This is the eighth section of the fourth chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.
The speech had ended and Iz was still watching the newcomer, waiting for any sign of violence or unusual activity. However the speech ended with nothing but a round of polite applause and the newcomer going to talk to the speaker at the end, each at least acted quite pleased to see the other. Slowly the crowd filtered out leaving the newcomer and speaker in discussion and that seemed to be that. Finally she watched the newcomer leave and shortly after followed.
As she left the building and took to the street as she rounded a corner she saw the newcomer waiting for her.
“So you have been following me I see”
“No,” stumbled Iz “Just curious, you’re quite the enigma”
“Am I now,” he replied “I guess you want to know who I am”
“I know who you are” she turned to leave.
He jumped to one side to cut off her exit “No I don’t think you do.” He reached out his hand to grab her on the shoulder and inches away she felt the air fizz, small electric shocks ran through her shoulder. She heard the drone apologize and the man she still thought of as the newcomer curse.
She turned towards the drone “Don’t worry, I’m fine really” then looking back at the newcomer “And there’s nothing I need to know.”
“I go by George these days” he extended his hand in a handshake and again his hand was cloaked in the crackles and sparkles of the drone’s field.
“I’m not taking your hand” Iz said as forcefully as she could “and I imagine you must be in some pain.”
“Fine” he pulled his hand back. “Just don’t follow me again if you’re not interested”
As he walked away she called to the drone “Why did you let him get that close, let me get hurt like that?”
“I’m sorry, what would you do if you were in a job you hate?”
“Get bored and distracted?”
“Yeah” agreed the drone. “It was pretty much a reflex impulse after that.”
“I’d better not disturb you anymore.”
“Oh no I take all the distractions I can get” replied the drone
“So how did you end up in this job that you hate?”
“I thought I’d like serving the community, or at least my personality was supposed to have been created such.” The drone paused a second “What does it mean when you can’t do the one thing you were designed to do? How faulty are you then?”
“That could be a definition of sentience you know.”
“Not really, stupidity maybe.” Grumbled the drone.
Iz stared at the perfectly smooth sphere hovering in front of her. “I hear you experience life much faster than humans do, that your consciousness is much faster than ours”
“Oh it can be, but in a job like this I try and run mine slower than humans. Makes things more interesting.”
“Doesn’t that mean he can get away from you.” Iz paused “Speaking of which, hasn’t he got away from you?”
“Oh no, I’m keeping an eye on him through the surveillance cams.” For the first time the drone sounded quite smug “there’s no-one around him. Although I might have to leave suddenly”
“These fields then that you use, do they have to be so painful?”
“No, I just like to use the painful ones on him, he never learns though”
“That sounds a bit sadistic”
“Then he shouldn’t be so masochistic and keep breaking the rules”
“So what else can they do?”
“Basically form a solid force of pretty much any shape up to a few dozen meters away from me. The closer they are to me the more control and force I have. Six meters is about the limit for restraint of him.” It sounded concerned “Why?”
“Oh just curious, I didn’t realise that was possible”
“It wasn’t in the first drones. I was only produced a few months ago in the latest factory to come online, right at the top of the Habitats capabilities”
“You sound proud”
“I sound like I shouldn’t be telling you this”
“Any shape force you say.”
“What are you up to tonight?” she tried not to make this sound like the come on that it would have come across as was this a human she was talking to.
The drone stuttered for a while and suddenly fled. Within half a second it was at the end of the street out of sight. It’s last call was a single word “George!”
She turned to a sprint to follow it.