by Lilliana Rose
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
Dave used the sensors in his fingers to locate the chemical chip behind the ewe’s right ear. A small razor came out from this right pointy finger and made an incision of 3 mm. The ewe jumped but Dave ignored her. He pressed and the chip popped out. His middle finger released a glue-like material full of healing nutrients, to seal the wound.
Dave injected the ewe with a new chemical chip at the back of her left ear.
He pressed the buttons and the cradle closed up, held the ewe tight, and claws retracted. The ewe tried to get out even though she knew she couldn’t; Dave didn’t understand this about animals. The cradle turned over and disappeared through another flap in the wall and released the ewe in the pen reserved for the shorn sheep. The cradle returned, empty. It realigned and disappeared through the first flap to select another ewe for shearing.
Bluey came in and lay down beside Dave. He rolled over and exposed his belly. Dave bent down and rubbed the iWorking dog’s belly until the cradle returned with a kicking ewe.
Dave began to repeat the process. But this time there was a problem. The wool didn’t break away. Dave checked for the chip and found it faulty. RG Ross would not be happy. Dave frowned. He would have to shear using the old technology.
He took out the electronic hand shear that had been recharging nearby. It buzzed to life as sharp metal combs moved back and forth. He began, as usual, to remove the belly wool. He was as quick as before. Maybe that was the problem: he moved too quickly and damaged the ewe. Or maybe it was another fault in the design by RG Ross.
The ewe moved unexpectedly. Dave cut a tendon in the back leg — not deliberately, of course. Blood spurted out, covering Dave’s face. He stood frozen as his computer brain went into overload, trying to search for the program that would tell him what to do.
The program initiated.
Dave’s left hand retracted and a butcher’s knife unfolded. He swiftly cut the sheep’s throat. The iBroom Sweeper92 transformed and became more like an iMop and collected the blood.
He spent the next fifteen minutes chopping and cutting until the ewe was a neat stack of prime cuts, wrapped in plastic. He carried the meat out of the shearing shed and back to the house to store in the freezer until he got word from RG Ross to send more meat.
On the way back to the shed, he heard a vehicle rattle past the homestead. A ute. V8 engine. Holden. Model FireBall. Dave noted that the ute was unfamiliar and kept walking. He was behind schedule, and electrons were buzzing through his brain. RG Ross wouldn’t be pleased with him, especially now with one less ewe. Dave knew that it was his fault, and he didn’t smile.
RG Ross was going to have to rework the chemical chips that were recently advertised as 100% guaranteed, which obviously wasn’t true. Dave knew that RG Ross wouldn’t see this as progress.
In the shed, the cat was competing with the iBroom Sweeper92 for the last of the blood on the floor. Bluey watched, eager to get involved, but since he’d killed the last five cats, he’d been programmed to fear felines. Cats were still the best way to control mice on the farm. RG Ross hadn’t managed to perfect the iCat model.
The new program kicked into gear in Dave. He sent the message in a series of beeps to the iBroom Sweeper92 which beeped excitedly and began spraying bleach.
The cat hissed and went back to licking the floor.
Dave kicked the cat out of the way, and it screeched in pain. Dave’s body twitched as it was flooded with a short-wave burst of energy. This happened whenever he was too violent with the animals. The program would have to be reworked, when RG Ross found time. Dave’s computerised brain processed the experience.
Don’t kick cat. Protect cat.
Dave’s programming evolved, a little, to ensure next time he would be more careful when protecting the cat.
The iBroom Sweeper92 beeped a happy tune to let Dave know it was done sterilising.
Dave pressed the cradle and it jolted through the flap in search for another ewe. He worked for three hours straight, until all the sheep were shorn.
With Bluey’s help the ewes were returned to the paddock, and they brought back another mob of sheep to shear. This mob was large, and not all the ewes fit in the shed; some waited outside in the yards, puffing in the early afternoon heat.
Dave had no need to oil his joints yet, lanolin coated his fingers and kept them well lubricated. Dave plucked away at the belly wool. Then stopped.
He heard the rattle of a ute. The same unknown ute as before. V8 engine. Holden. Model FireBall. He went back to his work. The iBroom Sweeper92 kept picking through the belly wool.
Dave noted that the sound of the ute wasn’t creating a Doppler effect, and he paused. The sound of the ute was close. His computer brain worked through the possibilities.
No one came here, not to this farm unless RG Ross paid them. Dave scared some of them. And RG Ross always sent a message ahead of time to say he was coming.
The ute skidded to a stop near the shed.
Bluey jumped up and went out onto the small landing.
Two ute doors slammed shut.
Dave pressed the black button and the cradle returned the ewe. He walked out to the landing to greet the visitors. His computerised brain churned through its programs to try and work out what to do.
Dave stepped out on the landing. ‘What can I do for you?’ He smiled.
Two men, well-built, walked towards Dave.
‘Ya got our sheep, idiot,’ said one. His dark hair had been cut short and he wore a shirt — brown and dirty. The other man spat.
Dave didn’t put his hand on Bluey’s head to stop him. He knew the sheep belonged to RG Ross.
‘You’re mistaken,’ said Dave.
‘Nope, we’re not,’ said the blond-haired man. He reached behind his back.
Bluey leaped towards the man. The iWorking dog was quick.
The man was quicker. He pulled out a black mag gun and fired.
Bluey’s program shut down before he hit the ground.
‘We’re taking the sheep, ain’t we, Snake?’ said the dark-haired man.
‘Yep. We are. A stinking piece of metal ain’t gonna stop us.’
‘Stop you,’ said Dave. Protect animals.
The man laughed.
‘Ya goin’ stop us like ya dog did?’ asked Snake. He pointed the mag gun at Dave.
‘You misunderstand,’ said Dave.
‘Listen to him, Pig. He cant even speak like a farmer,’ said Snake.
‘Piece of metal crap,’ said Pig. ‘Crush him, he’s only a stupid robot.’
Dave’s programs conflicted. Protect animals. Don’t hurt humans. He tilted his head in confusion.
‘Come on, truck will be here soon,’ said Snake.
‘Yeah, all right.’ Pig took out his own mag gun.
‘Gentlemen,’ began Dave.
Dave jumped off the landing. Protect sheep.
Snake and Pig fired. Dave landed with a thud, kept his balance and moved towards Pig.
The men kept firing.
Dave’s movement’s slowed. His knees began to buckle.
‘He’s a strong bastard,’ said Snake.
Dave went to hit Pig.
Pig kicked him in the guts.
‘Not your sheep,’ said Dave.
Pig ran to the ute and picked up a crow bar. ‘Only one thing for you.’
Dave followed, his body resisting the waves of magnetic energy.
Snake kept firing the mag gun at Dave.
Pig swung the crow bar and hit Dave in the head. Dave’s neck bent to one side. He kept walking.
‘Increase the strength, ya idiot,’ yelled Pig. ‘It’s not like you’re killing a person, it’s only a robot.’
‘He looks like a human to me.’ Snake fumbled with the mag gun.
‘Fire the bloody gun, will you?’ said Pig. He hit Dave in the head again.
Kill sheep. Protect humans. Dave’s programs began corrupting.
Pig rammed the crow bar into Dave’s gut and ducked as Snake fired.
Dave fell to the ground, and the last of his energy leaked from his body.
‘Took ya sweet time,’ said Pig.
‘Shut up. We got work to do.’
Dave lay in the dirt. RG Ross wouldn’t be here in time. He had failed. No flies came to feed. His robotic body had nothing for them.
Copyright © 2015 by Lilliana Rose