“Very Good”

Here’s my robot-death story for John Eddison! (John is a friend, so this one revolves around an inside joke—basically, John likes to yell out “VERY GOOD!” between songs when he goes to metal shows.)


VERY GOOD

The year is 2093 . . .

At the Deep Space Gateway, no one can hear you scream.

Well, except people that are, like, super-close to you when you scream. Those people can still hear you. But nobody else. . . . Except maybe if you have, like, a comms channel open, then whoever’s on the receiving end—assuming they’re paying attention—they’ll probably hear you, too.

But nobody else!

And the Deep Space Gateway (DSG) is where we find our hero, Sir John Eddison. He had been knighted by the Queen back on earth thirteen years ago for his contributions in the field of quantum tectonics. (Don’t look that up; it’s probably not a thing.)

Anyway, Sir John was an astronaut now, and he’d been sent to the DSG to help launch a human-shaped robot into space. It had been designed to look like an especially fearsome-looking human so that if it came into contact with aliens, it would immediately strike fear into their hearts (assuming the aliens had hearts, of course). Earth had long ago given up the idea of making peace with intergalactic species—there was so little room left on earth these days that all we wanted to do was pillage and rape the cosmos. Every dime of every nations’ space programs had gone into building this terrifying robot ship. It was our last ditch effort to get off this collapsing rock, and Sir John was in charge of its launch.

On board were a bunch of highly trained space marines—very much like the ones in ALIENS. They’d even named themselves after the characters in that film. Sir John was not on board with these space marines, but was in a little launch shack separated from the ship. It was a tiny little shed with just enough room for the launch controls and the person operating them. He’d been told it was this small because they’d run out of money building the giant robot.

The design they’d decided on to strike universal fear into the galaxy was Gort, the robot from the original THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. There was no reason to think that other species would see this design as frightening, but we only had our own fears to go on, so after much hand-wringing, that’s the direction they went.

So today was the big day—launch day! In T-minus 20 seconds, Sir John would launch this fearsome battle-ready beast into the unknown, where it would presumably eventually run into aliens, which it would enslave, destroy, and ultimately conquer. Then we’d steal all their shit, and ruin their planet, just like we’ve done to ours.

It was very exciting, and Sir John was the most excited of anyone. He’d dreamed of this day since he was a small boy—ruining the galaxy for his own selfish desires—and he was beyond honoured to be the one pushing the button that would set it all in motion!

5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . !

With a giant smile on his bearded face, Sir John pushed the ignition button . . . and was instantly vapourized as the rockets—which had been placed in the robot’s anus—fired up. His scorched corpse blasted out the back end of his little shack, and disappeared into the void of space.

You see, unbeknownst to Sir John, one of the engineers that helped build the colossal robot was also a musician who played in a heavy metal band that Sir John would often go to see. Over the years, Sir John had gained a reputation for yelling out “VERY GOOD” between songs and, while most bands found this behaviour profoundly endearing, this particular engineer was not impressed at all, and had grown to loathe Sir John. His hatred festered, and had culminated in hatching a complex plan to make sure Sir John was the one to be in the launch shed on this celebrated day in history.

His plan came off without a hitch—right down to slightly angling the anus rockets so that they would blast apart the launch shed.

Sir John had been sharted out into space, never to be seen again.

Down on earth, at mission control, the engineer narrowed his eyes to slits, and whispered, “Very good.”

“Fred”

My first 500-word robot-death story in a while—this one for Andrew Russo. It’s called “Fred.”


FRED

 

The last time I saw my robot, Fred, he was walking out of the house with a gun.

The safe it had been in was locked, and Fred didn’t have the combination—but that didn’t matter because he just busted open the safe.

I tried to call him back, but he was determined. He marched straight out the door, and didn’t look back.

It was only after turning on the news an hour later that I knew where he’d gone.

*

Based on the news reports I saw both on TV and online, Fred had walked into a nearby elementary school and opened fire. He shot and killed eleven children and four teachers.

When a robot goes haywire and decides to shoot up a school, you don’t hear about the wounded; there are only those who get killed and those who survive without a scratch.

A ten-year-old girl used her cell phone amidst the shooting to call 911. The police arrived very quickly, located Fred, and shot him twice in the head with special bullets made specifically to kill robots.

Once the smoke had cleared, and the dead catalogued, the police searched the robot for its identification number, which would link it back to me as it owner.

When they knocked on my door, I didn’t resist.

*

No details that came forward later helped explain why Fred did what he did. No system malfunctions were found when they gutted him, so I was subsequently found not guilty of all criminal responsibility.

When I was released, I went home and watched and read as much as I could online about the killings. One story that emerged, and was mentioned over and over again to the point of going viral, was about one of the teachers who died—a man named Andrew Russo. When Fred came into the classroom and started shooting, kids scattered everywhere. Most of them were mowed down, but one of them survived because Andrew dove on top of her—a little girl named Micaylah Spencer. Andrew took seven bullets to the back and neck for her. Fred hadn’t turned quickly enough to see that Andrew had dived on top of her, so she lived.

*

I lay awake most nights wondering if there was something I could have done, something I could have said to have stopped Fred from murdering those kids and teachers. I saw no warning signs, no mood changes in him, nothing. He just woke up that morning, and decided to ruin all those lives for no reason, no purpose that anyone could discern.

I have recurring nightmares that Andrew Russo is standing at the foot of my bed, bleeding, filled with holes. He stares at me, says things, mouth moving, but I hear nothing.

I stare back at him, my mouth moving, too, maybe apologizing, I don’t know.

But he cannot hear me, either.