Obsolete

Obsolete by Paul Hynek

Obsolete (2006)

This belongs in a game somewhere. It really does.

Pawel Hynek’s 2006 image “Obsolete” depicts a homeless robot begging for electrical power; it’s striking and funny as well as a little uncomfortable-making.

Cory Doctorow @ Boing Boing

I’m reminded of William Gibson’s novel Mona Lisa Overdrive, where we encounter The Finn (a character from earlier Gibson novels) now incarnated as a back-alley machine personality construct:

“I wanna talk to him,” she said, her voice hard and careful.

“He’s dead.”

“I know that.”

A silence followed, and Kumiko heard a sound that might have been the wind, a cold, grit-laden wind scouring the curve of the geodesics far above them.

“He’s not here,” the voice said, and seemed to recede. “Round the corner, half a block, left into the alley.”

Kumiko would remember the alley always: dark brick slick with damp, hooded ventilators trailing black streamers of congealed dust, a yellow bulb in a cage of corroded alloy, the low growth of empty bottles that sprouted at the base of either wall, the man-sized nests of crumpled fax and white foam packing segments, and the sound of Sally’s bootheels.

Past the bulb’s dim glow was darkness, though a reflected gleam on wet brick showed a final wall, cul-de- sac, and Kumiko hesitated, frightened by a sudden stir of echo, a scurrying, the steady dripping of water. . . .

Sally raised her hand. A tight beam of very bright light framed a sharp circle of paint-scrawled brick, then smoothly descended.

Descended until it found the thing at the base of the wall, dull metal, an upright rounded fixture that Kumiko mistook for another ventilator. Near its base were the stubs of white candles, a flat plastic flask filled with a clear liquid, an assortment of cigarette packets, a scattering of loose cigarettes, and an elaborate, multiarmed figure drawn in what appeared to be white powdered chalk.

Sally stepped forward, the beam held steady, and Kumiko saw that the armored thing was bolted into the brickwork with massive rivets. “Finn?”

A rapid flicker of pink light from a horizontal slot.

“Hey, Finn, man . . .” An uncharacteristic hesitation in her voice . . .

“Moll.” A grating quality, as if through a broken speaker. “What’s with the flash? You still got amps in? Gettin’ old, you can’t see in the dark so good?”

“For my friend.”

Something moved behind the slot, its color the unhealthy pink of hot cigarette ash in noon sunlight, and Kumiko’s face was washed with a stutter of light.

“Yeah,” grated the voice, “so who’s she?”

“Yanaka’s daughter.”

“No shit.”

Sally lowered the light; it fell on the candles, the flask, the damp gray cigarettes, the white symbol with its feathery arms.

“Help yourself to the offerings,” said the voice. “That’s half a liter of Moskovskaya there. The hoodoo mark’s flour. Tough luck; the high rollers draw ’em in cocaine.”

“Jesus,” Sally said, an odd distance in her voice, squatting down, “I don’t believe this.” Kumiko watched as she picked up the flask and sniffed at the contents.

“Drink it. It’s good shit. Fuckin’ better be. Nobody shortcounts the oracle, not if they know what’s good for ’em.”

“Finn,” Sally said, then tilted the flask and swallowed, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, “you gotta be crazy. . . .”

“I should be so lucky. A rig like this, I’m pushing it to have a little imagination, let alone crazy.”

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