When the fire broke

- Madam, are you in imminent danger?

The woman did not expect such question from her robot.

- What? Why? Is something wrong?

- I am required to ask this of you: are you in imminent danger?

- No… I don’t think so… Do you think I might be?

- There is a huge fire not too far from here. I am prepared to help and I am supposed to. You can forbid me from going if you have any strong reason to do that, but I am obliged by law to warn you that denying help to those in need when you are not in imminent danger is a crime and you may be fined accordingly.

The woman paused and slowly nodded as she spoke:

- And I assume this is all in the contract I didn’t read, right?

- It is in the contract, madam. You can file a complaint with your customer service if you feel appropriate. Do you allow me to go?

- Do I have a choice? Go!

The robot headed to the door.

- Thank you, madam.

The drones circled the fire gathering data.

The command center received all the information and worked on a plan.

The fight had not begun yet, but the strategy was being outlined.

At home, a man wondered where he might have misplaced his drone.

Soon he’d find an email pointing out the contract clause that allowed the company to pull drones into service at the government’s request in case of an emergency.

To get lower taxes, most advanced aids from the company were able to be called into service during emergencies.

The agreement pleased everyone, except for those not in an emergency.

The firemen stared at the road nervously.

- It should be a matter of minutes.

In the distance, a car appeared.

Shortly after, another one.

One of the men sighed in relief. They were coming.

Self-driving vehicles had abandoned their parking spots and were bringing in the robots.

They would do as many trips as necessary to bring all robots available, but they would not take them back.

Not because they wouldn’t return — most of them would — but rather because the company knew better than to provide the owners of such expensive equipment any reason to complain.

No, the robots would be cleaned and only then returned, and the cars had no business transporting dirty goods.

Wirelessly, one by one got instructions from the truck, picked up their gear and went to meet the flames.

They’d come back only when out of battery or when the flames had been extinguished.

They’d synchronize with the drones so that the center knew exactly where each of them was at any given time, and so that further orders could be given.

With no fear for the lives they didn’t have and no fatigue on the muscles that weren’t there, the relentless robots contained the fire without putting lives at risk.

When the drone came back, the man removed the additional gear he had installed.

The drone had been cleared of all data pertaining the emergency service, but the man now had access to footage and radio communications of everything the machine had been through.

He played the video.

He saw the flames, the robots, the other drones, and then the culprit.

He saw the robots circling him and leaving him no escape, while the drones that had spotted and tracked him were still in place to transmit the feed to decision command.

One of the robots approached and swung its axe.

The man pondered on what to do with that information.