Split Infinity
probability of a threat to me or to your horses. May I elucidate by posing a question?”
    “Now.” The voice was impatient.
    “Sir, I am accompanied by a humanoid robot programmed to guard me from harm. Did you send her?”
    “No.”
    “Then another Citizen may have done so. My suspicion is that a competitor could have sugarcoated a bomb-“
    “No!” Sheen cried in horror.
    “Get that thing away from my horses!” the Citizen snapped. “My security squad will handle it.”
    “Sheen, dismount and run!” Stile cried. “Away from us, until the squad hails you.”
    She leaped out of the saddle and ran through the trees.
    “Sir,” Stile said.
    “What is it now. Stile?” The impatience was stronger.
    “I plead: be gentle with her. She means no harm.”
    There was no answer. The Citizen was now tuning in on the activity of his security squad. Stile could only hope. If this turned out to be a false alarm, he would receive a reprimand for his carelessness in bringing Sheen to these premises unverified, and she might be returned to him intact. His employer was cognizant of the human factor in the winning of races, just as Stile was aware of the equine factor. There was no point in prejudicing the spirit of a jockey before a race.
    But if Sheen did in fact represent a threat, such as an explosive device planted inside her body and concealed from her knowledge—
    Stile waited where he was for ten minutes, while the two horses fidgeted, aware of his nervousness. He had certainly been foolish; he should have checked with his employer at the outset, when he first caught on that Sheen was a robot. Had not his liking for her blinded him—as perhaps it was supposed to—he would have realized immediately that a robot-covered bomb would make a mockery of her prime directive to guard him from harm. How could she protect him from her own unanticipated destruction? Yet now he was imposing on her another rape—
    “She is clean,” the concealed speaker said. “I believe one of my friends has played a practical joke on me.   Do you wish to keep her?”
    “Sir, I do.” Stile felt immense relief. The Citizen was taking this with good grace.
    Again, there was no response. The Citizen had better things to do than chat with errant serfs. But in a moment Sheen came walking back through the foliage. She looked the same—but as she reached him, she dissolved into tears.
    Stile jumped down and took her in his arms. She clung to him desperately. “Oh, it was horrible!” she sobbed. “They rayed me and took off my head and dismantled my body—“
    “The security squad is efficient,” Stile agreed. “But they put you back together again, as good as before.”
    “I can’t believe that! Resoldered connections aren’t as strong as the originals, and I think they damaged my power supply by shorting it out. I spoke of rape last night, but I did not know the meaning of the term!”
    And this was the gentle treatment! Had Stile not pleaded for her, and had he not been valuable to the Citizen, Sheen would have been junked without compunction. It would not have occurred to the Citizen to consider her feelings, or even to realize that a robot had feelings. Fortunately she had turned out clean, no bomb or other threat in her, and had been restored to him. He had been lucky. “Sir: thank you.”
    “Just win that race,” the speaker said grumpily.
    There it was, without even the effort to conceal it: the moment Stile’s usefulness ended, he would be discarded with no further concern. He had to keep winning races!
    “You pleaded for me,” Sheen said, wiping her eyes with her fingers. “You saved me.”
    “I like you,” Stile admitted awkwardly.
    “And I love you. And oh. Stile, I can never—“
    He halted her protestations with a kiss. What use to dwell on the impossible? He liked her, and respected her—but they both knew he could never, this side of sanity, actually love a machine.
    They remounted and continued their ride

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