Wixbie is catching an oxygen buzz up on Arcturus like any reputable
Venusian mountain climber does. Generator tanks working on cold
fusion make oxygen conversion easy in a tight atmosphere at a crazy
altitude, some one-half million feet from the Venusian surface.
Crimpston depends on his feet, that's how he climbed Arcturus. His
hands were greatly instrumental in his progress as well. Crimpston
never trusts machines and does not depend on them. Crimpston's oxygen
converter is shooting too much into his system. Now he's high on
oxygen and thinking about jumping off.
would go splat," Crimpston says. "Lightbeam mush on the
sure you would," a voice answers. It sounds like metal gears
grinding sheet rock.
Wixbie turns around and sees a small robot hovering behind him,
framed in the dark red of the mountain and deep blue of the plants.
you come from?" Crimpston asks while his skin tingles.
a native of Venus, been here for ages," the robot answers.
"I live inside Arcturus, up there."
robot's small round body rolls to the side and gestures up to a
cave near the top of the mountain.
like you are," the robot says. "Look, I'm gonna be honest
thanks," Crimpston says as he sways to the side and sits down
in a heap.
going to cut off your hands," the robot says.
likes his hands and puts them behind his back.
don't have any hands," Crimpston says.
you do," the robot says. "I need to make a stew, and human
hands are perfect. You are a human and you have hands. I saw them."
a little round robot," Crimpston says as he stands up. He likes
oxygen a lot right now. He wonders why they don't have more of it
on Earth. "Little round robot, I'm gonna smash you!"
robot is about the size of a metallic soccer ball. Its bottom opens
up, and metal rods and wires shoot out. They wrap around each other,
coiling in intricate preset patterns, until they form a much more
not going to smash me," the robot says.
tells the robot it is an asshole and then jumps off the mountain.
The robot catches Crimpston with a mighty mechanical paw.
just take these for my stew," the robot says. He uses a high
temperature laser beam that lops Crimpston's hands off real quick,
cauterizing the wounds. The robot catches the hands and drops Crimpston.
bounces off the face of the mountain many times, landing on an outcropping
a good distance below. His suit is tough and durable, but banged,
smashed, and dented. He feels a little nauseated, and his arms hurt
a lot. He's not dead but feels like he should be. The suit's life
support system responds with a morphine intravenous river, making
Crimpston's oxygen high seem like a small rodent compared to the
ferocious jungle cat opiate that invigorates him.
great difficulty, Crimpston rescales the mountain with just his
dependable feet. It takes a long time and Crimpston has to take
a different route, one that accommodates sturdy feet and useless
stumps. The whole time, Crimpston's eyes are cracked and peeled,
peering for the cave that the robot called home.
reaches the plateau he dropped from, and smells something thick
with a hint of garlic. Hands! Crimpston follows
the sickeningly appetizing stench around the face of the mountain,
realizing how hungry he is. There he spots the cave, and continues
his shambling ascent, his stomach growling in anger. He reaches
the cave, where the smell of hand stew is quite strong, and sees
the robot. It has become little again. Crimpston still thinks the
robot is a jerk, but he has to respect fine culinary skills.
if I join you?" Crimpston asks. "The climb back up left
don't see why not," the robot says. "I have to say, I
am embarrassed. I didn't realize your hands were quite so big. There
is more than enough for two. Please, have a seat."
a half hour the stew is ready. Crimpston and the robot enjoy it
together in the peaceful cave on Venus. Crimpston tells the robot
the stew is good.