This is the third section of the fifth chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.
Iz finally caught up with the drone, she came jogging up to the square where George had clearly tried to cause some destruction but was now restrained by the drone and cursing at the top of his voice.
“Hey shut up will you” shouted Iz at George only to have his torrent of abuse turned on her. Iz turned to the drone “How do you put up with him?”
“Oh you get used to him”
“Loud though isn’t he”
“Yeah” the drone paused as if it had had an idea “would you call him a public nuisance?”
“Hell yes!” replied Iz
“Excellent” commented the drone and the restraints that had been holding George expanded and became a bubble surrounding him blocking out the sound. Within the bubble he struggled and beat against the lightly incandescent walls to no effect.
“Why didn’t you do that earlier?” asked Iz
“Habitat rules” said the drone sounding tired “everyone is entitled to their freedom, even if they are an antisocial nuisance. Until of course they are a public nuisance” the drone put on what must have been its attempt at an officious voice ‘causing an affray to the public at large.’ Then you’re allowed to contain someone for the greater good”
“What did he do then”
“Oh he was carrying a few explosives and he started lobbing them into the crowd”
“You let him carry weapons?” asked Iz incredulously
“Everyone is free to do as they wish, they’re just not allowed to do whatever they feel to others”
“No-one was hurt I trust”
“No it was fine, that’s why I had to leave suddenly though” the surface of the drone rippled in what she guessed was its way of showing expressions “even moving supersonic I only just got here in time to contain the explosions”
“You’re not going to get in trouble for leaving him unattended.”
“No there were others around who could have intervened if needed, but it would have been bad form.”
“So what are you to do with him now?” asked Iz “You can’t just let him wander around again after that”
“Why not?” asked the drone “this is a pretty typical day for him. I don’t know what has caused him to be like this. Maybe now it is just a case of fighting against the containment and a protest, but he just seems to want to cause trouble and he waits for me to drop my guard and then does something like this I then stop him from harming others and the cycle repeats. I think he gets entertainment from trying to outwit me even though he knows it is impossible to actually overpower me.”
“Pride before a fall you know”
“Not really, I’m thousands of times stronger, thousands of times faster in all respects. It’s all a matter of what I chose to do. His best bet is to actually bore me or distract me. As I say I think he likes the challenge these days.”
“Look” Iz paused for a moment lost in thought “look I don’t know how to ask you this, but I don’t even know your name so my next question is even harder.”
“Strange as it may sound I don’t have a human name.” Iz tried to interrupt but the drone carried on “Precious little human contact you see, I’m just the hovering sphere near to the nutter. Yes I have what you would call a serial number from the Habitat from my manufacture and yes I have a name that other drones call me by, but that is in a language with no vocal equivalent.”
“I can’t just call you drone though”
“It is a bit impersonal yes.” The ripples from the surface disappeared completely to become a perfect mirror “But then that’s supposed to be my existence as far as humans are concerned. The more impersonal the more they concentrate on him while remembering I’m there.”
“Don’t you want human company then? I hate to think you’ve just been being polite.”
“No not at all. You pick a name for me then.”
“I can’t, tell you what I’ll ask the other question I had to ask then I’ll leave you alone.” Iz took a breath and looked around almost to check the coast was clear before carrying on “I’m really enjoying your company, but can we lose the psychopath and spend some time together socially”
The drone seemed to consider this but Iz was beginning to suspect this was because this was what it thought she expected of it. “I’ll collect you at eight this evening then.”
“This isn’t a date”
“Yes it is, you’re not the first to be curious it seems, and I’m not the first to be curious back.” At this the drone started to drift away.
“How will you know where to find me?” asked Iz “It’s still polite to ask”
“There is no need.” At this the bubble around George dropped and he resumed his taunting of Iz and the drone. Iz gave up trying to communicate over the noise and left George and the drone to leave.