CHEESEBURGER BROWN: Novelist & Story-wallah
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Bobo, a novella by C. B. Brown; illustrations by Matthew Hemming.


The man in the yellow jumpsuit found himself unexpectedly sympathetic at the sight of the crushed robot. He sighed. "He had some piss in him, that one. Still can't believe he functioned any after all that time."

"I guess they don't make them like they used to, eh?"

"Yeah," he said quietly. "Something like that. Whatever it was, you've got to respect that little piece of faeces. Damn thing knew what it was for."

They took off their caps for a silent moment.

"Patent pending, amen."

Bobo rose. Fluid dripped from his abdomen. His starboard arm hung limp. He turned to face his gaping audience, their hats still in the hands. For a heartbeat the moment was fixed in stillness.

With a quavering, distorted voice Bobo said, "You have vandalized Bobo."

"Sacred fornication," whispered the man in the yellow jumpsuit. "The thing bounces back like military metal!"

Bobo forced a dented shoulder back into its proper seating with a metallic grinding sound. "Bobo is manufactured to the high specifications required for full compliance with all mandatory planetary, stellar and panstellar standards of humane geriatric care," he said.

He took a shambling step forward. The company lurched back.

"Robot!" called out yellow jumpsuit; "I order you to power down."

Bobo's face reflected the orange light of the furnace. He held the man's eye for a moment, then turned and began to slowly limp away.

"Robot!" bellowed yellow jumpsuit again. When Bobo did not stop he ran forward and grabbed Bobo's shoulder to wrench him around.

In a blink Bobo had taken hold of the man's wrist. He held it very gently, as human bones had low tensile strength and their fleshy parts were sensitive to acute localized pressure.

"Unhand me!"

The man in the yellow jumpsuit tried to pull away. He yanked against Bobo until Bobo let go, sending the man stumbling backward to fall over himself. He rocketed to his feet, face flushing brightly in the infrared. He roared, "Throw that fornicated thing on the fire!"

Kin rushed forward. They seized Bobo and hauled him toward the blaze. Bobo could think of nothing more sub-optimal than being rendered utterly unable to pursue optimality due to liquefaction. Caring for the elderly was predicated on a certain amount of structural coherence, after all.

Many arms lifted, hefting him over the threshold and into the glowing beyond.

"Bobo objects," said Bobo.

"Goodnight, Bobo!"

The plastic parts of Bobo's outer shell began to soften and run. The rubber pads on the soles of his feet were dripping off in thick clods. Because he wanted to be sure not to act in a cavalier fashion, Bobo double-checked his calculations of the force necessary to oppose this process.

He applied resistance. The humans grunted and pushed harder. Bobo applied further resistance.

With a concerted howl the company threw their weight at Bobo. He ground against the brink, the broken pieces of his outer carapace splintering and falling into the ashes. The largest man bore down on him, wide fists blistering in the heat. Bobo reached out and touched the man's head.

It had always been impressed upon Bobo to be very mindful of the human head as it contained their most irreparable hardware. The man's skin was tougher and more moist than that of most residents. A hairline scar, invisible to the unaided eye, traced a meander along his temple.

Bobo pushed back against the big man's head.

The man's eyes widened. "Please do not put Bobo in the furnace," suggested Bobo. The man's eyes narrowed and he renewed his thrust.

"Please stop," Bobo reminded him.

The man did not stop. But then his skull lost structural integrity, coming apart sloppily under Bobo's fingers.

The company fell back with a collective gasp. The body dropped. Bobo straightened slowly, balancing on the fiery cusp. Fluid dripped from his hand. Somebody screamed, somebody wailed.

Bobo looked down, then up again. He said, "This individual requires medical attention."

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CHEESEBURGER BROWN: Novelist & Story-wallah
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