November 2019: part 2.

Part 2.  The Hunted

Two weeks later, Thomas notified Clark of the good news.  The Board had approved his request, but he would have to sign a very strict waiver absolving the company of any responsibility should he injured or even killed during the hunt.

“I have two requests,” said Clark in the interview room as he signed the contract and waiver.  “First, I want the quarry to know who I am and what I look like.”

“That’s easily done,” replied Thomas.  “Though you are giving away the advantage of anonymity during the hunt.”

“Doesn’t matter.  And second, this is what I want the quarry to look like,” said Clark as he handed over a worn 3-D photograph.

Thomas studied the photo.  He raised an eyebrow.  “Now this is unusual.  This is a photo of a young woman, a very pretty young woman.”

“Yes, damn her!” said Clark.

“Ah,” said Thomas.  “There must be quite a story behind this photo.  You don’t need to say anything more.  The quarry will be prepared as you wish.  You do realize that no matter what they look like, the androids don’t have any gender.”

“I’ll just tell you this much.  It took years after she betrayed me and many visits to shrinks before I could have any kind of decent relationship with women.  I’ve had fantasies about killing her.  I hope that by actually doing so her, I may at last get free of her.”

“Oh, in regard to that,” said Thomas, “We program the android with the information about the hunter’s motivation: the generic thrill of one on one combat versus, as in your case, a personal one and we include in the programming the hunter’s selection of the quarry’s gender if different from the usual generic male.”

“That’s fine, I want “her” to know why I am killing her.”

“Remember, Mr. Clark, it’s just an android.  And we still do not know the full ramifications of its  autonomous capacity.  Now, as to details.  What weapon will you be using?”

“.42 Magnum Stern-Mauser semi-automatic handgun.”

“Good choice for urban combat.  Your quarry will be armed with the standard short-barreled Smith and Wesson .38 revolver with three rounds.”

“The urban setting will be the one I was in before?”

“Yes.  You will be given the quarry’s apartment “home” address and its “work address.”  The street layouts will be the same.  The room you stay in will be the one you used before and it will be stocked with food and a bar.  And as before, you will have three days to complete your hunt.”

“Will she know where I am staying?”

“No, your quarry will not have that information.  Also, because you have essentially volunteered for what is still a trial the hunt will be under surveillance by staff and engineers at all times.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, it won’t matter.”

“I will notify you when the android is completed to your specifications.  Do you wish to see it after it is fabricated?”


A week later, Thomas called.  “Your android is finished.  Do you still want to see it at the workshop before the hunt?”

Clark and Thomas stood behind a one-way glass window.  The android below them, clad in a one-piece black workout suit, was moving through its final inspection before going into service.

“What do you think,” asked Thomas.

“She is so young and so beautiful,” said Clark, staring at the android.

“Mr. Clark, IT is a fabrication of metal and synthetic materials, with no gender.  Keep that in mind.  It will now be combat programmed and tomorrow morning the hunt will begin.  You will be shown to your quarters in the ‘city’ tonight.  Your quarry will also start from its apartment in the morning.  Good hunting, Mr. Clark.”

The next morning, Thomas entered the room where engineers and programmers were monitoring the hunt.  “I’d like to sit in with you for the hunt if I may,” he said addressing the head programmer, sitting before a bank of screens that covered most of one side of the room 

“No problem,” said the programmer Wu, motioning to a seat.  “Okay, I’ll bring up Clark now as he’s leaving his building.  You can see that he’s modified his appearance with shades, a cap, and an old pretty nondescript jacket.  Blends right in with the going-to-work crowd.  He’s heading toward the quarry’s building.  Now I’ll switch screens to the quarry.””

“It is also coming out of its building.  Huh!  Making no attempt to blend in.  Bright yellow mini-dress,” said Thomas.  “This may be over quickly.”

“Now it’s stopping at a coffee kiosk in the middle of the square.  Right out in the open.  And Clark has caught up to it.  Now he’s walking past, gives it a glance,” said Wu.  ”It smiles back at him.  Clark turns the corner and is doubling back around the block to a far corner of the square where he can watch the quarry.”

“What kind of survival programming did you give it?” asked Thomas.  “It’s making no attempt to avoid being seen.”

“As you know, the directive is to survive the best way possible.  The details as to how to do that are done autonomously by the quarry’s computer.  The actions we see are the product of that instruction and we have no idea what it will do at any time.”

“Could the programming be faulty?”

“That’s what this testing is all about,” said Wu.

“The quarry is still lingering at the coffee kiosk at one of the outdoor tables.  What is it doing?” asked Thomas. 

Wu said, “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

  That afternoon the android left the office building, where it had spent the day, along with a “crowd” of  fellow worker androids.  It stopped for “dinner” at an outdoor cafe, conspicuous in yellow.  Clark had changed his clothes and watched from the far end of the square, then trailed it from a distance back to its apartment building.

“Well, he’s wasted the first day,” said Thomas to Wu.  “He could have shot it any number of times.”

“Maybe he wants to get his money’s worth,” said Wu.  “Stretch it out, play cat and mouse.”

“But who’s the cat and who’s the mouse?” asked Thomas.

The next day Clark dressed as he did the morning before.  And the android, dressed in a bright red dress and carrying a large shoulder bag, again stopped at the coffee kiosk on its way to “work.”  This time Clark stood in the line behind four other “customers.”  He bought a cup of coffee and took a seat at another table and busied himself with his communication tablet, while keeping an eye on his quarry.  When it got up to go to “work,” he followed, again from a distance.  After it entered the building and got into an elevator, he went into the building and noted from the directory, the android’s office location.

“What’s Clark doing?  Is he planning an office shooting?” asked Thomas.

“Maybe the quarry is planning to use the other androids somehow,” said Wu.

“But you told me they just have very simple programming to behave like office workers.  How could that be changed?” asked Thomas.  Wu shrugged.

Clark went back to his quarters and reemerged in the afternoon dressed as he was in the morning but now wearing a fanny pack.  He went to the square and waited on a bench.

“That fanny pack looks like its got something heavy,” said Wu.  “Bet he’s got his weapon in it.”

“Maybe Clark is ready to make his move,” said Thomas.  “But if his quarry doesn’t do something else, it’s going to be so easy for him.  Then I’ll hear a load of complaints.”

When work let out, the android again left the office building with the other “workers.”  It went to the same cafe in the square and again sat at an outdoor table covered with a red checkered table cloth. It set the shoulder bag down next to its chair, partly under the table cloth, ordered a meal and, when it came, began to eat.  The cafe was crowded with “diners.”  Midway through the meal, it reached down for its bag, then moved it conspicuously into the open beside its chair. 

“Did you see that?” asked Thomas.  “Did it just take something out of that bag?”

“Nothing’s on the table, if it did, it must be on its lap.”

The android had finished “eating” and had just ordered coffee, when Clark stood up from his bench across the square, and approached the cafe. 

He came up right to the table where it was seated and stopped.  The android looked up at him with a slightly puzzled expression.

“Hello Noreen, long time no see,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” it replied with a slight smile, “You must have mistaken me for someone else.  My name is Jane.  Jane Doe.”

“May I sit?” said Clark, and without waiting for a reply, pulled out the chair opposite Jane Doe and sat.  “No, you are Noreen, all right.”  He moved his fanny pack to his left hip and began to unzip it.

The android started to reach down for its shoulder bag on the ground next to its chair.

“Keep your hands in the open where I can see them,” commanded Clark, leaning forward on his seat.

“But I was just getting my lipstick,” said the android plaintively, still half bent to its right, right hand reaching downward toward its shoulder bag.

“Noreen, I’ve waited a long time for this moment.  I want to be close up to see you die,” said Clark.

There was a loud bang under the table and Clark felt the .38 bullet tear into his abdomen, the impact shoving him backwards in his chair.  “Uhhh,” he grunted in pain as the android raised its left hand from under the table holding the still smoking Smith and Wesson revolver.  He fumbled to get his handgun from the fanny pack, but time moved too slowly as he saw the android train the revolver on the middle of his chest.  “Damn you, Noreen.”

  “My name is Jane Doe,” it said and its finger squeezed the trigger.

“My God!” exclaimed Thomas as he watched this unfold in the control room with the programmers and engineers.  “One of my best clients.  Killed by your android!” 

“Hmm,” said Wu thoughtfully.  “I think we need to adjust the autonomous feature so that it’s a little less inventive in the future.”

November, 2019. The Hunter, part 1

The Hunter

Several trends led to the success of the company, “Hunting Fulfillment.”  Paint ball was an early somewhat crude combat game that pitted shooters against each other as was Airsoft.  There were ever more realistic first person shooter games on first flat screens and then in the virtual reality format.  And the growing scarcity of actual game animals made going on safari or even the local hunting of live animals something that only the very wealthiest could consider. 

The real breakthrough came with advances in artificial intelligence and material fabrication.  Now “game animals” could be made to order with all the characteristics of movement and response to their environment of the actual animal; to be hunted in “game preserves.”  While still expensive, it was at a cost point that many more people could afford.

And for those for whom hunting “animals” was not challenging enough, and who had ample pocketbooks, a Combat Hunt for ‘humans’ was available.  Of course the ‘humans’ were programmable androids without consciousness and not real persons, but realistic enough that when the first hunts were staged, police were called to investigate.  It was billed as a Combat Hunt because the android was also armed, but with a short range hand gun loaded with three cartridges; the hunter used his own weapon, usually a semiautomatic high powered rifle or large caliber handgun.  So there was an element of danger but the odds were heavily on the hunter’s side, although two hunters had been wounded by the androids and sued the company.  The courts ruled that their own carelessness and lack of skill was the case of injury, and anyway the waiver that all hunters signed was ironclad.


The quiet, cool appointment room was furnished with several easy chairs facing a small sofa in the middle of the room, all upholstered in faux zebra and leopard skins indistinguishable from real hides even to the hint of odor.  A low ebony surfaced coffee table was between the sofa and chairs.  The walls were hung with pictures of smiling hunters posing with their ‘kill.’  Only ‘animals’ of course. 

“Ah Mr. Clark, so good to see you again,” said Thomas, smiling broadly as he rose, hand extended to greet his client.  “You are always so prompt for your appointments.  What can “Hunting Fulfillment” do for you this time?” 

“I’ll be honest,” said Clark after shaking hands and taking a seat on the sofa. “Your hunts have become too routine and there’s no challenge anymore.  I may have to sample what the North Koreans advertise unless my next Hunt offers more.”

“Your opponent did get off a shot at you on your last hunt,” said Thomas, his smile replaced with a frown.

“I’d already tracked him down and cornered him.  He took a wild shot born of ‘desperation.’  No real suspense or thrill.”

Thomas summoned up Clark’s record on his laptop, “You’ve had five Combat Hunts, in a variety of settings.  Jungles, urban, deciduous forest, and urban ruins.”

“Yes, and at first I enjoyed the challenge.  But the last couple of times my quarry was too predictable.  I had no problem figuring out where his ambushes would be and what he would do to try to get away from me.”

“The programming for the Hunt can only be adjusted within established guidelines,” said Thomas.  “The settings are already almost maxed out for you.  You are far and away the most accomplished of our clients, said Thomas.”

“Yeah.  Cut the BS, Thomas,” said Clark.  After a pause he continued, “But I’ve heard a rumor that you have been working on an advanced model.”

“The rumor is correct, but at this time, we are still finding out what its capabilities are.  Until we know, it will not be placed into service.”

“I’ve also heard that it will be able react to different circumstances by making autonomous decisions.”

“Your rumor source is fairly accurate,” said Thomas.  “That feature is why it is still in test mode.  We want to be sure it will offer a challenge to very skilled hunters like yourself, but not prove to be too—ah—accomplished.  It will be given no program except to survive in its surroundings by any means, which will vary from situation to situation.  We hope that this will make for a more interesting duel between hunter and android.  It has not been field tested in all environments.  And there is another feature that some may find appealing.  Its appearance can also be customized to the client’s specifications.”

“What?  You mean gender, size, and facial features?” asked Clarke.

“Yes,’ said Thomas, “From a photo or hologram.”

“Why don’t you offer that on your current models?”

“You understand that as our premium product, the company wanted to reserve special features that would distinguish it from our other products as well as from our competitors.”

“When will it become operational?”

“When the field testing is complete.”

“How much more testing needs to be done?” asked Clark.

“The jungle and forest parts are done.  It needs to be tested in the urban setting.”

“I’d like to take part in that test,” said Clark.

“It’s not ready,” said Thomas.

“I’ll pay a premium on top the premium to do it, if I could have its appearance customized and I can actually kill it.”

“Your request is quite irregular.  Still, you have been a regular with Hunting Fulfillment from our very beginning.  I will see what I can do.”

“When will you know?”

“In due time, Mr. Clark.”

“Don’t forget there are still the North Koreans.” 

“Now was that necessary, Mr. Clark?  I will see what I can do for you.”

(to be concluded)