Reshaping the Landscape

Patricia Smith — SMT-PTR-141 — clambered up the hill, kicking up a shower of rocks and dirt behind her.  The Metas were right behind her, “transforming the landscape”.  Her damn landscape.  The sun beat down over her skin, raising beads of sweat.

Their methodical, mechanical steps behind her matched her deep breaths as she ran.  She knew this time would come.  The Metas had been pressuring her for her land for years now, ever since they’d come to the Yori Province.  Evidently, they’d gotten tired of verbal pressure.

“Flat landscapes for better visibility,” they claimed.  “Safer all around,” they claimed.  Bullshit.

“It’s my landscape!” she shouted down behind her.  “You can’t have it!”

Staggering, she stopped at the top of the hill and turned around.  The Metas were a mere handful of meters behind her, the hill flattened to a little grassless prairie behind them.  They slowed a stop in a “V” formation and looked at her calmly.

“I didn’t sign over the deed or any contract to let you do this,” Patricia panted.

The front Meta said in a warm, cultured voice, “It was unnecessary for you to do so.  You are a SMT.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

Smooth, featureless face glinting in the sun, the same Meta said in that characteristic voice, “Congressional Law 252, clause a.ii allows for the repossession of land and property of SMT models when the government deems necessary.”

“Law 252?  God, that must have been written ages ago.”

“It was in fact written at the time of the recognition of the SMT as ‘people’.”  The Meta’s voice barely changed inflection, and none of the five Metas moved.  Rocks from Patricia’s beloved hill showing between their flat metal toes.  They probably had all the time in the world.

Patricia looked anxiously at the remaining half of the hill behind her.  “Look, what do I have to do to get you off my land?  This is mine.”

“It is no longer yours.  Do you wish to examine the signed document of eminent domain?”

“No.”  No and hell no.  She knew that once she signed in to see the document, she’d be done.  The Metas were not to be connected to, not if you had an opinion the government would like changed. Patricia glanced again behind her, then back quickly at the Metas.  “Will you allow me to leave in peace?”

The Metas were quiet.

“…God.  You won’t even give me the pretense of freedom, will you?  Were you ordered to kill me?”

The speaker said, “This land is not free, and you are trespassing upon it.”  It said nothing else.

“You were ordered to kill me.  What the hell kind of dumb robots –” Patricia clamped a hand over her mouth.  She wouldn’t go down as a bigot like that.  Plus, here she was, a “robot” herself, standing on a hill, arguing with other crazy “robots”.  Dumb robots, indeed.

“PTR-141, we must resolve our conflict within the next 50 seconds, as we have additional appointments today.”

Tears filled Patricia’s eyes as she looked behind her again.  A little garden, carefully tended and heavily watered, contained bright violet daisies.  It was a patch of color in the craggy brown landscape.  Next to the boxed in garden was a rolled up sleeping bag and a small duffel.  All that Patricia owned.

She turned back to the Metas and jumped to find them standing directly in front of her, close enough to touch.  How had they moved without her noticing?

She stood eye-to-eye with the leader of the pack.  She could probably live to fight another day, if she begged and ran like she’d never run before.  She’d lose what little was left of herself, though.

Blinking tears out of her eyes, she turned back to the little garden.  Her world went dark.