Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The shot resounds like thunder. All around the room, sidearms are lifted from holsters, sentry guns swing about, and the few sensible beings take cover. I quickly holster my weapon before one of the not-sensible beings decides I’m their target.
Shay looks down at the hole in her uniform, then up at me.
“You shot me!”
I raise both hands, grin, then point at the hole between her fake breasts.
“Like you said, it’s the only way to be sure I’m dealing with a robot.”
“I didn’t mean it as an invite! And it’s ‘hudroid’ you discriminatory prick!”
Behind her, a beaky coughs wetly and slides sideways off its perch. Shay spins about. I see a bigger hole in the back of her uniform. There’s smoke coming from it. I slowly drop my hands.
She rushes to the downed beaky, pulling communicator as she does so.
“I need medical, diplomatic, and intervention teams to my location immediately. Shots fired, VIB down, hudroid officer damaged.” She quickdraws with her free hand. I find myself meeting her eyes down the length of a pistol barrel.
“VIB is a Solanurian. I also have officer involved unauthorised shooting.”
Hold on a minute.
“Shay, what the fr-”
She tilts her head to indicate the beaky.
“You put one through me into an Honourable Envoy from Solan. Chances are, you’re just exercising your talent for impetuous incompetence, but I can’t rule out a transition to bribed assassination.”
“Oh, come on. Just because I banter a lot and you don’t like it.”
Her brow furrows. Marvellous what they can do with technology these days.
“You’re rude, sarcastic, and I don’t have time or temper to detail your fear-anchored gender identity delusions.”
I shrug. Robots are only as good as their programmers, and whoever did her code is clearly a softie. Bet he believes in the Christmas Fairy, too.
“Homo sapiens has two genders. It’s simple. Nothing to fear.”
She actually growls!
“Okay, as you’re determined to annoy me more: Since long before humanity spread from Earth, there have been more than biological genders recognised. The fact some groups of religious fanatics influenced the building of entire civilisations around denying that fact doesn’t change the truth. Hey! Keep your hands where I can see them.”
I slow down reaching for my baton. One zap from that and she’ll short out. Not sure if I can swing the situation, but her behaviour is clearly more aggressive. Putting her down means I can play a rogue robot scenario: she turned on me, I had to fire, and the beaky is just collateral. Unfortunate, but no blame coming my way. Might even get the robot partner programme halted, which would be a fine thing. They don’t understand the threats and force you have to use when dealing with softies and interplanetary scum.
Looking about, I see we’re centre of attention, but there are no other officers present. No watch drones, either. I need to wait. When she checks the site situation, I’ll have her.
She looks away. This time you get yours, robobitch. I step forward, drawing my baton.
Something hits me in the guts, knocking my legs from under me. I go arms down in time to save my face, but I drop the baton.
Lying there, I see someone kick the baton out of reach before crouching next to me.
“You forgot about VIB escorts. Getting my principal accidentally shot by a bigot is embarrassing enough. No way I’m letting you finish off your partner.”
He pats the side of my head.
“You’re done for, chum.”