|Getting To Know A Robot
Author: CatBar PM
New Amended Version of 'Daneel and Elijah First Meeting' where an unwilling Elijah Baley has to meet his new work-partner at the Spaceport - a robot whose attitude and manner of speech are quite amazingly un-robotic.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Sci-Fi/Humor - Words: 1,955 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Published: 08-23-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5325839
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Elijah Baley had hated the idea of working with a robot. And a Spacer robot at that. Like most Earthpeople he'd heard all about these 'humaniforms' that were supposed to look just like humans. And, more or less, could do things that humans could. Well, things such as speaking, walking, using initiative, reasoning things out. And like most Earthpeople Elijah disliked Spacers. Foppish, hedonistic, supremacist, with morals one'd rather not think about, along with galaxy-sized egos. And so fastidious that there was the joke about Spacers showering before, during, and after sex and eating, and then twice more just in case. And if they ever had to have contact with Earth or its people the most neurotic of them wore nose-filters and disposable gloves and shoes and tried never to come nearer than several feet. And gad only knows how many showers they would take after that, no doubt drenched in disinfectant, antiseptic and perfumes of every description. It didn't make for a great relationship.
So if this bloody robot was going to be made in the image of them, gad help it and Elijah too.
Stupid, Elijah told himself. It's only a robot. As a human, even an Earthman, I'd still have the upper hand. It would have to do as I told it. And keep quiet when I wanted it to. And meekly take any crap I throw at it on the chin. If it thinks it fancies getting out of hand I can simply order it to freeze. Which, being only a robot, it would. Or should. If it didn't, he could simply take his blaster to it and bellyache that this had been a malfunctioning robot. Whose Three Laws hadn't been properly built-in. Or something like that. Under its synthetic skin and fake flesh and silly poker face it would only be some old metal thing after all. Against which he would have a perfect – and legal - right to defend himself.
So, still grumbling, Elijah set off on the Expressway for the Spaceport where he was to fetch this thing and bring it back to the office. Typically he had been landed with this little job. "Well," Julius Enderby, his boss, had reasoned, "as it's going to be your work-partner, it would make a good chance to get to know each other. I hear these humaniforms are amazingly intelligent and have great interactive skills, blah blah and all that."
Get to know a robot? Geddof!
At the Spaceport Arrivals lounge exit Elijah had a good look around for this humaniform who was supposed to look just like a human and be amazingly intelligent and have great interactive skills blah blah and all that. Huh! He saw nobody except masses of humans (mostly solar system but quite a few Spacers too) and obvious (Earthish) robots all scurrying around as one did at a port, nobody looking directly in anybody else's face because this was Earth and people tried not to do that here.
Elijah dithered for a few minutes, fretfully, and unwillingly, scanning the crowd, as one has to when one's supposed to be meeting someone one's never seen before (and doesn't really want to either). He grimaced on seeing a group of typical Spacers: tall, bronzed, regal, shamelessly handsome with unafraid eyes appraising over high cheekbones; both sexes long-haired, dressed in proudly colourful rich-hippie garments and lots of ear-piercings, and blahing away in their forthrite accents. And – pooh! – yes, a waft of aromatic scent actually had the cheek to come over and hit Elijah in the nose. Scent that was probably masking nanoparticles of germicide. And they would most certainly be wearing nose filters inside their beautifully chiselled noses.
He let out a huge cross sigh and a voice nearby called out, "Hey, you Elijah Baley by any chance?" Elijah jumped a mile and turned to frown at whoever had the damn nerve to speak so unselfconsciously to him, a stranger.
The frown wavered and turned into a gawp. Somebody of Spacer appearance and build, but dressed Earth-fashion in what Elijah always called unisex youth-clobber style and the fashion mags termed boho-chic or global-nomad, was walking, with a sort of unhurried purpose, towards him. A swept-back mane of reddish-bronze hair that swished and fell back into perfect place, revealed every atom of this person's ubermodel looks. And legs that looked long enough to cross galaxies were encased in fashionably hip-hugging jeans with lots of zips and some weird batik pattern on them. Typical bloody Spacer– and some! Elijah suddenly felt rumpled, grubby, too-short and wished he were at home.
"Who are you," he said, brusquely, just because he felt like it. He found he was squinting, as if dazzled, as he looked up into the direct unabashed bronzy-brown gaze of this creature.
"Why – I'm Daneel Olivaw of course! Who you're supposed to be meeting." The Spacer raised a hand in greeting and smiled a slow easy smile that, naturally, revealed wonderful teeth. "That is, if you are Elijah Baley which I rather think you are."
Such Spacer familiarity! This behaviour just wasn't on on Earth. Spacers viewed Earthpeople with nose-wrinkling disdain yet they came over all in-your-face just to show how unimportant you were.
Elijah realized he was unaccustomedly staring – for a number of reasons. Affrontery, yes. But something else too: something faintly bothersome but, as yet, intangible. Of course, those wanton bronzed-athlete Spacer looks were impossible to ignore; even if you didn't like Spacers you couldn't help looking - even if only to say "typical bloody Spacer. And if this character – thing - really was a robot - and not somebody trying to pull a fast one - well it was a pretty damn remarkable one. The most advanced Earthish robot was a poor stilted thing by comparison.
"I'm supposed to be meeting a robot here," Elijah said flatly.
"Well that's me, man" this Daneel person said, as if amused, and seemingly unfazed by Elijah's stare. "'Course, I should've said R.Daneel, shouldn't I. Got outta the habit of that. Sorry." He then held out a long graceful hand that somehow looked strong. "Also, should have remembered that you Earthlings – sorry, Earthpeople – shake hands. Have to excuse my Spacer manners I'm afraid."
His voice was somewhere between tenor and contralto, and pleasant, though with a hint of the Spacer accent and the blunt sentence-structure that always sounded nonchalant - and indolent! - to older Earthpeople's ears. Elijah looked at the outstretched hand, hesitated, and then, rather pronouncedly said, "No – no. I said 'a robot'. I am supposed to be–"
"I know," the oddly disarming Daneel – R.Daneel - said. "'You're supposed to be meeting a robot' - or, rather, a humaniform, as I'm called. Well, you're doing that right now." He waited, with a small half-smile now. "Don't believe me, do you…. Well, look, if I was a human Spacer would I be trying to shake hands with you, an Earthman?"
Well that was a point, Elijah conceded. A human Spacer would tend to have a hissy-fit about shaking an Earthperson's hand – but this Spacer actually seemed rather keen to. And he certainly wasn't wearing disposable gloves – unless they were highly invisible, which, given Spacers' technology, wouldn't be an impossibility. Nor – thank gad! - did he seem to reek of any obvious scent either.
Daneel - R or not - said, now holding up his hands. "And I'm not wearing gloves either. He gave a laugh and plucked at the skin of one hand. "This is all good naked top-quality synthoskin. Don't need to fear Earth germs, not me."
Elijah supposed he sort of nodded; too bemused to take offense at the intimation that his (reasonably clean) hand might have germs.
"No," he finally said. "I suppose you don't. Need to fear germs that is." And now Elijah held out a hand, which Daneel relaxedly shook in his own warm firm one which of course felt just like a human one. And, as their eyes met again, Elijah found himself staring at the separate hairs of the humaniform's eyelashes that, like his brows, were several shades darker than his hair and looked entirely natural. Josaphat! Had to give it to them... damned incredible detail... and then, to cover up a certain embarrassment that he'd been staring yet again, Elijah blurted out, "What made you so sure I was Elijah Baley?"
And Daneel, that completely free-speaking Spacer-bred robot said, with another of those slow smiles that really did seem to reach his eyes as well, "You were clearly looking for someone. And somewhat pissed-off too. Especially when you looked at Spacers and thought what a bunch of pansies they all looked. And then you didn't think much better of any robots you saw either – which are rather a sad lot aren't they." He actually gave a small woeful grimace, and laughed again. "Sorry. But it does remind me how not to behave – as a robot that is."
Elijah said, "You certainly don't behave – or speak - like any robot I've ever come across."
"That," Daneel said, "is the best thing anyone could say to me."
By now Elijah was reeling somewhat. Not only was this robot – this humaniform – remarkable in its ability to portray apt facial expressions, it also appeared to have an uncanny perception of the current state of Elijah's mind. Suddenly embarrassed he stepped back. "Josaphat! You're not telepathic are you…?"
Daneel had the grace – and humanicity – to look apologetic. "I'm sorry....no. It's my cerebroanalyser." "Y-your – what…?" Elijah stuttered. And so Daneel explained. "You mean," Elijah cried, "you can read people's minds!" Daneel said, "No no. I can sense the emotive brainwaves – no that doesn't mean reading thoughts, don't worry – but it helps to decipher if someone's well- or ill-intentioned towards you. Even their emotional state at the time." He looked at Elijah and grinned. "It's OK, man. You come out somewhat neutral. That is, not ill-intentioned at any rate." Elijah found he was letting out a long breath. Relief because that was, in fact, the truth? Or simply because his actual thoughts could not be read?
Well, whatever. "C'mon," Elijah finally said. "Time we got you back to the office."
And so Elijah brought back the thing he'd been sent out to fetch and which behaved and spoke like no robot that anyone on Earth would have ever come across either. Well he hadn't had much choice had he – short of leaving 'it' at the Spaceport (maybe in Lost Luggage?) so he'd had to go along and try and convince himself that Daneel was really a robot and what he was supposed to be bringing back in order to work with him as an equal.
They went into Julius Enderby's office, and Julius took a long look at the pliant most unrobotic figure with the bright moist eyes and finally said, "Stars and Galaxies, you're no robot!," and Daneel, with a world weary air, said, "No, I'm the Spacer's idea of a really bad joke," and Julius was silenced for all of a second before starting to laugh.
"You really are no robot, Mr Olivaw. And you know something. I think I'm going to like you for that."
And Elijah wondered if the same wouldn't be true for him.