Serve the Servants ~ 9
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by Doug Humphrey

Chapter 9


Seeds of Disaster


  Halford's sweat dripped down like rain on Zhora. As he rolled onto his back, he glanced over at Zhora's emotionless face.  She laid there in bed, blankly staring up to the ceiling, her incomplete psychological programming not allowing for much else. Halford waved his hand slowly in front of her face, not getting any reaction. Just Zhora's blank stare at the ceiling. Halford had been having sex with the unprogrammed Replicants for some time now, but their silence and blind obedience when they were in this state was now beginning to bore him.


  "What, don't you want to lecture me about how all we ever do is have sex? Or do you want to talk about the dress you missed out on at Nieman-Marcus, because you don't have a big enough limit on your credit cards? No, wait. It's the car. The Rosens are all driving Mercedes-Benz, and I stuck you with the cheap BMW." He quipped as he slowly removed his Penfield mood organ headgear. Still no reaction at all from Zhora, just a blank stare at the ceiling.


  The vidphone began to ring, with a caller ID light emitting Charleston's picture and phone number onto the ceiling. Halford grumbled a little and rolled over to hit the vidphone's receiver button.


  "Sorry to call you so late, boss, but thought you'd want to know. Brandoff won the elections. He's calling for a full scale use of Replicants, starting with full integration of the military units on Io. It's about time we got someone who understands what we're trying to do, somebody that will take care of all this union crap and have some morals."


  Halford looked over at Zhora. Charleston helped him pick her out, along with several others, and here he was celebrating a politician's morality.


"Yeah, morals." His mind begun to clear. "Has there been any word through the military channels yet?"


"Not yet, but word is a lot of higher ranking officers are packing their bags and booking flights, higher than normal numbers of phone calls going back and forth from the spaceports."


  Halford laughed a little. "Bet Tannhauser is packing his bags as we speak, with Wauldron following him."




FCA Chief Stephen Wauldron's personal log

exact date unknown due to data corruption

Recovered by CSI team 11379, 06/23/2038


  President Brandoff will be arriving in a few days to officially promote Colonel Tannhauser to General, or so the rumor goes. The man deserves it; He's been very helpful, treats the FCA as he would his own troops, and has made every effort possible to ensure that the Replicants have been dealt with fairly.


  This coming week he ordered more integration between the troops and the Replicants. They have mastered their initial testing with flying colors, and are currently getting more advanced programming for individual job details. The FCA's code programming job is pretty much done; at this point all that's left is some follow-up psychiatric reviews. The Replicants are as safe as we can make them.


  Roy stepped forward into the modification unit. He placed his head into a clear, wired mask which digitally adjusted itself to his face, and for a second, flashed his name, inception date and design specifications. Then it went blank, and then brought up his combat programming. It waited for a second, and then finally got approval to add other military functions, weapons training, leadership directives, and combat self-sufficiency programming. With each incoming program, his body reacted with a hard jolt and flinch. Finally the modifications were done, and the mask withdrew itself. Roy seemed to stagger for a second, then quickly collected himself and walked further down the line to receive his uniform, with another Replicant on the conveyor belt following him into the modification programmer.


  Daniel watched as Roy came off the line, and walked towards him.


  "You okay, Roy? Looked like you took a pretty good shock."


  "I am....fine..." His gray eyes rolled over at Daniel, still a little glazed over from the modification process. "That could have gone...easier...That hurt."


  Daniel quickly notated Roy's reaction in his log book, and started digging in the manual for some way to decrease the power transfer, hoping to make life a little less painful for the next Replicant. He looked back to Roy, who was still able to keep himself up, despite being in an obvious amount of pain.


  "Say, Roy... Stand at ease. Instead of heading back out to the training field...Take a second to catch your breathe." The instructors were supposed to push the Replicants as hard as they could, in order to assess their strength, but at the same time were under orders to exercise their own judgment as to when they were being pushed too hard.


  "I can play chess," Roy stated aloud, catching Daniel completely off guard.


  Daniel looked to Foster, who was keeping one ear on Roy and his eyes on the conveyor line to his side, and they shot each other an odd glance. Foster shrugged.

"That's...great, Roy."  Chess. Daniel thought to himself, Someone has got to be putting me on. "Did the modification packet go through okay?"


  "Yes." Roy seemed a little confused by Daniel's reaction, but was physically looking better, recovering from the modification programmer.


  "Head back over to medical, have them check you out and then return to quarters, okay?"


  "Yes, sir." Roy snapped into attention, did a left face and began to run towards the small medical station.


  Daniel looked at Foster and began to think for a second. Foster knew it was odd as well, but was more concerned with the time clock.


  "Something's up. We're supposed to be just downloading an army training program. It says so right here on the list." Daniel held up a clipboard to Foster. "Doesn't say anything about board games." He looked over at the computer screen. "Hey, look at this. The file sizes. They don't match. The manifest is calling for a much smaller file, but it looks like we've downloaded one that's a lot larger."


  Foster looked at the clipboard and then towards the screen, then wearily over at Daniel.


  "Send it through channels. Let it be their weekend to have a headache. Not much else we can do."





   Wauldron looked over the edge of glasses at the vidphone. The morning had gotten off to a rotten start. And the afternoon wasn't looking much better.


  "Let me get this straight. The modification program manifest listed a download program much smaller than the one that was actually downloaded?"


  One of the things that set Tannhauser apart from working with Tyrell's Io division was the fact that he didn't sugar coat anything. Sometimes this created a backlog of work at the FCA, but often it created a process by which reported problems got solved. Today was no different.


  "That's exactly what got reported. Two of our civilian instructors caught it. The Replicant involved appears okay, no incidents or physical problems, but when they started checking into the programming going into the other Replicants, they found out a large number of them went through with additional modification files with manifests that did not match the amount that was downloaded."


  "Correct me if I'm wrong, but the modifiers aren't military grade hardware, right?"


  "That's right. The Army is working on its own version, but for the time being we had to use the Tyrell designed hardware and software."


  "We need to go through that system, Tann. We can get a team over there in an hour." Wauldron began to think to himself, This is where it gets tricky, Stephen. Did Tyrell properly de-bug their hardware? Software? Could it be Tyrell's competition trying to sabotage the Nexus project before it gets a chance to get off the ground? Wauldron could handle debugging software or hardware, but dealing with a possible corporate espionage problem would be a new challenge altogether.


  Tannhauser didn't flinch at the idea, though. If someone had managed to break into his security, he wanted them strung up by their Buster Browns.


  Tannhauser relaxed a bit in his chair. "The boys from Tyrell didn't give our guys here much of a chance to learn anything about it. The pentagon has ordered me to 'implement its usage to the fullest possible extent', but the guys who cut those orders aren't about shake hands with Replicants–let alone be the ones to train 'em with loaded rifles. Don't mean to saddle your staff with more work, but why didn't they put you guys in charge of the modification process to begin with? The FCA are the ones handling the psychiatric reviews."


"Yeah, I know. Part of this is my fault, Tann. They tried shipping it to the FCA, and when I told them I wouldn't use a piece of equipment before we had the chance to thoroughly examine it, we didn't hear anymore about it. I thought it was a closed subject, until now."


  Wauldron began to put himself in Tyrell's shoes. "My guess is, to get around the FCA, they pulled some strings, shipped it through military channels instead, and had orders cut for your guys to use it."


  Wauldron knew that Tannhauser was in an awkward position. Either run the modifier, and run the risk of Tyrell downloading whatever it wanted into the Replicants, or shut down the modifier, and go against orders from his superiors–which was not a good thing considering that Tann was in line to be promoted to general.


 "I'm shutting it down. Get your guys over here ASAP. My guess is you won't get a second chance if they decide to yank my command."





  Sarah sat there, once again on the bench in front of the FCA building, and once again, a military armored vehicle pulled up, with Roy coming out being escorted by two guards.  The guards gave sharp sounding orders to Roy, who responding by snapping to attention, and saluting the lieutenant. Roy patiently stood at attention until the lieutenant and the guards hopped back into their vehicle and left.


  He walked up to the bench, and calmly sat down by Sarah.

  "Did you get into trouble again, Sarah?"


  By this time, Roy had earned a fair amount of trust between Wauldron, the FCA staff and Corporal Baker. Sometimes Baker would ask Roy to look after Sarah if he was running late, which Roy always did with a military like precision, interpreting it as an order from a superior. Baker scoffed a little bit at this, but Roy seemed to keep Sarah entertained, no easy feat.


  Sarah's head sank. She did like talking to Roy, but she was worried that he might be trying to become her big brother.


  "It was nothing. It's not fair. Miss Kranston goes off on me, just because I threw some pencils into the ceiling during reading class." She looked a little glum, not wanting to have a bunch of different adults telling her all day long about how wrong her actions were.


  "Why did you throw the pencils? Did the ceiling pose a threat? How could a pencil combat an entire ceiling?" Roy asked.


  Sarah looked at him confused for a second, then burst out laughing, shaking her head.


  "No, no...You are such a dork sometimes. Miss Kranston's reading class sucks. We got bored. So Susie, the kid who sits next to me, says look, watch this, and got a pencil to stick in the ceiling. Miss Kranston didn't even notice it there. Then Tommy turns around and throws one up too, and she still doesn't notice. So Susie looks at me and says, 'Bet you can't do that.' So I threw mine. But when I threw mine, Miss Kranston turned around. She sees all the pencils in the ceiling and blames me. It's not fair."


  "Oh..." All of this was very new to Roy, but he always listened very carefully, which made Roy better than most humans in Sarah's eyes. Not to mention the funny questions he'd ask afterwards.


  "What does 'bored' mean?"


  "Err, well...It's like when people say the same stuff over and over to you again, after awhile it gets old...Do Replicants have to go to school, like to a Replicant school?"


  "We used to. Not anymore. Now they have a machine called a modifier which programs us much quicker than taking a class. It is very unpleasant." He looked down at Sarah, and coined one of her phrases. "It sucks."


  Roy rolled up his sleeve, and showed her the burn mark from the modifier's electrical charge.


  "Jeez Louise!!" Sarah gaped. "Will you get better, I mean, your arm's gonna be okay, won't it?!?"


  "The doctor could not say for sure. But I think the mark is slowly going away."


  "Is it okay if I touch your arm?" Roy nodded, and moved his arm towards Sarah. She reached out with her finger and carefully pressed against the burn mark, which looked like a charcoal patch. Roy didn't flinch at all. She then touched Roy on the spot of his arm that wasn't affected, just to see the difference. Her classmates were saying Replicants were made up of rubber or plastic, and after seeing Roy's burn mark, was surprised.


  "Looks human to me." Something psychologically unlocked in Roy when he heard Sarah's words. 


  Roy began rolling his sleeve back up. As he did, another armored car pulled up, and this time a group of Replicants were being escorted in. Female Replicants.


  As they strode by, one of the Replicants, a tall skinny female with bright blonde hair, looked over at Roy. Their eyes locked. Sarah watched as well, and then looked back to Roy. The group passed, heading into the FCA building. Roy watched them carefully, and then looked back at Sarah, who was looking directly at Roy.


  Sarah began to giggle. "I saw that! You like her."


  Roy had no idea what Sarah was talking about, but he did feel some sort of connection to the Replicant as she walked by, the gaze into his eyes. This certainly wasn't covered in the last modification download. Roy didn't know what to say to Sarah.


  "Can't blame you. She's pretty," Sarah continued, watching them disappear into the building. "She sure is tall."




  "What do you mean, they shut it down?" Tyrell said aloud, in front of the board members. He looked at Halford's face on the vidphone. Halford knew that Tyrell would clean house the minute he heard the modifier was shut down.


  "Tannhauser just cut the order to have it dismantled for FCA inspection."


  "This is unwarranted. The man is under control of the military, and if he won't do his job, we'll just have to find someone who will."


  Tyrell looked up towards the board. "You may all leave." And with a wave of his hand,       eleven of Tyrell's most coveted board members quietly and obediently got up and left the room. Halford tried to contain himself from looking shocked, and reminded himself of the power that Tyrell held, which was growing increasingly larger by the minute.


  "If you want, I can argue that the FCA has illegally confiscated Tyrell property."


  "I'm not sure that would do any good. They'd just hang onto it long enough to study it, piece by piece, and then slap a ton of new regulations on it, or worse yet, wind up sending the unit to a competitor to 'evaluate' it, and next week find ourselves in a bidding war with another company for Io's contracts. No, we need to make a bigger change. Just sit tight, go along with whatever the FCA says, but don't give them any more information if you can help it. We've waited much too long to get this project in full swing. That's all." Tyrell hung up abruptly on Halford.


  Halford drew back from the vidphone in surprise. Although he was fairly certain his job was not in jeopardy, Tyrell didn't play games. When he said that changes needed to be made, things happened fast. Tannhauser was as good as gone.

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