MLM – Chapter 22

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The early ‘morning’ light shining on Lasko’s face woke him up. Wondering at the odd texture on his cheek, the man lifted his head up off the ground, with a chunk of caked metallic dirt falling from his face. He shivered, and wrapped the thin blanket tighter around him.
For a brief moment he wondered why he was sleeping outside, but then he quickly remembered. PiRA, he thought grimly, and stiffly sat up. Tired, he listened for any movement inside of the hut, but there were none.
After a few minutes of sitting on the ground blankly, once Lasko was more awake, he stood up, blanket still wrapped around him, and headed inside the hut.
The view that awaited him was pretty shocking. The array of parts that had been spread out over the floor in front of PiRA was now gone. The robot itself was seated on the ground, sitting upright, seemingly deactivated.
While the main frame of the robot had not changed, Lasko could easily tell the difference between the robot from the previous night and now. The robot’s torso had newly patched up panels covering what used to be open holes showing the robot’s inner guts. Here and there were some mismatched parts jutting out from PiRA’s body. They clearly were not meant to be used for a human sized automaton, but PiRA had managed to repurpose the components to fit its needs.
Still missing however, were legs. PiRA was without a way to move around, and for some reason, that made Lasko feel less unsettled. The robot had changed so quickly in one night, it was reassuring to know that there were things that the robot could not do, at least not without further assistance.
Lasko cleared his throat, wondering if the robot was really deactivated. To his surprise, the robot answered him, without opening any of her eyes.
“Yes, I am still awake. While you weren’t doing any work, I managed to make significant progress towards becoming a unit capable of full function.”
“Congratulations,” Lasko said drily, but PiRA continued to speak, completely ignoring him.
“I’ve managed to further optimize my energy usage, and I also restored functionality to many damaged systems and utilities. Obviously, I’m still lacking the capacity for movement, so that shall be your next task.”
That’s it. I’m sick of this. Lasko abruptly sat down, crossing his arms defiantly, trying to stare the robot down.
PiRA seemed to be taken aback, finally opening her eyes to blink at Lasko. “What is it?” it asked with a quizzical tone.
“You and me need to have a talk.” Lasko said, determinedly.
“About what?” PiRA asked, oblivious.
“About your attitude, and our relationship.”
“I don’t follow.”
Lasko took a breath. The last thing he wanted to do was deal with another crying fit. He steeled himself. “I’m sorry to be blunt, but let me be clear. I am not your servant!”
PiRA didn’t say a word, so Lasko continued on.
“I salvaged you honestly because I thought that I could sell you. Now it doesn’t look like I because to, because your energy requirements will just get larger and larger. We’re busy trying to survive out here in this dump all alone, and I can’t be spending valuable time just so you can fix yourself.”
He paused to catch his breath. There was no hint of PiRA crying, yet.
“If I’m going to keep on trying to fix and spend my valuable units to maintain you, I need to make sure that we have an understanding. I’m not your owner, and I can’t register you legally anymore because, frankly, the company that built you doesn’t exists anymore.”
“If you can be useful, then I have no problem with keeping you maintained. But ordering me around like I’m your slave, and making it impossible for me to sleep at night is not an effective partnership, ok?” Lasko finally stopped, breathing a little heavily. “A please and thank you would go a long way.”
PiRA didn’t say anything for a while, then finally the robot looked away. “So you’re blackmailing me, is that it?”
PiRA crossed the two skinny arms across its chest. “You’re forcing me to help you, using the threat of deactivation to get what you want. I see how it is. You are really something else. A barbarian. How do you sleep at night, treating a lady this way?”
Lasko almost had a heart attack. “I’m not forcing you to do anything!” he spluttered.
“But you’re using my weakness to manipulate me into doing what you want? If that’s not force, then what is?”
Lasko ran a hand over his head. He was starting to get a headache. “I can’t believe this,” he muttered to himself.
“Took the words right out of my mouth.”
ARRGH. Lasko wanted to tear the robot’s arm out of its sockets.
The robot looked back at him, debating. “Fine, I accept. Not that I have much choice. Even though you aren’t my owner, I at least have the capability of entering a business deal with you in order to remain functional. I just want you to know, that you’re not a gentleman at all.”
“Business deal?”
“That’s right. In return for supplying me with units and helping me maintain my existence, I’ll help you with whatever it is you need, within reason. There’s my verbal agreement, and a personal robotic assistant’s word is her bond. Are you satisfied?”
Lasko was not satisfied at all. Why did talking to a robot have to be so difficult?
“If you’re done blackmailing me, then please, if it pleaseth thou, find me some legs, so I can at least carry myself around this god forsaken place.”
“I’ll work on it,” Lasko said through gritted teeth. He wasn’t sure that he could take being in the same company with the robot anymore. Then an idea occurred to him.
“Actually. I was planning on making a trip further out, because I couldn’t find anything nearby. So I’ll be away from the hut for a couple days, or at least until I can find something that you can use to move around.”
PiRA blinked, acting surprised. “What a good idea. I allow you to go. Please hurry up. Thank you.”