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by Tony Teora
Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Description: How does government control society thousands of years in the future? Arturo's Wish is about a renegade group trying to gain their freedom. Try to figure out the ending if you can.
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, 2006 DDP
eBookwise Release Date: January 2006
12 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [46 KB]
Reading time: 25-35 min.
If there is a lower class, I am in it. If there is a criminal element, I am of it,
and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
--Eugene Victor Debs.
Inside a remote Vega sector space dock Captain Krutsky woefully examined an old M4 Builder planet robot. The gray bearded Doctor Dunker stood nearby checking off details on his DataChex.
"You're kidding me Dunker. We can't use this rusty bucket of bolts. Just look at this thing," said Captain Krutsky.
"He works a lot better than he looks," said the old man.
"He'd look better if we melted him down and sold him for scrap, probably worth more that way too."
"Captain sir," said Dunker, "we ain't gonna get more for the money--trust me. His name is Kleptor. He can do the job. He's even got a nice personality module."
The robot stood at crooked attention. One leg was welded at the kneecap, off by about fifteen degrees. An eye was missing. A large magnifying glass had been crudely welded over the retinal sensor of the other eye.
Captain Krutsky walked around the robot. This was the most important mission of Krutsky's life--and dangerous too. He couldn't let the old man talk him into this. Krutsky's hand brushed his high-voltage side-arm phasor. He could melt the robot's head. That would end the argument. He paused. The robot's eye sensor nervously twitched as it caught the movement.
"He's too old," said Krutsky, "and look at the model number."
"Hey, I'm old too, and I'm useful, right?"
The captain raised an eyebrow. His gaze passed from the gray haired broken down doctor of biogenetics to the Kleptor's welded magnifying glass. He inspected the robot's good eye.
"You know what his job is, right?" asked Krutsky.
"Yes sir, I do," said Dunker.
"And you don't think it's a problem--do you?" Krutsky pointed two fingers in front of Kleptor checking the single eye sensor with a handheld calibrator.
"No sir, I don't."
"Dr. Dunker, let's review this robot's job."
Krutsky lifted up Kleptor's broken arm and found its center control cable cut. Krutsky swung the arm round and round as if he was trying to start an old prop plane's engine.
"Well sir, I know on the surface it might not appear to be a good match."
The robot Kleptor turned his rusty head and spoke, "Captain Krutsky sir, may I please--"
"Shut up. I'm talkin', robot," interrupted Krutsky. "Please spell it out to me, Dr. Dunker. I asked you to find a robot to do what?"
"You asked for a driver."
"That's right. A healthy driver to fly the AeroStella." Krutsky swung the robot's arm again. "And where is he supposed to fly us?"
"To Omega Nine, sir."
"He can do the job sir."
"You know Dunker, on this mission we'll make more MilTar credits than anyone's ever made running cargo, unless of course..."
"Unless what sir?"
"Unless the rebels kill us first." Krutsky stared at the one magnified eye.
"Yes, I heard about them sir."
"Then you know we need a driver who can see, shoot and run three weapons systems, all at once."
"He'll be able to do that all the way to Omega Nine, no worries."
"Hmm ... what do you know about Omega Nine, Doctor?"
A twelve-year-old boy walked into the private hanger. He spoke right up: "It's two hundred and fifty-six light years away and it's the meanest, nastiest part of the Virzonian space sector."
Krutsky turned away from the robot and looked at the twelve-year old boy. Arturo ... he's the smartest of the whole damn bunch. If only he was older and had biochips implanted I could get rid of these idiots.
"Arturo is the only one with his head screwed on right." Krutsky twisted the robot's head into a straight position, trying to compensate for the one short leg. Its hinges squeaked. "Two hundred and fifty-six million light years away, and you find this bucket of rusting bolts to do the driving--one eye, one arm, and a leg welded stiff. This is what you give me? For the love of Arolivian altox juice. Why?"
Arturo stared at the spinning arm. "What's altox juice," he asked.
"Something you shouldn't drink," answered Krutsky. "So tell me why, Doc?"
"Okay. He don't look like much, but he's got all the new star charts along with the latest GalCenter ship positions. With that we can avoid any trouble."
"Yes, we'll be flying by wire. He's got the new MilTar ComTex processor inside that rusty can of a head so he won't need his eyes or arms. ComTex computer weapons control, sir."
"You gotta be kidding me," said Krutsky. "That's over a million MilTar credits. I only gave you a hundred thousand. How did he get all the extras?"
"I made a deal."
"What kinda deal?"
Dunker hesitated. "Ah ... I'll let Kleptor answer that one."
"I stole it," answered Kleptor.
"Stole what?" asked Krutsky.
"The ComTex controls and GalCenter positioning equipment, I put it in my head after my last job before I was sent away."
Captain Krutsky took off his hat and wiped his forehead. "This robot's a crook. Where did you get 'im, Dunker?"
"He was in prison," said Dunker.
Captain Krutsky and his crew shipped exotic goods. Being on the far side of the law meant taking a criminal was admissible, but RoboTek inmates had a treacherous reputation. "How do we know we can trust you?" demanded Krutsky.
"I did only what my owners asked," said Kleptor, trying to create an honest grin on his off-center mouth mechanism. "MilTar penitentiary records will show: I was incarcerated for trying to help out my owners in Planet Virzonis. All I was doing was supplying biochips for their people."
"Those folks are on hit list for MilTar."
"That's why I was in jail."
"I freed him sir, with the money you gave me," added Dunker.
"You mean you sprung him. You're proposing this crook as the AeroStella driver?"
Dunker eyed Krutsky with disdain. He clicked his DataChex, and a holographic document appeared between them. "I checked the MilTar RoboTek criminal record database myself. Seems like Kleptor had a bad biochip transplant--he likes to steal to help people. Not a major bug, but it was enough of a defect to get him to override his ethical programming module. That's good for us."
Krutsky considered this. Ethical chips prohibit a robot from following orders contrary to MilTar regulations. He'd planned to feed the robot false shipment data to fix that problem. Compromised ethical chips were better. Krutsky felt uneasy, but time was limited. They needed to get out within two days. The buyers didn't accept late shipments, in fact they'd warned Krutsky that they'd have his head on a platter for tardiness. Krutsky would've liked to do this job alone, keeping all the secrets to himself. But this shipment was different. To sneak this cargo through customs required a doctor of biogenetics. Only Dr. Dunker was crazy enough to take the job.
Krutsky looked at the robot. "Okay Kleptor, you're with us. But remember this, if you screw up any of the flying or weapons controls I'll turn you into the ship's garbage disposal faster than you can say 'yes sir'. Got it?"
"Yesss sirrrrrrrrr," said Kleptor dragging out the words and then adjusting his rusty head and clearing his voice circuits. "Sorry, yes sir."
Krutsky gave Kleptor a nasty look. "Good, now let's go. We've got a lot to do."