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July 15, 2024

Class Assignment

By Anna Parrish

Sitting on my bed, I re-read the instructions I had picked up in school today. My writing coach wanted a sci-fi love story, in 5,000 words or less, about a rampaging monster. I struggled with ideas that swarmed my brain. Was my monster going to be a wife with bad PMS, an old, family land-vehicle chugging and crackling down the street, a dinosaur, a weird alien or a robot who overshot his internal directions and went marauding?

"Maybe it could be me, storming around in the classroom, acting like a fool," I grumbled beneath my breath. I scowled at the paper I held. How was I going to write this paper? The sci-fi was the uncomplicated part but adding the love bit to that idea was going to be hard. It was due before the end of February. That only gave me two months and it wasn't the easiest idea to use in a romance.

"Kyle?" My Ro-Rom-bot called from the doorway where it floated, hovering quietly, its small, silvery body gleaming in the lighting. I looked up, meeting its one blue eye with my own two. "Miss Sadie is on the phone."

Sighing, I flung the instruction sheet on the bed and got up. "Thanks Roe."

"Cook wants to know if you want dinner tonight or if you were going out." It moved backward to allow me exit from my room.

"I'm going out." She knew I always went out on Tuesday but she always asked.

Roe replied, "I will inform her."

"Thanks." I hurried into the living area and grabbed the phone. My heart raced just a little. My hormones kicked in overtime as I pictured her face. "Hello?"

"Honeycakes!" Sadie called out happily when she heard my voice. "How's my little sweetie snookums?"

I grinned, loving the sound of her voice, loving the idea that she and I were going out as a couple. One day, after I graduated, we would be married. That was just two years away, but going to school and working were exacting enough without adding marriage to it. I whispered, "Your honeycakes misses you." After cooing and mushing around, we made plans to meet the other kids in an hour in our usual meeting place. Though it was standard procedure, I never took her for granted; I always asked if she wanted to go.

After I hung up, Roe said, "Kyle?" I looked up at him. "You were scowling in your bedroom."

"I'm having a little trouble with my homework."

"Do you require help?"

"No, but thanks for offering. I can do it."

I took a shower and then used the dispatch pad in the garage to the transporter pad and tele-transfered to the local diner. As I dematerialized, my body tingled. We never met there on the weekend for it was too busy and Morrie's Burgers and Fries only had ten pads ready to send and receive diners, but Tuesday night was just fine with us. There was never a lot of people there then. Sadie, Jack and Lizzie, Boris and Myrtle, were already there. I caught sight of them as I re-materialized. They looked up as the pad deposited my molecules into the room.

"You're late," Jack teased.

"Ah!" I went to them, kissed and hugged Sadie. I loved the feel of her in my arms.

"Honeycakes," she murmured in delight, cuddling, her cheek against my chest.

"Oh, gross!" Jack complained.

"Jack!" Lizzie complained, glowering at him.

Shame faced, he admitted, "I was just fooling." Jack waved a paper around. "What's with this assignment? Has anyone looked at it yet?"

I looked at the sheet he was holding up, recognizing the peach color my writing coach favored. They were all in my writing class. Of course, we had all read it. "He wants a rampaging monster. How hard can that be?"

Jack complained, "How can I make a love sci-fi with a monster in it? How romantic can that be?"

Boris reminded him, "It doesn't have to be romantic."

"Yes, it does," Lizzie argued.

Myrtle agreed, "It sure does. That's what a love story is."

"Then how can I do it?" Jack demanded.

Sadie said, "I'm going to have a woman turn into an ugly beast and her husband saves her cause he loves her."

Grinning at her, I said, "Not bad, sweetheart." She grinned at me in delight.

Lizzie asked, "What are you doing?"

"I haven't decided yet," I told her truthfully. "I have a lot of ideas, but I haven't decided on one."

"Me neither." She sighed, played with her straw.

Old man Parker came up, wiping his hands on a towel. "My Cook's acting up again, kids. If you're hungry, you'll have to wait."

"Ah, man," Jack complained. "I'm starving."

"Sorry. Want a soda?"

"Yeah." He sat back in the chair, glowering. Old man Parker walked away. "Man, I was hungry." I pulled out a candy bar from my pocket and tossed it to him. Jack was always hungry. Knowing him so well, I always came prepared. He grinned as he caught it. "Thanks." He peeled the paper from the chocolate and bit into the thick bar.

About half an hour later, we heard a loud pop from the kitchen and old man Parker yelled. We hurried to him. His Cook was up near the ceiling, so miffed, it was humming.

"What happened?" Boris asked.

"I was trying to switch some circuits, hoping she'd start cooking. I think I fried something."

"Cook?" I called up.

"He hurt me!" the robot moaned.

"Hurt . . .? How can I hurt it? Its nothing but a machine," Parker demanded harshly. "A machine can't be injured! Squished maybe . . . ."

"Squished? Squished?" She repeated, "You hurt me." Her eye flashed different colors as though daring him to argue with her again.

"He didn't mean to," I tried to reassure her. "Come down and let me look at what he did. Maybe I can repair it." I turned to Parker. "What did you do?"

Parker explained, "I was simply trying to get it to work."

She remained in the corner, near the roof. "I don't want to work." "You . . . What?" Parker was astonished.

"I don't want to work." I heard a touch of stubbornness in her voice.

"Why?" I asked gently.

"I'm tired," she muttered.

Parker was even more bewildered. "You're what?"

"I'm tired," she said again.

"You can't be tired," Parker complained. "You're a robot."

"Why are you tired?" I asked. Maybe she couldn't get physically tired; she was a servo-robot after all, but she was also a machine with a brain. It could be mental fatigue.

"I always cook burgers and I'm tired of doing that. I want to make something else."

"But . . .." Parker began.

"What do you want to make?" I asked her. She came to me, allowed me to hold her. I placed her on the table.

"Apple pie . . . steak . . . stew . . .chicken pot pie! Anything but burgers! They stink!"

Parker argued, "They do not."

"They do. You're a human; what do you know?"

"Oh, geez," Parker complained, holding his forehead in both hands. "This is a burger place! I bought it to cook burgers!"

His Cook snapped, "I don't care! I want to make something else."

"Why don't you trade her with Pork Belly down the street?" I inquired. "At least, for awhile, let her make those things. I'm sure Jarod wouldn't mind."

"I can't . . .. Oh, rancid tater anyway! Okay, I'll do it. All this for a blasted machine. I might not take you back, you know that?" he demanded, scowling at her, forgetting for just a moment that she was not human.

"I don't care!" she snapped. "I hate making burgers."

I looked inside her. Parker hadn't done any real damage. I re-routed what he had done and closed her back up. "You're fine."

"It's a good thing you're studying robotics," Sadie said, hugging me.

"Thanks, son." Parker stuck out his hand. We shook.

"Glad to be of help."

"Will you cook them something now?" the old man asked.

"Yes." His Cook returned to the stove. "What would you like?"

Later, after eating, I looked at the others. "Let's call it a day, okay? I have a test tomorrow in bio-realms." We all agreed. I kissed Sadie more than once and we all transported back to our own homes.

My Cook met me when I entered the door to the main house. "Would you like hot chocolate?"

"That would be nice. Thanks." I yawned and stretched. It had been a long day, but I still had the data to study for the test tomorrow.

"Would you like cookies?" My Cook asked.

"No, I'm stuffed. Just the chocolate, please." I went into my room and changed into my pajamas. The hot chocolate was waiting when I left the bathroom. The smell was enticing. The taste was heavenly. I turned on my computer and went into the study sector. Roe came in at eleven.


"Hum?" I re-read a section. My brain was turning into mush. It had to be; that last passage looked like gibberish to me. Giving up, I turned to Roe. "What?"

"It's eleven. Perhaps you should go to bed now?"

"Sounds like a wonderful idea, Roe." I rose and stumbled towards the bed. "Wake me at six. I have a test."

"I will." The light went out as I faded into sleep. I woke to his, "Kyle? It is now six o'clock."

Lying there on my bed, I looked up at him with only one eye open. I murmured sleepily, "Exact or precise?"

"It is now six oh one." I swear I heard laughter at the back of his voice.

Sitting up, I asked, "What kind of day will it be?"

"Mid seventies, sunny."

Teasing, I inquired, "I assume that weather information is for this area?"

"Of course."

Three days ago, he had given me twenty below. When I goggled at him, he then added, "In northern Alaska." I know I didn't add his happy chip but he had sense of humor.

"Very funny," I had muttered.

"Thank you."

So now I ask, is that weather data for my locality?

Roe told me, "Breakfast is ready."

"I don't have time . . .."

"It is a transportable bar, Kyle."


I hurried and dressed, hurried to the kitchen where my Cook complained, "You need real food."

"I know; I know, but I don't have time. Got a test." I grabbed the bar and ran to the garage.

I tele-transported to school and hurried up the stairs to my class room. Other kids were running here and there, even at that early hour. I wasn't the only one having testing that day. The coach in bio-realms class was an older Bander model. That prototype walked around on two legs. The versions being made today floated. That was so much more graceful. Though it only needed one, this one had two eyes.

We called her Coach Bander. She had no sense of humor. I don't think a chip could be embedded in her. The minute the last student entered, she shut the door and began the test. I think I did pretty good on most of it, but there was one question:

Supposition: A human encephalon bio-realm reveals third and fourth spikes in the interior arenas and none in the surface domain. There is a half-inch, solid, blue pattern marked on the inward element. The range between the hinder and the outer regions are encoded. They are luminous and crimson. What do these bio-realms signify?

I couldn't remember. Since the outer regions were red, the brain held a cyborg chip, and I thought I knew what the blue field denoted, but I wasn't sure. I left that question to last but at the end of examination, with only five minutes to go, I quickly wrote my answer, hoping it was the right one. It was and it wasn't. I found out two days later that I only received half credit on that one question. Turns out the human did have a cyborg chip but it was because the human had epilepsy and that disease was still operating in the brain. The chip kept it at bay but of course, did not remove the problem. The chip was functioning incorrectly and would have to be replaced, thus the blue pattern. I mentioned everything but the presence of epilepsy, mainly because I didn't think of it. I got a ninety-five per cent on the test.

Sadie did her best to perk me up. "Hey, it happens," she told me. It did, but not to me. I always did good on bio-realms, both encephalon and organic structure. I went home that day, glum. Sadie has epilepsy and carries a brain chip to control it. How could I have forgotten that?

But it did give me an idea for the story. Suppose the chip, given to aid a recurring medical problem was the wrong chip, or it malfunctioned so badly that it caused severe personality complications, thus creating a rampaging monster? Hum, a little contrived I know, but it just might work. Half the battle to creation was enjoying what was being penned and I liked the idea. Thinking it out, I created an outline and began to write:

["If it keeps snowing," my wife grumbled, "We'll be snowed in till spring."

"It is bad this year," I agreed calmly, lowering my book to watch her. I loved her, so very much. We had been married for thirty years, but each moment spent with her was like the first day.

She turned to look at me. "I have to go to work." Her facial features told me she didn't want to, but the only way the Corps would allow us to move Vanguard without charging us for the move, was as scientists who worked for them. She was into robotics; I was a botanist. We were terra-forming the world, making it fit human standards. She worked days; I worked nights, which meant the time we had to share was extra special. Myrtle's face turned soft. "I love you."

I teased, "Do you?"

She came to me, tugged at my pony tail. "Yeah, you nit-wit, you, I do." She kissed me and left . . ..]

-the end--

Article © Anna Parrish. All rights reserved.
Published on 2005-06-13
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