Friday, 26 June 2009

I thought it was about time I made good on that byline

Captain Finn was out in the forest hunting rabbits when he heard the cry. Two cries in fact: one from a woman and the other from a child. His keen robotic brain pinpointed their coordinates instantly, or at least so quickly as to make mention of the time lapse (0.000004 seconds) redundant—an inexcusable waste of words, perpetrated, no doubt, by a rank amateur of the storytelling art. His powerful robotic limbs carried him there in a trice, although there was still time for a vicar in Putney to finish boiling an egg (he had a twelve-minute head-start, to be fair). His exaggerated robotic sense of the absurd all but short-circuited at the sight that met his eyes: a woman and a child, naked but for crude daubs of blue paint, crying plaintively over the body of a man dressed as a koala dressed as a box of Rolling Stones’ seven-inches.

Captain Finn knew not what to do. As a wine-tasting robot he was unsurpassed: every part of his frame—each LED, circuit board, CPU processing unit, copper wire and right-angled bit of metal—was custom-built for the purpose of wine tasting. Had he been confronted at that moment with a glass of Beaujolais he would have felt right at robot home, but he was not; he was confronted with a woman and a child, naked but for crude daubs of blue paint, crying plaintively over the body of a man dressed as a koala dressed as a box of Rolling Stones’ seven-inches. This was quite a different order of fish kettle.

The woman and child seemed oblivious to his presence, probably because his Stealth Field was still active. He crept forward on his powerful robotic legs and grasped them both in his strong robotic arms. “Do not cry,” he said, “your companion is only resting.” He was not only resting; Captain Finn knew this, but he wished to make a positive impression on his new-found friends. The woman span around, a knife suddenly held in her weak human hand. “Who’s there?” she shouted, her voice trembling with both emotion and fear. Captain Finn backed away, not because he was afraid of the puny weapon, but simply to reassure its bearer. “I am Captain Finn. I am a robot and I am here to help you.” The woman looked confused. “Why can’t I see you?” The child grabbed her leg for comfort, but she shook him off. “My Stealth Field is active,” replied Captain Finn, with considerable grace.

It was at precisely that moment that a group of hunters intruded on the scene. “There they are!” shouted the biggest hunter, who was the leader (although this is only known to me through authorial omniscience, it could plausibly have been inferred by a stranger who had happened on the scene at the same or a similar time). He pointed at the woman and the child and the space where Captain Finn was—although he couldn’t see the latter, because of his Stealth Field—and waved the spear that he had in a threatening way. “Fucking fuckers!” he exclaimed. The other hunters, who were smaller than the biggest one, set upon their quarry like wild dogs on the scent of their quarry (which was not the same quarry in this instance, or the same scent). The woman and child began to run, not towards their pursuers but away from them; Captain Finn, who was far more experienced in some matters than others, remained calm and stationary.

Just as the hunters reached the spot where they didn’t know Captain Finn was standing because of the continued activity of his Stealth Field, the wine-tasting robot leapt into action. He first deactivated his Stealth Field so as to confront the hunters with his profound and terrifying—to any who crossed him—form, then began to spin his powerful robot arms around and around. The hunters were initially terrified, but their terror was quickly replaced by death or, in a few lucky cases, mere dismemberment. The biggest hunter, who was the leader, who had been too busy exhorting his men to advance to advance himself, looked on in disbelief as his cohorts were annihilated with consummate ease and no little aplomb. “Ahh!” he shouted, fear and also some confusion audible in the subtle vibrations of his voice. Rather than facing Captain Finn like a man, which is what he was in an anatomical sense, he fled, crying “I’ll remember you Captain Finn; I will have revenge!” (He knew it was Captain Finn because Captain Finn had said so at the very beginning of his attack.) “I hope not,” replied Captain Finn, his voice happening in a debonair way. “Now, where did that woman and that child get to?” He turned and went after them.