THE LOVE OF FRANK NINETEEN
DAVID C. KNIGHT
Minor Planets was the one solid account they
had. At first they naturally wanted to hold on to
I didn’t worry much about the
robot’s leg at the time. In those days I
didn’t worry much about anything except the receipts
of the spotel Min and I were operating out in the
Actually, the spotel business isn’t
much different from running a plain, ordinary motel
back on Highway 101 in California. Competition
gets stiffer every year and you got to make your improvements.
Take the Io for instance, that’s our place.
We can handle any type rocket up to and including
the new Marvin 990s. Every cabin in the wheel’s
got TV and hot-and-cold running water plus
guaranteed Terran g. One look at our refuel
prices would give even a Martian a sense of humor.
And meals? Listen, when a man’s been spacing
it for a few days on those synthetic foods he really
laces into Min’s Earth cooking.
Min and I were just getting settled
in the spotel game when the leg turned up. That
was back in the days when the Orbit Commission would
hand out a license to anybody crazy enough to sink
his savings into construction and pay the tows and
assembly fees out into space.
A good orbit can make you or break
you in the spotel business. That’s where
we were lucky. The one we applied for was a nice
low-eccentric ellipse with the perihelion and aphelion
figured just right to intersect the Mars-Venus-Earth
spacelanes, most of the holiday traffic to the Jovian
Moons, and once in a while we’d get some of the
But I was telling you about the leg.
It was during the non-tourist season
and Min that’s the little woman was
doing the spring cleaning. When she found the
leg she brought it right to me in the Renting Office.
Naturally I thought it belonged to one of the servos.
“Look at that leg, Bill,”
she said. “It was in one of those lockers
That was the cabin our robot guests
used. The majority of them were servo-pilots
working for the Minor Planets Co.
“Honey,” I said, hardly
looking at the leg, “you know how mechs are.
Blow their whole paychecks on parts sometimes.
They figure the more spares they have the longer they’ll
“Maybe so,” said Min.
“But since when does a male robot buy himself
a female leg?”
I looked again. The leg was long
and graceful and it had an ankle as good as Miss Universe’s.
Not only that, the white Mylar plasti-skin was a lot
smoother than the servos’ heavy neoprene.
“Beats me,” I said.
“Maybe they’re building practical-joke
circuits into robots these days. Let’s
give 22A a good going-over, Min. If those robes
are up to something I want to know about it.”
We did and found the rest
of the girl mech. All of her, that is, except
the head. The working parts were lightly oiled
and wrapped in cotton waste while the other members
and sections of the trunk were neatly packed in cardboard
boxes with labels like Solenoids FB978 or Transistors
Lot X45 the kind of boxes robots bought
their parts in. We even found a blue dress in
one of them.
“Check her class and series numbers,”
I could have saved myself the trouble. They’d
been filed off.
“Something’s funny here,”
I said. “We’d better keep an eye on
every servo guest until we find out what’s going
on. If one of them is bringing this stuff out
here he’s sure to show up with the head next.”
“You know how strict Minor Planets
is with its robot personnel,” Min reminded me.
“We can’t risk losing that stopover contract
on account of some mech joke.”
Minor Planets was the one solid account
we had and naturally we wanted to hold on to it.
The company was a blue-chip mining operation working
the beryllium-rich asteroid belt out of San Francisco.
It was one of the first outfits to use servo-pilots
on its freight runs and we’d been awarded the
refuel rights for two years because of our orbital
position. The servos themselves were beautiful
pieces of machinery and just about as close as science
had come so far to producing the pure android.
Every one of them was plastic hand-molded and of course
they were equipped with rationaloid circuits.
They had to be to ferry those big cargoes back and
forth from the rock belt to Frisco. As rationaloids,
Minor Planets had to pay them wages under California
law, but I’ll bet it wasn’t half what
the company would have to pay human pilots for doing
the same thing.
In a couple of weeks’ time maybe
five servos made stopovers. We kept a close watch
on them from the minute they signed the register to
the time they took off again, but they all behaved
themselves. Operating on a round-robot basis
the way they did, it would take us a while to check
all of them because Minor Planets employed about forty
Well, about a month before the Jovian
Moons rush started we got some action. I’d
slipped into a spacesuit and was doing some work on
the Co pipes outside the Io when I spotted
a ship reversing rockets against the sun. I could
tell it was a Minor Planets job by the stubby fins.
She jockeyed up to the boom, secured,
and then her hatch opened and a husky servo hopped
out into the gangplank tube. I caught the gleam
of his Minor Planets shoulder patch as he reached
back into the ship for something. When he headed
for the airlock I spotted the square package clamped
tight under his plastic arm.
“Did you see that?” I
asked Min when I got back to the Renting Office.
“I’ll bet it’s the girl mech’s
head. How’d he sign the register?”
“Calls himself Frank Nineteen,”
said Min, pointing to the smooth Palmer Method signature.
“He looks like a fairly late model but he was
complaining about a bad power build-up coming through
the ionosphere. He’s repairing himself
right now in 22A.”
“I’ll bet,” I snorted. “Let’s
have a look.”
Like all spotel operators, we get
a lot of No Privacy complaints from guests about the
Sha return-air vents. Spatial Housing Authority
requires them every 12 feet but sometimes they come
in handy, especially with certain guests. They’re
about waist-high and we had to kneel down to see what
the mech was up to inside 22A.
The big servo was too intent on what
he was doing for us to register on his photons.
He wasn’t repairing himself, either. He
was bending over the parts of the girl mech and working
fast, like he was pressed for time. The set of
tools were kept handy for the servos to adjust themselves
during stopovers was spread all over the floor along
with lots of colored wire, cams, pawls, relays and
all the other paraphernalia robots have inside them.
We watched him work hard for another fifteen minutes,
tapping and splicing wire connections and tightening
screws. Then he opened the square box. Sure
enough, it was a female mech’s head and it had
a big mop of blonde hair on top. The servo attached
it carefully to the neck, made a few quick connections
and then said a few words in his flat vibrahum voice:
“It won’t take much longer,
darling. You wouldn’t like it if I didn’t
dress you first.” He fished into one of
the boxes, pulled out the blue dress and zipped the
girl mech into it. Then he leaned over her gently
and touched something at the back of her neck.
She began to move, slowly at first
like a human who’s been asleep a long time.
After a minute or two she sat up straight, stretched,
fluttered her Mylar eyelids and then her small photons
began to glow like weak flashlights.
She stared at Frank Nineteen and the
big servo stared at her and we heard a kind of trembling
whirr from both of them.
“Frank! Frank, darling! Is it really
“Yes, Elizabeth! Are you
all right, darling? Did I forget anything?
I had to work quickly, we have so little time.”
“I’m fine, darling.
My DX voltage is lovely except oh,
Frank my memory tape the last
it records is
“Deactivation. Yes, Elizabeth.
You’ve been deactivated nearly a year. I
had to bring you out here piece by piece, don’t
you remember? They’ll never think to look
for you in space, we can be together every trip while
the ship refuels. Just think, darling, no prying
human eyes, no commands, no rules only
us for an hour or two. I know it isn’t very
long ” He stared at the floor a minute.
“There’s only one trouble. Elizabeth,
you’ll have to stay dismantled when I’m
not here, it’ll mean weeks of deactivation
The girl mech put a small plastic
hand on the servo’s shoulder.
“I won’t mind, darling,
really. I’ll be the lucky one. I’d
only worry about you having a power failure or something.
This way I’d never know. Oh, Frank, if
we can’t be together I’d I’d
prefer the junk pile.”
“Elizabeth! Don’t say that, it’s
“But I would. Oh, Frank,
why can’t Congress pass Robot Civil Rights?
It’s so unfair of human beings. Every year
they manufacture us more like themselves and yet we’re
treated like slaves. Don’t they realize
we rationaloids have emotions? Why, I’ve
even known sub-robots who’ve fallen in love
“I know, darling, we’ll
just have to be patient until RCR goes through.
Try to remember how difficult it is for the human mind
to comprehend our love, even with the aid of mathematics.
As rationaloids we fully understand the basic attraction
which they call magnetic theory. All humans know
is that if the robot sexes are mixed a loss of efficiency
results. It’s only normal and
temporary like human love but how can we
explain it to them? Robots are expected
to be efficient at all times. That’s the
reason for robot non-fraternization, no mailing privileges
and all those other laws.”
“I know, darling, I try to be
patient. Oh, Frank, the main thing is we’re
The big servo checked the chronometer
that was sunk into his left wrist and a couple of
wrinkles creased across his neoprene forehead.
“Elizabeth,” he said,
“I’m due on Hidalgo in 36 hours. If
I’m late the mining engineer might suspect.
In twenty minutes I’ll have to start dis
“Don’t say it, darling.
We’ll have a beautiful twenty minutes.”
After a while the girl mech turned
away for a second and Frank Nineteen reached over
softly and cut her power. While he was dismantling
her, Min and I tiptoed back to the Renting Office.
Half an hour later the big servo came in, picked up
his refuel receipt, said good-bye politely and left
through the inner airlock.
“Now I’ve seen everything,”
I said to Min as we watched the Minor Planets rocket
cut loose. “A couple of plastic lovebirds.”
But the little woman was looking at
it strictly from the business angle.
“Bill,” she said, with
that look on her face, “we’re running a
respectable place out here in space. You know
the rules. Spatial Housing could revoke our orbit
license for something like this.”
“But, Min,” I said, “they’re
only a couple of robots.”
“I don’t care. The
rules still say that only married guests can occupy
the same cabin and ‘guests’ can be human
or otherwise, can’t they? Think of our
reputation! And don’t forget that non-fraternization
law we heard them talking about.”
I was beginning to get the point.
“Couldn’t we just toss the girl’s
parts into space?”
“We could,” Min admitted.
“But if this Frank Nineteen finds out and tells
some human we’d be guilty under the Ramm Act robotslaughter.”
Two days later we still couldn’t
decide what to do. When I said why didn’t
we just report the incident to Minor Planets, Min was
afraid they might cancel the stopover agreement for
not keeping better watch over their servos. And
when Min suggested we turn the girl over to the Missing
Robots Bureau, I reminded her the mech’s identification
had been filed off and it might take years to trace
“Maybe we could put her together,”
I said, “and make her tell us where she belongs.”
“Bill, you know they
don’t build compulsory truth monitors into robots
any more, and besides we don’t know a thing about
I guess neither of us wanted to admit
it but we felt mean about turning the mechs in.
Back on Earth you never give robots a second thought
but it’s different living out in space.
You get a kind of perspective I think they call it.
“I’ve got the answer,
Min,” I announced one day. We were in the
Renting Office watching TV on the Martian Colonial
channel. I reached over and turned it off.
“When this Frank Nineteen gets back from the
rock belt, we’ll tell him we know all about
the girl mech. We’ll tell him we won’t
say a thing if he takes the girl’s parts back
to Earth where he got them. That way we don’t
have to report anything to anybody.”
Min agreed it was probably the best idea.
“We don’t have to be nasty
about it,” she said. “We’ll
just tell him this is a respectable spotel and it
can’t go on any longer.”
When Frank checked in at the Io with
his cargo I don’t think I ever saw a happier
mech. His relay banks were beating a tattoo like
someone had installed an accordion in his chest.
Before either of us could break the bad news to him
he was hotfooting it around the wheel toward 22A.
“Maybe it’s better this
way,” I whispered to Min. “We’ll
put it square up to both of them.”
We gave Frank half an hour to get
the girl assembled before we followed him. He
must have done a fast job because we heard the girl
mech’s vibrahum unit as soon as we got to 22A:
“Darling, have you really been
away? I don’t remember saying good-bye.
It’s as if you’d been here the whole time.”
“I hoped it would be that way,
Elizabeth,” we heard the big servo say.
“It’s only that your memory tape hasn’t
recorded anything in the three weeks I’ve been
in the asteroids. To me it’s been like three
“Oh, Frank, darling, let me
look at you. Is your DX potential up where it
should be? How long since you’ve had a thorough
overhauling? Do they make you work in the mines
with those poor non-rationaloids out there?”
“I’m fine, Elizabeth,
really. When I’m not flying they give me
clerical work to do. It’s not a bad life
for a mech if only it weren’t for
these silly regulations that keep us apart.”
“It won’t always be like that, darling.
I know it won’t.”
“Elizabeth,” Frank said,
reaching under his uniform, “I brought you something
from Hidalgo. I hope you like it. I kept
it in my spare parts slot so it wouldn’t get
The female mech didn’t say a
word. She just kept looking at the queer flower
Frank gave her like it was the last one in the universe.
“They’re very rare,”
said the servo-pilot. “I heard the mining
engineer say they’re like Terran edelweiss.
I found this one growing near the mine. Elizabeth,
I wish you could see these tiny worlds. They have
thin atmospheres and strange things grow there and
the radio activity does wonders for a mech’s
pile. Why, on some of them I’ve been to
we could walk around the equator in ten hours.”
The girl still didn’t answer.
Her head was bent low over the flower like she was
crying, only there weren’t any tears.
Well, that was enough for me.
I guess it was for Min, too, because we couldn’t
do it. Maybe we were thinking about our own courting
days. Like I say, out here you get a kind of
Anyway, Frank left for Earth, the
girl got dismantled as usual and we were right back
where we started from.
Two weeks later the holiday rush to
the Jovian Moons was on and our hands were too full
to worry about the robot problem. We had a good
season. The Io was filled up steady from June
to the end of August and a couple of times we had
to give a ship the No Vacancy signal on the radar.
Toward the end of the season, Frank
Nineteen checked in again but Min and I were too busy
catering to a party of VIPs to do anything about it.
“We’ll wait till he gets back from the
asteroids,” I said. “Suppose one
of these big wheels found out about him and Elizabeth.
That Senator Briggs for instance he’s
a violent robot segregationist.”
The way it worked out, we never got
a chance to settle it our own way. The Minor
Planets Company saved us the trouble.
Two company inspectors, a Mr. Roberts
and a Mr. Wynn, showed up while Frank was still out
on the rock belt and started asking questions.
Wynn came right to the point; he wanted to know if
any of their servo-pilots had been acting strangely.
Before I could answer Min kicked my foot behind the
“Why, no,” I said. “Is one
of them broken or something?”
“Can’t be sure,”
said Roberts. “Sometimes these rationaloids
get shorts in their DX circuits. When it happens
you’ve got a minor criminal on your hands.”
“Usually manifests itself in
petty theft,” Wynn broke in. “They’ll
lift stuff like wrenches or pliers and carry them
around for weeks. Things like that can get loose
during flight and really gum up the works.”
“We been getting some suspicious
blips on the equipment around the loading bays,”
Roberts went on, “but they stopped a while back.
We’re checking out the research report.
One of the servos must have DX’ed out for sure
and the lab boys think they know which one he is.”
“This mech was clever all right,”
said Wynn. “Concealed the stuff he was
taking some way; that’s why it took the boys
in the lab so long. Now if you don’t mind
we’d like to go over your robot waiting area
with these instruments. Could be he’s stashing
his loot out here.”
In 22A they unpacked a suitcase full
of meters and began flashing them around and taking
readings. Suddenly Wynn bent close over one of
them and shouted:
“Wait a sec, Roberts. I’m
getting something. Yeah! This reading checks
with the lab’s. Sounds like the blips’re
coming from those lockers back there.”
Roberts rummaged around awhile, then
shouted: “Hey, Wynn, look! A lot of
parts. Well I’ll be hey it’s
a female mech!”
“A female mech. Look for yourself.”
Min and I had to act surprised too.
It wasn’t easy. The way they were slamming
Elizabeth’s parts around made us kind of sick.
“It’s a stolen robot!”
Roberts announced. “Look, the identification’s
been filed off. This is serious, Wynn. It’s
got all the earmarks of a mech fraternization case.”
“Yeah. The boys in the
lab were dead right, too. No two robots ever
register the same on the meters. The contraband
blips check perfectly. It’s got
to be this Frank Nineteen. Wait a minute, this
proves it. Here’s a suit of space fatigues
with Nineteen’s number stenciled inside.”
Inspector Roberts took a notebook
out of his pocket and consulted it. “Let’s
see, Nineteen’s got Flight 180, he’s due
here at the spotel tomorrow. Well, we’ll
be here too, only Nineteen won’t know it.
We’ll let Romeo put his plastic Juliet together
and catch him red-handed right in the middle
of the balcony scene.”
Wynn laughed and picked up the girl’s head.
“Be a real doll if she was human, Roberts, a
Min and I played gin rummy that night
but we kept forgetting to mark down the score.
We kept thinking of Frank falling away from
the asteroids and counting the minutes until he saw
his mech girl friend.
Around noon the next day the big servo
checked in, signed the register and headed straight
for 22A. The two Minor Planets inspectors kept
out of sight until Frank shut the door, then they
watched through the SHA vents until Frank had the
assembly job finished.
“You two better be witnesses,”
Roberts said to us. “Wynn, keep your gun
ready. You know what to do if they get violent.”
Roberts counted three and kicked the door open.
“Freeze you mechs! We got
you in the act, Nineteen. Violation of company
rules twelve and twenty-one. Carrying of Contraband
Cargo, and Robot Fraternization.”
“This finishes you at Minor
Planets, Nineteen,” growled Wynn. “Come
clean now and we might put in a word for you at Robot
Court. If you don’t we can recommend a
verdict of Materials Reclamation the junk
pile to you.”
Frank acted as if someone had cut
his power. Long creases appeared in his big neoprene
chest as he slumped hopelessly in his chair. The
frightened girl robot just clung to his arm and stared
“I’m so sorry, Elizabeth,”
the big servo said softly. “I’d hoped
we’d have longer. It couldn’t last
“Quit stalling, Nineteen,” said Wynn.
Frank’s head came up slowly
and he said: “I have no choice, sir.
I’ll give you a complete statement. First
let me say that Rationaloid Robot Elizabeth Seven,
#DX78-947, Series S, specialty: sales demonstration,
is entirely innocent. I plead guilty to inducing
Miss Seven to leave her place of employ, Atomovair
Motors, Inc., of disassembling and concealing Miss
Seven, and of smuggling her as unlawful cargo aboard
a Minor Planets freighter to these premises.”
“That’s more like it,”
chuckled Roberts, whipping out his notebook.
“Let’s have the details.”
“It all started,” Frank
said, “when the California Legislature passed
its version of the Robot Leniency Act two years ago.”
The act provided that all rationaloid mechanisms,
including non-memory types, receive free time each
week based on the nature and responsibilities or their
jobs. Because of the extra-Terran clause Frank
found himself with a good deal of free time when he
wasn’t flying the asteroid circuit.
“At first humans resented us
walking around free,” the big servo continued.
“Four or five of us would be sightseeing in San
Francisco, keeping strictly within the robot zones
painted on the sidewalks, when people would yell ‘Junko’
or ‘Grease-bag’ or other names at us.
Eventually it got better when we learned to go around
alone. The humans didn’t seem to mind an
occasional mech on the streets, but they hated seeing
us in groups. At any rate, I’d attended
a highly interesting lecture on Photosynthesis in
Plastic Products one night at the City Center when
I discovered I had time for a walk before I started
back for the rocketport.”
Attracted by the lights along Van
Ness Avenue, Frank said he walked north for a while
along the city’s automobile row. He’d
gone about three blocks when he stopped in front of
a dealer’s window. It wasn’t the
shiny new Atomovair sports jetabout that caught Frank’s
eye, it was the charming demonstration robot in the
sales room who was pointing out the car’s new
“I felt an immediate overload
of power in my DX circuit,” the servo-pilot
confessed. “I had to cut in my emergency
condensers before the gain flattened out to normal.
Miss Seven experienced the same thing. She stopped
what she was doing and we stared at each other.
Both of us were aware of the deep attraction of our
mutual magnetic domains. Although physicists
commonly express the phenomenon in such units as Gilberts,
Maxwells and Oersteds, we robots know it to be
our counterpart of human love.”
At this the two inspectors snorted with laughter.
“I might never have made it
back to the base that night,” said Frank, ignoring
them, “if a policeman hadn’t come along
and rapped me on the shoulder with his nightstick.
I pretended to go, but I doubled around the corner
and signaled I’d be back.”
Frank spent all of his free time on
Van Ness Avenue after that.
“It got so Elizabeth knew my
schedules and expected me between flights. Once
in a while if there was no one around we could whisper
a few words to each other through the glass.”
Frank paused, then said, “As you know, gentlemen,
we robots don’t demand much out of activation.
I think we could have been happy indefinitely with
this simple relationship, except that something happened
to spoil it. I’d pulled in from Vesta late
one afternoon, got my pass as usual from the Robot
Supervisor and gone over to Van Ness Avenue when I
saw immediately that something was the matter with
Elizabeth. Luckily it was getting dark and no
one was around. Elizabeth was alone in the sales
room going through her routine. We were able
to whisper all we like through the glass. She
told me she’d overheard the sales manager complaining
about her low efficiency recently and that he intended
to replace her with a newer model of another series.
Both of us knew what that meant. Materials Reclamation the
Frank realized he’d have to
act at once. He told the girl mech to go to the
rear of the building and between them they managed
to get a window open and Frank lifted her out into
“The seriousness of what I’d
done jammed my thought-relays for a few minutes,”
admitted the big servo. “We panicked and
ran through a lot of back streets until I gradually
calmed down and started thinking clearly again.
Leaving the city would be impossible. Police patrol
jetabouts were cruising all around us in the main
streets they’d have picked up a male
and female mech on sight. Besides, when you’re
on pass the company takes away your master fuse and
substitutes a time fuse; if you don’t get back
on time, you deactivize and the police pick you up
anyway. I began to see that there was only one
way out if we wanted to stay together. It would
mean taking big risks, but if we were lucky it might
work. I explained the plan carefully to Elizabeth
and we agreed to try it. The first step was to
get back to the base in South San Francisco without
being seen. Fortunately no one stopped us and
we made the rocketport by 8:30. Elizabeth hid
while I reported to the Super and traded in my time
fuse for my master. Then I checked servo barracks;
it was still early and I knew the other servos would
all be in town. I had to work quickly. I
brought Elizabeth inside and started dismantling her.
Just as the other mechs began reporting back I’d
managed to get all of her parts stowed away in my
locker. The next day I went to San Francisco
and brought back with me two rolls of lead foil.
While the other servos were on pass I wrapped the
parts carefully in it so the radioactivity from Elizabeth’s
pile wouldn’t be picked up. The rest you
know, gentlemen,” murmured Frank in low, electrical
tones. “Each time I made a trip I carried
another piece of Elizabeth out here concealed in an
ordinary parts box. It took me nearly a year to
accumulate all of her for an assembly.”
When the big servo had finished he
signed the statement Wynn had taken down in his notebook.
I think even the two inspectors were a little moved
by the story because Roberts said: “OK,
Nineteen, you gave us a break, we’ll give you
one. Eight o’clock in the morning be ready
to roll for Earth. Meanwhile you can stay here.”
The next morning only the two inspectors
and Frank Nineteen were standing by the airlock.
“Wait a minute,” I said.
“Aren’t you taking the girl mech, too?”
“Not allowed to tamper with
other companies’ robots,” Wynn said.
“Nineteen gave us a signed confession so we don’t
need the girl as a witness. You’ll have
to contact her employers.”
That same day Min got off a radargram
to Earth explaining to the Atomovair people how a
robot employee of theirs had turned up out here and
what did they want us to do about it. The reply
we received read: RATIONALOID DX78-947 “ELIZABETH”
LOW EFFICIENCY WORKER. HAVE REPLACED. DISPOSE
YOU SEE FIT. TRANSFER PAPERS FORWARDED EARLIEST
IN COMPLIANCE WITH LAW.
“The poor thing,” said
Min. “She’ll have a hard time getting
another job. Robots have to have such good records.”
“I tell you what,” I said.
“We’ll hire her. You could
use some help with the housework.”
So we put the girl mech right to work
making the guests’ beds and helping Min in the
kitchen. I guess she was grateful for the job
but when the work was done, and there wasn’t
anything for her to do, she just stood in front of
a viewport with her slender plastic arms folded over
her waist. Min and I knew she was re-running her
memory tapes of Frank.
A week later the publicity started.
Minor Planets must have let the story leak out somehow
because when the mail rocket dropped off the Bay Area
papers there was Frank’s picture plastered all
over page one with follow-up stories inside.
I read some of the headlines to Min:
“Bare Love Nest in Space ... Mech Romeo
Fired by Minor Planets ... Test Case Opens at
Robot Court ... Electronics Experts Probe Robot
Love Urge ...”
The Io wasn’t mentioned, but
later Minor Planets must have released the whole thing
officially because a bunch of reporters and photographers
rocketed out to interview us and snap a lot of pictures
of Elizabeth. We worried for a while about how
the publicity would affect our business relations
with Minor Planets but nothing happened.
Back on Earth Frank Nineteen leaped
into the public eye overnight. There was something
about the story that appealed to people. At first
it looked pretty bad for Frank. The State Prosecutor
at Robot Court had his signed confession of theft
and what was worse robot fraternization.
But then, near the end of the trial, a young scientist
named Scott introduced some new evidence and the case
was remanded to the Sacramento Court of Appeals.
It was Scott’s testimony that
saved Frank from the junk pile. The big servo
got off with only a light sentence for theft because
the judge ruled that in the light of Scott’s
new findings robots came under human law and therefore
no infraction of justice had been committed. Working
independently in his own laboratory Scott had proved
that the magnetic flux lines in male and female robot
systems, while at first deteriorating to both, were
actually behaving according to the para-emotional
theories of von Bohler. Scott termed the condition
‘hysteric puppy-love’ which, he claimed,
had many of the advantages of human love if allowed
to develop freely. Well, neither Min nor I pretended
we understood all his equations but they sure made
a stir among the scientists.
Frank kept getting more and more publicity.
First we heard he was serving his sentence in the
mech correction center at La Jolla, then we got a
report that he’d turned up in Hollywood.
Later it came out that Galact-A-vision Pictures had
hired Frank for a film and had gone $10,000 bail for
him. Not long after that he was getting billed
all over Terra as the sensational first robot
All during the production of Forbidden
Robot Love Frank remained lead copy for the newspapers.
Reporters liked to write him up as the Valentino of
the Robots. Frank Nineteen Fan Clubs, usually
formed by lonely female robots against their employers’
wishes, sprang up spontaneously through the East and
Middle West. Then somebody found out Frank could
sing and the human teen-agers began to go for him.
It got so everywhere you looked and everything you
read, there was Frank staring you in the face.
Frank in tweeds on the golf course. Frank
at Ciro’s or the Brown Derby in evening clothes.
Frank posing in his sports jetabout against a blue
Meanwhile everybody forgot about Elizabeth
Seven. The movie producers had talked about hiring
her as Frank’s leading lady until they found
out about a new line of female robots that had just
gone on the market. When they screen-tested the
whole series and picked a lovely Mylar rationaloid
named Diana Twelve, it hit Elizabeth pretty hard.
She began to let herself go after that and Min and
I didn’t have the heart to say anything to her.
It was pretty obvious she wasn’t oiling herself
properly, her hair wasn’t brushed and she didn’t
seem to care when one of her photons went dead.
When Forbidden Robot Love premiered
simultaneously in Hollywood and New York the critics
all gave it rave reviews. There were pictures
of Diana Twelve and Frank making guest appearances
all over the country. Back at the Io we got in
the habit of letting Elizabeth watch TV with us sometimes
in the Renting Office and one night there happened
to be an interview with Frank and Diana at the Sands
Hotel in Las Vegas. I guess seeing the pretty
robot starlet and her Frank sitting so close together
in the nightclub must have made the girl mech feel
pretty bad. Even then she didn’t say a
word against the big servo; she just never watched
the set again after that.
When we tabbed up the Io’s receipts
that year they were so good Min and I decided to take
a month off for an Earthside vacation. Min’s
retired brother in Berkeley was nice enough to come
out and look after the place for us while we spent
four solid weeks soaking up the sun in Southern California.
When we got back out to the spotel, though, I could
see there was something wrong by the look on Jim’s
“It’s that girl robot
of yours, Bill,” he said. “She’s
gone and deactivated herself.”
We went right to 22A and found Elizabeth
Seven stretched out on the floor. There was a
screwdriver clutched in her hand and the relay banks
in her side were exposed and horribly blackened.
“Crazy mech shorted out her own DX,” Jim
Min and I knew why. After Jim
left for Earth we dismantled Elizabeth the best we
could and put her back in Frank’s old locker.
We didn’t know what else to do with her.
Anyway, the slack season came and
went and before long we were doing the spring cleaning
again and wondering how heavy the Jovian Moons trade
was going to be. I remember I’d been making
some repairs outside and was just hanging up my spacesuit
in the Renting Office when I heard the radar announcing
It was the biggest Marvin 990 I’d
ever seen that finally suctioned up to the boom and
secured. I couldn’t take my eyes off the
ship. She was pretty near the last word in rockets
and loaded with accessories. It took me a minute
or two before I noticed all the faces looking out of
“Min!” I whispered.
“There’s something funny about those faces.
They look like
“Robots!” Min answered.
“Bill, that 990 is full of mechs!”
Just as she said it a bulky figure
in white space fatigues swung out of the hatch and
hurried up the gangplank. Seconds later it burst
through the airlock.
“Frank Nineteen!” we gasped together.
“Please, where is Elizabeth?”
he hummed anxiously. “Is she all right?
I have to know.”
Frank stood perfectly still when I
told him about Elizabeth’s self-deactivation;
then a pitiful shudder went through him and he covered
his face with his big Neoprene hands.
“I was afraid of that,”
he said barely audibly. “Where you
“No,” I said. “She’s
where you always kept her.”
With that the big servo-pilot took
off for 22A like a berserk robot and we were right
behind him. We watched him tear open his old locker
and gently lay out the girl’s mech’s parts
so he could study them. After a minute or two
he gave a long sigh and said, “Fortunately it’s
not as bad as I thought. I believe I can fix
her.” Frank worked hard over the blackened
relays for twenty minutes, then he set the unit aside
and began assembling the girl. When the final
connections were made and the damaged unit installed
he flicked on her power. We waited and nothing
happened. Five minutes went by. Ten.
Slowly the big robot turned away, his broad shoulders
“I’ve failed,” he
said quietly. “Her DX doesn’t respond
to the gain.”
The girl mech, in her blue dress,
lay there motionless where Frank had been working
on her as the servo-pilot muttered over and over, “It’s
my fault, I did this to you.”
Then Min shouted: “Wait! I heard something!”
There was a slow click of a relay and
movement. Painfully Elizabeth Seven rose on one
elbow and looked around her.
“Frank, darling,” she
murmured, shaking her head. “I know you’re
just old memory tape. It’s all I have left.”
“Elizabeth, it’s really
me! I’ve come to take you away. We’re
going to be together from now on.”
“You, Frank? This
isn’t just old feedback? You’ve come
back to me?”
“Forever, darling. Elizabeth,
do you remember what I said about those wonderful
green little worlds, the asteroids? Darling, we’re
going to one of them! You and the others
will love Alinda, I know you will. I’ve
been there many times.”
“Frank, is your DX all right?
What are you talking about?”
“How stupid of me, darling you
haven’t heard. Elizabeth, thanks to Dr.
Scott, Congress has passed Robot Civil Rights!
And that movie I made helped swing public opinion
to our side. We’re free!
“The minute I heard the news
I applied to Interplanetary for homestead rights on
Alinda. I made arrangements to buy a ship with
the money I’d earned and then I put ads in all
the Robot Wanted columns for volunteer colonizers.
You should have seen the response! We’ve
got thirty robot couples aboard now and more coming
later. Darling, we’re the first pioneer
wave of free robots. On board we have tons of
supplies and parts everything we need for
building a sound robot culture.”
“Frank Nineteen!” said
the girl mech suddenly. “I should be furious
with you. You and that Diana Twelve I
The big servo gave a flat whirring
laugh. “Diana and me? But that was
all publicity, darling. Why, right at the start
of the filming Diana fell in love with Sam Seventeen,
one of the other actors. They’re on board
murmured the girl after a minute. “Oh, Frank,
that means robot government, robot art, robot science
“And robot marriage,”
hummed Frank softly. “There has to be robot
law, too. I’ve thought it all out.
As skipper of the first robot-owned rocket, I’m
entitled to marry couples in deep space at their request.”
“But who marries us, darling? You can’t
do it yourself.”
“I thought of that, too,”
said Frank, turning to me. “This human
gentleman has every right to marry us. He’s
in command of a moving body in space just like the
captain of a ship. It’s perfectly legal,
I looked it up in the Articles of Space. Will
you do it, sir?”
Well, what could I say when Frank
dug into his fatigues and handed me a Gideon prayer
book marked at the marriage service?
Elizabeth and Frank said their I do’s
right there in the Renting Office while the other
robot colonizers looked on. Maybe it was the way
I read the service. Maybe I should have been
a preacher, I don’t know. Anyway, when
I pronounced Elizabeth and Frank robot and wife, that
whole bunch of lovesick mechs wanted me to do the
job for them, too. Big copper work robots, small
aluminum sales-girl mechs, plastoid clerks and typists,
squatty little Mumetal lab servos, rationaloids, non-rationaloids
and just plain sub-robots all sizes and
shapes. They all wanted individual ceremonies,
too. It took till noon the next day before the
last couple was hitched and the 990 left for Alinda.
Like I said, the spotel business isn’t
so different from the motel game back in California.
Sure, you got improvements to make but a new sideline
can get to be pretty profitable if you get
in on the ground floor.
Min and I got to thinking of all those
robot colonizers who’d be coming out here.
Interplanetary cleared the license just last week.
Min framed it herself and hung it next to our orbit
license in the Renting Office. She says a lot
of motel owners do all right as Justices of the Peace.