The free robot was booting up the computers of his ship to leave the asteroid after five months of mining alone. It contained several thousand metric tons of refined precious ore and then the alert beeper went off for nearby life. He glanced at the automatic system he used when working alone like this, fearing pirates, tapped the button and was surprised to see it was human life. A Terrainium and a woman at that ... Out here? In this remote system?
It was a young solar system, filled with huge catastrophic events and quite dangerous to humans, with all the radiation about. But being synthetic, the robot was, of course, quite immune to the devastating effects of any kind of atmospheric-free work and had never known humans to visit or use this system.
It signaled, too, the wreckage of her ship, he'd found, concentrating the scan. It was in pieces all over the surface of that larger Sheppard-moon/asteroid approaching the inner rim of the ring he was on, a ring that circled endlessly about the nearby gas-giant. What had happened to that ship was a guessing game and the robot could think of only one course of action, so when the control board showed all green, he lifted and cautiously approached the Sheppard-moon that kept the ice particles and rogue asteroids in check around the huge gas planet, glowing pale and wickedly hot to starboard.
He landed near the main wreckage but not before he memorized the larger pattern of the pieces. Analyzing the debris in his mind, the robot was computing things in his head as well as letting the main computer do its own calculations. The central mass was a twisted wreck. From the dispersion pattern, he could see it had been hit with something other than a natural object, noting burn scars. This ship had been attacked and damaged badly by some kind of destructive heat beam. The computer soon gave its findings and showed the crash angle and likely speed to have broken the ship up as it had. An animation was available and the robot ran it, confirming his suspicions with the actual look and destruction of the alien craft, that seemed to be an expensive, high speed pleasure ship.
Taking a large laser mining cutter with him, the robot exited his ship, compensating for the low gravity, following the direction vector in his body, via the ships scanners, to the live woman somewhere inside that dark heat-twisted wreck. He gave a signal to his eyes and they lit up with white light, giving him a real color view of the jigsaw puzzle of torn ship before him. He needed to be careful of not getting trapped himself in the hazardous salvage. Cutting at a distance, it was complicated enough to clear a path to the object but he could see the object, now.
The human body was housed inside a spectacular cylindrical tube of titanium with one end being larger than the other, about four meters thick and seven long. It was an expensive stasis chamber, for long term flight. Clearing excess wreckage away, the robot noted a complex connective device at one end had been destroyed but through some kind of power source within the tube itself, the subject was somehow still living. How long it had been here was unknown but however long it had been, he didn't feel it could last indefinitely and knew the woman had to be released from this metal tomb. He was her only hope.
As carefully as possible, he cleared all remnants of the crash away from the tube. Now closer to it, inspecting each cut before he made it. Then signaling the ship, a claw dozer was dispatched from an equipment bay and it carefully, under his direction, retrieved the tube and returned it to the ship. The robotic man followed it for a few steps when it dawned on the mechanical man to seek more information about the ship and possibly it's lone passenger. It was hard but he located the info logs and ships readouts and brought them back to his craft, still hovering half a meter off the surface of this tiny moon.
He directed his ship up and off the small moon and set it on its destination. It was a meandering course to fool, or at least distract, any pirate ships he might encounter that would follow his course back to his lucrative mine.
Down in the bay, the robot ran diagnostics on the operation and construction of the life sustaining capsule and with the main frame computer on line, it didn't take long to figure out how to safely open it. It had to be handled with some delicacy, however, with intelligent precise decisions as he had never done this before. He didn't want the human inside damaged. This was a rescue, not a archeology retrieval. Finally, feeling the ship was fully prepared with atmosphere and the medical bay at the ready, he told the main frame to send the signal to open the capsule. The tube had human atmosphere and a zero gravity protection inside along with a motion canceling device within it, which probably accounted for the survival of its occupant, as violent as the crash had been. Without it, the inner contents of the tube might have been crushed and broken into bits of technical human jam. But the tube had worked and protected the atoms of the woman within its thick structure. With a hiss, the small end of the tube opened and the tray holding the woman slid into the artificial light of the heavy-equipment bay.
A light switched on above the tray as it evacuated the massive tube, illuminating the occupant on the tray. The robot was struck immediately by her youthful beauty, as human's judge features. Her hair was covered by a white cap but flaming golden hair spilled out over her shoulders with just a hint of red hue to it. Her body was long and thin and looking quite healthy beneath the long duration hibernation suit, the robot incorporating his sonic vision capability. She appeared exceptionally fit for a woman of twenty or less, in universal-standard years. By everything he could appreciate about a woman, robotic or real, she seemed absolutely well and so gorgeous.
He saw on the edges of the table some universal readouts of diagnostics for bodies and noticed her breathing frequency increasing, as well as the oxygen uptake numbers growing. She was waking up and didn't think he should move her until she had.
When her eyes finally opened, several minutes later, he tried communicating to her but she didn't respond. She didn't even seem to notice him. Her eyes merely stared up into the ceiling with an occasional slow blink. He took her warmish hand in his synthetic appendage of five fingers. She had only four fingers per hand, like any Terrainium should have, as well as four toes per foot, but the girl didn't seem to notice his gentle touch.
Finally, rolling her from side to side, he disconnected the various tubes and sensor connectors needed for long term human hyperspace travel, then picked the girl up in his arms. She moaned at first, as if in discomfort, but he held her close to his torso so her head would rest forward on his shoulder and not flop around as he carried her to the medical facility. The ship was designed for human command, even though he was not human, but the synthetic man had Medical fully stocked for the occasional transport of passengers, he took on from time to time, as he traveled with his cargos to the current best markets. The facility would take good care of her.
Seeing to it that she was comfortable and that the overhead nursing arms were attending her, he left to manage the rest of the ship and check on the automatic maintenance routines for the mining equipment that were his bread and butter, so to speak. Without well maintained equipment and a ship that was in top form, he was a lone robot without purpose. Yet as he went through his normal routines, following lift off, the robot felt an unnatural concern over the mysterious woman. Who was she? Why was she so cautiously contained in that expensive life support tube? And where did she come from? And there was something else. Why did he feel that disturbance within his intelligence for this inferior life form, this woman? Accessing its roots, he discovered something very disturbing about his human based emotions, programmed into his electronic/chemical make up. Everything pointed in one direction but it made no sense. True, he was a living breathing mechanical reproduction of a human being with self awareness and feelings, but he had never known such emotions such as these before. It was new, for sure, but quite disturbing, too.
Completing his round, he went back to the medical facility and stared down at the woman on the medical bed. He found himself overwhelmed concerning her, wanting to care for her himself and worried that the med-programs were doing the right things, which of course, they were.
"How is she doing," he asked no one in particular. A soothing quiet voice permeated the air of the med room and assured him.
"She seems to be coming out of her stasis quite well. All her bodily functions seem to be in order for someone having gone through what she has endured."
"What do you mean, endured?"
"As near as we can estimate, with the build up of certain chemistry processes in her spinal fluid, this patient has been in hibernation for fifty-seven standard years."
That surprised the robot. Fifty-seven years was a very long time. Not as old as him, by any means, but still quite a long stay in a containment field. That tube must certainly have to have had an emergency backup system in it for her to have survived such a long stay.
"If you would like to be present, she should be awaking soon, her mind that is. Her body seems to have come out of the hyper shock quite fast, but the brain, of course, takes a bit longer."
"Yes," said the robot. "I would like to be here. Any suggestions as to her state of mind or how I should act, if at all?"
.... There is more of this story ...
Science Fiction /