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On board the space station Liberty, two men
stood in the docking module. Edward Earle and Tyler Branch were waiting at the
hatch. The supply shuttle made a loud clank as it sank its docking arms into the
station. They waited a couple minutes, their eyes frozen on the hatch, arms
crossed. Then the hatch hissed open.
A slight amount of steam rushed in as two other men, who they supposed were the
pilots, stepped out, lugging behind them a long coffin-like box. They wore hats
shaped like police hats except with wings pinned to the front. Unlike the other
pilots Tyler had seen, these pilots blue uniforms were empty of any badges of
rank or achievement.
The pilots stopped for a moment to rest, wiping the beads of sweat from their
foreheads. Then they began pulling the box in once more.
They managed to get it into the docking module, but Edward snorted when they
started to leave. “Where do you think you two are going? You’re getting paid
thirty-five dollars to drag that thing into the living chamber, not eight feet.”
The plots said nothing, but seemed very agitated. Tyler sighed and stepped up to
help them pull. There was a muttered thanks from both pilots; the box was
extremely heavy. Finally, they managed to get the box unto the living chamber.
“So…who’s the anonymous scientist who sent this?” asked Tyler.
The two pilots shrugged in unison. “Don’t know, don’t care. We’ve got to get out
before our air tanks start running low. Bye.” They walked out briskly.
Tyler paused for a moment. “But wait! You’re not pilots because you have no
flight training confirmation on your uniform! Who are you?”
They heard the hatch slam shut and the shuttle departed. Flames licked the side
of the station as it pulled away. They watched through the hatch window as it
slowly shrank and gained distance from the station, until it was only a tiny dot
on Earth’s horizon.
One more man stepped through a door behind them. His face was lit with
excitement at the package. “This is great!” he said in a cheerful tone. “Now,
this robot’ll give us help. Thank God! If I had to repair that faulty control
panel one more time…” The man’s name was Trevor Mcallen. He came from a small
family in northern Pennsylvania. He was usually quite cheerful, but could have
strange mood swings.
Tyler slid his hand down the edge of the package. “I can’t believe the scientist
gave it to us for free. He even paid for it being delivered here. NASA must be
singing a happy tune. Maybe there’s something wrong with it.”
Edward was unsnapping the snaps that held the box shut. “Well what’re we waiting
for?” He asked in a low tone that sounded like he could care less. “Let’s get
the dang thing open!” he snapped impatiently.
They carefully unsnapped the lid. Then they swung it open. White smoke gushed
from the inside of the box. They waited for it to clear, waving their hands
around to push it away.
Inside was a human shaped robot with wires, not on the inside, but on the
outside. His body was crisscrossed with many of these wires. Fluids rushed
through the cords into different parts of his body. His mechanical eyes were
closed, but they could see how the robot’s eyes could swivel all around in their
sockets. His arms looked like miniature cranes with the hinges in plain sight.
Suddenly, the robot’s eyes flashed open. They were bright blue, but slowly
changed to green. “Who are you?” asked the robot. Its voice sounded
Trevor bent his face low to get a good look at the robot, his eyes wide with
astonishment. “So this is that robot you said was the Friendly Radio Integer
Establishment Necessary Delivery robot. Funny how he’s called F.R.I.E.N.D. You
notice how NASA always makes up all this gibberish just to have the right to
call their robots by names. I remember this one robot in my quarters back at
NASA, went by the name A.L.F. as I recall...”
The robot trembled, his eyes turning shocking pink “I’m not a robot, you idiots!
I’m a surgeon at the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. I don’t know how I got
here, but I’m getting the hell out!” He started to get up, but they held him
down, much to Friend’s distress. He struggled and started to realize that he was
going nowhere. “My name is Frederic Kell. Get your hands off me!” he snapped.
Edward grabbed him by the neck and looked him in the eye. “Look here, you piece
of junk. I oughta throw your miserable body into space. How dare you speak to me
in that tone of voice. Robots are not allowed to show indignation or anger… or
talk when we haven’t given them permission to. Shuttup!”
Friend was very quiet for a moment. He was now trembling worse than ever. The
panicked color of pink was filling his eyes. “Why can’t I breath? I’m not
suffocating! And why am I numb all over? Where’s my tongue!”
Tyler was about to comfort him when Edward punched him in the face.
The robot’s eyes flashed a dark glittering red with anger. “What was that for,
Edward looked at him with contempt. “You are a robot,” he said calmly and
sharply, but the robot continued.
“…I’m going to press charges for assault. How dare you! I have done nothing to
Edward punched him again, knocking a couple of fragments from his face. “Are you
not listening to me? You! Are! A! Machine! You have no life. You have no soul.
You have no rights here. You are a tool. You cannot function without us. You are
our robot!” Edward snorted. “Maybe that will get the malfunction out of his
Friend looked down at the shiny steel floor and saw his face. His eyes went to
white with shock. “Oh my God… what’s happened to me?”
Edward rolled his eyes. “You were manufactured to be our slave. You will get to
work like a good little robot or I will tear your body apart and throw you off
Friend’s eyes stayed white. Then they turned to black with depression. “I-I-I
guess… I must accept this.” He walked around the room, pondering what this
change of events would mean for him.
Tyler sighed. “Poor guy. He’s so sad. Shouldn’t we try to make him feel a little
Edward shook his head. “Who cares! He’s a robot. He doesn’t have feelings. Huh,
probably broke an emotion chip and is malfunctioning.”
Trevor smiled happily. “Well, at least he’ll help us out. First thing, I’m going
to make him fix that dang control panel.”
For the next several days, Friend’s eyes gradually went from gray to a darker
gray to a black and to a darker black. He heaved heavy boxes of fuel to the fuel
tanks, cleaned the windows, mopped the decks, made the food, and did all the
other spare tasks.
One day, Friend walked into Edward’s living quarters. “Sir, may I watch some
Edward was smoking a cigarette. He wasn’t really allowed to, but he never played
by the rules. The cigarette fell from his lips as an astonished look consumed
his face. “TV? You, a robot, want to watch TV? How’s that possible?”
Friend looked at the floor. “I’m sorry if it angers you.” He said in a strained
Edward shook his head. “You will work, you miserable bastard! You’re a robot.
You don’t watch TV, you don’t have life, you are our slave. Can you get that
through that tin can you call a brain! Now, get the hell out!”
Friend’s shoulders slumped and he walked out. His eyes were dark black.
The next morning, Friend sat staring through a window. His eyes were black and
empty. They stared unmoving at Earth, slowly developing a red tinge.
He broke his stare and looked down at his steel arm. The red in his eyes got
brighter. He grabbed his arm and ripped it off. Sparks flew everywhere. He
stared at it. “Nothing matters anymore,” he said blankly. The metal arm clanged
as it fell to the floor.
Tyler had just walked down the hall and saw him and his detached arm. “Oh
Friend! You’ve broken yourself. I’m so sorry. Let me help you.”
Friend resumed staring at Earth with the pulsing red tinge in his eyes.
Tyler picked up the arm and took a screwdriver out of his pocket. He spent the
rest of the day repairing the arm.
“So how did you do this to yourself?” he asked when he was done.
There was no reply.
“Friend, what’s wrong?”
“Friend, I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s wrong. Now, what is
Friend’s eyes were frozen on the Earth. “Nothing, sir.”
Tyler scratched the back of his head. “Well okay, Friend… just, uh, call me if
you want to talk.”
The next morning Friend was repairing a switch on the cockpit control panel that
wasn’t quite working correctly. His hands were feeling through wires, trying to
find the source of the problem. Sensors in his fingers picked up a wire that had
He was just about to begin to repair it when Trevor came up behind him. “Um,
Friend stopped and turned around. “Yes, sir?”
Trevor was holding a newspaper in his hands. “Well, I’ve just received the
newspaper from the transmission from Earth and I printed it out. It’s from the
day you were sent to us. I don’t know whether those pilots were reading it
around you or what, but…”
Friend took the paper from him and read the headline silently:
‘Frederic Kell Installs First Artificial Heart’
Trevor was looking uneasy. “I’m sorry, Friend. I guess this must come as a big
Something snapped with Friend at that moment. His eyes turned from black to a
blazing scarlet. Then his eyes turned to a strained blue. Friend nodded,
smiling. “Thank you, Trevor.”
Friend was very quiet as he prepared dinner. As he laid out the platters of
food, Tyler sensed something was wrong. He waited for Friend to go back to the
kitchen, and turned to his left. “Hey Trevor have you noticed Friend’s been
acting a bit different lately?”
Trevor nodded. “Oh yeah. He’s been picking up some really, really big boxes of
military equipment and moving it. He’s been a really big help lately.”
Tyler shook his head as Trevor took a huge slab of steak and stuffed it down his
That night, Edward heard clanking from the living chamber. It kept him awake a
couple minutes. Then he decided it was just Friend doing some work. He snuggled
up in the sheets and slipped into sleep.
The next morning, Saturn’s rings shone through the windows. The ship was passing
just above the rings at a sideways angle, so that the view was spectacular.
Tyler stretched his arms as he got out of bed. Finally, they would be taking
their last planetary readings before they went home and a new crew came aboard
He walked out of his living quarters into the hallway to find that his other
crew members were also just getting up. Edward was leaning against the wall,
looking as though he might drop off any second. Trevor stood next to him,
looking much the same.
Trevor was shaking his head. “Good God! I heard loud noises all night. I’m glad
Friend’s working really hard, but does he have to make such a racket? Did you
hear him, Tyler?”
Tyler shook his head. “I guess I drifted off really quick. Geez, you guys aren’t
looking too good. I’ll bet breakfast’ll get you up. How about we just have that
The others agreed, so they headed off to the living chamber for breakfast.
Edward yelled profanity as they stepped in.
Chairs were overturned. Papers had been thrown everywhere. The fan on the
ceiling made them blow around. A table had been ripped apart and the pieces
Trevor was shocked. “You know…I think we might’ve worked Friend a bit too hard.
What do you think?”
“I fervently agree,” said Tyler.
They stepped through the paper, rolling along like tumbleweeds. The rhythmic
thumping of the fan above them blew air on their backs.
Trevor shook his head. “The fan’s broken. It’s not supposed to go this fast.”
Edward slapped him over the head. “That’s the least of our problems.”
The door on the other side of the room was a crack open, and a thin light was
Trevor shook his head. “I’m not going in there, not for all the ice cream in the
fridge, although I am quite fond of those fudgesicles which you keep gobbling
Edward slapped him over the head. “Shuttup! You’ll go where I tell you to go!”
Behind the door, there was some shuffling. Then the door began to slowly creak
open. A menacing silence filled the air. They stared without saying a word to
Suddenly, Friend launched himself through the doorway, clutching a knife in his
right hand. His eyes were so bright they looked like they were on fire, but it
was just that his eyes were a very bright red and orange.
The knife passed through Edward’s chest. Blood gushed out his back as the knife
He vaguely observed that the knife was the one Friend was using to chop the
steak the night before. He had always thought that knife was a bit large.
A look of shock swept across his face. His mouth moved, trying to say something,
but he fell over with a thump to the floor. His eyes were frozen open, staring
out into the abyss.
Trevor and Tyler were frozen for a moment in sheer horror, like deer in
headlights. Then they took off down the hall.
Friend snarled as he began to run towards them. “I AM FREDERIC KELL!!!” he
screamed, madly. He leaped after them like a tiger, his limbs outstretched with
the knife in his hand. His body was just as agile too. “I AM FREDERIC KELL!!!
FREDERIC KELL!!! FREDERIC KEEEEEELL!!!
Tyler didn’t look back. Fear coursed through his body. Friend was catching up.
Trevor was whimpering as he loped. “Oh God, I’m going to die!”
They slipped around a corner. Friend whipped around it, just behind them. He
hissed at them like a snake as they ran.
They had to make it to the escape pods. They had never used them, so they didn’t
quite know the exact location. They knew it was somewhere in this area. Their
feet pounded the steel floor. Where was it?
Trevor was hysterical now because Friend was so close that he could feel the
heat radiating from his blood red eyes. “I don’t wanna’ die!!!” he was
They turned right. Now, they were going down another long hallway, except this
one’s lights were off.
Tyler’s breathing quickened. He didn’t know where they were going or where
Friend was, so he just kept running as fast as his legs could carry him.
Trevor was weeping. He had to get away. He had to. How could he die like this?
Then they crashed into a wall. Suddenly, they found themselves in the anti
radiation shelter. The transparent door closed behind them, and they heard it
lock. They were trapped. Friend stared at them from the other side of the door.
Trevor was huddled in a corner, too scared to speak. He sobbed. “Oh God we’re
dead! Somebody save me!” he yelled. His voice echoed off the walls.
Friend pressed his face against the door. His eyes were still bright red.
Tyler barely had the heart to ask him a question without sobbing like Trevor. “Frederic,
what do you want us to do?”
Friend didn’t show any emotion. “I want you to feel horrible pain, knowing that
you are dead like I felt. Then I want you to die.”
Tyler shook his head. “Please Friend. Have mercy. Edward was the one who said
those horrible things. I want to help you.”
Friend shook his head. “You’re a liar. You will die like I have died. I died and
I don’t even get heaven. I get being a robot, damn it! But my pain will soon be
gone… soon… oh so soon.”
Trevor had just enough bravery to make a gesture around the side of his head
telling Tyler that Friend was crazy.
Tyler looked down at the floor. “I’m sorry, Friend.”
His voice echoed through the room, down the hall, past the kitchen, the personal
quarters, the recreation room. His voice echoed through the ship into space.
Friend glared at Tyler. “Look here, Tyler,” he said sharply. “My life was great.
I-I made plenty of money, I had a great family, I even helped people in my job
as a surgeon. Then one day I wake up to hell. It turns out I’m a robot. Sure, I
could go back to my wife and children, but I’m not going back to them because
I’m not going to subject them to what I have become. So, before I destroy
myself, I’m going to instill my pain in others. I don’t care that it’s wrong. It
doesn’t matter what I do because, as long as I’m a robot, there is no God for
me.” He hissed like an angry snake. Then he spun around and walked away, as if
he couldn’t stand to look at them anymore.
Tyler sat down on the floor. He was going to die and there was nothing he could
do about it.
Trevor looked at Tyler. “Figuring we’re going to die, I guess I might as well
tell you something.”
Tyler had his hands over his face in the agony of defeat. “What?” he asked
Trevor gulped. “Edward was working for an Afghan Terrorist organization.”
Tyler turned to look at Trevor. “WHAT?”
Trevor continued. “He, uh, brought a whole bunch of bombs and artillery. And
guns to kill you once he launched the nuclear missile. They’re in all these
boxes in here.”
Tyler’s jaw dropped. “A nuclear missile? What the hell is wrong with you
Trevor cringed and shrugged.
Tyler gave a long intake of breath. “And how do you know about all this?”
“I was part of it. There’s a part of the station that’s locked by a code. We
were the only ones who could get in it. It contained the nuclear missile. We
were going to launch it directly at the most population dense city in the United
States… New York. I’m real sorry, but it’s too late now, I guess.”
Tyler sighed. “But still! A nuclear missile? Oh my God! Edward? You? For the
love of… come on! This is ridiculous. But it doesn’t make any difference now.
You are correct.”
Suddenly, Trevor leaped up. “Oh yes it does! I’ve got an idea.”
They a held a whispered conversation that took around an hour. Soon a plan was
The next morning, Friend came to look at them through the door.
Trevor stood up as he approached. “Friend, since we’re going to die, I want
everyone else to die with us. There’s a nuclear missile in the center of the
station. You can kill all the people who did this to you if you go to the
control panel and press the green button next to the gray one. Then enter 4876
on the keypad. Then go to the locked door that you could never get in to clean
by pressing 5465 in as the pass code. You’ll have to climb on top of the missile
and flip a big red switch on the top and then get off it after five seconds.
Then the missile will launch and you will have your vengeance.”
Friend nodded. “I believe you because I did a sensor check and saw the missile.
I didn’t say anything about it, though. Thank you. I see that now you understand
what it’s like to be me after all.” He ran off to complete the procedure.
As soon as he was away, Tyler grabbed two bombs made of several sticks of
dynamite and strapped them to the door. They ran and hid behind the boxes. They
could feel time running out as they sat there.
“Oh man I hope this works,” said Tyler.
There was an ear-shattering boom, and the door exploded sending debris spinning
off in all directions. Flames sizzled as they consumed pieces of debris.
Tyler was the first to step out from behind the boxes. “I can’t believe it! We
didn’t blow a hole in the wall!”
Trevor stood up, looking visibly shaken. “What would’ve happened if we had blown
a hole in the wall?”
“We’d be in big trouble, Trevor. The pressure would begin to destabilize, and,
eventually, we’d all be dead. Now, we have to get to the control panel.”
At that moment, Friend was climbing onto the missile. His arms struggled to gain
a grip on the smooth surface of the missile. At some point, he managed to climb
to the top. “Yes!” he cried as he crawled towards a red switch near the warhead.
His hand reached for the switch, but he stopped as the missile began to shake.
The missile was attached to a robotic arm that was now extending out into space.
He was so close to the switch. He reached out again, his red eyes glowing.
Tyler reached the panel just in time. He was about to start tapping in commands
when he realized he had no idea what he was doing. “Uh, Trevor. I think you’re
the only one who can make that missile launch.”
Trevor came up beside him. His hands felt across the surface of the panel until
they came to a cube jutting out from the panel. On each side of the cube that
wasn’t attached to the panel was a number. He tapped in a series of these
numbers. Then he flipped open the top of the cube. Inside was a green switch.
Tyler smiled. “Clever. Very clever.”
Trevor flipped the switch.
Suddenly, flames erupted from the back of the missile, and Friend realized that
he had been tricked. He tried to push off from the missile, but, apparently, he
wasn’t fast enough because as soon as the missile had blasted off into space, he
Tyler sighed. “It’s all over.”
Trevor’s breathing was quick. “Oh God! I’m really sorry, Tyler.”
Tyler shook his head. “If you hadn’t helped me, I wouldn’t be saying this, but
you’re actually, well… you’re okay, Trevor. Maybe NASA need not know the names
of all the terrorists who were here. I think we can simply say Edward did
Trevor looked very grateful. “That’s way more than I deserve.” Then Trevor began
to look sick.
“What’s wrong, Trevor?”
He cringed. “Well, what’re we going to tell Edward’s family?”
Tyler didn’t have a chance to answer that question because at that moment, they
heard footsteps coming in their direction.
Trevor looked in the direction of the sound. “Did someone dock with the ship?”
Tyler looked out a window above the control panel. “Uh… nope. I don’t see
He stopped right there. Friend stepped through a door right behind Trevor out of
nowhere. “I pushed the switch and it did nothing. I’m tired of you people
messing with me! I’m not an insane person to be manipulated!”
Trevor stumbled backwards, his arms out in front of him defensively.
“Please Friend! You’ve got to understand!” said Tyler rapidly. “We don’t want
anyone else to die!”
Friend’s eyes turned the bright yellow of humor. “Well I’m sorry to disappoint
you.” He raised the knife high.
“Run, Trevor!” screamed Tyler.
Suddenly, the knife came speeding down.
Thoughts like, ‘This can’t be happening!’ flew through Trevor’s mind.
Unfortunately, it was happening. The knife plunged into what Trevor recognized
as his heart. He felt so afraid, wishing he had never come aboard the ship,
never been with that terrorist group, never been in that room. Massive bursts of
pain screamed in his brain as the knife plunged deeper into his flesh. He
shrieked in horror and collapsed to the floor. Then blackness engulfed his
senses and he knew that this was the end. Blood dribbled out of the wound as
Trevor’s body twitched.
Tyler was shaking his head, his eyes wide with revulsion. Friend grabbed the
knife and yanked it out of Trevor with a very disgusting sound. Without thinking
about where he was going, he ran as fast as he could from the room. Friend was
up and moving like an animal. Tyler’s feet rang against the metal floor. He had
to get away! Somehow! He ran for the escape pods, but realized that Friend had
probably locked them. So he took the door nearest him… back into the anti
radiation chamber. He turned around.
Friend was slowly inching towards him with an angry frown. “Do you know the pain
I feel! I’ll never see any of the things I love again!” The knife glittered.
“We can work something out! I’ll take you to see your family when we get back to
Friend snorted. “You don’t believe me! Nobody does! Nobody will! I’ll show you,
though! I’LL SHOW YOU!!!”
Tyler staggered backwards. His hand fell into a box. When he withdrew it, a
grenade was sitting in his hand. He stared at it. It was as though God had
finally granted him the one thing in the world he wanted at that moment. He
should’ve remembered that there was artillery in here!
Then he looked back at Friend with a gaze of contempt. “Catch!” He threw the
grenade. Friend was about to catch it when he realized how stupid that would be.
Before he could take action, the grenade rolled to his feet. There was an
explosion. The room filled with a white light. Flaming debris and flames
themselves shot out in all directions.
Tyler managed to keep himself conscious though the explosion nearly blew his
eardrums and debris kept hitting him.
When the flames subsided, he realized the extent of Edward’s stupidity. The man
had brought aboard artillery, though it should have been plain to him that any
one shot would destroy the pressure in an entire section of the ship, possibly
killing everyone there. And he had just fired off a grenade. As he listened to
the hissing of air escaping into space and alarms going off, he knew he was in
trouble. The room was filled with grayish smoke that made him cough intensely.
Where was the fire extinguisher? His eyes were unable to detect anything through
the dense smoke, so his hands raked the walls until he came across the
cylindrical object that he recognized as the fire extinguisher. He worked fast,
spraying every flame he could in around a minute.
The alarms were still blaring at him. “Pressure destabilizing! Please repair
Finally, he retrieved the spray that sealed up any fractures in the walls of the
ship. Soon, he sealed up the hole. He shook his head as he surveyed his work. It
would’ve been ridiculous to die due to a hole in the wall after all he’d been
through. It was over.
Later on, he found Trevor moaning on the floor of the control room. He was still
alive! Tyler quickly administered medication and sealed the wound to stop the
Trevor’s face filled with tears. “I-I thought you were dead… you ran away… and I
heard an explosion… I guess the knife missed my heart…”
Tyler wrapped a bandage around the area above his heart, near the shoulder.
“Calm down, Trevor. You’ll make yourself start bleeding again.”
Trevor was crying again. “Tyler, I’m sorry! Kept thinking about how it had
always been me who pushed Friend! I was the one who made him carry the big heavy
stuff! It was all my fault! And then I was going to allow Edward to kill you…
I’m so sorry!” He completely broke down, tears coming out in floods. “The worst
part is that I’m still alive! I deserved death and I can’t stand all the guilt!”
Tyler finished bandaging him. “It’s okay, Trevor. Nobody died except Edward. And
I think he was the main one who pushed Friend overboard.”
Trevor sighed, tears still streaming down his face. “Thank you, Tyler… I feel so
stupid! I was going to kill all those people! Ohhh!”
Tyler felt a strange calm about the whole incident like it had never happened.
Everything was unreal.
They took an escape pod back to Earth. It was a quiet ride home because they had
to sit with Edward’s dead body. Then they completed some paperwork and two
detailed reports of what happened.
Several days later, Tyler was back at home. The terrifying experience was over.
He sat in a rocking chair on the porch reading the newspaper. Everything was
working great. His wife was thankful he had survived. He would soon be attending
Edward’s funeral. It wasn’t so bad, he thought. Edward had been a real jackass
anyway. He flipped through the paper. A headline stuck out at him and he began
to read the rest of the article, feeling great pangs in his chest.
‘Frederic Kell, surgeon at the Los Angeles Children’s hospital, amazingly woke
up from a six month coma. His wife had this to say after seeing him: “It was
unbelievable. His eyes had changed color somehow from brown to blue, and he kept
babbling about being a robot.” The doctors actually had to restrain the man
because he was so angry that nobody believed his rantings. Dr. William Fledge
says that this vision can be attributed to the dreams he was probably having
while in the coma. Frederic was working on a subject when an electric tool he
was using electrocuted him causing him to slip into a coma.’
The paper fell from Tyler’s trembling hands, fluttering gently to the ground.
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