The pan-galactic pleasure cruiser, Andromeda Dream, had just buzzed by Alpha Centauri when Muriel decided to try her luck in the casino. She normally wasn’t the gambling type, but the champagne cocktail they served on the observation deck left her feeling a bit adventurous. Besides, Hal would have enjoyed the casino and she intended to keep her promise to live life for the both of them.
Muriel stood at the entrance to the Shooting Star Casino overwhelmed by all the flashing multi-colored lights and the competing melodies and chimes from the electronic games. The walls were covered in dark wood and the plush carpet featured a swirling design in blues and greens. The burnished brass ceiling tiles reflected the whole scene and gave the room a golden glow. She wondered if her simple yellow dress and orthopedic sandals were too casual for such a place, but she fluffed her gray hair with her fingers and forged ahead.
A pretty waitress with a dazzling smile offered another champagne cocktail which Muriel gratefully accepted. As she sipped her drink, she circled the room, searching for an entertaining way to lose a few bucks. She knew the rules to blackjack, but the thought of playing with a table full of strangers intimidated Muriel. She’d only ever played cards with Hal. She also knew how to operate a few of the electronic games, but she was overwhelmed by row upon row of blinking, chiming machines.
“May I be of assistance?”
Muriel turned toward the deep, soothing voice, relieved that one of the porters had sensed her distress and was coming to her aid. But when she looked around, she didn’t see a smooth-faced youth in a burgundy uniform. Before her stood a blue robot with a large square head and rectangular body. His mouth was a glowing white bar and the yellow bulbs of his eyes were set within a red housing, giving him a startled expression which belied his calm voice.
“Oh. Hello.” Muriel managed to reply after her initial shock.
“You appear hesitant,” said the robot. “It is my pleasure to assist you or answer any questions you may have.”
The cocktail probably helped, but Muriel found herself liking this robot. His formal speech was charming and she always did love the color blue. “I have no real experience with casinos,” she said. “I have no idea where to begin.”
A door slid open on the robot’s body revealing three spinning panels common in old-fashioned slot machines. Pictures of stars and planets and rockets rotated in and out of sight. “Are you familiar with the rules of this type of game?”
“Yes,” said Muriel. “But I haven’t seen one in ages.”
“If you like, you could try your luck with me. There is no prize, however the outcome will determine where in the casino you venture first. ”
Muriel smiled. A game to decide which game to play. How wonderful! “I would like that very much, thank you,” she said.
“It is my pleasure.”
Muriel knew his responses were programmed, however his lovely deep voice made him sound genuinely pleased. For the first time since she boarded the ship alone two days ago, she felt at ease.
“All you must do,” said the robot, “is say the word ‘stop’ and this will pause the tumblers. Whenever you are ready, you may say the word.”
“Okay,” she said as she set her empty cocktail glass on a nearby table. She then walked up to the robot, closer than she was before, and clasped her hands to her chest. The panels spun round and round and she knew it was impossible to try to anticipate which picture would be shown. After a short pause she said, “Stop.”
One by one, three red rocket ships settled into place across the front of the robot. Muriel knew that if this were a real slot machine, she would have hit the jackpot.
“Congratulations,” said the robot. “You have selected the Ruby Rocket game. It is quite simple to learn and has statistically some of the most lucrative payouts in the whole casino.”
Muriel clapped her hands and laughed. “That sounds wonderful!” she said. “Will you show me where it is and get me started?”
“Of course,” said the robot in that low, soothing voice of his. “And if you find that the Ruby Rocket is unsatisfactory, I could show you one of several other games that you may enjoy.”
The robot walked down the aisle of games and Muriel followed. “Oh, my Hal would have loved this,” she said as she took in all the excitement blinking and buzzing around her. “He was always doing fun things. Even joined a barbershop quartet once.” Without realizing, she had wrapped her hand around the robot’s metal arm, allowing him to lead her like an old friend. “He was a baritone,” she whispered with a smile.
Don’t adjust your browser. You’re at the right place. I know it’s hard to tell since no one died and nothing exploded. I am capable of writing stories with happy endings. I just don’t do it often. I suppose the few days I just spent at the beach with all the red wine I could drink put me in a good mood. Don’t get used to it.
If you’d like to know what all this is about, please visit my Robot-A-Month page.