FOURTEEN: JUNK FLOATING IN SPACE




COMBOT 4 WAS A robot, and therefore should have been designed without emotions, most especially fear. But the ComBot model wasn’t like other robots. They were made to emote. They were made to feel. The inventor, an alien by the name of Hanx Gulpernod, was asked for a robot that would be able to pilot a star cruiser. In fact, he was asked for a whole fleet of robots to pilot, and essentially run, a luxury star liner. They would be the sole crew apart from the captain.

The captain, having been hired for the job already, was a Darlop, a race of quick thinking aliens from the planet Darlop billions of miles from Earth.

The main duty of these robots, apart from keeping the ship on course, cleaning, cooking, running errands, doing the laundry, and lifting heavy boxes, was to ensure the safety of every passenger aboard the star liner. Gulpernod, being the practical, sensible alien he was renowned to be, decided that a robot can’t be expected to keep people safe unless it actually cared about them. So he created the ComBot, the first robot in the galaxy reputed to “care for your safety”.

ComBot 4 had often felt grateful to his creator for the complex emotions it was able to experience. Why, the ability to laugh is one of the great pleasures of the known Universe. Yet, as the robot cowered in the Alternate Auxiliary Backup Control Room, watching the human, Oliver Jordan, wreak havoc upon the interior of his master’s ship, the robot decided that if he was able to get out of this mess intact then he would track down Mr. Gulpernod and give him a punch in the nose.

The robot’s internal thought banks were bouncing around like an ashkinell with Faolskin’s disease—a reference anyone outside of the Bliket system would find hard to understand—when there was a hesitant tapping at the door. The tapping quickly turned into an insistent banging. ComBot 4 brought up a new camera feed on the monitor. The feed showed ComBot 6 outside the Alternate Auxiliary Backup Control Room. ComBot 4 opened the door and the other robot rushed in.

“The human is killing us,” ComBot 6 said, the door closing behind it. “The General, I fear, has made a mistake.”

“What are we to do?” ComBot 4 said.

“That is an answer I do not have, comrade, but if we do not come up with a feasible solution, we will all be nothing more than junk floating in space.”

That was an idea that ComBot 4 did not enjoy thinking about. A pang of fear settled deep within the robot’s diodes and it thought once more of the satisfaction it would gain if given the chance to slap around its creator. Then another thought cropped up in the super computer that was its brain.

“The Transmatter Beam,” ComBot 4 said.

“That is an excellent idea, comrade,” ComBot 6 said. “We can lock on to the human from here and send him back to the planet below.”

“Then we engage the Faster Than Light engines, leave this primitive planet behind us, and then go find our creator.”

“Our creator?”

“Yes, I feel a sudden urge to have words with the man.”





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