Professor Xavier VanDerPloots had created a number of things deemed either failures (exploding sneakers that did not explode, strawberry-flavored paperclips that tasted like blueberries) or unnecessary (flip-top sunglasses for jellyfish, the cotton gin) by the scientific community, but the most egregious example was staring him in the face. Or rather, hiding behind the couch.

The Robotic Terrifying Helpful Robust Retainer, or R-Thrr for short, was designed as a part assistant, part bodyguard. He would pick up your dry cleaing, cook you dinner, tune up your car and take a bullet for you. Somewhere in the process, R-Thrr went from being a cofident, competent machine to a cowering claptrap incapable of tying his own shoes. He was given velcro shoes, but the crackle of the velcro was too frightening for him. So now he wore loafers. They were sensible and brown. So R-Thrr had that going for him.

Professor Xavier VanDerPloots had run him through a battery of tests, all of which R-Thrr had failed miserably. The carburetor he was handed to fix was in more pieces than when he’d started working on it. The dry cleaning slip had been misplaced. The roast beef was overdone and the mashed potatoes were lumpy. And when Professor Xavier VanDerPloots pulled a gun on him, R-Thrr jumped behind the couch with a high-pitched shriek the Professor didn’t recall programming him with.

“What is wrong with you?” Professor Xavier shouted. “You’re supposed to be strong, courageous, helpful.”

“You be those things, I’ll be behind your sofa, leaking oil and not dying,” R-Thrr replied. His head, a repurposed metal colander, wobbled with fear on the coat hanger that served as his neck. The Professor was at his wit’s end. This was the last straw. All of his other inventions had bankrupt him. R-Thrr was to be his big moneymaking solution. Now he was worse off than before.

The front door was assaulted with pounding fists. A wave of sweat drenched Professor Xavier VanDerPloots’ forehead. The funds for his experiments weren’t from what you would call reputable sources, and now they were coming for a return on their investment. The pounding became more intense as feet and other, more bullet-shooty implements were used to break down the door. “R-Thrr, it was nice knowing you,” Professor Xavier VanDerPloots said as he snuck out the back window. Right into the arms of the collectors waiting in his backyard. R-Thrr stuffed throw pillow over his robotic ears to drown out the Professor’s shouts for help. After a minute, there was silence. R-Thrr was alone. He decided to lie in the fetal position and panic. For the rest of his life.

Unfortunately, the mafia had other ideas. They came back the next day and kicked R-Thrr out of the house, which they decided to use as a summer home. R-Thrr, nowhere to go, found a nice secluded area in the woods and hid. He figured as long as nobody found him, he’d be safe. He was right. Somebody found him, and he was never safe again.

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