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ISFDB.org Magazine Entry



Planet Stories

Spring Issue 1949

ANIMAT

By BASIL WELLS

Battling Venus9 slime and vicious frog-apes, J46 yet found time to wonder: Was he a man or an android?

FOR TOO LONG HAD THE Sun Maiden been plunging sunward, her meteor-crushed jets and warped plates feeling the relentless chill of space eating swiftly inward.

Past the orbit of Mars; down past Earth's sector of space, and into the pull of Venus she flashed, her pace quickening. And crew-members, sweating and holloweyed within the foul closeness of space suits, worked desperately to repair that all-but hopeless damage.

Abruptly the forward jets flared raggedly. The great ship faltered; its course shifted planetward, and even as the clouds swallowed the Sun Maiden the first of the patched jets exploded.

The remaining rockets flared briefly and died. The captain jettisoned cargo and equipment before releasing the eight undamaged emergency vanes. The shrieking solidity of the Wet Planet's air ripped the sturdy blades away as though they had been tinfoil and the ship's fall remained unslackened.

The slanting plunge ended at last. The nose plowed down a rocky mountain slope, crumbling with the impact, caromed off a boulder-strewn bench, and ripped through a tree-clad lower level into a mossy-grassed meadow. There, in a soggy treeless hollow, the scarred hulk that had been the Sun Maiden came to rest...

JAY FORSIX turned puzzled eyes on the little knot of survivors beside the ship. His fair-skinned face was square, like his powerful short body, and there was red hair sprouting from beneath the gray plastin of his control case's helmet.

Jay looked like a man; he even talked, in a meager jerky fashion, like a man, but he was actually an android robot. Animats, Inc. turned out thousands of superior robots for the industries of Earth and Mars — durable, foolproof expensive machines they were. But for the uranium mines of Jupiter's moons they also had begun to create these inexpensive living blends of animate flesh and bone, synthetic moronic creatures.

"There are six animats—and us!" choked the little blonde haired girl. Already the constant moisture of the atmosphere coated her skin with shining dampness.

Her companion, a tall dark-skinned girl, rubbed a bruised elbow thoughtfully. Her teeth flashed in a rueful smile.

"Bottle the tears," she snapped at the blonde girl, slapping her shoulder, "we got plenty water without them."

The smaller girl drew herself up.

"Perhaps you don't know who I am. I'm Thela Draper. My father owns most of Animats, Inc."

The tall girl laughed. "X with me, Thela. We're in the same fix. No putting on a front—all we'll be doing is keep alive until help comes."

"If it does come." Thela Draper's lips quivered. "I want..."

"Will you shut up! I'm taking charge. jYou're a spoiled empty-head even if you are atomic-plated. I'm not dumb even if I do dance for a living in dives you'd blast clear of.

"Someday Ina Haan's name will be in all the lights of Mars and Terra."

Jay Forsix shook his head numbly from side to side as he heard the women talking. Strange thoughts and sensations were crowding into his brain. His hand went up to the bulky helmet that was designed to keep his synthetic body under the control of humans.

He gasped. The battery compartment was empty, its cover gaping. No wonder his uncontrolled senses were so active and his brain alive.

"Gone," he said to Ina Haan. He recognized her as the dominating character of the group.

Ina pulled out a trim platinum-washed expoder and leveled it at the animat. But her finger did not depress the little stud that would send the explosive needles of biaton into his body.

"Maybe an animat is dangerous without his controls," she mused aloud, "and then again... We'll see. I can always kill it later."

"Thank you, Ina Haan," Jay Forsix said clumsily.

Ina's dark eyes widened. It was rarely that a robot spoke without being addressed, and then it used the term Master or Lady.

"Get to work," she commanded, "salvaging food and clothing."

The animat nodded. He turned toward the battered port.

Ina was studying the serial plate on Jay's helmet. "Take the others along, J46," she said. "You are in charge of them."

Jay's heart pounded proudly. The human one had confidence in him. Never, in all the six weeks of his short existence, had men spoken a kindly word to him. To them he had been a stupid machine to be worked out in the radioactive mines of distant worlds.

"Yes... Ina Haan," he said. "Onin Tufor," he ordered slowly, "Zee Fivotu, come..."

The animats r...

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