Portrait of the geek as a young man: Author Robert Gillis hard at work writing, 1985.
Portrait of the geek as a young man: Author Robert Gillis hard at work writing a story on his trusty TI-99 4/a computer, 1985.

Another vignette from “the Abucs Scenario.”
Tripp encounters JB’s robot, and David gets a new toy. (1985)
by Robert Gillis

As he headed for the lab, Tripp was, for a brief moment, very happy. With the exception of yesterday afternoon when JB used the computer to open, shut and lock the computer room door, nothing unusual had happened to him. He was about to increase the volume of his Sony Walkman when static flooded his headphones, and he heard the word, “Bloop!”

Something was tugging on his shirt.


An object that looked like a cross between a fire hydrant and a Christmas tree blinked at Tripp. “PLAY TAG?”

“It’s only another dream. Humor the little metal guy,” Tripp thought to himself. Then he addressed the robot. “Uh, no. Actually, I have to go back to the lab. My Chemistry book is there.”


“You know JB?”

“DADDY!” Floyd said.

Tripp screamed and fled for the lab. Floyd followed. “BLOOP! BLOOP! BLOOP!”

Interestingly, in the very lab housing Tripp’s forgotten book, David was quickly shaking his head.


“Come on, David! Think of the protection it offers!”

“I don’t know. I mean, lightsabres. They’re not standard government issue,” David said, taking the cylindrical object from JB’s hand. Bill and Bob also looked on.

JB was insistent. “If you’re going to be chasing Russian agents, you’ll need this. Now be careful, and press the button. It responds only to your fingerprints.”

Deciding to humor JB, David complied. A blade of purple light exploded from the handle.

“Nisseee,” Bob said.

Dancing around, David attacked the air in front of him. “Obi Wan has taught you well, young Skywalker, but the dark side of the force is strong within me!”

The blade of the lightsabre grazed a lab table, which subsequently exploded and crashed to the floor. Examining the weapon, David said softly, “It really is a lightsabre. A real lightsabre!”

“Of course,” JB said.

“I,” David said, “am delighted.”

JB continued, “I also have bottle rockets that achieve escape velocity, a working thermal detonator, a prototype protonic reversal beam, a computer program to compute satellite orbits and a little program I’ve been working on to change satellite orbits.”

David nodded. “In any case, this is a work of art, JB. A real, working lightsabre.”

“How about a better mousetrap?” Bob asked.

“I’m waiting for the plutonium to come in.”


“I’ve also perfected a chromatic orb, a trilithium isotope, recumbent DNA — ”

“We get the idea, JB.”

“Wait, Bill. I haven’t told them about the binary chute, or the oxygen tablets, or the prime number generator formula, or — ”

“You just did, JB. Now, kindly explain to our friend here how to operate his toy.”

A scream was heard outside, and suddenly Tripp burst into the lab, being chased by an object that looked something like a fire hydrant and a Christmas tree.

“Get him away! Get him away!” Tripp pleaded.


Tripp ducked as the little robot went flying over his head. Unable to control his speed, Floyd smashed into a huge shelf of lab equipment, sending flying glass in every direction.

“OH OH,” Floyd said.

“Floyd!” JB snapped.

“BLOOP?” Floyd blooped.

“I told you to leave Tripp alone!”


“Floyd! Go home!”


“Affirmative. Jaybee mad.”


“Go home. Now.”

With a white flash of light, Floyd was gone. Bob gave his best condescending smile and approached the robot’s creator.

“JB, I think I speak for all of us in asking you the following: WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?”

JB shrugged. “That’s Floyd.”

Engrossed in equations he was scribbling on a clipboard, Bill said, “Of course, Bob. How could you be so blind? He’s a little robot that JB’s been working on. Really very stupid.”

“Fine,” David said, “Just fine. That’s just… lovely. How did he vanish like that?”

“Actually,” JB explained, “That’s one of my more low budget effects. Floyd simply fires off a hundred flashbulbs and gets out before the glare has died down.”

“No. No! This is too weird!” Tripp sobbed, walking over to the lab table where he’d left his chem book. The book, as well as the table, was still smoldering from being recently attacked.

“Tripp, I can explain,” David said, “…I simply do not wish to.”

“I think we’ve created a monster,” JB said with a smile.

Hello There!

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