The Robot And The Cat

The Robot And The Cat
By Chongchen Saelee

In a dank alley, a sanitation robot made its routine cycle tracking stray cats, containing them, and if the pound was overpopulated to exterminate them on site. This particular evening, it was extra cold, and a male cat had scavenged a half-eaten Whopper to eat. The crackling sound of dry leaves, paper, and plastic garbage bags did little to comfort or remind the alley’s inhabitants of the sound of warm burning kindle.

The sanitation robot’s sensors detected a heat signature hidden behind a collapsed cardboard box. The robot uses automatic homing system to lock onto the heat signature and fires 2 tranquilizer darts at the target. There is a shrieking meow and then silence, only rustling of cold wind and paper.

Clank, clank, clank. The male cat wakes inside to dark metal box. It starts clawing for a way out.

A robotic female voice crackles through a speaker, “Hello, subject feline number 2039. I am Lisa, an official city sanitation robot. You have been tracked and contained as part of the city’s stray animal population control program. I am awaiting an official confirmation from City Pound Command Center to exterminate you which depends on condition the pound is overpopulated. Do you wish to resist?”

The cat doesn’t comprehend.

After 15 seconds waiting for a response, the robot beeps and speaks, “Because you have not responded in sufficient time, you have waived your right to resist. Please remain silent while I await official confirmation from City Pound Command Center to exterminate you.”

The robot with cat in tow scoots out of the dark alley into the main street illuminated by neon lights and damp, glistening streets covered with rain. A drunkard lying in front of a closing bar spots the robot from across the street and shoots up to his feet alert. He figures he can make some money pawning the robot for scrap metal! And if he’s lucky, whatever cargo it’s got must be worth something to someone!

The drunkard clutches at his empty beer bottle and rushes across the street, tripping over himself woozy, stepping in puddles of rain and piss.

The robot is in standby mode, still processing orders and waiting for confirmation from the animal pound.

The drunkard doesn’t hesitate smashing his beer bottle on the robot, attempting to break it open. The robot beeps a few times and makes some clicking noises inside it’s metal shell. Then it produces loud continuous siren to ward off any aggressive actors.

The robot repeats, “You are in violation of defacing city property. Please stop or I will alert law enforcement. You are in violation of defacing city property. Please stop or I will…”

Unrelenting, the drunkard looks around for a blunt object. He picks up a waste bin and smashes it over the robot. It only dented the robot a bit, but the waste bin completely shattered. Now we’re getting somewhere, the drunkard thought.

The drunkard spots a dumbbell set sticking out the top of a dumpster in the alleyway.

Fifteen minutes later, the drunkard has cracked open the robot enough to stick his fingers inside the crack and try to pry it open.

Inside the metal box, now making a hissing malfunction chirp, the drunkard feels the soggy fur of a limp creature. The cat has passed out.

“What do we have here? Some kind of rodent?” the drunkard slurs, licking his chapped lips. He tries to grab onto as much fur as he can and try to yank the creature out through the tight squeeze of the crack. Tugging so hard, the cat awakens from the pain and claws at the drunkards hand, who releases the screeching animal.

“You little shit!” bellowed the drunkard. “I’m going to KILL YOU!”

Now in a drunken rage, the drunkard seemed to have lost focus on the robot and was driven to kill that animal inside it. And like a bolt of lightning, the drunkard regained sharp sense of logic, maybe he was an engineer when he was sober, but he seemingly knew to go straight for the robot’s control panel. The drunkard breaks the secured latch off with the dumbbell and reveals the robot’s battery.

The drunkard rips the battery from the robot and tosses it callously into the dark. In doing so, the robot’s systems reset and the cage holding the frightened cat snapped open. The cat leaps out and flees across the street.

The drunkard makes chase, not paying attention to his surroundings and is hit by a car reversing out of the dark alley. The driver of the car, a burly chain-smoker in a wife-beater shirt, emerges from the car enraged. He thinks he ran over a cat because he heard cat screeching earlier, but it can’t be a cat, whatever he ran over was pretty big.

When the big smoker sees the drunkard pinned under his fancy restored vintage car, offended by the drunkard’s presence, he yanked the drunkard out and starts to kick him severely.

Meanwhile, the frightened cat watches the scene from high atop a full dumpster.

The drunkard is slurring pleading for his life, something about a goddamn rodent biting him.

Across the street, the robot’s auxiliary battery supply has kicked in and will power it for only 5 minutes until it is completely out of service. The robot will attempt to send a distress beacon to Command Center for retrieval. But it’s not likely to be retrieved because the robot costs more to repair than to scrap or abandon. At least that’s what the city’s numbers have shown.

The robot, speakers cracking static and losing audible volume, utters repeatedly, “Malfunction. Please re-insert power supply. Auxiliary power supply running out in time 4 minutes. Malfunction. Please re-insert power supply…”

The cat, not understanding anything but survival of itself, just watched as the burly smoker delivered a final blow to the drunkard who was bloody and eventually went limp. The burly man then sped off into the night without remorse. The robot eventually was making gibberish noises from it’s speaker and with a puff of smoke stopped running.

The cat eventually averted it’s attention to the rancid disposed food in the mountain of garbage and found himself half thrown out TV dinner. It picked it up with its mouth and cheerfully skipped back into the shadows of the alley.

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