Work Meetings

The reflective surface of the marble meeting table was as chilled as the air in the room; the powers that be suggest a warm dress code. Flanked from either head of the black marble by managers in their dignified regalia, I sat with my arms unnoticeably folded. The weight of my my augmented hands was uncomfortable on my lap, but one must suffer for good appearance. My visible attention was being passed between the speakers of this meeting; stern and uncommunicative masks we all wore at this table. There is an art to lying low in these meetings. Be guarded yet cooperative. If that fails, do the job well enough to avoid negative attention, but poor enough to avoid attention that will inevitably turn negative. Unsubstantiated rumors were rife within my peers, vaguely pertaining to regular workers being phased out and androids being phased into the company.

It was the manner in which the cyborg across from me sat that captivated my conscious attention. Not only had it been a recent addition to the tri-hourly meetings, but some facet of it reminded me of someone. Of whom, I can’t discern; but now this thing sits in place of that empty memory. My cognizance had not improved like the corporation claimed my operation would provide; In the effort of staying relevant in this progressing workforce One has to be willing to adapt to technology. They don't tell you that what actually is happening is the other way around. The white eyes of the machine caught mine. It held. I withdrew. Its stare was unrelenting to my discomfort, and remained so until this part of the proceedings ended. The meeting thankfully was bisected by a break; individually we moved into the next room, one after another. The break room was positioned to overlook the northern edge of the metropolis; however, most commonly the view was obscured by falling snow. I searched my coat for a cigarette I rolled myself for such moments whilst slowly walking towards my seating. I remember being taught how to roll, but not by whom. Following me to my seating was the machine man. The repeated percussions of my lighter failing to light my tobacco accented the near silence of the room, “Yes?” A carbon fiber hand produced a flame from a previously concealed vent, “Am I permitted to sit here?” the thing queried. It didn’t wear clothes; it didn't seem to be affected by this gelid climate, “Of course.” I said through lips pursed over my cigarette.

It studied the process of me inhaling smoke and dropping the ashes inside an ashtray, “Have you ever smoked tobacco before?” I said. It once again met me with its analytical stare, “Inhaling combusted plant matter does not fall within the operational parameters provided to me during my design.” Moments passed as I made the most out of both the cigarette and the break. I noticed it paying close attention to my breath, how unnerving. . . “But what about before. . .” I vaguely gestured towards its cyber-self. Its sitting posture seemed even more similar to this enigma of a memory, “I have responded already to such a line of inquiry” it returned. I was getting nowhere with this and the meeting was getting closer to starting with every moment; I put my cigarette out in the ashtray and tried to return the stare. It was difficult to determine how much of the original employee was left, “How does one become a cyborg like you?” I asked. The synthetic being stood up and walked towards the meeting room; my question was answered only by silent automation. The notion that I had worked with this thing back when it was a human disturbed me; even more so disturbing was the notion that I was likely to follow in its footsteps.