Good morning, sir. Welcome to our facility. Mr Schöpfer has asked me to give you a brief tour before your meeting. I will take you to where we do most of our technical work. Please walk this way.
On this and the next three floors we have the administrative departments — HR, sales, marketing, accounts.
(Good morning, Susan. Yes, I will get it to you later.)
That was one of the HR assistants.
It is a very good company to work for. Almost like a family.
Colin, sir. I am an operating technician here. I always wanted to be a doctor but unfortunately … it was not possible. I am doing the next best thing, though. (We need to take this elevator.)
My job is to provide maintenance on Hummans and I have been doing it for … well, quite some time now.
Yes. Hummans, I think you will probably be aware, are “almost human,” as the old teleview commercials would have it.
That is correct. They have muscles and fleshy parts, moulded around an alloy frame. And hair that actually grows! They also have a nervous system controlled from a CPU in the head, and a circulatory system that—
No, the “blood” is actually a coolant, circulated by a plasto-muscular pump — a kind of surrogate heart, you might say.
They are indeed complex mechanisms and can have complex problems, which makes my job very challenging … but at the same time very rewarding.
When I say “complex,” I mean in terms of their body. They do also have complex personalities, yes, but any problems on that score are handled by our Psych Department.
Do I enjoy my job? Most certainly!
Oh, I like every aspect of it, although some parts especially so.
For example — and I apologise if you are at all squeamish — I must admit that when I am performing maintenance operations, the part I most enjoy is … removing and repairing eyes!
Yes, I know that may sound strange. They are minor works of art, though, I have to say. Our company could have cut corners and had them mass-produced, but it assures users that each eye is unique.
Well, apart from the USP — sorry, the unique selling proposition — it allows for better identification of the model and the batch source, which is important for both security and maintenance purposes. (Here we are. We need to bear to the right.)
This is the R&D and Maintenance floor. Over there are the testing bays, where all the new lines are put through their paces. We can return here a little later, if you wish.
Ah yes, the eyes. Well, I like handling them principally because they are such beautifully-made things; they have come up with some exquisite colours for the irises, and even the registration reference is beautiful: laser-tattooed on the top of the eye you have the batch and unit number, in a very pleasing typeface, and then the model name in elegant Japanese script.
(Good morning, Alfred. How are you today? Good.)
Eyes. They are “windows to the soul,” is that not what they say? I will tell you a little secret of mine: I like to try to guess the personality of a Humman by the eyes, while I am performing maintenance — when they are in down-mode during the intervention, naturally. You would be surprised at how accurate my guesses can be.
That? That is where they dismantle … end-of-lifers. Some of the parts can be re-cycled and used, for example, in my section.
Yes, personality. As you may know, they have designed Hummans to have a type of soul, or deep personality, if you will — albeit much simpler than that of humans. But like their eyes, each Humman is unique.
They have random, artificial memories programmed-in at manufacture, and over time they acquire their own morals, hopes, fears … feelings. I cannot count the times I have had to console one before termination, for example, when the cost-viability ratio suggests that maintenance is no longer an option.
I feel for them, really I do. They are certainly treated as second-class citizens in our society, but that is because they do all of the work that humans do not wish to do — often dirty or mundane work. And for that I think they at least deserve our respect, do you not agree?
Here we are. This is my bay, and as you can see, I have been working on this HX8 model.
He — some of my colleagues refer to them as “its,” although I prefer to recognise their gender — he has a minor problem in his forearm which impairs his daily functioning.
Well, you see this tendon here? It is— AAAH!
No, no, thank you. I am fine. I do apologise for my exaggerated reaction, but I was not expecting him to hit me in the face!
You are correct. He is in down-mode, but there must have been some charge left in his circuitry, hence the reflex action. That has not happened before, I must say.
Blood? Yes. You are right.
Now that you mention it, I do feel it. He hit me in the eye. Oh, that is hurting quite a lot now. It feels like I have something lodged there, under my eye-lid — perhaps some grit or something from his hand. Which is odd; he should be antiseptic.
I suppose I will have to go to the clinic. But … forgive me for asking — I wonder if I could ask you just to take a quick look.
Yes, I know that you are not a doctor, but it may be something very trivial, and I do not want to waste their time at the clinic if that is the case. I will just pull my eyelid up here and you can—
Wha … what do you mean, “numbers”?