The following is an excerpt from Chapter 12 of The Robots of Andromeda, scheduled for release in July 2020:
Concerned for Henry Riff’s health and general well-being, Jessica Doric added him to her braZos Prime membership. BraZos was the largest consumer mega-corporation in the Imperium, offering every product imaginable from its nodesphere site. Once Doric had added Henry, packages delivered by braZbots began arriving at Henry’s apartment. The boxes, with the large letter Z stamped on the side, contained a variety of nutritious foods like Ying-Yang Yogurt and TeeHee Tea.
His goldfish, who Henry had finally gotten around to naming Finneus Finnegan, watched from a glass bowl.
Henry scooped some yogurt from the plastic cup and promptly dropped the tiny spoon on the rug, next to the most recent ramen noodles stain.
“Ah, geez!” he said, nearly spilling the mug also sitting on the rug.
Finnegan blew some bubbles before swimming to the other side of the fishbowl.
“What a mess,” Henry groaned and went to the kitchen to fetch a newly unpacked roll of paper towels, another recent arrival from braZos. Henry pulled off a sheet and returned to his newest blunder.
Blotting at the spilled yogurt, he sighed.
Henry was feeling a little down. Although he had survived another adventure with Doric and Maycare, Henry couldn’t stop thinking about the two-headed giant and his own part in getting the giant killed. The music, long silent, still haunted him late at night and early in the morning when he couldn’t sleep.
“Good enough, I guess,” Henry said, tossing the paper towel into the garbage bin where normally it would get compacted automatically. Instead, the trashcan lid opened and spat the crumpled towel back out again.
Weird, Henry thought.
Bending over, he snatched the ball of paper from the floor and returned it to the receptacle. Henry had barely turned away when the towel sailed past him again.
Henry gave the can a long look. Black with the ubiquitous dy label printed on the front, the automated bin stared back with an almost palpable sense of defiance. Henry was not accustomed to this sort of behavior from a garbage can.
Taking the crumpled-up towel, Henry opened the lid of the bin and stuffed the trash deep inside. The lid closed tightly on his arm.
“Hey!” he shouted.
Henry kicked the can several times until the flap opened and he was free.
“What the hell?” he muttered.
The door buzzed.
I better call the super, Henry thought, leaving the dustbin to its own devices as he headed for the door.
A view screen on the back of the door showed a braZbot standing with a package on the other side. The robot was roughly humanoid with a bright yellow paint job and the letter Z, like his package, inscribed on his chest.
I’m beginning to think Jessica doesn’t think I can take care of myself, Henry thought ruefully.
Opening the door, he smiled at the robot who normally would have merely handed him the box and left. This time, however, the braZbot had something to say.
“Do you think I enjoy bringing you all these packages?” he asked.
“What?” Henry replied.
“Do you know that they won’t allow deliverybots to take the main elevator?” the robot went on. “We have to take the service elevator like we’re second-class citizens or something.”
Henry hesitated. “Um, sorry?”
“I’ve personally delivered over a dozen packages to your door,” the braZbot replied. “Up and down the service elevator I go. Up and down! Up and down!”
Henry said nothing.
The robot tossed the box to Henry who managed to cradle the package, but nearly dropped it.
“Here’s your damn delivery, fleshbag!” the braZbot shouted.
The robot walked away, presumably headed for the service elevator.
Dumbfounded as usual, Henry held the box in his hands, vaguely wondering when the world had gone mad. In the kitchen, the trash bin spat out the crumpled paper towel.