He paused, unsure what exactly to say to this little … creature. He’d dealt with plenty of robots, but this one looked antiquated. It also looked very patchwork, as though it had been through a great many upgrades and overhauls without much consideration for preserving its outer appearance.
“You’re an old one, aren’t you,” he said, amazing himself with how well his mouth worked. He was shaking it off, though speaking was still painful. It let loose a series of questioning beeps in reply.
He blinked and frowned. “No vocalization module?” He crouched down; it backed off, and he eased up. “Hey, hang on, I can’t understand a word you’re saying. Do you have some sort of readout?”
It trilled a brief affirmative—it sounded affirmative anyway—and rolled forward on its treads. There was a display on top of the unit, though it was so dirty and scratched it was hard to distinguish from the rest of it without looking closely.
“Ugh, that’s going to be tough to read. Let me clean that off for you.” He reached into a pocket of his jacket, bringing out a handkerchief. The little bot backed off a few inches, paused, and slowly crept back forward.
“If I wanted to hurt you, I could have by now. Relax,” he smirked, wiping away the worst of the dirt and dust. It helped a lot. The display read, “My vocalization module was removed 76 years, 7 months, 23 days ago.”
His eyebrows rose. “76 years? No wonder you’re so dirty. It’s a wonder you’re functional at all. Why was it removed?”
The text updated quickly. “I was assigned to waste handling duties. Vocalization was an unnecessary power drain. Thank you for the aesthetic enhancement.”
He chuckled. “No problem, little guy. Why’d they assign a bot as small as you to waste handling?”
The display updated again. “Modular design. I autonomously interface with the necessary apparatus physically or by remote interface.”
“Handy,” he said, and meant it. Such technology was hardly anything new, it’d been around since the dawn of time as far as anyone knew, but it was rare that bots were able to make use of it autonomously. “Oh. I guess we haven’t been introduced. I’m Corwin.” Instictively he wanted to put his hand out for a shake, but he had to content himself with waiting for a reply.
The update was swift; “A.R.U.W.D. Autonomous Remote Unit Waste Disposal.”
“THAT’S your designation? I guess I can call you Aru.” He took a longer look around at the environment he found himself in. It was a dump alright, large enough that he could see no end to it in any direction. The gigantic piles of refuse made it difficult to judge any more than that.
“So tell me Aru, you’ve been here more than 76 years. Where exactly are we? And how long have I been here?” As he spoke, he stretched arms and legs, gritting his teeth against the mild pain he felt.
He knelt down to inspect Aru’s display. It read, “Sector 351/165 of Waste Disposal Colony Haruna. I learned of your presence here 18 standard hours ago.”
Corwin’s mouth dropped open. “Haruna!? 18 hours!?” He suddenly found himself sitting, holding his head in his hands. After a few moments an inquisitive beeping began, but he was in shock. They hadn’t just driven him off and dumped him in a junkyard. They’d shipped him to a junkyard planet.