In Verse Proportion; Chapter 52, Brown 212

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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 52:  Brown 212
Table of Contents
Previous chapter:  Kondor 189

Derek squatted atop the packing crate.  He was trying to accomplish three things--first, be ready to jump, second be as inconspicuous as possible, third, be comfortable enough as not to tire.  Those were clearly incompatible objectives, but his stance, modified from his martial arts stance, was a reasonable compromise.

As he expected, the robot was coming his direction in what was really not more than tens of seconds.  If it continued, it would move past him, and he could jump down behind it.  It would then be a mere instant in which he would have to spot the switch, figure out how to reach it, and figure out how to deactivate.  It was a weak hope.

It suddenly got weaker.  The robot reached the spot below him, and stopped.  He should have thought of that, he realized.  A robot designed to track animals would have olfactory sensors.  It was following his scent trail.  It took it only seconds to turn toward the box and look up at him.  He was going to have to leap over it, hope it couldn’t grab him, get behind it, then find and access the switch to turn it off, and this while being the focus of its attention.


It was Vashti.  She had apparently tracked his scriff sense.  This was bad.

Or maybe it was good.  The robot also heard her, and turned toward the sound.  It was now seeking her, and for the moment its attention was at worst split, at best turned.

He leapt over the robot.  He wished he’d learned how Lauren did those leaps and flips, but he did know how to land, and he managed to keep on his feet and turn around.

The machine was confused; its head, or whatever you should properly call the sensor array at the top end of the device, was oscillating, apparently attempting to locate both of them.  He shouldn’t count on that being too much of a problem; it probably handled packs of monkeys, or something like them, somewhere on this ship.  He quickly stepped closer and searched the center of the back of the machine.  There was a sliding cover, and he slid it, and it looked like a button inside.  He pushed it and held it, but nothing happened.

As the robot turned toward him, he released it; he hurt his hand in the process.  But as soon as his hand was off the button it popped out, and the machine powered down.

“O.K., it could have worked like that.  Can’t think of everything.”

Vashti rushed over and threw her arms around him.

“I was so worried,” she said, on the edge of tears.

“It’s all right,” he responded, patting her back and pulling her close.  “We’re smarter than the machines.”

Slowly she drew back, and turned toward the now inert robot.

“You killed it.”

“No,” Derek answered.  “I turned it off.  Like--gee, like what?  You don’t really have anything in your world like that.  But like the lights, and the water faucets.  Machines can be turned off.”

“So it can be turned on again?” she said, with a worried look about her.

“Well, yes,” he said.  “But it can’t turn itself on again.  Someone would have to do it--and that someone is probably going to have to be me.”

“Have to?  You have to turn it back on?”

“It’s a machine--like the ship’s computer with its own cart and horse.  And like the ship’s computer, I should be able to tell it to work for us.”

“Work for us?  What would it do?”

“Well I don’t know.  That is, I don’t know what it can do.  This one is obviously built and programmed to catch and manage animals.  Once it understands that we’re not animals, it won’t do anything against us.  But I might be able to get it to find the translators for us; or I might even more easily get it to be a translator for us.  I wonder if I could program it to cook?  I don’t know.  It seems rather specialized.  Is that specialization built in or added on?”


“Oh, well, if it’s built in then there must be probably thousands of robots on this ship but each one designed for a different purpose.  There would be cleaning robots, and farming robots, and repair robots, and there might be cooking robots and robots that manage these storage areas.  But if it’s added on, then it should be possible for this robot to swap its animal handling gear for something else, become one of those other kinds of robots.”

He stared at the intricate metal and plastic device for a moment before Vashti spoke again.

“So what do we do now?”

“We,” he said, “work on reprogramming this one to start doing what we want.”

Next chapter:  Chapter 53:  Slade 185
Table of Contents

There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #440:  Changing Worlds.  Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.  It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.

As to the old stories that have long been here:

Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel

Old Verses New

For Better or Verse

Spy Verses

Garden of Versers

Versers Versus Versers

Stories from the Verse Main Page

The Original Introduction to Stories from the Verse

Read the Stories

The Online Games

Books by the Author

Go to Other Links

M. J. Young Net

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