Regarding the Regretful Repercussions of Replicating Robot Reptiles
by Michael M. Jones
“Oh my god! I can’t believe you made me robot dinosaurs for my birthday! And they’re so cute!” I gazed down with sheer delight at the tiny mechanical marvels currently lumbering across the kitchen floor with the look one might give a basket of kittens.
A pack of velociraptors swiped at their reflections in the shiny metal face of the refrigerator, while a brachiosaurus investigated the cat’s food bowl, much to Mr. Farnsworth’s snub-nosed disgust. A pterodactyl soared from the stove to the hanging light, where it squawked defiance at everything below. And their king, the tyrannosaurus rex himself, roared back, a sound which caused Mr. Farnsworth, tail poofed, to flee for safety and sanity. And not one of these delightful creatures was more than a foot tall, constructed from spare parts and salvaged computers.
“I remembered how much you liked the ones in that animated series you made me watch last month,” Daphne said, clearly tickled pink by my reaction. “So these meet with your approval, then, my dear Camille?”
I reached out to grab her hand, tugging her so that she fell into my lap, where I proceeded to reward her with kisses and caresses. Luckily, she was used to this; after all, she’d had plenty of practice when it came to making out in my wheelchair. “No worse than necking in the broom closet of an airship,” she’d explained chipperly, “and with less likelihood of getting a mop somewhere indelicate.”
There were benefits to having a mad scientist from an alternate timeline for a girlfriend. Sure, Daphne had a frightening disregard for the laws of physics, only a passing familiarity with ethics, and had once broken the universe while using my brain to power an interdimensional teleporter—and what did you do on your first date?—but she was a hell of a kisser, smarter than anyone else I’d ever met, and her gifts were truly unique.
By the end of the week, Mr. Farnsworth and the dinosaurs had reached a tentative truce; even the velociraptors knew better than to chase his tail after he batted the boldest of them around the room a few times. Then they bonded over a mutual impulse to chase the laser pointer, and next thing we knew, they were sharing a cat bed together.
Encouraged by her successes, Daphne spent some time adding to the menagerie. A pair of stegosauruses. A plesiosaurus to inhabit the fish tank which had stood empty ever since her failed attempt to develop telepathic goldfish. Soon, our loft apartment was a bizarre ecosystem of tiny robot reptiles, all getting underfoot. I grew accustomed to maneuvering around the triceratops, removing the allosaurus from our bed, shooing the velociraptors out of the bathroom. And after a few weeks, Daphne moved on to another project—“Wouldn’t it be nice if the coffeemaker had drone capabilities?”—and I started a new semester of graduate school.
So it took us both some time to realize that, without any effort on our parts, the number of dinosaurs infesting the apartment was actually growing. After all, it was easy to lose count of the velociraptors—why on Earth had Daphne made so many in the first place?—so an extra one or two went unnoticed. But even we couldn’t miss the appearance of a second tyrannosaurus; they made for a cute couple together.
At first, I blamed Daphne.
“I didn’t do it, Camille!” she protested. “Honest to Tesla, I haven’t built any in weeks.”
“Well, they’re coming from somewhere,” I grumbled. “And they’re getting downright rude. I can’t even clear off the couch without getting some serious attitude. And I thought the cat was a jerk before.”
Curious, we set up security cameras around the apartment… and that’s how we discovered that at night, the dinosaurs were cannibalizing our spare technology, of which Daphne had no shortage, to build more of their kind.
“I suppose I might have overcompensated with the artificial intelligence?” Daphne mused, paging through one of her notebooks. “I wanted them independent, but not completely autonomous. Oh dear.”
“I caught one trying to make off with my tablet,” I said darkly. “You don’t think they’re…”
“Trying to connect to the Internet? Oh no!” Daphne blushed furiously. “I did give them Wi-Fi capabilities, but I didn’t actually…”
So we reconfigured our wireless network to hopefully exclude our robot dinosaurs before they could discover the joys of online shopping, social media, and viral videos.
“What are we going to do?” I asked. “I mean, is there a protocol for accidentally creating a new intelligent species?”
Daphne looked thoughtful. “Undoubtedly, but I really don’t want to involve the government. They’d ask far too many questions about where, exactly, I found an operating system capable of running self-reproducing robot dinosaurs. And you shouldn’t ask either, sweetheart.”
I wasn’t going to. Our relationship was built on amazing chemistry, great sex, and plausible deniability. I still couldn’t tell my parents the truth about how we met. “So do we put a stop to this?” I asked.
“And miss out on a unique opportunity to watch them develop? Camille, you don’t appreciate science nearlyenough.”
And so in the name of science, we spent the next week studying the rapidly replicating reptiles. Poor Mr. Farnsworth, now traumatized by the number of things trying to chase his tail, retreated to the highest point in the closet to unhappily shed all over our clothes.
Even Daphne had to admit we’d reached a breaking point when the tyrannosaurus family, now five strong including two adorable babies, boldly dragged the television into the spare workroom one night. “This might have been a bad idea,” she told me.
“You think?” I demanded. “They stole my favorite vibrator!”
“Not Ada Lovelace!” Daphne exclaimed in horror. “Oh sweetheart, I’m so sorry!”
“You should be. By the time I discovered what had happened, she’d been used to build more of those little feathered things… the comp-a-whatevers.”
“Yes, that.” I scowled. “I hate to say it, but it’s time to put an end to this, one way or another. And right now, my vote is to go all asteroid on these jerks and re-extinct them.”
“But—but they’re amazing! We can’t wipe out the dinosaurs again! It would be wrong!” she protested, in a manner I always found irresistibly endearing. Damn those big blue eyes, and those lips…
“So what do you suggest we do?”
“I did have one thought…”
Several days later, we stood in the middle of a field way out past the city limits, and watched a small rocket lift off into space. On board: every single robot dinosaur from our apartment, along with a sizable selection of spare parts, and a database containing everything they’d need to know in order to survive and flourish wherever they wound up.
Once the rocket was well out of sight and on its way towards the asteroid belt, I looked at Daphne. “I think for Christmas, I’d be happy with a gift certificate and some flowers…”
“Too late, you’re going to love what I have in the works.”
Of that, I was sure.
At least it wouldn’t be dull.
© 2020 by Michael M. Jones
April 17th, 2020
Michael M. Jones lives in Southwest Virginia with too many books, just enough cats, and a wife who prefers plush dinosaurs to robot ones. His stories have appeared in Constellary Tales, Mad Scientist Journal, and the Future Fire. He’s also the editor of the anthologies Scheherazade’s Facade, and Schoolbooks & Sorcery. Camille Delacroix and Daphne Watson can also be found in “Saturday Night Science” (Broadswords and Blasters Issue 1, April 2017) and “Observations and Oversights on the Opportunistic Occupation of Octopuses in the Office” (Mad Scientist Journal, Winter 2020). (http://madscientistjournal.org/2020/03/fiction-observations-and-oversights-on-the-opportunistic-occupation-of-octopuses-in-the-office/) For more, visit him at www.michaelmjones.com.