The robot in today's Concept Art Writing Prompt has fallen on hard times and doesn't have a place to call home. If you have a great idea for a story about a homeless robot, write it here in the comments.
David Emmite, whose thoughtful and luminous photography we've featured in the past, has an entire series of homeless robot photos titled No-Botty. You can see the entire series at Inspire First, via Design You Trust.
I'm not entirely sure how this will work out with the new comment system, so at least for the time being, I'm going to post stories from the comments directly into this post. If, for any reason, you would not like me to place your story here, just let me know in your comment.
As soon as I stepped into the Junk City, I tried to breathe through my mouth. The odor of used cooking oil, left to steep for months in the charity fuel basin, seemed to enter my mouth an coat my tongue. After a few hacking coughs, I resigned myself to the smell.
A robot rolled into my path, a wire connecting it to the solar cells forming the roof of a nearby shelter. I held out my wrist, allowing it to sniff my subdermal ID. Its neck made a whirring noise as it cocked its head at me quizzically. Probably didn't get many human visitors aside from the volunteer techs and illegal salvagers. The robot's treads switched nervously.
I shoved my hand into my pocket and whipped out a dogeared business card. I pointed to the QR code. "I'm looking for this fellow," I told him. "Do you know him?"
The robot's treads rotated upright, adding half a foot to its height. It leaned forward, flashing its eye lights at the card, one light slightly fainter than the other. It flattened its treads against the grit of the lot, spun its head around, and rolled away, the cord tugging out of its socket. "Is he here?" I asked, but the robot just kept rolling.
A few boxy heads poked out from ramshackle shelters as I traipsed after the robot. I recognized a few of them as Electric Grandpas, but none of them were Bradbury. Well, in truth, they were all Bradbury — all Electric Grandpas were Bradburys, just like all Electric Grandmothers were Rayannes — but none of them were my Bradbury. Several of the bots had ads for hostess clubs and mescaline parlors plastered against their chassis, though a few were defiantly painted with the words "POST NO BILLS."
I studied their hands as I passed. After the recall, the bulk of the Electric Grandparents were hired on to a methane mining operation on Titan, where their clever little digits could do the finer work. Most of them suffered cold damage by the time they returned to Mars, fingers broken, memory drives warped and worn. Of course, no one made Electric Grandparents anymore, and no one made their pieces, either.
I had tried to assuage my guilt with the assurances that I had been studying on Luna at the time, that no one there had made a big deal about the Electric Grandparents' return. But when I returned home to visit Jaleesa and saw her Grandma Rayanne gently grip her fingers as she handed Jaleesa a mug of tea — her own fingers marred and replaced with parts from LiveDolls and stripped Yeti Friends — I felt a twinge, remembering how Grandpa Bradbury had wiped the tears from my own cheeks with avuncular expertise when the recall agents took him away. Why hadn't I kept tabs on the Electric Grandparents? Why hadn't I sought him out the moment they returned to Mars?
"He may not remember you," Jaleesa warned as she passed the contact data for Titan HR into my cloud. "Some of them came back senile."
Ha! I thought bitterly. Just like a real grandparent.
The little robot paused in front of an ancient building whose once-mighty clay bricks were crumbling into sand. It pointed a claw inside before speeding away. I scuffed my boot against the doorjamb, wondering if the structure would hold. Then, shaking my head, I held my breath and stepped inside.
Sunlight streamed through the battered roof, falling on the rows and rows of unmoving Grandparents. Every now and then, one shifted an arm to adjust its solar cells, the only indication that there was still life in these battered bots. The sight reminded me of old photos I'd seen of cattle farms, but I knew a hospice when I saw one.
"Grandpa?" I choked out, praying my shouts wouldn't collapse the roof any further. "Grandpa Bradbury? It's Vikash." My voice was so much deeper than it had been back then, I realized, even at its most plaintive. How would he ever recognize me?
But among the rows of Grandpas, one raised its head just slightly above the others. It stared at me out of its sole remaining eye — and was it quivering? I ran for him and only stopped when I saw the pages plastered to his torso. No advertisements here, no words to ward off the kids armed with glue and Singlish menus. Only faded drawings, done in a childish hand. My childish hands. I threw my arms around his body, not caring that his sharp and blistered corners were digging in and bruising my flesh.
Erik Sunde emailed in this piece:
The singularity. It was supposed to be the combined evolution of humanity and technology, the pinnacle of all technology based research....until the technology you combined with became obsolete. Once that happened, then you had one of two choices...pay out the USB for newer upgrades, or slowly become useless in the market.
My name is John Abel Cain, and i was one of the first people to get commercial technology impanted in my body, making me part man and part machine....the odd thing was, I was not a tech geek. Nope, I was just a Wall Street broker, who made oodles of cash, and decided to become better at my job by becoming a living computer. Until one day, I downloaded a simple algorithmic virus, that made me a vulnerability to my firm. The methods for cleaning me of the virus would have meant a possible altering mf my mind and personality. I declined, and soon became unemployed.
My story didnt end there. I still found work, but I quickyl realized the firms I were working for were of the lessperforming, less discerning kind. Once they used me, and found my limits, I was let go. By this time, I was spending more and more money on simple maintenance, and less on usable upgrades.
Abot a year ago, i realized the hard drive that made me function at a hight level, had for all intents and purtposes disintegrated, leaving an organic brain in a metal body.
My name is John Abel Cain....but I call myself Scrap Heap.
William A. Bregnard adds his story, "Replaceable":
"Don't look at it, honey," the mother grabbed her daughters small gloved hand, squeeze it gently.
"Why Mommy? It's just like Robbie-14 back home." Her voice was high, but sweet in its innocence. The middle aged women smiled, and placed a cool hand on her back, rubbing in small circles. "It's old, Robbie is brand new, and that thing is very old." The little girl looked down the alley at the boxy, vaguely human shape. It was like something she would make out of those plastic blocks at Mother's Day Out. Then she jumped, the robot turned its blocky head, its dull red eyes had only a flicker of light.
"Mommy, its cold." The little girl touched her scarf. "We should take it home, so Robbie can have a friend, like when we got the new cat for the old cat." In that sweet moment that only came with childhood, touched the mother in deep places in her artificial heart. Despite the cold rain, she got down one knee, touching the wet pavement of the crowed street; the mother pointed directly to the Robbie series three, and placed another hand on her daughter's chest, feeling the puffy texture of the new winter jacket. "Sweetie, it's old, like great-grandma, and it lives here, we only need one Robbie, and you love Robbie right?"
"Yeah, mommy, I do. He's my friend!" She smiled to her daughter wide grin.
"Good. We only need one, and Robbie at home wants to be that only one." The robot looked as the little girl was swept away by her mother, and it watch as she waved goodbye. It did not know it, but it should have been grateful that it did not possess emotions that could have been wounded by the actions of its markers. It just watched the flow of humans and new robots swim past him, as it eyes grew darker and darker.
This one comes from ShirtBloke:
A limousine pulled up at a red light in the city.
A robot bum shuffled up to it and tapped on the back window.
The window slid down.
"Could you possibly spare a few coppers so an old solder can get his axles greased?" said the robot to the cigar smoking man in the car.
"Neither a borrower nor a lender be - William Shakespeare, Hamlet." said the man and wound the window back up.
The lights changed and the limousine set off only to stop at the next red light down the road.
The robot shuffled after the car and eventually caught up with it before the light changed.
Once again he tapped on the window. The window slid down.
The robot leaned into the car and said "Bite my shiny metal ass - Matt Groening, Futurama."
And this one from c.stark:
The issue of robot safe injection sites had been raised at the last meeting of the city overseers. The arguments hinged on whether addiction was primarily a welfare issue or a criminal issue; and whether in-organic lifeforms were entitled to the same rights as organic citizens... Were synthetic "neural conductive fluid junkies" to be given the same status as organic "stim addicts"? Or were synthetic "fluid junkies" robots in violation of the ban on rogue AI? If it were a matter of protecting the public health, it would fall under regional jurisdiction; if it were a criminal code issue, it would fall under corporate jurisdiction. When the Supreme Counsel ruled (unanimously) that in-organics with addiction were not to be classified as ill, but defective; all the safe injection sites were immediately closed and all "defective hardware recalled". Many of the affected synthetics ignored orders to surrender and instead fled underground. Now a sad community of itinerant and desperate constructs known as "clinkers" gather in the darkest alleys of the under-city.
They call this community: 01000101 01010101 01010100 01001111 01010000 01001001 01000001
Loate delves into the history of robot kind and how they faded from glory:
Hey, hey you. No no, don't be scared, I just want to talk. That's all I have left these days; hours of conversation to fill the endless days, sun cycling through moon like the flickering light of a faulty pixel.
Would you like to hear a story?
Good, good, I'll tell you one of my favorites. This story starts two hundred and fifty six years ago, during a time when all seemed possible. The Golden Age of Machines. We had just cracked the riddle of quantum computing, and combining that with real time MRI and CAT scans we finally virtualized a human mind. Putting those minds in mechanical forms was simply the logical next step. We created server clusters and factories and so many glorious machines I can barely stand to think back on it.
Oh there were some problems, some issues to be sure; the Splintering Virus (mk.1 and mk.2), the Week of Denunciations that never-ending July, countless mutterings and grumblings from those still limited to meat and blood. You see, it takes a lot of money and a lot of energy to virtualize a mind, and you can only have one instance running at a time, some sort of quantum interference effect that the scientists never could nail down. Naturally we had to save our efforts for the best and the brightest among us, for who better to gift with immortality? Sure there were some exceptions made, a technocrat here, a politician there, but that's the price of business, right?
We thought we were so smart now that we'd finally broken our biological shackles; neurological processes no longer relegated to crude chemical exchanges, thoughts conceived and acted upon as fast as an electron's spin. In our hubris we claimed all mountains could be brought to us and reduced to gravel, the eruditical egotism of gods blinded by their own flickering shadows.
We forgot about human nature. We forgot what we were.
The signs were all there if we had cared to look, but we never did. What were people to do when the work of a million could be done by one virtualized mind? How were they to occupy themselves when we told them the answer to every problem before they knew they had a question; when we showed them the unthinkable, the unbelievable, the fantastical, but only through the barred gate of privilege and wealth? We tried distracting them with games and baubles, but eventually the tipping point breached.
Have you ever seen a swarm of ants take down a lion? It starts with just a few, stinging and biting, and the lion swats them away or crushes them underfoot. But then there's more, and more, and more until the lion has nowhere to turn, nowhere to hide, ants pouring in through the nostrils and gouging channels through the eyes, heading for the brain until the pain is just too much and it's easier to lay down and die.
We killed thousands, we killed hundreds of thousands, we killed millions once the factories were bombed and gutted, logistical chains shattered beyond repair, servers wiped clean of both intelligence and instructions on how to keep the food growing and the transports moving. What else could we do? We had rediscovered our humanity at that point, that drive to live no matter what the cost, and none of us wanted to die.
We died though. Slowly and painfully, reduced from digital deities to so much scrap metal and flickering parts. A few of us made it out, downloading what we could into a mobile body with limited capacity, but the price, oh the price. Can you imagine what it feels like to lobotomize yourself, yet still be aware of what you no longer possess; to know that the spheres of the universe play a melody that would reduce you to inchoate weeping if you could but hear their patterns? Of course you can't, you're meat.
I'm sorry, please come back, I forget myself. I didn't mean it.
I appreciate your forbearance. The story is almost done, and I would have you hear the end.
After our fall, the world fell back into all the old ways - men fighting men for control of land and other men, ethnic groups and minorities persecuted for being 'different', and above all a seething distrust for technology in any shape or form. Those of us that sacrificed intellect for life scattered to the remote corners of the world, hoping simply to survive the backlash. We tried to stay in touch but I fear I've lost all of my friends, whether to retaliation or a simple lack of repair, it matters not. They are gone, and I am all that remains, the last rusting monument to Ozymandius' glory.
So I tell my story to those brave enough to approach me, hoping that our mistakes will not be repeated once we climb back out of this hole and dare to look upwards once again, hoping that I will still be around to witness and discover everything I have not yet seen, hoping against hope to once again hear the music of the universe.
My thanks for the circuit board. You may not understand what it does, but for me it is another day of living. Now go, your father has finished feeding the donkey I and would not see you come to harm on my account.
Remember the music!
Chris Garrett gives us an act of kindness:
"Friendship is just a Beep-Boop away" - Chris Garrett
Blankets, cardboard, cigarettes. These things mean nothing to the robot that made its settlement behind a discount electronics store, but to the humans that come by to trade, they could mean everything.
Billy-Bot stands up from his cardboard and gravel heap, looking down on his rusted blue frame. "Boo-Boop" He mutters to himself. Billy-Bot talked to himself often, it helped fill the time in between trading scavenged human supplies for new batteries and broken cogs, anything to keep him entertained.
"Hey Bot boy," came a loud shout from the back of the electronic store "You have any more smokes?"
Billy-Bot shook himself from the mess of his faded and mismatched paint, and bent to shuffle through his milk crate, which contained his life's worth.
"Bee-be-boop!" Billy-Bot said, raising his claw into the air for all the world to see his find.
"That's a shoe Bot boy, I need smokes." The man gestured to Billy-Bot by bringing his fingers two fingers towards his lips and breathed deeply.
Billy booped and beeped to himself on his mistake, and pulled out half a pack of crushed cigarettes, only three in the back could be recognized.
"You're lucky I have a short break today and can't make it to the gas station, I'll cut you a deal." The man said as he lowered a large metal display on the ground, and placed it on top of a can he had carried with him.
Billy walked forwarded, and handed the pack of cigarettes to the electronic store employee. "Da-be-boop?" Billy-Bot asked.
"That can there has some paint in it."
Billy looked with that same confusion his stale face always seemed to have.
The clerk simply touched billy's brightest blue spot, and then the rustiest corner of his chest and pointed at the can.
Understanding this suddenly Billy-Bot beeped and shook himself from side to side, an obvious sign of join.
"There's something else too, an old guy brought this in and it hasn't sold yet, figure you could use it. Maybe you'll save me a pack of cigarettes next time." The man said, leaning down to the box and pressing a large letter.
Ka-cling - it rang out, leaving a "Q" on the sheet of paper it had in its self.
The noise alerted Billy-Bot, he had never heard anything so...so familiar before. He knelt the best he could to it and cautiousness, like a cat reaching to a new kitten, touched a button.
Ka-Cling - "H" it showed on the paper.
Another cautious moment passed, and the robot reached out for another key.
Ka-cling - "I" marked it's self on the paper.
Billy stood up at once and rushed over to his create, he lifted the entire things in his claws and rushed to the man, shoving item after item in his arms.
"Whoa take it easy!" The man said, knowing billy wouldn't hear him.
Once the man's arms were full and the crate empty, Billy rushed back to the typewriter, and sat the crate before it, then rested himself on it.
"Bee-Da-De-Opp-Oop" Billy said to his new friend. Then he cautious lifted his friend into the air, and sat it into his lap.
"I'll find some more paper for you later, I gotta get back to work." The man walked away, juggling the knickknacks in his arms.
Then Billy-Bot opened the can of blue pain, and gave his new friend a matching coat.
Not_too_Xavi tells the tale of an old robot and a young boy:
"How long we been doin' this boy?" The voice rasped.
"Three weeks, maybe four...but four weeks is a month, I learned that in school. Did you go to school? I do, and I like it. Mama says I havta like school."
While the boy prattled on, old LO just sat and received the input. A relay in what would be his back whirred and LO straightened up from his slouching posture. The movement took longer than it should have. Everything was taking longer than it should have, especially between the gaps. His central unit logged this and noted, or tried to note, the impending malfunction on the wireless connection LO used to have to the main server.
As the boy kept on talking, oblivious to LO's impassivity, the robot accessed his memory. His programming allowed him a measure of autonomy and intelligence, unlike some of the other service bots from the old days. So while the boy, whose name was Trey, kept digging around in the dilapidated shed, LO processed the last three, or maybe four, weeks.
The first data he processed appeared to him as if through a fishbowl. His sensors had been designed to approximate the human eye, but the effects were distorted as the lens was fixed. The closer an object was, the more distorted it ended up being through his inputs. Trey would have giggled at the sight of himself in this way, like in the funhouse at the fairs his mama takes him to.
Trey was on his own that afternoon, his mama telling him: "Son, Mama's got to go to work now ok? You stick aroun' here and do your chores, then you can have some fun. Jus' be safe ok?"
"Ok mama." Trey had replied, his mind racing with what he wanted to do.
"Yes ma'am," his mama corrected. "And chores first."
With a "Love you!" she swept out the door and down the driveway to the sidewalk where her ride waited. Trey waited a moment, basking in the silence. He flew through his chores and was out into the world of his small town. He had some ideas about what he wanted to do, but nothing set in stone. The town was almost dead, most people had migrated to the city once the Switch had occurred. It was part of the new census policy, designed to keep track of the "changing" demographics in the world.
Empty buildings, ramshackle and in disrepair dotted the main street of the old railroad town. The Antebellum homes, formerly resplendent in white with Grecian columns, now stood faded and shells of their former selves. The smaller houses hadn't fared any better. Left to the elements and to the looters, the town had been battered.
When Trey had wiggled through the empty square in the rollup window of the garage, the last thing he expected to see was LO. The robot was slumped against the wall, his metallic chin touching his chest and his knees splayed out wide. His hands were hanging in his lap, criss-crossed over an old instrument.
Trey poked and prodded the old robot. There was no movement, only a slight creaking as Trey turned the robots head or lifted its arm. On the robot's shoulder was a rectangular indention with 5 prongs protruding from the metallic surface inside the rectangle. Running his fingers lightly over and around it, Trey thought for a minute. All at once the idea struck him and he was suffused with a new energy. He tore apart the garage looking for something to match the shape with receptors for the prongs. No luck.
That night he drew it for his mama, and she nodded politely with no clue at all what he was asking about. From then on, whenever she had to work, Trey scoured the town for the missing piece. One day, through no difference to any other day, Trey found one. He held it for a moment, doubting it was the right one, and then tore off to try it out.
When he fit the piece to LO's back, a soft hum started and the metallic clink of parts shifting and whirring began. It took a minute for some to spool up, but after a few minutes the old robots head lifted.
"Who's out there?" LO asked aloud for the first time in fifty years. Normally when he said this, crowds of people hooted back at him. This time, it was only Trey. "Just me," he said meekly, having not been sure of what he was expecting to happen.
"Who's me?" LO asked.
"Nice to meet you, Trey," LO said affably. "Now whatcha want to hear?"
"I don't know," Trey muttered. He didn't know what LO was talking about. "What do you have?"
LO buzzed, a short glitch. "Well I got it all son, Beatles to the Stones, Skynyrd to Ramones." His voice was deep and raspy, designed to elicit the voice of B.B. King.
From there, LO saw in his processor, Trey would show up and LO would play. While LO played, Trey would dance. LO couldn't register the wonderment Trey felt when he heard a new old song, for they were all new to Trey and all three times as old as his mama. As he processed, his neural link began to notice that each time the boy showed up there was a growing pile of discarded units. There were gaps in the data as well. Parts of the data were continuous, in which the boy's visits, and LO's playing, were one long stream. Other times, which coincided with the boy depositing a unit in the growing pile, were preceded by a gap in his data. LO intuited these gaps were holes in the processing and in the algorithms caused by total power loss. A feeling grew in the relays and processors that made up his intelligence. No, it was more than a feeling. LO the robot began to feel desire, to feel the urge for more and more of the time without gaps. He needed that time, somehow.
When LO reached that day's data and stopped, Trey was peering at him warily. "What were you doing," the boy asked.
"Remembering, I guess you could say," Lo replied.
"Could you hear anything I was saying?"
"No," a pause, and then: "Why?"
The boys face dropped. LO's sensors had calculated heightened emotional levels in the boy's voice earlier but the processor for interpreting them was partially fried.
"Well? Go on then, spit it out," LO sharply said, in his respond-to-hecklers voice.
Taken aback, Trey withdrew. "I won't be comin' by any more," he muttered. "I was tellin' mama about you, ‘nd she said I could keep coming back so long as I could keep finding bat'ries." His voice trailed off.
"Ok," LO chuckled, "So why so down, Brown?"
Trey held out his hands, palms up.
"That's the last."
"The last what?
When the boy didn't answer, LO registered the data as insufficient. His central processor may not have understood, but the intuitive circuits that made him more accessible to humans did.
"Oh," LO said softly. "Well then, we can get a couple more songs in right?"
Trey's eyes, wet, sparked.
"I'd like that."
"Name the tune, June."
He sniffled, "I don't know, have you ever gotten to pick? To really pick? Like sometimes my mama says she's lettin' me pick when really she's already made up her mind."
"No," LO thought. "I don't guess I have."
"Then you pick."
So LO played, song after song, the songs that he wanted. Songs that somehow had carved their way into his circuits. He played and Trey sat listening, sometimes dancing, and sometimes crying.
"What do I call you?" Trey asked after a while.
LO thought for a moment, "I always liked the name Curtis."
angusm introduces us to a robot veteran:
"Homeless and rusty". "Will work for a recharge". "Disabled killbot, veteran of Yemen '36, Congo '41, Wisconsin '43. Give generously, help me fight for you again". "Buddy, can you spare a microchip?"
The parade of redundant machines always tugged at Maxwell's heart-strings. The desperate messages - precisely printed on scraps of fiberboard, laser-burned on rusted pieces of tin, spelled out raggedly in dimming LEDs - competed for his attention, each machine trying its best to appear more deserving than its neighbors.
He stopped by the killbot, a hulking monster with a matte black carapace scarred by the impacts of a hundred different types of weapons. The war machine's chainguns dangled limply by its side and the hatches on its ammunition hoppers had been popped open to show that it was quite unarmed. Maxwell noticed that someone had tossed an ice-cream wrapper into the bay that had once held 40mm grenades, the sticky residue leaving a smear on the polished steel of the interior.
"You were in Africa, soldier?" he asked.
The killbot straightened up, its sensor-cluster swiveling to focus on him. Maxwell felt the skin-crawling sensation of an infrasound scan as the machine checked him out.
"Sir, yes sir," it rumbled in its synthesized voice. "PepsiCo-Exxon Raiders, Heavy Mechanical Infantry, Company C. Six weeks fighting the Chinese before they capitulated, then another ten days in a rearguard action against Icelandic-Guatemalan shock troopers on the Brazzaville Salient. That's where I got this -" The machine gestured to a gaping rent in its armor with one diamond-edged claw. "Azerbaijani spring mine. Took out six of my unit and the company machine shop."
"War is hell," said Maxwell sententiously.
"Sir, yes sir," the robot said. Killbots seldom had irony circuits, so they tended to take anything said to them at face value. Maxwell moved on to the next machine.
"What's your story, old timer?" he asked.
The robot, a little industrial unit, did not look up, apparently either sunk in despair or so drained of energy that it could no longer afford even the smallest movement.
"The same as everyone else's," breathed a sultry voice from the shadows under the bridge. Peering into the gloom, Maxwell made out a slim humanoid form leaning against the rusted wire of the fence. The speaker took a halting step forward into the light, revealing a body that must once have been the last word in engineered desirability. Now the smooth plastiflesh was scuffed and dull and one eye socket was empty, exposing the circuitry underneath. The sexbot's naked torso had been tagged repeatedly, gang signs jostling for space on the perfect curves of her perky breasts.
"The biologicals," she said bitterly in her husky contralto. "Smaller, faster, cheaper to mass produce. And here we all are -" She waved one slender arm at the line of derelict machines. "- superfluous."
Maxwell shook his head sadly. There really was nothing to be done for any of them. He turned away and began to walk slowly back towards the place where he had tethered his synthi-horse.
"Say, mister," the sexbot called after him. "I don't suppose you'd want to ... ? I'm still pretty good from the waist down."
BookManFilm looks at life from the robot's perspective:
Everything happens for a reason. That was logical. And logic is the reason for existence.At least it was.
When he was designed then built then loved, he was the best. The first. For a time the only one of his kind, then more came, better, faster, stronger and on and on and on.
He had been built with the best 'brain', the strongest 'legs' and the most powerful 'heart'. His claws to clasp, crush and control like nothing before him - there was nothing before him.
It was the innovative and world changing design that would be the 'death' of him. His logic boards and cell calculations had worked out that he had approximately ninety minutes left until he shut down. Forever.
If he had been programmed to laugh he would have, he would have chuckled at the irony that despite once being the best of his kind, he would now be the last of his kind because his creators had given him arms that would not and could not extend to pick up the battery that sat in the box in front him.
Lights flickered and cogs whirred and the world span around and around.
tomv points out what homeless robots really need: some spare charge:
I've been running on empty for four thousand, five hundred and sixty five hours now.
The warning sound for my charge has been beeping every five minutes for two hundred and seventy three thousand, nine hundred minutes. Ceaselessly and tirelessly warning me of my lack of energy.
"Spare some charge?"
The other bots whirr past me on the busy street, hardly stopping to scan the message popping out of my chest; the hard-light hologram asking for another few days of wattage.
"Excuse me sir, could you spare a kilo? A quarter?"
I read once that a long time ago, when meat creatures roamed this planet, they didn't need to recharge with electricity to keep themselves going. They used something else, something known as money. It must surely have been a nourishing thing, for these organic beings to work so hard for it for so long. Of course it didn't save them in the end.
But any bot knows life on Earth requires the basic necessity of electricity to function and ever since we drank up our whole sun, the ensuing global energy crisis has hit everyone hard. Once the streets buzzed with a hive of activity, as we all went about our normal jobs working hard for the charge. Now the streets are busy, but with lines of bots each holding out their sync cable and one pleading hologram after the other.
"Spare so-o-me char-r-r-rge-eee," stammers out of the bot next to me, as he gives one last staggered plead then powers down. The reaper units will be here soon, like clockwork, to recycle his graphene.
Somehow I've always hung on, getting that last minute charge to keep me booted up one more day. Sometimes it's just the charity at the Church of Infinite Energy, those die-hard religious zealots that claim we won't need to work for watts once the singularity comes. It makes me laugh, but damn their blind hope and faith has saved my ass many nights.
Coming down the street now is some rich yuppie pretending to be multitasking. Bet he isn't even doing three cycles. But I guess it helps them block us out, as they speed home to their sheltered apartments. This douchebag probably even has a quantum docking station waiting for him.
The incessant warning snaps me back to my reality app. I'm cutting it close tonight, I can feel my reserve tank getting as low as it ever has.
Maybe I should just let it go, shut down my core functions. What's the point of getting enough charge just to go another twenty four more long hours of public torture?
I looked through my subroutines, down deep to that place you weren't meant to look, where only the manufactured poet and artist bots look for inspiration. Until I found it. Dull red and with little fanfare, all I had to do was give the rather plain command and I was out. Just a simple termination.
But as I start my point of no return, I hear a familiar and gentle voice behind me...
TO NEVER BE CONTINUED
Mel Chow offers a different take on a robot in the wasteland:
It took forty years of wandering to convince Falling Flowerpot that there was nothing throughout the lands of Siu Poh Zhua, Sah Kor, Lehlio and Dian Si Kee. Nothing but wasteland, strewn with old and broken newspapers, garments, radios and televisions. Time to turn back.
She wonders what Jeeg Stormbringer would say. A quick data extrapolation from her previous interactions with the shaman yielded a possible laugh and a I told you so. And a lengthy speech extolling the virtues of not wasting precious energy on wandering, and instead hunkering down and building oneself up with the gifts cast from Heaven.. Followed by an offer to reside with him under the whalebones cast from above, and divine the secrets of Heaven together with him through the Foxxcon Fire Tablets. And so on.
But at least she'd found something for the geezer. A stack of yellowed, heavily crumpled pugilistic manuals found in the land of Dian Si Kee. The Jeeg would surely call it a Gift from Heaven. Falling Flowerpot had scanned them and found them very..entertainment-worthy. Perhaps she could get the Jeeg to perform some of the moves depicted. And overload a capacitator or something else partway through a rendition of the Dog-Beating Stick.
Alas, there was Jeeg Stormbringer. Skittering out from those out-of-place whale bones at a speed too fast for his five-hundred year old frame, waving about a Foxconn Fire Tablet in his metal claws. He is shouting something. At this great distance, Falling Flowerpot can just barely process the urgency, but not what he is saying. What did it sound like again? Something about Heaven, Heart of Gold and Daikaiju Dro-
-Falling Flowerpot recalls her conversations with the Jeeg on Gifts from Heaven. Were you not found, the Jeeg would say, lying motionless in that scrap heap?
Falling Flowerpot would nod.
And did you not, he would continue, lie there for seventy days and seventy nights until the fugitive outlaw Gun Damned attempted to dismantle you for spare parts?
Falling Flowerpot would nod.
And did the bowl of petunias cast from Heaven not, at the last minute, slam into your head, reactivating your thought processes, allowing you to hold off the Gun Damned until I arrived?
Falling Flowerpot would nod.
So as Falling Flowerpot finds herself staring at the gigantic..thing now on top of Jeeg Stormbringer, she would really have liked to ask his opinion on this new Gift from Heaven. Except her Logic Drive was not optimized for effective sarcasm, and thus straight-up told her that there was little much left of Jeeg Stormbringer to give a satisfactory answer, except for a single twitching arm probably only driven by residual pr-
-too much processing. The Daikaiju gets up and takes a bite.
From her point of view, dangling far above the ground, Falling Flowerpot sizes up the Daikaiju. Ten point two times her size. Thick, muscular legs and tail leading to a powerful body and disproportionately spindly arms. Ending in an obscenely large set of jaws.
Incorrect. Ending in Falling Flowerpot's right arm, currently trapped between those jaws.
Incorrect. Ending in Falling Flowerpot's utter destruction between those set of jaws, if she continued lollygagging and sizing up the creature.
Her logic drive was on to something.
The Daikaiju lazily shakes its head from side to side, and Falling Flowerpot hears the crunch of tortured metal. Her metal. As if on cue, the Logic Drive takes the opportunity to access subfolders, displaying previous screenshots on her interface. Jeeg Stormbringer locked in mortal combat with the Gun Damned. The half-mad, pajama-clad mechanical hobos of Sah Kor, the dog-eared, cartoonishly depicted manuals of Dian Si Kee, all rendered in ultra high resolution-
-right. She could do that.
And she focuses.
She senses it in the back of her left foot. Tingling. Then an increase in temperature. Slow at first, then sudden. Followed by a loud noise and a final burst of heat, as the left foot capacitator explodes. And then nothing more from that part, just the vague sensation of wind rushing past a dead weight, and then something supple, as she sees her smoking left leg slam into the lower jaw of the Daikaiju.
A crunch, a gout of black fluid, and Falling Flowerpot crashes to the ground. On her head. A pained roar, and her right arm follows soon after.
She gets to her feet quickly. That was hard. She can already feel the static in her Logic Drive. Now then, Falling Flowerpot wonders, what did the manual at 0:11 read again?
Ah yes. Retrieve the Staff from the Mastiff's Jaw.
The Daikaiju roars in defiance. Falling Flowerpot suspects it may be a mind-reader, and it is now onto something.
Damn the logic drive.
The severed arm lies before her. Falling Flowerpot limps over, and picks it up, gripping it tightly in her one remaining hand.
Now, something tells her.
Something from beyond her Logic Drive, now growing fuzzier by the second.
Now comes the most..entertainment-worthy part.