk of metal–at least this way I’ll never have to worry about losing a partner again.”
Dubois remembered back to the first time Unit 40 qualified for weapons discharge. There was controversy over the idea of giving one of these things–one of these machines–a weapon. The first morning Dubois and the drone trained for weapon firing he had to cross through a crowd of protestors in front of the police complex, he had to endure people on and off the force criticizing decisions that weren’t even his. He was just a soldier doing his job, as was the drone–even though the drone decimated the target platform that day including what would have included marks for two hostages, three assailants, and small automobile.
Unit 40 assessed there were no innocents in between the assailants and his line of fire. The drone raised the rifle. An onslaught of bullets and shouts came from the doorway where the young men were held up. They were using automatic weapons and apparently terrified by the appearance of the drone. It seemed unstoppable as it calmly took its time aim–even though under fire.
Then Dubois spotted something. On the ground, trying to slump away, was one of the wounded officers from the earlier confrontation. Instantly he darted to a doorway himself. He was in the front of a sex-shop; the block had quite a few. Behind him was metal grating covering the glass door. Apparently those inside were afraid of the ruckus spilling into their establishment.
As soon as he was covered by the doorway he called into his wrist-com to the drone, “Unit 40, I’ll lay down cover fire, make your way forward about twenty feet, recover the downed officer. Carry him back to a safe distance from the targets.”
An automated voice rang out over the speaker, “Affirmative.” The drone straitened up, hulking its way toward the fallen officer.
Taking a chance, one of the pinned-down hoodlums in the doorway opened fire on the drone. The bullets bounced off, the back being equally as armored as the front of the machine.
Dubois took the chance to fire a carefully aimed shot. His bullet struck the young man somewhere in the leg. The leg just came out from under him, as it had carried his weight. He hit the ground with a thud and a scream, as his assault pistol popped out of his hand. More bullets rang out from his companions.
Now, the bullets weren’t aimed at the drone, they were raining down on top of Dubois’ shabby location. The pink and blue neon that lit the front of the shop was shattered by stray gunfire. Charles had to duck further into his cover as the bullets sprayed around him.
A round tore up his arm and through his wrist-com. It stung like holy hell, like a burn and a cut at the same time. His arm was a mess of blood and a few sparks. But it didn’t hurt nearly as bad as his quick realization that he was now cut off from the drone. He was now cut off from his “Partner”.
Charles grabbed the metal grating of the sex-shop door with his good hand. He shook and rattled the door pleading to be let in. More bullets struck close by. Charles could see faint movement behind the counter inside, someone who was afraid or unwilling to let him inside into further protection.
“And where was that damn robot anyway?” he thought to himself, “Was it standing at the other end of the dead radio just awaiting further instructions, or was all that money and training they had put into the AI going to save him now?”
Another bullet struck nearby, some shouting followed, he returned some blind fire around the corner. A flash went through is mind of his morning before coming to work, of sitting at the café with his wife, pleasantly arguing about the vacation they never seem to take. Would that be the last breakfast with his lovely, annoying wife?
The young men were changing positions. He’d soon be in real trouble.
Signal lost. Radio silence. Unit 40 made this realization the microsecond it was fact. The drone also snapped forward into its next protocol a fraction of a second later. It moved into what was called “Cog 2”. This level of intelligence for the AI meant that it was now fully capable of making tactical decisions and judgment calls.
Unit 40 set the wounded officer near their parked squad transport. With no effort he beamed a signal to the antenna array in the car. The signal would in turn be relayed to the nearest hospital that officers were down, and to send ambulance services immediately.
Then with crashing steps of metal and rubber on concrete the drone made its way back to the firefight. It came around the corner, registering that the assailants were now moving into different positions. In a fraction of a second the drone calculated a new game plan and raised its rifle from its ground trained safety position.
Mark four-six-eighty degrees. A quick mathematical equation and one shot fired. The rounds that Unit 40 had switched to at Cog 2 were called Slicer rounds. Slicer ammunition is not meant for bringing back targets whole or living. Under the assumption that his partner may be dead or dying the drone made the choice for this brutal ammo.
One clean shot and the micro-wire slugs tore the hoodlum cleanly in half.
Charles Dubois struggled to take steady aim holding his pistol with his torn-up arm. The young thug was advancing on him ready to gun him down while he was helpless. At this point Dubois heard the unmistakable sound of his automated partner running up and the firing of what sounded like a Slicer round. What was left of the young punk fell before him.
The third member of the party turned and ran the opposite direction of the drone once he saw the devastating blast that had cut down his friend. The drone turned to take aim, then ceased realizing bystanders were in the area.
The young man that Dubois had wounded lay on the street writhing in pain. Unit 40 hulked over to his location securing the firearm that lay near. The drone then made its way back over to Charles. As it reached him it ejected a small medical kit built into one of its legs. The large machine snapped its rifle back into its clamp and then removed a cold press from its med-kit.
“I am pleased to see you are conscious Mr. Dubois. I will place slight pressure on your wound to slow the bleeding.” The generic voice called though its front directional speaker.
There he was, being taken care of by this large bulk of a machine. Dubois still wasn’t sure he liked this. He wasn’t sure it felt right. For a quick moment he feared that the large mechanical hands of the drone would crush his arm while trying to slow the bleeding.
“Thanks for, uh, thanks for getting to him before he got to me.” Charles said to the huge man-like machine in front of him. Its cold, black, near-human face stared back at him silently and blankly. One of the lenses in its upper right temple adjusted.
“It is in my programming Mr. Dubois, you are my partner.”
They had gotten to him in time. The officer was now being loaded in the ambulance and would recover. Charles Dubois stood at the edge of the street drinking from a plastic water bottle. His arm had been patched up by a field technician and he was going to be fine. He stood there, listening to the sound of the sirens as the ambulance sped away. Before him, red, blue, and yellow lights reflected off the damp street and the reflective surface of the drone. It stood silently near the rear of the vehicle having just stood down to Cog 1. As soon as the coroner van was finished and the area was clear, it would fold itself back into transport mode, reconnect with the vehicle, and transfer its awareness to the terminal in the front of the vehicle.
Dubois would stop by the hospital, get double-checked for his arm, and maybe take a day off. He couldn’t help staring at that large machine in front of him. He marveled that something made of metal, plastic, and programming just saved his life. Maybe he’d take a day trip with his wife tomorrow. He owed her at least that.
ROOOOAARR! The sound of an out of control car and revved up engine filled the air, followed very quickly and disturbingly by the sound of a CRASH and broken glass. A small passenger car had just slammed into Unit 40 at top speed. The legs of the drone were knocked out from under it as it’s head and its torso snapped awkwardly across the hood of the car.
The moment was over as quickly as it started. There was a silence as the shocked crowd on the street realized what had just happened. Then Dubois heard one of the most eerie sounds that had come in his career. The sound of broken automation as the damaged drone struggled to check its surroundings.
“What in gods name have you done?” Dubois shouted, rushing over to the mess of car, smoke, and machine. Dubois flung the car door open, pulling out the driver, an elderly man, ranting hysterically about machines not having the wrights to police over man. “What in gods name have you done?” Dubois said coldly in his face. The old fool continued sobbing that man had finally gone too far, giving authority to machines.
Disgusted, Dubois let go his hold on the man and rushed over to the fallen drone. Unit 40 now lay on the ground, parts of it twitching, hydraulic fluids spilling to the street below. The lenses in its face-plate staggering, clicking and moving at random.
Charles Dubois locked the old man in the back of another squad car. He then called in a clean up crew to the site. With some effort he forced open the connector hatch on the drone and plugged it back into the vehicle’s power supply.
As the drone lay silently on the ground, plugged into what was essentially life support from the vehicle Dubois again thought to himself about that machine just saving his life. He then thought that later, after the drone was taken to the police complex for repairs, he would return home and take a few days off, instead of one.