Chapters 1 - 9 can be read at: Deep Sky Stories & Illustrations
Chapter 9 (Part 3) Big Ben Back at Work
Meanwhile, in the darkness, back at the scrapyard, Big Ben the massive construction-bot was indeed alive once more and now idling passively after having chased away what he perceived to be a trespasser on his work-site. Being a diligent construction site robot, Ben was always on the alert for unsafe working conditions in his domain. His infrared sensor correctly detected the boy (his Foreman), the tall female (the Boss), and a tall male, an (Authorized Assistant) within the workshop. The second tall male, an (Unauthorized Trespasser) whom Ben had never before cleared as "Safe" was promptly expelled from the hazardous work-site.
Now Big Ben rested and idled his powerful diesel engine while he performed a Safe-Mode Power-On-Self-Test of his auxiliary backup Mini-Brain. Although not nearly as sophisticated as the Major-Brain under his hardhat, the mini-brain located down inside his thickly armoured trunk was still an adequate System-Restore standby platform which Ben could temporarily switch to in the event he was the victim of a worksite accident. This clearly seemed to have been the case because he couldn't access his recall logs from the previous week, and there was now only a dark, deleted space where his Major Brain System should have been. Before he switched to the Mini-Brain, Ben detected a ticklish sensation down below as an access panel to his Mini-Brain was opened and a missing software card was reinserted. It was all quite an elementary procedure done by the simpleminded scavenger-bot but it was also vital to reawakening him. Why his Foreman, the boy, did not think to do that before was quite beyond him. Ben had only just awakened in time to catch the foolish lad as he was performing (Unauthorized Horseplay) at the top of a ladder. Big Ben wished there was some way in which to pass on the boy's careless infraction of proper work-site safety rules to the Boss. The old robot remained where he was for the rest of the night, guarding the workshop, because he sensed that all was not as it should be in the scrapyard. A glow that he could not categorize was slowly increasing in brightness, in a section of the scrapyard, off to the north, even as darkness deepened over the land. Big Ben sensed that the trespassers that he encountered several shifts before were back at his work-site again and would need to be dealt with once more. On that previous night-shift, he and the Foreman, and a small female from (Head Office) encountered serious security problems with the trespassers but were successful in driving them off and maintaining the integrity of the whole work-site. That, of course, was also when Big Ben experienced the severe workplace accident and lost Major-Brain functions. The old robot felt that something else inside him was lost at the moment too but he was uncertain quite what it was. There was a sense of emptiness that he couldn’t quite understand. He couldn’t make the connection in his simple mindset but it may have had something to do with his small Foreman not being there. After all, Ben was accustomed to the small human working and tinkering in the workshop until well passed the usual eight-hour shift, but now he was gone, taken to somewhere called a “Hospital” for repairs of some sort. The big old robot felt empty indeed and he slowly turned his dented head so he could look inside the barn where his little Foreman usually worked so hard. There it was…that small, round, teardrop shaped vessel that the boy devoted much effort on. Little progress had been made on it since his accident so, apparently, the Foreman felt Ben's services were still urgently required, despite his advanced age. Very well, Big Ben deduced with renewed pride…he was an old and patient robot. He looked forward to resuming work with the boy, after his repairs were completed at the Hospital; that would be much more interesting than chasing Trespassers off the property. It would be logical to have things as they used to be, the old construction-bot mused quietly. After all, Ben didn’t have many days left once his Mini-Brain stopped functioning... Such irrelevant feelings were quickly shunted away to the dark, empty space in his damaged head where they were deleted. Permanently.
The two robots remained where they were for rest of that Sunday until evening approached. Night fell once more and Legs awoke, fully recharged and would have gladly resumed his usual chores if not for that continual and annoying pinging which irritated him to no end. Was he the only robot who heard it? Evidently so because his giant companion still rested as contentedly as a statue outside the barn door, with nary a shrug. Legs, on the other hand, could not prevent the awful twitches from returning. Ping - ding - (doink) - twitch, there was just no respite from it! Apparently, there was a malfunctioning homing beacon pinging its signal from somewhere in the scrapyard; time to retrieve it and have a normal evening again. Legs chugged and wobbled busily outside to where Ben stood guard. Ben detected the approach of his smaller workmate who came puttering up beside him. The gawky, spoke-legged scavenger-bot reached over and tapped Ben's side to ensure that the access panel to his Mini-Brain was still closed and secure. The little robot chirped with satisfaction and perhaps simpleminded pride at having performed the complicated task of retrieving the proper software module from his rear cargo bin and replacing it inside the proper port of his larger brother. Legs didn't know what it did - only that it was the proper part for the proper place - that was all. His job there done, the ever-busy, chugging and chirping robot indicated with a look and gesture toward the northwest that there was a chore which needed seeing to at a certain far corner of the scrapyard. He had rarely been in that particular place before because it was quite barren of any useful scrap-iron and the ground became as soft as the bog swamp beyond the eastern border of the scrapyard. Still, there was clearly one specific chore that needed seeing to and Legs was eager to be off. A scavenger's work was never done, it seemed. "Chirp-chirp-ping-ding (doink)", Legs hiccuped importantly up at Big Ben as he left his side to see to his duties. Chugging, twitching and ping-dinging in a most uncommon manner, Legs turned and prepared to make tracks toward that dark, far corner of the junkyard, to pick up that lost locator beacon. Perhaps tomorrow the Foreman could cure him of the awful hiccups he kept having. "Ping (doink) ding". Big Ben, however, had a chore of his own to do as well. A cursory infra-red scan of the dark scrapyard indicated that there were still (Unauthorized Trespassers) on his work-site. This time though, they were robots and something familiar about them caused Big Ben to stare just a little longer. His huge vice-hands began clamping and swiveling in an agitated manner. Clearly, the Goliath-sized robot concluded, there was a demolition job from the previous week which remained unfinished. That would soon be rectified, but first he needed an assistant to help him with a few extra preparations. Legs paused in his wobbling strides and looked back at Big Ben with a quizzical tilt of his wide, square head. Ben's bullet head swiveled slowly round and he looked down at his smaller companion with a commanding and expectant gaze.
Next: Chapter 10 - A Vital Dream-Vision
Having collapsed from a the suffocating dizziness that overcame him, Alex is now resting at Delta Hospital. He falls into a deep sleep, and in the dream that follows, Alex walks upon another very quiet world; but this time, it is not Mars. A terrible truth that Alex must face awaits him there. And only a ghostly friend can see him through it all.
As of 2018-02-05, Chapter 9 (Part 3) can be read at: Deepskystories.com