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Wednesday, February 8, 2012
One of two robot short stories I penned...er...typed...last year. A treat for my readers, I hope; enjoy!
The dentist's wife awoke with a head cold two hours before their house blew up. Her husband was a man of routine and left home at 7:45 a.m. He promised to call home at 10:00 a.m., no sooner and no later, his wife Quinn knew.
"Don't get up, darling," he said as he opened the French doors at the back, leading to the garage and pool.
"Id a minute. Shortly." Quinn reached for a tissue by the bed and laid her head back on the pillow. She heard the French doors click shut. Her eyes closed. In a few minutes she began to cough. She got up on one elbow and called for the Model 2000 Robot.
There was no response. Model 2000 couldn't speak but usually reacted promptly to a request. Except for this morning.
The robot did all household tasks, and would even help her dress. Model 2000 had strong titanium arms with opposable thumb and fingers. It was powered by an internal electrical pack which delivered constant power to its metal frame, rubber wheels, and unique computing system -- or "brain" -- as Robotics Corporation called their latest refinement in artificial intelligence.
Whirrrrrrr. Model 2000 rolled to the edge of the bed then back.
"What IS the matter with you, 2000?" Quinn swung her legs over the edge of the bed. "Bring me a cup of coffee, please. And toast, please."
The robot returned with coffee, a glass of orange juice, and cookies. It rolled to the window and back, clutching at Quinn's arm. She shook off the robot's touch.
"I'm getting really annoyed with you, 2000. Ged me my cigarettes."
The robot rolled across the room, crumpled Quinn's cigarettes into brown mush in its metal fingers and threw her lighter into the glass of juice. Whirrrrrrr, it propelled itself to the bedroom door. The dentist's wife shoved her feet into a pair of her husband's slippers and followed the crazed mechanical assistant with the complicated "brain" to the French doors.
"No, you don't," Quinn said. Her husband would hear of this when he called. The dentist would make short shrift of this mechanical monster. They had purchased the robot only six weeks ago to help Quinn with the household chores. Quinn was fond of the device and imagined the robot felt likewise about her. Perhaps not, she thought this morning.
"Ged me my housecoat," Quinn said. Model 2000 returned with a pair of jeans and her husband's shirt. Quinn noticed the clock on the wall wasn't working. Had the power gone out? The robot raced to the oven and opened the door. What was it trying to tell her? Quinn couldn't smell the gas leak, nor did she suspect that a spark would result in an explosion.
"I'm going to take a shower."
She picked up her cell phone. Whirrrrr clack clank whirrrrr -- the robot tore the phone from her grasp and doused it in her cup of coffee.
"Now that's enough." Quinn reached for the desk phone. The robot grabbed it and laid the receiver down. Whirrrrr clank clack. It careened to the French doors and back to the large window in the kitchen, then to the dining room. Quinn followed it. The hands of the chime clock on the mantel began to turn towards the hour. The robot threw the clock on the floor where it broke into pieces. No human assistant would dare act this way, Quinn thought. She was furious and puzzled.
She didn't know the air was thick with Zylon gas, a new substance that was a hundred times more volatile than natural gas but much cheaper to produce, and artificially developed. Stores of it would last indefinitely. "It's safer than natural gas or nuclear energy," the salesman had explained. "Second only to solar or wind power." Quinn and her husband had the most modern appliances and equipment. Only the best, Quinn thought, but they hadn't counted on a crazy robot out of control. Whirrrrrrrr
Their gas line was leaking and Quinn's nose was so stuffed she couldn't smell it. Model 2000 knew, though. It calculated the time to 10:00 a.m. when Quinn's husband would call and precipitate a spark that would explode and destroy his home and wife. The robot knew there were other phones in the house. Its circuits whirred. There was a phone in the dentist's shirt which Quinn was wearing. Get rid of the shirt. It reached for the phone.
She felt dizzy. Perhaps the robot was right by trying to get some fresh air? Quinn staggered toward the French doors and collapsed. The robot knew the phone would ring in ten seconds. No time. It scooped her up in its titanium arms and burst through the French doors to the pool. It was ten o'clock. The phone rang. A spark ignited the Zylon leak.
Ka BOOOOOMMMMM…!!! Black clouds of smoke and a violent wind sucked the breath from Quinn as she and the robot dove into the deepest part of the pool, away from danger. Quinn shuddered and cried; she was safe in the middle of the pool. Model 2000 had saved her life. She was alone in the pool with that wonderful mechanical creature.
"I love you, 2000," Quinn said. The robot approached her and held her in its metal arms. She embraced the stalwart metal frame, passionate in the crystal clear pool. The roiling warm water reached the robot's internal electrical system. It short circuited and 10,000 volts raced through Quinn's body.
Her husband and the fire department found them later that day, dead in the pool, the house a smoldering ruin. The garage remained intact.
"She had a short existence," her husband said at the funeral. He sued the Robotics Corporation for ten million dollars and rebuilt his house. The money scarcely seemed enough for his dear one's life. Model 2000 would have agreed, had it survived.