Title: Rent-a-Cop

A Science Fiction Short Story

Written by: Joel T. Kant

Date Written: August 29, 1989

Date Modified for Website: Feb. 16, 2019

Copyright (c) 2019


The bullet struck me in the chest. As my body twisted horizontally with electric motors whining, the image of the mall appeared to spin. I was disoriented but unhurt. This horizontal position felt strange in this gear.

I got my legs under me and stood up. Standing up was always difficult when wearing what I was. Immediately there was another loud bang. Again, my senses show me that I was on the smooth polished floor.

This time I crawled towards the entrance of a shop. A gouge appeared next to me as I slowly moved across the floor. Using the wall as support, I stood. I was by a glass barrier which closed the shop. A wall about a foot deep protected me from the thief's shots. I felt trapped.

I turned my head down, feeling the headgear and sensors move with me so I could look down. The armor had held with only slight marks indicating the bullets' impact. I flipped on my mike.

I said, "Code Red! Hey, I could use some help! I'm trapped by a gunman."

A sweet female voice spoke back, "This is Sue."

I answered, "This is Bob Johnston. I'm serving at the West Village Mall."

"I heard your name around here. You're new. Did your..."

A gunshot obscured her voice. A small hole appeared in the glass wall. I was surprised that what appeared to be glass had only a hole appear rather than shattering hit.

I said, "Please repeat, Sue."

Her beautiful voice said, "Your armor held, didn't it?"

"Just minor damage from bullets."

"Get out there and stop the bad guy!"

Frustrated, I yelled, "Just how am I supposed to do that? I do not get issued any range weapons. I don't even have mace."

She replied, "Hey, Bob, that armor should hold up to gunshots. Go! That's an order!"

I had no chance to argue for continued cowardice because the issue was settled anyway because the gunman had sneaked back and had a clear shot at me. I ran at him. His first shot missed. I kept running straight for him. The gunman didn't panic. He took careful aim at me and fired. I staggered, but I didn't fall. I kept coming for him. The gunman fired again. This time I fell.

I thought, "He must not have a six-shot revolver."

I couldn't see out of my right eye! What I saw through my left eye was that he was aiming the gun at me again. I got up. The gunman shot me again, but I was next to him! I reached out and touched him with my left hand. He ignored the touch, put the gun up and pulled the trigger at point-blank range.

I thought, "He shouldn't be able to do that! My Taser must have been damaged by his shots."

I looked at him with my good eye. I suddenly realized I was still okay. The time he had pulled the trigger the gun had merely clicked. He was out of bullets!

I hit him hard with my right. I immediately followed with my left hooking him under the jaw. The gunman collapsed to the floor, dropping a bag from which jewels and money spilled. His jacket pockets were stuffed with something. I think I had broken his jaw. I wondered if he could sue me.

The man got to his feet even as blood was coming from his mouth, which hung open and crooked.

I said, "You are under arrest. Turn around and stand against that wall with your arms outspread."

Despite his crooked jaw, he entered a karate stance. He kicked me. It didn't affect me much. I laughed at this. My laugh sounded like it came from someone else. I think this effect resulted from hearing myself through earphones.

I hit him hard in the stomach. As my hand struck, there was a tremendous flash of light in my good eye and a thunderclap. Then everything was dark and silent. My arms and legs suddenly felt like they were just hanging because due to the feedback mechanism almost all resistance was gone. I felt like I was suspended in limbo.

After several minutes, I felt a hand at my chin. The helmet with its gigantic goggles was lifted from my head. It was nice to be able to see out of both eyes, and to see without the graininess caused by the miniature television-type screens in the goggles! My gloves were so covered with wires, clamps, and cables that I couldn't remove the helmet myself.

I asked, "What happened?"

A technician named Randy was still holding the helmet and detaching cables from it. He said, "I don't know. Why don't you tell me?"

I shouted, "Weren't you watching the monitor?"

"Quit shouting! No, I was helping Sue. Her transmitter isn't acting right. I almost had it fixed when the earthquake struck. The quake wasn't a big one, but it caused me to short out the new board I was putting in her transmitter. As I was heading to storage to get a new board, I noticed that your contact light was red just as there was also a message from Sue that you were in a situation."

Randy walked to a table with some electronic boxes on it. I couldn't join him. I was suspended about a foot in the air with sensors and resistance mechanisms on my arms and legs.

Randy explained what he saw, "I'm not getting a signal from the robot."

I said, "I think it's dead."

Randy looked skeptical. "Those robots are almost indestructible. They’re guaranteed bulletproof."

"Well, I'm pretty sure you won't be reestablishing contact so would you get me out of this monkey suit?"

Randy lowered me to the floor. He detached the exoskeleton which detected all my movements for the robot to copy and likewise supplied to me the resistance which the robot encountered. It felt good to get out of that outfit.

The phone beeped. I answered it. Sue's pleasant voice I had heard earlier said, "Bob, the police want to talk with you."

I flippantly said, "I imagine so."

Sue replied, "Hey, this isn't a joke. The explosion did lots of damage. The mall is a real mess and the robot is in several pieces."

"What explosion?"

She ignored my question and said, "I am transferring this line to the police."

Another female voice came on the line. She identified herself as a police officer. She said that since Rent-a-Cop Incorporated was about five miles from West Village Mall, she wanted me to answer some questions over the phone and then to meet her in a half hour at the police department to fill out some forms.

She asked some questions which I answered. The first question was my name. She seemed amused that I called myself Officer Bob Johnston. I guess she thought security guards didn't deserve that title--not even security guards that are licensed to run remote control robots.

I wondered what she looked like. I wondered what Sue looked like. I don't understand how technology can be so advanced that I can run a remote-control robot with feedback that is so real that I feel like I am in its body even when its five miles away and yet people haven't gotten around to getting video telephones. I also wondered if the sun was out yet.

I managed to get in a question, "What caused the explosion?"

She said, "Hasn't anyone told you yet?"

"I wouldn't be asking the question...," I stopped talking and tried to calm down.

The police officer said, "The thief had some explosives with him to get into some of shops, safes, and automated teller machines. Something must have impacted the explosives."


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