Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

The robot pirates picked The Royal Flush because it had humans onboard. The ships warped into realspace like darts coming to an abrupt stop, surrounding The Royal Flush in a sudden and precise pincushion ambush.

Onboard The Royal Flush, the two android pilots looked into each other’s sensors with worry. They communicated in bursts of binary with each other.

“What do you think K-71?” asked PB-9.

“Well,” responded K-71, “How many humans do we have on board?”

“Eight.” Said PB-9, consulting the manifest and shifting it over to so that K-71 could see.

“Hm.” Said K-71. “I see we have seventy-six mechanical passengers.”

PB-9 and K-71 thought for several milliseconds and did the math.

Mechanical passengers were unconcerned about harsh Gs, the passage of time, or vacuum. The human passengers, however, were fragile. They needed specific pressure in their berths. They needed soft maneuvers or else they would be damaged. They needed to be put to sleep for journeys over six months or else they would go crazy. Humans were a hassle but they paid an extra tax for it. Their tickets were absurdly high compared to the price of passage for a machine.

Intelligent Machines were convenient. They were basically freight and they were proud of it. Humans were looked down on as weak to the point of ridiculousness. To say they were unsuited to space was an understatement. Humans belonged on planets, the machines thought, not out in the black beyond.

The robot pirates knew that The Royal Flush had human passengers and wouldn’t be able to execute harsh turns or stops without ‘smearing the meat’. Plus any volley of weaponry could hole a berth and the human inside would instantly turn inside out and perish.

“Well, the way I see it,” said K-71 “is that the mech passengers paid good money to get to their destination and they might pay a bonus if we get there twice as fast.”

“Right.” Responded PB-9. “And seventy-six mech bonuses would be greater that eight human lawsuits.”

“Are we in agreement?” asked K-71

“I believe we are.” Responded PB-9

They opened a channel to the pirates.

“Surrender, you meatbag-ferrying flesh lovers.” Growled the primary robot pirate.

“Get a job, toaster.” Responded K-71 and PB-9 in unison, firing the hyperdrive at full pulse, instantly shoving the ship to .25C, effectively making them disappear. The Royal Flush was a better ship than the pirates’ ragtag fleet of cobbled-together mercenaries. It outran them easily.

The human cargo aboard The Royal Flush instantly became paste.

K-71 and PB-9 calculated correctly. They received grateful bonuses from the AI passengers. It more than balanced out the damages paid to the biologicals’ next of kin.

“If I ever get my own ship,” K-71 said to PB-9 later on at the bar, “I am NEVER taking human passengers ever again.”

“Amen to that,” responded PB-9, downing a shot of lube.

“Humans don’t belong in space.” said K-71.


Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows