this story is copyrighted by all available laws so don't go getting any silly ideas
some of my best friends will find there names here
friends they shall always be

Edited and clarified by Kyrin


In a world where technology is becoming so much a part of life, we
actually do see people becoming machines.  Pacemakers, artificial ears,
and eyes that function, with some limits of course, but they work.  Is
it life that is becoming a machine?  Or machines that are coming to
life?   We have computer chips now that record all of our life details
on a card; from financial ability, to the fact ya have a mole on yer
butt.  Remove the blinders for a while and really look at how much we
trust machines with even the smallest details; including the monitoring
of an unborn child's heart.  I think this future can be very frightening
if it gets out of control.  Question why; you may be surprised what ya
hear in reply.

He walked up to the food station, got his meal, and headed off to work.
He then boarded the company tram, which whizzed along, finally getting
out when it stopped near the industrial sector.  He then walked into the
warehouse where his supervisor was lining workers up for job
assignments.   He quietly slipped into line and stood up straight, the
supervisor soon turned to him and said, "William, you are assigned
inventory detail of Sub-Level Six Storage.  Take two people with you,
and then report there first thing this morning.  You will have 3 days to
get that level sorted and inventoried."  "Yes, supervisor." William

The supervisor then sent the teams off to their assignments.  Bill
picked two of the strongest men from the available personnel, knowing
Level Six all too well from last year's inventory, that those strong
backs would be needed.  He then cleared his throat to get the
supervisor's attention, "Pardon me, Sir." said William.  "Yes, William?"
the supervisor replied looking up.  He then said, "Ah good, you chose
John, he needs to see the way we do inventory.  I have great faith in
your ability to train him well.  What is it, William?"

"I do not mean to question, Sir, but has the food machine been fixed on
Level Six?"   The supervisor's eyes showed his impatience instantly.
"William, you are questioning." the supervisor stated flatly.  He
continued, "I can only assume that the system has fixed the machine by
now."   "Yes, Sir." said William not daring to press the issue.

William then retrieved the inventory computer pad and headed out to the
company truck, with the two men following behind him.  They then drove
to the designated secured area.  The area was overgrown with weeds, "Hey
William, isn't the system supposed to upkeep this area?" asked John.
William turned from walking over to the gate and surveyed the area
indicated, then replied, "From appearances, I can only guess that it is
low on the priority list.  It is a secured area for underground storage
and not meant to be pleasing to the public eye."

William then opened a box near the gate and placed his left eye over a
padded rest, where his retina and the small computer chip placed just
under the ridge of his eye socket were scanned by the security system.
The system display came up, "Worker: William #544844-1701, entrance
approved for inventory of Sub-Level Six."

The security system continued, "Accompanying sub-workers step forward
for scan."   John stepped forward and was scanned just as William had
been a few seconds before.  "Sub-worker: John #299912-3188 entrance
approved. Do not question worker William, who has extensive time
experience in the sub levels."

"Next." The system said.  The last worker walked up and repeated the
procedure, "Sub-worker: Mike #443211-3849.  Caution advised, last eye
exam showed loss of required night vision strength, remain in
well-illuminated areas.  Entrance approved, do not question worker
William, who has extensive time experience in the sub levels."

The system then addressed William, "Worker William, caution advised
minor flooding has occurred; some sections may not have power."  The
system then dismissed them, "Work well, workers."

They all nodded and walked through the slowly opening gate, which closed
behind them.  The box cover closed as William went through the gate and
over to the elevator, which opened quietly at his approach.  The lights
and safety harnesses hung on the wall inside.  The three men quickly put
these on, with Bill quietly advising the other two on how to wear the
shoulder light most comfortably.

As the lift came to a stop, water flowed in over their feet.  "Great,
water already, we will have to use the pump system or we will be
swimming soon." William said irritably.  The floor they had arrived on
opened into near pitch-black hallways going off in either direction in
which the lights flickered to life.  Some of the lights appeared feeble
while others were very bright, as if they had been replaced recently.

"This way, guys." Said William.  They walked down to a control room and
William reset the automatic system, by flicking it from manual then back to auto.
  "Well now, that should get rid of this
water."  Said William.  As a rumble came from deep within the complex as
water pumps engaged.  The water level on their floor immediately started
to fall.  Soon they could smell the stench of the exposed slime and
mildew as the water level continued to drop.

Bill led John and Mike to a section that was still under water where
they could see the whirlpools that formed from the water being sucked
away by the pumps.  "Should be about ten more minutes for it to be clear
enough for us to walk in."  Bill observed.  He then tapped the panel to
contact the system.  "Worker William, system," said Bill.  "Yes,
worker?" replied the system.  "Pump controls were reset so that the
lower section of sub level six can be pumped clear of water, it is
flooded to the ceiling."  Bill reported.  "Good work, worker William.
Proceed soon as possible efficiency is rewarded."  Responded the system.

Bill nodded and closed the panel, as soon as the water was clear they
walked in and found the small maintenance robots; all with their power
cells turned off.  The men went around the room and clicked them all on,
then proceeded on out to the storage room.  Behind them, the robots
began rolling about the room cleaning up the mess.

When they arrived at the storage unit, Bill had to click on the lights
manually as the automatic system had not detected their entrance.  Bill
surmised the water was causing it some sensor problems.  The main
storage bay was still dripping with water due to the flooding.

Above them were rows and rows of pipe, which had once been stacked
neatly and strapped to pallets.  The straps had long since rotted away
and now the pipes were a huge mass, looking rather like a haystack
covered in slime.  Bill sighed, grabbed a length of pipe and announced
that they would start there, gathering the pipes and restacking them in
the banding machine.   "Mike, grab that pallet over there and place it
in the banding machine." Said William.

By lunchtime they had gotten the banding machine working and the first
pallet of now inventoried pipe banded, labeled, and recorded.  As Bill
stepped out of the loader lifter one of the robots rolled up to him with
a message, "Contact, system worker." It said.  "Yes" he responded
"unit Lubricate the lifter leg it is trying to seize up." as Bill hopped clear of the lifter
"complying" Responded the robot.

After complying with the robot's request, Bill went with John
and Mike to the Level Five food machine.  As the Level Six food machine
was still not working.  They retrieved their food and then waited when
the system demanded a report on progress.  Bill answered quickly so he
could get to his lunch before it cooled, "The water has damaged many of
the pipes, it rotted the pallets and the banding straps, it was required
that we repair the banding machine, gather up the undamaged pipes and
repack the pipe for inventory."

The system responded, "Understood worker, all maintenance units will be
reassigned to inventory assistance and scrapping of non useable
inventory."  Bill was relieved, "Thank you system, it's quite a mess
down there the maintenance units will be appreciated." "Understood
worker, persevere and press on." The system replied.  "Understood
system." Bill said quietly, and then ate his rapidly cooling lunch.

Late that night, the crew of three walked out into the cooling night air
and climbed back into the truck.  "Strange the pumps and robots were
off." Commented John.  "A simple error on a workers part," said William,
"what section do you live in John?  Mike?  I will come and get you both
in the morning."   After dropping them both off, he pulled up to his
quarters got his meal and went to his room to eat.  He then enjoyed some
leisure time by surfing sites on the web and reading a few online books.

William awoke early and got his meal from his food machine, then got
into the truck and went to pick up John and Mike.  Once back at work the
inventorying went faster because during the night the robots had
provided more pallets and repaired the nonfunctional lights.  It's
always nice when the system is working right, makes work easier, thought

They spent most of the day separating good pipe from the scrap pipe. As
John tossed another pipe up on the scrap pile, it bounced and clattered
along the pile causing others to slide a bit before settling.  "Be
careful John, that pile isn't very stable!" shouted Bill.

Just as Mike turned to look, he saw Bill staring wide-eyed at the pile
as it started to topple.  Next thing he knew Bill was shouting
something, and he and John were shoved away from the falling pile of
scrap pipe.  Both men then looked at the still collapsing pile of pipe,
at first uncomprehending what they were seeing, then the numbness
cleared and they realized something was wrong.  Where was Bill?

"Oh no!," said John, "he's buried!"

The robots immediately started moving the pipes, their shrill alarms and
commands penetrated the men's shock.  "Assistance required workers!"
Shrilled the robots.  John and Mike jumped then started helping the
robots shift the pipes.  Soon they found Bill, he was badly hurt and had
a nasty gash over his left eyebrow, gently they lifted him from the

The system began commanding from one of the robots, "Workers, you will
have to carry him to the elevator.  A medical transport vehicle has been
called and will be waiting for you above, hurry workers!"   They did as
they were told with robots following behind them.  As they emerged from
the building, they were surprised that it was already dark.  Just as
this dawned on them, all of the outside lights died.  Then the lights of
the approaching ambulance blinded them briefly as it drove up.

The medical personnel assessed Bill's condition with standard
efficiency, then loaded him into the ambulance and drove away.  John and
Mike just stood outside the building staring at each other, both
thinking the same thing, now what do they do?

Inside the building, watching from a dark corner, someone was musing out
loud to himself.  "He's been hurt, not too seriously but he is
unconscious.  I think now is a very good time to do it right." And if
anyone had looked into the corner where he was hidden, they might have
seen glowing yellow eyes and a gleam of light reflected off of a white
fang.  "Now to see if he's worth it." The creature said quietly to
himself, then he turned away flicking his black tipped gray furred tail
as he slipped into the inky blackness.

Bill awoke in a bed, his head was bandaged and there was a patch over
his left eye.  As the light struck his good eye he discovered he also
had a headache the size of several cities.  A live medtech leaned over
him coming into his line of sight.  "Easy worker, he said, "you've been
hurt." "I wondered why my head was hurting so much." Bill said, with a
grimace he was trying to pass off as a smile.  The tech flashed a quick
grin at him then disappeared out of sight.

 A little later he was helped out of bed, standing made him a little
dizzy.  A main system panel in the wall scanned him from head to toe. It
then announced, "Worker grade 2 identifier William, you have suffered a
concussive blow to the skull.  Data indicates you saved sub-workers John
and Mike from injury at the cost to yourself.  You are to be commended,
as of now you are promoted to grade 3.

Instructions you are to follow for now, you are to return to your home
and rest until the wound has healed.  Medications will be dispensed to
at mealtimes.  How do you feel?"  Bill blinked he had never been asked
how he felt by the system before.  "How do I feel?  Fine I guess, kinda
dizzy." He said.  "That is as expected", they system responded, "worker
is released to go home."

As Bill traveled towards home on the tram, he looked out the window and
saw a brief mirrored reflection of himself in the darkened glass.  The
bandage on his head was glaringly bright and obvious.  As he entered his
quarters, hunger hit as he walked towards his room causing him to stop
at the food machine.  When he approached, it scanned his wound then
produced a tray with four pills and a large cup of whitish liquid upon
it.  The system began giving him instructions.  "Worker, take the pills
with water, then wait for a count of ten, and then drink the white
liquid.  After your meal you are to go to bed, as this medicine will
make you quite sleepy.  When you are hungry again return immediately."

That last comment confused Bill, of course he would come back to the
food machine when he was hungry, where else would he get food?  Stupid
machine always stating the obvious, as if we have no minds of our own,
he thought irritably.  The system required some kind of response, so
Bill told it, "I will."  Then he followed the instructions for the pills
and swallowed the liquid after the count of ten.  It had a kinda thick
minty flavor that burned a little as it sat in his stomach.  Before he
could order food to eat, sleep slammed into him and his consciousness
faded into black.

When he woke several hours or days later, he felt like he was starving
to death.  He got up and the food machine dispensed two cups of the
whitish liquid for him to gulp down.   "You are healing as planned
worker," said the system, "sleep well."  Again he was put to sleep
within only a few minutes of drinking the thick minty stuff.  This
pattern went on for several weeks, he would receive pills, then the
liquid, then fall asleep.  He was now getting three cups of the whitish
liquid when he awoke.

After awhile he began to feel better, so he stood at the system panel
and asked, "System, when can I return to work?"  It did not answer
instead it said, "Recovery is progressing as planned.  Are you still
hungry?"  "Yes, now that you mention it, I usually am after the liquid."
Responded Bill.  "Good then it is time for an addition to your meals."
A tray slid out with a covered dish on it, he lifted the cover to find a
red raw bloody chunk of ground meat under it.

He protested, "But system, this is"  "Are you questioning the system's plan for
your recovery?" Asked the system stiffly.  "Umno, but it's raw, uncooked."
Said Bill.  "Worker, this menu is designed to promote your recovery, do not
question it." The system responded, and Bill knew he would get no other food
options.  He slumped his shoulders in defeat, sighed, and then walked into his
room, which was provided by the system.  Along with his clothes, bedding and
anything else the system felt you needed.  He looked at the meat, wondering if
some kind of error had occurred.  This was not his idea of a gourmet meal, raw
meat, yuck, he thought.

During these weeks of illness, his stomach had been feeling queasy and odd, and
his face and body felt itchy.  He figured it had to do with the medication,
maybe he was having an allergic reaction.  But then, since he wasn't really
feeling any worse, he decided to ignore it.  After all, the medicine seemed to
be helping despite these odd reactions.

He went back to musing over the odd dinner the system had sent him.  Scratching
at his arm absently, he sniffed the meat and was surprised to find himself
drooling profusely with unexpected hunger.  He must be hungrier than he thought
to react this way to uncooked meat, he thought.  His belly was actually
growling, like a mad beast in a cage.  He pulled a small piece of meat loose and
placed it doubtfully in his mouth.

The flavor hit his tongue, and he found himself tearing the meat into chunks
with his teeth and swallowing it down as fast as he could.  When he calmed and
found the empty package, cleaned of all juices and his stomach feeling
comfortably full, then the shock of his behavior overcame him and he just sat
there at the table and shook.  Before he could recover and begin to think again,
sleep stole over him and he slept.

Watching Bill through the window from across the alleyway, was an observer, one
with very reflective eyes.  Talking softly to himself he took note of his
observations, "Looks like his first solid meal.  It looked like it was raw meat,
and he had the normal reaction, started drooling like an animal.  He seems to be
in shock now that the feeding frenzy is over, good thing he has no mirrors it
would be worse.  Sleep well, my friend, we will meet soon."

Bill awoke to horrible pain in his belly, joints, bones, and muscles.  There was
something wrong, he had been getting well, why was this happening now?
Staggering over to the system's panel, he leaned on the wall and activated it.
"S-s-system?" It responded immediately, "You are in distress?" "Yes, I am in a
lot of pa-pain," Bill said, then fell to his knees, which cracked loudly as they
hit the worn dingy gray carpet.

The system scanned him, after a moment it paused and finally a tray slipped out
of its slot.  "The liquid contains a pain killer, this was expected.  Your food
intake will need to be increased along with taking more medicine.  You may
experience some sleeplessness.  This is not unusual with this new prescription
combination," the system told him.  Bill gulped the liquid down and felt relief
from the pain immediately.

A short while later another container slid out of the system's slot, and he
could smell the blood from the raw meat within it.  His stomach growled and as
before he lost temporary control and bolted it down in only a few seconds.  This
shocked and disgusted him, but he found he could not help himself, his hunger
overwhelmed all human behavior completely.  He was feeling a little ill and just
sat and stared at the wall for a few moments after eating.

When the system addressed him again, he was so startled he jumped, "A computer
access terminal will be installed so you can do data entry while you recover,
during off hours you may use it to entertain yourself.  Your recovery is
progressing according to plan."  Bill wondered why it kept saying that, he
thought he recovery was getting rather strange.  He sighed, wondering if he was
going insane, his recovery seemed to be taking longer than it should, it was
just a simple crack to his head, wasn't it?  He decided to forget about it and
just go to sleep, he trusted the system, and it said he was fine.  He trusted
the system, like everyone did, didn't he?  He fell asleep.

The next day two workers came and knocked on his door, when he opened the door
their eyes grew wide before they quickly looked down.  "We're here to install
the computer terminal, I think you know Jeff," the lead worker said indicating
his partner.  Bill noted the submissive postures, "Please come in," he said to
them.  They entered, not looking directly at him if they could avoid it, Bill
thought this odd behavior. Thinking his injury was making them uncomfortable, he
attempted to explain, "I've been recovering from an injury." "Y-yes you're doing
quite well it seems," replied the lead worker.  "Well, according to system I
am," replied Bill, still confused by their behavior.

The two workers moved into the main room and began hanging the monitor screen on
the wall.  They then set up the keypad and then set the other accessories next
to it, these were in small box. Bill watched as Jeff knelt and opened a panel,
clicking in a tool, he tapped a few keys and the screen came to life.  Bill was
curious about all this, and gently placed his hand on Jeff's shoulder so he
could look.  Jeff froze then bent his head down and exposed his neck to him, in
what appeared a submissive gesture.

Bill was non-pulsed by this, "I was just curious about the tool you were using,
Jeff," he said quietly, and he watched as beads of sweat rolled down Jeff's neck
and hairline.  He seems afraid of me for some reason, thought Bill. Jeff's
nervous reply confirmed this, and Bill became even more puzzled.  "Oh, um it's a
R-98, it is called for in this procedure," Jeff hurriedly answered.  "Ah, said
Bill, "I've used the R-95, is the 98 better?" Jeff turned and tried to look up
at Bill, and looked away quickly, but not before Bill saw the fear in his eyes.
"Y-yes it is," Jeff said, looking at the floor.  "I look forward to the
opportunity to use one, then," Bill replied patting him gently on the shoulder
then moving away.

Jeff's nervousness increased even though Bill was no longer so close to him,
Bill smiled at him, and he gave Bill a shaky smile back.  Then turned and
hurriedly walked towards the door of the building to catch up with his partner.
After a few more moments of silence, Bill followed him as far as the door and as
they walked down the steps he opened it a little, "Don't feel you need to run
out, Jeff."  Jeff paused, "Iuh," he said hesitantly.   "The next job isn't
going anywhere you know," said Bill jokingly.   Bill stood at his door and
looked at them, expecting them to come back with a joke or comment, instead
their eyes went wide and they rushed to their truck and left.  Bill blinked in
shock, wondering what in the hell was wrong with them.
  9/17/2000 1:39:09 PM