Jess backed up against the glass door and she gently pushed it open. As she entered the shop, a bell hanging above the door gently tinkled and the man sitting by the work bench towards the back of the shop, looked up.
‘What can I do for you, young lady’, he asked as he put the soldering iron back in its holster and took off the magnifying glasses.
Jess smiled at the compliment and approached the work bench, box in hand. ‘It’s my daughters K12 unit. It’s broken and I was hoping you could help. I know it’s old, but she’s really attached to it.’ She placed the box down on the counter and opened the flaps to let the man take a look.
He reached in and carefully took out the robot dog. ‘I haven’t seen one of these for years. I used to have the original K9 guarding the shop, but that was decades ago, the K12 was quite the upgrade at the time’.
‘Let’s see what we’re working with’ he said, flipping the dog over and putting his magnifying glasses back on. After turning it on, he looked into the dogs LED eyes and waited. After a few seconds they began to blink red.
‘It’s been doing that for days’, Jess said with a look of concern.
‘Believe it or not, it’s a good sign. It means the fusion unit is still functioning, with these old models once those go you have no hope. It’s fixable’, he said with a smile.
He picked up a screwdriver and started unscrewing the belly of the dog. After he picked up the soldering iron, Jess realised there was nothing she could do to help, so began wondering around the shop, looking at all the robots hanging from the ceilings and stacked up on shelves. Limbs, heads and torsos were strewn around in various states of repair and puddles of oil were dotted about on different surfaces.
Hanging from the ceiling in the corner was a robot she didn’t recognise. Its eight arms hung loosely at its side and instead of hands it had what looked like a ball riddled with holes. Jess walked over to it and inspected it, ‘what is this?’ she asked as she reached up to touch one of its arms.
‘I suppose that model was before your time’, he said looking up from the K12. ‘You’ve heard of the original Carebots I take it?’ he asked as he came around from the workbench and walked over to her.
Jess nodded as she felt the cool metal of the robot. He reached up and unhooked it from its resting place before handing it to her to inspect. It was easily 5 feet in height, but its shell was made from a super light alloy and Jess could hold it in one hand.
‘Probably before you were born, real dogs weren’t just for the ultra-rich. They were so prevalent that every other house seemed to have a dog or two. The Carebots were the first humanoid robots, designed for the elderly and sick, but then there were the K9 Walkerbots. They were similar and look and stature to the Carebots, but with canine orientated programming and very specific hardware. You couldn’t walk in any park up and down the country without seeing the odd Walkerbot, the leads spiralling out from the arms like an octopus.
For years, everything went smoothly, and owners and dogs were happy with the arrangement. They were particularly useful on the hottest and coldest days of the year when nobody really wanted to venture outside. These days became known as Dog Days, as if you ventured outside, the chances are the only things you’d see were the Walkerbots and dogs.
But then came the infamous event of the Dog Day Afternoon which led to chaos, fatalities, and dog licencing, that’s why only the super-rich can afford a real dog now and us mere mortals are left with the K series.’ Jess was standing holding the Walkerbot, and listening intently, so he took the bot from her, placed it back on the hook and indicated for her to take a seat.
‘The Walkerbots are pretty basic as robots go, but they had one interesting feature in that scientists had managed to decode the language of dogs. Slight variations in a dog barks pitch or tempo led to drastically different reactions. The Walkerbots had been programmed with a number of different commands and had the ability to adapt the language to the need and breed of the dogs in their care.
Obviously, they were programmed with the basic tenants that they would look after the canine in their care but would not harm another dog, if there was conflict with the dog of another Walkerbot. If there was a fight between dogs, they would simply lead the dog away.
It was on a particularly hot Dog Day that one of the Walkerbots adapted its programming. By now the worst of global warming had really entrenched itself on the climate. There weren’t the domes above the parks that you see now to ensure a cool environment when taking a stroll. The parks were still open to the elements and the sun would scorch the earth turning the grass brown in a matter of minutes.
That kind of heat leads to some pretty aggravated pooches, so when a Rottweiler called Buttercup came into contact with a Chihuahua called Killer, sparks were always going to fly.
The park was completely swamped with Walkerbots and dogs, there were thousands of dogs all being walked. in the afternoon, after the worst of the heat had left the day. The area was surprisingly well managed for a while, with the entanglements being kept to a minimum. But then Buttercup and Killer met on the brow of a hill, the smaller of the dogs bearing down on the larger with a ferocity that only smaller dogs tend to muster.
The Walkerbot that held Buttercup was spun around as the Rottweiler tried to avoid its tiny antagonist and lost its balance on the hillside. Down it went with a thud, the leads being flung asunder in a helter-skelter calamity. With the leads now free Buttercup gathered his courage and began to charge Killer. The Walkerbot had to think fast on how to save its charge.
What happened next could best be described as a call to arms, as it was clear that Buttercup would not be able to take on the pack that harboured Killer. The combination of yowl and bark that emitted from the Walkerbot was nothing that could have been replicated by any singular animal. It had a dramatic and instant effect on all canines within earshot and when you bear in mind that the majority of dogs can hear up to a mile away, well… the consequences were far reaching.
The dogs that had been released through the fall gathered around Buttercup and a brutal fight ensued as the two packs collided. The Walkerbot in charge of Killer could not adequately defend or retreat, so released the leads, allowing them to defend themselves.
The call to arms instigated every dog pack in the area to pull at their leads, sending Walkerbots tumbling all over the park. Some Walkerbots were dragged along to the scene by their dogs, whilst others broke limbs in their falls, releasing those dogs into the fray.
As the ruckus grew in size, so did the size, and dogs in the neighbourhood jumped over fences, knocked down doors, and jumped through open windows. In desperate need to save the dogs under their control, other Walkerbots emulated the first, causing a ripple effect that swept through neighbourhoods, villages and towns.
Up and down the country dogs ran down roads, gathered in packs and fought in the streets in a roving mass of canine agitation. Cars crashed to avoid them, and people ran for miles to catch up with their dogs, collapsing of heat stroke; ambulances and hospitals were swamped.
The fight went on for days in ebbs and flows, stopping people from sleeping and slowly driving them crazy. National productivity fell as the authorities tried to get the mess under control. After nearly a week, the chaos ended, but then the video went viral and it ballooned into a global catastrophe as dogs roamed in packs across the globe.
Different nations took different approaches to the solution, but the theme with them all was a brutal cull that caused outcry throughout the globe. Our once beloved pets had become a problem that only elimination could solve.
The bill for the clean-up was in the billions and that’s when the licences were implemented, they figured that a licence would reduce the numbers, and it has.’
He walked back over to the workbench, flipped over the K12 unit and turned it on. The eyes flashed green. ‘Far less hassle’, he smiled as he put it back in the box and walked over to the cash register.