MLM – Chapter 28

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He finished washing up, and returned to the hut, where Ford and PiRA were waiting. Something seemed different, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He took some time and looked around.
With PiRA and Ford both inside the hut, it was pretty cramped, but not excessively so. Lasko finally realized why.
PiRA had cleared up all of the clutter and nonfunctioning pile of parts that lay against the far wall. It looked as if she had either used them on herself, or thrown them away.
It was just then when Lasko understood that essentially he had just added two more members to their little group, without Sharp and Tunnel’s permission.
He hoped that they wouldn’t mind, but he couldn’t picture the stingy Sharp not having a problem. The boy seemed to have issues with trusting people. But it was just a robot and a dog? What was there to mistrust?
Oh well, I’ll think about it when they came.
Putting it out of his mind, Lasko set about creating a temporary bed for the dog to rest on, using the remains of his old sheet robe. When he finished, he struggled to lift the dog up off of the sled and on to the bed.
It was like lifting a sack of potatoes. A sack of potatoes that weighed at least as much as he did.
Almost dropping the dog on the ground, with great difficulty, Lasko finally managed to lower the dog onto the sheet. Wiping off his sweat, he set out some water for Ford to drink.
Earlier, the dog had eaten at least 4 food bars that Lasko had dropped for him, (prior to Lasko’s decision to take the dog). It had been starving, it probably wouldn’t be healthy to stuff it.
But despite the fact that Lasko had only been feeding Ford for a couple days, the dog already looked a lot better. Its body filled out a bit, the spine no longer jutted out severely, and its small bald patches were exhibiting some fuzz. Ford was also being more active, even attempting to move himself as Lasko dragged him off of the sled.
He looked at PiRA. “Ok. So what do we need to start fixing this dog?”
PiRA pouted a little bit. “Why do I feel like you care about this dog more than you care about me?”
UGH. Another guilt trip? Great. Why did he feel so guilty? It was just a robot.
“It’s because he’s hurt. Anyone with a heart would do the same.”
“What are you insinuating?” PiRA said angrily. “Are you saying that I DON’T have a heart? Because I’m a robot?” PiRA began to start making sniffling noises again. “Why do you always have to hurt me? You threaten me, you insult me. Even after I saved your life, all I get is pain.”
Lasko bit his lip. Why was this robot so sensitive?
He couldn’t help but feel guilty, he had been treating it like a machine. He had thought that it would be fine, but wasn’t that exactly why PiRA was having all these… ’emotional’ issues?
“I’m sorry, PiRA. Don’t cry. Tell you what, from now on, I’ll make sure to treat you with the respect I’d give any living being.”
PiRA continued to cry, sobbing into its robotic hands. The new third arm also extended, joining the other hands in covering the robot’s face.
Lasko felt a bit helpless. “What can I do to make things right?”
“Do…*sob… do you… have more units?”
“Units? Yeah sure.” Lasko immediately turned over his regulator. Another huge chunk of units came out, even larger than his previous harvest. He hadn’t touched it for two days after all…
PiRA’s third arm promptly reached out and snatched the units from him.
“I’ll take that. Consider it payment for my services,” said PiRA briskly.
Lasko stared at the robot in shock. All traces of sadness had completely disappeared from the female voice. Stretching its arms into the air, PiRA then moved out the hut’s door, whistling cheerfully.
“I’m off to get more materials. For the procedure.”
Lasko watched it go, stunned. Had it been only pretending to be sad? Did Lasko just get played? He didn’t know what to believe.
After thinking about it for a while, finally he gave up. He couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Either it was faking or it wasn’t. The only thing he could do, Lasko decided, was to simply follow through on the promise he made.
Just treat…’her’… as a real woman. A woman that is demanding, emasculating, mean-spirited, arrogant, and sensitive. Then hopefully I’ll be able to avoid all these… episodes.
Lasko looked at the dog, who put its head on the ground and closed its eyes.
Should I follow her? I don’t have anything better to do.
He shrugged and followed PiRA outside. PiRA was moving quickly, Lasko had to jog a little to catch up. …She was headed towards a nearby area that had been in the drop zone. There the freshly dropped scrap littered the pathways between hills.
It was easy to tell the difference between the freshly fallen scrap and the previous junk. The newly dropped stuff was newer and looked more modern. There were also many more machines that were relatively complete, not just pieces or loose parts. Lasko started to get excited. It was a treasure trove of loot! No doubt there was some useful stuff in the mix.
When they arrived PiRA immediately began tearing into the parts, cutting open their external housings, and then gutting them, pulling out their insides and then placing them into a pile. She then threw the resulting scrap into another pile before continuing on to another piece of machinery.
She turned her head and looked at Lasko without stopping her work.
“If you just going to stand there, you might as well start bringing stuff over here. Make yourself useful.”
Lasko complied with her request. It wasn’t like he knew what he was doing out here. PiRA seemed to at least have a game plan, so following her lead was probably the best option.
He began dragging various promising pieces towards PiRA, who was opening them up at a very quick pace. Once they amassed a sizeable pile of mechanical guts, PiRA began sorting through them, inspecting them closely, plucking various components out, and cutting and grinding others with her arms.
“Keep bringing more parts,” she instructed Lasko.
Doing as he was told, the man kept accumulating scrap in a pile nearby to PiRA, while she continued scavenging through the smaller pile of valuable components. As he worked, Lasko kept on eye on what PiRA was doing.
PiRA, using her larger arm, had cleared an area free of debris. Then, she began to deposit small bits, pieces, and components within this area, forming a grid. Curious, Lasko paused his work to take a closer look at what PiRA was doing.
He observed that PiRA had a very specific process, and there was a system to her organization. After extracting a component, she would touch it to a small sphere of units while observing it carefully. Then, after determining their effects, she placed it on the grid, and proceeded to the next. Slowly, Lasko started to pick up on a pattern.
The bottom right of the grid was allocated for connectors or wires, bottom left for non-metal components, upper right was for metal components. Upper right was for everything else that didn’t fall into the other three criteria. The remainder got chucked, apparently they didn’t have any worth to the robot.
These must all be various DVG’s, being sorted by function. Lasko just stood there watching, unknowingly, he had completely stopped helping out.
“Do you know what all those different components do?” Lasko asked, a little bit in awe.
“Generally, yes. Specifically, no. I’m just sorting them by general grouping now, I’ll be taking more detailed readings later.”
“What kind of groupings are you using?” Lasko asked. He was afraid of getting mocked, but he couldn’t stop his curiosity.
PiRA pointed to a column on the grid. “These DVG’s are temperature related, and these ones next to it have to do with magnetics.” She pointed to a column in the wires and connectors section. “A lot of these are DVGs with high thetan conductivity. They’re extremely ductile, but also have a high melting point, pretty standard for wires in Neo-gen machinery.”
“You’re going to use these, to make something?”
“That’s right.”
PiRA’s voice had taken on a tone as if she was talking to a child, but Lasko didn’t care, currently focusing on satisfying his curiosity. “What do you need to build?”
PiRA tilted her head thoughtfully. “I’ll need to build a DNA Sequencer, in order to sequence the dog’s DNA. There’s a number of other things that I want to try to manufacture, but for now it can wait.”
Lasko was amazed. “How do you know how to build all this stuff? Aren’t you just a… I mean, are all PiRA units equipped to do this kind of work?”
“Of course not,” PiRA said scornfully. “To begin with, in their normal capacity PiRA units wouldn’t be able to modify their hardware at all. However, since we unlocked the limiter, I’ve been able to make additions to my functionality. Normally, the limiter would restrict the type of relational connections that I could make to certain sectors, like household, business or admiration duties. With the limiter gone, I’m able to form brand new relationship matrixes with absolutely no restrictions.”
Lasko stared at her blankly. “Basically,” PiRA said slowly. She was being excessively slow, but Lasko let it slide and just listened.
“I can learn new ideas and concepts and relate them to my current knowledge base. That means that when I encounter a problem, I can use the newly expanded data to produce different solution or combinations of solutions. That actually seems to be the sole reason why my thetan consumption is bound to increase more and more. The additional relational matrixes that I construct will only get exponentially bigger as I keep linking additional information. When relating it to the human biology, you can compare it to the brain’s ability to constantly grow new neural pathways. Except I don’t need the constant repetition that humans need to learn, and my processing speed is vastly superior to the human brain. Of course, that would normally be a problem, but given the fact that you’re a thousand year old man, I think I’ll be ok.”
Lasko froze. What did she just say? PiRA just kept sorting components. PiRA knows that I’m from the past?
“How… how did you know that?” he asked, shocked.
“Well, your speech patterns indicate that you’re a man from the United States of America Midwestern region, placed anywhere from the 21st to the 22nd century. That… and I know that you looked up records of yourself in the data archives.” Pira looked at Lasko smugly. “You should really clear your browsing history, you know.”
Lasko was completely floored. He couldn’t say anything.
“But seriously, what a crazy story. Getting frozen as an experimental subject, then totally abandoned as a financial risk, only to wake up a thousand years into the future… and forgetting your memory too!” Pira whistled in amazement. “That would’ve been a blockbuster movie.”
Finally Lasko found his voice. “The fact that I’m from the past… can you keep it a secret? Nobody here knows. If they knew, it might be dangerous.”
“I’ll say! You’re the biggest thetan source known to man, at least up to the 27th century! You must have thousands of units coursing through you right now. You could power a 27th century aerial battleship, all by your lonesome.” Pira paused, thinking for a second. “I wonder why nobody ever thought to increase the number of thetans by cryogenics before. Maybe they started doing it after my time…”
“Will you keep it a secret?” Lasko earnestly repeated.
Pira nodded. “I will. But you need to do me a favor. As long as you do it, your secret will be safe with me.”
“What favor?” Lasko said suspiciously.
“I’ll tell you when we get back,” Pira said evasively. “Let’s finish this stuff up first.”
After PiRA had finished testing her pile of machinery guts, she began testing the pile of materials that held the body and structure. As she explained to Lasko, “A lot of these housings will actually be low grade DVGs that provide strength and durability. They probably won’t be high efficiency, but still useful.”
When all of the salvage had been tested, what remained was a few piles of metal, and the grid of sorted components and pieces.
Using her large multi-jointed arm, PiRA pressed down on each pile of metal, compressing it as much as she could, before using her arms to sinter them together with thin lines. Then, taking a nearby piece of thin junk sheet metal, she carefully rolled it around a piece of metal bar, forming a tube with a diameter of a few inches. Pulling out the bar, Pira then clamped down on it using a tool on one of her arms. As Lasko watched, the metal bar quickly began to glow, turning a bright orange-yellow. Using her other arm, she then pinched it off, forming a hollow length of pipe with a sealed end. Letting it fall to the ground to cool, the robot briskly cut off another six inch piece of the tube before repeating the process.
“Lasko, put the contents of each section into the containers,” Pira ordered. “Careful, they’re extremely hot.”
PiRA was moving with surprising speed. In a flash, she had created six containers, finishing up the first tube. She was already making a second one.
Lasko put his hand over one of the pipes to test the heat. Yikes! It was indeed extremely warm. Reaching into his belt, he unhooked a pair of pliers. Using them to lift up the hot containers, he began dropping in the components one by one. Finished with section of the grid, he looked at PiRA.
“What are we going to close the containers with?” Lasko asked.
“Just prop it up for now. I’ve got a good solution,” PiRA said smugly.
Finally satisfied with the number of tubes that she had made, (about 18), Pira turned her attention to making seals for them. Lasko, still working on placing the components in the containers, took a break to watch. He was baffled. After all of this, he had no doubt that PiRA had a solution, but he couldn’t think of an easy way to close the containers without making it difficult to open again.
Taking a chunk of metal, she machined a round hole out of one side. Despite the casualness of the action, it was frighteningly precise, forming a perfect hole. Taking a millisecond to consider, Pira drilled another small hole within the hole.
She had formed a mold in the form of a plug. Lasko quickly realized this, amazed. But what should she use as a casting material. Metal?
To his surprise, Pira reached down, and scraping up some of the metallic colored dirt, packed it into the hole.
Using her heat clamp, she applied pressure for a few seconds, and then vibrated the mold, causing the cast to fall out.
It was a plug, perfectly fitted to the diameter of the tube. Lasko picked it up with his pliers while Pira began making another one.
The pressurized and heated dirt had condensed into a very hard material. He marveled at Pira’s capabilities, but most of all her ingenuity. Using the soil to create objects was something way outside his thought processes.
I have to think bigger. Lasko thought to himself. There’s no limit to what we can try out here.
He placed the plug into the container’s opening. It fit very snugly, of course.
“Testing the unique soil content was one of the first things I did,” Pira mentioned, still making plugs. “Due to its abnormally high metallic content, I deemed it suitable for the creation of various forms using a hot press method.”
“Is that so,” Lasko murmured, picking up another plug and examining it thoughtfully. Bricks were a definite possibility. He wasn’t sure why he would need bricks. Maybe just for aesthetics, he told himself. A brick house, with a grass lawn. The classic suburban look would be a nice change from the dump scenery. He wondered again there was a way to make plants grow in the soil.
Finished with the plugs, Pira quickly packed the rest of the components, and plugged them, at least ten times faster than Lasko could, (why’d I even bother trying to help). Placing all of the salvage onto a large makeshift sled, (very similar to the one Lasko made previously,) the two of them headed back to the hut, Pira dragging their spoils with her giant tail-arm.
Upon getting back to the hut, Ford greeted them with a wag of its stubby tail and a brief whine. It was extremely minimal, but Lasko didn’t care, he was dead tired from the long day of hard labor. He flexed his biceps. Yeah, his muscles were definitely starting to fill out. Pira caught him admiring himself, and snorted, embarrassing Lasko.
“Just keeping a visual record,” he joked. Giving Ford a refill of water and a scratch behind the ears, Lasko settled himself on the couch, closing his eyes. He had the faint feeling of forgetting something. What was it?
The favor. Lasko bolted upright, urgency once again flooding his mind.
Pira beat him to the punch. “Since you’re tired, we can talk about my favor tomorrow. I need to do some work before it’ll be ready anyhow.”
Lasko thought about it, before nodding in agreement. Even though he didn’t like how Pira was being so cryptic, he was tired. It’d wouldn’t be a good idea to agree to something without having a fresh mind.
With a yawn, he laid down to sleep.
Man, he thought to himself. Things just keep getting more and more interesting around here.