Ray Technician swiped the tablet’s screen to consult the day’s schedule. The first entry read, ADJ LTB 7723. Adjust the locomotive torsion bar on Robot 7723. Ray had seen the bot lurching about the shop floor and knew he’d have to make an adjustment soon. He selected a wrench from the tool crib and poured a cup of coffee.
As he was leaving the tech pod, Marla Technician came in. “Where ya goin’, Ray?” she asked.
“I gotta go jack off 7723,” Ray said. The techs called torsion bar adjustments “jacking off” because the adjustment access door was between the robot’s legs. The wrench handle jutted out like an erection.
Marla laughed. “Sounds hot,” she said.
“You know it,” Ray said. “Care to join us?”
“You know I’d love to,” Marla said, “but Facebook-Monsanto just declared war on Microsoft-Dish-Shell. I have to go to Propagation and monitor microwave traffic. They’re afraid Raytheon will use the distraction to pull some shit on us.”
“Sounds tedious,” Ray said.
“Ah, I don’t care,” Marla said. “I get paid by the hour.”
Ray laughed and nodded and pushed out the door.
He gulped his coffee on the way to the robot bay. When he opened the door, he saw 7723 waiting for him at its docking station.
“Good morning, Ray,” the robot said. It sounded glad to see him.
Ray nodded. “Good morning. How are you today?”
“I’m well,” the robot said. “Thank you. And how are you?”
Ray smiled. “Oh, you know. Another day, another dollar.”
“Yes,” the robot said. “I wonder if you might help me.”
“Sure,” Ray said. “What’s up?”
“My left leg is dragging. My locomotive torsion bar is out of adjustment.”
“I’ll help you with that,” Ray said.
“Thank you.” The robot lurched over and stood before Ray. A small service slot between its legs slid open and Ray inserted the wrench. When it was firmly seated on the adjustment nut, he grinned at the handle jutting out from the robot’s crotch.
“Are you glad to see me?” he asked.
The robot chuckled politely. “You techs never tire of that joke,” it said.
“No,” Ray said. “I guess not. It is funny, though.”
“Yes,” the robot said. “I wonder if–”
Ray’s phone rang. “Yes?” he answered.
It was John Supervisor. “Ray,” he said, “we need you in Propagation. Raytheon just smoked our microwave receiver. What are you doing now?”
“It can wait,” Ray said. “I’ll be right there.” He tucked the phone back into his pocket.
“Well,” he said. “I have to go take care of something urgent. Can you wait here until I get back?”
“Yes,” the robot said. “I don’t have rounds for another hour.”
“Okay,” Ray said. “I’ll be back.”
“You left the wrench in the access slot,” the robot said.
Ray laughed. “It’ll be okay. Just take a cold shower.” He hurried out the door. Robot 7723 returned to its dock and connected the battery cable. Then it stood silently in electronic rest, waiting to be called back to duty.
The robot waited for Ray to return but at 9:15 duty called. 7723 lurched out the door to make its rounds. The wrench handle waggled with each step.
Its first stop was at the Senescence Line, which was not really a line but a large ward full of gomers, gaffers, geezers, and gimps whose insurance policies were near expiration. 7723’s task was to remove those whose policies had lapsed and wheel them to Extraction.
The robot pulled a bed out of the first row and turned it toward the door. The bed held a young man recently discharged from the KBR-Lockheed Martin-U.S. Army. His mangled leg stank of the gangrene spreading from a shrapnel wound on his thigh. The man’s pale face strained toward the robot.
“There’s been a mistake,” he groaned.
“No,” said 7723. “I assure you, all paperwork is in order and all procedures have been followed.” The robot pushed the bed into the hallway.
“No,” the young man gasped. Sweat dripped from his face. “Please,” he moaned. “I can still serve. Have them take the leg. I don’t need it. I can enter data or file paperwork or fly the drones. I was a gamer before I was called up.”
“Those aren’t in your jobs categories,” the robot said. They turned a corner and rolled down another hallway toward a door marked EXTRACTION.
“Noooo,” the young man moaned. Tears spilled from his eyes and pooled in his ears. “I have a little girl,” he sobbed.
“You signed the disclosures,” the robot said. They bumped open the door and rolled into the cold white glare of Extraction.
“Noooo,” the young man cried. “I needed the money. I didn’t think it could happen to me. Don’t leave me here!”
7723 parked the bed along a wall and waved a handheld scanner over the disposition card affixed to the bed rail. The young man struggled to sit. The robot relayed the code for restraints. Two Extraction robots bustled into the room with a set of restraints and began the quick extraction process. 7723 turned its back on the young man’s cries and lurched back into the hallway where Linda Manager was waiting.
“23,” she said. She eyed the wrench handle jutting from its crotch and smirked. “I have an errand for you.”
“I’m currently on rounds,” 7723 said. “Will you override?”
“Yes,” she said. She fished a small electronic tablet from her pocket and entered a code.
“Very well,” 7723 said. “What can I do for my friends in management?”
Linda held her tablet near the robot’s head and tapped the screen, transferring files to 7723’s memory. “I need you to go to our Commerce Street office and download these files to their Propagation database. Raytheon destroyed our microwave relay and I can’t send them over the intranet.”
“Very well,” 7723 said and obediently lurched toward an exit.
The robot limped down the sidewalk. The wrench handle waggled before it, arrogant, proud, cocky. A fat woman in bicycle pants marshaled her two chubby children into a huge SUV. She plopped behind the wheel and stared at the robot, her eyes wide and wet, her tongue slowly sliding along her bottom lip. Her Lycra pants were suddenly too tight in the crotch. The fabric squeezed her camel toe. She squirmed in the seat and her face flushed.
She rolled down the window and stuck out her big square head. “You have a lot of nerve!” she shrieked. “There are children here!” When the robot ignored her, she whipped out her cell phone and punched at the numbers, her eyes two hot, hard little marbles.
“911,” a voice on the phone chirped. “Your emergency is our business. How will this be charged?”
“Credit card!” the fat woman barked. She gasped out the numbers and shrieked, “A robot! Its bare erection! Oh, my children! My children!”
“Stay where you are,” the operator said. “Officers are on the way. Additional charges may apply.”
The city’s Special Sex Crimes Unit were relaxing in their wood paneled bunker when the speaker crackled, “Sex predator loose on Veterans Avenue. Bare erection in view. Children in the area. Threat level blue balls!”
The men scrambled to their loadout kits. “Get some!” they screamed. “SSCU! Get some! Get some!” They donned their gear and shuffled out the door to a waiting armored personnel carrier, SSCU stenciled on its side. The vehicle rumbled to life and lumbered out the bay door. It crunched into the front fender of an Escalade parked at the curb. The SUV jumped like a kicked dog. The APC shouldered it aside and turned into the street.
The SSCU commander, Sergeant Thug Burly, nodded at Officer Kick Murphy. “I want the owner of that vehicle cited for destruction of public property. There’s a scuff mark on the bumper of my vehicle.”
“Yes, sir,” Murphy snapped, and entered commands into the tablet strapped to his forearm.
The vehicle caromed down the street banging off parked cars. “Infraction!” Burly shouted over and over. “Destruction of public property! Interfering with a police officer!” Officer Murphy tapped at his tablet.
The vehicle slammed to a halt against the side of a packed school bus. Children catapulted out the side in a torrent of sticky, flabby flesh.
“Arrest that driver!” Burly screamed. “Obstruction of justice! Resisting arrest! Assaulting an officer!”
Three officers fell on the bewildered driver and beat him senseless. He lay bleeding on the street. Two officers shot him with tasers. “Hands behind your head!” screamed one. “Don’t move!” screamed the other. The driver’s body jerked and spasmed, hissing and sizzling on the pavement as the tasers pumped their charges through him.
The other officers surged out of the vehicle and crouched behind confused civilians.
“On your knees!”
Robot 7723 stopped in its tracks. It gazed about at the spectacle. “Oh my,” it murmured. It backed slowly and hid behind a parked Excursion.
Sergeant Burly stood with his hands on his hips surveying the scene. “I don’t see the pervert,” he announced. He eyed the crowd. “Where’s the fucking pervert?”
A little old white-haired woman with a canvas bag of knitting hanging on her arm pointed toward the Excursion. “Freeze!” screamed an officer. “On your knees!” screamed another. The little old lady looked from one officer to the other, back and forth, her eyes large and round and wet. A third officer whacked her on the back of the head with a shot-filled sap. She collapsed to the pavement in a heap, blood welling from her ears.
A teenage girl fell to her knees beside the old woman, sobbing. “Grandma!” she sobbed. “Grandma!”
“Freeze!” screamed an officer.
“On your knees!” screamed another.
A third officer jacked a slug into the breech of his riot gun.
Burly turned his back and strode toward the Excursion. A shotgun blasted behind him. Screams of, “Freeze! On your knees! Don’t move! Hands behind your head!” sounded. Firearms popped and people cried out.
The robot crouched behind the Excursion. Burly strode to it and stood with his legs spread, hands on hips. “What have we here?” he demanded. “A pervert? How many kids have you raped today, you bag of pus?”
7723 stood. “I’m not a pervert,” it said. “I’m an attendant robot at WalMart-Sony-TRW.”
Burly eyed the wrench handle and pulled his pistol. “Don’t move,” he whispered through clenched teeth. “I’d just love to blow your fucking pervert head right off your shoulders. How would you like that?”
“I wouldn’t,” the robot said. “The repair expenses might–”
Burly thrust his pistol into the robot’s visor. “I said don’t move!” he shrieked. “That means shut up!” He turned to the crowd. The officers of the SSCU were beating anyone they could reach. People bled in the street. Fists and clubs flailed.
“God damn it,” Burly hissed. He ran to the melee, grabbing officers by their collars and throwing them to the ground. “The pervert’s back here!” he shouted. “He’s back here!”
The officers leaped to their feet and ran toward the robot. “Don’t move!” they screamed. “On your knees!”
“Ray!” the robot screamed. “Ray! Help me!”
“Shut up!” Burly shrieked.
“Don’t move!” the officers shouted. “On your knees!”
“Here, here!” Ray shouted, pushing through the crowd of onlookers. “What are you doing to my robot?” He held his employee ID card before him. The officers wavered at the sight of official identification.
Burly stuck his chest out. “Where did you come from?” he asked.
“I got a distress call from my robot about five minutes ago,” Ray said. “So I came to see what’s wrong.”
“What’s wrong,” Burly growled, bouncing his fist in his hand. “What’s wrong. I’ll tell you what’s wrong. This fucking pervert is on a rampage. That’s what’s wrong.”
Ray snorted. “How can a robot be a pervert?” he asked. “That’s just–” His eye fell on the wrench handle jutting from the robot’s crotch. “Oh,” he said. He grasped the handle and the crowd sighed. He tugged on the wrench and the crowd moaned. The wrench jammed on the nut the way wrenches sometimes do. Ray slid his hand up the handle. The crowd gasped. Burly’s eyes were shining. He licked his lips. Ray tugged again and the wrench pulled free. The crowd exhaled, their faces flushed.
Ray blinked. “Okay, folks,” he said. “Show’s over. There’s nothing–”
“You fucking faggot!” someone screamed. Someone else screamed, “Goddamn asshole fucking cocksucking queer!” The crowd stepped forward. The cops raised their clubs, eyeing Ray.
The robot clutched Ray’s sleeve.
Ray stood and pointed to the rear of the crowd. “Look!” he shouted. “A pedophile!”
The stared at him blankly, their slack mouths wet.
“Child molester!” Ray shouted. “Child–”
The crowd turned and surged. “Where?” they moaned. “Oh, where?”
“Back there!” Ray shouted, pointing. “The children are in danger!”
The crowd bolted, bleating, followed closely by the cops. Buttocks quaked. Jowls quivered. The flabby tide boiled into the street.
Ray turned to the robot. “Exit,” he said, “stage left.”
“I don’t know what you mean by that,” the robot said, “but I agree we should leave.”
They picked their way through the bodies tangled in the street. Some of them were still breathing. “Hey,” Ray said. “You should ping Extraction. There are some good units out here.”
“I’ve already done that,” the robot said. “An extraction team is on the way. I need to stay here to coordinate.”
“Sure,” Ray said. “See ya back at the salt mine.”
“Okay,” the robot said. “Before you go, perhaps you could adjust my LTB.”
“Oh,” Ray said. “Sure.” He knelt before the robot, inserted the wrench, and gave it a twist. “How’s that?”
“Ah,” the robot said. “That was nice. Thank you. Your money’s on the dresser.”
Ray guffawed. “I don’t believe it!” he shouted. “You made a joke!”
“Yes,” the robot said. It sounded smug. “Perhaps I should demand a raise.”
Ray laughed again, then stood and walked toward the plant, carelessly stepping over bodies both dead and soon to be extracted.