Robots On The Town
Ellen Kuhfeld

Open with Wadleigh working at a computer terminal. The screen reads:
RUN 13, CRASH 13
He sighs, turns the computer off, and goes to bed. His robot butler, Rhett, is waiting with a glass upon a tray. "Your nightcap, sir." "Thank you, Rhett."

Rhett goes by the kitchen to pick up the maid robot, Clea, who is just finishing the dishes. "Let's go to the gym, Clea. I really think we should have a meeting." At the gym, they meet the jailbreak robot (Slippery Jim). Babbage, the master computer, also has a terminal there.
"Tomorrow's his birthday."
"We really should..."
"... get him something."
"Let's rob a bank for him."
"He likes to do his own robbing."

Each robot has its own slant. Clea thinks of redecorating. Rhett comes closest to practicality: a lounge jacket and slippers. But what store would sell to a robot? Slippery Jim is downcast because none of Wadleigh's friends need to be sprung from jail. Finally, Babbage pipes in.
"He still has to repair Ada from being shot with a bazooka."
"Let's steal a Buick!"
"Ada always wanted to be a Buick!"
"The boss really likes customizing cars!"

The robots realize they will need a driver that looks human, so the cops won't stop the car on sight. Rhett comes closest, and though he tries to assert his dignity, he ends up spending a quick hour with epoxy putty, spray-paint, and disguise closet. He feels silly impersonating an android. They take the flying sled and head out to steal that Buick. They want something new (new cars are more computerized, and it is easier to wire a robot brain in.)

The hideout is in the near North Side warehouse area. Downtown is too busy, so they head for a residential district. They go towards the airport, so their flying sled will be less conspicuous.

From high above a blighted residential area, curbs filled with rusted cars, they see the gleam of an elaborately-decorated Buick. (Robots have no appreciation of subtlety in such things, and pimpmobiles are eye-catching.) No humans are in sight, so they head down and land next to it. Slippery Jim sticks his finger to the keyhole. "Have it open in a sec." Rhett is waiting to drive the car away. Clea is in the sky-sled.

Unfortunately, pimpmobile owners are awake at 2 a.m. Inside the house, a Hell's Angel type is peering through the blinds. "Mojo, there's some robots out there messin' with yer car!" Mojo (a Rastafarian Mr. T) grabs an Uzi and leaps to the door. "Get way from my cah!" Slippery Jim mutters "Oh, GEARstrip!" and heaves a tear-gas grenade. From the house come coughs, curses, and bullets. The Buick fills with holes.

Clea and Rhett cower in the sky-sled. "Slippery Jim, you idiot! Clea and I aren't bulletproof!" Bullets hit the engine section, and the sled begins to burn; Rhett and Clea bail out.

"Mu' fu'! Yo made me shoot my cah!" Rattatatatat... The robots light out on foot. Above them, the telephone wires are filled with little electronic balloons saying "911". They end up skulking down an alley. They are short a Buick; their sled was shot up and they have no transport home. The alley is dark, with few witnesses, and one of the garages may have a Buick in it. "About now, I'd settle for a Yugo!"

Going past a yard with cyclone fencing, they are startled by a German Shepherd lunging at the fence. Slippery Jim cannot stand seeing things caged; before cooler heads can prevail, he springs the dog. It leaps through the hole in the fence, and begins attacking Jim.

In the confusion, Jim takes on the dog. Miss Power (attracted by the fuss) arrives.

Rhett and Clea are watching the fight, in a dignified manner. Miss Power wants to know what the bleep is happening.
"I'm sorry, Miss, you've caught us at a bad time."
"I can see that. What's going on?"
"We were looking to steal a Buick for the Professor's birthday, and this dog..."
"The Professor? You're Wadleigh's robots?"

She grabs Rhett, and throws him over her shoulder. His arm comes loose in a shower of sparks; he goes "Squee--arkkkk...!" and lands in a heap. <Crib from Magnus, Robot Fighter.> Clea picks up the arm and carries it over to the dumpster. Slippery Jim deftly lofts the dog towards Miss Power, who departs in a great hurry, pursued by the Shepherd.
"Nice doggie!"
"Dammit, dog, we're on the same side!"

Rhett sits up. "Well! I'm glad she's gone. A MOST abrupt young woman!" He reaches for his arm, which Clea has picked up and brought to him. "Thank you, Clea." He puts the arm back in its place. Jim adds, "That was a nice throw she handed you, Rhett. She's really quite good."

Slippery Jim checks out the garage. "Hey fellas, there's a Buick in here!" The robots all dash in. (Voice from garage: "What's this under the seat?") Lights are coming on in the nearby houses as they drive off.

As they travel, they hear sirens. Police cars speed past them. The neighborhood where they stole the first Buick is cordoned off by police. Jimmy Crockett is there, taking photos and interviewing people. They finally make it home.

The next morning, the robots bring Wadleigh breakfast in bed. Newspaper headline: DRUG WARS ON SOUTH SIDE.

The three trade off word balloons.
"Happy Birthday, Boss!"
"We know you want to fix Ada ..."
"So we stole a Buick for your present."
"The back was full of cocaine and money"
"we know you like stealing your own money ..."
"so we'll take it back if you like."

Wadleigh chides them. "Going out on your own! I never have been able to give you the sense God gave a goose!" He sweeps them up into a hug. "But you have good hearts!"

Slippery Jim opens a small panel on his chest, and takes out an alarm clock lashed to several sticks of dynamite. "I really like the one you gave me!"

Another Clea comes in with a fancy package. "Captain Mercaptan left a present for you, boss."

"For my thirtieth birthday? Timo mustelidae et dona ferentes!"

"Right. I'll open it in the isolation chamber."