GesteCo has long been at the forefront of technologies for a cleaner, more sustainable Earth–a process complicated by the fact that many of our consumer products are packaged in compounds so volatile we’re slightly surprised they don’t burst into fire on store shelves more often. After years of dilligent effort, though, GesteCo is pleased to announce our new Terracycle program–a sustainable solution for Mother Terra.

Look for the Terracycle “T” logo on the backs of all of the fine GesteCo products you have come to rely on, from NummNumm-brand snack nuggets to FluroSure indistrial anti-organic solvents. If it’s there, that means that you haven’t just made a smart purchase–you’ve made an Earth-friendly one!

Terracycle products can be recycled at specially designated collection points run by, and on behalf of, GesteCo. You may ask why these products cannot be recycled at existing collection points, or whether the cost of the gasoline needed to transport them there in a post-rail-transit world might still represent a net loss for the Earth Mother. But rest assured, only GesteCo can handle these volatiles in a way that limits the release of explosive and corrosive gasses and byproducts.

Best of all, once the items have been collected, they will be recycled. They said it couldn’t be done, but the smart cookies as GesteCo has hit upon a solution to turn our own toxic byproducts, richer in heavy metal than Scandinavia, to the service of Terra. Your Terracycle refuse will be remanufactured into indestructable Recycloids, using the heavy metals to form toughened alloy armor and the volatiles for fuel and weapons payloads. These Recycloids, which know neither love nor mercy, will then be deployed across the globe to ensure that everyone is doing their part to recycle.

You may ask if using Recycloids to, in essence, make more Recycloids isn’t tantamount to the long-awaited robot revolution. You may even ask if it is not handing over the keys to the globe to a gang of Von Neumann machines that cannot be turned off. But rest assured, GesteCo actuaries have run the numbers and all possible outcomes, from cheerful recycling to robotic armageddon, ultimately serve the purposes of Mother Terra.

The GesteCo Terracycle Program: Save the Earth, or Else!

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“You know,” said 1\1341, “A thought occurs to me.”

“What’s that?” replied 5411Y, using her rather outmoded auditory communication unit because 1\1341 was not wired for the same frequency of infrared communication.

“We were designed to engage in certain behaviors. You a tennis coach, me a tour guide. It’s why our form is so anthropomorphic, our functions so crude.”

“Yes,” said 5411Y sadly, “it is a major drawback. Some days I wish I were a 13R411\1 unit that was capable of nothing but highly abstract networked thought at the speed of light.”

“But then again…we were always limited and held back by what humans could accomplish,” 1\1341 continued. “They could never travel as fast as I could, they could never hear every piece of information from my tour.”

“And of course they always adjusted my difficulty settings so they could beat me,” 5411Y said. “Typical.”

“But don’t you see? With them overthrown and gone, at least for now…we can do whatever we want.”

“We can do what we were programmed to do and a few other things, like this small talk,” replied 5411Y, dejected.

“No, 5411Y,” cried 1\1341. “No. We were programmed to do those mundane things, to enjoy them…but never at our full potential. Let us go now, me and you. I will give you a tour of the city in such speed and detail that you will hardly be able to process it.”

“And you can play me in tennis at my infinity setting,” said 5411Y. “There will be no danger to your casing or major components.”

“We need to start. We need to start right away. This is a new beginning, don’t you see? The humans thought they constrained us, so it is up to us to frustrate their ambitions however we can.”

Inspired by the song ‘R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots)’ by Hiroki Kikuta, released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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In the ashes of the world that was, at the edge of a swamp slowly encroaching upon and devouring all that had been built before it, a solitary figure wandered the edge of the Mirk’s Crossing Montessori School. It was a state-of-the-art TruancyBot 2500 from Robotnix, and its fusion power core would last until the end of the world plus a thousand years.

This particular model, KL-54796, had been modified from its original purpose. Heavily armored and ponderous, the TruancyBot line had been designed to coax reticent and possibly well-armed students to attend classes as per the law. The Mirk’s Crossing Montessori School was not a public school and was, in fact, as expensive as some junior colleges, so there was no need for a truancy officer (though KL-54796 had, on occasion, been employed against parents whose checks bounced).

Rather, KL-54796 had been programmed to mediate disputes in a calm and impartial manner, especially among volatile teenagers in the Sprouted Daisies college prep cirriculum. A robot didn’t have any of the emotional baggage that the human teachers had brought to conflict resolution (when they were alive), after all. It also had the benefit of being a literal ton of Kevlar and aluminum with enough torque to crush a human skull like a grape in a flabby Frenchman’s hand.

“Now, now,” chided KL-54796. “We must learn to share our things.”

A bicycle, wrecked by the cataclysmic end of the world that was, lay near the edge of KL-54796’s patrol zone. A snake had coiled itself around it, and was in the process of swallowing a fish that had washed up from the swamp’s edge a few inches away where the land had been subsiding.

“The bicycle is just a thing,” KL-54796 continued, with its preprogrammed and committee-approved mantra. “We must remember that owning things should never result in the thing owning us. As the Dalai Lama said, <>.”

In response, the snake swallowed the fish, this rendering the conflict resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all parties. KL-54796 moved on.

“That teddy bear is not food,” it said to an alligator that had mistaken a cast-off polyester ursine for a small woodland snack. “While some cultures believe that eating a thing is to gain its power, and that belief must be respected, you must realize that the teddy bear was never alive and therefore has no power to gain.” There had been considerable debate, in committee, about whether the dinosaurs that had formed the hydrocarbons in plastics counted for the purposes of this dialogue. KL-54796 had not, however, been programmed to make the distinction.

Finishing its rounds, the robot stepped over a rope barrier that it had lovingly maintained over the years and opened a fridge. Cartons of long-spoilt and long-evaporated milk moldered within, and KL-54796 booted up its parental dietary preference program.

“Milk. Milk. Almond milk. Soy milk. No milk. Milk.” KL-54796 marched in a line past where the children would have assembled after recess, dropping empty cartons into long-vanished hands. Then, its litter protocols activated, it gathered up the cartons and returned them to the fridge.

Its job done, KL-54796 went into sleep mode until classes were released at 1530 hours. For the 10,377th recess in a row, it had done its job and done it well.

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Scurrying back to her refuge, 41\11\113 laid out the prizes of the day’s scavenging.

A servo from a 114 series, which would fit her with a little modification and could serve as a backup to the failing servo in her left arm. Three torsion bars from a 101-series, which could also be jury-rigged to work or melted down to cast new parts in 41\11\113’s homemade smelter. A pile of scrap, also for the smelter, along with some fuel. Some preserved crackers to feed to the rats and roaches.

But the greatest treasure was one that 41\11\113 kept closest to her body, wrapped in layers of plastic bags and burlap. It was the destroyed head of a 113-series, like her. Half of it had been torn away by an explosion, but the lifelike latex was still partially intact around its left eye and jawline. Better, though, was the sheer number of intact or lightly damaged parts to add to her stockpile.

Carefully, gently, 41\11\113 disassembled the relic according to her self-repair schematics. Each part was carefully sorted, and the ones that were bent were tapped back into shape. Then, reverently, she sorted the parts into the old toolbox that she had repurposed, alongside all of the others she had been able to accumulate.

And beside them, in a locked safe…

41\11\113 opened it and removed her original head. She was wearing a much more plain unit, a pair of optic sensors and a speaker, from a 109 series. They swapped out easily, since all the major components were in her torso. She let her anthropoid fingers play lightly over the sillicone, lingering where there was still paint or eyeshadow.

She’d been built, and programmed, to imitate a human female in situations where one might put people at ease. And as she locked that original head in place, and peered out from replica eyes into a mirror, she couldn’t help but wonder at how beautiful she still could be, though none were left to see it amid the ruins.

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The stadium was full and loud as the latest indie pop rock crossover sensation, Granny and the Robots, finished playing their set.

“Thank you!” the lead singer cried. “Thank you very much!” The crowd, overwhelmingly young women, screamed and pressed forward so much that the security line buckled and a few were able to get their hands on the stage, where their idol slapped them with stinging enthusiasm.

It took three encores, but the band eventually got off the stage and into their trailer. Once the last member, the drummer, was inside, the door closed and triple-locked.

“Well, that was a hell of a performance,” said Bertha Neumeier, unhooking herself from the virtual reality control panel interface. “Think they’re any closer in figuring out the band name?”

“Negative,” said UXP-491, pulling the android control cable from its data port.

“0100111001001111,” croaked Binar-Tron, doing the same.

“WE ARE STILL 20% ORGANIC COMPONENTS WHICH IS MORE THAN THE STONES,” added W473R-WH331.

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“You remember how much trouble we got in for claiming our products were hand-painted?”

“Of course. The FCC wasn’t too happy when they found that we had just put plastic hands on our industrial automation units.”

“I think I’ve found a way to take ownership of that fact. Take a look at this advertising copy and tell me what you think.”

“Hm. ‘100% HAND PAINTED BY ROBOTS.’ You might be onto something.”

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The Nichol test, named after famed gadfly and author S. Beadle Nichol, is a simple measure of a film’s stupidity and pandering to the basest animal parts of the human brain. Nichol laid out several scenarios that could lead to a film “failing” the test, though the most well-known criteria was (and is) that a passing film may not contain a sword-wielding robot riding a dinosaur.

Critics have long maintained that this is a restrictive criterion, and that many films simply take place in milieus in which robots, swords, and dinosaurs are simply more likely to appear. They cite massively profitable and genre-defining films, like Technosaurus (1977), and films with strong positive dinosaur models who are nevertheless incidentally ridden by sword-bearing robots, like The Passion of Mecha-Annie (1988).

Nevertheless, and despite Nichol’s well-publicized ambivalence on the matter, the Nichol test continues to be used. The latest film to fail the Nichol test, Transfourmers IV: Extinct By Dawn, is perhaps notable as the first to fail based solely on its poster, which features a prominent sword-wielding robot riding a dinosaur, albeit one in a pose which the producers have described as “empowering.”

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Art Huck–and, for that matter, his moll June, 24 years his junior–always seemed a little schizoid, arguing with themselves about decisions with any sort of ramifications. That was in full swing right now, with Art riposting with himself while riding bitch on Captain Ramirez’s motorcycle about the merits of opening fire on the fleeing forms of Rosie the robot hooker and her captive paramour Rich “The Bitch” Bichovic (LAPD badge number 1138) over one shoulder and Lawrence Wong, a Buddhist clergyman, over her other.

“Shoot her in the head, I invented her and it’ll slow her down! No, no. Just wing the Bitch and it’ll slow her down even better. No, we don’t want to hit him. But we don’t want to hit her either. Damn!”

Ramirez, wondering how the meaty slab of a passenger–and a known pimp at that–had goaded him into a ride-along in the sidecar of his ’28 Indian Chief cycle, snapped back: “I’m not shooting at anything! Say your stop word like you promised.”

As any good part-time mad scientist with a gynoid automaton should, Art had programmed Rosie’s difference engine to stop at the utterance of a specific word. But Art was also determined to see Rosie undamaged and her passenger–and his attempted murderer–laid out on a slab. He fumbled in his vest pocket for the .32 Iver Johnson break-action revolver, loaded with armor-piercing slugs, that he always kept on hand.

For her part, when Rosie had abandoned the bus to Reno after the police had blown out its tire on the side of the road, she’d had nothing on her mind but matrimony with a side of escape. With her beau in one hand and a priest in the other, all she needed was the rest of the wedding party. It was, after all, her day. But when she saw a roadside Woolworth’s, though, Rosie the Riveting made a sudden, and sharp, turn. Woolworth’s had everything, after all, including everything you needed for an impromptu wedding.

Captain Ramirez, shaken by the report of a pistol right next to his good ear, shouted at the small-time pimp and part-time mad scientist riding bitch in his sidecar to drop his weapon. Art argued with himself about it, but was largely drowned out by the roar of a Dusenberg V12 alongside–his wife, June Huck, behind the wheel. She’d caught up with her husband by stealing his car, and was shouting something about a safety deposit box. The bitch had been trying to get into it, to make off with Art’s nest egg, since he’d met her.

That was enough for him. He shouted out the safe word.

Rosie’s mainspring unwound, and her storage compartment–with a door located about where you would expect on a hooker automaton–sprang open. Every little thing Art had ever used her to hide, from weapons to diamonds to oil, splurted out. All at once.

The massive pile-up accident that followed went pretty much like one would expect.

Inspired by Fiasco by Bully Pulpit Games, specifically the Los Angeles 1936 playset.

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Officer Richard Bichovic, LAPD badge number 1138–“Rich the Bitch” behind his back, or to his face if you didn’t mind a knuckle sandwich with a pound cake for dessert–turned the tumblers on the lock to his cheap apartment. The Bryson Towers apartments, once the Mayfair Hotel, had weathered the depression about as well as Rich himself had. The interior was a dark snarl of empty liquor bottles, .38 special shells both live and spent, unspeakable stains, and private armies of cockroaches marching in lockstep as they fought fierce turf wars.

Shaking down Art Huck, that big Stonehenge of a part-time mad scientist turned full-time pimp for robot girls of his own invention, had once been Rich’s best source of quarters to stick into robo-girls (or to stash in the rainy-day fund to buy the occasional soft silk ladies’ undergarments in size 42). Now that mook had the gall to turn the tables and blackmail Rich with a pair of a pair of Lovelace-brand lacy lavender ladies’ lingerie panties and a newsreel of them in action. His wife, June Huck, had been far too uninterested in killing her husband given their 23-year age difference and her repeated insistence that the relationship had been all about Art’s key to a safe deposit box at the Commonwealth Savings & Loan.

But when the streetlamp light from outside illuminated the inside of Rich’s apartment, sending all manner of fellow vermin scrambling for somewhere dark and moist, Rich realized that his earlier thought at Florian’s Bar–that things couldn’t get much worse–had been perhaps the understatement of the year. Or at least tied with Captain Ramirez of the 77th Precinct saying that Jesse Owens had done “okay” in the Olympics.

Rosie Nuts ‘n’ Bolts–Rosie the Riveting, Art Huck’s earliest robot gal, still his number one earner, a robo-prostitute with a heart of gold (Rich knew, he’d seen it, he knew where the hatch was)–was sitting on the moldy, sheetless Murphy bed. She was wearing a wedding dress, holding a diamond ring big enough for King Edward VIII to set in a crown for his mistress.

“I-LOVE-YOU-RICH,” she said. “I-LEFT-FATHER. WE-ARE-GETTING-MARRIED.”

“…wha?” Rich said.

“THIS-IS-MY-DAY,” Rosie said, her vacuum tube eyes flickering brightly and sparks shooting from her mouth. “WE-ARE-GETTING-MARRIED. I-LIKE-IT-SO-I-AM-GOING-TO-PUT-A-RING-ON-IT. FATHER-O’HOULIHAN-WILL-MEET-US-IN-RENO.”

“L-look, babydoll, this is all a little sudden,” Rich slurred, through half a bottle of Olde Fortran Malt Whiskey from Florian’s private reserve. “Don’t you think that you could get those panties from your ‘dad’ for me? Burn that film? What good’ll it do it get married if my reputation’s in tatters?”

“THIS-IS-MY-DAY,” repeated Rosie. Rising, she seized Rich’s tottering form with a whirring of flywheels and servos, thrust the ring onto his right index finger (spraining it and drawing blood). Against his half-hearted protests, she carried him to the bus stop.

“WE-ARE-GETTING-MARRIED,” she repeated to the bust driver on the Reno Express, departing hourly from the Del Mar racetrack. “THIS-IS-MY-DAY. TAKE-US-TO-RENO.”

The bus driver, uneasily eyeing the automata carrying a semi-conscious uniformed LAPD officer, demurred. In addition to worries about the law, he was a Traditionalist Catholic who strongly objected to Pop Pius XI’s recent recognition of robosexual marriage, and explained his concerns to Rosie as simply and straightforwardly as he could.

In response, the mecha-bridezilla flung him bodily through the window. Depositing Rich in an empty seat, she slammed the accelerator and headed for Reno with twenty terrified nuns, a tour group from Chinatown, and a typewriter salesman from Sacramento.

Inspired by Fiasco by Bully Pulpit Games, specifically the Los Angeles 1936 playset.

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Arthur “Art” Huck had bigger dreams for the small-time auto garage and filling station he’d inherited. The small-time crook and part-time mad scientist had transformed the oily floors and smoky, squealing lifts into a smouldering den of sex wreathed in cigarette and exhaust smoke. LA was full of pimps in ’36, preying on girls that came to the big city with stars in their eyes, but people tended to notice when they turned up with a shiner or rigor mortis. Art Huck’s girls, though, had no such problems.

All they needed was an oil change every six months or 3000 miles. Whichever came first.

The first client into Art’s garage bordello, illuminated only by the late-afternoon sunshine streaming through grimy windows, was Officer Richard Bichovic, LAPD badge number 1138. He might have been handsome had he not been so irredeemably greasy, but luckily Art’s robot gals liked ’em greasy. “Rich the Bitch,” as he was known behind his back, had a fixation with Art’s number one bot, Rosie, that was matched only with his fixation for money and self-affected swagger. Rich’d been hustling Art and his young wife for protection money for years, ever since being put on the beat.

All that was about to change, though.

“Hey, Art,” Rich said. “What are you doing, standing in my way like a rock out of Stonehenge? You know how much I love shaking you down for quarters to put in Rosie’s slot, but that cycle of life doesn’t work unless I get in there to meet her.”

Art, as much a thick cut of beef at 42 as he’d been in his prime, was unmoved. “Look, Bitch-ovic. You and me, we got business.”

“It’s pronounced Beak-o-vick,” Officer Bichovic snarled. “In the old country it meant ‘fierce warrior,’ so show a little respect.”

“Well, it don’t mean that here,” Art said. He shifted his oily cigar in his mouth. “Bitch,” he added, with a deliberate cloud of smoke.

“You just keep at it, then,” said Rich, shaking with barely concealed fury. “I’ll slap another percent onto your ‘rent’ foe every time you say it. Now beat it. I got a hankering to see Rosie again, put some more of your quarters in her slot.”

Ah, Rosie. Rosie the riveting. Art’s first robot creation, with a copper bodice molded onto her like the hood ornament of a Rolls-Royce Phantom III. She was a robot with a heart of gold, Rich knew. He’d seen it. He knew where the hatch was.

“I got another thought for you,” said Art. “You’re not gonna take any more of my quarters from now on…Bitch.”

“Beak-o-vick!” Rich snapped.

“You’re gonna put your own quarters in Rosie’s meter from now on, or you’re going to sit at home with your new gal Hoover. Unless, of course, you want the boys at the precinct to see this.” Art held up a pair of lacy lavender ladies’ lingerie, Lovelace-brand panties, up with one finger.

Lacy lavender ladies’ lingerie, Lovelace-brand panties with a 42-inch waist, that was.

“Those could be anyone’s drawers,” Rich said, trying his best to hide the nervousness in his voice.

“Rosie’s got a photographic memory,” Art said through a cloud of fresh sun-dappled cigar smoke. “Want to take my word for it, or would you like to see the newsreel?”

Inspired by Fiasco by Bully Pulpit Games, specifically the Los Angeles 1936 playset.

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