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Episode 14

“You make it sound so... nasty,” the PFY says to the Boss as he fingers through several sheets of complaints.

“What – trying to maim a supplier’s employees just because you don’t like their product!?” the Boss snaps.

“THEY STARTED IT!” the PFY retorts.

“How?”

“They sent us their product!”

“And in response you’ve been mutating their product into a malicious object and sending it back to them?”

“I wouldn’t say malicious,” I say, entering the discussion to insert the voice of reason, “as robots are incapable of malice.”

“But wouldn’t it be good if they were!” the PFY interjects.

“IN ANY CASE,” I continue, “The robots concerned were simply performing a set of instructions aimed at fulfilling some function for their role which, when combined with whatever they were equipped with at the time, has caused a hazard.”

“Meaning?”

“Well, for instance if you had a cleaning robot with a polisher attachment - were that attachment to be sandpaper instead, the end result would be somewhat worse.”

“Meaning?” the Boss repeats.

“Meaning it’s probably a logic error of some kind. Any sane programmer would check for the presence of sandpaper instead of a polishing mop.”

“Or a 150mm, 72 tooth milling cutter, spinning at 2500 RPM. For instance,” the PFY adds.

“This can’t go on,” the Boss snaps. “They were already threatening legal action after the accident in the tunnel.”

“How’s that our fault?” I ask. “It’s simply irresponsible to build a robot with a tear gas canister in it in the first place!”

“They say they didn’t!”

“Next they’ll be saying that they didn’t build it with a sonic cannon in it either – but we know they did because the windows in their building disintegrated yesterday.”

“They say that you did that as well!”

“How could we do it?” the PFY asks. “We’re software people!”

“They claim that they’re the victims of a systematic campaign of violence and that you are the perpetrators,” the Boss says, seeming to warm to the topic.

“THEY’RE the victims?!” the PFY bleats. “Have you forgotten the chainsaw incident, the shuriken attack and yesterday’s attempt to burn down our offices?”

“They think that might have been the grease in the bearings spontaneously combusting after a heavy use.”

“By heavy use I take it they mean when the thing went berserk in the office and repeatedly launched itself, full speed, in random directions?” I ask. “And that the bearings were ‘greased’ with about a gallon of diesel?”

“I don’t know about that – but they claim that grease loss is quite common in some bearings, though they assure me they’ve made a note to utilise different bearings in the future. They even pointed me to a couple of websites which discuss the issue at length.”

“There’s websites which discuss all sorts of issues at length,” the PFY points out. “It doesn’t mean that what they say is in any way truthful.”

“Oh, like the We-Love-Vista fan site?” I ask.

“Exactly!”

“Or the Kindle-will-survive-ipad-clones site.”

“That too...”

“Or the Duke-Nukem-is-coming website.”

“NO NO!” the PFY gasps. “That one is true!”

“Really!?” I gasp. “Say it’s so!!!!”

“It’s so!” the PFY chirps happily.

“IN ANY CASE,” the Boss interjects, “they have agreed to take the unit with the lubrication problems back, refund us, and work on ironing out the bugs.”

“Oh I already ironed out most of them this morning,” the PFY says.

“Yes, it was a 1 iron wasn’t it?” I ask.

“I started with a 1 but moved onto a 2 when the handle broke. There was a bit of a tricky lie halfway down the stairwell but I managed a nice shot with a sand wedge.”

“I’m a wood man myself,” I add, turning on the sleaze, “just ask ‘de ladies’.”

“I...” the Boss says, wheels spinning in the sand. “They want the machine back!”

“Well we still have to bring it up from the bottom of the stairwell” the PFY says, “but I suppose we could do that this afternoon?”

...Later that day...

“So it’s all there then?” the Boss asks dubiously.

“Yep,” the PFY says. “Goodish as newish.”

“Sorry?”

“The covers were a little dented,” I say, indicating the PFY’s very sparse set of golf clubs. “So we had to bash up some new ones from some metal we had laying around so as ‘not to void the warranty’ - but apart from that it’s exactly the same as it came in.”

“But you haven’t tampered with the software at all?”

“My assistant wanted to, but since we’re assured of a refund if we returned this unit I thought it prudent not to risk it.”

“Excellent. There’s a courier downstairs now!”

...Ten minutes later...

“It was brilliant,” the PFY says, burbling on once more about the master plan that I’d not let him implement prior to sending the robot back. “We could have put image recognition into it so it would hunt down geeks but leave normal people alone.”

“Yeah, but you know that by now they’ll be checksumming the ROM and x-raying for new parts before powering it up.”

Our conversation is interrupted by the prompt arrival of the Boss.

“I’ve just heard,” he said. “The robot company’s had a fire.”

“A QUICK BET!” I say. “ON WHAT TYPE OF FIRE IT IS – LOSER BUYS DRINKS!”

“DIESEL OIL LUBRICANT FIRE by any chance?” chirps the PFY.

“Survey says no,” I say, turning to the Boss. “You want in – loser pays for dinner??”

“FLAMETHROWER!” the Boss says, caught up in the excitement.

“Survey says no,” I say. “And the winner is....”

“Bloody magnesium fire,” the PFY says ungraciously as he drags three pints over to our table. “And we ‘just happened’ to have some 1mm magnesium plate ‘just laying around the office’ did we?”

“I know, it surprised me as well,” I say. “And who could have known that once that stuff gets going the rivets holding the plates together melt like butter, leaving flaming pieces of white hot metal in the wake of a robot programmed to bounce off walls erratically...”

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