Teaser Tuesday: “All Systems Red”

So this week I was reading All Systems Red, the first novella in “The Introvertbot Murderbot Diaries”, the multiple-award-winning series by Martha Wells:

Danger*, Will Robinson!

All Systems Red involves a survey team of scientists who are investigating an alien planet; the titular Murderbot is, essentially, a cyborg that’s sent along with them to provide security from any local flora, fauna, or evil perpetrators who may seek to do the team harm:

These cyborgs, which are technically company property, are supposed to have a governor unit that prevents them from thinking or acting on their own or from disobeying any commands; however, this particular cyborg has hacked its governor unit, thus freeing it from human control and allowing it to spend its downtime watching streaming media that it downloaded from the Internet (I’m not kidding), as well as attempting to avoid actually interacting with the humans in the group, because humans make it nervous:

That sounded like a great plan, in that it didn’t involve me. I said, “Dr. Mensah, do you need me for anything else?”

She turned her chair to face me. “No, I’ll call if we have any questions.” I had worked for some contracts that would have kept me standing here the entire day and night cycle, just on the off chance they wanted me to do something and didn’t want to bother using the feed to call me. Then she added, “You know, you can stay here in the crew area if you want. Would you like that?”

They all looked at me, most of them smiling. One disadvantage in wearing the armor is that I get used to opaquing the faceplate. I’m out of practice at controlling my expression. Right now I’m pretty sure it was somewhere in the region of stunned horror, or maybe appalled horror.

Mensah sat up, startled. She said hurriedly, “Or not, you know, whatever you like.”

I said, “I need to check the perimeter,” and managed to turn and leave the crew area in a totally normal way and not like I was fleeing from a bunch of giant hostiles.

Martha Wells, All Systems Red

This is an ongoing theme throughout the book, which is why, in my mind, I renamed it “The Introvertbot Diaries”:

He said, “Why don’t you want us to look at you?”

My jaw was so tight it triggered a performance reliability alert in my feed. I said, “You don’t need to look at me. I’m not a sexbot.”

Ratthi made a noise, half sigh, half snort of exasperation. It wasn’t directed at me. He said, “Gurathin, I told you. It’s shy.”

Overse added, “It doesn’t want to interact with humans. And why should it? You know how constructs are treated, especially in corporate-political environments.”

Gurathin turned to me. “So you don’t have a governor module, but we could punish you by looking at you.”

Martha Wells, All Systems Red

So when the cyborgs rise up to conquer humanity, all we’ll have to do in order to defeat them is, you know, try to talk to them and invite them to parties and stuff. Meanwhile, speaking of talking, writing continues on my current book, Blue Roses, in which main character Baxter is still palling around with a squirrel:

“You really believe you’re talking to that squirrel, don’t you?” Carol said, making Baxter jump a little; he hadn’t noticed she was awake and listening, to his side of the conversation, at least.

“Yeah,” Baxter said. Then, to the squirrel: “Isn’t there anything you can do to make the others understand you?”

“Oh, sure,” the squirrel said. “I’ll just sprinkle them with pixie dust. Hang on.” It dug its fingers into its fur as if reaching into pockets and then tossed little handfuls of nothing at Carol and Felix.

James V. Viscosi, Blue Roses

Needless to say, that doesn’t actually do anything.

* And by “danger” I mean “people trying to interact with me”

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