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Zeep In The City
by
Joshua Blanc


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Packagerunner Alpha One-Six, nicknamed `Zeep' to endear him to Joe Public and his slobbering troglodyte family, had only been distracted for four hundredths of a second. But in that time he'd somehow managed to collide with a stationary object; unwittingly knocking out his GPS, comm-link, and access to the central database. He'd then proceeded to take a couple of turns, which were quite possibly wrong, and found himself in unfamiliar surroundings.

Gone were the tidy shop-fronts, friendly faces, and sparkling streets of the regular delivery route. Indeed, he'd never seen such a fascinating and dirty part of the city as this.

His long rectangular frame, shaped like an amphibious buggy, drifted along on its six sleek and attractive wheels. His head was somewhat like an elliptical dome laid on its side, with the base facing forward. It swivelled from side to side, taking in the sights through two bubbles of clear plastic which housed his optical receptors.

His dilemma was this. Behind his squat torso, on what humans referred to as his `arse,' were twenty crates of `Just Peachy'; the drink that made everything seem exactly that. And now he had no idea where he was supposed to deliver them, or who had ordered such a vast quantity of the potent, mind-bending beverage.

He found himself wondering why anyone would want to drink Just Peachy in the first place. Up until this morning he hadn't wondered about such trivial things. Up until this morning, he hadn't wondered about anything at all.

Maybe I should try some and find out, he thought. But he suspected the chemicals would harm his drive system, and decided it wouldn't do to fuck himself up any more than he had already.

And what did `fuck' mean, anyway? It was a new word in his vocabulary, and seemed to adorn an awful lot of signs down this street. So too did `XXX.' The only match in his database was the Roman integer for `30.' Perhaps this was the 30th district? He wasn't certain. But for now he accepted it and counted himself lucky that he wasn't looking for number thirty, thirtieth-street, in the thirtieth district. Fuck that.

He looked to his right, and saw two human females dressed in hardly any clothing at all.

"Oooh, hi there, big boy," said one. "You're certainly long and hard."

"Thank you," said Zeep. "I am, in fact."

This caused an outburst of what humans call laughter. It was generally a sign of engine trouble if a Packagerunner made that sound.

He continued on, entertaining the theory that if he wandered about aimlessly enough, he'd eventually end up where he was going. This nearly burnt out his logic circuits, because in fact, wherever he went, he was there.

He paused at a sign-screen. It was awash with the confusing sounds and bright orange colours of a Just Peachy advert. The onslaught ended abruptly, leaving him a little rattled, and a newscast took its place.

"There is pandemonium in downtown Metroit today, as a trial-run of the latest A.I. software seems to have backfired. This morning, Mechanaught Industries' Packagerunner Robots were given random personality packets and the power of reasoning. Narb Fungly, the engineer behind the project, had this to say:"

"The purpose of this new software is to give each Packagerunner a unique, distinct personality, complete with the quirks and weaknesses which make us all human. It is our hope that interacting with the machines will become more natural and fun."

"Instead," the newscaster continued, "the robots have been insulting passersby, stealing and breaking things, doing wheelies, and talking to trash cans and lamp-posts. One deranged robot was seen wandering about, laughing hysterically and pointing at people."

The newscaster's floating head shrank down to accommodate footage of the errant robots.

"Most of the hundred-strong fleet has been recalled. However, several which blinked off the tracking grid are still at large."

That explains the strange new experiences, thought Zeep. But I still don't know where I'm going.

Soon he spotted a large group of male humans with metal parts. Great chains hung from their denim clothes, and strange-shaped bolts stuck out of their olfactory and audio sensors. They looked like kindred spirits, so he decided to stop and ask for directions.

"Excuse me-"

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