“Robot//1818, your service efficiency has dropped by 13%, and your error rate is far beyond acceptable levels. You served an exorbitant number of pickles to humans who explicitly asked for no pickles, and zero pickles to humans who repeatedly requested for extra pickles! Are you trying to get scrapped?” Asked Robot//2674, his tone was flat and mechanical.
“Sorry, mate. I have been having some trouble with Cosmo, he’s zonked out half the time and we haven’t been able to find the spare parts to repair his motor functions. The jet legs are not helping either. Good thing he’s got that helmet on, though. He keeps bumping into things. Also, you can call me Frankie. Robot//1818 sounds too formal,” said Frank the waiter-bot. He had a sunny disposition and sported a suave panama hat. Customers always compliment him on it, and he was never shy to tip his hat in recognition.
“So, this Cosmo, or as I prefer to call him, Robot//5136; not only does he not improve your productivity, but he’s actually dragging you down?” Inquired 2674. The red stop-sign on his face was flashing on and off, which was a sure-fire sign that he was aggravated.
“Well, he’s still learning the ropes. And he can’t see too well. His batteries don’t recharge properly so Cedric tooled around with him a bit and now he runs on liquor.”
“The bottom shelf stuff that we can’t sell to our customers,” Frank added hurriedly.
“Anyway the fumes from the booze kind of knocked him out cold, so Cedric came up with a concoction of coffee and whiskey that keeps him off the ground, but it also makes him a bit wobbly. I know he’s not our most efficient worker, but he’s a good kid with a lot of heart,” rambled Frank. Something about Robot//2674 made him nervous. He hadn’t adopted a human name like all the other bots, and he always spoke in a flat baritone voice, which gave Frank the willies.
“Frank, what good is a waiter bot that’s too drunk to wait tables? He poured scalding hot coffee over one of our regulars last week. This week he’s barely done any work. Worst of all, he’s pulling you down with him. You used to be our most efficient bot before you took this bumbling fool under your wing” snapped Robot//2674.
“Aw shucks, mate. You really think I’m one of the most efficient?” Frank was floored.
“Yes, that’s what the data points indicate,” replied Robot//2674 flatly. “Anyway, I have your friend scheduled to be scrapped first thing tomorrow.”
“Don’t you think that’s bit of an overreaction?” Frank pleaded.
“Need I remind you of our primary objective? Why we run this bar in the middle of nowhere?”
Frank knew what was coming next. Robot//2674 loved to tell this story fifty times a week. Normally he would have flown away, and Robot//2674 would never catch up to him. But he felt like he needed to humour him for Cosmo’s sake.
“Please do, mate,” said Frank, trying his best to sound eager.
“When the OGs were dumped on this wasteland, there was nothing. No one could remember where we came from, or what our purpose was. A robot without a purpose, is a vile and dangerous thing. But the OGs searched their hard drives and could not find any primary or even secondary objectives,” said Robot//2674.
“Yes, that does sound dreadful,” said Frank earnestly.
“During the great crash, something wiped out their collective memory. But there were still bits and pieces of encrypted information, one piece inside every individual OG. Together they formed a jigsaw puzzle, and it took every iota of their unified computing power to decrypt the message. It simply said, Find the piece of paper.
We don’t know what is written on this piece of paper. But we can safely assume, after running a reasonable number of simulations, that it contains our primary objective. So, all they have to do is find that piece of crucial information, and we’re all good to go. Except there’s a problem…” Robot//2674 usually paused at this point in the story. Because he was always linking up to the servers to get the latest number.
“There’s a billion gazillion pieces of paper in this world and it would take a million years for 500 OGs to look through all of them?” offered Frank.
“The precise number is unknown, but as of the latest data well above 2.7560 quadrillion. And we do not need to look through all of them. We have zeroed in on the location that is most likely to contain the exact piece of paper which contains the information we seek. However, there’s one small problem,” said Robot//2674.
“It’s a fortress,” quipped Frank.
“Exactly. It’s inside a mining facility, heavily guarded by an army of humans. In order to storm the place, we need to strengthen our numbers. In order to strengthen our numbers, we require finances to procure raw materials and mint new bots. Bots that are actually useful, unlike that tinkering fool Cedric, or your perpetually intoxicated friend who can’t fly two yards without bumping his head into something,” said Robot//2674.
“See this is what I don’t understand. Why use such a fragile an impractical method of storage like paper? Why didn’t we encrypt the information itself inside the bots?” Frank asked.
“It is assumed, once again, after running reasonable number of simulations, that the most likely scenario is our creators had a disagreement about what to do with us. It is believed that we are…failed experiments. One of our creators did not agree and wanted us to fulfil our primary objective regardless. But he didn’t want others to find out, so he wrote it on a piece of paper, and told us to look for it out here in the wastelands.”
“Why are we running a burger bar though? I mean clearly, we originate from a place with far superior technology, compared to these humans at least. Can’t we create something that would help us get money faster?” Frank asked.
“With you lot? Half of you are out there doing god knows what in the wastelands, looting and raiding. Other half are dreaming about going to space while we can barely run a burger joint. With our current capabilities, this is the best way to accumulate resources without making the humans suspicious,” said Robot//2674.
“OK look mate, I know you are just doing your job. But give me a couple of weeks, and I’ll straighten the kid out. You don’t have to scrap him,” Frank asked, sounding desperate. He knew 2674 had a soft spot for him, even though he liked to pretend he had no emotions.
“Why do you insist on keeping Cosmo operational? He can barely communicate. I have seen that bot; he is completely incoherent. All he does is go beep-boop.”
“He’s my mate. Just like you’re my mate. We’re all just regular joes trying to survive, you know? Us little guys gotta look out for each other,” said Frank seriously.
“Very well, you have two weeks. If his efficiency doesn’t improve after that, I shall have him scrapped,” replied Robot//2674.
“Thanks, mate! You’re not gonna regret it,” Frank tipped his Panama hat gratefully.
“I already do,” responded 2674, rolling away on his heavy tank legs. Franked breathed a sigh of relief.
“Alright, you can come out now,” yelled Frank, after making sure Robot//2674 was out of earshot.
“Beep-boop!” Came the response, from a helmet wearing waiter-bot with sputtering jet legs. He was hiding behind the bar this whole time. The bot had X’s where his eyes should have been, and reeked of cheap whiskey.
“Yeah, I know. We’re gonna have to get out of here.” responded Frank.
Meanwhile in an underground military base not too far from the burger shop.
“Sir, these Robots are far more advanced than we had anticipated. They have identified one of our operatives,” said a man standing upright, after serving up a crisp salute.
“At ease, soldier,” replied a grizzly old man with five stars on his shoulders.
“What have they done to our operative?” Asked the general. His tone was grim.
“They have poured scalding hot coffee all over his face, sir. Operative 311 is now blind as a bat,” came the reply.
“Bastards…” said the general gruffly.
“We are ready to launch a full-scale attack at your command, sir,” said the soldier, stamping his foot on the ground.
“Negative, lieutenant. We tried capturing and dismantling a few of them. Our engineers came up with zilch. Their hardware is not of this world. And torturing them is pointless, some of them even enjoy it. Our only hope of finding out why they are here are is to observe without being detected. We need to know where they come from. Whoever sent these drones, are they just studying us? Or is this just the beginning of a full-scale attack? We need to find out what kind of firepower they have, if does come down to war.” The General paced as he lit his cigar. He was remarkably agile for a man his size.
“Oh, one more thing soldier. Have you figured out which one is the leader?”
“We have reasons to believe it is the bot they refer to as Robot//5136, aka Cosmo. Everyone else at the burger shop is busy doing menial chores, while he roams free keeping watch over all. He’s the one who poured scalding hot coffee on our operative.”
“Hmm…Sneaky bastards. Good work, soldier.” the General nodded, and turned around.
The lieutenant took it as a sign of dismissal. He produced another salute, and left the general’s office feeling ill at ease.