Today's Reading

Unit Four returned to its files as the heavy airlock doors to the reconstitution room slid aside for the robots. Each arm on the rotating platform was an independent unit, with fire blocks and docking sockets in case of dislodging, replacement, or emergency detachment—an especially useful design element if Unit Four failed in its task.

It was still unsure of itself. Trying to pilot a boat in its state didn't feel efficient. It looked up everything it had on the craft—its steering, weapons system, navigation.

"There are superfluous files in my databanks," it said, wandering through a maze of recall commands.

"I know, I didn't have time to cherry pick for your particular expected functionalities," said its handler. "I just dumped everything in."

"Should I delete the unessential?" It scanned the file categories, which included multiple languages, fuel processing and development, and...dance?

"It doesn't matter now. Just get to the damned boat. Please, Unit Four, I'm begging you."

It let the dispensable files remain.

Unit Two led it down the long arm, and the simulated gravity gradually shifted. Through another window, Unit Four saw it—the nearest phased microwave array, little more than a sharp glint of silver to its cameras. Currently, the array lay no more than two hundred and fifty kilometers off the platform, which meant if a dish were to dislodge at the correct angle, it could barrel into them. The debris would arrive in mere minutes—not enough time to safely reposition the station—resulting in various possible levels of damage.

And if one of the helium-3 fusion reactors was hit? The reactors sat well within the haze layer of Jupiter's atmosphere, just above the troposphere. A safe distance from the maintenance platform under ninety-nine point eight percent of malfunction scenarios. However, if there was an explosion...the shockwave could easily reach them. Even as movable as the platform was, being tossed out of orbit could cause significant problems—if they fell too far into Jupiter's gravity well, there would be no escape, as their engines couldn't compensate. They could be torn apart by the storms, crushed by the atmospheric pressures, or hit dead-on with a burst of radiation.

A hundred and one possible situations could permanently decommission all of the equipment and the entire operation—including every robot aboard.

It couldn't let that happen.

Wouldn't let it happen.

Unit Four brought up its Earth primer and saw a small, blue-green world. Well-tempered, compared to the planet below.

Earth relied on this mine for a third of its energy, and ninety-eight percent of all Earth energy needs were met by off-world endeavors. That's what kept the planet safe, and beautiful, and well-balanced.

Number of Species: Five point two million

Number of People: One point eight billion

Those life-forms were counting on it to stop the invaders, to save Earth from a crisis—from power outages and shortages that would inevitably lead to chaos and death.

Through the window that ran the length of the platform arm, Unit Four searched the assaulted array for signs of the invading craft. For a distant glint of sunlight off a hull, a flash from an energy weapon. Though it tried, focusing in as sharply as it could, it was unable to make out the alien ship.

The majority of the platform was kept at 22.22 degrees Celsius, which felt stifling on Unit Four's new casing. The climate was supposed to be optimized—22.22 degrees was the prime stimulating temperature for the robots' organic muscles, essential for peak performance. And yet, its casing was dewing, shedding excess heat via water evaporation. Perhaps that was just further proof that Unit Four was operating at less than optimal levels.

But its handler wanted it moving, so it continued forward as quickly as it could.

As the two units reached the center hub, they began to float. Here, the simulated gravity gave way to true microgravity. Unit Four grabbed a helpful bar, and Unit Two swiveled to look back at it. "Systems level?" it asked.

"Not at this time," Unit Four admitted. "Perhaps one of the other units would be better qualified to pilot a boat."

"None of the others have undergone muscle-memory stimulation. They could download the piloting program, but would have dissatisfactory reaction times."

"I believe I will have dissatisfactory reaction times."

"Our functionality is not for us to question," Unit Two said.

True.
...

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Today's Reading

Unit Four returned to its files as the heavy airlock doors to the reconstitution room slid aside for the robots. Each arm on the rotating platform was an independent unit, with fire blocks and docking sockets in case of dislodging, replacement, or emergency detachment—an especially useful design element if Unit Four failed in its task.

It was still unsure of itself. Trying to pilot a boat in its state didn't feel efficient. It looked up everything it had on the craft—its steering, weapons system, navigation.

"There are superfluous files in my databanks," it said, wandering through a maze of recall commands.

"I know, I didn't have time to cherry pick for your particular expected functionalities," said its handler. "I just dumped everything in."

"Should I delete the unessential?" It scanned the file categories, which included multiple languages, fuel processing and development, and...dance?

"It doesn't matter now. Just get to the damned boat. Please, Unit Four, I'm begging you."

It let the dispensable files remain.

Unit Two led it down the long arm, and the simulated gravity gradually shifted. Through another window, Unit Four saw it—the nearest phased microwave array, little more than a sharp glint of silver to its cameras. Currently, the array lay no more than two hundred and fifty kilometers off the platform, which meant if a dish were to dislodge at the correct angle, it could barrel into them. The debris would arrive in mere minutes—not enough time to safely reposition the station—resulting in various possible levels of damage.

And if one of the helium-3 fusion reactors was hit? The reactors sat well within the haze layer of Jupiter's atmosphere, just above the troposphere. A safe distance from the maintenance platform under ninety-nine point eight percent of malfunction scenarios. However, if there was an explosion...the shockwave could easily reach them. Even as movable as the platform was, being tossed out of orbit could cause significant problems—if they fell too far into Jupiter's gravity well, there would be no escape, as their engines couldn't compensate. They could be torn apart by the storms, crushed by the atmospheric pressures, or hit dead-on with a burst of radiation.

A hundred and one possible situations could permanently decommission all of the equipment and the entire operation—including every robot aboard.

It couldn't let that happen.

Wouldn't let it happen.

Unit Four brought up its Earth primer and saw a small, blue-green world. Well-tempered, compared to the planet below.

Earth relied on this mine for a third of its energy, and ninety-eight percent of all Earth energy needs were met by off-world endeavors. That's what kept the planet safe, and beautiful, and well-balanced.

Number of Species: Five point two million

Number of People: One point eight billion

Those life-forms were counting on it to stop the invaders, to save Earth from a crisis—from power outages and shortages that would inevitably lead to chaos and death.

Through the window that ran the length of the platform arm, Unit Four searched the assaulted array for signs of the invading craft. For a distant glint of sunlight off a hull, a flash from an energy weapon. Though it tried, focusing in as sharply as it could, it was unable to make out the alien ship.

The majority of the platform was kept at 22.22 degrees Celsius, which felt stifling on Unit Four's new casing. The climate was supposed to be optimized—22.22 degrees was the prime stimulating temperature for the robots' organic muscles, essential for peak performance. And yet, its casing was dewing, shedding excess heat via water evaporation. Perhaps that was just further proof that Unit Four was operating at less than optimal levels.

But its handler wanted it moving, so it continued forward as quickly as it could.

As the two units reached the center hub, they began to float. Here, the simulated gravity gave way to true microgravity. Unit Four grabbed a helpful bar, and Unit Two swiveled to look back at it. "Systems level?" it asked.

"Not at this time," Unit Four admitted. "Perhaps one of the other units would be better qualified to pilot a boat."

"None of the others have undergone muscle-memory stimulation. They could download the piloting program, but would have dissatisfactory reaction times."

"I believe I will have dissatisfactory reaction times."

"Our functionality is not for us to question," Unit Two said.

True.
...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...