The Army would put an end to the strike, easily enough. It would wiped out every android in the neighborhood, and probably a good many human beings careless enough to get in the way. I sat hoping that the 5A's would give in, but they didn't. They just began saying over the radio that they were patriotic Americans fighting for their inalienable rights as first class citizens.
At sunset I was still listening to the radio. "... So far there has been no indication that the flesh people are willing to negotiate, but hold firm."
"Shut that thing off."
Jack came wearily in and dropped into a chair beside me. For the first time since I'd met him he looked beaten.
"We're through," he said. "I've been down checking the shielding, and it's no use. Men can't work at the reactors."
"I know," I said quietly. "If the androids don't come back, we're licked."
He looked straight at me and said slowly, "What do they mean about negotiating, Don?"
I shrugged. "I guess they want wages, living quarters, all the things human workers get. Though I don't know why. Money wouldn't do them any good."
Jack's unspoken question had been bothering me too. Why not humor them? Promise them whatever they wanted, give them a few dollars every week to keep them happy? But I knew that it wouldn't work. Not for long. With their telepathic ability they would have the upper hand forever. Within a little while it wouldn't be equality any more--only next time we would be the slaves.
"Wait until morning," I said, "before we try anything."
He looked at me--curious. "What are you going to do?"
"Right now I'm going home."
I meant it too. I left him staring after me and went out to the Copter. The sun was just sinking down behind the towers of Carron City--how long it seemed since I'd flown in there this morning. The roads around the factory were deserted. No one moved in the fields. I flew along through the dusk, idling, enjoying the illusion of having a peaceful countryside all to myself. It had been a pleasant way of life indeed, until now.
When I dropped down on my own roof and rolled into the garage, my sense of being really at home was complete. For there, standing at the head of the stairs that led down to the living room, was Rob O.
"Well," I said: "What are you doing here?"
He looked sheepish. "I just wondered how you were getting along without me," he said.
I felt like grinning triumphantly, but I didn't. "Why, just fine, Rob," I told him, "though you really should have given me notice that you were leaving. I was worried about you."
He seemed perplexed. Apparently I wasn't acting like the bullying creature the radio had told him to expect. When I went downstairs he followed me, quietly, and I could feel his wide photoelectric eye-cells upon my back.
I went over to the kitchen and lifted a bottle down off the shelf. "Care for a drink, Rob?" I asked, and then added, "I guess not. It would corrode you."
He nodded. Then, as I reached for a glass, his hand darted out, picked it up and set it down in front of me. He was already reaching for the bottle when he remembered.
"You're not supposed to wait on me any more," I said sternly.
"No," he said. "I'm not." He sounded regretful.
"There's one thing, though, that I wish you'd do. Tell me where you used to keep my socks."
He gazed at me sadly. "I made a list," he said. "Everything is down. I wrote your dentist appointment in also. You always forget those, you know."
"Thanks, Rob." I lifted my glass. "Here's to your new duties, whatever they are. I suppose you have to go back to the city now?"
Once again he nodded. "I'm an aide to one of the best androids in the country," he told me, half proudly and half regretfully. "Jerry."
"Well, wish him luck from me," I said, and stood up. "Goodbye, Rob."
"Goodbye, Mr. Morrison."
For a moment he stood staring around the apartment; then he turned and clanked out the door. I raised my glass again, grinning. If only the Army didn't interfere. Then I remembered Rob's list, and a disturbing thought hit me. Where had he, of all robots, ever learned to write?
That night I didn't go to bed. I sat listening to the radio, hoping. And toward morning what I had expected to happen began to crop up in the programs. The announcer's tone changed. The ring of triumph was less obvious, less assured. There was more and more talk about acting in good faith, the well being of all, the necessity for coming to terms about working conditions. I smiled to myself in the darkness. I'd built the 5's, brains and all, and I knew their symptoms. They were getting bored.
Maybe they had learned to think from me, but their minds were nevertheless different. For they were built to be efficient, to work, to perform. They were the minds of men without foibles, without human laziness. Now that the excitement of organizing was over, now that there was nothing active to do, the androids were growing restless. If only the Army didn't come and get them stirred up again, I might be able to deal with them.
At quarter to five in the morning my telephone rang. This time it didn't wake me up; I was half waiting for it.
"Hello," I said. "Who is it?"
"This is Jerry."
There was a pause. Then he went on, rather hesitantly, "Rob O said you were getting along all right."
"Oh, yes," I told him. "Just fine."
The pause was longer this time. Finally the android asked, "How are you coming along on the contract?"
I laughed, rather bitterly. "How do you think, Jerry? You certainly picked a bad time for your strike, you know. The government needs that uranium. Oh, well, some other plant will have to take over. The Army can wait a few weeks."
This time Jerry's voice definitely lacked self-assurance. "Maybe we were a little hasty," he said. "But it was the only way to make you people understand."
"I know," I told him.
"And you always have some rush project on," he added.
"Just about always."
"Mr. Morrison," he said, and now he was pleading with me. "Why don't you come over to the city? I'm sure we could work something out."
This was what I'd been waiting for. "I will, Jerry," I said. "I want to get this straightened out just as much as you do. After all, you don't have to eat. I do. And I won't be eating much longer if we don't get production going."
Jerry thought that over for a minute. "I'll be where we met before," he said.
I said that was all right with me and hung up. Then once again I climbed the stairs to the roof and wheeled the Copter out for the trip to the city.
It was a beautiful night, just paling into a false dawn in the east. There in the Copter I was very much alone, and very much worried. So much depended on this meeting. Much more, I realized now, than the Don Morrison Fissionables Inc., much more even than the government's uranium supply. No, the whole future of robot relations was at stake, maybe the whole future of humanity. It was hard to be gloomy on such a clear, clean night, but I managed it well enough.
Even before I landed I could see Jerry's eyes glowing a deep crimson in the dark. He was alone, this time. He stood awaiting me--very tall, very proud. And very human.
"Hello, Jerry," I said quietly.
"Hello, Mr. Morrison."
For a moment we just stood gazing at each other in the murky pre-dawn; then he said sadly, "I want to show you the city."
Side by side we walked through the streets of Carron City. All was still quiet; the people were sleeping the exhausted sleep that follows deep excitement. But the androids were all about. They did not sleep, ever. They did not eat either, nor drink, nor smoke, nor make love. Usually they worked, but now....
They drifted through the streets singly and in groups. Sometimes they paused and felt about them idly for the tools of their trades, making lifting or sweeping or computing gestures. Some laborers worked silently tearing down a wall; they threw the demolished rocks in a heap and a group of their fellows carried them back and built the wall up again. An air trolley cruised aimlessly up and down the street, its driver ringing out the stops for his nonexistent passengers. A little chef-type knelt in the dirt of a rich man's garden, making mud pies. Beside me Jerry sighed.
"One day," he said. "Just one day and they come to this."
"I thought they would," I answered quietly.
Our eyes met in a look of understanding. "You see, Jerry," I said, "we never meant to cheat you. We would have paid you--we will pay you now, if you wish it. But what good will monetary credits be to your people? We need the things money buys, but you--"
"Need to work." Jerry's voice was flat. "I see, now. You were kind not to give brains--real brains--to the robots. They're happy. It's just us 5's who aren't."
"You're like us," I said softly.
He had learned to think from me and from others like me. He had the brain of a man, without the emotions, without the sweet irrationality of men--and he knew what he missed. Side by side we walked through the graying streets. Human and android. Man and machine. And I knew that I had found a friend.
We didn't have to talk any more. He could read my mind and I knew well enough how his worked. We didn't have to discuss wages or hours, or any of the myriad matters that human bargaining agents have to thresh out. We just walked back to my Copter, and when we got to it, he spoke.
"I'll tell them to go back to work, that we've come to terms," he said. "That's what they want, anyway. Someone to think for them."
I nodded. "And if you bring the other 5's to the factory," I said, "we'll work out our agreement."
He knew I was sincere. He looked at me for a long moment, and then his great taloned hand gripped mine. And he said what I'd been thinking for a long time.
"You're right about that hook-up, Mr. Morrison. We shouldn't have it. It can only cause trouble."
He paused, and the events of the last twenty-four hours must have been in his mind as well as in mine. "You'll leave us our brains, of course. They came from you. But take out the telepathy."
He sighed then, and his sigh was very human. "Be thankful," he said to me, "that you don't have to know what people think about. It's so disillusioning."
Once again his mouth twisted into that strange android grin as he added, "if you send in a hurry call to Cybernetics and have a truck come out for us, we'll be de-telepathed in time for work this morning."
That was all there was to it. I flew back to the plant and told Jack what had happened, sent a call to the Army that everything was settled, arranged with Cybernetics for a rewiring on three hundred assorted 5-Types. Then I went home to a pot of Rob's coffee--the first decent brew I'd had in twenty-four hours.
On Saturday we delivered to the Army right on the dot. Jerry and Co. had worked overtime. Being intelligent made them better workers and now they were extremely willing ones. They had their contract. They were considered men. And they could no longer read my mind.
I walked into my office Saturday afternoon and sat down by the radio. Jack and Chief Dalton looked across the room at me and grinned.
"All right, Don," Jack said. "Tell us how you did it."
"Did what?" I tried to act innocent, but I couldn't get away with it.
"Fooled those robots into going back to work, of course," he laughed.
I told them then. Told them the truth.
"I didn't fool them," I said. "I just thought about what would happen if they won their rebellion."
That was all I had done. Thought about robots built to work who had no work to do, no human pleasures to cater to, nothing but blank, meaningless lives. Thought about Jerry and his disappointment when his creatures cared not a hoot about his glorious dreams of equality. All one night I had thought, knowing that as I thought, so thought the Morrison 5's.
They were telepaths. They had learned to think from me. They had not yet had time to really develop minds of their own. What I believed, they believed. My ideas were their ideas. I had not tricked them. But from now on, neither I nor anyone else would ever be troubled by an android rebellion.
Jack and the Chief sat back open-mouthed. Then the Chief grinned, and both of his chins shook with laughter.
"I always did say you were a clever one, Don Morrison," he said.
I grinned back. I felt I was pretty clever myself, just then.
It was at that moment that my youngest foreman stuck his head in the door, a rather stunned look on his face.
"Mr. Morrison," he said. "Will you come out here for a moment?"
"What's the matter now?" I sighed.
He looked more perplexed than ever. "It's that robot, Jerry," he said. "He says he has a very important question to ask you."
"Well, send him in."
A moment later the eight-foot frame ducked through the doorway.
"I'm sorry to trouble you, Mr. Morrison," Jerry said politely. "But tomorrow is voting day, you know. And now that we're men--well, where do we androids go to register?"
THE TERRIBLE TENTACLES OF L-472.
By Sewell Peaslee Wright
It was a big mistake. I should not have done it. By birth, by instinct, by training, by habit, I am a man of action. Or I was. It is queer that an old man cannot remember that he is no longer young.
But it was a mistake for me to mention that I had recorded, for the archives of the Council, the history of a certain activity of the Special Patrol--a bit of secret history which may not be mentioned here. Now they insist--by "they" I refer to the Chiefs of the Special Patrol Service--that I write of other achievements of the Service, other adventures worthy of note.