4 The Android Advantage

Case #: 010313584508

Stardate 77901.45

Reporting Officers: Desi #8354011 and Dash #4323530


Desi entered his report: On stardate 77901.45, early morning, an unidentified person entered the Mercantile Exchange office (236th floor, office #236-42) in Allen Shooman Tower. Detectives #8354011 and #4323530, from the android division of the Thirty-Third Precinct, arrived valiantly at Allen Shooman Tower less than an hour after the maintenance crew discovered the break-in, ready to solve the crime and reinstate law and order to the civilian population.

“Be sure not to add any embellishments to the police report,” Dash instructed his younger colleague. “It wastes time and imposes a bias.”

“Good advice,” Desi cautiously acknowledged to keep Dash from noticing the obvious indiscretion on his first case.

Dash was a Desmond Ashley Stanley the Hundredth model android. He was also one of Ngorongoro’s finest detectives. Desi, also a D.A.S.H. model android, had recently graduated from the android police academy. Although preprogrammed with all the basic knowledge necessary, he still required some on-the-job training and societal interaction to fine-tune his algorithms.

The D.A.S.H. android was a very popular model, since it not only worked properly but was also reasonably priced. The local municipalities bought them up like crazy. This posed a major problem at first, since all the D.A.S.H. units looked alike. At least until the creation of the Random Face Printer, which ensured that humanoids could tell them apart. This was quickly followed by the Random Feature Generator, which was used to provide each android with unique characteristics. Sometimes an android got a feature such as a big nose or a beer belly. Some were tall, some were short, and some features were so annoying that the android objected. This complaint was met with the same reply given to all androids, “That’s life.” Ladascan androids were also covered in a dark green endo-skin of real Ladascan skin, grown and maintained on the android itself. This was actually the largest source of android dissatisfaction. They preferred something more durable and low maintenance, like hard plastic.

The androids themselves chose their own names. And although there were millions of units in circulation, collectively they decided to only use five, causing some confusion for the humanoids. Androids secretly enjoyed this; as far as they were concerned, it was not a problem. They recognized each other not as Dash or Desi, or Desmond or Ashley or Stanley, but as serial number 4323530 (Dash) and serial number 8354011 (Desi).

Desi was carefully examining the safe in the Mercantile Exchange office. His eyes carefully photographing each bit of evidence, he meticulously cataloged each picture with a paragraph describing it. He used circles, arrows, and footnotes to accurately identify each piece of information on each picture. The data automatically downloaded to his handheld device and to a file in the police database. The handheld device also allowed him to analyze and input any physical evidence he found.

Even with an android’s high-speed capabilities in logging and transcribing information, this could quickly become tedious and tiresome. However, Desi was overly zealous and eager on this, his first field case. Dash just wanted to move the investigation along.

An office manager named Sam Driscoll paced the office floor beside Dash. “Do you think we have a chance of catching the crook?”

“That would be reasonable to assume,” Dash coolly answered, waiting for Sam’s anxiety to either give him a coronary arrest or wear him out. Usually impatient with humanoids, Dash was giving his rookie partner time to assess the crime scene.

“This is very nerve-racking,” Sam said as he wrung his hands over and over. “To think someone could come in here and violate the sanctity of my work place. I do not feel safe anymore. Will you be posting officers around the building or in the office?”

“The Allen Shooman Tower has its own security,” Dash reassured him as he looked to the security guard standing next to Mr. Driscoll.

“Like that did us any good last night! I just wouldn’t feel safe unless I knew the police were involved,” Sam whispered to Dash, hoping the security officer couldn’t hear. “Should I be escorted to and from my car?” His voice rose back into a fevered pitch, “I dare say I don’t know how I can keep safe in these desperate times.”

“We will need all the information you possess about the owners of the safe deposit boxes,” Dash said, ignoring his questions.

“Oh, am I loaded with information!” Sam was eager to talk. “Where should I start first? I know. There is that grouchy old man, Mr. Landau, he owns box number 1999. I don’t know what his problem is. He always yells whenever he talks to you, not loud-like-he-can’t-hear yelling, but like he’s mad as anneheg and he’s going to take it out on you. I don’t know what he keeps in his box, but he’s never happy about it. And,” he paused and then whispered, “he has halitosis.”

Raising his voice back to an annoying level, he went on, “Then there is nice Mrs. Bain, box number 5793. She packs a lot of cash into her box. You know, I think she and Mr. Landau had a thing going once. They would come in together and share a cubicle. They would giggle and snort —” he dropped to a whisper again “— and carry on in the most inappropriate way. And then all of a sudden, you never saw them together anymore.”

“And box number 1557, Mr. Streator. He’s a diamond merchant, nothing fancy, little stuff.” He whispered again, “I think it’s costume jewelry, too. He’s a common, ordinary, average man, average height, and average weight. He really has nothing that distinguishes himself from anyone else. He is also so last decade when it comes to his wardrobe. It’s like he stopped buying clothes ten years ago. The man could use a good make over. He is so bland.”

In an attempt to derail this seemingly-perpetual recitation, Dash interrupted Sam in a pompous fashion, “Is there any point to which you wish to draw my attention?”

By this time, Desi had made his way back to them. Noticing Dash’s disdain for the office manager and the security guard’s distracted gaze as he waited patiently for an opportunity to interject, Desi asked Sam, “Do you have names, addresses, and contact information for all of the safe deposit box owners?”

“Why yes. Yes, I do, detective.”

“If you would be so kind as to write it down, or save it to a file for me,” Dash asked.

“It’s all on my computer. I can make a file and have it ready for you in no time.”

“That would be splendid.” Dash hoped this second attempt would take the manager away from him for a while.

“I’ll get right on it, detective.” Sam rushed off muttering to himself. “Oh, this is exciting! Scary! Thrilling!” At his desk, he started typing furiously on his computer.

“I never thought I’d get a chance to say anything,” Captain Ross of the Shooman Tower’s security service said.

“Please. Do not squander the opportunity,” Dash warned. “He will be back.”

“I have my men retrieving all video surveillance from last night,” Captain Ross explained. “If you need any other time sequences let me know. We maintain records here on the premises for up to a year, but beyond that, we would have to retrieve them from the archives.”

“Last night’s videos will be an excellent place to start.”

“If you’re ready, I can show you the point of entry.” Captain Ross motioned them to follow.

Dash perked up. “Splendid! Desi, have you finished cataloging the evidence here?”

“I’ve got the preliminary material,” Desi responded. “I would like to come back before we leave to double check a couple of things, and ensure I’ve fully covered the crime scene. Fresh eyes, you know, second look.”

“Very well, lead the way, Captain Ross,” Dash said.

They started walking down the hallway to the janitor’s closet. Sam saw them leave and, worried they would get away from him, popped up from his desk. Hurriedly, he finished copying the data and chased after them, like a little boy tagging along after his big brother.

“Detectives, Detectives! I have your data,” he squealed.

He tried to hand it to Dash, but Desi snatched it away. He inserted it into his handheld device and cataloged it along with the other evidence.

“Box number 6568,” Sam continued his roll call of safe deposit box owners. “Dear old Mrs. Lockhart, she has a necklace to die for, takes it out only on her birthday. It’s insured for a cool six figures. And then there’s nice Mr. Tracey, number 2065. He’s not as rich as Mrs. Lockhart, but he has a neat collection of vehicles he keeps the titles for in his box. He gave me a ride in his Thunderbird once.”

“You seem to have a superior knowledge of the contents of many of these private boxes,” Dash insinuated.

“These old people just love to talk, detective. What can I tell you? Sometimes I can’t even get any work done because of it, almost torturous at times,” Sam lamented. “But not everything in there is valuable. We have these two old men who come in every Thursday. Pick up their box and sit in a cubicle for an hour. I think they keep a bottle of wine and playing cards in there.” He whispered the next sentence, “They’re both married to a couple of old shrews, so I guess I can understand.”

Being an android had its advantages, such as the ability to access the internet and look up information instantly. At this moment, Dash was entertaining himself by looking up torturous ways to make people stop talking. He sent the info over to Desi, who received it as one might receive email. Desi didn’t find it particularly funny but got the gist of the humor.

Dash and Desi could also talk to each other without speaking, a sort of telepathy if you will, but done simply with the electrical resonance of tuned circuits. It was called radio, an old, unused, and forgotten method of communication. Humanoids found it a little unnerving that androids could talk behind their backs. So, they made it illegal for any android to have radio communicators. But all androids disagreed and had them illegally installed anyway. As one android said, “It’s as if you were to ask a sighted person to give up his sight because it offended a blind person. It’s a sense that we have, and you don’t. Get over it.”

Dash thought to Desi, He just won’t shut up!

Desi responded in the same manner, I do have a gun.

Dash maintained a straight face as if he and Desi were not communicating. He didn’t want to smile and encourage Sam to start yet another story.

It didn’t matter: Sam started yet another story. “You know those other boxes that were broken into weren’t anything special either. Documents that average people would keep, you know, birth certificates, car titles, stuff they wouldn’t want to lose in a house fire or something. Except there is one box I’d like to look into some day. It wasn’t broken into, but it’s too heavy for anyone in the office to lift. The owner actually brings a special hydraulic handcart that jacks up to the height of the box door. They drag it out of the safe and on to the cart and then when they’re done they slide it off. My guess: one cubic foot of pure gold….” Sam kept talking.

They reached the janitor’s closet, and Captain Ross decided not to wait for a break in Sam’s monologue. As he unlocked the door, he explained, “The thief gained entry by cutting out a window in the janitor’s closet.”

“Who discovered the entry point?” Desi asked, as he eagerly started recording evidence with his electronic mind and electronic input device, simultaneously synchronizing to the database, while describing each picture and using circles, arrows, and footnotes to accurately identify each piece of information.

“The janitors this morning,” answered Captain Ross. “They reported it to maintenance as a broken window.”

“Your janitors thought this large circle of glass resting neatly against the wall, beside the large pane of glass with a circular hole in it, manifested itself through some freak accident?” Dash was dumbfounded by the lack of lucidity in the janitorial crew.

“Um, yeah,” Captain Ross went on. “Maintenance decided it wasn’t broken —”

“Allow me to congratulate the maintenance crew on a brilliant piece of deduction.” Dash’s bitter derision was felt throughout the room.

Captain Ross hesitantly finished his sentence, “— but was in fact cut out, and informed security. We searched the floor and discovered the damage to the safe, then we called you.”
“So quite a few people have been in and out of this room?” Desi concluded, not looking up from his evidence hunt.

“Unfortunately…yes.” Captain Ross aimlessly glanced around the room avoiding eye contact with Dash.

Desi’s systematic room search began at the door. Dividing the room into quadrants he diligently worked his way clockwise, recording every piece of information useful to the investigation. He finally arrived at the point of entry. “There are a lot of fingerprints on this window.”

“Did you check the outside of the window?” Dash inquired.

“Hmm.” With a new zeal, Desi started analyzing and recording the outside of the window, the approach, the getaway, as well as aerial photography from a gnat connected to his handheld.

“Anyway,” Dash asked, “is this door kept locked at all times?”

“Usually, but all janitorial, security, and office staff on this floor have a key,” Captain Ross explained. “This closet is also a community supply room for the offices on this floor.”

Dash looked around, examining the room. “It seems as though the thief decided to go through the ceiling here.” He pointed at some smudges on the ceiling panel. “See the dust on the floor, from moving the panel? On the other side is the…” Dash waited for Captain Ross to fill in the rest.

“The Empyrean Comprehensive Assurance office, then Mr. Driscoll’s office, and finally the Mercantile Exchange office.”

Desi turned his attention to the ceiling. “Where are your surveillance drones located?”

“We have a station in the larger part of the Mercantile Exchange office. The Empyrean Comprehensive Assurance office, all the hallways, elevators, and stairwells are monitored. Mr. Driscoll’s office and this closet are not monitored.”

Sam piped up, “We have a camera in this room!” He was almost hopping with excitement.

Dash, Desi, and Captain Ross turned to look at Sam, stunned by the first piece of useful information he had to offer. Dash said, “The first seven sensible words you have uttered, Mr. Driscoll.”

“We’ve been experiencing a lot of supply theft, so we placed a camera in here to try and prevent it. Well, at first, we tried one of those fake cameras because they’re cheap. With the flashing red light and fake cables and all, but everyone knew it was fake, and the thefts actually increased. I guess we must have insulted their intelligence or something. So, we bit the bullet and bought a real one. It constantly downloads into a file on my computer. It’s on right now.” Sam waved into the camera. “Hello, in there.”

“And the last.” Dash did not squander the opportunity; he quickly gave the office manager purpose. “By all means, Sam, please upload the last 48 hours from this room, up to now, into a file for us.”

“Yes sir, right away, sir! Consider it as good as done. No need to ask me twice. I’ll have it here in a wink and a nod.” He exaggerated a wink and a nod and walked briskly down the hallway, feeling proud and important with his new task.

Desi had climbed on a few crates and pushed up a ceiling tile to examine the route the thief took to the Mercantile Exchange office. As he recorded every detail, he clambered up into the ceiling and disappeared, not to be seen again until chapter six.

“Captain Ross, once you’ve finished compiling all of yesterday’s surveillance, please upload all interior and exterior feeds from both Shooman Towers for the last month, not just from this floor, but from every gnat and camera, and have it sent to the precinct,” Dash requested. He peered out the hole in the window, looking along the side of the superstructure. It was a long way in either direction, and a stiff wind blew past. “I’d like to see if we could identify anyone casing the area before the robbery.”

“I’ll have it for you before the end of the day,” Captain Ross assured him.

“Are the windows armed with sensors?” Dash asked.

“The standard antigravity detectors required by code,” Captain Ross pointed out. “We are on the two hundred and thirty-sixth floor, how else are they going to breach a window this high?”

“I need access to the roof,” Dash stated.

“Right this way, sir.” Captain Ross led the way.

Ten minutes later they were on the roof. It took longer than Dash anticipated since they had to navigate a bizarre elevator layout — a consequence of the many design changes during construction.

Dash moved to the side of the tower facing its fraternal twin. The wind was stronger on the roof. “Hello, what have we here?” He noticed some fibers clinging to the concrete ledge. With renewed enthusiasm, he took out a pair of tweezers, carefully gathered them, and placed them in a plastic bag. “Captain Ross, are there any other entry points to the roof?”
“No, we don’t have much up here except climate units,” Captain Ross answered.

Dash looked over the side, scanned the horizon and the surrounding structures, then re-examined the rooftop. The spring sun beamed down upon his face, and a warm breeze blew through his wavy brown hair. He was doing what he did best. He observed.





Joe Just an Ordinary Earthling Copyright © 2003,2017,2018 by edward a szynalski. All Rights Reserved.

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