Meanwhile - Part 4 - Joint Post
<Yay! A new joint post from me and David "Cryoboy" V. If anyone wants to join in, can they please email me first? Cheers.>
Holly's plan was, surprisingly, genius. Whatever strange spark had struggled for dear life through the miles and miles of cabling from his distant hard drives to his Central Processor, it seemed to be a gift from Silicon Heaven. The mechanicals, all of them, would team up and split into exploration groups. Since it was clear that major personality flaws in each and every one of them would prevent them achieving much on their own, Holly reasoned, they should each form a kind of multi-factional group. Hopefully then a more fully-rounded gestalt personality would emerge. Not being very mobile, the vending machines were not included, but since they were scattered over most of the ship, their role would be coordinating the searches and ensuring maintenance of communication. The groups then, would consist of: one android, two or three Skutters and a small to medium sized domestic appliance. The result of which was that Parkur was now standing, still clutching his brightly polished Sci-scan, alongside two Skutters who twitched occassionally. Hanging by his hip in a handy satchel was a Teasmade from one of the Officer's quarters. Unfortunately, as Parkur was beginning to discover, it had an over-active Irrepressible Optimism Module (TM). 'This will be great!' The Teasmade burbled from the satchel, it's voice half-muffled. 'We'll find what we need to and be done in no time at all! Why we'll back in time for a nice hot cup of tea!' Having enjoyed substantial marketing success with Talkie Toaster(TM), the company responsible had begun to produce several other appliances with similar personalities. Retired mechanoids around the same age as Parkur, found their lives inexplicably extended as their personality circuits were cannibalised from their scrapped chassis and crammed into tiny, single-function domestic appliances. To compensate for their sudden lack of motivation and activity a soldering iron was applied to their electronic brains with a view to making them unstoppably, hopelessly chirpy. Parkur had never hoped more that there was a vengeful machine god, and was never more certain that there wasn't.
They were in an express lift, shooting downwards through the formerly occupied decks of the Blue Dwarf, towards the supply decks much further down. Miles and miles they dropped. At some point the lift would stop and they'd have to catch the maintenance train to the rear of the ship.
Parkur's team had been given the job of investigating the Wormhole drive. For some reason, possibly security, the journey from the inhabited decks to the Wormhole drive was a long and treacherous one.
Against his better judgment, Parkur had been cajoled into carrying a bazookoid. Never in his mechanoid life had he thought for even one second that he might ever touch one of these things let alone use one. The Bazookoid was essentially like a hand-held magnetic catapult that fired launched globes of explosive, encapsulated energy, the equivalent to a good few sticks of dynamite. It was 'meant' to be used as a mining tool, it had taken a day from the first sale before their potential for firing high-speed explosives at other human beings was realised.
Or robots, Parkur told himself, bad robots. Ones that weren't going to Silicon Heaven.With a wire-warping heave the lift stopped as quickly as it was hurdling, sending one of the skutters a good 5 inches into the air before crashing back down to the floor. A resounding crack later and Parkur had found his legs pulled out from under him and his arse suddenly dragged to the floor. The smell of smoke suddenly filled his olfactory sensors and he noticed a massive smoking hole in the opposite side of the Lift that hadn't been there before. The smell of smoke was wafting from his rapidly cooling Bazookoid.
'Oh dear! A misfire! Well someone's going to have to clear this up!' Teasmade added to an otherwise deathly silent scene. Parkur couldn't have felt worse if he had just accidentally shot an orphanage.
The Express lift computer called over the tannoy in spite of the damage, unfortunately. 'Please collect all luggage and hand-held items before exiting the lifts. Vomit bags and tranquilizers will be dispensed upon leaving. Have a safe and productive day!'
Holly's image faded into view on the lift monitor: 'Everyone alright, yeah? Now you're down here see if anything's looking you know... odd.'
'But I don't know anything about the Wormhole drive,' Parkur had protested, not realising this put him in the same bracket as most of the crew, 'how will I know if it's odd? What's normal for a Wormhole drive?'
'Who else is going to look? Besides, the Skutters have been down there loads of times. They'll let you know.' 'But... but..butbutbutbutbutbutbutbutbut,' Parkur got stuck in a protest loop caused by the conflict between his motivation to do something to help the poor missing humans and his crippling levels of self-doubt and low esteem. His stammering was resolved by one of the Skutters cracking him hard across the back of his lowered head with a crowbar, he staggered, righted himself and then rolled reluctantly along to the patiently open doors of the light-speed lift and onto (relatively) firm ground.
The light from the lift cast a shaft of gold, into the gloomy, poorly lit and badly ventilated supply deck. On each side, stacks of tin cans, looking like blocks of flats, they were so immense, stretched far into the distance. The walls of tinned food were broken at periods, forming a criss-cross grid of walkways across the supply deck, between the stacks of food. Overhead mechanical grabs and super-pressure vacuum tubes hung like silent, misshapen bats. Normally they would whizz back and forth at lightning speed, scooping up the supplies to feed them through the supply ducts to the various vending machines and galleys across the ship. Now however, they hung almost motionless, slowly swinging and creaking like condemned men in gibbets. 'Boy this place sure gives me the heebie jeebies,' the Teasmade squawked happily against the oppressive silence, causing Parkur to uncontrollably vent exhaust. The Skutters ploughed on ahead, their little claw-heads clutching torches that reflected tiny circles of light off the looming tin can structures. They moved forward cautiously, which was odd, since the Sci-Scan in Parkur's hand clearly showed there was no life on this deck at all. The maintenance train that passed centrally through the spine of the ship had a station about half-a-mile further up and so they continued in silence. Well nearly in silence. The Teasmade seemed to have cornered the market in cheerful fear. 'Wow, those stacks of food really look precarious. Just think: the slightest vibration could set them falling. They'd come tumbling down like a silver avalanche on us all: ccrrrrassshh brrrkkkk boom! We'd be crushed for sure!' Parkur was worried by this strange entity riding comfortably in the satchel round his neck. The thing was irritating, nearly as bad as the Toaster, but what was most irritating about it was that it didn't seem to have the same hang ups and worries that he himself was carrying round. In a way, the Teasmade was almost human: it just got on with life and enjoyed it, rather than worrying about whether or not it was doing a good job. Then again, the extent of its purpose, its function, was to boil water and add a teabag. In theory there wasn't much there to get wrong so the appalling plastic kettle probably enjoyed a 99.99% recurring success rate. Parkur nearly thought an offensive word in relation to the Teasmade, realised it was an unhealthy code-line and filed it away for confessional upload later. The Skutters turned a corner and halted, pointing their torches at something just around the next stack of Baked Beans. Parkur wheeled up behind them and, if he were capable, he would have creased his chrome face in a frown of surprise. A small construction had been fashioned from packets of freeze-dried Happy Flavour Noodles. It was less a shelter and more a haphazard accumulation of the little shrink-wrapped blocks. The whole thing was barely two feet tall and was surrounded by a strange conglomeration of odd bits and pieces of well... crap. Just random things: old labels, half a circuit board, a bit of cable conduit, a couple of paperclips, strewn about in no sensible fashion that Parkur could make out. As the Skutters shone their lights into the centre of the odd Noodle-structure, something gleamed back at them. Suddenly, a mournful voice, beeping and squeaking in machine code, spoke from the depths of the noodle-cave. 'I was disturbed from my slumber, the last refuge of the damned,' the voice coded gently, 'by a strange light in the distance. Not daring to believe, after all this time that I might have found salvation, I was hesitant to venture out and examine its cause and reason.' 'Hello?' Parkur tried to peer down, to see who was speaking. 'Something on the wind,' the voice intoned quietly, 'seemed to whisper enticingly and so, in spite of my very desire to remain steadfastly in my wretched pit of despair, I resolved to investigate.' With a kind of tired, wheezing noise a small yellow robot dragged itself out into the light from the Skutter's torches. It turned its wide sensor array in a slow arc to regard the mechanoids staring down at it in surprise. The yellow robot waved a pair of tiny claws uncertainly. 'Alas my torment was to continue,' it said mournfully, 'having finally conquered my fears and accepted the hand fate had dealt me I was now to be plagued by apparitions from my past. Images of mechanicals that might have come from my lost ship: the Blue Dwarf, appearing before me as if they really were here. Their ghostly countenances brought me no comfort of course.' 'Excuse me, are you writing a story?' 'Their nonsensical baying was difficult for me to cope with,' the Peewee continued, 'I tried to dismiss them, but their presence was so convincing. I struggled to ignore their insane pleadings determining that a robot who knows he is going mad is still half-way towards sanity.' 'Can you hear us? Something terrible has happened to the humans... we've lost them...' 'Ah, my old quest, to find life in this god-forsaken place I had found myself, so very far from the Blue Dwarf, so very inexplicably. It grieved me greatly and here, the ghosts from my past...' 'Ghosts?' The Teasmade interrupted, 'what ghosts?' 'The ghosts from my past,' the Peewee resumed slightly crossly, 'were echoing the endeavours I had long since abandoned.' 'Are you quite all right?' Parkur asked, more confused than ever.'Strangely, they seemed lucid as I attempted to dispel them from my wracked circuits. It mattered not, even if they went the guilt and horror would remain.' The tiny yellow mech turned from the troupe and prepared to return inside.
'Ahem... although I loath violence... mr. Skutter would you be so kind as to initiate an emergency manual reboot?' Parkur gently gestured to the Peewee.
The Skutter gave a nod, and pulled the crowbar from it's storage compartment, zipped forward on its motorised base and delivered a smack to the rear of the Peewee right at the peak of its latest noir narrative. A grunt of surprise escaped the yellow machine's speaker as it was hurled back into it's Eeyore building code-approved house. The entire structure collapsed around it, the Peewee quickly disappearing under the piles of easy to make, microwavable noodles.
The Skutter sung out the first few bars of the Final Fantasy victory theme on its base motor: Dah-dah-da, da-dah! It accompanied this with a twirling dance on it's wheels before spinning the crowbar between its claws and dropping it back into it's storage box. 'Oh! Oh! Me next, me next!! I want to play too!' Teasmade chirped and vibrated in the satchel excitedly.
The pile of noodles shifted slightly before the hunched form of the Peewee emerged disconsolately. It's disproportionately large eye stared up at the troupe blankly. 'With the sharp crack of the solid steel still fresh across my chassis I slowly realised that either I was dangerouly close to insanity or mercifully close to normal functioning, neither option filled me with joy.'
The Skutter turned and chirped a few notes to Parkur. Who shook his head.
'No... no we're not going to hit him again.' The Mecanoid wasn't exactuly sure how he was going to explain *this* to the Confessional but he wasn't looking forward to it, the Skutter meanwhile, gave a prolonged sighing tone, tapping the storage compartment that held its crowbar, longingly.'Now,' Parkur addressed the Peewee again: 'if you haven't seen any humans, could you tell me where the Wormhole drive is?' The Mecahnoid asked as softly as possible. Desperately hoping that the PeeWee was too small to hold a grudge.
'I was too close to the edge to refuse. My better sense told me that they weren't real, my pain receptors disagreed. Either way, nothing would be solved by staying here. Perhaps accompanying them would allow me to find my former masters, or help me face my own demons... I would lead them to where they wished to go, it would be my vision-quest.'
With that the PeeWee dragged it's legs out of the rubble. Once clear of it's former home the robot pivoted on one leg and it's arm flicked up in a beckoning gesture.'Oh! Follow the leader, I LOVE this game! I'd play it all the time... if I could walk.' The Teasmade's voice trailed off in an surprisingly jarring forlorn tone.
'Was that a touch of negativity there?' Parkour wished that the corners of his mouth could twitch into a wry smile, it always looked so good when humans did it.
'Did you say Green Tea? Ooooh!! Who wants green tea!?' The Teasmade began to hiss as he boiled excitedly.
'Nevermind...' The Mechanoid sighed as his wheeled legs took them forward and into the depths of the maintaince deck.
<To be Continued>Get the New Internet Explore 8 Optimised for MSN. Download Now