Curtis Kaufman sat in his armchair at 1:30 AM, his third glass of chardonnay in his left hand and a remote control in his right. It had been a long night. This class action suit aimed at District Vigor Policy had been keeping him very busy. It was his first time butting heads with such an expansive corporation, and he knew that if he missed any detail he’d be canned from his firm.
So Curt had spent the last twelve hours reviewing hospital security footage of the hundreds of “unrelated” botched surgeries that had occurred over six months across the nation. It was tedious, exhausting, and disturbingly gruesome work. Every video submitted to him showcased brutal injuries suffered at the hands of the new “BOSSArm-SS13” units that DVP hospitals had installed about a year before. The units consisted of a pair of robotic arms on an articulating base, programmed to recognize and repair most surgical issues with minimal human input. They had been intended to be a boon to low income families, a surgical option that didn’t demand the exorbitant fees of a human surgeon. They were touted as “revolutionary,” and had seemed as much for a time.
Curt shook his head, rubbed his eyes, and restarted the video. He could not keep getting distracted. He wasn’t even halfway through the submissions, and was tasked with reviewing the lot and taking time-stamped notes on all of them by Thursday. The video began to play again, and Curt watched as the BOSSArm-SS13 unit came to life at the foot of a patient’s bed.
He watched as the robotic arms rotated in a surprisingly crude manner, jerkily spinning along the Z-axis first, then the X, the fingers clamping down and releasing, sometimes individually, sometimes in sync. The arms seemed to rotate at random for a moment, perhaps calibrating? Each video showed different behavior, so it was difficult to come to a concrete conclusion about anything.
Luckily the poor man on the operating table had already been anesthetized, and so was unaware of the fate he was about to suffer. He lay still and unconscious as the metallic limbs lurched into a position over his chest. The hands twisted down to hover near the man’s cheeks. The SS13 unit began to smack him in the face repeatedly, persisting for a solid 30 seconds.
The left hand continued to strike the unfortunate patient while the right reached over to the adjacent instrument table to clumsily retrieve a plexor, scattering an assortment of other tools in the process. Curt sat and watched in silence, desensitized after seeing similar so many times before.
The right arm brought the tiny mallet back and started lightly tapping the man on the forehead, while the left arm convulsed downward along the patient and started rapping his exposed gut. The mallet jumped from forehead to nose, to lips, back to forehead, back to lips, to left ear, and finally came to rest lodged inside the man’s nostril. Both hands suddenly bent into obscene gestures, twitching forward into the mans face and squishing his cheeks together. This was the kind of behavior that baffled Curtis the most. Was this the work of a disgruntled programmer? Could a robot learn the meaning of obscenity?
He knew what was coming. The left arm knocked a set of scalpels out of its way in favor of a milk frother that had somehow worked its way into the operating room. The right arm ignored flexible cameras and sutures in favor of a cordless power drill. Both arms slowly came together to rest high above the prone figure, hanging with ominous potential energy for a long moment. Then the BOSSArm-SS13 commenced a wild and revolting series of uncontrollable paroxysms that forced Curt to turn away. Perhaps he wasn’t as desensitized as he had thought. He jotted down a few more notes and ejected the disc. Printed on the label were the words “09/06/20 – D. Perkins, Mole Removal.” Baffled as ever, Curt placed the disc back in its sleeve and reached for the next.