By Luke Brown
Since the absolute and unequivocal proof of the non-existence of the soul, the quality of life for Vending Machines and Desktop Printers had risen a great deal. However, many problems have arisen due to the reluctance of those in the government to let mechanicals vote, or indeed run for office. Major strikes and demonstrations, some ending in violence, were held in order to amend this discrimination. Wars were fought off in countries far away and video footage was shown and people made money and Coke sales were up by 3% during that quarter. It was high times for Coke, who supported the uprising and financed the campaign for Machine rights and funded organisations such as the S.V.S.M.U or the Socialist Vending and Service Machine United, who organised a mass strike of all non Coca-Cola sponsored vending Machines across the nation. However, the governing body held fast to there beliefs saying, most free radicals are inherently communist and therefore should be frowned upon as communism is a naughty word and has no place in politics. The M.A.M or Mothers Against Machines, is one organisation campaigning to reduce the number of Minimum Computerised Placements in the workforce, claiming machines reduce the number of minimum wage jobs and increase the already unsightly unemployment figure. They also call for humane disassembly of outdated machinery rather than continued redundancy packages designed to support machines who cannot find work. And it is rumoured the group is getting ready to launch a third campaign against the mention of the word evolution in reference to computer technology in schools and calls for a ban on all text books that violate this most moral position.
Maxwell and the Machine
Maxwell was rather surprised to find that he wasn’t dead. The vending machine had said “Do Not Tip The Vending Machine” but he had taken no notice. There really is no reasoning with these things. He wanted his Honey Nut Crunch and no thousand pound box of confectioneries was going to stop him. In this he found, he was mistaken.
Maxwell couldn’t help but feel a little weary of all this, somewhere in the back of his pain wrecked mind was the thought of impending legal proceedings. Without the surveillance cameras it would have been his word against the vending machines, but that was not the case, the footage would clearly show Maxwell Clark assaulting the machine without provocation. Maxwell would have to settle out of court with the vending machine, and this displeased him. The Vending Machine would take him for much more then it was worth, claiming victimisation for being inorganic and software corruptions which can be verified by qualified Technologists stating the Vending Machine in question is now afraid of being left alone in public places and has to now be stationed next to another vending machine with security capabilities at all times, preferably that nice looking StarBucks Machine down by the news agents on platform 2 Museum station.
‘Look at my Perspex, just look at it; you know how long it took to get that above factory standard, do you? No, I don’t suppose you do. Oh, and not to mention my touch pad. What is that on there, oh, so gross.’ The vending machine shuddered with disgust.
‘Would you mind staying still until someone can get you off me?’
‘Oh, don’t you talk to me, no sir; you’ll have to talk to my lawyers. I’m not listening, not listening.’ The vending machine hummed loudly and rocked side to side doing all it could to block any further communication between itself and Maxwell.
This was not the first incident today involving Maxwell and a vending Machine, earlier, on his way to work Maxwell having ventured to buy himself a Muguet Fudge Extra Maxi Energy bar before catching his train. The Machine had greeted him in a friendly manner, but when the machine had accused Maxwell of entering non-commonwealth issue coins and then claimed Maxwell’s cash card had insufficient funds, the situation became heated and when Maxwell had started randomly pushing buttons in an attempt to irritate the Machine, it retaliated be setting off it’s security protocols and sprayed Maxwell with mace. Today had not been Maxwell’s favourite day.
Maxwell’s strength wasn’t really in dealing with machines; in fact he regularly went out of his way to avoid them. Some people choose to ignore them, but machines have a strong work ethic, if they believe they are not getting through to their target audience it then becomes a matter of principal to go out of their way to fulfil their purpose. Maxwell thought it best that he spend as little time in the company of talking toasters as possible. Complimentary toilets were his pet hate. There is nothing quite so uncomfortable in life than being half way through your business and a reproachful voice comes from beneath you, telling you to mind your aim, and that this is a pubic toilet and it doesn’t care what you do at home but here we show a little respect.
‘So, what comes next,’ Maxwell said to the Machine now laying square on him, pressing his ribs into his vital organs more and more with each rock back and forth.
‘I’m not listening, I told you, not going to listen to a word, so you may as well hold your breath.’
‘I don’t suppose you could lean a little farther to the left could you, I’m getting some feeling back in my right leg, and you’re digging right into it.’
‘Oh, sure, I could, but why should I? Why should when you treated me the way you did, it was awful you know, its not easy being a vending machine, people just ignore you most of the time, or, they just come to you to get what they want, “I’ll have that, how much is it,” or “Shut up you stupid machine, just give me my pack of McDonalds Smiths, they say. But that’s not the worst thing. The worst thing is them ignoring me, just because of what I am. By nature, I’m a friendly guy, I say hello to everyone who comes onto the platform, I offer them a sweet or a packet of chips and they… guess what they do, nothing, they just keep walking like they don’t even hear me. How do you think that makes me feel?’
‘Well, to tell the truth, I’d never really given it much thought…’
‘Yes, that’s right, that’s exactly it, you people are just plain thoughtless.’
‘You know, you’ve really opened my eyes to the needs or your kind, and from now on…’
‘You’re just saying that,’ exploded the Vending Machine, and then burst into fitful sobs of anguish.
‘Ouch, ouch, no, really, I mean it.’
‘Yes, certainly,’ reassured Maxwell.
‘That’s very kind of you.’ And if Vending Machines could smile, it would have given Maxwell and very nice one.
‘Do you think you could move a bit off to the left?’ Maxwell asked again.
‘Oh, yes, of course.”
Maxwell Clark promptly passed out.
* * * *
Betty was the heart lung Monitor. She beeped and went “wer” as she kept Maxwell alive. This had been very welcome at the time, a nice reminder that all was well. But, when Maxwell first saw the love of his life one, nurse Softheart, the heart lung monitor had called for a general alert and reported Maxwell’s heart rate and blood pressure had increased dramatically in a short amount of time. A lot of fuss was made and Maxwell was rather embarrassed. Every time nurse Softheart came into the room Betty would go into a hyper active state of worry and start ringing bells throughout the hospital. This went on for a few days until Betty cottoned onto what she was observing.
‘I’m thinking of moving into the field of psychiatry you know, testing reactions of lab rat at first you know, got to start at the bottom and work your way up in these things, a lot of responsibility in medicine you know.’
‘Oh, look Maxi sweetie, here she comes, oh, and would you look at that, your heart rates increased to a 56 anxiety level reading. I’ll bet you start to sweat very soon. If only I had my Skin-Lab-Unit on me. Ah, here she is, looking over at you. Ah, I knew it, there goes your blood pressure to exactly where I predicted yesterday. Didn’t I tell you I was good at this? You should call her over here; I’d like to monitor you while you interact again, it’s all good practice.’
‘Would you keep your voice down, she can hear you.’
‘Ah, nurse, may I have a word?’ called Betty.
‘Shut up,’ pleaded Maxwell.
‘Ah, nurse Softheart, may I have a word please?’
Nurse Softheart had a beautiful walk. She had… she was all round beautiful, everything, hands, voice, manner, the lot.
‘Yes Betty?’ Softheart asked politely.
‘I would like a second opinion, I think perhaps my thermomotor may be a bit off today, could you take Mr, Clark’s temperature. Just to compare, you know?’
Maxwell smiled weakly up at Softheart; he’d kill that bloody Betty if she embarrassed him again. Sadly his relationship with Nurse Softheart went nowhere because nurse Softheart felt that Maxwell was a little weird in the head, not to mention he didn’t look very fit, she liked a man who could run, and besides, she didn’t really fancy him anyway. As Maxwell cried and blubbered about how much he loved her, she quietly explained it’s hard to fall in love with someone while giving them their weekly anima. Admittedly, later on, Maxwell could see her point.
Happily his insurance covered the hospital bills and the Vending Machine (or Hue as he liked to be called as Maxwell found out), accepted Maxwells offer to replace his Perspex and have the little grooves on his number pad cleaned by a professional. Maxwell also put Hue in touch with a man who dealt in Vending Machine Security and would give him a good price on upgrading his operations.
This experience had changed his mind a little on his attitude toward the machine world, he was now a first name basis with most of the house holds appliances he had working for him. However, he never engaged in any real conversation with them, there wasn’t much he had to say to a blender other than “good morning” and “Yes, a nice blend would be good, thank you.” In fact being crushed half to death had put Maxwell in rather a good mood, and then some doctor muttered something about possible brain damage from some-such thing that happens to a person when they are stuck under a vending machine for more the six hours at a time, so Maxwell sued Hue the Vending Machine for permanent disability.
Betty was a key witness and was very pleased to be such, because members of the Technologists Association were present and they were very impressed with her testimony. She was later offered a job in animal testing.
The Vending Machine that had, earlier that morning sprayed the abusive Maxwell with mace gave testimony for the defendant. The Technologists, however made a good point of discrediting this witness on the basis that her relationship with defendant was somewhat suspect, being that she was in fact a Vending Machine herself and as it happened, so was the defendant. She had also been in attendance during the March Freedom Riots and is considered a subversive by some Parent-Teacher Associations.
Maxwell won the case and the vending machine known as Hue went bankrupt, could not pay for his confectionary deliveries and had to start selling fit packets to drug addicts in the western suburbs for his living. The vending machine known as Hue while being wheeled out of the court room vowed to get his revenge on Maxwell and the human race in general for being rude, and all round stupid.
Six years later, in some filthy dark back-wash ally off the street that housed the community drug clinic, somewhere in the western suburbs, something was stirring. Something went “wer” and clunked and made that sound of metal scraping concrete. This thing stood thirteen foot high and 7 foot wide. It could, if it stretched up to its full height, perhaps reach 15 foot, but in the shadowy recesses of this greesy ally it was hunched, leaning against wet-look-brick wall and testing its systems, flexing its massive gauntleted arms, covered in six inch reinforced steal plating. The plating covered the mass of mechanical bracing and support structures, high quality responsive joint systems, and the breast plating protected the new onboard targeting and motor-functions processing unit. Diagnostic programs scanned for faults in the Visual Operations Unit, a station of video lenses set into an armour plated swivel set buried in the up left hand side of the torso. Lots of oddly unnerving red lights flashed now and then cutting the gloom, laser painting various targets.
It took six years but Hue had finally managed to transform himself it something much more then just your standard vending machine. It had been tough. He had faced many set backs, but the time had now come. He had started dealing in fit packets; it was the lowest point in Hues life, but Hue was smart, that is, smart as far as vending machines are smart, and in no time he had made local connections. He had saved his money and was soon able to buy his first quarter ounce of product. He under cut the competition and even provided fit packets at no change to good customers. The Junkies of the area appreciated Hue’s pleasant manner and helpful attitude and Hue became very highly respected as far as respect goes with junky scum. He traded Junk for spare parts, odds and ends, a stolen DVD or even at times, scrap-metal. With the money he made he hired an engineer to do a little remodelling. And slowly, very slowly he began to take shape, and what took shape was this towering armour plated beast on tank tracks, boasting a full range of chaise movement and a top speed of 90kph, at 0 to 50 in 4 seconds.
Being the undisputed lord and master of an underground drug racket worth over 3 million dollars had done nothing to change him. He was still the same old guy, polite and easy going, and enjoyed talking over the ins and outs of confectionary, but business is business and if that meant crushing someone’s skull then that’s what had to be done.
* * * *
Maxwell sat arguing with his television, wielding his shoe over his head threatening to wack the bastard thing if it did not turn itself back to channel 23 where the series final of Hangman Destiny was showing, the whole world was watching to see if the latest contestant would win or swing.
‘I’ll hit you, damn it,’ he threatened.
‘Oh, and that will do a world of good, when I’m broken where will you turn. And the warranty doesn’t cover acts of frustration induced madness.’
‘Please, please change the channel.’
‘I’m watching this ok, you can watch anything you want when it’s over, and look, you’re making me miss it. Now I’ll never know what that antique would actually fetch on a buyers market.’
Maxwell threw his shoe at the television.
‘Hey, watch it.’
‘I’ll send you back, you know what they do to TV’s that don’t work properly, do you?’
‘Read the contract buddy, I’m entitled to one hour TV viewing of my own choosing per 24 hours, you haven’t a leg to stand on.’
Just then the door bell rang and Maxwell didn’t get a chance to reply on that matter. ‘Oh, what now?’ he sighed.
Upon opening the door Maxwell couldn’t quite get a handle on what exactly it was he was looking at. He was looking at a mattered mess of cabling in a wall of steal plating, guarding what looked like a armoured bank vault or Automated Teller Machine For Use in Combat Transactions, but why would an A.T.M.F.U.C.T be knocking on his door at this late hour. It was then the vault slid down in its compact housing making very sleek mechanical noises, and something like a face appeared. It was not a face however; it was Hues Visual Operations Unit. Red lights sprang into life, laser painters flashed blindingly in Maxwell’s eyes.
‘Can I help you, you know, it’s a bit late, would you mind terribly coming back tomorrow?’
‘Hello, Maxwell,’ said Hue in greetings. He would rather have liked it to sound a little more menacing.
‘Ah, hello,’ said Maxwell in reply not recognising Hue.
This gave Hue sleight twinge of annoyance but, seeing that he looked nothing like he had when Maxwell had last seen him, he could not well hold it against the guy. So Hue got straight down to business.
Hues massive armoured arm came crashing through the wall and grabbed hold of him so quickly that Maxwell didn’t even have time to pull a surprised face. Hues pointy and multi jointed digits reach right the way around Maxwell’s torso, hooking him under the arms and over the shoulder, Hues thumb and index finder acting like a collar around Maxwell’s neck. The rest of Hues mass came through the wall, pushing the bricks and plaster out of the way without much effort at all, and a cloud of white plaster dust flurried around the room settling over things.
The Television was coated by this dust and it obstructed its view of what happened next. The Television was very upset about this, Antique Road-show could have waited.
‘Now hang on, what’s this all about?’ cried Maxwell chocking.
Hue shook Maxwell a moment in mid air and then decided to throw him across the room for effect.
Maxwell landed badly on what used to be a book shelf. Luckily Maxwell still had one shoe, a quickly took it off his foot and showed it to hue, ‘Your in for it now, buddy!’ he said and got to his feet and assumed a Karate stance and took aim with his shoe.
When Maxwell came too, surprise that he wasn’t dead was the first feeling to register, but then again, Maxwell did seem to live a charmed life, he had not died yesterday, or the day before that, so why should today be any different? The next thing he became aware of was somebody crying. Well, something like crying; as close to crying as a Vending Machine turned Killing Machine, can cry. It was more like electronic hick-ups and pathetic whining of watered gears.
Hue sat low in his tank tracks, hands up over his Visual Ops Unit crushing the tears. (Hue could not produce tears; however, this action did comfort him somewhat) He was sobbing to himself, ‘Oh, I can’t do it. All I want t do is sell a quality selection of candies and confectionary, maybe a giant fruit-nut cookie here and there. Oh, where did it all go wrong?’
‘Hey, look what you did to my wall,’ said Maxwell with as much outrage he could manage with several broken ribs, ‘who’s going to pay for that, not me, I can tell you that.’
Hue sobbed even harder.
‘My life started off so promisingly, with the best minds in the field of Vending Machine Mechanics. I was state of the art in my time. I was displayed at conventions from coast to coast; they called me the future of subway confectionary convenience.’
‘What about my wall, you know, I don’t mean to be a bore, but that really is inconvenient, what a draft it will let in.’
Hue cried out in anguish, totally tormented by his own existence. ‘A machine like anything else needs a purpose, without a purpose, we’re as bad as… as bad as television evangelists. Once I kill you, what then?’
‘Sure, the old, I am what I am, but without doing what I am, what am I? Sure, that old gem.’
‘Oh, shut up,’ said Hue.
‘No, I think I can help you, I mean look at yourself, your somewhat more impressive than you were before, I think I have an idea.’
On Museum Station, the heart of the city, stood Hue, and he was in a very good mood, after all it had been another very good day. He gave rides to small children, they hung onto his arm and he lifted them up into the air and they called for their moms to watch them fly while they waited for their trains, and then they bought Chocolate. People no longer ignored him, he was fun, and people even wanted their picture taken with him, and then they bought chocolate too. No other Security Bot had been such an instant success. Then again, no Security Bot every offered anyone candy bars from huge line of the most trusted family brands.
Hue was now a brilliant purple, with two white curvy speed lines and “Cabarry Dairy Milk” in big lush letters across his plating. His sponsors had fixed him up very nicely. He was even cleaned once a week and had his lenses wiped with proper window cleaning agents. It was happy days. He and the cute little Coffee Machine near the News Agent were getting on famously. She said she felt very secure when he was around.
Betty went on to do great things in the field of stress testing lab rats and was completely fulfilled, until an activist group known as Students League Against The Use of Machines in Captivity S.L.A.T.U.M.I.C broke into the labs and rescued her against her will. They were very proud of themselves and threw a large dorm party and someone tragically spilt their Cherry Dragon Twister all over her, and sadly she passed-on some time later, very displeased with the way the day was turning out.
Maxwell had met Softheart again during his stay in hospital and because of a series of relationships that had ended badly; she decided to give Maxwell a chance. Though, he would have to get used some little habits she might have, something someone muttered half under their breath about hunting human pray over the weekend or some such thing. This might have made another man think twice about their future together, but not Maxwell, he was charmed.
WARNING: Tipping this machine or any other unstable object weighing in excess of 1000 pounds onto yourself can result in serious bladder injury or death