Latest By

Artificial Intelligence
Data Storage
Input Devices
Living Space
Space Tech
Virtual Person

"Looking back through history, I see no evidence for humanity making the best of things, and I think it's a pretty safe bet that's an on-going trend."
- Richard Morgan

Dope Mule Robot  
  A metal sphere that propels itself with a single piston-like foot.  

It's a little delivery robot, with a GPS locator so you can get your stuff delivered anywhere, anytime.

Then she saw it too. A bouncing machine. Something very much like a camouflage-painted kangaroo.

It was crossing the hills with vast, unerring, twenty-meter leaps. A squat metal sphere, painted in ragged patches of dun and olive drab. It had a single thick, pistoning, metal leg.

The bounding robot whipped that single metal leg around with dreadful unerring precision, like some nightmare one-legged pirate. It whacked its complex metal foot against the earth like a hustler's cue whacking a pooi ball, and it bounded off instantly, hard. The thing spent most of its time airborne, a splotchy cannonball spinning on its axis and kicking like a flea against the Texan earth. It was doing a good eighty klicks an hour. As it got closer she saw that its underside was studded with grilled sensors.

It gave a final leap and, God help her, a deft little somersault, and it landed on the earth with a brief hiss of sucked-up impact. Instantly, a skinny little gunmetal tripod flicked Out from beneath it, like a triple set of hinged switchblades.

And there it sat, instantly gone as quiet as a coffee table, not ten meters away from them.

"All right," she said. "What is that thing?"

"It's a dope mule. From my friends in Matamoros."

"Oh, Jesus."

"Look," he said, "relax. It's just a cheaper street version of Charlie, your car! Charlie's a smuggler's vehicle, and this is a smuggler's vehicle. It's just that instead of having two hundred smart spokes and driver's seats and roll bars like that big kick-ass car does, it's only got one spoke. One spoke, and a gyroscope inside, and a global positioning system." He shrugged. "And some mega chip inside so it never runs into anything and no cop ever sees it."

"Oh," she groaned. "Yeah, this is great, Alex."

"It'll carry, I dunno, maybe forty kilos merchandise. No big deal. Dope people have hundreds of these things now. They don't cost much to make, so it's like a toy for 'em.

"Why didn't you tell me about this?"

"Are you kidding? Since when do I ask your permission to do anything?" He walked up to the mule.

She hurried after him. "You'd better not."

"Get away from there!" he yelped. "They're hot-wired." Jane jumped back warily, flinching, and Alex chuckled with pleasure.

"Tamperproof! Put in the wrong password, and the sucker explodes on the spot and destroys all the evidence! And what's more-if you're not, like, their friend? Or they're tired of dealing with you? Then sometimes they just booby-trap it, and blow you away the second you touch the keypad."

He laughed. "Don't look so glum. That's all just legend, really. Doper brag talk. The dope vaqueros hardly ever blow anyone up. You and me both know the border doesn't mean anything anymore. There are no more borders. Just free and open markets!" He chuckled merrily. "They can send me whatever the hell they want. Dope, explosives, frozen human hearts, who cares? They're just another delivery service."

Alex punched a long string of numbers, with exaggerated care, into a telephone keypad welded into the top of the mule. The robot mulled the matter over, then hissed open on a stainless-steel hinge, showing a big rubber 0-ring around its midsection.

From Heavy Weather, by Bruce Sterling.
Published by Bantam in 1994
Additional resources -

Compare to the Hopper from Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus (1954) by Isaac Asimov.

Comment/Join this discussion ( 0 ) | RSS/XML | Blog This |

Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Heavy Weather
  More Ideas and Technology by Bruce Sterling
  Tech news articles related to Heavy Weather
  Tech news articles related to works by Bruce Sterling

Dope Mule Robot-related news articles:
  - Prototype Jockey-Ridden Hopping Robot
  - Precision Urban Hopper Robot Must 'Stick' Landings
  - Precision Urban Hopper Leaps Fence Video
  - 'Air Hopper' Robot Grasshopper
  - Disney Hopping Robot, From Disney Research
  - Just Eat And Starship Bring You Food Via Robot

Articles related to Robotics
Soft Robotics - Now With 3D Printed Sensors!
Scaly Yet Soft Robotic Snake
Tiny Rubbery Robot To Take 'Fantastic Voyage'
Disney Vyloo Robots With Personality

Want to Contribute an Item? It's easy:
Get the name of the item, a quote, the book's name and the author's name, and Add it here.





Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.





More News

Save Your Brain's Connectome, Upload Yourself Elsewhere
'You've got remote storage. How regular is the update?'

TMS Decreases Belief In God, Increases Belief In Immigrants
'... setting up the same currents, the same basic ideas, in them all.'

Loomo Mini Transporter Robot Companion You Ride On
'Slowly the [robot] horse raised its head, wiggled its ears, blinked twice, gave a tentative whinny.'

Soft Robotics - Now With 3D Printed Sensors!
'A series of chemelectric afferent nerve-analogues, which permitted it to gauge to an ounce the amount of pressure necessary to snap a bone...'

AI Tool Lynx Insight And The Cybernetic Newsroom
'The structure,... was once a great homeostatic newspaper, the New York Times. It printed itself directly below us...'

Espresso Telescope Searches For Exoplanets
'These instruments were the wonderful ones our astronomers had perfected.'

Dune Fans! Metal-Organic Frameworks Make Science Fiction Real
'Dew collectors,' he muttered, enchanted by the simple beauty of such a scheme.

Manned Maneuvering Unit From 1984
'The glittering little rocket bolted to the black iron behind him.'

Astronaut Gets Younger In Space
'So what we're looking for now is not an antibiotic - an anti-life drug - but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug...'

Blockchain Used To Verify Election Results
'Any adult could punch into the phone his or her code, followed by a yes or no.'

More SF in the News

More Beyond Technovelgy

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise | - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.