A Lively Debate

Thanks to Artist A Day

*****

“Peter, feed your fish. You’re father will be home any minute.” Peter Lively scooted back from his workstation where he was downloading his homework and stuck the electron tube into his fish tank, giving his robotic fish their biweekly energy boost. One of them had lost a cathode coil earlier in the week, so it had to be tossed in the noncombustible bin, but the rest were swimming around in their plasma as if they had gills full of charge.

The light field above his dresser changed to red announcing his father’s arrival. It was only a few moments later that he heard his dad’s familiar footsteps and the clunk of his energy pack. His dad was a 2nd gen cyborg, back when they had to always carry an energy source. He was scheduled for an upgrade, but the new government had reversed policy, focusing instead on new models and letting the older ones phase out. Peter paused his homework app and went to greet his father.

Gary Lively was loosening his tie when his son Peter entered the dining room. Dining was something that was reserved for humans, but the traditional name remained. Cyborg families such as the Lively’s often used the room as a place to swap out their energy packets while catching up on their days, something that Gary was dreading this particular evening.

Just then Helen Lively joined them, carrying a tray of color coded energy packets. They sat at the table and rolled up their sleeves, exposing the casing on their forearms that held their packet storage.

“Everything okay, dear? You look a little rundown,” Helen asked her husband.

“Yes. Well. No. Not really.” Gary fiddled with the prongs on his energy packet. “I had some bad news today at work. I’ve actually been let go.”

Helen’s hands froze mid-air. How could this be? Gary was the best comedy writer out there. He was the first to break into late night when he infiltrated the Leno team. He went undetected for years, allowing the cyborg programmers to gain valuable information into the brainstorming process.

Gary continued: “The entire creative department was informed our services would no longer be needed. A hundred and fifty of us total. And the worst part of it? We’re being replaced by humans. The spearheads said fully sentient beings could do our job in half the time with twice as much effectiveness. I mean, really. Shouldn’t they have come up with a more robust program for emotional response by now?”

Gary’s speech had grown more rapid, a sign of redirected current, something Helen did not take lightly due to the 2nd gen history of sparking.

“I’ve already put myself on the list for repurposing, but with me already needing an upgrade, the chances are slim. I can’t help but fear the worst…”

“Gary,” Helen gasped, while Peter stared at them agape, “Don’t say it. Don’t even utter the word.”

“Retirement,” Gary defied.

Helen shrieked. The thought of the entire family being deprogrammed, retired, and their usable parts recycled was horrible. She had long opposed the practice of familiacide once the head wage earner was no longer commissionable; she couldn’t fathom the thought of it happening to her own family.

“It’ll be okay,” Helen said when she caught her breath. “We’ll whisper words to the Grandfather of Design, and we’ll figure out a solution from there. Now, Peter, tuck in an extra packet. You have hoverball practice tomorrow.”

The family finished installing their energy packs in silence, unable to fully digest or express the gravity of their situation.

Later that night as Gary and Helen lay in bed together, there was silence in the airwaves between them. Neither wanted to talk about Gary’s job loss, and yet there was nothing else to talk about. Gary’s leg twitched. Helen placed her hand on it to transfer calm.

“Do you want to…,” Helen started.

“It might help,” Gary replied.

He put his energy release probe into her life receptor and felt himself settle down as the current flowed from his fiberpaths. Tomorrow he’d call his friend in Chicago. The cyborg revolution had thus far escaped the midwest, so there might be potential. And in potential there held promise for the future.

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