Friday, April 29, 2022

Dawn of Time • Episode 4: “As American as robots and apple pie”

Written by Pete Wood

Continued from Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3

The story thus far: 32nd Century high school student Dawn Anderson is having a really bad day. Needing a better grade in History, she “borrowed” her father’s TimePak to take a short jaunt back to the 20th Century, only to make a perfectly innocent mistake involving a stolen handgun and a too-hot McDonald’s cherry pie. Now, instead of returning home, she is bouncing from disaster to catastrophe, each one worse than the one before. After being chased down the streets by a bunch of clowns, narrowly avoiding becoming dinosaur chow, missing out on participating in the Chicxulub extinction event, and making a new friend just in time to save her from drowning on the Titanic, she’s landed in what seems to be a nice, safe place, only to hear

“Exterminate all humans!” a metallic voice blared from some unseen loudspeaker.

Had we messed up 3204? I looked around in panic, then I relaxed. This was the robot uprising of 2347. Every school kid knew about it. Or was supposed to. I wished I had paid more attention in class.

Smoke and fire everywhere. An ice cream truck, its music playing insanely fast, headed straight for a crowd of kids. They jumped clear.

Stella tugged at my sleeve. “Perhaps we could find a house?”

“You can’t trust the robot butlers and maids,” I said. “All the robots rebelled.”

“You sure about that?” Stella asked.

Come to think of it, I wasn’t sure about that. I remembered something from class. The household bots hadn’t joined in the revolt.

I dragged my new kid sister to the nearest house, one of those classic hovering domes they hadn’t made in centuries.

I told Stella about the Timepak and the Titanic as we sprinted to the house. I thought she got it.

We made it to the front stoop. Lucky for us, the doors opened, and we entered a foyer. A fire crackled. Classical music played.

A sleek white robot glided over. “Welcome strangers,” it cooed. “May I be of assistance?”

“Do you have apple pie?” I asked.

“I regret that the Cuisinator 2400 is at market. Due to the um, unpleasantness outside. Some robots don’t know their place. I do not know when the maid will return.”

“You got chocolate milk?” Stella asked.

The robot bowed. “Certainly.”

A light shimmered. A figure appeared. Becky Heston in her stupid cheerleader outfit. God, I hated Becky Heston.

She smirked. “You’re so easy to track, Dawn.”

I forced a smile. “Hello, Becky.”

She held out two McDonald’s apple pies. “I hope you stocked up.”

“Could we borrow one, please?” I asked.

“Sorry. Can’t spare any dessert, sweetie.” She tapped her time belt. Nothing but smoke.

“You got the power. I have the machine,” I said.

Fine!” Becky sighed and gave me a pie. The other went into her backpack.

A tiny light sparkled in front of Becky. Something flew out and hit her. Hot gooey apple pie dripped down her face and onto her uniform.

“You did that on purpose!” Becky snapped.

I couldn’t stop laughing. Neither could Stella.

“I have no idea where that pie came from,” I managed to say after a few seconds.

“You lying tramp,” Becky said.

“Honestly, Becky, I had nothing to do with it.”

The robot butler appeared with a damp towel and chocolate milk. “Oh, my goodness,” it said. “Apple pie all over your face, Miss.”

Becky snatched the towel but did not thank him. Stella grinned and accepted the chocolate milk. She thanked the robot several times.

 Becky wiped off her face and blouse and threw the towel on the floor.

“No wonder they’re so upset outside,” the butler muttered.

Stella, Becky, and I locked hands. I flipped the switch and the machine took us—

Somewhere colder than the worst winter. Ice. Howling wind.

And Becky in a cheerleading skirt.


Next week: “Episode 5: The cave that time forgot”


Pete Wood is an attorney in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he lives with his kind and very patient wife. His first appearance in our pages was “Mission Accomplished” in the now out-of-print August 2012 issue. After publishing a lot of stories with us he graduated to being a regular contributor to Analog and Asimov’s, but he’s still kind enough to send us things we can publish from time to time, and we’re always happy to get them.



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