Read part one of this story here
Raymond Flint – Aka Rational Ray – and his trusted robotic companion Spark are en route to New York’s Hall of Science in Queens, after a series of texts from Salma Rivera – Aka Reason Gal – had alerted our hero to the increasingly hostile protests going on outside the building. Although a number of prominent friends and colleagues from the world of science were attending a meeting inside, it was the safety of those on the outside that concerned him more.
Ray’s interest in Salma’s well-being had nothing at all to do with their past relationship. Well, that was the story he was sticking to anyway. He knew Salma could hold her own in any perilous situation – she was no damsel in distress, in need of rescue. Hell, on one occasion she’d taken down some crazed Klan member carrying a pickax handle, just before said handle made contact with Ray’s skull. It had been the start of a beautiful romance. Or maybe it was just lust at first sight. Whatever it had been, it had taken Ray quite some getting over when she had moved on. Salma was quite a gal, with smarts more than a match for his own and a gym and dojo-honed physique. Man, what a mind that woman possessed, he thought. And that body…
Ray’s reverie was rudely interrupted by Spark. ‘Stay focused, we’re almost there, dickbrain.’
Spark had an uncanny way of knowing what Ray was thinking – or so it seemed. But he was right, this was no time for lusty meanderings down memory lane. They were close to the Hall of Science and needed to find somewhere safe to park, well away from the protest.
‘Dickbrain Spark! Really? I think your new natural language upgrade may need a few tweaks.’
Spark just smirked. ‘Yeah well start thinking with the organ between your ears then amigo. We got work to do.’
Finding a suitable spot not far from Corona Park, Ray engaged the Tesla‘s alarm and cloaking systems and they set off at a fast pace, hoping things had not reached full-blown riot stage.
Cutting through the Park, which still looked busy for the time of year, they could already hear distant shouting, and noticed a few placard-holding stragglers from the protest, lining up at a hot-dog stand. Ray hoped they could reach Salma without triggering a recreation of the last reel of Enter the Dragon.
A change of wind direction brought the unmistakable odour of animals, reminding Ray of his many trips to the Queens Zoo as a kid. But soon the noise of the protest put paid to any further childhood recollections. Out close to the front of the building’s entrance, he could just make out Salma and her Reason Crew. They were holding their own against the angry mob and judging by a number of protesters laying on the ground, clutching their groins, the gals had not been taking any shit.
Ray knew only only too well it took just one hothead to pull a gun and the demo could turn into a wild west shoot-out. The Police, thin on the ground as usual where these protests were concerned, looked as uneasy as Ray felt. Would they even step in with so few officers on hand, he wondered? He wasn’t planning to find out.
Ray texted Salma – Plan 9 🙂 It was their code for when things had turned to shit and it was time to organise a swift exit.
‘Way too many lunkheads to deal with,’ said Spark. ‘Gotta be over three hundred of ’em, and even I can’t zap that many on one charge.’
Ray knew Spark would happily wade into the throng and risk his neck if it meant Salma and her crew could make their getaway. Sometimes it almost seemed he wasn’t the only one who had a soft spot for her.
‘Plan 9,’ said Ray, with a slap of the mechanoid’s back, and as Spark headed off behind the crowd, Ray began to thread his way through the margins, keeping his hood down and hoping the shades would buy him some time.
‘Attention! Attention! Dumbasses! Haters! Science-negaters! Assembled halfwits! Get ready to have your asses kicked, you brain-dead mofos.’
Spark’s built in PA system certainly got the crowd’s attention, and when he dropped the first few demonstrators foolish enough to swing at him, the crowd began to surge away from the building and Salma’s group.
‘Brawl mode engaged,’ said Spark with a grin. ‘Get ready ready to rumble!’ He dropped into the classic Bruce Lee pose, then beckoned the furious hordes on with that same iconic wave of the fingers. Looking back on the scene, Ray couldn’t help but smile at his antics.
Ray had made a few minor modifications to Spark’s core programming, enabling him to creatively reinterpret Asimov’s laws of robotics, the principles that every mechanoid was compelled to obey. It meant he could actively defend any humans in peril, although only using minimal, non-lethal force. It was an illegal hack, but then they lived in dangerous times. Spark’s – also illegal – body tazer effect was put to good use, along with some defensive moves from the world’s of MMA and Krav Maga.
Somehow Ray made it to Salma without being spotted. She put her hands on her hips on seeing him saunter up.
‘Hey Salma, que pasa?’ He said, grinning.
‘What took you so long?’ she said, one eyebrow arched in that playful way he always found so cute.
‘Sorry’, said Ray, ‘we had to stop for ice creams, and then Spark wanted to see the elephants.’
Salma punched him in the chest.
‘Oww!’ Ray exclaimed, ‘You hit hard, for a girl..’
Before the inevitable follow up punch, a ripple of cries and gasps passed through the Reason Crew‘s dozen or so members.
‘Holy shit!’ Said a very tall African-American Crew member, imposing in combat trousers, leather jacket and a Big Bang Theory T-shirt. ‘It’s finally happened. They’re impeaching Trump! Look!’ She held up her small tablet to the group.
Ray stared at his own cell-screen in disbelief. After all the rumours, it hardly seemed real. They’d finally nailed the bastard!
The Reason Crew were all high-fiving, but among the demonstrators, the news hadn’t gone down quite as well.
A rock whistled passed Ray’s head, missing by inches.
Oh terrific, he thought, turning towards the source of the missile. That’s just what we needed.
A contingent of the deeply weird cult Brethren of the Flat Earth had showed up, along with some local neo-Nazi skinheads. It seemed word of the demo was attracting all the city’s finest, looking for a chance to attack what they hated or didn’t understand. And it was a long list. There’s nothing like a good scapegoat to blame when your world is looking a bit scary and uncertain, thought Ray. And these days it was the world of secular science in the cross-hairs.
On the sidelines, the Police were doing what they could to maintain order, while ‘Waiting for backup.’ Which wasn’t all that much as far as Ray could see.
‘We need to go, now!’ urged Ray, and he could see even the feisty Salma knew they were hopelessly outnumbered.
‘Agreed!’ said Salma, ‘but how to make a clean exit?’
Looking around there seemed to be thugs and bozos closing in on all sides.
Down to twenty percent power, amigo, messaged Spark. Taking some damage here too. One arm’s a bit fucked. Suggestions?
Hold tight, messaged Ray. On our way.
Ray, Salma and the Crew fought their way down towards Spark. Fortunately a brawl had broken out between a group of Scientologists and some young-Earth Creationists, giving Ray and the gang a chance to reach Spark. His left arm looked badly busted up and he was covered in dents.
‘Hey big guy, how you doing?’
‘Oh not so bad,’ said Spark, ‘Nothing that a week with a panel-beater wouldn’t fix. I see you brought some elephants with you.’
Ray looked at Spark with concern. ‘Shit, you’ve really taken a beating old friend, how many fingers am I holding up?’
‘Extra mustard on mine please,’ said Spark.
Ray turned to look at Salma. ‘We’re in trouble,’ he said, grim faced.
‘No shit Sherlock,’ she answered.
At that moment they became aware of a black helicopter, coming in low and heading for the park. It was the Security Squad – the elite paramilitary unit that President Trump had overseen – his ubiquitous logo was clearly visible. Another appeared and then the sirens of the armoured vehicles. It was gonna get messy real fast. When they made a move for the road, they found a cluster of skinheads and Klan members barring their way. And Ray figured they hadn’t come to visit the Zoo.
Ray and Salma exchanged a look. She signaled to the crew, and as one they tore into the waiting mob, in a flurry of flying feet and fists. ‘Wait for me,’ said Spark, limping slightly behind with his distinctive hydraulic hiss. But as he managed to catch up, he could only watch in horror as Salma was struck from behind by a huge thug with a baseball bat. She went down hard. Spark looked around frantically, but Ray was nowhere to be seen.
With his charge level down to five percent, Salma out for the count and the Reason Crew fighting for their lives, Spark experienced something few AI-based beings had even known. Despair.
Copyright J.Lennick 2016. All rights reserved.