4E3t watched the man came in through the doors, there was something about him that made the ‘bots subroutines question his appearance. It was a hot day, through the windows 4E3t could see people in casual summer clothes; but he was in a long camelhair coat and a wide brimmed fedora? If 4E3t had been programmed differently it’d probably have seen the man for what he was, a Fed, or at least Cop; but 4E3t was only programmed to tend bar.

The man surveyed the lounge area; he came down onto the lower level where customers as well as hotel guests could eat and drink. He stopped and looked around at the glass doors that led towards the reception, 4E3t noticed another man similarly dressed; it also noticed the slight head movement that passed between them. As the man turned towards the bar 4E3t activated one of its many subroutines and picked up a towel and glass.

“Good afternoon Sir.” It began cleaning the glass. “What’ll it be?”

The man sat on one of the stools and took his hat off placing it to his left. 4E3t saw the sweat mark around his head. As the man leaned forward, tugging his coat out from under him so he could sit more comfortable, 4E3t saw something under his armpit, a shiny sandalwood grip. If 4E3t had been programmed with curiosity it would have asked the man if he had a permit to carry a weapon, but 4E3t was only programmed to tend bar.

“Water, ice cold.”

The man reached inside his coat and pulled out his wallet. 4E3t swiveled its top section 180º, opened the vent on its steam inlet and its servos began to roll its bulk along the length of the bar towards the refrigerator. With a hiss it stopped and a secondary arm snaked out of its torso taking a bottle from behind the glass door. In a fluid motion 4E3t opened the bottle, filled the glass with ice, began pouring the water and turned heading back towards its customer.

“Will Sir be eating today?” 4E3t placed the already frosting glass in front of the man.

“Just the drink.” He opened his wallet and pulled out a single bill, at the same time he allowed one half of the wallet to hang open, showing his badge and ID. “I’m looking for a Steambot, designation Gum9.You seen it?”

4E3t adjusted its stance, retracting the secondary arm and closing off the steam inlet, its servos quietly hummed; a sound the man probably missed as it was just below the range of human hearing. Its optical sensors saw the barcode down the left hand side of the ID, a code designed to override any ‘bots programming, placing them under the bearers command. 4E3t noticed the second man in the reception area had now moved to just outside the glass doors, he had his arms folded, one hand casually inside his coat.

“The hotel registry is publically accessible Sir, any ‘bots with that registry would be listed.”

“But this isn’t just any ‘bot is it.” The man flipped his ID shut, the look on his face a mix of concern and determination. 4E3t watched as he sat forward, casually letting one hand fall inside his coat; close to the sandalwood grip. “A Gum prefix makes the ‘bot a military unit and so it should not be anywhere near the public, and certainly not tending bar in a hotel.”

A secondary subroutine activated inside 4E3t, steam was re-routed from its primary functions, shutting down the polite voicebox, deactivating the weak optical sensor and causing it to drop the glass it was still cleaning. New functions came online in their place, infra-red optics showed the cold metal of the man’s gun under his coat, the larger white smudge under the second man’s coat the told 4E3t that he carried a larger gun but that it wasn’t capable of penetrating his armored casing; and hidden armament ports under the waiters uniform it wore opened.  In the microsecond it took 4E3t to do all this, the man had sat back, his hand clearly grasping the grip of his gun. 4E3t calculated the speed he would draw the time elapsed before his comrade came in through the glass doors and the percentage fatal casualties within the lounge area. The results were acceptable and within preprogrammed guidelines.

4E3t fired, the man’s head disintegrated into a shower of blood, brains and bone. As the second man reacted 4E3t tracked his movement and fired again, the munitions hit him in his midsection; he folded and was lifted off his feet, trailing blood and intestines as he flew through the air before crashing into the reception desk.

All around was chaos, women screamed, men scrambled from cover, and somewhere an alarm sounded. 4E3t activated another subroutine, the outer casing of the ‘bot split open and fell to either side; inside a smaller, more maneuverable unit shot up into the air on twin steam jets. 4E3t hovered and scanned the area, both Policemen were dead; there was one man in the reception area downed when the munitions that had taken out the Policeman, had passed right through and into him. In the lounge a woman had gone into labor, 4E3t calculated the early onset brought on by its actions would not endanger mother or child.

4E3t fed steam into the jets and rocketed towards the street side windows, as it smashed through and shot into the air tracer fire followed it up, the small caliber rounds bounced harmlessly off and it felt no need to return fire. Rear sensors scanned the city below, but no heavier caliber munitions had been brought in to deal with the situation. 4E3t plotted a course out of the city and into the surrounding mountains; it kept low, below radar, as it thought what to do next.


All Rights Reserved © Philip J Norris September 2012