Flash Fiction: “Box of Peaches”

Box of Peaches

box of peachesEnsign Dan sat at the washing machine which was covered in a cut-open v-neck tee shirt stretched into a tablecloth. The thick slices of spacespam lay in rows on a chipped serving dish. Ensign Dan took three slices on his plate and poured his catfood tin full of orange juice. He fished a clump of catfood out of the juice.

C15 came in and sat down opposite him. “It’s better if you scrub off all the leftover catfood bits before you used it as a cup,” he explained. “This way it doesn’t flavor the juice.”

“I like how I do it,” lied Dan. He picked another bit of catfood and flicked it away.

At about that time his captain came in then and Ensign Dan could tell by the distant look in his eyes that he’d been reading Spaceman Shenanigans again, but Dan wanted to know for sure. With his foot he slid the crate of peaches from nearby the washing machine into his captain’s walkin’ path. His oblivious captain walked smack into the crate and fell headlong onto the washing machine, planting his face into the tray of spam.

Ensign Dan jumped up from his seat, infuriated by the consequence of his own unnecessary experiment. “Why’d you go and do that?”

His captain, Jert, climbed back up to his feet. He shook clean his prescription sunglass and wiped a huge glob of spam from his face onto the floor, all of which Ensign Dan thought was a waste of spam. “Well who the hell put the peaches right in the middle of where we walk?” Jert never liked it very much when it was time to return from his daydreams.

“It was C15,” said Dan. “I saw him.”

C15 didn’t pipe in, as Dan knew he wouldn’t. C15 was a cyborg, and was bound by the Three Laws of Robotics. Or at least that’s what the fellow seemed to think. It was highly debatable as to whether or not the fabled Three Laws of Robotics applied also to cyborgs—regular people with some robotic enhancements. But C15, for whatever reason, seemed convinced this was the case. My point being: C15 knew that to contradict Dan would be to risk breaking the coveted First Law of Robotics—No Robot Shall Ever Harm a Human. If C15 revealed Dan to be lying, Jert Zylan would surely smack Dan in the back of the head, and this would most definitely harm Dan.

Ensign Dan made sure to take advantage of this Three Laws stuff every chance he got. Got him out of quite a few scrapes.

Jert wiped some more spam from his face as he turned to C15. “Is this true? Did you move the peaches?”

C15 spent a moment projecting the “harm” that would ensue if he simply played along with Dan’s selfish game. Lying to a human could be harmful in its own ways. But, ultimately, C15 decided that lying to Jert would harm Jert to a far lesser degree than telling the truth to Jert would harm Dan. “Yes,” said C15. “It was me.”

Jert gave him a long, disgusted look. “I swear you’re defective. As soon as I find the receipt I’m taking you back. You’re still under warranty, you know.”

But Jert would never find the receipt because Ensign Dan had long ago crumpled it into a little ball and flushed it down the toilet. He’d had to flush three times because it got stuck. It was a constant fear of his that Jert would one day replace C15 with another cyborg, and that that one would be well aware he didn’t have to follow any stupid robot laws. Dan knew that without the Three Laws of Robotics, he, and not C15, would be the scapegoat of the group. Things as they were, he was perfectly secure in his position as vice-scapegoat.

Once Jert sat down all the spacespam disappeared rapidly. Ensign Dan followed the other two across the control room to the command station, where the dusty computer was. He listened as they came up with an idea for where they should go and C15 typed some commands into the old yellowing keyboard and Jert gave the order to engage engines at maximum blast. They had decided to visit the planet of Sacktown. Rumor had it there were huge deposits of quartz in the mountains there, and the robot parts of C15 needed quartz in the same way the other parts of him needed spam. Ensign Dan had also heard tell of a terrible terrible beast that roamed the prairies there, but he didn’t think to mention this to his friends.

_______

This story is a prequel to Jert Zylan vs. The Cytard. Check it out!

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