The Space Empire uses a vast number of robots, most of them primitive and lumpy. Like most items in the Space Empire, robots are usually covered in ornamental scrollwork and brass plating. They also tend to break down quite a lot.
Robots in Colonisation
The process of colonisation is almost entirely automated. Huge machines, slaved to a central logic engine, will be used to excavate and planetscape viable worlds, removing the need to round up, transport and exploit aliens, who are all shifty idlers anyway (except for the raging maniacs). Quarrying robots will strip a planet for rock and build something according to pre-programmed architectural ideas. On Andor, for instance, a pair of self-repairing spider robots built the entire castle-city of Mothkarak when they were instructed to make a bungalow out of local rock, and not given any information about when to stop.
Around the Home
Around the house, smaller, unintelligent robots can often be encountered. Some of these will be ornamental, and may have no function except to slowly carry pot plants around or to pour the tea (although these are both very important functions, obviously). Others carry out cleaning or repair duty.
Androids are frequently seen in the British Space Empire – or, more correctly, androids are not frequently seen because they look just like people. In fact, androids are frequently seen but not noticed, much like well-behaved children. Androids are bespoke creations and, because they are so like humans, are of limited value. After all, it is not really necessary to construct a being that looks and behaves exactly like a person except for its lack of emotion when British space is already full of them. They’re called citizens.
Traditionally, androids are created from metal, plastic and highly-realistic rubber. Early androids used synthetic blood that was a runny yellow-brown colour: that was generally considered unwholesome, and more recent models use creamy-white fluid instead. However, the most modern variants, known as Simulants, are custom-grown from modified tissue, and are - to a great extent - virtually human. They are, perhaps, even less useful than the normal sort. Most androids, while not actually wishing that they had hearts or souls (that sort of thing strikes the mechanical mind as soppy) are acutely interested in their status, and clubs of synthetics devoted to a range of exciting hobbies are not unknown.
Most androids are technically owned by government bodies, guilds or corporations, but, being self-aware, are protected from arbitrary terminal shutdown by a range of laws. However, androids are not protected from summary retraining, and a good deal of civilian units have been conscripted to assist with the war effort, often from theme parks. Who could forget the charge of the 38th Pragonian Highlanders, apparently led by Emily Pankhurst herself? Certainly not the lemming men of Yullia, who were on the receiving end.
Sad to say, not all robots are totally reliable. Most are perfectly content with their lot, since the great majority have the reasoning capacity of a fork-lift truck. Others, however, either malfunction or lack the appropriate parameters. Of particular concern is the breaching of rules against killing other humans (in the Space Empire, of course) and of reproducing. Certain worlds, such as Ravnavar, have entire underworlds consisting of "Peripherals", robots illegally made by other robots.
Perhaps the most pernicious of all are the robot gangsters. Certain villains, such as Mack the Knife, Brian the Circular Saw and the feared Crane Twins have at times commanded whole chunks of territory. A few have entered popular legend, such as the information superhighwayman Dick Sixpin and his steed Black Box, and the notorious Jack the System, the Robot Reaper, who terrorised the underworld by dismantling units of variable virtue.