By Rotwang (Zardreth@Cyberking.be)
Ever since Alex was a little kid, he’d been intrigued by the APX700 series police robots, more commonly and less respectfully known as "Meter Maids"
They were an attempt at making a more user-friendly police robot after the failure of the rather frightening APX550 series, which although very effective as a police robot, scared just about everybody, even people who were looking for mere directions. They had even earned the nickname "Nazibots" because of the likeness between their heads and Nazi stormtrooper helmets !
The APX700 series was a radical design. It was an attempt at applied psychology, make the robots female …
The idea being that that such a form might make interaction between humans and the police robots easier, while at the same time there was the belief that a certain group of criminals would be less likely to attack a woman, even if she was made of steel and hydraulics.
To that end, a lot of very talented industrial designers were called in to design the PX700 series.
They choose a metallic-blue paint scheme with black articulations that was styled to look like a somewhat sexy woman’s police uniform. In a very bold move, the designers had arranged for every PX700 to have a different face and hairstyle, although the face was always metallic blue with silver eyes and silver hair.
Even though a lot of people liked them, they were not deemed successful and most were replaced over time by APX900 robots which looked more human and were felt as being more reassuring as they had been designed as stern, but friendly male policemen.
That morning Alex was at a police auction and was busy checking his cred-chip.
He had no idea how much they would ask for a stripped APX700, but he really wanted one.
The love affair had started one day, when he was little and lost his parents in a busy crowd. Nobody would come to the help of the crying infant, until a very friendly woman with a blue face crouched besides him.
"What’s wrong little fella ? All alone ?" She asked with a friendly voice. "What’s your name ?
"A- … Alex !" He said with teary eyes and sniffing hard to contain the big globs of snot coming out of his nose while looked at the friendly woman and was impressed by her appearance. She was very shiny and he liked shiny things.
"I’m called Anne. Let’s see if we can find your parents …" She said and picked him up as gently as a mother.
Alex felt secure in her arms, stopped crying, and began to reach out to grab a lock of her long silver hair.
Using her holographic projector, she indicated that she had found a lost child and displayed a 3-D picture of his face, high above them, for everybody in the crowd to see. Within minutes, his worried parents came to take him, but Alex would not let go of the woman and held onto her long sliver hair.
Suddenly he noticed something in the catalog. All APX700 units were being sold in batches of 10 units each !
There was no way he could afford that many.
It hurt Alex to see the four lots go to representatives of a foreign police department, sitting right besides him.
Alex watched the APX700 unit on display turn and walk from the stage. So far for his dream of owning one !
"Congratulations !" Said a police officer to the two men. "But did I understand correctly you’re only interested in the chassis ?"
"We don’t need the outside, because they will be used as receptionists in police-bureaus. We’ll give them a more human appearance for better public relations."
Alex listened and waited for the police officer to finish talking to them.
"Excuse me ?" Alex asked.
"I couldn’t help but overhearing your conversation with those men and I was wondering what was going to happen to the bodywork of the robots ?"
The man thought for a second. "Well, I guess they will end up in a recycler …"
The two foreign representatives were listening as well.
"I’m a collector and I’ve always wanted to have an APX700 unit." He said.
"Well …" The policeman said. "I guess you’d better ask them about it."
"Can we help you ?" The first one asked. "I’m Lars Ragnarsson, from the Norwegian police."
"Nice to meet you, I’m Alex J. Murphy. I heard you were going to modify the APX700’s ? And I was wondering what would happen to the bodywork ?"
"We don’t need the exteriors … They will be given more human looking faces." Lars explained.
"Would you mind selling a set of the exteriors to me ?"
Lars turned to his colleague and began to speak in Norwegian.
Alex listened for a while until they had seemed to reach an agreement.
"I don’t see why you can’t have them, if you want to …"
"Just put the boxes down over there !" Alex said to the FedEx delivery robot.
The four-legged, centaur-like design put down the stack of boxes and went back to the truck to get the next batch.
Alex, unable to resist temptation took out his craftknife and cut the box open.
A dozen metal faces were piled up on top of each other and at the bottom, he could see long strands of silver hair.
"Do I put these right besides the others ?" The robot asked with another stack.
"Sure, just put it down." Alex said.
"One last trip and it’s all yours !" The robot said.
Alex had purchased an old-fashioned inanimate mannequin and tried to assemble the bulletproof arachno-fiber bodypanels over it, but the mounting lugs that were used to fix them to the chassis prevented that.
With a saw, he cut off the lugs and sanded them down, so they would fit over the mannequin.
But then it became impossible to make the panels hold without the falling off all the time.
It now seemed time for some planning Alex thought.
But a solution was quickly found. With some heat-glued straps and clasps, he could fit all the panels together, over the mannequin. The first attempt was a bit messy at best, but it really felt like a childhood memory being restored. Unfortunately, the APX700 robots had a rubber lining for the bodypanels and they had not been provided, so Alex decided he’d try to get his own lining for the mannequin.
The easiest solution proved to be a simple latex bodysuit which covered the entire mannequin and gave it a spectacular appearance. And with all the panels in position, … He had his own APX700 !
But then he had 39 spare sets ! A handful of faces became wall decorations, whereas other bits became replacements to change the mannequin’s appearance.
And after that, he still had fifteen sets left !
It was after about four months that Alex really wondered if he couldn’t get an old robot chassis and put the remaining panels over it, because he wanted to see her move !
The main problem was getting old chassis … Most robots were considered sentient and people didn’t go around changing the tasks they might have been designed for. So he couldn’t just get himself an old secretary robot and ask her to play a police robot …
And top of that, AI programming was limited, as the work needed to properly reprogram a robot was too costly !
A solution seemed to be found in an animated mannequin, but after a month, it didn’t feel like a substantial improvement.
In despair, Alex had a go at having a robot do the job, but as expected it wouldn’t perform they way he wanted to. Robots seemed to be smart and sophisticated until you asked them to do something they weren’t programmed for. Only then would you notice how helpless they could be. Even an old pet could be learned new tricks if given enough time and effort, but robots just wouldn’t learn.
It was in the middle of the umpteenth attempt at showing and miming the robot how an APX700 unit behaved and talked, that he suddenly had a flash of insight !
"Naah !" He said at first, but even after a final frustrating attempt, Alex suddenly thought he might have found a way.
I didn’t take him long to find an ASFR list of female robot performers. That is : humans who pretend to be robots, as the term could lead to confusion with performing robots …
Unfortunately, robot performing was a dying art, with real robots around, there was little interest in people who pretended to be robots, as good as their performance might be and therefore female robot performers were scarce.
Long gone were the glorious days of the early years of the millenium, where the ASFR managed to bring together most existing performers and organize titillating spectacles, destined to show off the clever contrivances used to hide the skilled performers inside their robotic shells.
Nobody deigned answer his e-mails and Alex began to wonder what to do next.
In a final, but vain attempt to show the robot into the proper behavior of a APX700 unit, Alex almost decided to quit, until he finally had a last revelation. He grabbed the phone and began to dial and in the meanwhile he had a look at himself in the mirror…
This was one he might be able to pull off !!!
APX700 series officer "Anne" number 33875 was preparing for duty.
Primary systems were powering up and she raised her head in a slow mechanical fashion.
Systems check …
Her long silver hair was actually a high-gain multi-frequency sensor array.
Her plain silver optics could record 3D images for up to twenty minutes or eight hours of standard video footage Check … OK
Audio with directional focus capable of listening to a conversation across a busy highway … OK
Main power supply with 48 hours autonomy … OK
Emergency power supply with 6 hours autonomy … OK
Then began the long sequence of actuator tests, from her right little pinkie to her left foot … OK
She then checked her inventory.
Cuffs … OK
Baton with built-in stun laser … OK
Emergency Med-Pack … OK
Repair Kit … OK
Lockpick in left hand … OK
Noteputer … OK
Anne was ready for duty.
Unfortunately, her patrol area did not exceed the limits of Alex’s house
Still, she could do a thorough investigation of the house, check if all the windows were secure and that everything was okay.
It was late and dark, but Anne had night-vision allowing her to see in complete darkness by means of a special infra-red illuminator built onto her shoulder.
It was her job now to protect Alex and his possessions, but she could not do a decent job if he left one of his windows wide open !
She reached for the window, closed and locked it. When Alex returned, he would get a good reprimand for being so careless !!!
And then there was a noise …
Anne suddenly froze and seemed to listen for the source of the sound.
It seemed to come from the living room. After a moment’s pause to decide her strategy, she decided to check it out.
She had rubber-padded feet that allowed her to sneak up on a man who was busy going through the cupboards …
"Freeze ! You’re under arrest !" She said with a stern electronic voice.
The man hit his head on an open door. Stunned, he turned around and was suddenly blinded by her projector.
At the same time, she had taken out her baton and the taser-tip sparkled.
"Don’t shoot, I surrender !" The man went and just stayed against the cupboard dropping the backpack full of loot.
Anne reached for the phone and called 911.
"Could you send somebody to 7854 Terrace Drive ? There is a burglar in the house !" She said and kept a silver eye on him.
Minutes later, a police car stopped and two police officers arrived, one human, the other an APX900.
They seemed surprised to see Anne open the door for them.
"He’s over there !" She said, pointing to the man on the floor.
While the APX900 read the burglar his rights, the human officer interrogated Anne.
"You do realize that this is a violation of the law ! Private citizens aren’t allowed to own police issue robots."
"But I have been decommissioned." She said. "And I never leave the house !"
"Nevertheless we have to check everything out. Deactivate yourself so we can take you to the police department."
"I can’t" She said.
"Why not ?"
"I’m remote controlled !" She said. "Just follow me !"
Anne opened the door to the bedroom and saw a man standing on a 2D treadmill wearing a VR-suit.
"I use a tele-operation suit to control her." Alex said. "I just wouldn’t fit in the costume myself ! She’s just your average remote unit with a custom exterior !"