It was dark in the charging room. Bergmann had reported the lighting fault three days before but still the new bulbs had not arrived. The light coming from the door’s porthole was barely enough to make out the charging plugs on the wall. At the other end of the room the transformers were invisible in the dark, just a few flashing green indicators on the control panels revealed their position. Bergmann’s battery was at 82%. One more hour to full charge, then back to work. He took a black velvety cloth from the workbench under the charging plugs and wiped the glass of his two head cameras. That room was full of dust, swirling in the air on each and every move, mercilessly hindering his view by creating thick layers on the large lenses – oversize optical design, usually so useful to catch the faintest ray of light, but meaning, in this situation, just more dirt to remove.
An Auxiliary knocked on the porthole and stood there, his metallic hand pointing peremptorily outside through the glass. Bergmann unplugged himself and let the cable roll back to the wall. He would finish charging later on. His rusty joints squeaked. He checked his built-in agenda for his next service date: it was scheduled for the following week. Too long a wait, maintenance was badly needed. He added a reminder for lubrication of his main joints for the next morning.
He opened the door, bent down so to avoid hitting the door frame and stepped out into the corridor, just as a forklift was crossing the pathway carrying metal plates and screws. A strong light was reflecting on the white corridor wall in front of him, blinding his cameras. Bergmann adjusted his vision and saw again the Auxiliary who had called him. He was one of the rookies: his body was shiny with no trace of rust, and had a slimmer and shorter design than the seniors. His edges were smooth and his joints well hidden. His head cameras were two tiny black circles, his lens nearly invisible. Bergmann gazed at him and uttered «Auxiliary BERG-411 reporting for duty. What’s going on?»
The Auxiliary was forced to look upwards to even be able to read his identification tag.
«An Auxiliary got damaged while on duty. His code is SHIN-024 but they didn’t tell me his tag.
He’s in warehouse number 15»
The Auxiliary stepped back and set off down the corridor. Bergmann shut the door of the charging room. Warehouse 15 was one kilometer and 543 meters away from his current position – painfully too far for his dry joints. Another forklift was passing by, heading in the right direction. Bergmann raised his leg, stepped on its bumper and climbed on it. Under his weight the forklift slowed down by 0.3 meters per second. Then it drove past the Auxiliary, crossed the path of a couple other forklifts and reached the end of the corridor. Bergmann leaned out to read the display on the back of the forklift:
He jumped off the vehicle, which relieved of his weight sped up again and went on its run. Terminal 5 was in the opposite direction to warehouse 15. He hadn’t been lucky, but at least had been spared part of the walk. Then turned left and, still hoping to hitch a ride along the way, set off walking.
Auxiliary SHIN-024 was a Cleaner. His arms and legs were long and his fingers slim and articulated. He was lying on the ground, his torso was intact but one of his cameras was cracked and both his legs were dented. He was holding a white cloth in his right hand. Bergmann lifted him and noticed his light weight: this could only mean that his body was made of aluminum alloy. A material less common than the iron Bergmann and his fellows Repair Auxiliaries were made of, but the warehouses would keep a good stock of spare parts for such models anyway.
«Did you fall down in trying to climb up there?»
Bergmann pointed towards the warehouse ceiling. The vast room was lit by six LED lamps linked by a thin black cable. The one right over them apparently on the verge of breakdown, sending out an uninterrupted series of flashes forcing Bergmann to continuous adjustment of his cameras’ aperture.
SHIN-024 nodded: «A power surge damaged the lamp I was cleaning. The sudden lighting change caused an error in my computing system and I lost my grip.»
Bergmann placed him on the table near the entrance.
«Four similar events have occurred in the last four days. Another Auxiliary told me that the plant is being expanded and updated. This could be the reason behind the power surges.»
«I have received no notice about that from the administration department.»
Despite the cracked glass, SHIN-024’s camera was still working. Not so his legs’ joints, which were badly damaged, and the spares needed for the repair were not to be found in that warehouse.
Bergmann moved to the control terminal beside the table.
«I can replace the camera glass in four minutes, but I don’t have the spare parts to replace your legs here.»
«Got it. How long does it take to find the parts, BERG-411?»
«Mine is Shinoda.»
Bergmann typed in the part number: there were a few in stock, but the ORDER button was replaced by an alert: DELIVERY NOT AVAILABLE.
«I’m trying to send the order but the terminal is reporting some issue. I suppose there’s something going on with the delivery pipeline.»
«Can you contact the Auxiliary in charge of that area? Maybe he’s already working on it.»
Bergmann tried to call him but a new message appeared: COMMUNICATIONS NOT AVAILABLE.
«I can’t. It looks like there’s no one there.»
Shinoda ran his hand along his broken legs. His right foot dropped and swinged over the edge of the table.
«This is an anomalous situation. Maybe rumors are right, they’re expanding and building new departments.»
Bergmann headed towards the door.
«Without those parts you can’t go back to work. I will get them personally.»
«Estimated wait time?»
«If i can hitch a ride, 22 minutes.»