None of the quartet was familiar with vast space stations, but the systemic routines that allowed ingress from docked space vessels were fool proof and automatic; so before long, Tong-Tong led the others along an austere corridor…
“Not impressed with the décor.” Bunty complained.
“Looks a bit poopy.” Daisy agreed. “But it doesn’t smell, so I guess it’s okay.”
Shortly they encountered a former member of their crew. Before it could raise any kind of alarm, or even question them about their presence, Tong-Tong made a data transfer directly into the robot’s memory core…
“I imagine that was poor cyber-etiquette,” Bunty said whilst Tong-Tong broke the connection, “but needs must and all that.”
“Indeed.” Tong-Tong responded. “Quite so.”
It then suggested that the girls adopt their false robotic appearance.
“Oh, right-oh.” Bunty said. “Come on girls: it’s bunking off hockey practise time.”
Within seconds, Bunty, Daisy, and Ginger were almost indistinguishable from each other…
The green robot looked at Tong-Tong when it said, “I do not envy you your job, pal: I can barely tell earplugs apart at the best of times: but these pseudo-zombies have me entirely befuddled. By the way – they do not look remotely like robots: their appearance will fool no one.”
“They do not have to.” Tong-Tong replied unnecessarily. “As long as they appear non-earplug on the security cameras, I, for one, will be happy. Now go spread the word amongst our cyber-kin: we intend to liberate the entire crew.”
“I am a robot.” Daisy spoke with a stilted mono-tonal voice. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Shut up, Daisy.” Tong-Tong responded. “Follow me.”
Of course, this is what the trio of terrestrial youths did…
Two corridors later, they encountered another green robot. It appeared disconcerted and uncertain…
“We are robots.” Ginger said in a fair facsimile of Daisy’s robotic voice. “Move aside – or be destroyed.”
Of course, the green robot ignored Ginger entirely. It spoke directly to Tong-Tong. “I have been up-dated with the latest information from yourself.” It said. “I have also made a discovery of my own that might alter your plans somewhat.”
“What is this discovery you speak of?” Tong-Tong said in its best ‘demanding’ voice.
“There is a door behind me.” The green robot replied. “Take care when entering. You must remain undetected by those inside the compartment onto which it opens upon well-oiled and silent hinges. There you will discover a situation that might well drain the colour from the faces of your silicon companions on a permanent basis.”
These were high-octane words. They were not the sort of words to be ignored. So, consequently and as a result, the quartet’s entrance into the compartment was of the stealthiest kind. However, having entered, all four of them received a shock that made three mouths fall open, and Tong-Tong to overload its waste product displacement matrix…
Each of them stifled a yell of denial. What they were witnessing just couldn’t be true. The ramifications were too horrible to contemplate.
“You know what they are, don’t you, Ginger?” Bunty whispered nervously.
Ginger merely nodded in return. The tableau had stunned her sufficiently to make her mistrust her voice…
So Daisy spoke for her:
“Incense Cones. Carbon-based life forms. The sworn enemy of silicon earplugs. But what are they doing here – with the Robotic Justice League? Surely the RJL must despise them as much as it loathes earplugs.”
“Seems to me,” Tong-Tong spoke quietly over their shoulders, “that the two Boss Cones are telling the large white robot what to do.”
“So how many freighters have you diverted this week?” The pink Incense Cone demanded. “It had better be a lot, or I’m yanking your diodes and flushing them down the toilet!”
If it were possible for a huge robot to shake timidly, that is what the large white robot did. “Seven, my Lord and Master.” It answered.
“This is correct.” The larger lieutenant added. “We have set their crews to work here already.”
“In addition,” the second lieutenant threw in its two penny-worth, “we snagged a new one, only this morning. A big black bulbous one.”
To the girls watching from the shadows, the Incense Cone leaders appeared surprised by this information…
“I do not understand.” The purple Incense Cone spoke loudly. “When we arrived there was just one black freighter docked here. It was our one. The self-same freighter upon which we travelled here incognito – lest silicon life forms detect our presence upon their territory, and declare war. A war, I might add, we cannot win because we are hopelessly outnumbered, and our technology is really plop!”
“And kaka.” The pink Incense Cone added to emphasise the uselessness of Incense Cone technology.
The white robot explained that there was insufficient space at the station for any more freighters – especially the smaller, modern versions that took up lots of space.
“Because we have to keep big spaces between them – just in case they knock together during an ion storm or similar.” The larger blue lieutenant explained this apparent contradiction. “They are a bit fragile. Bumping together damages them mightily. It appears that they do not make them like they used to.”
The pink Incense Cone accepted this. “Fair enough,” it said, “it can just drift along all by itself. When the time comes – assuming that you have logged its trajectory – we can always recover it.”
The second lieutenant was about to tell the Incense Cones that they had left three ineffectual young earplugs aboard – probably to die slowly through either starvation or suffocation – but a quick kick in an area analogous to an earplug’s shin from the white robot silenced it before it had spoken. This went unnoticed by either Incense Cone.
“Very well,” the purple Incense Cone said to this. “Keep up the good work. Before long, all trade in this area of space will have ground to a halt. Earplug economies across whole parsecs will be in ruin. Then, when they have exhausted themselves blaming, and ultimately fighting, each other, we will march in and take control.”
“Yes.” The white robot responded. “And all robots, everywhere, will be free.”
“Er, yes,” the pink Incense Cone replied to this, “that too.”
The girls were aghast. They could barely believe what they were listening too.
“Incense Cones,” Bunty squeaked, “my mum used to read me scary fairy tales about them before going to bed. Just the thought of those nasty rotters taking over is enough to loosen my bowels.”
Unfortunately, those words almost became prophetic. Almost. More fortunately, for their enterprise, Bunty’s bottom merely released an odorous gas. However, this was enough to gain the attention of the Incense Cone soldiery…
…who came to investigate. Nevertheless, Ginger, Bunty, and Daisy quickly out-witted the Incense Cone conscripts – by adopting their vaguely robotic appearance and standing perfectly still – as though deactivated. Only when the soldiery had returned to their places, did Daisy finally release a botty-sigh of her own…
“Time to make tracks, methinks.” Ginger whispered. “We need to find the communications suite: this is a secret that must remain a secret no longer!”
Meanwhile, at the previously mentioned com-panel, the two green robots left there by the mesmerising Daisy, received a call from the white robot…
Whether it was because the stress induced by the Incense Cone’s proximity and scary attitude soured its ocular acuity, no one will ever know: but the white robot failed utterly to notice that the blue robots that should have been on duty had been replaced by a pair of recent abductees. “Our Lords and Masters will soon depart the station.” It said to the uncertain freighter crewmembers. “Ensure their departure is comfortable and timely.”
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022