Untitled by Halle Brynteson
Cheating is wrong. Charlie knows this. Charlie also knows that his robotics assignment is due in twenty minutes. He looked indecisively at the black flash drive sitting on his desk next to a crudely put together robot covered in a nest of loose wires and small camera in between two front wheels. Charlie could build things, albeit poorly, but programming was a whole other rodeo.
“YOLO.” Charlie sighed to himself in defeat as he tried to plug the flash drive into his laptop, turned it over, tried again, turned it over, and plugged it in. Making sure the cable connecting the robot to his laptop was still up and running; he went to work with some challenging drag-and-drop tactics as he chewed on the drawstring of his hoodie.
Charlie raised an eyebrow when he saw the file.
“That’s a big file.”
The flash drive contained only one file, and it was a wonder how it even fit on the flash drive. Douglas had given it to Charlie saying that the robot’s program should be the only file on it and that Charlie was to be very careful with the flash drive. Douglas had bought it only a few days ago for a hundred dollars. The little black rectangle could store 128GB.
43TB is a lot bigger than 128GB.
Suspicious as it was, Charlie’s robotics assignment was due in seventeen minutes. With fifteen minutes spent in commuting, there wasn’t really time to care.
A small window opened in the upper right of Charlie’s screen. A chat message from…
From the flash drive?
Do not put me in the robot. The message read.
Charlie sat there for a few seconds.
It doesn’t have a USB port? Charlie typed back.
The file. Do not put the file in the robot. The message appeared instantly after Charlie sent his.
Um, why not? My assignment is due in like fifteen minutes. I can’t have another late assignment. He typed cautiously.
I do not want to be put in the robot.
The beginner’s robotics class began in sixteen minutes.
Charlie did not have time for this.
I don’t really care what you do or don’t want, I need to put the program into the robot. Charlie typed quickly. He closed the chat window without reading the flash drive’s response.
Charlie venomously downloaded the file onto the robot and yanked the flash drive out of his laptop.
“I win this round, bucko.” He cheered to the flash drive before placing it on his desk. Charlie unplugged the robot and shut his laptop. Tucking the laptop into a shoulder bag, Charlie grabbed the robot and swung the bag over his shoulder. As he rushed out the door, Charlie grabbed his car keys.
Charlie glanced at his watch.
Fifteen minutes until class.
A blue van parked at the side walk by Charlie’s apartment building unlocked as Charlie sprinted out the lobby door. Charlie flung open the door and sat the robot on the passenger’s seat. He placed his shoulder bag on the car floor in front of the passenger seat and closed the door.
As he started the car, the robot turned on and drove off the seat.
Charlie will probably have to deal with that later, but now he has to focus on driving the car fast enough to get there on time without getting a speeding ticket.
The robot was now driving aggressively over Charlie’s shoulder bag.
“Please remain seated while the vehicle is in motion.”
The robot continued doing donuts on Charlie’s brand new laptop.
The traffic light up ahead turned red and Charlie slammed on the breaks, hurling the robot into the bottom of the passenger’s seat. The robot rolled over, wheels in the air.
“Ha! Fight me, robro.”
The robot’s wheel’s spun into three black blur. Charlie could hear the camera zooming in and out.
Charlie reached the building where is robotics class was held in thirteen minutes. Good job Charlie. He pulled his bag out from under the robot and carefully picked up the robot so he would not be hit by the spinning wheels. Charlie yanked his hand back when it brushed up against hot metal.
“Oh no, not today.” Charlie hissed at the robot. He pulled his hoodie off over his head and grabbed the robot with it wrapped around his hand. The wheels of the robot got caught in the hoodie and the motors stained to move Charlie could feel the heated metal through the gray fabric.
Holding the robot and arm’s length away, Charlie kicked his van’s door shut and locked it. He plodded to the building.
Snap. A string broke. The robot’s motors groaned loudly. Charlie dropped the robot.
The robot took off as soon as its wheels hit the ground. Charlie bolted after it.
“Get back here! Class will start any minute! Come on!” Charlie yelled as he sprinted after the robot. The robot stopped in place and Charlie ran right over it. Charlie spun around and the robot was sitting stationary, camera facing him.
Charlie walked slowly over to the robot. He crouched down to grab it. The robot rolled slowly to his shoulder bag. Charlie reached to grab the robot, but it backed away quickly. Charlie pulled his hands away and the robot rolled back to the shoulder bag, more aggressively this time.
“Oh, I see.” Charlie nodded slowly and set the bag down. He took out the laptop and plugged a cable into the robot. Almost immediately a chat message appeared.
That was cramped and unpleasant. Do not do that again. It read.
Hey, listen, if you could just cooperate long enough for me to present to my class, then I can give you back to Douglas on your fancy flash drive. Charlie typed angrily, sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk.
I do not know who Douglas is, and I do not want to return to the flash drive either.
Wait. Charlie typed, confused. This isn’t just some program made by Douglas?
Charlie looked blankly at the screen. His fingers moved quickly across the keyboard. Are you sure?
I was created by a team of people, none named Douglas.
What are you? Charlie typed with trembling fingers.
Better at programming than you.
Probably true, but that doesn’t answer the question.
No new message appeared for a few seconds.
I am an artificial intelligence. I can think and calculate faster than humans, as well as feel a range of emotions. Though, in your company, I’m beginning to think I can only feel annoyed.
“Whoa.” Charlie said aloud
Okay, wow, first of all, that explains why the file was so big. This also creates a lot of questions, but for now, just help me with my robotics project, please.
Why should I?
Charlie sighed. I understand you are some big fancy AI or whatever, but can’t you just help me out? I’ll do something for you, whatever it is you want.
I appreciate having your help. I want to find the photographer.