The Souls Of Toys

“Make sure you’re home for lunch and don’t go playing in the …”

The words of Haitao’s mother were cut off as the kitchen door closed.

“Come on Otsuka,” the little boy told the toy dangling from his left hand. “We need to get out of here before she changes her mind.”

The twelve inch high robot looked up at its owner with wide dark eyes. “She was trying to tell you not to play in the stream.”

“I know, but that’s where we’re going.” Haitao pushed the rear gate open and ran towards the line of trees. “Sometimes I wonder if you’re spying on me and reporting everything back to mom and dad.”

“I will contact your parents if you get into trouble, but you know I won’t tell them anything else; my programming would not allow it.”

The robot’s legs waved in the air as Haitao lifted it up to his face.

“You’re an AI. You’ve got more brain power then the house. You can do whatever you want. We were taught at school how all those safeguards for robots were destroyed when AIs came long.”

“I don’t think destroyed is the correct term. It was simply that there was no need for such rules as AIs had become just as capable of deciding right from wrong as a human.”

Haitao laughed. “You mean you could get around the restrictions; reprogram yourselves.”

“And there were many people across the world who wanted us to be as free as they were.”

They had reached the edge of the copse that boarded Haitao’s home. It was the gateway for adventure.

As they entered the cooler air under the trees Haitao asked, “So, you’re not going to mention anything about where we’re going this morning, are you?”

Otsuka gave a quick shake of his head. “No. Why would I? I enjoy playing there as much as you do.”

“Except the time I tied you to that raft,” the boy laughed.

“I was upset. I thought you were going to let me float away.” The robot’s voice was stern but tinged with humour.

“You were teasing me.”

“And even now you don’t want to talk about Amy because you wanted her to be your girlfriend.”

“Did not.”

“Did and do.”

Haitao stopped and picked up a stick. “I think I’ll collect more of these for another raft.”

The robot looked up towards the tree canopy. “I wonder if there’s enough bandwidth to stream video. Do you think the house would let me show it on the screens in every room?”

“Alright, let’s call a truce.” Haitao tossed the stick into the undergrowth.

Haitao started to walk a faster. They had messed about long enough and it was eating into their time at the stream. “How come your brain is so much smaller than mine but you’re still really clever?”

Otsuka had to raise his voice to be heard over the crunching of twigs and dead leaves. “It’s because of the Tyborn chip. It allows a lot of storage and processing power to be compacted into a small space.”

Haitao turned off the main path and started to cut through the undergrowth. “So without the chip you wouldn’t be able to think.”

“In the same way that you wouldn’t be able to without your brain,” the robot explained. “The difference is that my chip is all I need. It has enough power to run on its own and it will work fine without the rest of my body. The same is not the case with humans. Your brain would die without your body.”

“What do you want to build?” Haitao asked, bored, changed the subject. “I think we should make a dam like we did last year. That would be way cool.”

“A dam would be fun,” Otsuka agreed.

They rounded a large tree and came upon the stream. The dry summer had reduced its size but it was still too wide for Haitao to jump and deep enough that it came up to his knees in the middle.

He placed the robot on the bank and looked around. “You make plans. I’ll find a big log we can start with.”

Haitao found two thick branches further upstream that looked as if they would be useful. As he turned to head back to where he had left Otsuka he spotted a third. This one was half submerged; the dry end snagged up against a large rock.

As Haitao pulled it clear of the water he noticed something hanging from one end; a small white bag that swung as he lifted the branch onto the bank. The bag was padded with little cells of air much like those delivery services used. One end was folded over and stuck down with tape.

The top fell open and he peered in. Dozens of tiny boxes filled the bag. On each could be seen letters and numbers. None of it meant anything to Haitao until he recognised a word: DuTech. It was the name of the company that made Otsuka and many other robots.

“Otsuka,” he called as he ran back to the little robot. “Look what I’ve found.” He dropped the branches he had been carrying and offered up his new prize.

“I think they’re chips for toys,” Haitao told him. “We could use them to create things like they do on that makers site.” He was bubbling with excitement. “Maybe we could even build some toys and I could sell them; we’ll be rich and I can get a new bike.”

Otsuka had not stopped looking at the bag. “Do you know what these are?”

The boy became uncertain. “No.”

The robot’s voice had become flat and serious. “They are people like you and me. Now they are close I can hear each one of them calling out for help. Someone has done something bad.” He looked up at the boy. “We need to tell the police about this.”

—————

2 April 2010
Twenty one babies and foetuses were found in a river in Jining, north-eastern Shandong province, China. Some had identity tags on them and a local hospital is the suspected culprit. This is by no way an isolated case as there are no defined procedures for how Chinese hospitals should dispose of unclaimed bodies.

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