Choc looked around at the maze of boxes. “Steve, where’s the whiskey?”
Steve appeared from behind a stack of containers further down the room. “The whiskey is directly behind of you, Miss Harvey. In the box marked ‘Whiskey’.”
“Ah yes,” Choc crowbarred the lid off and pulled out a bottle. Steve appeared beside her with a glass full of ice.
“Don’t need that,” said Choc, taking the top off the bottle and gulping the whiskey straight down. Steve buzzed.
“Miss Harvey, this is not the time to get drunk,” he said.
“We’re in an abandoned Australian mine, miles from any civilisation, being pursued by government agents, with life as we know it being destroyed by genetically manipulated balls of fur. This is the perfect time to get drunk.” She took a swig of whiskey. “How many outstanding projects do I have? What was I working on before I got caught up in that Smibble project anyway?”
“You were developing the super-radish for Mr Brain, Miss Harvey.”
“Oh yes. Well maybe I can work it up to grow here. I’m going to need to eat something.” She took another gulp of whiskey.
“Drink, on the other hand, seems to be no problem,” said Steve.
“Don’t you judge me,” said Choc. “Get me the project spec for the radish. I need to get some seeds planted. And less of your lip Steve A’Dore.”
“Yes, Miss Harvey.” Steve began opening boxes, accompanied by a twittering TAMaxwell.
“Shouldn’t that Smibble be in stasis?” asked Choc. “The last thing I need out here is to have to feed a pet.”
“TAMaxwell is helping me expand my programming,” said Steve. “I will take responsibility for it.”
“Just as long as it doesn’t use up any supplies – and keep it away from my whiskey. I’m going to bed.” Choc picked up the bottle and headed out of the door.
Waking in the darkness some time later, Choc spent a few moments searching for a bedside light she eventually realised wasn’t there. By the light coming in under the door, she narrowly avoided skidding on the empty whiskey bottle, and went to turn out the lab lights.
“Steve, what are you doing?” Choc looked from the unpacked boxes at one end of the room to Steve, TAMaxwell and a screen full of data at the other. “That’s not radish data,” she said. “Haven’t you unpacked the seeds yet? And do you realise what the time is?”
“It is 3:47 am, Miss Harvey,” replied Steve. “I am reviewing your Smibble data along with TAMaxwell to see how it might be possible to stop the Smibbles from over-running the planet.”
“Oh please,” said Choc, taking the cap off another bottle of whiskey. “I told you it’s pointless. I bet there’s rioting already.” She flipped the monitor over to the news channel where a flustered Dave Beige attempted to articulate the horrors happening around him.
“See, what’d I tell you? Pointless,” Choc went to take a swig of whiskey, but suddenly her hand was empty and Steve hovered three inches in front of her face. “Hey, give that back.”
“I must protest, Miss Harvey. This has gone far enough,” said Steve. Choc groped for the bottle.
“Oh, come on Steve, give me the bottle.”
“Miss Harvey, you have had enough.” He dropped the bottle. Choc went to grab it, but Steve was faster. Landing on the bottle just as it bounced, Steve crushed it to pieces. Choc could only watch, awed, as Steve then proceeded to destroy the only two cases of whiskey they had brought with them.
“But! But! Steve!” Choc protested, gesticulating uselessly at the broken glass and pool of whiskey covering the floor.
“No, Miss Harvey. You are my friend. I cannot allow you to destroy yourself like this. You have a responsibility.”
Choc turned to the screen and pointed. Thousands of Smibbles were marching in tiny Roman legionnaire outfits, some armed with butter knives and oyster forks. “I can’t fix that, not by myself.”
“You don’t have to,” said Steve. “TAMaxwell and I will help. You said something about cooperation.”
When Choc remained silent, Steve continued, “Miss Harvey, you said that you wanted to save humanity. This is your chance to do exactly that.”
“But I wanted to save it from itself,” said Choc, screwing up her eyes and pinching the bridge of her nose.
“I believe that will still be the case,” replied Steve.
“Oh, all right,” Choc sat down heavily on a stool, “but could I at least have a cup of peppermint tea first.”