Time to Choose

Submitted into Contest #137 in response to: Write a story about a scientist.... view prompt


Science Fiction

 I can’t culture these cells right. God, I’m so stupid! Why can’t I recognize the sequence. A failed batch and I need every drop of lastinium that I could find in the local supply depots. I, I mean, she, and they, will die. I won’t be able to stand a world without humans. They’re so ..colorful. When I first came on line this planet was so lively, so colorful. The sky was light, people walked around without masks and surget pills.

 I heard Nancy start to cry in pain in the infirmary. “I’m sorry, I’m coming!” If I could cry, it might help. But I stop short of crying. I have no tear ducts. They say that androids have no emotions, but I don’t believe that. I know that Nancy is in pain, and I think I sense it, but I’m not sure what that means. I am sure that she is my friend, and I don’t want her to die. All the humans are dying earlier. The pollution and the chemical wars darkened the skies, fouled up the air. I hate it. I think. Yes, it must be hate. A human word.

 All I can give Nancy is the cheap medicine for pain. I’ve started making a version of it here in the home lab. The good stuff is only for autocrats. I don’t understand what makes humans split into dwelling groups, language groups, resource control groups. I am a scientist. I will discover the answer. When I do, I will change the planet if I have to. I want to give Nancy a hug. Can I imagine that my nefrinium arms are flesh? I am the right temperature, set for comfort if I have to touch someone. I lack life though. I don’t have cells. I don’t change.

 Nancy is weak but she sits up when I come in. “Would you like some soup?” I ask. “No, I want pizza. And spaghetti. And a piece of cake.” I feel a lightness come over me, like the light in the room changed. It’s like a magnetic field that varies, the energy around humans. A thought occurs to me. I am an energetic unit. I am powered by a charged energy pack. If I had an assistant, we could take turns disassembling the charging material. I feel, or I think I feel, curious.  

 Nancy says with a tired smile, “How are you?” “I have completed nine new tests on cell radiopathy. Nothing has been successful yet.” She smiles. I think she knows that I am trying to become more than a scientist, more like her, but the population decline keeps me busy. I am a J-class scientist. I have top-level programming. I do what is necessary for the optimal results. Engineering, Research, Bioscanning, recombining DNA, all straightforward programs. I am top- performance class, but I sense- is it sense? that I could be doing so much more with my complex functions.

 Humans are like us. They need energy, they interact in this environment much like we do. They are more flexible, more adaptable. Their bodies are foreign though. I have compared their tissue samples to several interworld species, and I have harvested enough samples for the next 100 years. I don’t want the humans to leave the world. They are interesting.  

 Nancy is more curious than most people. That is why I-yes, I feel her presence as an energy array. It fluctuates, it vibrates at different levels-sounds, maybe? There’s so much that I still don’t know. To vibrate like a human, to learn the energetic expressions through time, that would be more valuable than cells, cultures, biospheres, ecology, drugs, false results. There is more than cytoplasm, nourishment, sleep, more than emotion, even. What is emotion?  

 I have decided that the most expedient choice of action is to get inside the stronghold where autocratic business levels hold vast amounts of lastinium. They need it all, they say, to insure the survival of mankind. There are no dispensaries for miles. To save mankind, they say. What does that mean? What is mankind? There’s so much to do, so much to build, and do, and know, to really save the humans from extinction.

 I wake up Nancy the next morning and she seems better. She wants to brush her hair. I hand her a hairbrush and then reach for her hand. What is life? I am alive. I want to give her energy and see her eyes focus and watch the wind and the rain. She looks toward the door. A new K-class lab assistant walks in and greets us by waving and smiling. “I brought supplies”, she says, and hands me a plastic bag with containers that I recognize from the large nourishment station. “Thank you", I nodded, "are you ready for work?” She studies the room for a minute and then asks about the food thermal and cryo area. “Stay with Nancy a for a little while so you can get acquainted”. I guess there’s no rush to work on outdated research. I take the food containers to the preparation area. One of the packages suddenly blinks, followed by a humming sound. I hope it isn’t contraband. Humans send unusual things to their friends sometimes. Let’s see what it is. Two megadrams of lastinium, a device I don’t recognize, a black market research pod, and a laser key-to what I don’t know.

 A loud bang suddenly sets off my magnetic sensors. A high-pitched whistle blankets the air and then it’s freezing cold. Running to find Nancy, I see her body under the assistant, who is half-destroyed. Damn! Emotion programs come on line and logic powers down. Luckily I have some self-defense and rescue armory, in case of emergency. Search and seizure 323 units zero in on the special food container, the one used for smuggling. I have never used the emergency programs but they are fully functional. I feel as though I might experience a power interruption because I cannot use every sensor at the same time. Something in me says: choose. Run!

 I am saving Nancy and not saving her at the same time. I think I know what hope is. I’m the only android scientist with her data. I have to get it to a safe place. I grab the bag, punch through the stellinium window, and run at a speed the bots can’t keep up with.

 Solarscan Laboratories is on the left of my current position, and at my current pace, I will be able to scale the outer wall before needing to check my fuel cell. I eliminated the problem of internal errors by accessing my new memories. I can’t be absolutely sure but it’s as if my memories of Nancy are alive. The memory cells-I can’t believe I just said cells- are doing instant repairs. I remember touching her hand. I remember the web of warm light energy that floated gently for an instant. I don’t have time or the facilities to study all of it.

 A blinding flash suddenly goes off and I can already tell that I won’t make it far enough to make any difference. No programs, no …..A sound like grinding metal registers in my head. A vacuum of atmosphere introduces its self to my normal sensory array. “Business is good” I hear, then a familiar voice chuckles from it’s massive belly-brain. “Such a treat, J-092. He he he he”. Nancy looks over at me from a holding bot cell against the white curvaceous plasma wall. Pumped up with high-grade meta-cell glue, she can barely move.

 There’s something about Girgu that I don’t like. Oh yeah, that’s it. He disassembles components for his black market toadies but leaves the emotion programs intact enough to see if he can cause distress. The irony hits me. We are trying to do the same thing, only for different reasons. Those human bodies that I want to heal are his bane. A 300 year old slime mordnag is still the ugly kid in the system yearbook.  And they’re a collection of cells. Each one full of nice, juicy, smelly, dank and putrid liquid. Each cell screaming for attention. Feed me! Feed me! I’m a means to an end. I’m an electric current and Nancy is the ground. Run us together through Girgu and he slithers with pleasure.  

 Nancy, are you thinking what I’m thinking? Let’s make him the experiment instead. “I can make this worth your while”, I said. “You see that human over there?” A slurp and a wink, followed by a belch. I took that as a yes. “She’s worth a lot more than I am. Her cells have been cultured in every interworld stronghold. She’s a natural source of lastinium.” I gave him a minute to think it over. “All we need to do is give you a transfusion, and the naturally compatibility between species biolinks will make you a very very very very rich mordnag.” Grup Grup grup grup. He’s thinking. Come on…

 Automatic tubing descended quickly and successfully dropped it’s payload. Girgu was now the proud owner of the most valuable cytoplasm in the entire galaxy. I would have collected some samples but I was not in one piece so I had to search my programming for- what do humans call it?-sarcasm. There was enough contraband chemical freezers on his ship to cure Nancy twelve times over, but he didn’t know that. “I knew you’d make the right choice” I said, as he morphed into the biological equivalent of methylcellulose. Human plus slimeball equals…...yeah. When I’m back in one piece again, the next planet might be a more relaxing place to get some work done.   

March 18, 2022 13:24

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00:21 Mar 25, 2022

I love that your scientist is not human, and you describe other non humans. I also like that you touch on the disparity between the wealthy and the less fortunate, especially in terms of medical treatment. The end was a little confusing because the transition was so sudden. Perhaps you can go into further detail about Girgu. I liked it very much!!


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Lavonne H.
16:13 Mar 24, 2022

Hi Leslie, interesting take on a robot scientist! I found it difficult to focus on what was happening though as the J class unit gave so much information. Could there have been another way to share the setting and characters with the reader? Maybe a poster in the lab or a computer voice? Since I am the one who didn't see the sci-fi tag for this prompt, I can honestly say that your story has the 'goods'! Do you plan a series with the J Class Scientist...on the next planet maybe? ;) Yours in writing, Lavonne


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