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Richardine X-Machine

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Chapter 2: The Frustration of Fable Farrows

Richardine was taking a difficult case in the "Mars Complex B". Underneath the barren, rocky surface of Mars, there lay a well-equipped underground city which housed a huge apartment complex. It was specifically built for the needs of elderly people and those with disabilities.

Richie-X went underground not long after she had docked at the Space Hangar. Capri and Andruna had agreed to stay behind on the ship and “andromal-sit” Quacky and Toro Caballo. The two of them seemed disappointed not to be accompanying Richie on her assignment; but Richie had made a judgment call that all four of the andromals might be somewhat overwhelming for the inhabitants of Mars Complex B, many of whom were frail and elderly. She therefore chose Neptuna the Green Lab and Milk O’ Birdkindness the Cockatoo to go on the mission. Neptuna had taken it all in stride, and Milk-O had jumped on Richie’s shoulder to let her know that he was worthy of the confidence that she was showing in him.

Meanwhile, Capri and Andruna watched the trio on their viewing monitor as Quacky and Toro moped at their feet. Andruna was more sympathetic to the two “rejectees” than Capri, and so she patted them as a consolation prize. Capri ignored them completely, because she was so intent on monitoring Richie’s progress. Richie had surprised them today by requesting that, if they needed to call her by her nickname, could they please delete the ‘X’? Capri and Andruna had complied with her request immediately, and they were delighted with her emotional development.

“Imagine,” Capri thought, “Who would have guessed that Richie would be so sensitive to her rather impersonal ‘family’ name?”

The name “X-Machine” had been given to her through the company that sponsored her creation, “X-Machine Robotic Designs”. Richardine had come to dislike the name, because she was developing an amazing sense of herself as a unique individual. It was astounding!

Capri stared at the screen, entranced. Richie had been engaged in traveling from apartment to apartment, greeting residents, delivering heavy but necessary robotic equipment such as hover-chairs; and, giving expert personal care to those who needed it. In each and every person’s home, Richie had been delighting people and winning hearts. She treated them not only with politeness, but with compassion and dignity as well.

Capri smiled when one old man had said to her, “Honey, you give Human caregivers a run for their money!”

Richie took it all with good humor, gently deflecting the many flirtations which she received from the male residents.

Things were going so well, in fact, that Capri was shocked when Richie encountered Ms. Fable Farrows. The elderly woman scowled when the P.S.W. Android entered her abode.

“I want a Human caregiver, you Bucket of Bolts!” she cried angrily, “Machines have no business taking over Human work. I was a Nurse for fifty years before I retired, and I never liked those damn robots taking over the work of the orderlies and other health care attendants. Who is your owner? I want to talk to him immediately.”

“Capricorna Asteron is my creator,” Richie replied politely, “I can give you her monitor code if you like.”

Fable punched the code into her own monitor irritably as Richie dictated it to her.

“Capricorna Asteron!” Fable shouted at the monitor’s image of her, “I want that Bucket of Bolts out of here at once! I’ve told Earth Central a hundred times, I want Human Caregivers, not some idiotic facsimile. I’m going to file another complaint, and I will keep doing so until they listen to me. Machines should not be taking over the last bastion of work from the Human Race!”

It was all that Capri could do to stop herself from reaching into the screen-image of Fable and punching it. She knew that it was unfair of her to be angry with the feisty elder, but she felt a maternal protectiveness arising in her with regard to Richie. How dare she call Richie a ‘Bucket of Bolts’!

Richie was handling the situation with far more equanimity than Capri, but she forced herself to be a good role model to her nonetheless.

“Ms. Farrows,” she said in as soothing a voice as she could muster, “Richie—that is, Richardine—is a top of the line, one-of-a-kind android. She isn’t just a machine!”

“Oh, don’t you bother talking to me, you Techno-Nut. She’s a robot, and I hate robots! And I don’t like that mechanical dog and the dumb bird either. They’re not natural...they’re just toys, and I’m not a kid.”

“Ms. Farrows, please...give Richie a chance. Everyone else in the complex really likes her, and the andromals as well...”

“Andromals, my foot!” growled Fable, “I’m going to start a petition, and I’m going to send it to the other colonies. I’m going to call for this robot and the robo-beasts to be sent to the scrap heap.”

Capri felt a stab of pain in her heart. Andruna saw that she was struggling to maintain her composure, and so she gestured to her to step aside for a moment.

“Ms. Farrows,” Andruna said in a reconciliatory tone, “Surely we can come to some understanding. Richie is performing her duties very well. Could you give her just one chance? If you aren’t satisfied with her performance, we’ll contact Earth Central and tell them that you only want Humans calling in on you.”

“No, Dearie, I won’t give her a chance,” Fable replied, “I’m through with giving chances to soul-less robots. They’re nothing but machines masquerading as Human Beings. It’s not fair to some of these people in here who really believe that she and her dopey green dog are real.”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Farrows,” Richie said to her, “Neptuna, Milk O’ Birdkindness and I will leave now as we do not wish to upset you further.”

“Milk O’ Birdkindness?” Fable snapped, “What sort of stupid name is that? It’s supposed to be the Milk of Human Kindness, for Pete’s sake. Whatever happened to that?”

Richie bid the woman farewell in a gracious manner and departed with Milk-O and Neptuna.

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