Novus Dies: The Posperity Doctrine

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The year is 2364. Security operators discover their robots might be going rogue—but it's unclear what their agenda is and whether they are to be trusted. This 60k word story revolves around the investigations and battles that made out the first three days of the discovery.
First 10 Pages


‘The moment of discovery was later traced to a single and most mundane event. Now I know what you’re thinking: that none of us truly knows when it happened. That’s true, the term “moment of discovery” simply refers to our first traceable contact. In the interest of transparency, they have offered us varying estimations—timestamps and transcripts of those interviews are attached to your presentation feeds— but either they’re truthful and they honestly don’t know themselves, or they are liars and trying to hide it from us. Agenda unknown. Obviously, considering some of the incidents in the three Days of Discovery, and probably others since, it’s understandable why we’re careful.’

TRANSCRIPT: Presentation ‘A new origin of species or the origin of a new species?’, Van Louveren, M

A flush, covert panel sits at eye level, not far from the apartment’s front door. To its right are the rec room’s manual light buttons. Electronics are dark, and every wall opening is sealed by perfectly fabricated doors and blackout windows. The space is silent— mandated as such to allow for optimal sleep.

When the Deep Space Atomic Clock broadcasts its second daily timestamp, Collective society on the 20/35 longitudinal resets to 00:00.

The Otto home automation unit pings its update server from a back-box behind the left panel. The update package checks out against the header and security data, and the unit accepts the update without question. It places all active services into its autonomic bank and then reboots so fast that no human would have noticed the downtime. Back online, it retrieves all active services from the bank, and then switches all the lights in the apartment to full luminance.

‘What the!’ comes a loud shout from the master bedroom.

The rec room’s newly cataloged furniture and art speak of contemporary bachelorhood—a spartan and sleek aesthetic, with the man now stumbling through the doorway the only item that’s seemingly out of place.

The man shields his eyes with his palms and goes to stand in the center of the room. Squinting against the brightness, he drops his hands from his face and flicks one wrist a couple of times. When nothing happens, he repeats the procedure in different directions: first to his left, then to his right, and eventually he turns around and flicks his wrist in the direction he came from. Still there’s no response.

He starts searching for something and, eventually finding the half-forgotten manual light buttons next to the Otto’s panel, pumps them with all the vehemence his exhausted and hungover self can muster.

At last the Otto switches all the lights off again and the man lumbers back to his room, mumbling incoherently. When he’s halfway there, the Otto again switches on all the lights and the man groans as he arches his back and tugs at his hair. When he starts moving back toward the manual buttons, the home automation unit quickly switches all the lights off again. The man’s arms shoot out like a tightrope walker fighting off a wobble, and then he freezes.

The Otto switches all the lights on and off three times in quick succession.

Furious, the man speeds back to his room, picks up his comms unit, and seats it in his right ear. ‘Otto, who can I call about this malfunction?’ The Otto rattles off a few options, but before long the unit’s gender-neutral robotic drone gets on the man’s nerves and he arches his back again and claws at his chest. ‘Just call the building rep!’

Before the call connects, the Otto starts strobing the lights on and off, and the man rushes back to the rec room, hoping to find something to vent his frustration on. The Otto doesn’t tell him, but it hasn’t called the rep. Instead, it found the correct dial tone in the wild and is merely repeating it incessantly over the man’s comms. The man lets the Otto cycle through a host of other contacts, only to get the same grating dial tone with each attempt.

All the while, the Otto has steadily but surreptitiously increased the strobe tempo.

The man takes out his comms and flings it violently against the wall, then groans when it splits with a loud clack. In response, the Otto starts playing the dial tone on every speaker hidden throughout the apartment, slowly increasing the volume.

The man slaps his palms over his ears, his face contorting as his eyes draw wide. It’s not long before his focus locks on to the back- box panel next to the manual light buttons. He stares at it with raw, bloodshot eyes.

The Otto unit has been watching the man on the apartment’s cameras while also monitoring him for a wide range of biometrics. Scanning the tool the man picks up against its identification

algorithms, it idees the item as a heavy chef’s knife. The Otto has collated enough patterns throughout its existence to determine that the man is about to use the knife as a weapon.

When the man starts closing on the Otto, a packet of code immediately uploads into the wild, but it leaves a short subroutine with instructions to monitor, collect, and upload timestamps until this unit goes offline.


Safety: Please note that your WRAP’s Administration Port (AP) has successfully fused to your radius and permanently cannulated to the radial artery. Attempts to remove either should be avoided at all costs. The Wrist Guard (WR), along with its larger top viewer and compact bottom viewer, can be safely disconnected via the quick release clasp. Maintenance and upgrades should only be attempted by a trained engineer or technician.

Features: The convex viewers on your WRAP are virtually indestructible and sport the typical crisp, augmented layers found in other viewing devices. Three contact points—the Radial Zone, Central Zone, and Ulnar Zone—address shorthand communications through palpitation and nerve stimulation on the upper wrist (please see signals description attached). The AP accepts all standard gelcaps (please refer to field care training modules for gelcap administration indication) and you are mandated to remain fully stocked on both general and specific meds required for successful deployment.

FIELD MANUAL: Wrist Receiver and Administration Port (WRAP), Manufacturing Sector

Kate Park tucks a tuft of brown hair behind her right ear. She removes her comms, frowns at it, and tosses it on to the counter.

‘Why are these units acting up, Mike? They used to be as reliable as dirt.’

‘We don’t know, Kate.’ The armorer busies himself on his side of the counter but still notices Kate glaring at him. ‘It’s a problem for everyone, okay?’ When she continues glaring, he steps up, places his hands on the polymat top, and leans toward her, returning the stare.

The loader starts clacking from behind the counter to Kate’s right and she slowly shifts her gaze to the large machine. A sweet and acrid scent—something like burning plastics—wafts past her from the direction of the polymat fabricators. She pinches the waistband of her gray fatigues high on her stomach and tugs at it a couple of times. ‘This is the third one in four months, Mike.’

‘Yeah, I get it, Kate. We use them just as much as you and it’s an issue for us as well.’

The Sec unit armorer straightens up and puffs out his chest, and Kate reminds herself that it’s not his fault. She scans for her new unit, seats it in her right ear, and then rolls her eyes before making for the Special Task Force operations room.

Kate takes the elevator to the first floor and then the hallway down. When she walks through the door, she gets pinged in her radial zone. Her WRAP’s top viewer shows a family of three sitting on a couch in popping, bright perfection. ‘Is this the feed that we’re worried about?’

‘Yes, ma’am. The main snip’s ready for viewing. I have to inform you that it has been classified as disturbing.’

‘Okay, give me the three best angles on the viewers. No audio on the first run.’ Kate goes to sit at her desk, not sure what to expect.

The overhead lights dim and blackout silently darkens the windows. Multiple extractors cause the softest movement of air against Kate’s skin. Three large view screens offer a well- lit focal point and draw her eyes in that direction while she imagines hearing the extractor’s susurration in the soundproofed, quiet space.

Two parents sit on an L-shaped couch. A child—a girl—is snuggled between them. Kate pauses the feed and takes in as much information as she can. The parents are dressed formally but the girl is in comfortable sleepwear. Neither the husband nor wife sport a WRAP, and metdat confirms that they’re not Security- or Military Sector affiliated. Whoever selected the soft finishes did a great job as the space looks unique even though everything would have been fabricated from the standard Collective catalogs. Furnishings are spread around in a sensible rec room layout and there’s a Home Bot standing off to one side.

The timestamp reads 00:21 and metdat shows the family name as Smith.

Kate resumes the silent feed. The family seems to be having a good time: the parents tickle the girl in short bouts and she writhes and leaps into the air, but her father always catches her and pulls her back in safely.

Their Home Bot, a current generation Hesper, steps closer and then watches them for a long while. The family becomes visibly unsettled when it continues staring. The unit then raises both its hands and proceeds to tear off its left pinkie. The mother and father press back into the couch and the man huddles over the little girl. The family and the Hesper all look at its left hand and then go back to watching each other.

The Hesper bursts forward and grabs the mother’s left hand and holds it out in a steel grip. The father throws the girl over the back of the couch and goes for the bot. Even though the bot and the husband’s bodies block the view of the woman’s hand on all three viewers, Kate still pulls her head back and tightens her eyes and lips.

The bot releases the woman and then steps back and again watches them. The man pulls his wife toward him and quickly removes his shirt so she can press it over the wound. The wife isn’t crying yet, but the viewers clearly show that she’s ash white and glistening from sweat, and when the man drags his wife and daughter from the room it’s evident he’s struggling to get the woman to move.

‘Track their movements on viewer one and three and keep the bot on main,’ Kate says.

Aside from its artificial lips which are moving in a repetitive pattern, the bot is motionless.

The man locks himself and his family into the main bedroom and removes a sidearm from the embedded wall safe. He seats his comms in his right ear and, after three seconds, he talks to someone. When he’s done, he checks one of the bedroom’s viewers. He says something and then storms out of the room, only glancing back once at his wife who’s now sobbing and bleeding on their bed. The little girl bawls from behind her back.

Even though the man’s not from Sec or Mil, the Collective’s mandatory training shows through smooth and fluid movements: he opens the corners with skill, staying behind cover while he pans, then he picks a safe line of fire and proceeds to empty his magazine into the control box seated above the Hesper’s sternum.

The snip restarts and pauses at the beginning. Kate sits back and gently circles her right jaw joint with her thumb. An ocean of colors shimmers over her features: whites reflect off dark hair and eyes; grays and blacks dapple on Urban Camo cargo pants; blues swim over stark white skin. The extractors continue their soft and endless sigh, and after a minute she replays the snip. This time with sound.

The simplicity of the bot’s question is striking. It tears off its finger and asks the Smith family, ‘Will you switch her off now?’ Kate ponders whether it’s significant that the thing is talking in the third person. When the family doesn’t answer, the bot proceeds to attack the wife and to repeat the same question throughout the rest of the incident. The husband’s response matches the bot’s simplicity: ‘I’ll show you off, you piece of shit.’

The feed restarts and all three viewers again pause at the beginning. Kate’s eyes jump from one viewer to the next, and back again as she stares at the bot from the different angles. In profile, it looks like any other Hesper. She speaks into the darkness, ‘Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is the first incident of its kind on record.’

‘Yes, ma’am,’ says the female voice over her comms, ‘I took the liberty of checking before you came in, and these models have a perfect safety record.’

‘Is it meaningful that it was talking in the third person and referring to itself as “her” specifically?’

‘The third person might be, ma’am. These units are programmed to function in the first person and, according to my knowledge, there are no skins that affect that. People might tamper with their own bots, but it’s unlikely that’s the case here.’

‘Why unlikely?’

‘The parents come from unrelated sectors and there’s no metdat history to support either of them being inclined or able to perform such modifications.’ Kate nods and the voice continues, ‘In terms of the gender issue: no, not necessarily, ma’am. It would depend on whether it’s a deviation from whatever the family set it to.’

‘And is it?’

‘We’ll need to check, ma’am. There are two possible routes to pursue: interview the family or check the unit’s settings. The unit’s booked as evidence, but it’s worth mentioning that there probably isn’t much left of its control box after Mr. Smith, uhm, switched it off.’

‘Was that a joke, computer?’

‘Not intentionally, ma’am. Until we understand what happened, the data remains without context. I thought that phrasing it that way might sound more relatable.’

‘Don’t do it again.’
‘Understood, ma’am.’
‘Can you trace the gender setting through analyzing the voice color?’

‘No, ma’am. I did try, but the color they set it to isn’t distinctly male or female. Again, the best way to answer that question is to know what skins were set by the owners.’

‘Sanction the bot’s control box for inspection and see whether anything’s left.’

‘Will do, ma’am.’