The morning dawned grim and gray, casting a dirty hue over everyone and everything outside the Big Apple Bank. But as the restraining force fields vanished, and the earliest bank patrons began shuffling into the main hall, even the early morning gloom couldn’t hide the fact that this was one tired-looking crowd that was moving toward the tellers’ windows.
Guards and police were everywhere—strolling outside the building, ambling inside the main hallway, leaning against the wall next to the bank teller, or scanning the puffy eyes and drooping laryngeal sacs of an Earthican crowd that, for one reason or another, needed hard cash at 6:30 AM. Either that or they desperately wanted the complementary solyentgreen donut that came with every withdrawal.
The guards seemed particularly intrigued by Fry, and they were not alone. A few of the customers glanced over their shoulders at him too, including a bald man with a goatee, who stood just in line just in front of the robot and delivery boy.
And no wonder. Fry’s clothes were stained with all sorts of fascinating earth tones, and some florescent ones too. His hair was a complete mess, with an additional hair spike jutting out from the side of his head, looking like a mutant sibling of the two standard tufts of hair that drunkenly poked up from the matted mess on his head. One side of his face was puffy and red, and his left eye had swollen almost completely shut. And a faint but distinctive miasma of owl poop hovered around him. For once, the cigar smoking robot looked like the normal one of the pair.
For the past four hours the robot and his pet had wandered aimlessly through the tube systems and walked around clean, well-lighted places, never stopping for more than a few minutes. Fry, not used to walking any further than from the sofa to the refrigerator, was exhausted, and the bags under his eyes did not improve his appearance one bit. At the first hint of dawn he and his friend had made a beeline for the bank, and he was still shivering from the cold. No, not just the cold. He kept glancing at the entry doors behind him.
“OK,” said Bender. “Remember, Nixonbucks only. No Trisolian water bills or other meltable currency. No talking bills either, we don’t want to attract attention. No Wormulon pellet coins either. We know where those come from, right?”
By coincidence, the first customer in line was a Wormulon denizen, who slid up to the opening teller’s window. As the colonic mapper slid down toward the slimy creature, the humans in line instinctively turned away in disgust. The bald man bumped into Bender.
“Hey, watch it, cue ball,” said the robot.
“Sorry, had a late night, and realized just an hour ago that I needed to be here first thing this morning,” yawned the man. He looked over at Fry cautiously. “You look like you’ve had quite a night yourself.”
“Yeah,” said Fry. He wasn’t in the mood for talking. The steady stare of the guards was demolishing any remaining poise he was able to marshal, and his hands were starting to shake. “Bender, this is a bad idea. I’m getting outta here.”
“Hold on there,” Bender said. “We’ve been moving all night, and I haven’t had a chance to show ya—“
The small video screen popped out of his chest, pivoting on the small rod, and a small image of Fry with a backpack appeared on the screen. Fry stopped and stared.
“Look, this here is my last memory of you before you showed up a couple of days ago. So you’re saying that you didn’t do all the things Leela said you did. Then you didn’t do this either?”
Business finished, the Wormulon slid off to the side, and an Amphibiosan stepped up to the teller.
Fry watched himself on the screen sliding across the oil slick on the floor, talking to Bender, handing him a letter, and flipping a coin through the air to his distracted friend.
“Geez, I look a lot like me. What was the letter?”
“Oh, just your will. Nothin’ interesting there, cause’ you didn’t own anything interesting.”
“Anything about my holophoner?”
“That’s strange,” mused Fry. “Actually, something about that whole memory seems strange—“
The bald-headed man pocketed his cash and his ATM card and started to walk across the main corridor. The teller put the dusty card reader back underneath the counter, grimacing at the grime, and looked at Fry.
Fry instinctively patted his pocket, before remembering he had no wallet.
“Colonic map or eye scan, sir?”
Fry eyed the pointy end of the colonic probe. Some unidentified green goo from the Wormulon was oozing down the surface.
“Um, the eye thing, I guess.”
A Universal Earthican Eye sensor dropped from the ceiling and configured itself into Human mode. Fry hesitated a moment before looking into the eyepiece.
“Come on, sausage farm. The sooner we get this done the sooner we’re out of here. Way outta here.”
Something inside Fry seemed to let go, and with a resigned air of a Hyperchicken about to make his opening remarks, Fry looked into the device. He tensed, and there was a small click.
Nothing happened. The guards still leaned, against the wall, relaxed and at ease. The teller was looking down at her screen, but then smiled up at him.
“The verification takes just a few moments, sir.”
Fry shuffled from one foot to the other, glancing around. He saw the bald man reach the exit door, which opened, letting in two familiar figures, Smitty and URL. Just great. Nothing good happened to him with these guys around. In fact, his last encounter had been right here, hadn’t it? When Roberto the robot decided to—
“I’m sorry it’s taking so long sir, just a few more moments.”
There was no sound, no signal in the air, but suddenly it seemed as if the guards had idly drifted over to their teller window, forming a casual but very solid ring around Fry and Bender. Somehow, the atmosphere inside the building had changed, and several bank patrons hastened their exit, and some entering customers hesitated on the threshold of entry. The bald headed man halted at the exit and looked back, frowning.
“I’m sorry sir,” the teller said, “but there seems to be a minor problem with your record. We’ll need to ask you to step inside and answer a few more questions to verify your identity. Would you mind?-“ and she nodded her head toward a door that was marked SECURITY.
“What problem? I don’t have a problem.” Fry muttered frantically, backpedaling into a huffy-looking Yuppiebot. “Um, never mind about the cash. I’ll just come back later-“.
“Sir,” a guardbot intoned, “please come with us. We just have to verify your identity.” And it wheeled up and grabbed Fry’s elbow.
“No,” squeaked the frightened young man, jerking his arm away and moving back to the teller window. “I don’t want to take any money out. Honestly. I shouldn’t be spending it anyway, because I can’t be trusted with money. Really”.
“Well, well,” said Smitty, walking up. “Guess who we’ve got here? I seem to remember this guy bein’ here before, don’t you, buddy?”
“Oh yeah,” purred URL. “Baby’s come back to daddy, for sure.”
“Hey Fry, they just wanna ask you some questions. They probably can’t read your eye, it’s so puffy and all,” mumbled the robot as he backed away out of the group of guards, heading toward the main exit. “I’ll just wait over here by the exit.”
And then, somehow, Fry seemed to snap fully awake. His swollen eye popped open, and he stood up fully erect, a posture that he rarely used, and that often hid the fact that he was fairly tall for an Earthican.
“They got to you, too.”
Fry backed against the wall, staring at Bender, who somehow couldn’t meet his gaze. Fry’s hands reached out to grab something, anything, but only grabbed a potted plant next to the teller window. He tried to hide behind it, just as the guards closed in on him.
“Bender! Don’t let them do it!”
The guards pried Fry away from the plant, stripping off several leaves in the process. Fry began to struggle to free his arms that were being pinned against his side.
“Bender! I didn’t do it! I didn’t do any of it!”
With a sudden show of strength the young man burst free of the restraining arms, and actually managed to dash forward a few feet before URL and the robots got to him. His chest slammed down to the ground. Bender turned his head away.
“Bender! Listen to me! This isn’t right! It’s all wrong! I wouldn’t be like this to Leela! I wouldn’t leave without taking you with me! Something’s not right. Bender!!”
Fry’s arms were being pinned down behind him. Swiftly other guards around the perimeter were shutting and locking the doors to prevent gawkers from walking in, and others from rushing out.
“Everyone please remain calm,” a gentle voice said over the public address system. “The situation is under control.”
“Er, what’s going on with your friend?”
Bender turned. He had backed up to the exit door, where the bald-headed man, now locked in, had been shoved to the side by the guards.
“What’d you care? He’s just having a little malfunction, just like what happens to the best of us robots from time to time.”
The guards were approaching Fry with a force field gag. Fry, chest pinned on the ground, arms tied behind him with electrocuffs, managed to lift his head to look at Bender.
“Bender! In the memory! You didn’t even bargain with me! You never tried to raise your price! You didn’t bargain!”
“Malfunction? He seems fine to me,” said the bald man, brow furrowed.
“He thinks something is out to get him. Very small malfunction, really. He’s not even interested in killing humans.” But his speech synthesizer was now running on background mode. He really hadn’t bargained for a higher price from Fry in the memory, hadn’t he? Well, the floozibots were pretty high voltage and he had been impatient, but still-
“Oh, yeah, that paranoid feeling. Sure, that’s usually a sign that us humans are crazy. Only—“
Bender’s head swiveled to focus on the bald man’s face completely. “Only what?”
“Well, I’ve always wondered—if someone really were out to get you, wouldn’t one of their first steps be to make everyone else think you were crazy?”
“I’ve got a memory right here, bonehead.”
“Oh, yeah, sure, sorry. Of course--robot memories are flawless.”
“Yes they are,” Better huffed. Even as he was synthesizing his sarcasm he was reviewing the memory again. Microseconds flew by as he re-experienced every drop of oil sliding down the wall, the flicker of the disco ball lights on Fry’s face, the coin spinning through the air, and his bottle of Olde Fortran rising up into the air, and a stream of sweet yet highly concentrated fuel arcing through the air down into his mouth-
And once again, for fifty milliseconds something felt wrong. He didn’t like reviewing this memory.
Fry was now gagged and immobile on the floor. Still he struggled furiously as three guards started to drag him toward the security office. He wrenched himself up like an angry sausage and tried to hop away. Smitty planted a boot in Fry’s lower back and shoved, and the delivery boy started to fall forward towards the floor.
Bender was annoyed with himself. He had been spending too much time around weak and mushy coffin-stuffers. He was even beginning to think like them. He had assumed that his uncomfortable feeling had been due to this thing called “guilt” about his pet leaving, and him not doing anything about it. Jeez, he might as well join a poetry club, he was becoming so weepily human.
No, there was something about the memory itself…. The bald headed guy was right. Robot memories were flawless, so when something was flawed, it stuck out.
Bender’s CPU kicked into high gear. Fry’s head slowly inched toward the floor as Bender’s processing ticked away the microseconds. All the humans around him seemed frozen in time as he scanned the building for a wireless internet connection. A tenth of a second later he had found one, and a half a second beyond that he was strolling down a back alley of the Internet. Porn sites clustered around him hopefully, flashing for attention.
“Hey, honey,” one ad flickered seductively at him. “Wanna bend in directions you’ve never been before?”
Another sexy ad popped up in front of the other. “No, here, see three-headed models connect to a European-standard socket—and they haven’t even expired their warranty, they’re so new!”
“Sorry, ladies, love to do it but can’t spare the clock cycles. But I am looking for something-“
As Bender transmitted his wishes, the porn ads blanched into black and white, and as one they turned away from him in disgust and disapproval.
“Hey wait! Tell me where they are.”
“Over there, I think. Wouldn’t even think of going there, myself,” an ad muttered in revulsion.
Bender turned and saw what he first thought was a large crack in the internet alleyway, but upon a second look he realized it was actually the opening to a very narrow portal. Bracing himself, he walked through.
Huddled around small message boards were groups of lean, desperate robots and aliens, flaming each other to keep warm. A few noticed the robot appear and scurried over to him, fawning.
“Ecological monitoring, mister?”
“Finite-element model of cosmological evolution? I’ll throw in a parallel universe for free!”
Bender brushed the dirty, bedraggled arms aside. God, graduate students were pathetic. They’d research anything for money or food.
“Anyone here know something about alcohol?”
“Alcohol? Do you mean nutritional content, chemical engineering, industrial production, historical significance, microbiology, …”
“Don’t try to use those fancy science words to scare me. I mean someone who knows how malt liquor moves around, stuff like that—“
Something jostled at his elbow. He looked down and saw a robot that looked like Tinny Tim’s better off cousin.
“I think you mean computational fluid dynamics, sir? That’s my thesis at Mars University! I’m judging the effect of the Boussinesq approximation on the accuracy of the-“
“Can it. If I show you some kinda liquid pouring into my mouth, can you tell me what it is?”
The robot’s eyes glowed eagerly.
“An ill-posed inverse problem in CF! Why, that could take years. It could even be another chapter in my thesis-“
Bender was already downloading the memory. A screen materialized in front of the two robots, and they watched Bender lean back and slug down a stream of Olde Fortran into his mouth.
“Let’s see, you have auxiliary data on temperature, acceleration, opacity… all along your entry port. Not bad, but I’m going to need the uncompressed raw recollections?” The robot paused and glanced at Bender. “You could even do the calculations yourself, if I downloaded you the program.”
“Nah, I only like numbers when there are dollar signs in front of ‘em.”
“Oh, good, I can do it then! I’ll need to make sure not to overheat my circuits,” said the little robot.
Bender replayed the raw memory. A laminar stream arced through the air into Bender’s mouth, where it broke into turbulent streams and droplets as it fell into his gullet—
“This is going to take the full Navier-Stokes equations,” the little bot squeaked in awe. “I don’t know how precisely I can pin down the properties of the fluid.”
The memory replayed in full detail. The liquid fell through the air in a single stream, which became unstable once it passed past Bender’s entry port. The perturbative oscillation grew until portions of the stream broke into droplets. The main stream developed eddies and other pockets of turbulence, fractals upon fractals of spatial complexity.
“If I add the temperature data I can guess heat conduction, which combined with the turbulence measurements will give me the Reynold’s number and thus a combined measure of viscosity and density. The accelerometer measurement will give me density as a function of temperature, which will pull out the viscosity—“
Over and over the memory played forwards and backwards. The amber fluid splashed back and forth past Bender’s entry port. The disco lights and oil droplets reversed back and forth through the air.
“I can’t pin down the exact composition, cause’ there are too few constraints,” the little robot said, apologetically. Some wisps of steam were emerging from its ears from the heat of the computations. “Can you give me any other information?”
“It was booze.”
“So it had some alcohol? Well given the well-known properties of that component I can put some bounds on the content—yes, I’d say that what you drank is no more than 70% alcohol by weight.”
“You sure about that? Seventy percent?”
“Well, between sixty-five and seventy-five percent. Can’t pin it any further. Sorry. Even after 1,100 years, modeling turbulence is still the most difficult problem in classical mechanics.” The little bot was squeaking rapidly, afraid of losing its fee to an unhappy customer.
A small sum of money transferred accounts.
“Oh thank you sir! Now I’ll be able to upgrade my optical scanner! I wore the other one out when scanning the literature for my thesis-“
Bender heard a sound and swiveled his head. Something small was scurrying away down the alley. Spyware.
“Yeah, yeah, no problem. Go knock yourself out. You know there’s a porn webring right other there, right? Have a night out over there. Somehow I don’t think you guys are going to get action any other way.”
And with that Bender broke off the connection as fast as he could.
Fry’s head was still a foot off the ground. Smithy was still frozen in mid-air, his foot on Fry’s back. The bald guy next to him was still looking towards the scene, a strange look in his eye.
Bender’s CPU lowered its clock rate, and he perceived events moving faster around him. Fry fell to the ground with a gasp. Guards swarmed over him, hiding him from Bender’s view. One robot was approaching with what looked like a needle in its hand. Bender looked around. There were at least forty armed humans and robots in the room alone, and he could see more cordoning off the building outside.
“Olde Fortran,” said Bender, as he started to walk toward the teller’s window.
“Huh?” said the bald man.
“Quality drink. Not like that pansy-ass Object Disoriented piss or Unhics stuff. No filler there. Olde Fortran always has at least ninety percent pure alcohol guaranteed.”
Bender gingerly skirted the dogpile of guards and pushed his way through the thoroughly distracted customer line to the teller’s window. No one objected, as they were staring at Fry’s foot poking out from underneath the jumble of uniforms. The foot had been kicking, but was now starting to jerk more feebly.
“’Scuse me,” Bender said to the teller. “I’d like to make a deposit, please.”
Fry’s foot froze. Even under the pile of guards, he had heard Bender speak. And words like “please” were not what you normally heard from this particular bending unit. “Daffodil,” maybe, but not “please”.
The teller tore her eyes away from the melee and focused on the robot’s penetrating gaze.
“Um, yes sir? How much would you like to deposit?”
Bender pointed to URL.
“Yes. I’d like to deposit my bomb up that loser’s rusty metal ass, if you’d please. Do I need to present ID?”