Prologue One

There were at least seventeen ways it could have gone better.

But there were a lot of ways it could have gone worse.

We didn’t get many of these calls nowadays. Generally most Bobs and Robs had either been crated or broken up for raw materials.

There were some still active. The military of course. We’d also heard that the deep ocean survey guys had been granted the use of a team of Gen 5 Robs for deep water exploration. And it was common knowledge the engine rooms of the interplanetary freighters were manned by Bobs because of the radiation risk.

But actual functioning tech was becoming much rarer in the private domain.

Every now and then, someone would happen upon an old Bob under a pile of crap in their garage or barn. Or their dog would uncover a buried old Rob while digging for a bone. The Gen 4 stuff and later had Cord Reactor power plants and it would only take a nudge or a loud noise to make the damn things boot up. The problem came when frost had gotten into the circuitry or mice had chewed through the wiring. With their fail-safes compromised, there was no way of knowing how they’d act once they had fully booted.

If they did boot, we’d get the call. The ideal outcome was to turn up and power down the mech. The chassis would then get bundled off somewhere for reverse engineering if it was in good nick. Recycling plant if it was haggard. There were numerous less ideal outcomes.

This one was an abandoned casino in UltraSamp. Some city guys had brought it to convert into apartments or something. They’d been having a look around when the ceiling collapsed onto the blackjack tables. It would seem two old dealer-mechs had been left and forgotten in there. They had both booted up and by all accounts their firmware was totally corrupted.

Two of the city guys made it out to make the call.