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Brad Pike

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 frighteningly human.

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, you jerk?”

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 you and…”

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 system.”

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 at Venus!”

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 better?”

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 television?”

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 mechanical voice.

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 wrong?”

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 a fracture.

He was just about to begin to repair it when Trevor came up behind him. “Um, Friend?”

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 shock.”

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 throat.

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 the station.

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 first?”

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 scattered.

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 filtering through.

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 up, Edward.”

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 each other.

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 sliced through.

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 screaming.

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 carelessly.

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 people?”

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 formed.

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 had vanished.

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 everything.”

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 anyone. Maybe-,”

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 Earth!”

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 fracture!”

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 bleeding.

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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