Just a “heads up,” this will be my last preview story before I publish the Mysteries of the Dark II book. I hope you enjoy the stories way more than I enjoy writing them. And now I hope you enjoy ” COMMISSIONED “
“Right this way, Commissioner,” Tommy said, motioning to a small office at the front of the manufacturing plant. “I have coffee and donuts. We can chit chat before we get down to business.”
The tall, thin Commissioner stepped into the lavishly decorated office. In front of him was a dark leather couch pushed against the wall behind two matching chairs which sat close to a large oak desk. Beside the door was a small table with more than enough room for a coffee pot and a box of assorted donuts. The Commissioner declined the treats and sat upright in the closest of the leather chairs.
“Mr. Steel,” the Commissioner began, “I know why you’ve asked me here. You want me to sign off on some of your proposed expansion plans.”
“You are absolutely right, Commissioner Davis,” Tommy admitted. He slid into the leather chair next to his guest rather than behind the desk. “Business is booming and the artificial biometry market is just beginning to take hold. I need room to expand manufacturing and testing.”
“Well, the problem we have is that we have zoning ordinances and this would put you too close to residential areas. We have to be careful of property depreciation.”
“Oh, but Mr. Davis, I want to build a clinic there, too.”
“A clinic? What for?”
“For biometry, of course.”
“Mr. Steel, you are going to have to explain what you mean.”
“Absolutely! Follow me.” Tommy stood up and left the office beckoning Davis to join him. The pair walked through a long wide corridor with a people-mover treadmill. Steel eagerly stood on the conveyor and watched as a timid Davis cautiously did the same.
“Commissioner Davis, biometry is an experimental technology that allows us to build mechanical and electronic artificial limbs and attach their controls to live nerve endings, allowing the wearer to actually be able to control the limb, just like they would their original. It’s like giving someone their arm back, but instead of flesh, it is made of plastic, wires, and metal.”
“You mean to say that you are working on bionics?”
“Bionics is an old term. Biometrics is more than just an attachment.” They arrived at the end of the conveyor and walked through the large glass doorway at the end of the hall, stepping into a vast laboratory with individual stations. Tommy walked over to a station that had an articulated right arm complete with elbow, wrist, and fingers. “Here let me show you.” He attached a band with wires around his arm near the shoulder. The wires ran down to the articulated arm and attached at various points.
“Commissioner, watch.” Tommy turned the power on and the arm went through a range of motion tests then sat motionless on the table. “It runs an A.I. computing software. It really is intuitive. Hold out your hand like you’re going to shake my hand.”
Davis was cautious but this was a harmless request so he extended his hand toward Tommy. The articulated arm reached out to shake hands. Davis snatched his hand back.
“Oh, don’t be frightened,” Tommy begged, “It’s just the AI figuring out what I’m trying to do.” As he explained, the arm held up its hand as if trying to calm down the Commissioner.
“This is AI?” Davis asked.
“Yes sir. This arm band monitors your brainwave activity. Whenever you think about something, it monitors how you react and monitors what you do with your other limb to calculate its action. It is incredibly intuitive.”
Davis was intrigued. “So a veteran comes home from war, gets his new prosthetic, and can live a normal life?”
“Not a prosthetic, a biometric limb. And he doesn’t have to worry about charging it. It is powered by a battery inside the limb that recharges from motion, like walking. It constantly accesses brainwaves and analyzes neurotransmitters so that it functions just like the real deal.”
“Wow. That sounds incredible.”
“It is, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. The reason we want to expand manufacturing and build a clinic has much more to deal with medical research than just making a better prosthetic. What’s really incredible is that we’ve uncovered a way to get the recipient to actually feel through the limb.”
Commissioner Davis leaned forward taking off his thin framed glasses, “Feel? Through the new limb? Are you serious?”
“Yes sir. But,” Tommy looked around and lowered his voice, “we haven’t had a chance to fully test this and I don’t need any trade secrets running loose. You understand?”
Commissioner Davis thought for a second, “I don’t know about the zoning laws. I will certainly try to get this in motion. I am looking forward to being on the ground floor with you on this.”
The pair walked out of the laboratory toward the front doors. Commissioner Davis was as excited as could be about the possibilities. But something bothered him. “By the way, how did you get Thompson to sign off? I am an opportunist, so I can see the great benefits, but Thompson, he’s not swayed by technology and he is such a stickler for the rules.”
“I guess, he was just as convinced as you were.”
“You’re right. This is too big to ignore. I’d better get back to City Hall. I’ve got a lot of research to do.”
Tommy watched as Commissioner Davis got into his car. After waving, Tommy walked into the building and went straight to his office. Opening the closet, he slid a small hidden panel and pressed the single button hidden by it. The closet lengthened until a small door was revealed. He stepped through the door into a small laboratory, much like the one he showed the Commissioner, however, this one had full exoskeletons. Standing on the side of the room was a row of people dressed in black jumpsuits, one of which was an exact duplicate of Commissioner Davis. “Looks like I won’t be needing you after all,” he said deactivating the robot.
He eyed another robot standing in line, an African-American woman in her mid-fifties. “Now to get ready for my meeting with you, Councilwoman Jenkins.” The robot smiled and nodded then walked toward a two-way glass mirror that looked out into the office. “Remember, observe mannerisms and speech patterns.”
The robot replied in a generic voice, “Affirmative,” then the lights dimmed in the laboratory.
Smiling, he walked back toward his office stopping at a metal cylinder with tubes coming out of it and a small window revealing a man’s face. “Let’s hope they all listen better than you did, Mr. Thompson,” he said as he left the room. After a moment the door slid closed and Tommy stepped out into his office. There was a buzz on his office intercom. “Yes?”
“Councilwoman Jenkins is here to see you.”
“Oh, she’s early. But by all means, send her in.”