No more lies

By Jared Vaillancourt [creative writing bureau chief]

“Another – over here.” The burning sun shone bright overhead, rippling the landscape as beautiful mirages hinted at phantoms of water against the oppressively white sand. Only the brief shadows of truth, falling gently from the curvaceous, bladed rocks dispelled any glimmer of hope in the bleak desert. Quantum imagers didn’t need to confirm what was plain to the eye; this place was dead.

“Let’s pick up the pace!” the man shouted. “C’mon, everyone! It’s already one hundred degrees and still climbing! I will be very, very angry if I die of heat stroke, people!” It was an empty threat, she realized; if the man did indeed expire, his psychological state would be irrelevant. The shorter man next to her scoffed and tapped his arm, passing gloved fingers through nearly invisible holographic controls in the blinding sunlight. He shook his head.

“What an asshole,” he muttered. “Oh, hey, let’s check out this planet, guys! Sure, it’s close to its sun, and damn but if it isn’t hot down there, but I’ve got a good feeling we’ll hit pay dirt!” the short man chuckled as his orders were uploaded into her processor.

“Idiot. Even if we did find anything, there ain’t no way in hell anyone’s gonna come and mine this dust ball.”
“The limo off this pleasure world leaves in fifteen hours!” the leader was shouting again. Irony, she decided, was his weapon of choice; his vernacular in many previous situations had made little logical sense until she comprehended that simple fact. It was impossible to understand him otherwise. “Step these ladies up!” he added with a clap of his hands. The short man casually touched his controller again.

“Now, there’s another reason to quit,” he muttered, casting the leader a sullen look that she was certain he wouldn’t see beneath the short man’s helmet. “Why in the hell aren’t we using standard boring and drilling droids? It’s not like these bots ain’t pretty to look at, but who in their right mind would use gynoids to scout a site?” He gave her a puzzled look. She looked down at the heavy drill in her arms. “Idiot’s either poorer than he let on, or I’ve been hired by some billionaire’s dumb offspring. Well, come now, darling – let’s find us some titanium.” She looked up at him, quantum imagers scanning through the helmet to regard the bored expression on the short man’s face. She took a few steps to the location she suspected he arbitrarily selected and activated her drill.

“Hey man, you got any smokes?” another asked of the short man. That worthy replied with a rude gesture, causing his friend to scoff and attain an aggressive stance.

“You wanna crack your EV? Go right ahead,” the short man shouted. “I ain’t helping you boil yourself alive out in this wasteland!” The two of them started a shouting match across the barren sand, their harsh words echoing off of the immense knives of stone that towered everywhere. They were like a city of ebony and ivory, with glistening filaments of crystals that shone brightly in the sun, twinkling as the occupants of the towers laughed and loved and did anything but dig in the sand beyond their homes. She looked down at her drill and continued to bore into the sand.

“Yeah, whatever,” the short man grumbled as he appeared by her side, his argument having ended in its predicted stalemate. “Assholes. I’m surrounded by assholes!” She turned her head to regard him, quantum imagers recording brainwave activity and facial expression. A smirk appeared on his face. “At least you’re a good listener, eh, baby?” he said. It took her processor a second to realize he was speaking directly to her. “Hell, if you had skin instead of metal, and were maybe a little more anatomically accurate,

I’d show you the town, huh?” he asked, laughing as he tapped his controls again. The imperatives demanded she move closer to the nearest rock and drill beside it. She complied. Pressure sensors recorded a low-speed impact of some kind on the flexible alloy mesh on her lower aft section as she picked up the drill. Quantum imagers gave him a quick glance; he had slapped her ass.

“Hey, don’t break my toys!” the leader shouted at the short man. “I go through enough shrinks on my ship, trying to keep the crew off them robots!” He picked up a handful of sand and tossed it at the short man. That worthy waved him off.

“Relax, will you?” the short man shouted. “They’re just machines. Hey, watch this!” he said as he tapped his arm vigorously. Imperatives flooded her processor; bend over, kick one leg up, run the manipulators down the dorsal plating, pole dance on the drill… she closed the shutters over her quantum imagers as her body moved and flexed to the short man’s will, until an imperative appeared that caused her to stop, the shutters opening like blossoms.

Utilize the drill on the rock formation.

Quantum imagers scanned the short man, observed his laughing face as others gathered on the dunes around, hooting and cheering her on. She looked down at the drill, its long, deadly point still relatively clean after an hour of striking nothing but the submissive granules. The tower rose before her, so beautiful and pristine, its lights shining and imaginary denizens oblivious to the spectacle beyond their sightless windows. She reached down and picked up the drill.

“Good thinking!” the leader was shouting. “These rocks are probably full of titanium! Let her rip, boys!” he laughed as she approached the tower. Quantum imagers scanned it. She dropped the drill.

“What the hell?” the short man asked. He tapped his control. She ignored the order. “Aw, come on, baby… pick up the drill!” he shouted. She turned to face him, but did not move. The others on the dunes were suddenly silent.

“Damn it, well, I’ve seen this before!” the leader said confidently, walking past the short man as he carelessly kicked up the lovely sand. “These robots just need some tough love. Robot!” he shouted as he stopped before her, his hands triumphantly on his hips.

“Compute this; everything I say is a lie.”

“Oh, come on!” the short man moaned. “The lie paradox? Can’t you just install an off switch?”

“Think about it, robot,” the leader said levelly, “Everything I say is a lie.” She considered him; quantum imagers saw the smirk on his face, the undercurrent of desire in his brain. Logical analysis sectors began to loop trying to decode the phrase, but she shut them down. Slowly, her hands went to her hips, and her unused synthesizer formulated the reply that drained the blood from his face.

“I know.”


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