I went back to the blotter. Five drunks in the tank, an average night’s haul. While I wrote them up Fats dragged in the sixth one.

“Locked himself in the ladies’ john at the spaceport and resisting arrest,” he reported.

“D and D. Throw him in with the rest.”

Fats steered his limp victim across the floor, matching him step for dragging step. I always marveled at the way Fats took care of drunks, since he usually had more under his belt than they had. I have never seen him falling down drunk or completely sober. About all he was good for was keeping a blurred eye on the lockup and running in drunks. He did well at that. No matter what they crawled under or on top of, he found them. No doubt due to the same shared natural instincts.

Fats clanged the door behind number six and weaved his way back in. “What’s that?” he asked, peering at the robot along the purple beauty of his nose.

“That is a robot. I have forgotten the number his mother gave him at the factory so we will call him Ned. He works here now.”

“Good for him! He can clean up the tank after we throw the bums out.”

“That’s my job,” Billy said coming in through the front door. He clutched his nightstick and scowled out from under the brim of his uniform cap. It is not that Billy is stupid, just that most of his strength has gone into his back instead of his mind.

“That’s Ned’s job now because you have a promotion. You are going to help me with some of my work.”

Billy came in very handy at times and I was anxious that the force shouldn’t lose him. My explanation cheered him because he sat down by Fats and watched Ned do the floor.

That’s the way things went for about a week. We watched Ned sweep and polish until the station began to take on a positively antiseptic look. The Chief, who always has an eye out for that type of thing, found out that Ned could file the odd ton of reports and paperwork that cluttered his office. All this kept the robot busy, and we got so used to him we were hardly aware he was around. I knew he had moved the packing case into the storeroom and fixed himself up a cozy sort of robot dormitory-coffin. Other than that I didn’t know or care.

The operation manual was buried in my desk and I never looked at it. If I had, I might have had some idea of the big changes that were in store. None of us knew the littlest bit about what a robot can or cannot do. Ned was working nicely as a combination janitor-file clerk and should have stayed that way. He would have too if the Chief hadn’t been so lazy. That’s what started it all.

It was around nine at night and the Chief was just going home when the call came in. … chevronRight icon