The Robot Fleet

The Israel Defense Forces robot fleet now numbers several dozen, which are used by IDF units in the West Bank and the Gaza area… The robots, which are less than a meter tall, know how to climb staircases quickly, photograph what is standing in front of them and transmit the live picture to a distant command position. Given an order from afar, they are also capable of opening fire on terrorists and suspicious objects. A robot that is wounded in action is brought to the "robot hospital" - a workshop of the armaments unit of Central Command… - Haaretz "Lights out!" trilled Big Nurse. "Have a good night, boys." Big Nurse's rubber caterpillar treads rolled smoothly out of the ward and down the corridor. After a few moments, Red X44 muttered to the patient in the next bed, "Nu, so have you learned anything about the new guy?" "Keeps pretty mum," replied Teal Y33. "Let's go see what he has to say." Red X44 nodded and the two patients eased themselves out of bed, Teal Y33 with some difficulty because of his fractured flywheel and bent axle. They limped across the aisle and came to rest at the new patient's side. Red X44 read the chart. "Hey there, Lilac B100. How ya doin'?" The robot lifted his head from the pillow. "That Big Nurse gone? I don't like her. She's bossy." "Don't worry about her," Teal Y33 chuckled. "Smoke?" "Yeah. Thanks." The three lit up and elegantly exhaled perfect octogons and pentangles from their exhaust vents, a proud signature trick of their elite unit. "So, " said Red X44 after a pause, "whatcha in for?" Teal Y33 sighed. "Took a Hamas bullet in my motherboard." "You picked up a nail in your main circuit!" exclaimed Red X44. "Man, that sounds serious. All I got is some scrambled video- processing programming." "Keep your Vocalization Synthesizer down, Red," whispered Teal Y33. Then he turned to the new guy. "Shot right in the motherboard, eh? Gee, that must hurt." Lilac B100 shrugged. "The pain they keep down with super-lubricants and anti-oxidation agents. I'm more concerned about what the wound has done to my AI. I mean, like I keep having these funny thoughts…" "Funny thoughts?" asked Teal Y33. "Whaddya mean? You sound perfectly OK to me." The trio vacuum-trapped the remains of their cigarettes and lit up again. "So what kind of thoughts?" Red X44 pressed. "You won't like it," said Lilac B100. "I don't like it myself. But… I just can't see going back to Gaza or the territories. Ever." "Heck, who hasn't had thoughts like that?" laughed Red X44. "I'd give anything for some nice, quiet routine duty at Ben-Gurion Airport. Scoot around the departure lounges, barcode the lady tourists. Suck up some Starbucks, do some duty-free shopping in the off hours..." "Not even that," Lilac B100 interrupted. "I mean I've had it with army life altogether. I'm thinking of emigrating." "Ha!" snorted Red X44. "And what are you going to do abroad - compact garbage, like that putz in the Pixar cartoon? Or maybe take a flying leap to Mars, cook a little Martian soil, eat it all alone every night? Fuggedaboudit. We're programmed purely for combat. Wired for war, dude. That's all she wrote." "My circuits tell me otherwise. I can see myself idling my treads on the sands of Ipanema. Or maybe doing a little high-tech beachcombing in Thailand. Who knows, maybe I could just meditate in India." "Tough guys don't meditate," Red X44 snapped. "And what about our mission, man?" asked Teal Y33. "I mean, the whole army depends on us. For that matter, the whole country." "Defending the country by occupying our neighbors? Look, I'm as much a Zionist as the next robot, but ever since my circuits got hit I'm seeing things differently. In fact, I'm ready to make a break for it right now. You guys with me?" "Gee, I don't know," said Teal Y33. "It sure is tempting. And if these peace talks we hear about really get anywhere, maybe the IDF won't need us any longer. Heck, if I didn't have this bum axle…" "Knock it off," snapped Red X44. "You're talking treason, man. Frankly, I think this machine's more yellow than lilac. Or is it pinko?" "I'm with Lilac," rumbled a strong voice from the far end of the darkened ward. It was Bronze XXL66, the most senior patient in the entire hospital. "Bronzey!" exclaimed Red X44 and Teal Y33. "We didn't even know you could speak!" "Never had nothing worth saying before. Sgt. Lilac - do you seriously wish to bust out of here?" "Out of here and out of this entire meshuga Middle East!" cried Lilac B100. Suddenly the fluorescent lighting flashed on. "Not so fast!" barked Big Nurse. "So what's go on here? Do I detect cigarettes… and sedition?" Guiltily the robots sucked up their smokes and hung their forward sensory processing units. All but Lilac B100. "You don't intimidate me," he said defiantly. "I've paid my dues - one tour of duty after another. Let some other robo-Rambo take his turn. I'm outta here." Big Nurse advanced on her black rubber treads, two armor-plated hospital attendant robots clanking at her sides. "The only place you're going is to Chip Replacement and Rehabilitation." "Oh, no!" cried the other robots. "Not Chip Replacement and Rehabilitation! Lilac, they're going to fry your brains!" "Just a little… resistor adjustment," smirked Big Nurse. "And do we ever have the capacity to handle resistance. Anyone else want the same treatment? Take him, fellas." The attendants whisked a wailing Lilac B100 out of the ward. The lights went out. An abashed Bronze XXL66 lay mute once again in his bed. Red X44 and Teal Y33 blinked at each other as their circuits cooled down nearly to sleep mode. Finally, Red X44 vocalized: "Backgammon?"