This is the conclusion to last week’s #FridayFlash “Bernhard’s Hobby (Part 1)”
Bernhard’s Hobby (Part 2)
D. Paul Angel
Bernhard stepped back from the man panting. Despite the crimson color of his jumpsuit, there was still obvious blood splatters across it. He was surprised at the blood, really, even though he was expecting the reality of Vampirism to sharply diverge from the myth.
“So this is my fate then, huh?” the man asked in a weak, raspy voice, “A 25th Century Sisyphus?”
“I wish,” Bernhard answered ruefully. He could see now that the numerous cuts and slices he had inflicted were indeed healing. It was too slow a process to actually watch happen but, over time, there was no mistaking the wound’s improvements. “It would be extremely convenient after all.”
“Then why not?” asked the man, straining to lift his eyes to look at Bernhard.
“I’m certain you feel pain. Your screams proved that. But, your eyes… Your eyes betrayed you.”
“There’s no fear. No urgency of life. A man who knows he’s going to die lives his regrets. But not you. No sir. Not you.”
“Perhaps a partnership of sorts?”
“Why would I partner with someone who just spent hours torturing me?”
“Because you’re going to need blood, and…” he looked longingly at the knife in his hand before continuing, “And my hobby happens to oblige you.”
“So every stowaway will become a victim, even with me forever at your mercy?”
“Alas. But the best path is usually the hardest. So… yes. A man’s gotta have a hobby after all.”
“I see.” The man’s body had almost completely closed all of its gashes. He lifted his head and looked at Bernhard with a hardness that started him backing up before he realized it. As Bernhard watched, the man’s arms and legs began moving toward each other. It was slow, but should have been impossible.
“Computer!” shouted Bernhard, backing up against the far bulkhead and holding the knife out in front of him, “Force field to 110 percent.”
“The force field can not be strengthened further,” the Computer replied with unemotional finality.
As Bernhard looked up at the Computer’s speaker to curse it, the man brought his hands together resulting in blue flash and BANG!, loud enough that Bernhard dropped his knife with a clatter. As he bent down to pick it up, the man brought his feet together with a second bright flash and loud BANG!, which awkwardly flung the man away from Bernhard. The man didn’t land on the floor this time, however, but adroitly landed on his feet.
Bernhard guessed the man’s rush would be coming again, and that the force field wouldn’t stop it. He dove to his right, expecting to roll and perhaps buy some time. Instead he was halfway to the floor when he was scooped up by the man in an iron grip, even as the flash and accompanying BANG! reached him. The man held Bernhard off the ground, pinning his arms against his sides. He looked Bernhard square in the eyes and flatly said, “I am afraid I can’t allow that.”
Bernhard began violently kicking and squirming as the man started moving towards the airlock.
“Put me down!” shouted Bernhard.
“Then why now when you could’ve stopped me anytime?”
The man’s face showed neither exertion nor emotion as he walked, “I thought I could still be a surrogate for your illness. You made clear, however, that I cannot; since by your own admission you will continue to kill.”
“If that’s all you want, I’ll use you. Just you!”
“I do not believe you and I cannot allow you to kill anyone else.”
“What the hell kind of vampire are you?”
“I am not a vampire. I am an android.”
“An android? You’re a robot?”
“I am internally a robot with an organic outer layer exactly mimicking a human male. My mission is to record humans and their interactions for psychological and sociological research.”
“Then your AI is bound by the Three Laws! You’re incapable of killing a human!”
“What the Three Laws became in reality are far more complex than even Asimov dreamed. Although though he did, eventually, see the need for the Zeroth Law.”
“In Asimov’s terms, ‘A robot may not harm humanity.’ The internal coding is far too complex too explain, but suffice to say that I cannot allow you to continue killing.”
The man walked into the air lock with Bernhard, and shut the door, sealing them both inside.
“So you’re going to hold me in the air lock until the authorities arrive?”
“No. Neither an android nor a robot can invoke the Zeroth Law and continue to function. It is a failsafe.”
“So because you have to die, I die too!?”
“Yes. But please know that my memory files are saved in hard storage and will survive, even though I shall not.”
“How is that the least bit comforting!?” demanded Bernhard as the air started cycling out of the lock.
“It means I shall record the fear in your eyes for all of posterity. You indicated earlier a keenness for its observation. So tell me while you can, what do you regret?”
3 thoughts on “Bernhard’s Hobby (Part 2)”
Wow but this is exciting! Love the idea of the Zeroth law and that last line is great!
I read Asimov’s Foundation series in High School and was struck by the concept of the Zeroth Law then. As I recall, the robot who came up with the concept, Giskard, couldn’t actually implement it without ultimately destroying himself. The humaniform robot Daneel Olivaw was able to make it work however. i’m glad you enjoyed it!