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by K. R. Smith
Wendell couldn't believe his luck.
He'd been travelling up north when his old truck had a flat. Not many places were still in business that knew how to work on pneumatic tires. Finding someone able to repair it was only part of his good fortune. Things would only get better as the day progressed.
The little town where his journey had been interrupted was having its annual rummage sale. While waiting for the repair to be finished, he had an entire town full of interestingly odd bits to peruse. Wendell liked old things, you see. Old machines, old computers, even old people. He was in heaven.
The item that caught his eye was in a dusty box beneath an old woman's table. Trying not to draw attention to himself, he nudged it into the light with his foot. Surely it wasn’t what it appeared to be. The woman noticed Wendell's interest and volunteered her knowledge of its contents.
"That's some old junk my late husband had in the cellar. Always tinkering with things, you know.”
"The pieces are intriguing. I might be able find a use for them. " Wendell fingered the contents. They were familiar to him, though only from pictures. It was top face plate and assorted mountings for an RJ-450X multi-purpose robot. The plate, equivalent to the orbital area of a human skull, was the one thing he needed to complete his machine. And, dear God, there were manuals. Printed manuals. He didn't even know they existed. Nobody printed anything anymore. He fought to keep his emotions in check. "Did you have a price in mind for this?"
"Oh, I don't know. Would ten credits be too much?"
"Ten?" Wendell's hands were shaking. The woman had no idea what was in front of her. "I—I suppose I could do that."
The RJ-450X wasn't pretty and was never meant to be. It was for industrial use. There were no fancy electronics with their morality circuits and such. The RJ-450X was all motors and gears. It couldn't sing or dance or move gracefully, but it could slash and smash and slice. Anything crushed by the titanium alloy claws or obliterated by the high-wattage lasers was merely a job it was supposed to do. Whether it was scrap metal being processed or someone’s cerebral cortex was irrelevant to the RJ-450X. The diminutive intelligence circuits within the metal beast saw no significant difference between the two. This was why all the RJ series mechanoids had been outlawed decades ago. The clandestine aspect of this purchase, however, only made Wendell that much more excited.
He glanced over his shoulder at the other people browsing nearby. “You wouldn’t happen to have a top for this box, would you?”
“Why, yes, I think so.” Wendell quickly covered the box with the lid that was offered.
He passed his credit square over the woman’s reader as she spoke the amount. It responded with a confirmation of the sale.
Wendell smiled as he made his way back to the garage. He was going to do something he hadn't done in a long time—have fun.