The Strange Tales of Thomas Novack: Bob and his awful haikus

Thomas Novack, our unfortunate hero is one part private eye, two parts irritable cephalopod and a dash of magic. He runs his P.I. business in the year 2318 out of a shop called The Emerald Eye with his secretary, Bob, a robot of war. The shop rests inside the space station, The Flying Spade. He may not always be successful, but to keep the paychecks coming, he’ll try his best.

Year 2312

The night was lit up as streams of energy blasted over the trenches. Dirt rained down on the soldiers that lined the walls. There were only a few noises that could be heard. The impact of the energy blasts, the gentle pinging of pebbles off of metal and the low hum of electronics charging. But all of this was usual, and the trio of sounds became white noise.

Only when the noises cease should one be worried. That meant the enemy was either advancing or retreating. It spelled out death for the soldiers. Any change in sound could stiffen the soldiers and compel their fingers to their triggers. Well, the ones breathing anyway.

A beep announced that the metal warriors were charged. This was a welcome sound. The breathing soldiers sighed in relief. Their part was over. They were there to hold the line, no matter what, even at the cost of their lives. They were okay with this, for if the metal warriors were to be destroyed or not charged, they would all be killed.

One of the hulking robots stepped out from its cradle, systems turning on. It was one of the older models. A Centurion Model IV, while the rest were VI or VII models. Against all odds, he was still fighting. The problem with the Gen IVs was that they were prone to sudden changes in their code. For better or for worse.

The machine turned and grabbed the weapon that had been charging in the same cradle as he was. It was an inelegant thing. Form had not been considered with its design. The gun, when standing, reached its chest, and the machine was seven and a half feet tall.

Between each flash of the energy blasts, marks could be seen scrawled along the weapon. Words and phrases, no rhyme or rhythm with their placement. Simply a desire to write. A desire to create.

The goliath took a step towards the embankment before turning to one of the soldiers, “If I do not return, do not forget my sacrifice.”

The machine said this every time. That line has been repeated on 45 different fronts, 321 times. The soldiers did not know why it started, just that it did—but they didn’t mind. It had saved each of their lives more times than they could count. They felt pangs in their stomach seeing it walk into fire, but they never stopped it. Better the robot then them.

The metal warrior bent its knees and pushed off, leaping the eight foot embankment protecting the soldiers. As soon as it landed, it began to run. A buzzing emanated from the warrior a moment before a stream of energy pulsed down towards the enemy line. The firing from the enemy paused as they took cover.

Although, not all were safe and not all could hide. Bolts of energy slammed into a bipedal machine that towered above the battlefield. 30 feet tall, cannons turning to fire upon the advancing warrior. With accuracy not possible by organics under those conditions, fired shots disabled the mech’s weapon systems.

The machine, reaching the disabled mech, jumped once again. With rough, quick hissings, rockets on the back of the warrior activated, launching it even further. With a great clashing and the sound of crunching metal, the mech began to topple. The warrior grabbed a sphere on its side and slammed it down, burying it in the chassis of the no-longer-towering-mech.

The warrior pushed back and charged to safety—away from the toppled mech. It jumped into the trenches as an earth-shattering explosion shook the ground, threatening to fill the great grooves in the earth. As a silence descended on the battlefield, the warrior climbed back into its cradle, wishing to dream once again.

Year 2314

“How much are you selling him for?” a green being named Novack asked, looking the pitted and scarred robot, sadness in the eyes.

“Not much. Gained some sort of virus and stopped responding to orders. Began with defacing its weapon. At this point, it may be better to simply scrap the thing,” responded a giant grasshopper-like figure.

Novack’s tentacles moved, rubbing against each other, a tell-tale sign that he was nervous. It had been a year since he had seen the robot. It had protected not only him, but his unit many times. He always hoped that he could return the favor, and after tracking him down between two different systems, he could do just that.

“I’ll take him,” Novack said. He pushed a button on the warrior’s cradle, and, after a moment, it powered on.

Novack spoke, “Hey big guy. Not sure if you remember me, but I owe you. A lot.”

The pair walked out of the robotics store and towards an almost empty office. A drone was putting up a sign above the doorway. “The Emeral” was all that was put up so far. Novack grinned; it was a start.

“Your room will be in there. But first things first, we gotta work on your poetry. I read some of your haikus, and they’re just awful,” Novack said with a smile.

Joshua Rettew is a third-year student majoring in microbiology with a minor in creative writing.   JR868511@wcupa.edu.

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