And finally… Sergeant Irwin.
“Orders ma’am? The Indestructibles are ready to do their duty.” The voice was tinny and synthetic, like a scratchy gramophone recording being played through a loud hailer. Doc turned to find a hulking, armoured simulacrum of a man standing to attention. On one shoulder were painted sergeant’s chevrons and where its eyes should have been, was a softly glowing slit.
“What in the name of thunderation are you?” The words were out of the Lawman’s mouth before Willa could address the thing’s question. He’d seen GI bots before, of course he had, but he had been caught unawares and his tendency to distrust walking, talking engineering spilled out of him.
“We are Union UR-31E General Infantry Automata. Unit designation IR-1, sir!” It snapped off a startlingly smart salute. “You may call me Irwin.”
“Irwin?” Doc’s incredulity was comical, and Willa watched the exchange with a moment’s much-needed amusement.
“Correct, sir. Sergeant Irwin of the Indestructibles.”
“Irwin’s Indestructibles!” The unit of mechanised soldiers standing behind the unlikely sergeant all chorused at once in their synthetic voices.
“Sergeant Irwin and the other 31Es are a masterpiece,” Willa said, feeling that she needed to explain the automata’s remarkable manner. “His difference engine programming is extraordinary. Like all automata his speech is really just pre-recorded phrases played when needed. But he’s part of Tesla’s newer generation. Teslabots, they call them. These sergeant models have ten times as many phrases as the old GI-Bots did. I’m told they can even splice parts of the recordings to give more appropriate responses. The job of these Indestructibles…”
The GI-bots chorused again, and Willa tapped her finger against the side of her mouth thoughtfully.
“Did you order them to do that, Sergeant?”
The teslabot sounded so pleased with itself that she let it go.
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