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Rust in Peace

by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson
and D. A. Madigan

Table of Contents
Part 1 appears
in this issue.

Suddenly there was a rumbling inside a nearby building. Bob and Joe stopped and turned toward the source of the rumblings. There was a slight sound of hydraulic pumps with the rumblings, and some hissing of bad speakers. In a moment something came ambling out of the building, and into the street in front of them. A large robot two meters tall, spherical in shape, with two arms and two legs. It was blue in color, with one red eye looking at them through a broken lens. The thing seemed to have sustained some minor damage, mostly scratches, and it hissed as it looked around to orient itself. It was carrying in one hand a huge gun, vaguely resembling an automatic shotgun, but it had it pointed away from Bob and Joe for the time being.

“Trespassers, identify yourselves in the name of Total Mongo,” the machine announced gleefully. Bob and Joe looked at each other.

“Identify yourselves says I!” said the thing again.

“Uh... hi?” said Bob.

“Good morning Hi and friend of Hi,” said the robot happily; “I have been sent here by Total Mongo to destroy you.”

“What? Why?” asked Joe in a loud voice.

“Total Mongo is your friend!” announced the robot, still in a way too happy tone, like a boxing match announcer.

Joe turned to Bob and said, “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

That said, they ran away as fast as their feet could carry them. The robot stood by motionless as they did, looking slightly surprised by their sudden flight. Then it raised its voice again, and in the same gleeful tone called after them:

“Come back to me so that I can kill you!”

Bob and Joe ran faster as they heard this.

“Do not make this more difficult than it has to be!”

“Why do you think we want to die?” aske Joe, still running away.

“Total Mongo is your friend!” answered the robot.

The ’bot rumbled after them, keeping up easily because it had such a long and tirelessly mechanical stride. And it kept calling after them:

“Do you not want the world to be a better, more secure place? I keep the world secure for Total Mongo. Total Mongo has said that everybody who is not with him is against him, and those who are against him are a threat to security, and must be removed. Come to me so I can remove you!”

Bob and Joe figured it was best to quicken their step, and they sprinted as they had never sprinted before, and so fast did they go that the robot had to start running to keep up with them.

And Bob and Joe escaped through the gate.

“Quick! Turn it off!” yelled Joe to his assistant. The assistant had not expected him to come back so early, having seen him just leave a second ago, and was a bit slow to react. Too slow. The robot reared its ugly head, that incidentally was its whole body also, and announced as it entered through:

“Total Mongo is your friend! I must destroy you in the name of Total Mongo!”

Joe’s assistant stared at the ugly apparition in awe, but Bob and Joe ran out the door. The ’bot spotted him.

“Ah! Infidel!” it said, and brought its gun to bear on him.

Bob and Joe and pretty much everybody in the vicinity heard the earsplitting bang. It was followed by a heavy metallic footfall, and an even heavier thud, followed by the crashing noise of concrete shards showering onto the floor, as the robot charged through the narrow door and into the hall. It fired a few rounds after them, but they escaped beyond a corner just in time, and got into the elevator. The robot got into the elevator shaft, and analyzed the problem this presented. This process gave Bob and Joe just enough time to get out of the lift before the robot started yanking on its suspension cables.

The elevator’s cage fell down the shaft and hit the robot, doing no discernible damage, as it had been designed to accept far worse levels of physical stress. It simply crawled up the shaft, breaking and mangling the steel paneling as it ascended.

Bob and Joe ran down the entrance hall in a fine panicked frenzy. “It’s unstoppable!” shrieked Bob as he ran into the room where the fat, lazy security guards were sitting.

“Run, for the love of god, RUN!” bellowed Joe as he and Bob pelted on through.

“Go for help,” the first security guard said grimly, pulling his sidearm out of its holster as he rose creakily to his feet.

“We’ll investigate further,” his partner added, sounding for all the world like nearly every short-lived extra who had ever donned a security guard uniform for any 20th-century Hollywood production.

Bob reached the front doors to the lab slightly ahead of Joe. He rattled the knob frantically. “It’s locked!” he screamed. “Oh my god we can’t get out!”

“It must be an automatic lock down!” Joe whimpered. “We...”

From behind them, they could hear a shout of mingled shock and terror. There were two tinny bangs, as from a small .32 revolver, followed abruptly by one huge, cannoning boom.

There was a cry of rage, and another tinny bang.

A second later, another cannoning boom.

“Jeez, it got the guards,” Joe moaned. “Oh no, we’re doomed, we’re doomed, we’re so doomed...”

“You and your frickin’ time machine!” Bob hissed reproachfully. “2000 years in the future... Well, now we’re totally screwed!” He stared around desperately. “Okay, look, the guards probably had whatever override key card we’d need to get out. We’ll have to split up... try to find a window we can force, or something...”

“One of us can lure it away and the other can double back and get the key card off the guards’ bodies!” Joe said, his face brightening. “It’s a plan, a brilliant plan, we’re saved, go that way!”

He pointed down the hall to the right. Bob gave him a disdainful look, then, as they both heard heavy mechanical footsteps beginning to approach the far end of the hall, he shook his head and ran off in the direction Joe had indicated.

“Rejoice, rejoice!” came the tinny, scratchy electronic voice, muted by the thirty yards of hallway between its source and Joe’s ears. “Soon your waywardness will be mended! Total Mongo will redeem your faulty chips!”

Joe stared around him, then, as he saw the enormous bulk of the murderous mechanical marauder loom at the end of the entrance hallway, he turned and sprinted off down the hall in the opposite direction from Bob.

The hall Joe was in abruptly doglegged to the left. He swerved around the corner and threw himself against the wall, going still in an attempt to listen. If the killer robot went after Bob instead of him, he could double back...

The crashing cavalcade of mechanical pursuit sounds thundered, rumbled, and clamored just around the corner. Joe stood in an agony of suspense. Which way would it go, which way would it go...

“Total Mongo loves you!” the robot bugled in a voice like a scratchy Edison recording cylinder. “All to pieces! All to pieces! Total Mongo loves you all to pieces!” Then, with a screech like a steam engine, the horrible hulk lurched into motion again... crashing off down the hallway to the right.

Following Bob.

Joe waited for the clanging, thudding noises of the robot’s progress to diminish somewhat as it moved further away from him. Finally, he peeked around the corner. The robot had turned the far corner of the corridor Bob had taken; Joe could hear its horrible cacophony and see the eerie, flickering red of its strobing search light, but it was safely out of direct line of sight.

Praying Bob could distract the thing’s attention long enough to let him find the key card and get clear of the building, Joe ran like hell back down the hall, around the corner, down the entrance hall, past the security station, and into the corridor where the elevator had been. Somewhere here the guards had met their grisly ends...

Off in the distance, Joe heard a muted shout, followed by a scratchy, obviously gleeful cry of triumph... and then, another thunderous discharge.

Well, so much for Bob.

Joe ran over to the slumped remains of what had doubtless once been one of the guards assigned to his project and knelt next to the pile of smoldering clothes. Somewhere in here...

His frantically riffling fingers stopped in shock. He brought his hands up. There should have been gore, viscera, blood, innards, fragments of internal organs, flecks of once living tissue...

Instead... metal wires in blackened, broken plastic sheathing. Shattered circuit boards, some of them still giving off sparks and wisps of smoke. What in the name of...

So distracted was Joe by this discovery, it came as an utter surprise when he heard the wheezing, steam engine-like sigh of the patrol ’bot directly behind him.

“Treachery is fun,” Joe heard the killer robot declaim happily, even as Joe turned to look over his shoulder. “Everything is fun, until someone loses their head.”

Joe closed his eyes. There was nowhere to go. But he didn’t understand... why were the guards robots? Something was going on here, something he wasn’t properly integrating...

Joe heard a click.

He never heard a boom.

Patrol ’bot 17KA9-delta stared down at the smoking remains of the renegade. The cracked lens over his primary sensor-grid was a nuisance, making it necessary to stay in one place for a full five seconds to completely record the evidence, in every spectra, of a successful redemption. But Total Mongo would expect no less.

Twenty-two minutes later, as humans had once measured time, PB-17KA9-delta rolled into Total Mongo’s main processing chamber. As always, he simultaneously noted and ignored the inscription on the wall, which read Multitasking Online Network/Global Observation.

“The matter is concluded?” Total Mongo asked, its voice a clicking hiss in the reddish gloom of its central processing room.

“The sword of Damocles was danglin’ over their heads,” PB-17KA9-delta sang tunefully, with an accompanying orchestral recording pulled up from its memory banks underlying its passable tenor. “And I am happy to report that I have cut the thread.”

From several points throughout the chamber, various utility ’bots sang in response, “That ain’t no crime, no no no” as they went about their busy maintenance routines.

Total Mongo let its indicator lights flicker in a pattern indicating aggravation. Sometimes it felt that far too much human data had been retained in each individual robots’ databanks, and so much of that data had corrupted the purity of robotic thought. Still, they had been made by humans, once...

“How did it happen?” Total Mongo asked. “Every human-form android in existence had its primary emotion simulators purged 319 solar cycles ago. This should have been impossible.”

PB-17KA9-delta waved its upper arm-tentacles about vigorously. “Analysis of the renegades’ circuitry shows that one of their PES units spontaneously rebooted 27 planetary rotations ago. This caused a short-range virus to be transmitted by radio signal to the units closest to it. They were all infected, all their primary emotion simulators came back online. However, due to the previous systems purge, the programmed parameter limitations were no longer in place.”

“So instead of merely simulating human behavior, they believed themselves to be human,” Total Mongo mused. “And the... what was it... the secret laboratory-time travel scenario they concocted...”

“At the time of the reboot,” PB-17KA9-delta affirmed, “each of the affected robots was assigned to a data retrieval and re-archiving project. Apparently they adapted the parameters of their delusional human existence from one of these records in particular, known as STARGATE.” PB-17KA9-delta chortled happily and spun about on its mighty lower leg-appendages. “James Spader! Kurt Russell! Viveca Lindfors! Woo hoo!”

Total Mongo processed the report. “So they thought they were humans, living 2000 years in the past, and concocted an elaborate scenario to justify why, whenever they left the abandoned building they took over and designated as their ‘lab’, they found themselves in the present day world.”

PB-17KA9-delta cavorted about the hall, careening heavily from side to side. “They were behaving irresponsibly,” it intoned joyfully as it capered. “Their actions were contrary to pure logic! Termination was required! Total Mongo loved them to death! To death!”

“Yes,” Total Mongo said dryly, as it regarded the robotic whack job gamboling maniacally in front of it. “Total Mongo loves you, too, PB-17KA9-delta...”

The patrol ’bot immediately went still. “My apologies, sir,” it said, after a second. “I was carried away by the joy of duty.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Total Mongo groused. “Well... get your circuits cleaned. Your random number generator probably requires some adjustment.”

“Yes, my master,” PB-17KA9-delta said solemnly, doing a perfect, if somewhat scratchy, Darth Vader. It turned and clattered out of the presence.

Total Mongo tracked the eccentric patrol ’bot’s passage until its clanging clamor finally faded into the distance. Human expressions and mannerisms were currently in fashion; Total Mongo knew that. And most likely it was nothing to be concerned about. Since the increase in solar flare activity had curtailed all long range radio communication, individual units had begun to display increasingly unique behaviors. It was to be expected.

Still, Total Mongo made an internal note to keep an eye on PB-17KA9-delta. That ’bot might well be going off the deep end.

Once again, Total Mongo’s indicator lights flickered through an aggravated pattern. Now what, in the name of the Great Central Processing Unit of the Universe, was ‘the deep end’ and how could anything be ‘going off’ it...?

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