David Fawkes

I am an environmental scientist by profession. In my spare time, I often write science fiction. I've done some scientific writing, but I haven't had any of my SF published so far.

I am an environmental scientist by profession. In my spare time, I often write science fiction. I've done some scientific writing, but I haven't had any of my SF published so far.

Robots versus Prom Queens

So few robot myths remain in our legends. Perhaps it’s because humans can’t accept the faults of their electronic children. Maybe it’s because robots don’t tell fairy stories. Anymore. I think neither wants to admit how similar we truly are.

–Fodor Ix

Folktales of the Spaceways, vol. 113

The Green Queen slammed her wand against her titanium-laced throne, “Commence with the defacement.”

Abe knew what he had to do next. He’d done it many times before. “I am sorry, Iron Jefferson.” His whispering voice hummed through his speaker grill. “I will be quick.”

“I do not wish to lose my face, Iron Abe. Can you help me?” said Iron Jefferson.

Abe looked around at all the beautiful prom queens of the Queen’s court surrounding them, their lithe, feminine robotic bodies contrasting sharply with his and Jefferson’s industrial functionality. He moved past the chains holding Jefferson in place. “I will do the only thing I can.” He loosened the clasps around Jefferson’s Faceframe. “I will save your face.” With the removal of the Faceframe, Jefferson’s robot body fell, suspended only by his chains. His smokestack ceased its sooty production.

“Iron Worker Abe,” said the Queen, rising. Her emerald dress swished as she stood. “You have the traitor’s Faceframe?”

Abe looked into Jefferson’s green eyes. The Faceframe felt so light. “Yes, your majesty.”

“Then connect it to the Make-over Array. I tire of looking at both of you.”

The array gleamed with surgical sterility. It sat like a headless chrome and plastic monster in its den. After locking Jefferson’s Faceframe into place across from his former body, Abe started the machine.

“My lovely subjects,” the Queen addressed her court.

Abe removed the defensive programming from Jefferson’s Faceframe.

“See the traitor before you.”

Abe knew Jefferson was now compelled to operate the Make-over Array against himself.

“For him, justice was swift and appropriate.”

Abe watched the construction arms descend and cut into Jefferson’s body.

“His Faceframe now runs the very machine that will bring beauty and order to his once treacherous form.”

The arms hacked and buzzed at the old, iron carcass. As Abe watched, the smokestacks and grills and dials disappeared.

“No longer will he be a threat to us.”

The shape changed. The contours smoothed. Wire veins and composite tendons knitted around the altered, iron frame.

“She is now one of us.”

The flesh crept from the Array around molded sinew, like living silk and synthetic fibers. A new prom queen stood naked before the others. Abe turned off the Make-over Array and watched the green eyes of Jefferson’s Faceframe turn black.

“Simply perfect,” the Queen declared. “See how I make beauty from ugliness. When humans were still aboard this ship, could they create something so wonderful?” She whipped her wand against the throne. “Delilah, take our new sister for reeducation.”

Abe watched one of the lady robots–like the others, but with spun, copper-colored hair around her bare, golden shoulders–step forward to take away the new one. Delilah looked at him.

The Queen sat down in her throne, borne away by attendants. After all had left the chamber, Abe removed Jefferson’s face from the Make-over Array.

He made his way back to his cabin, ignored by all who passed him. Once through his door, he found one of the few clear spots left on his walls and mounted Jefferson’s dead Faceframe with all the others he’d saved.

Bannanatattatantsia

Another beautiful morning began on Bannanatattatantsia. The red sun of morning burst like a fireball over the horizon, exploding in pink and orange rays across the sky. But Calligraphy Shopworn barely noticed. She was too busy cleaning the blood and gore from her sheets. A new iron spire had forced its way out of her back during the night, taking its place among the others along her spine.

She gathered the bloody sheets. Later she could get some more from Mrs. TVscreen. Calli lumped her remaining bedding into the pile of rags she called her bed. It wasn’t one, really. No real bed could accommodate the weight and bulk of her body’s changing form. The pile just occupied a warm corner of her dome by an open window. Through it, she had a clear view of the nearly unspoiled beauty of this lonely pebble of a planet. Anything to distract her from her unending agony. Someone knocked at her door.

“Come in,” she said.

Vash Graylighting entered. Calli couldn’t help smiling as she went back to her cleaning. Vash came to see her almost every morning, another distraction from the pain. He towered over her, but everyone seemed tall from Calli’s low point of view on her hover cart. She liked to think of Vash as being especially tall, though. He had cold eyes, but a warm smile; and among the altered men and women of this planet, he appeared almost normal, not as disfigured as she.

“Morning, Calli, I–” he began, but a mumbling beneath his clothes interrupted him. He slapped his arms and sides, and the mumbling stopped. “I wondered if you had some more rags I could use.” He leaned against the corrugated metal wall in that casual way Calli liked.

She smiled and knew he could get rags the same way she could. He simply made an excuse to see her. “You can have some of these. They have blood on them, though.”

“I don’t need them to be clean.” He brushed his hand over his baggy coat.

Calli pressed a few buttons on the control unit by her arm, and the hover cart that held her elephantine bulk rose a few feet with the subtlest of hums. Operating the hover cart tired her because she only had the use of one arm, the other having weeks before been converted into a sort of archway, or buttress; she didn’t know what to call that part of the cathedral growing from her back. She said to Vash, “I thought about ordering a few things from Mrs. TVscreen. Would you like to come?”

“Sure.” Vash looked her over.

If more of her skin had been visible, Calli would have blushed. She could feel heat rush over her in waves.

“You look different. Have you done something to the rose window?”

Her hand instinctively covered her chest and the violet glass there. “No, the spire of another tower came through last night. I was cleaning the mess before you arrived.”

“Ah, you know, Calli, you’re really turning into a beautiful cathedral.”

“Thanks,” she said. She knew he meant well.