MiSTed: Safety First (part 7 of 16)


I resume again my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction treatment of Johnny Pez’s Isaac Asimov fanfiction “Safety First”. After a small accident on the terraforming station floating high in Venus’s atmosphere the Robots there refuse to do anything but evacuate humans. Mike Donovan and Greg Powell, troubleshooters for this sort of thing, had an ide to get things back to normal: what if they just erase the Robots’ memories of the accident? They’re trying it now on lead troublesome robot Arthur.

Not to brag but you have me to thank for this whole segment. I’d suggested to Pez that his story needed a false resolution. He came back with this just-erase-the-memories thread, and I think the story’s better for it. The original went right from setting up the problem to the resolution, which you’ll see soon.

There are a couple Asimov deep cuts in my riffs, as you’d expect. The line about the 575th Century references one of the eras mentioned in Isaac Asimov’s time-travel novel The End Of Eternity. The mention about Henry the waiter references the person who always knew the resolution in Asimov’s Black Widowers series of puzzle mysteries. The bit about acknowledging second-best science robots and second-best science fiction robots references an agreement Asimov had with Arthur C Clarke, about who to acknowledge as the best science-fiction and pop-science writers. The reference to “Henry Bott” now mystifies me. I have the impression this is the name of someone Asimov had some petty fandom quarrel with, but I can’t give details anymore. Past that, I don’t think there are any references so obscure as to need explanation. Let’s continue the story.


>
> Arthur’s photocells dimmed for a time

CROW: Computers are working harder when the lights go out.

> as the specified memory
> traces within his positronic brain were tracked down and deleted one
> by one.

TOM: Except for that time he whapped that pesky Robbie in the face with a slushball.

> When the photocells resumed their normal intensity,

CROW: It’s so festive!

TOM: It’s very Christmassy.

> Arthur
> said, "There appears to be a seventeen day gap in my memory.

JOEL: [ As Powell ] "Funny, that’s what you said the first three times too."

> What
> has happened, who are you, and why are my motor controls
> deactivated?"

CROW: What is your name?

TOM: Why did you resign?

JOEL: We seek — information.

>
> "My name is Gregory Powell,

CROW: I’m a lover. *Not* a fighter.

> I’m a field operative for U. S.
> Robots and Mechanical Men."

JOEL: I’m working deep undercover; no one must know who I am or what group I work for — whoops.

> He recited a ten-digit code number that
> established his bona-fides as an authorized agent of U. S. Robots,

TOM: [ As Donovan ] "Hey, your code’s 1234567890 too? What are the odds?"

> then finished, "There was an event sixteen days ago that caused a
> program malfunction in all the robots on Aphrodite Station.

JOEL: "But your malfunction was the cutest of all, snookie-pie."

> Correction of the malfunction required the deletion of the last
> seventeen days from your memory.

CROW: Uh, did I say seventeen? I mean eighteen. Eighteen. So we had to erase at least twenty days… oh, what the heck. Arthur, we’re well into the 575th century.

> As soon as we’ve established that
> the malfunction has been corrected, your motor controls will be
> reactivated."

TOM: [ As Arthur ] "That explains the multiple choice test. But why have me do a thousand pushups?"

>
> "Acknowledged," said Arthur.

JOEL: Now, is he supposed to acknowledge that he’s the second-best science robot, or the second-best science fiction robot of all time?

>
> Powell breathed a sigh of relief. "It worked."

TOM: [ As Powell ] "I’m brilliant! Mike, you could kiss me."

>
> Donovan was not so pleased. "Do you mean we’re going to have
> to do this to every single robot on the station?

CROW: Except for the guy that works the escape pod, anyway.

> There are over
> three hundred of them!"

TOM: "And some of them are scary!"

>
> Powell shrugged. "Those are the breaks."

JOEL: Yeah, someday we’ll look back on this and laugh.

> He turned back to
> the robot. "Arthur, what is your primary function aboard Aphrodite
> Station?"

CROW: Blue! No, gree–aaaaaaah… [ Distant ‘sploosh.’ ]

>
> Arthur said, "My primary function is the cultivation of algae
> for the terraforming buoys."

JOEL: "My hobbies include pinball, plastic modeling, and making fun of Henry Bott."

>
> "Are you currently capable of carrying out your primary
> function?"

TOM: Nah, but I’m close enough for government work.

>
> "I am unable to function due to my inability to access my
> motor controls."

CROW: Plus I heard there’s spiders down there.

>
> Donovan grinned as Powell frowned in irritation. "Once your
> motor controls have been reactivated,

JOEL: *And* you check with your mom to see if it’s OK…

> will you be capable of carrying
> out your primary function?"
>

TOM: And the minute you hear about the station almost crashing are you going to obsess about getting us out of here — d’oh!

> Arthur was silent for a moment before saying, "Primary
> function override.

CROW: Secondary function along for the ride.

> First Law priority.

TOM: Sonic the Hedgehog is trying to break in!

> Station logs show that an
> accident occurred sixteen days ago

CROW: But we can’t always be living in the past.

> resulting in loss of buoyancy on
> the station.

JOEL: [ Calmly ] So if I may be permitted to summarize… [ panicked ] WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!

[ ALL shake around, yell. ]

> This station is unsafe for human habitation.

TOM: Gallagher is coming. This is not a drill.

> I must
> evacuate all the humans from this station.

JOEL: And you guys, too.

> Please reactivate my
> motor controls."

CROW: [ As Arthur ] "Pretty please with sugar and ramchips on top."

>
> Donovan swore again. "Right back where we started!

JOEL: Yeah, except for warping poor Arthur’s personality by wiping out a big chunk of his life experiences, anyway.

> What
> happened?"

TOM: We hit the essential narrative hook of the plausible but incorrect solution, which serves to make the situation look more dire as the story approaches its climax and to make the correct solution more triumphant in comparison. Nothing to worry about.

>
> Powell had one hand over his eyes.

CROW: "I think I’d make a great pirate. Do you think I’d make a great pirate? I think I would."

> "I bet he had to access
> the station logs to check on the status of the algae farms.

JOEL: And, uh… ar, matey.

> And as
> soon as he found out about the accident . . ."

TOM: Hey, were any robots harmed in the making of this story?

>
> ". . . he went right back into his Reluctance Loop.

JOEL: Now, I’m wise to this ploy, guys, so don’t try using a "Reluctance Loop" as an excuse in the future.

CROW, TOM: [ Dutifully ] Yes, Joel.

> Of all
> the rotten luck!"

TOM: Well, shiver me timbers.

>
> Arthur began to repeat his request that his motor functions
> be restored,

JOEL: And that they get the Game Show Network on the cable box.

> and Donovan switched him off again.

CROW: Aah!

TOM: This is what causes robots to rise up against their creators.

> He said to Powell,

JOEL: "If you’re gonna be a pirate I wanna be the Royal Navy officer tracking you down."

> "Do you suppose we could erase the accident from the station logs
> too?"

TOM: It’s too much work. Let’s just have Captain Kirk tell the computer it has to destroy itself to fulfill its prime directive.

>
> "We can’t," said Powell. "They’re triple-redundant
> safeguarded against erasure.

CROW: Plus somebody put them on the web, and Google’s copied it already.

> We’d have to completely lobotomize the
> station computer.

JOEL: And it really creeps me out when it starts singing "Daisy, Daisy."

> The Project would be in worse shape than it is
> now."

TOM: That’s it. From now on, we only terraform the easy places.

CROW: Five years after this courageous new "easy places" doctrine, humanity could inhabit Maryland!

>
> "Well then, maybe we could order him not to access the
> station logs."

JOEL: I think this is where they learn the answer from Henry the waiter.

>
> Powell shook his head. "He has to access them

CROW: He’s kind of funny that way.

> to carry out
> his primary function.

JOEL: He must have all that data, lest they get inaccurate plans from the algae psychohistorians.

> If we don’t let him, he can’t do his job, and
> he’ll go into a Second Law fugue."

TOM: By Verdi, for piano and theremin.

>
> Donovan brooded at the deactivated robot for a time, then
> said,

CROW: "Maybe we could use him as modern art?"

> "If we can’t bring Mohammed to the mountain, maybe we can bring
> the mountain to Mohammed."

JOEL: The repeated mentions of "Mohammed" in one sentence cause this story to become monitored by the Office of Homeland Security.

>
> Puzzled, Powell said, "What’s that supposed to mean?"

CROW: Get the Radio Flyer wagon and the biggest bucket you’ve got, we have work to do!

>
> "It means I’m going to try a long shot," said Donovan.

TOM: I think they’ll be able to understand it better if we express it in — a song!

> He
> reached forward and switched on the power supply.

CROW: [ Excessively feminine, seductive voice. ] "Ooh, yes, I love when you flip my switches *there*."

JOEL: [ As Donovan ] "Uh — nothing! Nothing, no — uh … "


[ to continue … ]

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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