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?”

“Yes.”

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.”

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