Author : Patricia Stewart, featured writer

Roy O’Donnell was working his way down the pre-launch checklist when I decided to make sure the cargo was secure. Normally, we only haul equipment and supplies back and forth between the Vinogradov mining facility on Mars and the supply station on Phobos. But when I entered the cargo hold I saw an android sitting in a steel cage. I turned toward the cockpit and yelled, “Roy, What’s with the android?”

“Beats me,” Roy replied. “It must be a piece of crap. That’s the only reason they go to Phobos.”

It looked functional to me, so I’d thought I’d ask. “What’s up bud? You OK?”

“I am unsure, sir,” it said. “I remember being caught in a plasma arc. It may have affected my positronic brain. When I was rebooted, I failed the ASAT .” (Asimov Safety Assessment Test)

“Oh boy, that’s not good. If that arc messed up the three laws, they’ll have to destroy you. I hope things work out.”

“Thank you, sir.”

I finished checking the cargo, and returned to the cockpit. Roy had completed the pre-flight, and we were cleared to launch. About fifteen minutes into the flight we had a gyrocompass failure, and we lost attitude control. The last thing I remembered was plunging into the Valles Marineris as Roy was trying to regain our angular position.

When I came to, I was lying on the ground, wearing my survival suit, and looking up at the face of that android we were hauling. “What happened? Where’s Roy? Damn, my leg is killing me.”

My short-range radio picked up the android’s transmission, “The ship has crashed, sir. Mister O’Donnell is dead. Your right femur is fractured. I was able to set it before I put you in your survival suit. The long range radio is not functioning. We have no way to contact the mining facility, or Phobos station. I am afraid we are on our own.”

“Well, my friend, if they can’t find me in 4 hours, I’ll run out of oxygen. And that seems pretty unlikely since we’re trapped at the bottom of this canyon.”

“Do not despair, sir. I have performed some calculations, and I believe that I can carry you to the mining facility in approximately seven hours.”

“But I only have four hours of oxygen.”

“I am aware of that, sir, but we also have Mister O’Donnell’s oxygen supply. He no longer requires it. Come, I will help you onto my back.”

I could not believe the speed that android could move, regardless of Mars’ lower gravity. He climbed out of the valley, scrambled over rough terrain, and ran like a gazelle over the plains. My leg throbbed like hell, and I blacked out a few times, but somehow that android managed to keep me on its back. I was down to thirty minutes of oxygen when we entered the airlock of the mining facility.

When I woke up in the recovery room, the android was standing vigil by the bed. “Thanks, man,” I said earnestly. “I’ll never forget this. You saved my life. Well, I guess this sounds awful, but I should also be thankful that Roy died in the crash. Without his oxygen, I would have died for sure.”

“Oh, Mister O’Donnell didn’t die in the crash, sir. I broke his neck. He should not have called me a piece of crap.”

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