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Conformity/3

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Dana ordered Ayer not to follow her and she left her house to go for a run around the village. After one lap around the the circumference of the chamber Dana knew that her anxieties called for some serious medicine. She turned into the monorail terminal and started running down the tunnel of the rail line. As usual, after going a short distance down the tunnel she was confronted by a robot. From past experience she knew that there was no way to avoid this little ritual.

The robot said, "Hello Dana."

Dana tried to guess which robot this was. "Flefle? Oh, its Purl. I'm going to run down the tunnel a mile or two then return."

Purl positioned its body to block the way ahead. "It is not safe to be in this tunnel. Please go back to the village."

Dana tried to imitate the tone that Kari used when giving an order to a robot. "I order you to stop all rail traffic. I will be back in less than an hour. Let me pass."

The robot moved against the tunnel wall and said, "I will come with you".

Dana started down the tunnel, "No, I want to be alone. You will wait here."

After about five minutes Dana was enjoying the freedom of running in the low artificial gravity of the asteroid. The asteroid had been "spun up" to speed so as to provide three quarters of the gravity on Archeworld. The food produced by the robots in the village was laced with special hormones that kept human muscle mass adjusted for Archeworld gravity, which meant that physical activity always seemed free and easy to Dana.

But tonight she wished it was easier to run herself into a state of exhaustion. She was very disturbed by the prospect of secret police goons coming to take her into custody and she was even mad at Kari for having joked about the uncomfortable position Dana was in. For the past week Dana had felt like she was starting to understand Kari and that they were slowly establishing a friendship, but what did they really have in common? Was Dana anything more than an inconvenient datum?

Dana leaped over the rail and headed back towards the village, now running on the other side of the tunnel. Her thoughts went down a path that was familiar but that she preferred to avoid. Why me? Why was I ripped out of my own world and dumped here? She lacked the capacity to imagine that chance could account for such an event. There had to be a reason why she had been brought here. She tried to imagine a future in which she was taken to Archeworld and forced to become a cog in the social machine that had been established by a governing elite that apparently exercised strict control in this universe. She found it hard to imagine a more futile existence. What was the noble thing to do under such circumstances? Could she allow herself to live as a slave? An even worse possibility occurred to Dana. What if she became a specimen, a displayed alien life form from another universe, a freak of nature to be studied or exhibited?

Dana slowed to a walk as she returned to where Purl stood waiting for her return. Purl turned and walked along with Dana towards the village. After she caught her breath, she asked the robot, "Does it bother you to be a machine with no control over your life?"

Dana had asked such questions of Ayer and knew what kind of response to expect. Purl replied, "I'm glad to be able to provide for the needs of Kari and yourself. I have served Ysselen Timbles off and on for well over a century. I know that Ayer has previously explained the relationship between robots and humans."

Dana found it convenient to vent her frustrations on the machine. "Oh, come on, are you saying that you have no personal perspective on anything, that you can only provide the same mechanical answers that Ayer provides? Are you admitting that you are just a drone?"

They had reached the rail terminal and Dana leaned against one of the two rail cars docked there. Purl replied, "You leave me with little room to reply. You will twist anything I say to fit your belief that robots cannot have a human-like mind."

Dana chuckled. "I'm more interested in actions than anything else and the way you robots act is not human. If you were human you would do something interesting with your life, not hang around in rail tunnels waiting to tell people to get off the tracks."

Dana suffered through the robot's mechanical laugh. "Ha ha ha." Like their eyes, the laughs of the robots were purposefully made non-human. "If you must know, I do not spend my days waiting here for you. When you went for a run it was possible to predict that you would want to run in one of the tunnels. Flefle went to the L Tube and I came here."

Dana shook her head in disbelief. "That's exactly what I mean. If you has a mind and self-control you would want more out of life than spending you days tending to humans who might be stupid enough to get run over in rail tunnel."

Purl suggested, "Maybe you do not appreciate what life is like for a robot. I have existed longer than any living human. My memories extend back into the lives of earlier robots. Yet, even if you would think of my life as having been long and boring, I expect to live for many thousands of years. Humans are born with many instincts for being human. We robots are engaged in an extended research project to learn about humans and make what is learned available to robots. While your kind does fear the idea of robots being too human, you do want us to understand what it is to be human. I personally agree that it is important to observe humans and advance the goal of better robot understanding of humans."

Dana frowned, "I assume you do know that humans do not like the idea of being studied."

Purl produced a mechanical nod. "In one sense that is true, however, there are other conflicting truths. Humans like to feel important and it is a rare human who objects to having their wishes satisfied by an attentive robot. Of course, you are an unusual case. I suppose you are still adapting to the reality of being around robots. You probably resent having to spend so much time with robots rather than humans. For that reason alone it will be good for you to be taken to Archeworld."

Dana complained, "I imagine there are million robots who all know every facet of my personal life."

Purl emitted the stereotypical noise used to indicate when a robot was making a guess, "Ahhhh, I suspect that the concept of a 'personal life' is more highly developed in your universe -on your world Earth- than it is here. In the current social system of Archeworld 'personal life' certainly does not come before duty to the social system."

Dana was intrigued by such responses from the robots. "Now that is a human reply, I'm proud of you Purl. I do not think Kari can even understand the idea of freedom to have a 'personal life'. She was ordered to exile on this rock and she does not even have the sense to be unhappy about it. She probably feels pride to be serving a useful purpose for her owners. She even seems gleeful that I will be taken into custody by the Melsha."

Purl objected, "I doubt if you ever heard these things from Kari. Wait until you know her better before you assume you know such things about her."

It occurred to Dana that Kari had always known that Melsha agents would come to take Dana away and so Kari never bothered to try to get to know Dana.

Dana felt foolish being told off by a machine. It did not help at all that this particular machine was highly intelligent and totally familiar with what was to Dana a strange and mysterious environment. Dana went back to her house and tried to get some sleep.

Sleep did not come. Her mind was too full of questions, doubts and fears. She asked Ayer, "When do you expect the Melsha ship to get here."

Ayer replied, "It is a very fast ship. It should arrive tomorrow."

Dana decided there was no way she could sleep. Dana ordered the robot to stay put. She got up and went to Kari's house. Toleha opened the door as Dana approached. The robot spoke quietly, "I'm glad you are here."

For a moment Dana expected to be told to go away so as to not wake Kari, but Toleha let her into the house. Dana could see Kari asleep in a chair. Dana had learned that Kari had no concept of a bed. Of course, in a world where chairs and even floors would automatically cradle a sleeping human there was not much need for beds.

Dana now expected Toleha to wake Kari, but instead the robot led Dana to the other end of the house. Dana was surprised to see another human, then her eyes focused and the other person turned. "Me?"

Dana immediately suspected that a robotic replica of had been made. Did they expect to trick the Melsha agents? Dana 2 said, "So it is true."

Dana 1 approached Dana 2 and confirmed that this copy was not a robot. Unless it was a robot that broke the rules and had been designed to be as much like a human as possible. Dana 2 said, "I'm tempted to see if you bleed, so I assume you are thinking the same thing." Dana 1 noticed another robot nearby. Dana 2 explained, "This is my companion robot, Lek'velkoo."

Toleha explained the situation to Dana 1 in the same way that it had previously been explained to Dana 2. Copies of Dana had materialized at the same time in both the transmitting and receiving chambers of the teleportation experiment. Dr. Timbles had long ago lost interest in the teleportation experiments. When Dana 2 had materialized in the transmitter, only robots were present. Dr. Timbles and Kari were unaware of the existence of Dana 2.

Somehow Dana 1 was more shocked by the idea of robots keeping a secret from humans than by the idea that there were two of her. For a moment she wondered if there were other copies, such as a clueless original back on Earth, unaware that copies had been made and sent into another universe. But those stray thoughts were pushed away when a wonderful possibility came to mind. She asked, "Do the Melsha know?"

Lek'velkoo replied, "We think not. We have made an effort to keep the fact of your duplication a secret."

Dana 1 was vaguely aware that there had been a long struggle between the invaders from Uberworlder and resistance forces of Archeworld. Were these robots part of a continuing resistance to the ruling government?" Dana 1 asked, "What if Kari wakes up?"

Toleha assured them, "She will sleep for the short time required. We need to get your permission for our plan."

Dana 2 beat Dana 1 to the question by half a second, "Who is 'we'?"

Dana 1 added, "Or 'what'?"

Lek'velkoo launched into what seemed a well-rehearsed account. The robots were part of an Archeworld resistance faction that was devoted to the idea that the Uberworlders could eventually be defeated. The resistance wanted to use Dana 1 as an agent who might be able to infiltrate the highest reaches of the fascist government.

Dana 2 asked, "What about me? Do I have a role in your plans?"

Lek'velkoo replied, "You and I will go and meet with the leadership of the resistance. There is another possible use for you, but that will have to be decided later by the leadership. But in any case, we will not try to make use of you unless you agree that you are willing to help fight against the Uberworlders."

Dana 1 decided that her only reservation was that there were supposedly two parts to the resistance, the remnants of two empires, one of the 'shadows' and one of the 'light'. Dana imagined that it was fruitless to ask these robots which side they were on.

Both copies of Dana affirmed their willingness to help against the Uberworlders.

Lek'velkoo advanced on Dana 1 and took hold of her arms. "You are going into great danger and we cannot trust you with what you have learned about the resistance. I am now infecting your body with nanoscale devices and drugs that will erase your memories of the past hour. You will sleep and when you awake you will not remember that you have a double or that there are robots in the resistance. When the time is right, new nanites will infect you and you will begin to remember. Hopefully at that time you will be in position close to key Uberworlders where you will be useful to the resistance.

Dana 1 now felt very tired and collapsed against Lek'velkoo. The robot scooped her up and Toleha opened the front door. Ayer was waiting and took Dana 1 back to her house. Lek'velkoo and Dana 2 went to the monorail terminal and started the three hour trip back to the far side of the asteroid. For most of the way the monorail was above ground. Dana 2 tried to sleep and was disturbed by strange dreams and the repeated rising and setting of the sun as the asteroid tumbled through space.

Lek'velkoo watched the stars and tried to put aside doubts about the course of action that had now been set in motion.

Chapter 4

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