Conversations with Erasmus
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Dune or any of its characters, they are the wonderful work of Frank Herbert. Erasmus belongs to Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.
The first sensation I had was a terrbile headache. Somehow, the thinking machines figured I was worth something to them alive. How I hated the abominations! They had conquered my home world and killed my family in the process. What was left of it anyway....My mother died giving birth to me and my father had left us long before. My grandparents were the only family I had. And now they were dead.
I felt like screaming, but I knew it wouldn't do any good now. Thinking machines didn't care about their prisoners. I was in a cage of some sort. Looking in front of me I saw other ragged and dirty people locked up like animals.
I wondered why the thinking machines would need human slaves...
I heard the sound of steel wheels rolling on the stone surface and a couple of robots appeared, unlocking my cell.
"Follow us, Niela Odr."
I had no idea how they knew my name. The Evermind Omnius did his homework.
It was pointless to ask these robots anything and yet I couldn't resist.
"Where are you taking me?"
"Erasmus has ordered your release." one of them speaks in a false metallic tone.
I had never heard that name before, but a spark of hope lit up inside of me. Maybe I could find help in here after all.
The robots escorted me inside a huge chamber, then exited, closing the door behind them. It was a rather excentric room, with expensive furniture and exotic plants. Thinking machines would have no need for such accomodations. Was it possible that a human could occupy a high position on one of the Synchronized Worlds?
"Hello, Niela." I heard a metallic voice behind me.
I almost jumped with surprise as I saw a robot wearing a protocole robe, his flow-metal features molding into a pleasant expression.
"I am Erasmus. I have brought you here to...help me satisfy my curiosity."
His optic fillaments shined strangely in the dim light as he sat down.
"A cup of tea?"
I looked at him, wondering if his circuits had been wired wrong.
"Humans like to consume some sort of liquids while having a conversation. No need to be shy." He seemed very proud of his knowledge.
"I'd like red wine. If you have it."
His expression changed, as if the robot was genuinely offended.
"I have everything."
Transmitting the order directly into the gel-circuit brain of his robot servants, Erasmus turned to me.
I tried to hide my distaste, knowing he could kill me at any time. I couldn't help but hate this strange robot who lived in a luxury he didn't need while humans were stuffed in cages, hungry and cold.
"Why do you live like this?" I finally asked, my outrage overcoming my fear.
He seemed surprised by the question.
"It's an accomodation that I find fitting."
"But you don't need all this. You're a thinking machine...it's the same for you if you're here or in one of the cages you keep your slaves." I regretted what I had said before I even finished the sentence, but Erasmus didn't seem angry. He actually looked amused.
"You see, I have devoted my time to understanding self-aware biological creatures...humans. I believe that one day thinking machines could surpass you in every way...even in the intensity of sensations that you feel."
"If you weren't a machine, I'd say you were crazy." His mirror-like face shows a distorted image of my own visage.
"You're blunt. I like that. You'll be able to give me the answers I need."
I was intrigued by this robot. As far as I knew, machines didn't pursue such matters. And my hope was rekindled. It was crazy, but what if a thinking machine could be taught how to feel? Then this was would be over and we could co-exist peacefully.
"I'll do my best to answer your questions."