“Well, well, Rebound, you’ve finally managed to end up sitting pretty.” Taylor soft-footed into the shabby room with boarded up windows where Rebound sat duct-taped to an old chair.
Rebound sobbed, “Taylor, this ain’t funny. You gotta help me, dude. It’s your duty.”
Taylor had been a Dallas bomb squad cop twelve years. Handling bombs and the like sounded dangerous and made good TV drama. The truth was, normal disposal procedure was to drag any questionable package outside with a rope and hit it with a high-pressure fire hose. Standard procedure wouldn’t work in Rebound’s plight.
“Rebound, you’d better come clean about who did this to you. You may run out of luck here.”
Taylor, a squat, husky, former college football lineman, whose thinning red hair was surrendering gradually to the gray-hair monster, thought until ten seconds earlier he’d seen it all. He flashlighted the situation with a combination of professional caution and barely suppressed amusement.
Twelve years earlier, while a homicide detective, he’d convicted Rebound, a pimp, of brutally murdering one of his girls. Typically, rebound had paroled out several months ago after serving just over eleven years of a life sentence.
Now, Rebound sat, tied to a rickety chair with several hundred feet of duct tape. A heavy length of chain wrapped through an exposed plumbing pipe and around the fat pimp’s neck compounded the situation.
But the the six-stick dynamite bomb taped to his chest reduced tape and chain to only a side problem. There would be no yanking the bomb outside with a rope.
“A name, idiot? Who did this?”
“Taylor, I swear, I dunno. Had a few beers at a joint over on Gaston, woke up in this mess. Man, I’m gonna die.”
“Somebody slip you a roofie, tough guy?” Taylor avoided a smile at the thought of someone clever enough to slip a dose of rohypnol, the date rape drug, into the drink of a low rent street hustler and murderer like Rebound. The line of suspects would stretch around the corner.
The thought of yanking Rebound outside via a rope passingly appealed to Taylor, but, of course, he would try to save the unsavory man’s life.
“Rebound, do you suppose Flower was as terrified as you when you beat her to death with a baseball bat…for holding out ten bucks as I recall?”
“Taylor, in the name of God,man you gotta help me.”
“You know, Rebound, I’m thinking you might call on somebody a little closer than God, ‘cuz I bet he don’t like you any better than I do.”
“Who’s calling for God in here?” A soft female voice spoke behind Taylor.
Taylor turned toward the door.
“Ol’ Rebound has suddenly found the Lord. Minelli, stay out in that hallway until I get a little better grip on this.”
“I brought Rosie. She’s out here, ready and willing.”
Minelli stepped back out into the narrow hallway, behind whatever slight protection the plastered wall might provide. In her bomb squad jump suit uniform, she was slender, thirty, with jet-black hair.
Officer Rosie, stood stoically behind her. Rosie didn’t exactly stand — more like she sat. About the size of a child’s play car with steel bulldozer tracks, she was equipped on her chest with dual cameras and flexible lenses for better 3-D visibility. The lenses rotated like the human eye providing a clear camera image to her handler of anything she saw. The single extension arm protruding from the center of her frame just below the lenses gave her the illusion of a face.
Rosie was a marvelous example of modern engineering. A robot with the ability to enter a volatile bomb crime scene, she could penetrate the device by X Ray, and use her arm with its lobster-like hand to tear into nearly any bomb, box, or briefcase. Although referred to in feminine terms, she was no more a “she” than she could recognize herself in a mirror.
Although a multi-million dollar creation, with more artificial intelligence than any similar model in service, she was still much like a talking elevator. Rosie could actually speak in a series of pre-programmed phrases to provide bomb squad officers with vital information.
Taylor had already concluded that touching or disturbing the bomb strapped to Rebound would be a very bad choice. If the device detonated, it would vaporize Rebound and take down a half dozen similar homes nearby.
Minelli said from the hallway, “Taylor, the Lieutenant is out here…and the city facilities director.”
The lieutenant’s scratchy voice drifted around the corner. “I ordered a crew with a truck load of sandbags.”
At the word sandbags, Rebound lost it. “Sandbags, man, y’all gonna just write me off and blow the damned house.”
Taylor studied the distraught man. “Not a bad idea,” he thought.
“Ask the facilities man to have his crew sandbag a barricade around Rebound. Then we’ll send in Officer Rosie.”
“Ros…Rosie,” Rebound blubbered. “Who the hell is…?” he snarled.
“She’s the Robotic Ordnance Special Interdiction Entity, ‘ROSIE’, a bomb specialist.”
In ten minutes, a sweating crew of city maintenance workers had hurriedly surrounded Rebound with a makeshift fortress, leaving a small opening for access.
When Minelli, using her transmitter from out in the yard, steered Rosie into the room, then squeezed her through the small opening, Rebound responded first with a shriek of terror, then a five minute string of invectives. Rosie’s camera eyes sent Minelli and Taylor a front row seat.
They took refuge behind a police van. Leaning over Minelli’s shoulder, Taylor saw on the monitor, Rosie creep to within a foot of the hysterical prisoner.
When Rosie’s words, in a flat monotone, crackled through Minelli’s remote, “Officer Rosie is now X- Raying,” the whir of the X-ray unit buzzed.
“You damned fools, get this stupid pin ball machine outta here,” Rebound screamed.
“Tilt device in place,” Rosie said. “Situation grave.” Rosie was reporting if the device was moved, it would detonate.
A metallic clank came over the remote. From Minelli’s video screen, Rebound could be seen kicking at Rosie with a foot, he’d managed to partially free.
“Do not assault Officer Rosie,” the robot said in her emotionless voice.
Minelli looked up at Taylor. “You know, I’d swear sometimes Rosie’s verbal skills are expanding.”
“Expanding?” Taylor raised an eyebrow.
“She couldn’t know what ‘assault’ means.”
“Rosie has artificial intelligence.”
“Limited. She’s programed to provide a few simple phrases for more effective operation. She doesn’t actually think. She can’t…unless somebody tinkered with her mnemonic parameters.”
“When not in use, she’s parked under the coffee pot in the bomb squad break room. But, hey, Minelli, that wouldn’t…”
“Naw, somebody is messing with us.”
Behind more profanity and another kick to Rosie’s side, visible on the monitor, Rosie spoke again. “Officer Rosie cannot help if you do not cooperate.”
“Cooperate?” Minelli said. “That word is not in her vocabulary.”
“You ain’t nothin’ but a box of junk,” Rebound shouted. “Hellllp.”Minelli pointed to her remote. On the screen, Rosie reached out slowly with her crab arm toward Rebound’s chest. He yanked away, screaming.
Taylor and Minelli exchanged glances.
“She couldn’t…wouldn’t take any unnecessary chances.” Minelli said.
“Absolutely not,” Taylor echoed. “You just said, she can’t really think. We better back her out. Gotta be a short circuit or something.”
Rebound kicked Rosie again.
The roof of the house blew a hundred feet into the air, the walls, even partially shielded by sandbags, disintegrated. Debris, including Rebound’s toupee came to ground around the truck where they had taken refuge.
Minelli stared at her remote. “There went millions of taxpayer dollars.”
Taylor grinned. “And Rebound.”
To the enormous surprise of both cops, the odd clanking of metal on debris, noticeably operating out of sync, wafted from the wreckage. Officer Rosie, one lens hanging out by a wire, her crab arm bent, many dents in her case-hardened steel shell, and coated with dust, crept out of the smoke.
“Rosie,” Minelli blurted. “What the hell?”
“Oops,” Rosie replied.
“Oops?” Minelli asked, astonished.
“Premature detonation. Mr. Rebound moved during examination.”
Taylor said, “We sure it was an accident? Rebound was pretty hard not to dislike.”
Minelli crinkled her nose. “She doesn’t know whether to like or dislike a human or to use words like premature.”
Taylor studied the devastation around him. “She sits facing the TV, which is on 24/7. Surely she doesn’t absorb…?
“Absolutely not possible,” Minelli said. “Couldn’t happen. Rosie is only a machine.”
Rosie rolled her remaining lens-eye toward Minelli and said, “Yes, Officer Rosie needs a serious mechanical tune up. Minelli, can you call the break room and have someone record Days of Our Lives and The Science Channel when they come on in twenty minutes?”
Taylor and Minelli exchanged disbelieving looks.
“Now what?” Minelli said.
Taylor said, “Minelli, I got seniority. You’re gonna have to explain this to the chief.”