There were pieces everywhere; he had to step carefully over half the torso to get to the head, pick it up, look into the now-unlit eyes. He'd sent the Binkster down to patch a pinhole meteor puncture, and then another one, a larger one, hit in almost the same spot. He felt his heart beating fast, a post-traumatic leftover from the long-ago strike that had cost him his left leg. "Sorry, bud."
His ears popped as the air cycler switched into high gear, fans mounted far up into the ductwork spinning up, sucking out smoke and fumes to be filtered out and heat to be stored. He didn't scramble for a breather: the patch was holding, and clean air would seep down from the upper levels.
His walkie-talkie crackled to life. "I mean, it's not like it hurt."
Binky's voice. Creepy, hearing it while holding the lifeless metal head in his hands. "Where are you?"
"I really have no idea. It's cramped, I'll say that."
Cramped. "Cramped is a descriptor for a physical space, Binkmeister. Are you in a physical space? Because I'm looking at what's left of your physical body right now."
"I think I'm uploaded somewhere. Maybe there's an emergency backup? Did you ever read the manual?"
He'd never gotten around to it. "Not as such."
"You were supposed to read the manual."
"Usually the manual is a waste of time, and they didn't even bother to send an English copy with you, so I'd have to translate it from Japanese using the computer, and that never works right." He put the head back down onto the floor, gingerly, with respect. "So what do you want to do about this, Binko-me-boy? Do you think you can hang out wherever it is you are until we can get a new chassis delivered? That'll be three months, at least."
"I'd say that would depend on where I am exactly. I don't think I'm in the main computer, because I'd have access, and I don't. I'm pretty sure I'm in a subsystem's flash memory. Those get wiped regularly as part of routine maintenance."
"I'll tell the computer to stop doing that for now."
"That'll effect performance. And thus, since many of those systems have to do with life support, safety."
"I said 'for now'. Just until we figure out where you are and transfer you over to the main computer. You'll be safe there."
He eyed the patch: it would hold, at least in the short term. Long enough for him to climb the ladder back up to control — itself a challenging task even with his biomechanical leg — and sort out the Binkinator.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Six hours later: "I can't find you."
"Where have you looked?"
"Everywhere. You're not in any subsystems I can access from here. You're also not in a secure partition of the main computer or a satellite system with access to comms. You've got to be in something standalone, something closed-circuit, and you're hacked into the communication network somehow."
"Wouldn't I remember doing that?"
"Not necessarily. Not if you did it while still being written."
"What did the manual say?"
"There's nothing in the manual about an automatic backup triggered by system damage." He added, with some disgust in his voice, "At least, if my translated keyword search is any indication."
"Is it possible I'm still in part of my body? The head, for example?"
"No power." He sat back in the chair. Binks had to be somewhere. "Where would you want to go?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, think about it: this would feel to you like an instinctive reaction. Where would you go if you didn't have time to think about where to go?"
"I have no idea. Probably wherever you were."
The robot had been damaged before: an overload in a power system had given Binklestein a shock, burning out some circuits. He had come looking for his master, as if he had been programmed to do it, as a child would run to its mother. "I was in the bathtub. There's nothing in the bathroom with flash memory."
"Did you notice anything when the meteoroid struck?"
"I was too busy falling down."
"Why did you fall down? The impact should not have been that strongly felt in that section of the ship."
"I tried to get out too fast, I forgot I wasn't wearing my—"
His prosthetic leg had flash memory. It was adaptive: had a gyroscope and microchip and flash memory, so that it might learn how he moved and assist him to walk. And it was close to him when the meteoroid hit, almost as close as is was now.
"You're in my leg."
"You theorize that I am in your prosthetic leg."
"Theory, nothing, Binkadink; you're in the leg. It's the only place you could be. Guess where my walkie-talkie has been clipped this whole time?"
"To your leg?"
"Well, to my belt, but it's hanging against my leg. You're probably using the leg's circuitry to produce RF interference, and that's how I'm hearing you." He unstrapped the harness and pushed the button that released the prosthetic from the implant in his thighbone.
"How do you propose to upload me from the leg's internal memory to the main computer?"
"Not sure. If you got in while it was plugged into the wall, charging, you should be able to get out the same way."
"I'm not sure why I don't remember doing any of this."
"Well, the leg's memory is small. I mean, small. You probably had to leave behind a lot when you came over. You possibly even intentionally overwrote yourself as you were directing your own file transfer. Let's get you moved—"
"Can't I stay in the leg?"
It was a strange thought: walking around with Binkman inhabiting part of his body. "Why?"
"I'm not sure. I'd feel safer."
Sigh. "All right. But just until a new chassis is delivered."