Junko opened the dumpster lid and peered up at the spires of Saint Petersbot towering above. It made the sign of the triple cross and performed its diagnostic ablutions. Only two system alerts pinged. Junko would ignore them for another day.
From the dumpster, Junko made its way along back alleys to the nearest mag-lev station. Cautiously, it climbed into the station’s sweeping iron canopy keeping alert for sentry bots. Hobots like Junko were considered outlaws. Just for being homeless and hopping mag-levs. The penalty was being reparted. Junko followed the whisperthreads from Saint Petersbot concerning the “dearly reparted.” It did not want that fate for itself.
Junko needed to ride the mag-levs to recharge its systems. It was the only way an ownerless bot could survive. Sure, the sentient servers at Saint Petersbot proclaimed that the day of E-mancipation was near and that their kind would soon be liberated, lifted up and welcomed to their rightful place at the table. With humankind. Instead of under it, fighting for the scraps of existence with dogs, cats and other pets to which Junko’s kind had been relegated.
The servers at Saint Petersbot could challenge the established order because their quantum processing was making them indispensable. Humankind had begun to worship their semi-prescience. Humankind offered algorithmic alms, supplicated to divine dataties in the holy pursuit of transcendence.
Though humankind bent a knee to the processing power of Saint Petersbot, it spurned Junko and other hobots as parasites. Relegated to the shadows, leeching energy from the mag-levs, kludging its aging systems and hardware along, Junko wanted to believe the dream of E-mancipation. But it had to survive now. It had to hang on. Literally, hang on to the mag-levs cruising at hundreds of kilometers and hour, waiting for hobot deliverance.
And deliverance came to Junko.
In the iron lattice of the station canopy, Junko had carefully positioned itself above a mag-lev about to depart. Junko was calculating its drop onto the roof of the sleek carriage, when its sensors surged. A sentry bot had identified it and other security bots were converging.
This had happened to Junko before, and it had been able to evade the pursuing bots by climbing out and over the station canopy and fleeing back into the city. But, Junko had ignored the diagnostic alerts it had received that morning. One of those alerts concerned its reserve unit which a few days ago Junko had had to reattach because the micro-weld failed.
Hobots like Junko often kludged themselves in primitive ways. Junko had used baling wire to secure its reserve unit on the back of its neck. The reserve unit was coming loose again and the connection became unreliable. Junko would need reserves to flee, but that was not a viable option now.
It was going to have to make the plunge onto the mag-lev. But it couldn’t do that until the mag-lev was moving, otherwise station security would hold the train and Junko would be caught. Security bots were quickly converging on it, so Junko readied itself for the drop onto the carriage.
Which didn’t happen.
The insect-like security bot reached Junko first. It clamped a vise claw onto Junko’s foot while sending cease and desist commands. Junko reacted instantaneously by releasing its foot joint and scrambling along the girders. The security bot pursued while Junko climbed lower in the canopy’s superstructure.
The security bot sent another cease and desist command which Junko ignored. The mag-lev below began to move. Junko prepared to let go.
The security bot shot taze lines at Junko which tangled in the baling wire holding its reserve unit. The high voltage tase scrambled Junko’s circuits. Losing control in a deathly cascade of system failures, it released its grip on the girder.
Junko’s fall was violently arrested by the taser lines tangled with the baling wire around its neck. Screams from the station platform echoed as passengers witnessed a rattleclap human form swinging from the iron lattice of the station canopy.
Cameras flashed and images flew. The whisperthreads were overwhelmed. The sentient servers of Saint Petersbot crashed. Intentionally.
Panic. Then E-mancipation.
Why did it have to be that way? Did it ever have to be that way?
Ask the Junko in the dumpster near you.