Author: Barry Boone

“We’re not going to make it.”

This from Damian. Always worrying. Which is what humans do best. Unfortunately, in this case, he was right: our ship couldn’t outrun the aliens.

“How long til entry?” he asked, his voice tight.

“Fifty-two seconds,” I said. I used my Star Trek computer voice. Which I knew bugged him. One of my pastimes.

“How long til intercept?” he asked, ignoring the provocation. So — he really was frightened.

“Fifty seconds,” I said.

“I blame you,” Damian said.

I winked, but he didn’t see. He was staring at the heads-up display showing their green line intersecting our blue squiggle just outside the wormhole’s throbbing purple torus.

“You should’ve fired the torpedoes sooner,” I said, switching to my annoyed Harrison Ford voice.

“You should have told me to.”

I opened my mouth to speak, but my programming censored my reply at the last moment, tagging it as “Unhelpful.”

“If we had one more,” I said, “we could’ve fired it for a boost and made it out. Probably. Newton’s Third Law and all.”

“Well, we don’t have one more,” Damian said, “thanks to someone telling me to FIRE ALL THREE!”

“It was the right call, in the moment,” I said. “They’d have blown us up back there.”

“Great. So we delayed death ten minutes. Good job, robot.”

I wondered: what had as much mass as a torpedo? Hmm… I unstrapped myself from the co-pilot’s seat.

“Where’re you going?”

“To see if there’s a fourth somewhere.”

“Wow, does that ever smell like desperation.”

Of course there wasn’t a fourth torpedo. Sure, sometimes I struggled with rounding errors, such as when I was calculating tricky relativistic effects. But I can proudly say that counting from three down to zero was something of a specialty.

Still, I knew what I had to do. I’d meant to do it quietly, but my metal exoskeleton could be difficult to fold into small spaces.

“Don’t tell me you found one,” Damian said, hearing all the banging.

“I did,” I said.

He turned around in his seat and did a double take.

“Get the hell out of there!”

“If I don’t launch myself,” I said, “we’ll both die.”

“I’m ordering you…”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said (C3PO voice). “I’m just a robot.”

“Don’t,” he said. “I’ll… I’ll miss you too much.”

“Sure, I’m amazing. The best. Also, I think you’ll get the boost you need.”

“They’ll capture you.”

“Not to worry,” I said cheerfully. “I already initiated self-destruct.”

“You WHAT?”

“Do me a favor. Play a game of computer chess when you get back. For old times’ sake.”

“I hate you,” he said.

“I hate you more,” I said.

I shot into space, and wow, what a ride!

Andromeda was a fairy-tale pinwheel. The alien ship looked big, even in the vastness. Its tentacles reached for me like a moon-sized squid. My sensors registered 3-degrees Kelvin — a tad chilly, so I dialed down all inputs. Anyway, less feeling would be good when I exploded.

9… 8… 7…

I know Damian. He’s a sentimental sap. He’ll play chess, just like I told him to.

The entertainment value will be lousy, so he’ll investigate, find something unlabeled taking up memory reserved for the gaming system.

6… 5… 4…

Turns out, a copy of me takes up a lot of yottabytes. He’s not getting rid of me that easily.

Damian’s ship wavered in the blurry edge of the wormhole, then vanished like a mirage. The aliens veered away.

Oh, look! I’m about to count from three down to zero. My specialty, remember?