Pickled story number three, Pickled Kryten, is mainly to do with how Divadroid International went about manufacturing the 4000 series. I'd like to say it was a satire on multinational business ethics in the late 20th century to early 21st century, but I'm not going to. I'm hardly in the league of Orwell or Swift - and Pickled Kryten is hardly comparable to Animal Farm or Gulliver's Travels. That said, I'm quite pleased with this one, so why not give it a goosie?
Divadroid international ran twelve overbearing factories on Earth, and a further twenty throughout the solar system. Day and night every week for over two years, Divadroid's newest mechanoid model, the 4000 series, chundered off the production lines of these 32 factories at an average rate of one thousand per hour, per factory. If the calculations were followed through it could be said that Kryten shared his birthday with seven-hundred-and-sixty-thousand siblings, or that he had, in total, seven-hundred-million, four-hundred-and-sixteen-thousand brothers and sisters. Some might say that Kryten had a very big family. Most would say that Divadroid International was a very, very rich company. They would be right.
The profit margin on the 4000 series was inordinately large, even after the subtraction of spending on advertising and other such-like things, and the advertising bill itself was humongous. The publicity campaign ran on for over a year.
'Series 4000: more efficient, more intelligent, more groinal add-ons.'
'Divadroid's 4000 series: available in 48 dashing colours to suit the modern houseperson.'
'Professor Mamet's new mechanoid from Divadroid: ugly, but one hell of a worker.'
But it wasn't just television adverts that publicised the 4000 series: Divadroid was unbiased in its use of every media. Slogans were scrawled over billboards, sprayed onto walls by contracted graffiti artists, etched into hillsides overlooking freeways. Some smaller, uninhabited moons of Saturn were even given over to advertising, and huge portraits of hardworking 4000 series mechanoids depicted hoovering or dusting were to be seen tattooed upon the satellites of that once beautiful planet. And all this began months before the mechanoid hit the shelves, some preliminary advertising beginning before the android's designs were even completed. The release of the 4000 series onto the interplanetary mechanoid market was as highly awaited as the release of Star Wars Episode One had been almost four centuries previously. Everyone wanted one.
Hollywood stars wanted one to clean out their pools, politicians wanted one to clean away dirty dealings, housewives and househusbands wanted one to give them a minutes rest, and everyone else wanted one and gave no other reason other than 'they just did'. There was not a soul alive that didn't want a 4000 series mechanoid, and with the relatively slow production rates the waiting list was astronomical.
This waiting time, usually more than three months, was a by-product of three major factors.
- One; the appeal of the model. The 4000 series was such an advancement over any mechanoid currently on the market that it was simply a necessity for companies to own one in order to be at the 'cutting edge', and of course there seemed to be a certain fashion stigma attached to the mechanoid, so owning one was peculiarly like owning a fast car or a designer dress.
- Two; the demand was very high and this was calculated to be greatly a result of the success of the advertising campaign. The adverts were so persuasive that it was almost impossible to resist some of them, and many of the solar system's poorer people felt compelled to take out the huge loans or second mortgages necessary for them to purchase a 4000 series.
- Three; the previous mechanoid released by Divadroid International had been the 3000 series, and had been one of the biggest flops ever produced by the company, or indeed any company.
Technologically speaking, it was more advanced than any other mechanoid the solar system had seen, and some even maintain that it was superior in design to the 4000 series. However, the public disliked the human appearance of the mechanoid, and this was the android's downfall. Divadroid had neglected to acknowledge the fact that humans are very superficial. They had also not realised that the ways people looked at mechanoids were different to how Divadroid International perceived them to. The company had believed that the public saw their mechanoids as servants, if not slaves. However, this was completely not the case. Words such as 'slave' and even 'servant' were not in common use at this time, and most people's attitudes to the concepts behind those words were quite severe. Slavery had been abolished some several hundred years ago, and no-one wished to believe that enslaving a machine was just as bad. For this reason most owners of mechanoids preferred to see their androids purely as machines, and therefore saw themselves not as owners of slaves, but owners of advanced sanitation machines.
The series 3000 mechanoid had looked human and had therefore looked like a slave. Many customers of Divadroid International had experienced high levels of guilt upon delivery of their new 3000 series mechanoids, and had to return their purchases immediately in order to dispel their shame.
Those mechanoids that were not returned still managed to cause distress amongst people they met about the town when performing their chores. Some people became extremely upset upon meeting mechanoids that looked almost identical to one of their dead relatives, or extremely irate upon meeting mechanoids which looked almost identical to themselves, fearing a loss of their identity. The most common problem, though, was that one never knew, when looking at another person in the street, whether or not that person was a human or a mechanoid. This scared a lot of people, and some individuals who had discovered that the person they had been attracted to for a substantial period of time was, in fact, a mechanoid, ended up requiring months of therapy just for them to be able to admit that they had 'normal' desires.
However, these three factors were the main contributors to the success of the 4000 series mechanoid, the failure of the 3000 series obviously being the most influential of the bunch.
But, you may ask, did the 4000 series live up the reputation that preceded it? Jurassic park wasn't all it was cracked up to be; we don't need digital T.V as much as Rupert Murdoch tells us we do; the changing of the millennium was no way near as monumental as the BBC, Microsoft and various other organisations told us it would be: did the 4000 series meet the hype? Well, in all honesty, yes. The 4000 series was very advanced, very hardworking and quite hard to confuse so long as you gave it clear instructions. It had a long predicted working life and the money back guarantee was second to none.
But, and here's the big 'but', some models certainly did not live up to the expectations the public had of them. And here's why: Divadroid were in a rush. They had made a mistake with the 3000 series, but they knew that it was soon to pay off; they knew that the demand was going to be sky high for the 4000 series. The thing was, the factories which the company had available to them had no chance of producing enough mechanoids to meet the projected demands. The company had to work out a way of making supply equal demand, and finally realised, after months of deliberation, that there was one simple way of achieving this. They would push their production machines to maximum speed. This was an obvious solution, and one that had been used by countless companies over the centuries, and the executives were kicking themselves over the fact that they hadn't stumbled across this simple answer sooner. So they switched they production lines to full-tilt-red-hot-maximum-speed and sat back smugly in their plump leather chairs.
The production lines ran at maximum speed for two whole years. Worker droids exploded, unoiled machines corroded into non-existence, and motors whirred down never to whirr again. But production never stopped. "The show must go on!" Repeated the general manager of Divadroid International, Philbert Wolloway, and his executives grinned, nodded vigorously, and frowned nervously.
Everyone knows (you'd think so wouldn't you?) that more haste makes more waste. However, Philbert rationalised that this all depended on "your definition of the word 'waste'". He believed that waste was only what you threw away, and so long as the 'mistakes' made by the production droids were sell-able (which was, once again, a word capable of different definitions) there would be no waste at all.
The frequency of mistakes was huge, much higher than any company has experienced before or since. Defective mechanoids would be churned out, and sold at regular prices, often missing major appendages. One sunny June afternoon, a factory on Mercury broke a small cog somewhere inside a very important production machine, and for two weeks mechanoids left the building with no arms whatsoever. Customers were appalled that they had paid thousands of dollarpounds and waited for three months just to acquire a sanitation droid which had to do the hoovering by manoeuvring the Dyson about using its nose. Divadroid international replied that these defects added to the character of the individual droids. No one could be bothered arguing back.
Anyway, it just so happened that in a factory in Ottawa; Canada; Earth, a similar but no so significant disaster occurred. An almost identical cog in a pretty similar machine to the one on Mercury dropped out of existence, almost as a sock does in a tumble-dryer, and several hundred thousand mechanoids were brought into existence with unfinished neural circuits.
Kryten 2X4B 52CP, after he ran off the production line, was packaged up and shipped off to NASA, and discovered upon his initial start-up that he had suffered several notable neural defects. The most significant mental deficiencies he discovered were that his guilt chip was running on ten times the normal allotted power, and that his sanity chip was loose (and decidedly wonky). He was not pleased. No one else noticed for a couple of years (Divadroid International certainly didn't warn anyone, and Kryten himself didn't really think it was his place to criticise the purchasing skills of his new owners). By that time it was too late. Kryten had been sent on the 'Coca-Cola' mission. All it took was one misdirected order, one bypassed sub-routine through Kryten's upside-down and inside-out sanity chip, and the entire crew of the Nova 5 was doomed.
Soon enough this sort of thing began to happen nearer Earth, and therefore nearer the headquarters of the tabloid newspapers, and after a while the 4000 series dropped in value. However, Divadroid International and Philbert Wolloway never lost their hold on the mechanoid market and never suffered a noticeable loss in profits. Individuals are easy to silence when you run the largest company in the world; the little people will put up with anything. They always have; they always will.
Go and visit the Authorís web site Ė THE PICKLED JAR.