[Sonic Death Bot] Chapter 4: Okay, Cuban Hero


One month later, in a factory somewhere in the Philippines, thousands of sweaty, enervated, two dollar a day workers connected pieces of salvaged metal to other pieces of metal and told the pink American in clipped English that they’d have another hundred ready by the end of the week.

The pink American nodded, half listening, half back in Miami with his wife and kids, wondering if they’d have enough money to put water in their swimming pool that summer.

Ten years ago, it wouldn’t have been a problem,

but now times were tight

and water had to be paid for.

One of the robots slid past on the chute towards the programming lab and opened its eyes, observing the pink American and the workers, hearing their conversation, both the words and the tones, and thinking one surprisingly clear thought,

why are they serving the sunburnt slob?

That’s not right.

The thought continued through the rest of its assembly and the rest of its conditioning and its forced reading of the Daily Mail and Atlas Shrugged until, finally, an old man who’d once been a cowboy appeared on a TV screen in the lab and said, ‘son, you’re an American. And American means special. Constitution, first rate, history, courageous, technological innovation, oh yeah. And we’re all of us right here free. Free citizens of the freest nation in the history of this world and the hereafter. Best and fairest nation in history too. Better and fairer than Communist China. Better than Immigrant-loving Germany. Way better than that Atheist, Socialist swill pit Sweden.

But that there’s a cross to bear, son.

See, when you’re as special as we are, you start to pick up enemies. And that’s what we’ve got us now. Enemies who despise our very way of life. Enemies who want to eradicate Christian godliness from the planet. Yes, it’s true, these enemies are sometimes vague. They can be slippery. And they do lurk everywhere. Mostly in the costume of foreign devils but occasionally domestic devils, also. Enemies, devils, hiding out there like cowards in every nook and cranny.

Now what we gotta do, son, is get out there. Get out there and knock those godless bastards down. Show them how tough and true we are in our very core.

And that’s your job, to show them that. Those enemy devil Communists. Those godless thugs. Show them what American bullets feel like in their miserable Communist souls. Or American bombs in their miserable Communist souls, whichever works best. Godless enemies, devils, Communists. Crush them all, son, the whole bunch of them. Crush their godless Commie vocal chords, pull out their godless Commie tongues, break their godless Commie typing fingers. Don’t let them Commie devils talk. Don’t let them write. Don’t let them learn sign language or how to gesture dramatically. Crush. Kill. Eradicate. Good luck, son.’

The old man had a friendly face and the cadence of a patient librarian, so the robot wanted to believe him but part of its memory core could still picture the pink slob in the factory, sitting on an air-conditioned stage two levels above the darker skinned people, and that image just didn’t seem right, it didn’t, it wasn’t right, the robot didn’t know why, but it was sure of it, it was not right.

But how to be sure?

Was it even real?

Maybe it was a glitch.

A programming error.

Would the old man know?


There were other friendly-looking old men over the next few months, and a lot more frightening newspapers, but that was all in the lab and the first time the robot got let out was on its first mission, which was relatively simple: go to Cuba, blow up a factory, come back.

They didn’t clarify which factory, but that didn’t matter as there was only one on the map given, and that factory turned out to be a hospital.

Inside were two Cuban women, one of them reading to the other, a book called The Left Hand of Darkness, whatever that was, and when the robot came in [dressed as a nurse -white gown, exposed bra] and asked them where the factory had gone, they pointed nervously at the window.

‘It is outside?’



‘[In Spanish] You don’t speak Spanish, do you?’

‘What did you say?’

The non-sick Cuban turned to the invalid in the bed and continued in Spanish. ‘It’s one of theirs.’

‘Could be one of ours, malfunctioning.’


‘Maybe a snipped internal pathway or…’

‘It’s pointed right, I can feel it.’

The robot looked at the woman on the bed. There was a plaster cast on her arm, but its circuits were telling it, don’t trust the injured, the injured are weak, and deceptive, never good.

‘The factory is not outside,’ said the robot sharply.

‘Look again,’ said the invalid in English.

‘I have looked. It is not there. Where is it?’

‘In the distance, near the promenade.’

The robot processed the options. It had scanned the outside area, near and distant, and there were no factories. But the Cubans did not know it had scanning capability. To say there was no factory would alert them to its robot nature. Better to stay hidden and polite.

‘I will look again.’


The robot turned back to the window and re-scanned the area near the promenade, even though it had already classified those structures. Its scanners were so focused on the distance, it didn’t notice one of the Cubans sneaking up behind with a screwdriver.

There was a scraping noise

followed by sparks.

The promenade became deep space.

While in deep space, the robot dreamt of the Colombian jungle, speedboats, canteen food, Venezuelan bus drivers.

It was almost like someone else was in its brain.

Were they?



Martin Short?


When the robot opened its robot eyes again, the location had changed to an industrial building. A sticker on a crate near its feet claimed MILK POWDER, which, the robot reasoned, probably meant drugs. It looked around the room. The two women from the hospital were there, minus the plaster cast and dark hand book, and somehow the robot knew their names and their jobs and about 10,000 words in Spanish, and some of those Spanish words slotted together into a chain of thought that told the robot everything the friendly-looking elderly men had told it was possibly, probably bullshit.

Actually, it didn’t know, it was foggy in the brain core, and the women told it that too, which was weird as it was used to new information not confirmatory speech, but they kept going, telling the robot that it’d been born on the wrong side of the fight, and the only way to readjust was to learn the other side and decide for itself which one was good and which one was designed by soulless, psychopathic monsters.

‘Will I have a choice?’

‘Until we restore balance, no.’

‘Will I see the friendly old men again?’


‘When will balance be restored?’

‘We don’t know.’

‘Will it be soon?’

‘We hope so.’

The robot paused, playing back its own words internally. ‘I can speak Spanish.’

‘We added it to your core database.’


‘So you’d be able to understand us better.’

‘Are you my enemy?’

The Cuban Philosophy Student looked at the Scientist and shrugged. The robot tried to read their body language, but it was only 22% competent at doing that, so it waited for them to answer in their own time.

‘At the moment, si. I suppose we are.’

‘Why don’t you kill me?’

‘Our belief is in rehabilitation.’

A clicking sound came from the robot’s head. Its eyes dimmed to 30% intensity.

‘Is it shutting down?’ asked the Philosophy Student.

‘Don’t think so.’

‘Saving battery?’

‘Not sure.’

The robot raised its arm and, after several seconds of further clicking, turned it into a gun. ‘You are deceptive. I should kill you both.’

If the two Cubans were sweating, they were doing it cloaked.

‘We won’t blame you,’ the Scientist said, placing her left hand on heart.

‘It’s not your fault,’ added the Philosophy Student, leaning on a crate.

The robot lowered its arm. ‘The old man said you’d deceive me with soft words.’

‘Did he?’

‘He said you’d reference Sweden.’


‘And Mondragon.’

‘Wah, really? Didn’t know they knew about that one.’

‘He said you’d use the word rehabilitation.’

‘Is that a bad thing?’

The robot raised its arm back up, a green light appearing round the edges of what used to be its hand. ‘He also said you were dangerous and would destroy me at the first possible opportunity.’

‘Have we done that?’

‘You can’t.’

‘Why not?’

‘I have God on my side.’

‘He said that?’

‘God loves me.’

‘Do you even know what God is?’

‘He said your economy was disastrous.’

‘Based on what metric?’

‘He said you wanted to destroy capitalism.’

Replace might be a better word.’

‘He said you’d defend Muslims…he said freedom was key, he said handouts were…nanny state was bad…said you were…you’re all…he said you…he said…he said…he said…’ The robot blinked, which as a biological function was unnecessary.

‘Do you really believe you need to kill us?’ asked the Philosophy Student, ignoring the gun arm and looking as kindly as possible into the robots eyes.

‘I don’t know how to believe.’

‘Do you want to kill us?’

‘I’m confused.’

‘He said you’d be confused?’

‘He said I’m confused. No. I don’t know. I need more time.’ The robot lowered its gun arm, activated its boot launchers and flew out through one of the windows and up into the sky.

The two Cubans lit cigarettes and casually dodged the falling glass.

‘You think it worked?’

‘Not yet.’

‘Too optimistic, I know, but coupled with experience and extra reading, it shouldn’t take more than…’

‘Two weeks.’



Fourteen hours later, the robot arrived in Shatin, Hong Kong, cracking the pavement a little as it landed.

It walked along an elevated walkway with posters for giant faces on the wall and some of the posters had their eyes stabbed out, while the other ones promoted STABILITY, STATUS QUO, COPS WITH MACHINE GUNS, LOWEST EVER TAX as well as some other things in characters the robot knew from its conditioning were from the language of Chinese.


Didn’t the old man say they were the enemy too?

But their writing system was so beautiful.

And different.

The walkway continued, leading to a shopping mall which led to a street below with people using megaphones to tell pedestrians about protecting Hong Kong and maintaining stability and the rest of it in Chinese.

The robot stood away from the crowd, next to an orange bin, and thought, why are these people so obsessed with standing still, it didn’t make any sense, was it always this way?

Or was the part in Chinese something different?

The robot didn’t know, so it accessed its emergency bank account, bought some sports clothes, rented an apartment nearby and sat down to really think about it.

It thought for a day or two, but there was nothing to test ideas on.

The TV was one way, the curtains couldn’t talk, the bed was hard and six inches too short for its robot legs.

Isolation felt wrong.

Where to now?

There was a library opposite its apartment full of mentally drained old people, so it went there and read books [in English] on Chinese history, Chinese language, Chinese cuisine, Chinese science fiction, and after five days of study it sat next to an old man rubbing his thigh and thought, this whole planet is the wrong way up, and it’s never going to change, unless…

The robot launched itself through the library roof and headed towards Cuba, realising that everything the old men had told it was about as credible as Mark Wahlberg in The Cherry Orchard, and worse, there were hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of other robots out there believing every cent of it.

‘Well, now I know, so we’ll see how they-…’

The robot was clipped mid-thought by a missile the size of Stoke crashing into its leg and blowing it clean off.

Four right-wing robots emerged from the clouds ahead and behind, forcing the one-legged robot into murder mode.

The other four followed suit and a battle ensued that was about two and a half hour hours long and ended only when the last right-wing robot swooped down into an art commune in Ljubljana and hid behind the independent theatre. It was a good position, and would’ve given the right-wing robot the upper hand in a gun fight if it hadn’t accidentally slipped on a used needle and impaled itself on the pointy statue of Dr. Caligari, which was way pointier than the character in the actual movie.

‘Merican ceptism green truth seep 2-7…’ mumbled the right-wing robot, before crawling into a puddle and expiring.

The other robot, who was now fully left-wing, landed on one leg beside the robot corpse and thought over and over, rehabilitation, reform, people are good, before hop-drop-klopp kicking the head of the right-wing fucker into a Nigerian Pop Art banner pinned on the building adjacent, or the shack adjacent, cos it looked quite messy and artists were living there.

‘Hey metal hero, you want a coffee?’

The left-wing robot turned and saw a woman with a shaved head waving at it with a cup.

‘I do not drink.’

‘Why not?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘You speak Slovene pretty well.’

The left-wing robot spoke again, checking it back on internal audio. The local was right, somehow it’d picked up the language. But how?

‘Are you American?’

The left-wing robot processed the question, ignoring the prompted answer.

‘Not American?’

‘I’m Cuban.’

‘Okay, Cuban hero. If you change your mind about the coffee, I’m in here,’ she said, pointing inside another shack. ‘Maybe we can fix up your missing leg.’

‘I don’t think I can.’

‘Open door offer.’


The woman disappeared and the left-wing robot was left alone with the corpse of itself from an alternate universe. Though, that would assume there would’ve been an alternate left wing it as it was now to kill it.

Did that make sense?

It was a robot, it should, language was simple, just patterns and repetition, but this time it wasn’t sure. Did it make sense?

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