Chapter 1

"I think it was a very good party!" said Charles the Robot, dumping plates and cake leftovers in the Recycler.

Roy tried to remove some Sparkle Bright Neon Gum one of the guests had glued to one of his father's prized real wood book cases and said, "It was alright, I guess but I am not much for parties."

The robot observed Roy struggling with the bright purple glob and started to recite. "Sparkle Bright, Sticky Messes, Oil and Tar can easily be removed by using Rox-Scrub! Roxy-Scrub, Roxy-Scrub, even you can join the club!"

Roy laughed. "Charles I think you are the only Cerberus robot in the entire Galaxy that watches and recites commercials."

The machine responded with its deep modulated male voice. "I also am very likely the only Cerberus robot doing household chores! This unit watches commercials because they are part of a Holo show. 'As the Galaxy turns' One watches this program."

Roy grinned. "I do not see the attraction of these programs, but I guess everyone has different tastes."

"Robots do not have tastes. This unit observes it merely for information gathering."

Roy still grinned. "Yes that's a good excuse."

Eight years before, Uncle Sam had given Charles to Roy as a birthday present.

Charles was a genuine SII-Cerberus Type IV Robot, the very pinnacle of Terran Battle robot technology in its time.

Of course the military used Cerberus type IX now and Charles was decommissioned military surplus, but it was still an awesome machine. Everybody on Green Hell had robots and, due to the nature of the planet, all those robots were armed, but these were usually S-10 Multi function Bots with an added weapon arm.

Charles was designed as a weapon system from the ground up.

No one he knew had a Cerberus and that was not just because a Cerberus was incredibly expensive but it was almost impossible for a civilian person to get an Owners License for this sort of military hardware.

Somehow Uncle Sam had managed and Roy was one of only 25,000 civilians owning a Cerberus robot in the entire Union.

Roy finally managed to get the gum off and tossed it, along with the rag he had used, into the recycler and watched Charles direct the Hoover-Vac around the carpet. "Do you regret being my robot and doing household chores?"

"Roy, one is a machine. One does not have such emotions. It would be the same for me to stand in a corner for the next one hundred years and do nothing or execute whatever command you choose to give me."

"I know you are a machine, but you are more to me."

Charles' dome shaped neck-less head turned around, not that he needed to do that since he had Omni-directional optic sensors, but this side of the head was his 'face'. "You are more to me than a master. I dedicated much sub processing space to you that goes far beyond the standard loyalty program. One likes to mention that one is a Type IV and quite advanced. It is part of one's ability to alter my programming to adjust to new situations. Neuron pathways have been permanently burned with you as focus and it is the closest alternative one could define in terms of feelings towards you."

Roy hugged the massive machine. "I always knew you like me!"

The robot's dark red dimly glowing visual sensors flashed a little brighter for a short moment and Roy did not notice the machines massive Syntho-muscle powered right arm with the huge Ultronit fist that could crumble steel like tissue paper gently patting his shoulder.

The robot scanned the room by turning his head 360 degrees and said, "Besides, logic determines that household work is far less dangerous to a robot than being sent into battle, deemed too dangerous for live beings. So this unit prefers household chores."

Just then the voice of Roy's father called the boy's name. "Mister Roy Masters, would you please come to the study?"

Charles said, "Your father requires your presence. One is completely capable to can clean up the rest!"

Whenever Paul Masters, Roy's father, called him Mister, he knew he was in trouble. Paul never called him like this if he had good news.

Expecting the unavoidable, Roy crossed the living room of the dome shaped two storey home and entered his father's study.

Paul Masters was an avid collector and fan of everything Pre-Astro from Earth. Pre-Astro meant things Terran humans used before the ascent over 3000 years ago. Even though Paul Masters was born on Ribenna Colony, 763 light years from Terra and had visited Earth only during his University studies.

This was the reason that most of the furniture in the house was made of wood or pseudo wood and had no integrated tech at all.

Paul loved books, the ancient kind, made of an exotic material called paper. He had those books stacked and shelved everywhere in his study. Roy's father also had taken to the Terran habit of smoking. He smoked pipes and the sweet tobacco smell penetrated deep into the house, despite the best efforts of the air recycling system.

His father was thin and tall and his colleagues at the Institute often called him the stork, a nickname and a reference to some sort of Terran avian life form. Paul's nose, Roy agreed did almost have the appearance of a birds beak. His father had the same bright blue eyes as Roy, but Paul's hair was black and did not have the sandy blonde shade Roy and his mother shared.

To the boy's surprise his mother was present as well. She sat on the corner of his father's wooden work desk and they both looked at their son, their stares signaled he was in deeper trouble than he expected.

His mother was, so everyone told him, quite pretty. She had a very feminine body and wore her hair in a chin length bob-cut. Her eyes were dark pink as almost everyone from the planet Phantas had. His mother was born on this perpetual twilight world almost 2100 light years away at the other end of the Upward Sector. Like his father she was an exobiology scientist and they had met when they both were students on a famous university on Earth.

Mother never wore any make up, or dresses or anything like that and always wore the same one piece body suit almost everyone on Green Hell wore, the only difference to Roy's or Paul's Bio seal suit was that hers had red panels, while Paul's were blue and Roy's had a green jungle camouflage pattern, like any real native Greenie did.

Martha Masters did not really approve of this as she looked at her 16 year old teenage son. His hair cropped short in a regulation Marine Corps high and tight style. Roy wanted it that way because Uncle Sam wore it like that. Roy had grown visibly since his last birthday and was almost as tall as his father now, reaching 198 centimeters.

Roy filled out his camouflage patterned Bio suit with a peak athletic body and he had well developed muscular arms a rock hard six pack belly and muscular thighs. His face was angular and Martha saw much of her father in his features, Roy had the same chin, the same Roman nose as her Dad.

Paul pointed to the wooden visitor's chair before his desk. Roy was convinced his father had bought that chair for the sole purpose of making him uncomfortable while he interrogated or scolded his son.

Paul said with a stern tone. "Have a seat, Son! Your mother and I have to talk to you!"

Roy sat down and was sure he knew what was coming and why he had been called on the carpet. To speed things up he said. "I confess I was outside again, so spare me the lecture father and let us proceed to the punishment part."

Paul took the pipe out of his mouth and began to clean the bulb with a silvery spoon tool. "Roy, you are 16 years old, we hoped you would grow out of these ridiculous boyhood fantasies that you have been outside in the jungles."

He placed the cleaned pipe in a wooden pipe holder stand, which had been mother's Christmas present to her husband a few years back and continued. "I told you this sermon thousands of times and I will have to do it once again. We are on Green Hell, Roy and you know that! Nothing and no one can survive out there unless wearing the most advanced protection suits our technology can come up with. We are trained to do that and we never expose ourselves for long. We always have Marines in Destroyer suits along. This is what enables us to conduct research here!"

Roy crossed his arms in a defiant manner and glared at his father from under his eyebrows and said. "Because you are not Greenies, I am a Greenie! All that Armor-stuff is for ignorant Off-worlders."

His mother slowly shook her head." I am aware of the peer pressure you must experience in class by the other kids, but even tenth generation Greenies go nowhere near the Jungles and pretty much stay on Anthill Island. Yes you were born here, but that does not make you a Greenie. Not that I can even imagine why anyone would want to be one."

Paul played with his replica antique silver pipe lighter and pointed it at Roy. "I guess you went to Ma Swenson's boathouse in the school's armor floater and stepped a few seconds outside the door. I know some of the crazy tenth generation locals do that occasionally but her compound is under a force field bubble, still it is a crazy stunt and you know you should not do that!"

Mother sighed. "I can sense he actually believes his own lies and fantasies saying he walked from here to Ma Swenson's. Roy if you don't quit that soon we have to consider psycho surgery or at least serious counseling. Don't you realize that these are unhealthy fantasies for an almost grown man to have? You must admit and I know you do inside that no one could possibly do that!"

Hearing the increasingly sharp tone of his mother's voice he knew it was not a good idea to say something, but he did anyway and lowered his head. "That is what you think and there is no way I am going to argue with you about something you don't believe!"

Mother added." We are scientists, Son. You know that. You cannot expect us to believe the fantasies of a boy. Fantasies we really hoped would stay behind with your childhood days."

Father nodded in agreement and said: "Let us not talk about your five second adventure stepping out of Ma Swenson's house and come to the actual reason we have called you."

He turned to look at his wife and said with a proud look in his face. "The Science Council offered your mother the Science- Command over an Explorer ship. This is a rare opportunity and among the greatest challenges offered to a scientist. Such a posting shows that her work is recognized by the highest peer. It is very prestigious and the very peak of a scientific career. After such a posting a Professor title and a chair in the Science council is quite possible."

Roy simply listened it was nothing he was really interested in. Science and research always came first to them and he came in as a distant second consideration.

His father put his hand on her lap and with an admiring smile he continued to say. "Your mother accepted and asked the council to accept me as her second in Command and would you believe it, they accepted!"

Martha returned a warm smile to her husband and said. "We are leaving in a month from now. We will then fly half across the Galaxy to recently discovered planet in the mostly unexplored Downward Sector. The planet features a thermo energy channeling life form. I am as you know somewhat of an authority in this field."

Paul's said proudly, "Not just somewhat, my dear. They recognized your brilliance, most likely after all the buzz your paper on the Lightning Bolters created. "He turned to Roy and said. "Your mother's latest paper on the local living clouds had been published in the Neugruber magazine as the feature paper last month."

She touched Paul's cheek, "Because I married the best field assistant anyone could ask for."

Paul sighed and returned his attention to Roy, "You should really show a little more interest in our work.

Mother waved her hand, "As it may be all this means that your father and I will be gone for over two years and deep in unclaimed space."

Roy wasn't sorry to hear that. He liked his parents alright and he was certain they loved him to in their own way, but they were scientists first and he always was something like an unwelcome distraction, an accident that happened and an inconvenience taking time away from their one true passion.

Father begun to stuff another pipe and said, "We wish you would have had better grades and show more interest in our work so you could follow our path, but because of your rather mediocre grades we were unable to place you in one of the truly prestigious colleges, but we pulled a few strings in the academic world and we managed to get you accepted at Clarkson College on Triton. It's a second rate College, I know but it is still in the Sol System and that still carries weight even today when you later look for a good university."

Roy got angry." Why don't you ever ask me? I don't want to be a scientist. I want to join the Marines just like Uncle Sam and if that doesn't work out I try to become a Union Ranger like Mr. Solomon and my grades are fine for that!"

His mother made a face as if she just had looked at an extremely disgusting specimen under the magnifying viewer. "We haven't raised you, so you become one of these mindless brutes. Marines are necessary I agree, but I am sure there are others that can do that and not our son!"

Roy sneered with a defiant tone in his voice. "Those mindless brutes are always good enough to protect your high and mighty butts out there, and if one dies protecting you so what? It was just a brute and much more important is that you're valuable observations of the mating cycle of a Bone Gripper survived."

Roy referred to an incident that happened just over two weeks ago.

His parents looked at him as if he was a complete stranger and his father said. "The collection and evaluation of scientific data is more important than the life of a Marine. It's what they supposed to do, protect us so we are able to add to the body of knowledge that benefits society."

Martha shrugged with a cold expression in her eyes. "It matters not what you think or want at this point my son.

You are not an adult yet and we decide what's good for you. Maybe leaving this planet will finally help you to grow up. You will leave Green Hell in 4 month, when you graduate and that is the end of it."

Roy almost cried, "What about Charles and our House?"

She shrugged. "This is not our house; it belongs to the Science Institute, someone else will occupy it. We are going to sell Charles of course or give it back to that bad influence you call Uncle Sam."

The GalNet terminal beeped and interrupted the conversation. Paul answered and Roy recognized Ivan Harrow's voice, the Chief Scientist of the Biology research Institute and his parent's boss. He sounded excited and almost yelled."Martha, the team that went out with Evans yesterday found what they think is a Lightning Bolter mating ground and they are certain the mating is about to start and he thinks you might want to see that!"

His mother got excited and answered, "Yes Ivan maybe I can finally put the final pieces of information I need to complete my dissertation on the Lightning Bolters. Can you send a floater?"

"I anticipated your excitement and have already done that, the Institute floater should be there within the hour."

Roy's parents now truly forgot about him. Chattering excited, putting on heavy protection gear and gathering their instruments. Roy left the study totally unobserved and went upstairs into his room.

Edited by BoonDock

For the rest of this story, you need to Log In or Register