“Psst! Metal boy! Are you there?” With a scraping of claws, Nat slid down from the back of the cupboard onto which he had been clinging, squashed against the wall.
Puffing himself out and brushing himself down as he walked, he made his way over to the robot which was still lying in a jumbled heap on the floor.
“Well that was a close one wasn’t it, metal boy?” Nat looked down at the robot’s face. Its eyes remained shut, its mouth remained closed. “Personally, I didn’t like the sound of it.” Nat gave a shudder. “Not at all. In fact, I think it may be time to resort to Plan B. Not that there is one. In fact there never really was a Plan A. I mean I was happy enough here in the lab. I could have done with more pizza but Big and Bob looked after me. I’ll be sorry to go. Thing is, metal boy! Hey metal boy!” Nat kicked the robot and the pain of metal on his foot made him regret it. “Metal boy!” he repeated. “I think that woman’s after you too. So we should go.” The robot did not move. “Ok then, be like that, stay here. I’ll go on my own.”
Nat shrugged and turned away. He looked at the door. The handle was still a long way up. The door was, probably, still locked. He sighed.
“Erggh!” The robot moved. “The humans – have they gone?” it asked, its voice grating through the still laboratory air. “Erggh.” It moved again and struggled to a sitting position.
“Glad you could join us metal boy,” said Nat, jumping up and scuttling towards him. “Now come on. Those humans have gone, but they’ll be back. I say we take off sharpish and go some place safer. Now come on lad, open the door.”
The robot scraped and clanked as it got to its feet.
“Why shall we go? Where shall we go?”
“I dunno, but somewhere that isn’t here. Didn’t you hear them humans? They were bad humans, bad with a capital B-A-D. They’ve got something nasty planned, at least that one with the clicky heels and high voice had. I think the other one, Cedric or summat, just does what he’s told. So get that door open and we’ll be off.”
The robot extended a long finger and twisted and turned it in the keyhole. There was a click. The robot paused, then said, “It is not locked now.”
“So, come on then, what are you waiting for?” Nat tapped his foot on the floor.
“My finger is stuck in the keyhole.”
The robot did not completely understand the words that Nat used yet but they sounded harsh and perhaps a little rude. Nat also did what seemed to be a little dance which involved shaking his front paws and stamping his back ones. Finally he sighed. “Right then, metal boy, let’s have a look.” He scampered up the robot’s legs and back and along its arm to the wrist where he stopped and placed his paws around the robot’s finger. “OK now, altogether now, one, two, three, pull…” The robot and the rat pulled hard. The finger did not budge.
“Again!” commanded Nat.
They pulled. They pulled. They pulled.
“Yeeha!” Nat and the robot fell backwards with a crash into the table.
“C’mon then! Hurry!” Nat leapt up and ran to the door.
“What about it?” asked Nat.
“It is still in the lock!”
Nat looked up. The robot was standing now and holding its right hand in front of its face. The hand had just four fingers.
“Whoops! Well, never mind, you’ve still got some left which is better than having none. Get the door open and we’ll be on our way.”
“But…” started the robot. It looked at its hand and then down at its body. What the rat said made logical sense. It reached its other hand over and moved the handle. The door opened and the robot peered out. Nat waited to know whether it was safe so he was still crouched on the floor in the direct line of the handle when the finger in the lock finally fell out. It hit him on the head.
“Quiet!” hissed the robot looking at Nat and then around. It hoped the corridor was as empty as it seemed to be.
“Grr!” muttered Nat, rubbing his head with his paw. He looked at the broken robot finger. “Could be useful I suppose.” He picked it up in his mouth.
They stepped out cautiously and the robot pulled the door closed behind them.
Moonlight shone wanly through the window at the end of the corridor and the two of them crept towards it. To its left a deep stairwell plunged down into darkness, lit faintly here and there by moonlight or streetlight from outside the occasional window.
“Down there lies the great outdoors!” said Nat, removing the finger from his mouth and twirling it like a walking stick in his paw.
“What shall we do in this great outdoors?” asked the robot.
Nat had not yet considered this. He only knew that he did not want to stay indoors.
“I have a cunning plan,” he said. “It involves two stages. The first involves finding a nice quiet place to get a bite to eat.”
“What does the second stage of the plan involve?”
“Ah, yeah, well, that’s on a need to know basis.”
“And I do not need to know?” The robot sounded puzzled.
“Yeah, of course you do, metal boy, course you do,” There was a hint of hesitation in Nat’s voice. “Tell you what, I’ll let you in on that over dinner.”