I awoke when it was still dark, raised my arm, and looked at the chronometer built into my wrist. Yes, it was time to awake. My body clock was never wrong. It was programmed by the master craftsperson in charge of my artificial life. I am used to rising at this hour seven days a week, and I am very comfortable that what I must do each day is necessary and beneficial to others.
There was no need to dress myself, since I did not feel naked, nor could I feel embarrassed by the comments of others about my exposed external extremities. Everything about my appearance is considered to be the most practical realization of the current design to house the sophisticated internal electro-mechanical apparatus required for me to perform all my robotic duties. I understand that I am endowed with the capability to handle even more challenging activities when I encounter them.
During the night I had recharged my master battery, and sorted, organized, and filed the data that my sensors had accumulated and temporarily processed during the previous 24 hour period. I felt fresh and ready to begin my day. My agenda for this new day was carefully reviewed before the recharging process began the night before. All my obligations were prioritized for me, and a schedule was posted in my memory module for ready reference. Now begins the daily evaluation of my physical extremities to determine whether or not I am fit to go on another 24 hours.
Performing the routine duties was never difficult for me. There are moments of course when I need some physical attention and periodic “preventive maintenance.” If these are provided in due time, I am able to fulfill my normal quota and even work overtime as the need arises. So far additional work requirements haven’t stressed me, because I am certified to have the capacity built into my program to provide extensive service. The “wear and tear” that I have sustained on the job have been within the parameters for a robot of my specialized complexity.
I entered the work place on time and set up my work station for what I was assigned to assemble, checking to see that everything that I needed was available and handy. The whistle sounded, and the assembly conveyor rumbled into motion. The noise didn’t bother me nor the toxic fumes. My sensors were accustomed to the levels I would be exposed to.
Too much heat was always a problem in the factory, but the doors were open for extra ventilation and the incoming winter air had a cooling effect that was welcomed by the few humans employed. A counter kept track of what I was producing, and a quality scanner noted any deviation to standard that had to be corrected subsequently by a repair robot down the line. My performance was within tolerance that morning and adjustments to my skill level were not required.
Time passed quickly, and since there were no interruptions, our production was maximized, so that I felt certain that I would be permitted to work the following day. As I left the assembly line when the whistle sounded ending my shift, a runaway forklift that I didn’t see coming crashed into me. I was knocked to the floor and run over. My lower extremities were badly damaged, so that I couldn’t walk.
Fortunately, help arrived immediately and carted me off to the infirmary for a diagnosis of my injuries and for necessary repairs. My prior work injuries had been few and readily fixed in the infirmary. But this injury was more severe. I feared that it might even end my working career.
Being severely injured was no disgrace in the factory, but my anticipated absence from my posted job site created certain assignment problems for the organization in figuring how to redirect the work on the assembly line. I was rushed to the infirmary and left there for the responsible repair crew to attend to my damaged extremities. I was not suffering any pain, nor did I doubt the competence of the members of the repair crew. They had taken care of other assembly line workers who were critically injured and one time replaced a damaged digit on one of my so-called hands. I was as good as new when I went back to work.
One of the first aid attendants was reassuring to me. She said that the repair crew had the latest techniques available to reconstruct any part of my body. Their professional knowledge was second to none in the robot maintenance industry. Since she had already found and reviewed the appropriate page from the book of robot maintenance, she thought that they would have me repaired in no time.
“We can change flat tires and worn out brakes in a jiffy. Internal problems take a little longer,” she said. “How much mileage have you logged to date?” she asked me using a very friendly bedside manner.
I read her the data from my odometer and let her take note of the other pertinent health indicators that were in places on my body that I could not see. “I’ve been around a while, so I probably have a high mileage reading for my current job,” I told her, “but I still produce quality work on the line.”
“All the more reason we have to get you back to work as soon as possible,” she replied.
Her supervisor came into the infirmary and asked to see the data that she had accumulated. After reviewing that, he approached the Gurney where I lay. He superficially inspected the damage to my lower extremities and shook his head gravely.
“At the moment we are missing some of key replacement parts that your structural anatomy needs,” he informed me seriously. “I’ll have to see what substitute parts are available which might fit so that we can make you useful somehow to the company.”
His attitude was not comforting, but who was I to question the expert in charge of robot repair? The nurse returned and said, “Don’t let what he said bother you. He’s a pessimist and not happy with this job. He’d rather be designing new robots instead of maintaining old ones.”
“Maybe he can design some evolutionary improvement into my lower extremities, so that I can walk faster or jump higher,” I suggested hopefully.
“Please excuse me, Adam, I must go now and check our inventory listing for the parts that he thinks we need to fix you,” said the nurse after reading my name tag, and she left abruptly.
I lay there wondering how much trouble the infirmary had that day besides me. It occurred to me that there were very few robots in the area where I had been left. I saw no injured nor ambulatory patients. From all the test equipment around me, it seemed like I was in some special evaluation room where diagnostics were performed. And yet, I hadn’t been scanned or examined thoroughly. That confused me.
No one returned to see me, and the whistle starting the second shift sounded. Finally I realized that I was being left there until the next day. Without being recharged, I wondered how many days I would be conscious. I closed my eyes and decided to relax and try to sleep. There was absolutely nothing more I could do in my damaged condition.
When the light appeared the next morning I was wide awake. I hadn’t slept well, and I was beginning to worry that something had happened to me that was more serious than anyone would tell me. After the whistle signaled the start of the day shift, the nurse entered the room and said, “Good morning. I have some good news for you. I found a wheelchair that can be adapted to fit your upper body quite well, I think. The chief will be here shortly to do the conversion. You may be back to work tomorrow.”
“Fine, but I need my lower extremities to be able to…” I hesitated realizing that I wasn’t going to be the robot I was.
“You are an older model robot that can be replaced by a more efficient and modern one,” said the nurse. “We have identified a job that you can do from this wheelchair. Of course, it isn’t as challenging as your old one, but it beats being scrapped altogether, doesn’t it?”
“I suppose so,” I agreed amiably wondering what the new job entailed. “Whatever it is, I’m sure it is better than tilling the hardscrabble ground outside.”
“Or rusting in some scrap heap while your battery runs down!” concluded the nurse smiling.
“I can’t wait to be productive again,” I said enthusiastically. “Heaven knows that robots have to be busy doing something!”
“I’ll be back whenever the chief comes to work,” the nurse told me as she made ready to leave. “It won’t be long, I’m sure.”
“Thanks for being here and helping me. May I ask your name?” I inquired innocently.
“Yes, you can call me Eve, everyone else does,” she answered looking back over her shoulder. “By the way, some of your undamaged parts can be used for making repairs to other robots of your generation. So, the accident wasn’t a total loss for the company!”
When she departed, I lay there exhausted, sensing that my battery was struggling to give me the energy I needed. I raised my head and looked at the wheelchair apparatus she brought which was partially hidden from my view. It looked more like a multi-purpose conveyance for moving deactivated or obsolete robots and not a personal wheelchair that could be permanently attached to my useful upper body.
However, that observation didn’t bother me. As a robot I wasn’t programmed to feel sadness, so I remained emotionless and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep like I had never experienced before.