Chapter 24: Supplies

It was that time again. Sixty-four years had passed and a shuttle craft from a robot trading ship landed with thunderous reverse thrusters in Sector 87 to unload much needed supplies for the forsaken colonists.

The robot walked over to the local tavern to wait for the humans to unload the supplies they needed and to load their meager food stuffs and mined minerals. Later, after an accounting had been made of imports against exports, the sector governor would sit down at the table with the robot and renegotiate the debt. The robots trading in the Draco galaxy were running at a loss, but they seemed not to care too much about the profits and losses. They felt sadly responsible for the fate of the human colonists of Draco, so far from their home world, abandoned and forgotten. As long as they had the resources to do so, the robots would continue to give more than they received from the humans.

While sitting alone at his table the robot overheard two humans at another table talking about a new species of humans they called Rats. That struck the robot as strange as he retrieved an image of a rather unpleasant whiskered rodent associated with that name from his memory banks, since it had never been expected that it could achieve intelligence on a par with a human. Their brains were physically small and they lacked even a minimal frontal cortex. Oh well, the robot thought, it just goes to show you that anything that is possible is inevitable over a vast stretch of time.

But no – the robot listened to more snatches of the conversation at the next table. The rats they were talking about didn’t seem like any rats he had ever come across. “Excuse me,” the robot exclaimed amiably, “I couldn’t help but over-hear parts of your conversation in which you talked about rats as though they were like people…”

“They ain’t like any humans around here,” one of the men snorted. “They’re blue all over from the hair on their ugly heads to the toe nails on their ugly feet. They’re human-shaped, more-or-less, they speak our language ‘ceptin for their highfalutin words which no normal person kin understand, and they’re too quick to take a switch to.”

The other man nodded at the robot and added, “I know yer kind don’t believe in God, but them Rats is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord Almighty. He’s gonna smite them down and we’re his right fist.”

About that time the governor walked into the tavern with his accountant trailing close behind. “Ah, there you are,” the governor said jovially when he spotted the robot. The accountant pulled two chairs over to the table where the robot sat and the other two humans moved respectfully to the other side of the room.

Robots were always amazed by the human propensity for stating the obvious. “Indeed,” said the robot dryly, “here I am.”

The governor cleared his throat. “Our needs are great,” he opened stentoriously, as if speaking to his electorate, “but our resources are meager. We are at the tail end of a terrible time but things are definitely looking up. If you would be willing to carry our marker until the next time you come, we will certainly be able to pay you with a most generous interest.” Of course, by the time the robot returned, sixty-four years from that day, the good governor would be dead and the debt would be somebody else’s problem.

The robot accepted the governor’s signatures on the inventory receipt and shipping documents, and rose from the table to leave. He had a tight schedule to maintain, another seven planets to touch base before he could return home to his family. He walked back to the shuttle craft, checked underneath the thruster area to make sure no humans were hiding there, transmitted the wireless code to drop the ladder and open the shuttle hatch, and proceeded to climb up the ladder into the craft.

After checking the controls and indicators, the robot strapped himself to his seat, checked the vidcams around the thruster area one last time, and ignited the thrusters lifting off in thunder and billowing clouds. The governor and the accountant watched the craft rise slowly into the low roiling clouds until it disappeared from sight and hearing.

The shuttle entered into orbit and coasted almost to the main ship. The massive docking port doors opened silently, commanded by infrared code, and the small shuttle craft floated into the massive hull of the ship. The port doors closed shut smoothly. Since there were no humans on board, the robot did not bother to turn on the oxygen.

Back in his cluttered cubicle, the robot decided to call in over the QEB what he had overheard at the tavern to the Office of Human Affairs on his home planet. The watch officer back home suggested that the robot take the shuttle back down and scout around the other sectors and Uncharted Areas to see whether there were any signs of this new human species.

The trader robot took the shuttle back down to the surface and began to scout around in earnest, sector by sector. After combing the known sectors, he overflew what the locals called the Uncharted Areas and found signs of human habitation in the infrared range of the spectrum. The robot set the shuttle down nearby. He jumped down from the shuttle and started walking in the direction of the infrared blobs he’d noticed on the IR scope.

The silver coloured robot walked into a forest and quickly found himself surrounded by dark blue humanoids.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel



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Filed under Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories and Novels

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