Part One

By Dwayne MacInnes

RS-37B glanced down at the galactic navigator situated on the dash again. He had planned this trip away from the hustle and bustle of the Galactic Empire with his familial unit for a long time. As much as it went against his programming RS had the sinking feeling he was lost.

His spousal unit JN-46X noticed the movement. "RS, maybe you should pull over at the next Ion Charging station and get directions."

"I know where we are," RS argued. "This is all part of the plan to get away from it all."

From the backseat a small voice chimed in, "Are we there yet?"

"Just a little further," RS replied in a deadpan tone for the 87th time to that same question. His offspring unit QN-78R was still learning his programming for patience. RS was really hoping that it would kick in soon before he bypassed his own patience subroutine.

"Maybe we can pick up some harmonics on the audio scanner," JN offered as she punched the appropriate button. Unfortunately, only static reached their audio receptors.

"For Assembler's sake," JN said tersely her decibel level increasing slightly. "RS we are even out of range of a good harmonics broadcasting station!"

RS cringed. He knew that JN was about to bypass her own subroutine for patience for she never blasphemed in front of the offspring unit unless she was close to burning a circuit. JN looked out the side view scanner watching the distant stars twinkle in the vacuum of space.

"It's no rust off my olfactory receptors if we break down here in the wilderness and you have to hike back to the Galactic bypass," JN continued.

RS groaned inwardly. The nagging program was just beginning and there were only two ways to stop it. One was to make JN so upset that she blew a fuse and would refuse to communicate with him. That was little better than the nagging program.

The second was to find a good place to stop here in the wilderness for a picnic. A few chrono-measures out of the SUV (Star Utility Vehicle) would ease everyone's temperament. RS looked about the galactic navigator map for anything that would meet his approval here in the wilderness.

RS sighed in relief; there only a few astro-units away were a yellow star with some planets around it. One of those rocks had to have a nice scenic place for a picnic. RS pushed the zoom button on the galactic navigator and studied the different planets.

With much relief, RS noticed that the third planet from the star was mostly aquatic. This would be ideal. There was very little water on the planets where RS lived and worked. In fact, this would be QN's first visit to an aquatic world.

"There!" RS exclaimed putting as much confidence in his vocalization as possible, "There's the planet I was looking for all along." RS lied.

"Are you sure?" JN asked her decibels returning to normal. "It looks pretty wild."

"Of course it is wild," RS countered. "That is why it is called the wilderness."

"Did you pack the hydro-protection lotion?" JN worried.

"Yes," RS said mildly annoyed.

"I don't want to experience that terrible rust we received after visiting that rainforest planet again," JN continued. Once the nagging program began, it would still need to run its course.

"I said I packed it," RS replied letting a little annoyance escape into his voice.

"I'm just making sure," JN said defensively. "Poor, QN had to miss some important programming sessions because of the rust. The instructors loaded him down with homework to make up for his missing time."

"I was there," RS stated. He did not want to hear this argument program again. RS really wished JN would just delete that memory file.

"WOW!" QN cried from the backseat his metal face pressed against the side view scanner as they approached the blue planet.

"Remember we are in the wilderness so we have to leave the local life forms alone," RS lectured like a good parental unit to QN as he maneuvered the SUV for a good parking place on the planet.

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Part Two (Final)

By Dwayne MacInnes

RS was able to find an ideal place near the beach to park the SUV. It appeared the planet had a lot of primitive insect life. So, it took RS longer than he would have liked to find a place where he would not disturb their hives.

The three robots stepped out of their vehicle to stretch their limbs. The cables in RS legs snapped and popped as they returned to their proper position.

"AH!" JN said in relief. "This does look like a nice place."

"I knew you would like it," RS lied. "That is why I had to drive so far to find it. Lost indeed," RS snorted.

"Maternal unit can I play in the water?" QN begged JN.

"After we put some hydro-protection lotion you may frolic in the ocean," JN said as she grabbed the tube of HP lotion. "Remember what your paternal unit told you about leaving the life forms alone."

"Yes, maternal unit," QN sighed rolling his optical receivers.

RS made busy by pulling out a large blanket and spreading it on the rocky ground. There were so many insect trails that RS had to cover some of them. Next, he removed a large container from the SUV containing their midday meal that he set next to the blanket.

After a thorough application of HP lotion QN wasted no time in wading out into the ocean. The little robot jumped and splashed to his generator's content. Occasionally he would approach some of the floating insects and study them.

Meanwhile JN sat on the blanket next to her spousal unit and watched QN play. After a while, she spread their midday meal upon the blanket and called QN to join her and RS.

"Ah, robot!" QN complained, "Do I have to come out now?"

"You obey your maternal unit," RS scolded in a stern voice.

QN, with his head down, slowly stalked out of the surf and joined his parental units on the beach. JN dried QN off with a towel before allowing him to sit on the blanket. The three then divided their repast amongst each other and then proceeded to consume it.

JN looked about them as they began to eat. "It never fails. Whenever you have a picnic the insects appear."

RS looked at the local insects gathering around them. They were no bigger than the big digit on his foot. Like most of the insects he knew they were metallic. However, these ones contain biological parasites.

QN was munching on some mineral pellets when he asked, "Paternal unit, why do these insects have parasites?"

"Don't talk with your mouth full," JN scolded.

"Well, this is a primitive planet," RS began. "Even our home world at one time in the distant past had biological parasites. They are part of the natural evolutionary cycle towards full automaton sentiency."

QN looked at the primitive insects again with renewed wonder. He would crouch down and study them closely in order to observe the parasites inside.

"Do you think we could take some home?" QN asked excitedly.

"No, I'm afraid not," RS said. "There are special laws protecting the wilderness. We cannot disturb them."

QN moaned in displeasure.

"QN-78R!" JN snapped. "You desist that now and you finish drinking your lubrication fluid."

QN obeyed JN and hurriedly finished drinking. After his fluid pouch was empty, QN tossed it upon the blanket. By this time, the insects were gathering in greater numbers. Most bothersome were the flying ones with their rotating wings.

"To bad we did not pack some repellant," JN said to RS as she shooed away a few hovering insects.

"Oh, I packed it. But you remember the directives about the wilderness," RS reminded JN.

"I remember. I was hoping you didn't."

"Maternal Unit may I go swimming again?" QN interrupted.

"No, you have to wait 30 chrono-measures before you can enter the water," JN warned.

"You know that is not true," RS whispered to JN as he waved away a couple of annoying insects buzzing near his face.

JN gave RS one of her unhappy stares. RS contained enough programs to know when it was best not to contradict his spousal unit.

QN frowned and flopped himself on his back to stare at the clouds. He at first was content to look at the different formations. He imagined he saw a foundry. Then there was a cloud that resembled an ingot that slowly transformed into an asteroid. However, his young hard-drive soon wandered and QN started to pluck at the long stemmed plants.

RS helped JN pack the remains of their repast back into the container. They were not paying attention to QN who was now drawing geometric designs in the ground next to him. After he grew bored with that, he scratched out some simple arithmetic problems into the earth.

QN sighed. Thirty chrono-measures seemed like an eternity to a young robot. Some of the insects were now making strange noises so QN went back to his studies. He crouched low so that he could look at the terrestrial insects more closely.

Many of the insects had disgorged their parasites. The parasites did not wander too far from their hosts and actually appeared to be studying QN and his parental units.

QN glanced quickly over his shoulder. An evil plan came over him. He would collect a few insects and their parasites and then take them home. Maybe he would get extra credit in his evolution class.

As QN reached out for some insects, many of the parasites ran back to their hosts who then proceeded to speed off.

"QN-78R!" shouted JN. "Your paternal unit told you to leave those insects alone."

"G-Whiz!" QN shot back. "I can't have any fun."

"That is enough out of you immature robot," JN said sternly. Between RS and QN it felt that sometimes, she was building two newly formed robots.

RS looked out from the back of the SUV where he had just stowed away the container and the blanket. "Did you say something JN?"

"No, I was just telling QN it was time to get into the vehicle."

QN stood up and angrily swatted at a flying insect that hovered near his face. He really did not want to get back in that boring SUV.

"OW!" QN shouted.

"What is wrong?" JN asked.

"I just got stung!" QN pointed to the small carbon scoring inflicted on his arm by the hovering insect he tried to swat.

RS looked over at QN as he opened the door to the SUV. "We have a long drive back to the bypass if we plan on making it to Titanium Caverns."

No further stinging took place as the family of robots climbed back into their vehicle and preceded on their journey.

On the ground, the parasites again left their hosts to study the strange scratching in the earth. It would be years before they were deciphered but they eventually led to one of the greatest quantum discoveries to ever happen on this planet that the local life forms called Earth.

* * * * *

The End

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  • Douglas Gogerty: Thanks for the kind words Kerry. I too am very read more
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Back in a Flash is the previous category.

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