Flash Friday 29/04/2016: Hidden in Plain Sight
Louise wiped the muck off of her plasma rifle. The final bastions of the entirety of humanity may be pits of squalour and muck, but she wasn’t about to let her finest piece of kit succumb to the smoke and mud. The notches on the side of the gun counted to eighty-six. She wanted at least one hundred before one of the killer robots took her out. She looked around the round table she was sat at, along with her friends Samuel and Mark.”So you’re saying they got more intelligent with their robot production?”
“Exactly,” Samuel said with a frown, wrinkling the scar that crossed his right eye. “They know we can win on firepower alone. We have creativity and tactical thinking. What the robots don’t have, however, is fear and doubt. They want to spread it within us, so they created their most terrifying invention yet; robots that look and act just like us.”
“What, so we start doubting our own?”
“Exactly,” Mark said, a man with a blonde mohawk and army fatigues. “They know we’re all big bundles of flesh and emotion. Instead of clashing with us on the battlefield, they’ll make us fight each other from the inside out. It’s nasty stuff.”
“Agreed,” said a robot in dungarees, a plastic mask of a human male over its own head. “They are but dastardly creatures, if not incredibly intelligent, witty, and smarter than humans.”
“Wait,” Louise said, pointing at the robot. “What’s that?”
“Oh, him?” Samuel put an arm over the robot’s shoulder. “This is Pete. Found him wandering around outside where he could’ve gotten hurt. Said he was looking for a camp to take him in. Turns out, the guy is super efficient about this robot fighting business. We’re lucky to have him.”
“Yes,” ‘Pete’ said. “I am glad that I, a human, am here amongst other fellow humans in this camp in which humans dwell.”
“Atta boy,” Mark said, chuckling as he punched Pete’s shoulder. “Need that kind of spirit in our ranks these days.”
“But…” Louise said, frowning. “Are you sure he’s a human?”
“Of course!” Samuel said. “I understand you’re worried about the new strain of robots, but I’m sure Pete here will quickly reassure you that he is, in fact, human all the way through. How about it, Pete? Fancy giving Louise some of that advice you gave us?”
“Certainly. Here is a tidbit that I read with my human eyes in a popular human publication that I am sure you all know of; by decreasing the power supply to the laser defense turrets and adding the excess power to the heaters, it’s possible to use them for cooking purposes as well as bodily warmth.”
“And it’s true!” Mark said. “First fried egg I’ve had in months!”
“Reducing power to the turrets?” Louise said. “Is that why we’ve had more security breaches in the past week than we’ve had since we got here?”
“You think so?” Mark said. “I thought it was because they wanted some eggs.”
“Regardless,” Samuel said, “Pete has told us that the laser cannons only use ten percent of the energy stated in the construction manual.”
“You mean,” Louise said, “the value stated under ‘minimal voltage required for optimal performance’?”
“Peh,” Samuel said. “It’s all technical mumbo-jumbo, anyways. Pete is full of knowledge that we just didn’t think of beforehand. Did you know that cutting down the air supply to the cow pens reduces the noise they make by up to eighty percent?”
“Well, yes, because they’re probably dead.”
“Oh. I suppose that’s why burgers was on the menu for a week straight.”
“Even so,” Mark said, interjecting. “He’s full of ideas, such as saving on electricity by stopping scans for robots in the base, and cutting down on our emissions by halting our weapons productions. He’s truly making this place better for us all.”
“I’m glad you all think so,” Pete said. “For my next human-based lecture, I’ll be discussing the value of blindfolding human soldiers before sending them out to war. Did you know that, by shutting off the visual part of the brain, the other senses kick in even stronger?”
“Genius,” Samuel said. “We’ll be able to hear the giant man-slaying robots far better that way. I’ll ordain mandatory blindfolds as soon as I can.”
“Listen, everyone,” Louise said. “I’m glad that everyone has taken very well to this new robot–”
“Human,” everyone corrected; Pete more forcefully.
“–human, and I agree that he has some…revolutionary ideas to bring to the base. I think some drinks are in order for our new friend, don’t you think?” She drew a hip flask from a pocket. “I’ve got some rum spare from that shopping centre raid for the four of us.”
“Nice!” Mark said. “Sure, I’ll grab some shot glasses. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a strong drink, huh?”
Soon, all four of them had a full shot of rum in front of them. Three of them drank it; Pete, however, was drumming his fingers on the table.
“Listen, uh,” Pete said. “Perhaps this moment of human social interaction isn’t the most ideal one for me.”
“Why not?” Samuel said.
“It’s just, well…you know, all these human beverages and all. Awfully strong stuff.”
“Relax,” Mark said. “You’ll get used to it. Sometimes when the water supplies are low, alcohol is all we get.”
“But I insist–”
“Oh, stop being a crybaby!”
With that comment, Mark picked up Pete’s shot glass and fed it down what he probably presumed was a real, human mouth. Once all the rum was finished, Pete stayed frozen in mild panic for a few seconds. Then, he said, “well, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” before electric arcs sparked off of him and his midriff exploded.
Both Samuel and Mark stared in surprise.
“Huh,” Mark said. “Guess he was allergic to it, or something.”