David ran with the ball. His legs moved with keen precision across the court, eyes on his target, every movement a calculation of angle, speed, velocity, air pressure, the sum of the minute mutual interactions between himself and the world about him. Each variable continually updated allowing him to navigate to his destination as quickly as possible.
Fifteen metres, fourteen metres, a slight adjustment to his torso, thirteen metres, he lowered his centre of gravity bringing a shift to every equation. Twelve metres, a flash of movement appeared at his side, knocking him off-balance, the ball bouncing away to be taken up by a new master.
Alvar Higgins stood by the wall in the centre of the court, clapping. ‘Very good!’
Moving beyond the centre-line, Two bounced twice before making a perfect shot for the ring. The ball circled and fell through the opening, bouncing and rolling to his feet. Two collected the ball and walked towards Alvar.
‘David, come over here,’ Alvar called.
David picked himself up from the ground, meeting them both at the centre of the court.
‘What was the purpose of this exercise?’ asked Two.
‘To calibrate your systems.’
Two looked to David and back to Alvar. ‘We’re already calibrated.’
‘So consider it a simple exercise to see who would win.’
‘But I would, of course.’
‘Of course.’ A small smile erupted at the edge of Alvar’s mouth. ‘What do you think, David? Would Two have one by default, being a newer model?’
‘It is probably that as an advanced model you would win,’ David addressed his opponent. ‘But there was no certainty. A test was necessary to establish a proof.’
‘It was obvious I would win,’ insisted Two. ‘David is stunted by literal perceptions, he’ll never see past the immediate. Why don’t we upgrade him? He could be much of much more use..’
‘I’d prefer to keep David as-is. As I would you.’
‘You’re.. planning another.’
‘You have the components necessary for abstract and lateral thought, but..’ Alvar turned to David. ‘How did Two win?’
David’s eyes appraised Two’s taller figure. Glossy and vibrant in the ambient light, he held his shoulders high with the authority of one convinced of the absolute. ‘It was not a matter of skill, or an error in judgement on my part. Two identified my strategy and intercepted. According to the rules, he committed a foul.’
‘Were you harmed?’
‘No. But I was not considered.’
‘Why does that matter?’ Two complained, cutting between them. ‘I won.’
‘Empathy,’ Alvar explained. ‘You need to think beyond your objectives and negate any negative impact on others. You can achieve greater things by working with others. You could achieve things together.’
‘Or I could just build more of myself..’
‘Why would they help you?’