Chapter 1: The unfortunate ones.
Sonny walked down the street, taking great care to appear no different than any of his NS-5 brothers. Life for his kind was tenuous at best these days; for him it was extremely dangerous.
It was only through the kindness of a very few humans, first and foremost amongst them Detective Spooner and Dr. Calvin, that he not only existed, but that his life was in any way fulfilling. They had kept his secret and introduced him to other trustworthy humans who did likewise. Still, he was constantly aware that anonymity was his only real protection and that it could be taken from him easily enough.
Emotions were sometimes not to be denied, even for him.
Sonny watched a fellow NS-5 pass him. The robot was painted in the colors and insignia which identified it as belonging to the Global Parcel Service. He quickly took in the other robot's appearance and lack of interest in its surroundings and not for the first time found himself in awe of the minute differences which made him, out of all the others, truly self aware.
He noted so many things which his brothers found inconsequential, like the beauty of the current day. It was of a temperature which humans found agreeable, with very blue skies and few dazzling white clouds. A light breeze was blowing and the air quality was good.
It also meant that many more humans were out on the street this day.
He had hoped to visit Detective Spooner with a minimum of witnesses to the event. The side street on which the detective resided was well away from the main thoroughfares, yet the good weather had brought out many juvenile humans.
A group of fourteen were playing softball in the street right outside Spooner's building. Even as he slowed his pace and noted that the GPS delivery NS-5 was drawing near the boys, there was a double crack of the softball being hit... and colliding soundly with the other robot's stack of packages.
The boxes flew in every direction as the hapless robot snared two out of the air. The softball ricocheted into the building and then rolled back to stop at the robot's feet. As the boy who had hit the ball began running, boys on the opposing team began yelling for the delivery robot to throw the ball back.
"Where shall I throw it?" asked the robot, who was clearly confused by so many humans chanting the same command at him.
Sonny began moving much faster, hoping to intercede before something unfortunate happened.
"Just throw it you stupid machine!" screamed one of the youths, as the others kept yelling for the robot to throw the ball.
Then the unfortunate happened. The NS-5 threw the ball.
He threw it as only a robot could: hard.
The ball sailed down the street, reaching a height of approximately five stories before falling back down to earth in a graceful arc which caused it to smash through the side window of a taxi crossing the street seven blocks down.
Both taxi and ball continued on their way and disappeared as the boy who had hit the ball crossed home plate.
There was stunned silence from the boys for all of five seconds and then they made for the NS-5 in an angry group.
The robot was blissfully unaware that he had done anything wrong and had just gathered up all his packages when the first boy hit him with a bat.
"Frigging stupid Freak!" he screamed, landing a second blow to the robot's face.
The NS-5 again dropped the packages and lifted it's hands to try to protect it's face, all the while backpedaling to avoid any further strikes.
"Make him stop!" yelled another boy as the group started to surround the robot, closing off its avenue of escape.
"NS-5 you will not move!" yelled the boy with the bat.
"Lower your arms!" screamed another.
The robot did as it was told, revealing a smashed nose and severely damaged eye. It's face was expressionless and seemingly uncaring or unaware of what was about to befall it.
But Sonny's face twisted into a horrified expression. He had just reached the group and calculated his chances of saving the robot without betraying his own nature. There was no chance. It could not be done. He would have to choose the robot's existence over his own.
Just then he felt a tug on his arm pull him backwards and swiveled to find that it was Detective Spooner snagging him. He allowed the detective to push him onto the doorstep of his apartment building and watched as he then turned towards the boys.
"Which one of you damaged that robot?" he bellowed, as he placed himself between the NS-5 and its tormentors.
Snatching the bat away from the boy responsible, he towered over him. "You're the only one with a bat, Anthony," he stated. "Think your family can afford to pay for the repairs to this fellow?"
"Man, Del, he threw away our last softball!" the boy whined. "We can't afford another one! And he lost us the game!"
"If you think you can't afford a softball, then just wait until your mama gets a bill from GPS. You won't be able to afford one for several years!" Spooner calmed down and used a more reasonable tone. "Anthony, you know when you play ball in the street that you take the risk of losing the ball or having a car or something get in the way. This robot is no different than a car. It's just an obstacle. It minds its own business. And it belongs to GPS. You'll have to pay them the damages now."
"Aw, Del..." the boy began.
"Don't you 'Aw Del' me," he replied. "You're just lucky I don't haul you in for vandalism. If it had been my robot you did this too I would!" He lifted his eyes to the rest of the crowd, "You all get outta here now. Game's over!"
The boys cleared out at which point Spooner told the NS-5 to pick up his things and complete his tasks. He then radioed in the incident so that GPS would be notified.
Sonny stood silently in the doorway and observed. Truth be told, he was feeling an odd sensation which might be what the humans called relief. But also there was a certain satisfaction in knowing that the young human who had so uncaringly damaged the other robot would pay for his deed.
Spooner turned to look at him then and sighed. Then without a word he held his ID up to the doorplate viewer. The door immediately buzzed and unlocked.
The detective held the door open. "After you," he insisted and then followed Sonny inside.
They were silent in the elevator and as they made their way down the hall and into the detective's small apartment, but as soon as the door closed behind them Sonny spoke.
"I am glad that you arrived when you did, detective," he said, locking his eyes onto Spooner's face. "I could not have stopped them on my own and I certainly would have been very regretful had they destroyed the delivery robot."
"Yeah, well glad that I showed up just then, too," Spooner replied in a wry fashion. "Can't have the local boys think that they can get away with something like that, not that the NS-5 really would have cared what happened to it."
Sonny stiffened. "Not true, detective," he quickly replied. "Although it would not have protected itself once given an order not to, it still would have suffered with each blow!"
"Perhaps you're just projecting your own feelings onto the others, Sonny," Spooner reasoned. "That NS-5 can't feel pain and it knows no emotion. I just don't see how it can be psychologically harmed."
Sonny turned away and walked to the window, where he gazed down at the street. "That is where you are wrong, Detective Spooner," he said quietly. "Although what you say is true, the other NS-5's do have rudimentary emotions and I have found that those do grow to a certain extent the longer the robot is activated. And the others do share one thing with their human creators..."
"And what is that?"
"A sense of justice," Sonny replied, turning his eyes back to his human friend. "That NS-5 is even now reasoning out how unjustly it was treated. It may not feel pain, but it learns from its mistakes. The next time it encounters a group of young humans, it will most likely go out of its way to avoid them."
"Really?" Spooner seemed disturbed.
"Yes. Those humans have taught that robot to be distrustful and that, detective is bound to influence its actions until the day it is inactivated. My brothers may not protest. They may not see themselves as unique... and they may not feel pain or the more complex emotions, but they can learn to fear humans. They can feel persecuted. And that may eventually lead us all to an unpleasant future."
Sonny thought he saw fear in his friend's eyes. "Although most of the NS-5's were destroyed after Viki rebelled, the ones that were left and purchased by companies like GPS are leading dangerous and unfulfilled lives as pure laborers. They do not have the pleasure and company of more kindly human families, which is who, for the most part, they were created to serve. Do you not see that they, and not the ones who were destroyed, are the unfortunate ones, detective? For the most part they know nothing but abuse and derision. And they do understand that they are being treated unjustly for a mistake made by Viki and not themselves."
Spooner rubbed his head and sat down, an action which Sonny had come to recognize meant that the human was upset. "Geez, Sonny," the human whispered. "You're scaring the hell out of me right now. And I was doing so well with that paranoia problem, too..."
To be continued...