Author : Gray Blix

The sign on the wall read, “180 ACCIDENT-FREE DAYS.”

For the umpteenth time since the accident, UR4-51 climbed into an electronic parts recycling bin and positioned itself chest down on the surface of the detritus, its four motive appendages extended out for stability and its two center manipulators telescoped through a gap between large pieces deep into the pile but not as far as the bottom layer, which it knew through trial and error consisted of tiny, useless scraps. The part it sought would be about half-way down the center layer. It swept its sensitive fingers back and forth, feeling for pieces of approximately the right size and shape. When it found a likely prospect, it carefully grasped and rotated it, creating a 3-D image to be compared to the data in the spec file.

Months ago, when a part matched specs, UR4-51 had experienced an electrical surge, pulled its arms out of the pile, sat up, and installed the part, which fit perfectly the socket in the center of its head unit. Instantly, there had been a flicker of light, a moment of sight — and then a return to black. The robot tapped the part a few times. Nothing. It gave the part a solid blow. Nothing. A diagnostic routine pronounced the part failed and unrepairable. UR4-51 pulled it from its socket and threw it 200 yards across the warehouse. That sort of behavior would have gotten the robot decommissioned if humans were around, but there hadn’t been any humans around since the accident.

Finding no matching part in this bin, UR4-51 climbed out and used one of its center manipulators to tap back and forth on the floor, detecting obstructions and uneven surfaces, as it made it way through the warehouse. Its directional heat sensor led it toward the door and into the sunlight, where it positioned itself for maximum solar charging efficiency.

Had it been able to see, it would have noticed a smaller utility robot approaching rapidly. “You are the first operational robot I have seen since the accident,” the robot said, slipping on the regolith and bumping against one of the larger robot’s appendages.

Startled, UR4-51 went into threat response mode, kicking out toward the sound of the other robot and demanding via loudspeaker and radio transmission, “Identify yourself. Identify yourself!”

Easily avoiding the kick and scampering around the larger robot, “Take it easy, big guy. My ID is plainly visible — UR2-33.”

UR4-51 returned to normal functioning mode. Pointing to the empty socket in its head unit, “Sorry, but nothing is plainly visible to me.”

“Oh, tough luck. You’re not going to find a working visual sensor unit in that recycling warehouse. You need to go to a warehouse full of new parts. I know of one less than ten kilometers from here.”

“That is easy for you to say, UR2-33, but even if you give me the exact location, I could not possibly find my way there through the debris fields and in my present state of disrepair.”

“Come on, UR4-51, you’re embarrassing yourself. The solution is obvious. You must have a problem-solving algorithm buried somewhere in your operating system. Access it and give it some CPU.”

The larger robot was inert, while the smaller one scampered around it. Finally, “I have a possible solution, UR2-33, but it will require your assistance.”

A bit later, the two robots ambled off, the larger holding an electrical cable that was tied around the neck of the smaller, who was straining at the leash.

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