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Colony Crisis

level_head in colony_crisis

Chapter 66: Recycle

Auto pondered the report from steward 227 on Deck C6 starboard, more than a thousand meters below.

The steward had sounded … odd. Almost as if some sort of programming problem had surfaced. The earlier incident had been resolved; there were many dead humans, but disposing of them had been designated a low-priority task for subsequent review.

The humans were adamant about how this was to be handled, but dealing with them had a low priority in his task hierarchy as well.

As for the steward, a trip to the Repair Ward was not possible. The Repair Ward was itself in need of repair; Auto would see to it after completing the day’s plans. While a mobile, limited repair unit had been located, this sort of subtle program change was not within its capability.

Auto had plans and software for all the bots within his domain, but no processor cycle time to spare for a steward. He would shut this one down when the current task was complete.

In another part of the autopilot’s consciousness, he was in some respects surprising himself. He had been intrigued to learn of two non-functional EVE probes in the storage compartment. And he found himself registering a certain amount of an odd sensation at this.

Satisfaction? He was almost happy to see the two lifeless droids.

Now, the steward bot was reluctant to investigate further. Auto could only see through the steward’s camera — and note that the steward had picked up no identification transmission from the two bodies.

Their CPUs must have been damaged. From the view he could see of the damage to the aeroshells, they had each hit something, or something had hit them, apparently quite hard.

There was that sensation again.

He must know. Auto pushed hard at the steward, and through a series of stern commands was finally able to get the bot to move, and get the close view Auto needed.

This one was Probe Ten. Hmm. The aeroshell was quite badly damaged.

The external marking on the other probe, the tiny identifier in the right arm socket, had been obliterated; the physical section was gone. But there was still hope.

Hope?

Auto stopped a moment, leaving the steward some thousand meters below paused as well.

Spokes cycled in self-irritation in the darkened bridge; actuators and servos spun quietly. His directive was to help the humans … emotional involvement was beneath him.

He turned, facing the forward viewports. They remained shuttered, the blast shields hiding an uncomfortable view. He had just seen a probe there yesterday … ah.

Auto accessed the ship’s radiofrequency records. Yes, the ID transmitted had been that of Eve Probe One.
He estimated a low chance that something could have happened in the short time since then. There was little hope that …

Far below, the steward moved once again. A section of this probe’s aeroshell had been completely detached, but it had been placed back into an approximation of its original alignment.

Something occurred to Auto, and he commanded the steward to back away from the two bodies for a better view.

Yes. They had been … arranged by someone. Laid out on blankets, almost as if the robots were engaged in sleeping in the manner of humans.

How very strange.

But he had no time for this; there were other duties to attend to. He pressed the recalcitrant steward forward, and had him use a suspension beam to lift the probe’s torso. The shattered back piece fell away. Turn it over, set it back down, move closer … closer … zoom in on the now-exposed circuit board here, and …

Ah. Probe Two.

Auto did not notice his own disappointment.

The steward had been equipped with infrared, in the event of a complete ship power failure. Auto used the steward’s vision to scan the interior of the broken droid. Yes, a strong heat signature in the power unit area; it was still intact. It was probably in automatic standby mode; it would run for several years in that state.

A good thing that it had not been breached by the collision, but the units were well-shielded to avoid that sort of explosion. It occurred to Auto to check the fuel status; the device would be dangerous to have aboard when the fuel exhausted and force fields collapsed.

Auto returned his thoughts to the closer probe. He noticed without much conscious attention that the weapon arm appeared intact, then focused on it briefly. It would not do any good without a source of power, and control, of course.

He thought of the EVE Probe One as he examined the lifeless shell in the steward’s camera. He had reviewed video records since being awakened, and he knew what a probe’s self-defense weapon was capable of. That weapon was potentially dangerous on a rogue … wait.

Self defense. Hmm…

Comments

Interesting that no one in the conference where Jake asked for the robot to provide power to the ship suggested tapping the power on the defunct probes.
Auto knows more about them now than Jake does. Or at least, he knew of this one aspect, which wouldn't have occurred to Jake.

Or to most humans, in fact. If you've seen a robot in terribly bad shape and quite thoroughly trashed, and you've only got (at that time) a very vague understanding of how robots work or are powered, you can perhaps be forgiven for not checking all the details.

===|==============/ Level Head

Edited at 2009-03-04 07:54 am (UTC)
Auto has never been creepier IMO.

Par. 1: The numbered deck gets capitalized, but the numbered steward doesn’t? I’d give him a little more dignity.

Par. 4: I’d change “capability” to “capacity,” if only because the latter is more likely to accompany “within.”

Par. 16: I’d change the ellipsis to a period or semicolon.

Par. 18-19: Either add a line break or (my preference) join the paragraphs.

Par. 21-23: I’d join these.

Par. 24: I’d italicize the imperatives, or else reword to avoid them.

Par. 31: Hyphenate.