Of Aisha-Bots and Crate-Moving: Part One
Kalsau stopped pushing the crate to wipe his forehead. “Phew!” he breathed. “When is lunch break, Dalia?”
“Lunch period is held at 1300 hours as is procedure, Master Kalsau,” Dalia answered in her robot voice. “Grand and almighty Master Sloth does not approve of changes in the work schedule. Please go back to doing your work.”
“I was just kidding, Dalia,” Kalsau sighed, his fun ruined. “Nothing ever changes around here. But you could have a little fun here and there, Dalia, couldn’t you?”
The Robot Aisha did not move or speak for a moment. “Please go back to doing your work, Master Kalsau. This is not an authorized break period.”
“Dalia, I’ll ask you again – LOOSEN UP!” Kalsau demanded. The Robot Aisha had had Sloth’s obedience program downloaded into her system years ago and she only acted according to the work schedule. In the time Kalsau had known her, she had never acted like a normal pet. The white Grundo had no doubt that Dalia had once been a real Aisha, but thus was the sad story of all of Sloth’s robots.
“I am sorry, Master Kalsau,” said Dalia. “This behavior is inexcusable. You have taken an unauthorized break period. You will be reported to the grand and almighty Sloth.”
“Well, comets and stars!” Kalsau said. “Dalia, since when do you ever report me to Sloth himself? I usually just go to Sisen.”
Sisen the Purple Grundo was the leader of Kalsau’s segment. Kalsau saw him often, mostly because Dalia reported him for every step he took out of line. Kalsau knew she couldn’t help it, but he still felt a bit angry about it sometimes.
Dalia had reported him by the sort of radio-computer that was part of her Robot armor. She had registered him on Sloth’s list of appointments.
“Grand almighty Master Sloth is currently occupied,” Dalia said after a moment. “He will be ready at 1300 hours.”
“That’s lunch period!” Kalsau complained. “It’s the only break I get until bedtime!”
“Apologies, Master Kalsau,” Dalia said. “You must work according to what time the grand almighty Master Sloth can spare you.”
“Ok, well, a question, then,” Kalsau said. “I still don’t see why you’re reporting me to Sloth and not Sisen.”
“You have been reported 29 times this lunar cycle,” Dalia answered. “Grand and almighty Master Sloth says you are a disturbance in General Sisen’s schedule. He agrees that he should talk to you once and confirm that you will not cause any more trouble.”
“Ah,” Kalsau said. He reluctantly went back to moving his crate.
Work, work, work... that’s all Kalsau had every gotten to do. He was just another Grundo minion for Dr. Frank Sloth, put to work the second he was created. Sometimes he dreamt of the world outside... down on Neopia. Once, he had gotten a glimpse of it through the bay windows, a small blue and green orb shrouded with white clouds. It had seemed so delicate and peaceful; Kalsau couldn’t help but long to go there. He knew, in a strange way, that Sloth was evil. But he didn’t see it as evil, he saw it as... just not right, but not all wrong. That day, that fateful day, Kalsau was about to learn the awful truth that Sloth was completely bad to the bone.
“Attention, attention, attention!” Dalia cried suddenly. She had nearly startled Kalsau out of his skin. She had been silent for nearly two hours. “Attention, Master Kalsau: the great and almighty Sloth will see you now.”
Kalsau groaned and stopped pushing a crate around (that’s basically all Kalsau ever did. He never found out what was actually in the crates, but it was heavy!). He said goodbye to Dalia and made his way through the long corridors with floors of polished metal. Kalsau could see his face reflected off them, and it looked nervous. Kalsau had never actually seen Sloth before, but he had heard his voice on the loudspeakers. At last, Kalsau found himself in front of a heavily guarded door with a green ‘S’ on it.
“WHO APPROACHES?” boomed a threatening mutant Grundo guard three times Kalsau’s size.
“K-K-Kalsau...” Kalsau replied shakily, “of the Third Segment, answering to Sisen, in the lower crate room.”
The guard took out a clipboard and flipped through the pages. It was as thick as a manual.
“Lower crate room, third segment...” He thought out loud. “Working with Aisha-bot 2503 is K3A8L9S8A0U the white Grundo. Correct?”
“Correct,” Kalsau sighed. None of the minions were given proper names. If you removed all the numbers in his name, you would get Kalsau, but that was not intended to happen.
“Yes, you’re the 1300 hours appointment,” the guard confirmed. “The grand Master Sloth will see you now.”
He opened the door and Kalsau walked in shakily. On a large, slimy throne there sat a large whatever-Sloth-is. He grinned as Kalsau approached. It sent shivers down the Grundo’s spine.
“Ah, yes, K3A8L9S8A0U the white Grundo, my 1,783rd Grundo minion.” He smiled. “A very special number. I personally screwed in bolt number 1,783 when the Space Station was being built. Now, what did I call you in for again...?”
“My partner, Dalia, reported me.” Kalsau grumbled.
“Dalia?” Sloth asked. “Is that what you’ve come to call my Aisha-bot 2503?”
“She deserves a proper name,” Kalsau said. “She was real once. She must’ve been.”
“Yes, perhaps, but that is for me to know and you to never find out,” Sloth said thoughtfully. “If she ever did have a real name, it is long forgotten. Anyways, I do need to punish you for your dreadful actions. My Aisha-bot really is very efficient, no?”
Kalsau was silent.
“I was going to lock you up in my prison so you wouldn’t be a bother...” Sloth began. A lump formed in Kalsau’s throat. “But then I got bored. So I decided to use you as a specimen. Good luck, Mr. K3A8L9S8A0U!”
Sloth whipped out a small ray gun and aimed it at Kalsau. He did not even have time to gasp. But he knew instantly that this was one of Sloth’s mutation guns, loaded with some foul chemical. It was like a portable lab.
But while Sloth took aim, Kalsau turned and ran as fast as he could, bursting out the door and running through the corridors. He needed to get out of the Space Station, once and for all. He could use one of the small spacecrafts in the Hangar; he knew where they were and could probably figure out how to operate one. So he made all the right turns until the wide room of the Hangar was before him.
Kalsau found a small shuttle and climbed in. He found a large green button labeled ‘ON’ and got ready to push it. He looked back at the Space Station one last time... and remembered Dalia.
“She was real once. She must’ve been.”
He’d said that, hadn’t he? No, he had to get out now, before Sloth sent soldiers after him. The thought of meeting Sisen again as an enemy made him want to leave that second. But if he didn’t help Dalia, she would be trapped here, probably forever. She was a pet; somewhere inside that metal covering there was an Aisha that had an owner that missed her. Dalia had a family. Kalsau did not. But that made him want to help Dalia even more. So he sighed, hopped out of the spacecraft, and ran out of the Hangar.
Kalsau had to admit that as he ran down the silent halls he felt pretty heroic. He felt strong and light and quick. He held his head high as he ran...
...and tripped. He had tripped on a floor panel. One side of it was raised a bit. Kalsau got up and almost kept going, but he wondered: in the Space Station’s perfection, why would one of the floor panels – the floor panels that were fused together – be loose? He cautiously lifted it and gasped. There was a ladder that led down into a secret room! He climbed down slowly, barely fitting into the tiny opening. For once, the paltry amounts of food given to a Grundo minion had helped Kalsau in something. The room was dimly lit and as small as one of the janitor’s closets. He climbed back up the ladder a little ways and replaced the loose panel so no one would know he was down there.
All around him there were shelves. The shelves were full of tiny drawers labeled with numbers. What were they? Kalsau opened a random drawer and saw dozens of little paper slips. He took one. Inside was a card key with random numbers on it. He read the drawer’s label: ACARA-BOTS 239-378. They had something to do with the robotized Neopets, but what? Kalsau saw some printed instructions on the paper slip: INSERT INTO SLOT BETWEEN EARS TO RELEASE. EACH BOT HAS A DIFFERENT CODE AND THUS A DIFFERENT CARD KEY. FOR SLOTH’S (OR SEGMENT LEADER’S USE AT SLOTH’S COMMAND) USE ONLY. DISPOSE OF WHEN USED.
These card keys were used to release the Neo-bots! So this room may be the answer to releasing Dalia! Kalsau hurriedly checked the drawers’ labels. Blumaroo-bots, Chia-bots, Xweetok-bots, Pteri-bots... it seemed like every species had a place in Sloth’s Space Station. He even found a drawer labeled Grundo-bots, and he shuddered at the mental image of himself incased in metal armor like Dalia’s.
Finally, Kalsau found a drawer labeled Aisha-bots 2301-2609. He looked through the three-hundred-and-eight card key slips until he found the Aisha-Bot 2503 card key. It was a good thing Kalsau had remembered the number Sloth had mentioned – “So that’s what you’ve come to call my Aisha-bot 2503?”
Kalsau slipped the key in his uniform pocket and climbed back up the ladder. He listened for footsteps, and then removed the panel when he heard none. He closed the entrance back up again and started to run for the crate room. Time was running out, he could feel it. Sloth could easily have predicted that Kalsau would flee, even if Kalsau had no idea he’d need to.
After scurrying around the hallways of the giant Space Station, Kalsau found himself at the door of the familiar crate room where he’d worked his whole life. He pushed the door open and found Dalia standing stiffly in her usual spot.
“Greetings, Master Kalsau,” she said tonelessly, as usual. “That took a notably small increment of time. What was the outcome?”
“The outcome is that I have to leave the Space Station,” Kalsau explained quickly, striding towards her and opening the card key slip.
“That is unfortunate news,” Dalia responded. “This punishment seems exaggerated for your misdeeds. But one must not question the genius of grand of almighty Master Sloth. You did not cause Master Sloth any inconvenience, I hope.”
“Oh, Dalia, did I mention that you’re coming with me?” Kalsau asked casually. Before Dalia could answer, he’d stuck the card key in the slot between her ears. The armor creaked and beeped. Suddenly the armor split in half by a hidden seam. A yellow Aisha fell to the ground as the armor was removed. Her eyes slowly opened. Kalsau couldn’t believe it – his plan had actually worked!
To be continued...