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Just a quick Science Fiction short story.  Let me know what you think...


“What is this, Sir?” asked Blake.

“Bluegrass,” replied Captain Jacobsen.




The answer was simple.  Almost binary.  Logical.  

Yet profoundly human.  As cryptic as 23.7% of the language.  

While Blake understood 97,834 words, could infer meanings of another 7,932 words and could recognize an additional 6,610 — he was still only in the 67th percentile of true English vocabulary, and the nuances of slang consistently eluded him.  All that was needed to prove this was the previous day’s discussion of sarcasm.  Blake still nursed what could only be described as electronic embarrassment at that abysmal conversation.




Blake turned his copper-coated head to the side at the Captain’s response to his earlier question.  In truth, this did nothing to assist his receptors.  He had seen animals do this when trying to understand something.  He had even seen some humans do this.

It simply looked like the right thing to do.

And Blake wanted very much to look like he was doing the right thing.



Bluegrass.

He could infer that it was music.  He wasn’t newly built, after all.  He was familiar with several types of music — especially from the origin of Earth’s later 20th century.  The strange vocal variations and relentless, pounding beats of AC/DC were particularly interesting.

The syncopations and strange rhythm seemed different than other music that had been played during the mission.  The singing of the artists varied.  Scratchy.  Peculiar undulations.  Whiny instruments that were stringed, yet not elegant like classical.  Rougher.  Older.  A strange plucking tinny sound that thudded in and out of the background.




“A genre of music, Cap—?”

“—Yes, Blake.  Just listen to it.”




He did.

Of course he did.

He would have done anything other than Captain Jacobsen’s orders.  

Never.

Oh YES he would.  Somewhere inside of him an inhibitor clicked and whirred.  Unfortunately, this attempt could not be classified as sarcasm.  His system only marked it as an untrue statement and shut it down.  Such an elusive concept, this sarcasm.




It appeared Captain Jacobsen did not want to converse.  Or at least answer questions.

That was fine.



Blake stopped.



The vocals blended strangely.  Pleasantly.  They overlapped.  Different tones, yet in tandem.  In harmony.  Instantly, that word registered as correct in his internal register.  Harmony.  Affirmative.  Learned.  97,835.  Blake’s head turned quickly left and returned to center with a small jip as it always did when new knowledge was calculated and confirmed.

Blake was the equivalent of proud.  His thin skeletal frame straightened a bit.  Copper head even nodded a bit as if to confirm the small sense of victory.




“Captain, would you prefer that I—“

“Blake, good God.  Shut up.  I just want to listen to this, alright?”

Frustration.  Even anger.  Impatience.  

Blake’s emotive receptors were not needed in this case.  It was very evident from the language used by the captain, the means by which he said it, the faint sound of accelerated breathing through the nose, and an ever so faint whiff of adrenaline.

The captain stood and walked away from his swiveling chair, allowing it to arc and careen back and forth.  Blake’s visual band — as some would call his thin LED “eye” — followed the motion of the abandoned seat.

He did not rise to follow the captain.  Captain wanted to be alone, apparently.

Well, apart from Blake anyway.  The Captain was technically already alone.




Blake’s deep database effortlessly accessed the facts to bring the forefront of his mechanical cortex for deductive reasoning.




Sixteen years Jacobsen and Blake had been on this spacecraft.  Sixteen years apart from his friends and family on Station 28.  To Blake, this was not a long time.  His internal processors were guaranteed for 85.6 decades.  However, his technical understanding of human lifespans knew this was equivalent to approximately 0.17777778 of his total number of years.

Long time.



The captain’s frustration, while disturbing to the normalcy that Blake was programmed for, was fully comprehendible.  

Blake rose and began attending the standard duties of the ship.  

The duties did not need to be accomplished.

The tanks were stirred, and did not need to be stirred a second time in only seven hours.

The coordinates were now triple checked.

The console did not need anti-static treatment.



Blake realized he was performing unnecessary duties.

In order to kill time?

Negative.

In order to bring a sense of routine, though a redundant one.

In order to look…like he was doing the right thing.  For him.  For the captain.

Maybe it would help normalize the human’s emotions.  Make things go back to normal.

Blake’s head snapped with another jip.

He had learned something new.




Blake stopped.  Again, galvanized pride somehow whirred inside his cylindrical torso.

The machine looked outside.

He remembered seeing ancient computers with screensavers showing  endless cascades of stars shooting past the monitor.  As if that is what it looked like during space travel.

Negative.

The ancient and possibly extinct bits of light simply retained their place in the deep void of space.  No closer.  No farther.

It appeared as though the ship was still, though the displays clearly read Mach 6.

Blake knew how long it would take to reach the Epsilon quadrant of the next settlement, but because he wanted to look right, he tapped the touchscreen with his rubberized index finger in order to pull the ETA.

29 months. 




A different sound echoed in the bridge.  The next song.




Female voices.  Cascading together in a haunting rise and fall of melodies and…

…plural of harmony…

Harmonies.

Head.  Jip.

This sound was new.  Empty.  Thin, yet pleasant.

Blake realized that the voices were unaccompanied by instruments.

It had a name.

This style of music.  However, Blake would be unable to discover it without the help of the onboard computer.

Or the Captain.

Blake almost uncontrollably began to call for the Captain, but was stopped by the small warning tone in the back of his RAM.  It would not be a good time for this question.

Blake simply listened.

The female voices were tonal, on key, perfectly blended.

Yet the emptiness made it sound…




…Blake had heard humans attempt to explain what they referred to as ghost stories.  Blake’s processors simply could not put the abstract nature of the information together.  What point did it serve to pretend that something existed that possessed no physical form or any scientific or mathematical proof of true reality?  A previous conversation with the captain regarding entertainment designed to instill fear whisked to his memory bank.

Why watch these filmed, fictional situations, Captain.  Why reinforce fear?

To be scared, Blake.  It’s kind of fun to be scared.

The unfortunate part about Blake’s level of comprehension is that “scared” made just about as much logical sense as “fun.”




Yet this empty sound of the ladies’ harmonies.

A mournful and lilting tune.

Atonal at times, then resolving and coming together in a fulfilling way.

A slight echo.

It made Blake anticipate something.

Something negative.

Something unpleasant.

Something that used a CAPS-LOCK nature to emphasize that something would soon…

…end.




Blake heard nothing, but his scent receptors picked up a strong sense of human adrenaline.




Which is why Blake did not react as quickly as he normally could when the steel rod slammed into the right side of his head.




Blake fell and several buzzers and tones erupted in his entire programming.

His copper head, now misshapen severely on the right side, scraped on the floor of the bridge and turned toward the source of the blow.

Perhaps a coupler broke free of its weld.

Perhaps a panel somehow catapulted from the instrument display and flew at him.

No.

Captain Jacobson stood with his legs apart, and his hands grasped a pry bar like a strange ancient weapon.  His face was distorted into an uncharacteristic grimace, and his hulking shoulders heaved up and down with an accomplished panting.




Blake’s head whipped left.  Jip.

What did he just learn?

Simple.  While androids are programmed to assist and obey their human assignments, people have no obligation to reciprocate.  There is no law built into their minds.  No inhibitors to stop them from acting irrationally.  Even violently.  They were…




…Blake’s RAM sketched and skipped.  Recalled a time over six years ago when the captain attempted to teach Blake a card game.




No, Blake.  You have to put a yellow card down.

I see, Captain.  Apologies.  I assumed I could play any colored card, as that card contains all the colors.

No, Blake.  That’s a “wild card.”  It’s black, see?  It has all these colors, because I can choose whatever color I want after I play this card.  I told you this, is something wrong with your retention manifold?

No, Captain.  I am in 100% working order as usual.

Then when I played the Wild card, I called ‘yellow,’ so you have to play a yellow card.

Why did you pick yellow, Captain?

Uh…well…because I have a lot of yellow cards, if you must know.  It will help me win.

It will help you play more yellow cards from your hand.

Yeah, Blake.  Exactly.

So you can get down to your ‘oh no’ card.

Uno card.  One card left.  Yeah.

A Wild Card is a very valuable card to have.

If you want to win, it is…




Jip.

Blake understood.  Humans were Wild Cards.  And if things were not going according to their plan, they may change it.  Whenever they wanted.  Even if it meant changing everything.   Even if it meant…

…destroying their only companion.




The song in the background gave a hint at uncertain foreshadowing which equated to an unpleasant feeling.

This new situation created something else.  Something terrible.  Something primal and unable to calculate or solve.  Something so visceral that it went beyond Blake’s ability to comprehend.

It was true fear.

To be scared, Blake.  It’s kind of fun to be scared.

Blake disagreed.  Though he did not truly understand “fun,” he knew this was not it.

Blake’s voice box wharbled out a barely recognizable sentence.

“Oh yes, Captain.  This is SO much fun.”

Jip.  He successfully executed sarcasm.

Then the captain brought the pry bar down upon his head one last time.
















 


Comments

12/01/2015 3:04am

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This is a nice short story, man! A story about something that I assume is a robot trying to fit in and understand human culture with the Captain. It was really well written and I liked how the flow of the story was delivered. It's good and I'd like to read more stories from you. Keep it up and have a good day!

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