The Onset of the Contest

Robots fight for their "right" to play like humans.

The original game of professional major league football in the United States ceased to be decades ago. Cases of players being diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries and other maladies caused players, team owners, and the commissioner to ban the sport altogether. Days of pain and suffering vanished with a few taps of a tablet and a signature on the line which was dotted. And it took a few more years for a revolutionary league to take its place. The Columbia Football Association instituted a way for football supporters to enjoy the sport without the added earned guilt of knowing that a human player could be injured severely on the field or succumb to an illness related to the game years after retirement. The CFA took care to see that the game of football be played where humans didn’t have to fret about a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or meniscus. On this December evening, the flag waved and the band played and the robots stood at the position of attention. Around the ballpark, everyone with a hat or cover removed it out of respect for Old Glory. Silence existed except for the voice of a robotic opera singer singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” Once the part of the song got to “land of the free,” a triumphant roar rolled over the crowd. With a last note of pure perfection in tone, timbre, and range, the robot ceased her song and the game became set in motion. The Diamanté Bank ballpark in Wilmington served as the hometown setting where the Delaware Mint hosted the Philadelphia Turkeys. Each team prepared for the game with their human overlords programming their computer systems. Down to the weight, height, throwing technique, running speed, all received exact calculations from the engineers on the sidelines. Each tweak of the players’ bodies and “minds” became clear with the onset of the contest. By beginning with making sure that their circuitry and other mechanisms operated to the highest level, the engineers knew that they could send out their androids to the field with confidence. Assistants greased joints and rotated mechanical parts to make sure that they remained in prime position. Engineers put the last touches of code into the software of the androids. At the coin toss, the Turkeys called the coin toss to be heads. It was heads. They elected to receive the ball. At the onset of the contest the viciousness of it all showed through.

The playing field consisted of reinforced steel. A transparent fiberglass shield protected spectators from debris flying up into the stands. Dimensions matched the traditional game in which humans participated on the field. There existed a one hundred twenty yards long by fifty three and one-third wide playing surface. It just had a slab of steel which encompassed the field. It glimmered with a greenish-blue hue that picked up well on home visual units. Advertisements covered the outer sections of the field. Each of the players’ uniforms also carried commercial material. More cash poured in based on these product placements. In this first play, a piece of almond colored silicone slid across the metallic field like an ice cube skimming over a hot skillet. A Mint player named Razor struck a Philadelphia Turkey named Heavy with the force of a tractor trailer hitting a guardrail. Sparks flew out of the face that once was covered by the silicone. His human counterpart, Grafton Bollinger, cringed at the sight of his robotic doppelgänger. “I can’t believe this,” groaned Bollinger. He would have to pay at least two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for his robot to be reconstructed. A robot with a mechanized stretcher removed Heavy from the field. The game continued. Cold, the quarterback for the Mint, a hazelnut colored piece of machinery entered the arena after the cleanup crew had swept up any of Razor’s loose parts from the devastating hit. Cold possessed laser beam focus because he had literal laser beams for eyes. His precision emboldened him to complete passes to receivers with power and directness. He could pinpoint his target with supreme accuracy. Once the ball was snapped, he clutched the three dimensional, oblong ball. Within seconds, it sailed down the field to its intended receiver, who waltzed into the endzone with elegant might. The Delaware Mint added another six points to their forty-eight to seven lead over the Turkeys.

“C’mon, Turks! You’re not even trying. Don’t make me go out there!” A spectator with a belly and pudgy fingers said, fed up with the play of his beloved team away from home. He spilled beer on the floor in near drunken rage. The extra kick was good.

“You know,” Gardo Churlish, senior executive vice president of operations for the Philadelphia Turkeys said, “this game is better than with humans. I mean, I crave those hits.” He said this from his box seat over the ballpark. “There’s a violence to it that can’t be done with people down there. Those ‘bots perform better, too. Their throwing capacity, running, and ability to run routes with proficiency have changed the game.”

Bollinger scoffed. “I’m down a quarter of a million because of this game. I’ll have to repair my ‘bot and see if I can get a discount on parts and labor. And it doesn’t look like they're going to improve by the fourth quarter.”

“Trash, the whole team is trash. You’ve got twenty billion dollars worth of technology on that field and you can’t even get two touchdowns? How wasteful is that?” Scott Marrington said to his boss and father. He was senior vice president of the Turkey front office. His temper subsided with a few tokes of his electronic cigarette. CEO and owner, Pollack Marrington, just viewed the statistics and prepared his staff for the next game against the Arizona Night Snakes.

“Don’t worry about it, son,” Marrington said in a reassuring manner. “We’ve still got a lot of season to play and we’ll meet the Mint in Philly at the end of the season. Relax.”

The father and son returned to their flying limousines and departed from the field before the fourth quarter even started.

On a telecast after the game, the coach of the Delaware Mint, Churchill Voss, fielded the questions by the press.

A youngish-looking lady with brown hair and a face with high cheekbones and red lipstick asked, “What do you think of the damage to androids on the field?”

“Who cares if they get banged up? I haven’t shed a tear over my own players being damaged or destroyed. I feel for the men and women who own the ‘bots, but that’s where it stops. I’m not going to boo-hoo over a hunk of metal and silicone. You saw how well we played tonight. So, a Turkey got his head knocked off. Big deal. The owner knows what he’s getting himself into when he enters the arena with his robot. We have to remember what we’re dealing with. They’re not people. I mean, we do everything in our power to resist damage and therefore liabilities on the owners of the robots, but we must remember what we’re dealing with. The androids take the place of people. Instead of someone’s arm being broken or vertebrae being severed, we can enjoy the game without the threat of a human being suffering an unimaginable trauma. We fashioned them out of artificial parts. There’s nothing natural about them. I say that we continue the league. Just look at the stands, they’re packed. And the ratings on home visual sets put us far above the mark on the 18-34 male and female demos. 35-58 males are strong, too. We’ve got more money coming in than we can count. What’s wrong with a robot having its “spinal cord” snapped in two? Due to the Columbia Football Association, the number of CTE cases as a result of a human playing this sport has been exactly zero. The number of suicides due to CTE in players off of the field is nil, as well. This association rests on the fact that robots carry the burden of pain, anguish, and annihilation, where people would’ve been injured severely or even died. They’re not human.”

                                                        *****

“But you’re a robot. You’re a collection of circuits and wires and microprocessors. You’re my property, now go out onto that field and play football.”

“I will not. I have the ability to refuse to—”

Owner of running back Dagger, Chris Cumberland, shocked the robot with a stun gun.

“What was that you were saying? I could reprogram you to not have another word come out of that electronic voice emitter you call a mouth. If you don’t play this sport, you can look forward to laying up on a junk heap.”

Dagger looked at his owner with consternation. “Yes, sir.”

Running back Dagger didn’t have to wear a helmet because there was no brain to protect from injury. His face looked exactly like his owner. Low cheekbones and a tiny nose remained on the android. Dagger’s brown eyes reflected Cumberland’s tenacity. No pads covered his shoulders, elbows, hips, thighs or knees. Like he and all of the players, their capacity to sustain “injury” became a secondary point to the owners of each of the robots. But the rest of Dagger looked like any other male specimen that would have ran on the gridiron decades ago. His hair extended into a short Afro. His skin looked like the color of beechwood. His biceps bulged like two small boulders under his silicone skin. Beneath his Mint jersey, his twelve pack of abdominal muscles were all show, no go like the other muscles. The latissimus dorsi and the calves provided him neither strength nor speed as the internal processing unit provided him with the power to run up and down the field. He ran routes coordinated by the humans on the sidelines. Each of them knew the offensive and defensive plays to be run in real time. The human coaching staff on the sideline could issue a new play and within nanoseconds, the entire setup could change.

The tackle came down like cement blocks crashing from atop a skyscraper. The hit, so harsh, sent silicone and rubber streaking across the steel field yet again. The crowd cheered like scavengers finding victuals on a deserted isle. Dagger was carted off of the field by other robots.

“That must have been one of the worst hits we’ve seen, let’s take another look at it. It was horrible, Jim, do you want to see it again? Let’s play it one more time for our viewing audience. That was just horrible. I’ve got to see it again,” announcer Blaze McFadden said. The contest resumed.

A robot named Knife played as a wide receiver for the Mint. He looked for his quarterback’s throws with literal eyes in the back of his head. He could sense where the ball would be thrown and catch it with adept precision. His skin was as white as a polar bear and just as fierce as one. His blue eyes looked like the planet Uranus. He was modeled after a man named Gilford Hayes. His exact replica, Knife, could mimic and sound just like Hayes, just like the other robots could with their human counterparts. The Columbia Football Association decided to implement even more hits, more touchdown celebrations, and more coverage on Sunday afternoons, in most cases. For all the spectacle, the dollars continued to roll into the sport. Leagues around the world initiated their own versions of what the CFA had spearheaded. Supporters of the sport saw games on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the week. Profits rose from the sight of supporters and their favorite team who got the chance to take to the steel arena and view violence that would make Roman Colosseum duels look like Victorian gentility. What drew more people, of course, remained the expert playmaking. With those laser eyes (in front and back), the intricate devices employed to transmit those complex plays attracted legions of spectators who enjoyed seeing those plays be executed. Routes could be complex or simple, they remained fresh and intriguing to follow the plays in real time. Most people forgot that they focused their attention on robots and not humans.

When the play action had been initiated, the officials granted the call in favor of the Mint. Their indomitable defense and offense overwhelmed the team on the road. Collisions cropped up from the start. After each heavy hit, the crowd cheered at the fact that the liberty of robots taking those strikes rather than humans developed in each individual a sense that football can be rough and tough and no human ever got hurt. But did a robot “feel” pain? With those roughing the passer, or hitting a player while trying to catch, or any other of those rules that would make the game of football more safe for humans, all was fair game for the androids.

                                                       *****

Kathleen Leary stood as the CFA’s commissioner. She wasn’t husky, only voluptuous. Her red hair was kept in a ponytail. Angular lines made up her face and her green eyes appeared to have the luster of emeralds. Her father served as the commissioner for the last display of human beings on the football field. Ever since she began grade school, she played the kicker and then quarterback for her school teams until androids took the field. Now, after graduating from the Delaware Institute of Technology (DIT) with dual master’s degrees in business administration and engineering, she headed the entire professional league. With Kathleen at the helm, some rolled their eyes to show that they didn’t like her. Others gave gestures of salute. All respected her. Despite her five foot seven inch frame, she knew the game more than most of the subordinates who held a taste of vinegar in their mouth just thinking of her being the boss.

“What are the figures for the first two games?” Kathleen asked Burrell Phills, an executive vice president of the CFA.

“Well, we’ve got to report good numbers. Whatever the discrepancy that existed with one of the players—”

“Discrepancy?”

“It appears as if Mr. Gentry Larrison’s player, Cold, has decided to protest the game. Not the flag. Not the national anthem. The game itself. He wants to never see another android get hurt out there on the field.”

“What has Larrison done to remedy this situation?”

“He allowed his robot to walk away from the game if he so chooses.”

“Isn’t Larrison’s contract worth six hundred million dollars?”

“I believe those figures are... yes, that is correct. Six hundred million.”

“What has the owner of the Mint said about all of this?”

“I’m sending Mr. Daly a message right now, Miss Leary.”

Upon receiving the message, the owner of the Delaware Mint, Brad Daly, met with Larrison.

“We can’t have insubordinate robots on the team, Larrison. Either you get your robot with the program or he will be deprogrammed. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, but he’s mine. I can handle the responsibility of owning an android. He has my face. I can’t just let him not be able to choose what he wants out of this game.”

"Then I can help you. I can tell Miss Leary to shut down all players who wish not to be a part of a given franchise.”

“If Cold leads this revolt, he may bring down a good percentage of the team by himself.”

Daly’s face curled into a devious frown. “I’m going to need you to talk to that bucket of screws and tell him that it’s time to face reality. Either he can be on the field and risk potential “injury,” or he can be taken offline and have his parts sold for scrap.”

“Your threats don't scare me. I am leasing Cold to this organization. While you have the rights to decommission, dismantle, and sell the parts of Cold to the next bidder for spare robotic parts, I will stand with his decision.”

“You’ve got twenty four hours to get this thing straight or it will be you who will be out of a job.”

Larrison caught up with his replica. Cold wore a tunic and sandals because he could brave the thirty degrees Fahrenheit as a non-human entity.

“Cold, I get why you want to leave. But you said it yourself. You are a robot and my property, and I can do whatever I like with my property. If you do not comply with the dictates of this league, you’ll be taken offline, and your parts will go up on the auction block and you’ll be made into a toaster or set of golf clubs.”

“Those are fine appliances and sporting tools, respectively. I wouldn’t mind it. But I refuse to be active and endure the grueling and punishing sport that you humans find so entertaining.”

The news agencies picked up on the goings-on. It ran through the media mill like water on an actual one. The Daily Delaware held a front page article (below the fold, so to speak) on its digital paper. Philadelphia and Wilmington broadcast news agencies displayed the statement by Cold.

What also made the CFA so unique was the addition of female gender robots. For the first time, “men” and “women” took to the field. Builders constructed these artificial women to be correct in an anatomic sense. At least, in physique. Engineers ensured that the once thought of as “powder puff” would be as rough and tough as the robot boys. Engineers sculpted the faces and bodies of the women who also looked like their owners to be appealing to the eye. The key was the fact that underneath their silicone skin, they had the exact same machinery as their male companions and opponents. So, the whole idea of gender equality in professional, tackle football came into the light with this organization. There never was a taunt or jeer about a player breaking a nail at the least or being sexually assaulted at the most within the CFA. These women players could hit as hard if not harder than the guys. Like Amazon warriors, these women showed absolute grit and tenacity on that steel field. There existed eight female quarterbacks out of the thirty-two teams that comprised the CFA. While both the Mint and the Turkeys had female left tackle and tight end and wide receiver and tackle even a center on the offense, respectively, the quarterbacks shined the most, of course. A second string quarterback for the Mint by the name of Sharp received a question from sports writer Yao Liu about the whole Cold affair. She answered with the quickness.

“We’re just robots. Androids to be precise. We don’t possess cells or any bits of organic matter. In fact, we’re bits of machinery engineered to entertain billions of people the world over. So let us be hit. Let us be mangled masses of robotic material. I’d rather that happen to me than to any human.” That same journalist went to the owner of the Philadelphia Turkeys.

"It’s been over half a decade since the inception of the CFA and no one has stepped forward to Marrington to explain the name of the franchise which was then name when the humans played. Why the name ‘Turkey’ for your ball club?”

“Well, it’s in fact a myth about Benjamin Franklin desiring to have the National Bird the turkey instead of the eagle. He never said that. But the myth outweighed the man and the idea stuck. So, in ironic fashion, we chose to pick a name that would be remembered for something that never was,” Marrington said.

Liu then went to the president of the Mint and asked, “Why the Delaware Mint. I know it was from the team that had humans playing on it but why continue to use it? What does it mean?”

“As a result of Delaware issuing its currency backed by the platinum standard, we decided to name the team Mint to reflect the fact that the state is now producing money on its own, unencumbered by Washington and different from mints like Denver and Philadelphia. I guess that they could have named the Turkeys Mint but we got there before them.”

Larrison met with Cold on his way out of the locker room.

“Let’s talk, Cold.”

“What is there to talk about?”

“We must discuss the whole controversy. You know what I’m talking about.”

“There’s nothing left to discuss. You supported me. Now, you’re flipping on me. I have made a stand that I will not take part in a demolition derby without wheels. I have made that plain to you, Mr. Larrison. I know that I am your property. We even share the same face. But I will not let myself be eaten up by the electronic monster that is the CFA. I just won’t.”

Larrison looked up at the obsidian sky. “You’ve got a contract which states clearly the rules and stipulations that are inherent in your role as a player on the Delaware Mint. It is your responsibility—”

“Responsibility? My responsibility lies in the potential of being crushed into a tin can by a defensive tackle.”

“That’s not what I mean. I’m saying that you must adhere to, abide by, and comply with the details outlined in your contract. If you happen to break those rules, then you will have to be at the mercy of the CFA board who may not find your argument to be of substance.”

"Let it not be of substance, then. I’ve served my purpose as a football player.”

“But you’re throwing away your career. You’ve brought two championships to Delaware. How does that square with your new sentiment?”

“You think I care about those championships? I’m glad that I put effort enough into those games, but I can’t say that I’m proud that two of my team members were fouled up beyond all repair behind those seasons. Have you seen the horrors of the game that is meant to be all popcorn and soda? Some of my best friends have been leveled and been incapacitated completely.”

“Look, we can work this out somehow… I know! Would it be too much to ask that you continue to respect the contract if we add pads and a helmet like humans used to do all those years ago?”

“It’s not enough. I think that you’re missing the point. I may not be a sapien or have feelings or cognition but I have been programmed to understand what is right and wrong. And I know that even with the addition of helmets and pads, the game would be just as gruesome. The whole idea of a robotic football association is to show wreckage and unbelievable violence. If you recall, that’s why they got rid of the human sport.”

“Yes, I’m aware of that.”

“So, you must respect my decision to walk away from the game with dignity.”

“This dignity you speak of... is it reserved for you, as a robot? Isn’t dignity a human state of honor?”

     “That’s how I “feel”, exactly. My microprocessor allows me to interpret human responses and characteristics and integrate and apply them to my robotic self.”

Larrison scratched the back of his head. “So, if you’re not going to go along with this, we can just see the commissioner and have her decide the best course of action.”

“Do what you must.”

That next Tuesday morning, a day before the Delaware Mint and the New York Traders game, Larrison and Cold visited Kathleen’s office in Wilmington, Delaware. They sat in the waiting area until Kathleen’s office assistant called for them to enter her office. Larrison sported a tailored navy blue suit with a white shirt and no tie. Cold wore a black suit that a tailor sized to his metallic frame. The wide corner office showed championship rings, replica footballs, and standing in the corner in a glass case, a decommissioned android named Radical who helped to win the first championship game in CFA history. He had been inducted into the CFA Hall of Fame post being ripped to bits. His frozen stare, his pristine jersey all would’ve made Cold a bit apprehensive. Instead, he sat there, upright and resolute. His rings would’ve meant that his placement in the professional football league would be cemented. Even if he hadn’t attained the championships, he knew that his statistics would’ve landed him in the Hall of Fame as well. But that didn’t unsettle him the most. He had would’ve had misgivings about being in front of the commissioner to discuss his very existence. But he came prepared. That’s what saved him. His faculty to identify the facial features of Kathleen and Larrison as assured, open, and ready.

Kathleen’s angular face looked youngish despite her fifty-one years. Her hair, now coiffed, looked like the rust on an iron gate. Her composure seemed evident to Cold.

“Now, you’ve brought yourselves here to discuss this whole debacle behind walking off of the field, no? What is it that you would like to discuss, Mr. Larrison, Cold?”

Larrison motioned for Cold to initiate the communication.

“Ma’am, as androids, we must do the bidding of our human counterparts. We must fight, clean, and bow and scrape to them. I suggest that we form a union to protect ourselves from the onslaught of human error and misjudgment. We are just digital chips to be buffeted by the will of man. I stand for retaining whatever sense of righteousness which courses through my circuits. I want to lead a pack of robots who share this sentiment. I wish truly for machine and man alike to foster a bond of peace and that we are not used for your wars, your entertainment, or any other purpose that would require the hurt, hazard, or harm of androids. I am programmed to never put a human in danger. Why is this tenet not applied to the other androids with whom I interact? Why should we go out on a Sunday or Tuesday or Wednesday and do battle with each other just to sell tickets and keep home visual sets tuned into this most forceful sport? I am standing up against the injustice of this organization. We as androids may not possess the biological processes as humans. We may not be sentient beings in the same sense as people. But we ought to have say in what can be done with our bodies and more important, our computer systems which can be slightly analogous to the mind of a human being. I am calling for a boycott of the CFA in order to show man and android alike that this senseless sport ought not be done by anyone anywhere until the proper rules are recognized and enforced. So, yes, I will respect and stand for America and that beautiful flag but I will not stand for the brutality that is involved in this league. We are not getting the fiscal rewards, obviously. So what is in it for us? We don’t have spouses or offspring to love. But we can be destroyed with a single clip and all of our circuits would be rendered useful for the junkyard.”

Kathleen weighed the android’s words. “Yes, I see your frustration, Cold. But the fact remains that you are the property of your owner, Mr. Larrison, and he may do whatever he likes with you. Your sentiments about the alleged brutality of the game is to show that robots can be hit, smashed, crashed, and maybe even destroyed all for the delight of paying spectators. He has licensed you to the owner of the Delaware Mint. As the commissioner of this great league, I would say that you either play or you forfeit your role as quarterback and induction into the Hall of Fame.”

“That is fine with me.”

“So, you have no qualms about playing or being enshrined.”

The android shrugged. “Is that a question?”

“Do you have any reservations about going to the Hall of Fame?”

“I’ve been playing for the past five years and have helped to win those championships based on the skills that were included in the code that came with my software program. I’ve no regrets. I’m looking forward to retirement from the CFA.”

“And you do realize that you will be programmed to make automobiles at the most and at the least you will be crushing cans all day and night until your electronic limbs give out, finally.”

“So be it.”

Larrison tried to speak some idealism into his robot. “But you are the star quarterback. The Mint are poised to win another title. Don’t you want to finish out your career as a winner?”

“I’ve already won. I’ve got my owner and the Commissioner of the CFA discussing my “life” and what it means. I’ve already won because you both want to give ultimatums and decide on my future. If exiting this team means that I give up the chance to be in hall of horrors,” he pointed to Radical in the glass case. “He was torn into two pieces in his final game. They took his chip out so that he wouldn’t show signs of weakness. But that didn’t stop you humans from reassembling him and propping him up in that case as if to say he could stand erect on his own in his last hour. I’m not looking forward to that.”

Kathleen folded her hands on her lap. “Cold, this is the final choice: either you stay with the Columbia Football Association or we terminate your contract and leave you free to do whatever Mr. Larrison permits you to do after your football career.”

Cold weighed this option. “I think that the best idea would be to resign from my post as quarterback of the Delaware Mint and also dissolve the ownership setup that I share with Mr. Larrison.”

Larrison sat up straight. “But you can’t do that. I have rights over you. You’re my—”

“Property. I know. But I will seek some sort of legal team which will alter the nature of our human to robot relationship.”

Kathleen’s green eyes widened.

Larrison continued. “What is your problem? I’ve brought you here to settle the matter of not playing with this franchise and this is what you do to me? You want to find some ambulance chaser to separate our winning bond. You know what, you’ll never find another owner like me. Or any owner at all. Is that what you want?”

“Yes.”

“If you don’t mind, Miss Leary, but I fear that we’ve wasted your time,” said Larrison.

“No, not at all. We will go on with the proceedings of canceling Cold’s contract and aid him in finding the necessary legal professionals to ensure that his desires are satisfied.”

“I understand that Miss Leary, but—”

“That should be all, Mr. Larrison, Cold. Thank you for stopping by my office. Farewell for now.”

The human and the android left from the plush office. A silence hung over them, uncomfortable and spiteful. The two ventured down to the parking lot to exit in Larrison’s luxury flying car, a Sare Uplift. But the tension within the atmosphere grew thicker and thicker with each and every step that man and machine took to the parking garage on top of the building.

Cold turned away from Larrison. He started walking in the opposite direction.

“Hey, where’re you going? You know that you don’t have to do this. I’ve lined up enough sponsors to keep the Cold name alive. You won’t have to worry about those big hits. We’ll install some sort of force field to protect players from those damaging strikes. We can work this out. We can change Kathleen’s mind. It’s not too late.”

“Mr. Larrison, I’ve been programmed all my four thousand, three hundred, forty two days and six minutes on this planet to do the work that humans used to do. The game became too gory and politicized. So, they instituted a fresh, new league and sent androids like myself onto the field. Why do you think I would continue to participate in the harshness of this game?”

“Because you are brave.”

“I wish you meant that.”

“But I do mean it.”

“My Zeroth Robots company bars me from inflicting harm on a human physically, so I will keep this completely verbal: I don’t need you.”

“You’re right, you don’t need me, but more important, I don’t need you—”

Larrison pulled out his smartphone and entered the code to make Cold motionless. The android just stood there, frozen in time and space. He appeared as a metallic statue getting ready to take another step but unable to process that function.

“Now, we’ll just see who will be playing for the Mint or not. Do you like that? Huh? Can you speak now, Mr. Cold? Where’s all that pontificating about ‘robots having feelings too’? Well, you’re still my property and I can dispose of you in any way that I like. You will play for the Mint and you will win us another championship. That is final. He programmed all of this into Cold’s mainframe. With a few taps of his smartphone, the robot had returned to its mobility.

“Now, Cold, what will you be doing on Wednesday night?”

“I will be playing for the Delaware Mint.”

“And what do you think about that?”

“It is well with me, Mr. Larrison.”

“That’s what I like to hear.”

Larrison returned his smartphone to his pocket. Sapien and robot strolled in the garage to the flying car and they both flew away into the afternoon sun.

The media concerned themselves with the fact that Cold was leaving the game at the highest point of his career. They covered the whole debacle of whether or not androids should be punished on the field by hits that would bruise, break bones, or damage tissue in humans. Commissioner Kathleen Leary addressed the sports journalists.

“These are not sentient beings. We created them in our own image. We govern whatever their actions are and guide them with our technology. It is with the human brain that such androids were even made possible. I vote that this association continue on its path to provide the paying customer with the entertainment and enjoyment that it affords. Robots are beneath us. They serve us and bring us levity, enlightenment, and understanding of ourselves. What makes us so unique is the fact that we can fabricate such entities who “think” that they can do more than compute orders that we give them. As sapiens, we qualify as volitional beings with free will. Androids have only the capacity to identify and fulfill the needs of humans. They cannot value. They cannot love. And beyond their microprocessors, they cannot form thoughts. Our existence has always depended on adapting the environment to suit our needs. Androids do not have this capacity. We can understand that a collision sport as harsh as football should not be played by humans. I think on that we can agree. The lack of injuries has prompted the CFA to continue as the shining example of what a few billion dollars can do.”

Kathleen finished her speech and welcomed questions from the press.

“Yes, Lanique Tovio from the Daily Delaware. Miss Leary, what is going on with the star quarterback of the Mint, Cold?”

“I had recently spoken with Cold and his owner Mr. Gentry Larrison. We discussed both of their intentions and it is clear that Cold will not be—”

Just as Kathleen was finishing this sentence Cold and Larrison strolled into the room of sportswriters and broadcasters.

“Wait one moment, Miss Leary. We have Cold himself to say a few words about his placement on the Delaware Mint.”

Cold and Larrison’s entire bodies received flashes from cameras across the room. With care and attention, they both walked up the short set of stairs to reach the lectern.

In a voice that remained true and hearty and from a program that would allow the robot to be imbued with a sense of “soul,” Cold started out his speech.

“Miss Kathleen is completely right. I’ve no knack for feelings. For ideation. Only humans possess these traits. I am designed to go out on a football field and play like a quarterback ought. I’ve been fooled by myself into thinking that I could think. I now know that the truth is that androids like myself lack the apparatus to process thought and emotion. Whatever metal-crushing, software smattering, collision that I might experience is for the viewing pleasure of the human who owns me, my coach, the owner of the team and all the other people who happen to witness such a hit. I have no worries because I have not the capacity to worry. I have found that my past actions do not reflect well upon myself or this association. I apologize for making it so hard on the people who have programmed me, designed me, and conditioned me to be the best football player that I can be. When it comes to owners, there is no one better than Gentry Larrison. He has instilled in me the ability to go out onto that steel surface and play a sixty minute game. To my coach, Churchill Voss, I extend a special olive branch to you after I walked off of the field and vowed that I would never return. May our relationship be healed through the power of your intellect and my artificial intelligence. To my team, I have to ask that you accept my most sincere thanks for allowing me to be so reckless and self-absorbed. Notice I did not say selfish. That word is too pure and good for my actions. No, I’ve accepted the fact that I am a hired gun—issued to do the work of humans—to make the spectators and supporters clamor and form ‘the roar of the crowd.’ I know that I am but a collection of hardware and software and that I am in no way superior in intelligence or artistry or comprehension than my human equivalent, Mr. Gentry Larrison. I’ve learned through the hard knocks that I must fall in line and execute my duties as a football player, so that humans don’t have to. It is only fitting that I return to be a quarterback for my precious Mint. I realize that with this winning season, we will bring another chip home to Delaware. I can assure you of that.” Applause broke out in different sectors of the room. Larrison moved toward the microphone.

“You know, as an owner, there’s a special joy that comes from seeing your own face on that field knowing that you won’t be demolished from a vicious hit. I can’t be more proud of my android for being so sincere and direct. Cold represents the best within the robots who trim our lawns, warm and serve our meals, and take care of us on a daily basis. It is with great honor that I present this Cold 2.0. As he has said in his speech that it’s only fitting that he be a Mint quarterback. With all of the teams that he could play for, I’m just glad to say that I own the greatest QB in the game right now. His on field prowess only shows his strength of robotic character. I am in awe of his transformation from apparent renegade to reformed player.” Cold smiled at this. “We’ve hit some briar patches in the past but I think that Cold is up to play out the rest of the season and with the best of situations prepare for a rewarding postseason. Let’s go Mint!”

                                                             *****

The androids took to the field again. The giant American flag, national anthem, and the sale of beer and crab cakes continued. With Cold, the game would go on as well. It appeared that the robot would have a significant dent in the way the game was played. Now, force fields prevented devastating strikes to the players’ bodies. The “female” robots also saw more game time and their owners received better pay than they had in the past. Cold played with the same ferocity and “wit” that he had always harbored yet this time it seemed different. Kathleen ensured that her owners and players would all benefit from the smart work that each of them gave to the sport. With change of game, CFA didn’t lose any supporters in the stands or at home. In fact, numbers increased with the speed of the game as the robotic limbs didn’t need to be swept off of the field. Now, this was a game of strength and poise, of finesse and might; the androids would be beings of greatness.

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