After a long break, here is another story from the Aftermath story. Part 2 of it will be up tomorrow. It picks up right after the story Outside the Gates of Cambridge. It’s also about Droog and references Droog’s Story. The rest of the Aftermath stories are here. I’m also going to put up a glossary on the Aftermath page of all the slang terms used in these stories.
Droog the robot knew a lot of things. Through his scanners, he knew that the small boy that was sleeping in the dust in the corner of the hut—the one Edward called Sean—was dying. His kidneys were shutting down slowly. Droog did not have any feelings of sadness—he had no emotions at all—but he did hope that the boy would not die.
Long ago, on the day the world had ended, there had a been a boy he had promised to help. That boy had disappeared, but Droog had never stopped looking for him. Some part of his mind knew that he was probably never going to find that boy again. He still had his bio-rhythmic signature stored in his memory, but he had scanned thousands of people and had never found him again. Now he had a boy here that Edward cared about. It would be so much easier if this really was the boy he had been looking for all these years, the boy he had promised to protect. Then he and Edward would have the same goal.
Droog thought for a moment and then did something he had never done before: he intentionally overwrote his memory. He replaced the bio-rhythmic signature of the boy from long ago with Sean’s and suppressed the logic that said the time difference was too great for that to be true. And just like that, Sean was the boy he had been looking for, and had always been. And Droog was going to help him survive.
Droog did a scan of the surrounding area, as he did every few seconds and that was how he knew the three men would come into the house, seconds before the door banged open.
The lead man wore a expensive, but faded suit coat over his filthy overalls. He leered at the woman who was sitting at the table. “Hinsen gone?”
She flushed slightly and nodded. Droog watched as they flirted back and forth, dispassionately recording their attraction for one another. Then the man turned towards Droog.
“What’s this, a robot?”
“It’s a ‘Munculus Bot,” one of the other men said. “I know a guy who pays good for these.”
“We’re going to take this, okay love?” the first man said, with a wink. “Just tell Hinsen it ran away on its own.”
“It don’t belong to Hinsen anyway, Matty dear,” the woman said. “Some mudscrape brought it with him yesterday. You want the boy too?”
Matty shook his head with a laugh, then turned back to Droog. “You obey commands, right? Let’s go.”
Droog turned back and tried to pick up Sean. The frail boy opened his eyes but didn’t sit up.
“Come on, we ain’t going to bring him too,” Matty said. “Get going. I order you.”
Robots like Droog were usually programmed with a number of voice signatures when they arrived at their buyers. These were the master access voices and the robot was forced to obey them. Droog, however, had never been bought and did not have any master access voices programmed into him. He could decide whether to obey someone or not, although he usually obeyed unless there was a good reason. Now, however, he ignored the man’s request and tried to pick up Sean again.
“This piece of scrap is broken,” Matty said. “Jere, pick him up and let’s go.”
Jere, the burliest of the three, stepped forward and put his arms around Droog. Droog waited while the man strained and puffed: Droog knew that he weighed 130kg, despite his small size. Jere finally gave up and Droog turned back to Sean.
“Do you think he’ll come along if we take the boy?” Jere asked.
“I think you should try,” the woman said.
A couple minutes later, Jere walked through the fire-illuminated market street carrying Sean, while Droog followed behind.
Continued in Part 2