Author : Asher Wismer
Jenkis and Layla examined the husky robot. It stood fifteen feet high, maybe nine feet wide at its thickest point, gaping, many-toothed mouth in the front.
“It’s pretty ugly,” Layla said. “Maybe a coat of paint.”
“Maybe a coat of new parts,” Jenkis said. “It’s rusted through to the recycler, look.”
They looked. Layla took out a tension wrench and popped the front panel off. Inside, some species of rodent had built a nest, died, decomposed, and then been replaced by some species of insect, which were also dead.
“Not much insulation left on the wires,” Layla said.
“Not much wire left on the, uh, the thing,” Jenkis said. “And the internals are gone. No point to a Digestor without a recycler. Just… let’s go.”
They stopped in to see Honest Gephart on their way out.
“We don’t want it,” Layla said.
“You don’t want it? That Digestor is in prime condition! It’s practically an antique!”
“It’s a relic,” Jenkis said.
“There are multiple generations of dead things inside it,” Layla said. “You couldn’t sell that thing to a scrap yard. Not even you would buy it!”
“I did, so that proves you wrong,” Gephart said. “Listen, how about I cut the price in half.”
“Half of what you wanted for that robot would buy a brand new one, with better recycling,” Jenkis said. “And a three-year warranty with parts and labor and full replacement on referral.”
“Nobody’s going to buy it,” Layla said. “Your only hope would be a groundhog straight from downside without a clue, and you just won’t find one of those way out here. It’s going to sit on your lot forever, ruining your landscaping.” She grinned at Gephart. “On the other hand, we could haul it off for you.”
“It’s worth nothing already,” Jenkis said, “unless you haven’t eaten in a long, long time.”
“Good point. Just sign here and here,” –Gephart held out a sheaf of papers– “and fill these out and you’re fine for it.”
Jenkis didn’t take the papers. “Seriously?”
“There’s insurance, liability, refusal of warranty–”
“You turn your back for twenty minutes,” Layla said, “and then the wreckage is gone. No worries.
“Fine,” Gephart said. “But only because I like you and I need the space. You make sure nobody ever finds out that I let you have it for free, ok? It’ll ruin my rep.”
“Great,” Jenkis said with a huge, fake smile. “Now, let’s talk about our haulage fees.”
“Fees,” Layla said, pulling up a chair. “Insurance, liability….”
“You could have just offered the job first,” Jenkis said.
“It’s more fun to haggle,” Layla said. “You know that. Besides, now he has a great story about how little he spent to have that thing hauled away.”
“To tell all his fellow sharks at the bar, over a cold pint of absinth,” Jenkis said. “Anyway, we’ll break even on it, but why were you so bullish to buy?”
“The insects,” Layla said. “You noticed all the caripaces? They’re rare off this world, and particularly at our next stop.”
“You had me buy that whole thing for some insects?”
“We’ll make about fifteen times the scrap price.”
“You know,” Jenkis said, “every time I wonder why I married you, you go and do something like this, and I remember.”
“How much you love me?”
“How much you conned me before I got wise. You are a sneaky bitch, no question.”
“No question,” Layla said, and kissed his cheek. “Now go strap the gear down. We’re superluminal in thirty minutes.”