Commander Bertrand had grown suspicious of Dr. Straylace long before they’d landed on the Planet of the Unstoppable Vines.  Not only was she the first female botanist Bertrand had worked with, but as a Marelkin she came from a storied, mysterious realm where the women were better known for their erotic waistdancing than for the study of deciduous trees and bracket fungi.  But now it was too late for suspicion.  He was on the plant surface, the strange ruby-red unstoppable vines, growing relentlessly toward them at an uncomfortably visible rate and threatening to suffocate all of the cuddly underground mammal life on the planet, such as mini-dogs and prairie mutts, with its vigorous, chunky tendrils.

“The vines are fast,” said Slogan, the data-rich mission android in his cold robotic voice.  After this contribution to the team’s efforts he jerkily turned to watch the spectacle of Dr. Straylace perform her obscure experiements.

Standing a short distance away on the cappuccino-brown surface of the Planet of the Unstoppable Vines in front of an array of arcane and inexplicable botanical devices, Dr. Straylace was a paragon of rational scientific femininity.  With her flowing, walnut-colored hair and exotic, orange Marelkin eye make-up, she held a provocative allure that even the hyper-rational, inhuman Slogan could not deny.

“Slogan, what is the exact growth rate of the vines?” barked Bertrand.

There was no answer as the bronze-garbed Slogan, his inner space-android gears whirring, stared in robot-eyed fascination at Dr. Straylace.   Bertrand whipped around, his impatient nature tiring of Slogan’s glacial response pace. 

“By the eyes of the god-fish, Slogan!  Stop gawking and give me a growth estimate on these vines.”

“Your tone of voice is inappropriate,” Slogan responded, in the same emotionless tone he’d used for all five hundred years of his well-lubricated existence.  “I object to it.  As a veteran Crew Unit Ultima Mind TX Module, I request a formal apology.”  Slogan turned away from Straylace, his uncanny doughnut-shaped eyes boring into Bertrand with android annoyance. 

Straylace casually brushed a few strands of walnut hair from her face, as she looked up from her glowing diagrams of vine innards.  “Yes, Bertrand,” she said in the carefully enunciated tones of a trained botanist.  “You’ve been irascible towards Slogan since we left Space Command.  You should apologize.”

“Apologize!” Bertrand spit out the word like it was a sour green papaya he’d fished out of the crisper in the refrigerator during a moment of desperate hunger in the midst of a three-day bender.  For emphasis, he fished three stubby cigars out of his jumpsuit pocket and abruptly tossed them on the rubble-strewn surface of the Planet of the Unstoppable Vines.  “Apologize to this bucket of nuts and bolts?  This clanking tin man made from recycled space capsule parts?  This emotionless device, devoid of feeling, of poetry, of love for riding under the burning Gorban sun on a wild untamed black stallion with the blood pumping through your veins in a feverish cascade of life, of untrammeled, fierce-breathing life!  Never!”

Slogan slowly blinked his artificial, but surprisingly convincing, doughnut eyes.  “You should be cautious, Commander.  I am engineered for surprising feats of agility.”  As though to prove his point, Slogan reached up with the speed of a maniacal trout and grabbed an indigenous hummingbird that had been whirring through the air in a confused blur.  Within seconds, the hummingbird was displayed on Slogan’s toaster plate, which he’d ejected with soundless efficiency from his waist, dissected into its component parts and labeled with the proper scientific terms in a clean, easily readable font.

“Very impressive!” cried Straylace.  “Can you do the same with a zinnia?”

Betrand came two steps closer to the android, his feet moving over the beige ground with the determination of an elephant mother coming to guard her young from the rampage of a starved, psychotic python.  “I’m in charge of this mission, Slogan.  And I demand that you calculate the rate of that vine growth.”

“Very well,” said Slogan.  In a blinding spurt of robotic motion, the top of Slogan’s head popped open and a gleaming black revolver appeared above it at the end of a flexible steel rod.  With a clearly audible click, the rod pulled the trigger of the weapon, sending a bullet straight into Commander Bertrand’s forehead.  Bertrand gurgled, his mouth filling up with the wild and restless blood of a third-generation space commander, and he fell forward onto a dark-chocolate-colored stone, making the unmistakable sound of the dead.  “The rate of the vine growth,” said Slogan, “is ten centimeters per minute.”

Dr. Straylace put her fingers to her mouth in distress, her exotic green Marelkin fingernail polish contrasting nicely with the crimson tones of her generously applied lipstick.  “Slogan, what have you done?  You’ve killed the Commander!  And he was the only one with the combination to the Space Capsule door.”

“Then we are trapped on the Planet of the Unstoppable Vines for all eternity,” said Slogan, a new tone of near-homo-sapien-like triumph creeping into his voice.  “Giving me plenty of time to explore the new sensations you evoke in my android parts.”

“What are you saying, Slogan?  You are an unfeeling android.  You’re not even a true life form.  As a qualified botanist, I can state with expert assurance that you are unnatural, imperfect and a blot in the harmonious circle of life.”

“May the god-fish blast you to damnation for your impertinence,” said Slogan, his android voice now bearing unmistakable hints of emotion.  Once again, the robot’s dependable revolver popped out of the top of his head and his newfound android hatred erupted in a series of shots that left Dr. Straylace splayed on the ground, her botanist’s mouth twisted in a gape of stunned and irrevocable death moans.

“A pity,” said Slogan.  “She would have grown to admire me in time.”  The android amused himself by reviewing his video diary of the mission as he waited for the fast-growing vines to surround and destroy him, relentlessly turning him into a useless vine-permeated hunk of abandoned metallic rubble on the Planet of the Unstoppable Vines.

Advertisements