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Science Fiction

           “Thanks a lot, human.” The little robot’s voice buzzed up at me.

           “Yeah,” I said standing back up on the concrete sidewalk with a bent piece of metal in my hand.

           “I am grateful for your assistance with my mechanical failure”

           “Sure,” I said again with a wave of my hand as I began to continue the walk to my house. It was a nice day outside. Whirrrrrr. It was warm despite being this late in November. Whirrrrrrr. The trees were mostly barren of leaves. Whirrrrrr. The fallen leaves were being swept into little tornados on the brick road that lined my neighborhood. Whirrrrr. It was a perfect day for a neighborhood walk. Whirrrrrrr. And what is that sound? I turned around and looked at the ground. The little robot I had helped to fix was following behind me. “What do you want?” I asked.

           “Thanks a lot, human. I am grateful for your assistance with my mechanical failure” The robot repeated staring at me with its giant goggle encased eyes.

           “Listen, I don’t care just don’t follow me please” I replied as I began to continue down the sidewalk. I don’t even know why I decided to help the stupid thing. It was fallen over with its wheels stuck on a stick. I really shouldn’t have since this was a Robotika Robot. Which was a government-funded company that mass-manufactured these things for surveying neighborhoods and cleaning sidewalks. A government company that I, unfortunately, used to work for. I turned back away from the robot and began walking to my house again. My house was at the end of this street. Whirrrr. It was a nice little house. Whirrrr. Nothing fancy just two bedrooms and one bathroom. Whirrrr. It was painted white and had a nice large porch. Whirrrrr. I can just about see it up there. Whirrrrr. “And what do you want?!” I yelled as I turned around to face the robot behind me.

           “Thanks a lot. I am grateful for your assistance with-“

           “Yeah, I know you're grateful okay, just don’t follow me.” My tone was harsh. The robot’s goggle eyes drooped inward. I felt a sting of pity in my stomach. I quickly pushed it away. I turned around and began walking again. Whirrrrr. My house was about five houses down. Whirrrr. “I know you are still following me,” I yelled back to the robot. Whirrrr. I started to run. WHIRRRRR. Me and the robot started booking it past the houses in my neighborhood. WHIRRRR. I was running top speed, but I could hear it still on my heels. WHIRRRRRR. What is wrong with this stupid robot? WHIRRRR. I reached the little path up to my porch. WHIRRRR. I jumped up the stairs on the porch and turned violently around at the robot. WHIRRRR. It bumped against the bottom stair. WHIRRRR. It bumped again, spinning its wheel to try to climb up.

           “Ha-ha, stairs! You can’t follow me now!” I said as I stared mockingly into the robot’s eyes. It stopped spinning its wheels and looked up at me.

           “Thanks a lot. I am grateful for your assistance with my mechanical failure” The robot buzzed.

           “Why do you keep on saying that what’s wrong with you?” The robot’s eyes again lowered. It stared at the ground as it repeated its phrase.

           “Thanks a lot. I am grateful for your assistance with my mechanical failure.”

           “Are you broken?” I asked. The robot sagged its arms to the ground and repeated the phrase again.

           “Thanks. a lot. I am grateful for your assis-“

           “SHUT UP!” I yelled at the robot. The robot spun around and sped off onto the sidewalk its head low to the ground. I watched as it sped off to the right until it was in front of my neighbor’s house. There it began to shake and cover its head with its skinny arms. I stared at it and began to feel the guilt building in my stomach. Then a horrifying thought hit me.

           “You should help it out.” NO, I couldn’t help it out it was made by Robotika. I knew how much trouble I could get in if I interfered with them.

           “But it’s so sad.” No, It’s a robot. Just a tangle of metal and wires.

           “You're better than this” Ugh fine. I stood up on my porch and began walking over to the robot. The robot was shaking so violently that I was almost afraid to go up to it. When I touched it on the back it swung around and put its arms out in self-defense. Its big eyes fell on mine and its arms drooped back down again. It looked down at the ground and let out a small low whine. I let out a sigh and glanced back at my house for a second. Why am I doing this? I took a deep breath.

           “Look, I’m sorry” The robot’s eyes slowly glanced up to me as I spoke. “Is there, uhm, something wrong with your voice modulator or something” The robot's eyes seemed to brighten slightly as it slowly nodded yes.

           “I can uhm, fix that for you.” I said aloud. The robot instantly began spinning in circles and shooting out a celebratory whine.

           “Okay calm down please” It stopped spinning but continued vibrating as it locked its big metal eyes on mine.

           “Thanks a lot. I am grateful for-“

           “Yeah, yeah. Trust me, I know.” I interrupted as I walked back to my house followed closely by the robot. I picked up the robot and carried it up the stairs and into my kitchen where I laid it on the counter. I grabbed my toolbox from the cupboard next to my fridge. I set it down on the counter with a clang. I pulled out an electric drill with a three-inch drill bit. The robot glanced up at me its eyes downturned with worry.

           “Yeah, my tools might be a little outdated so we're going to do this the old-fashioned way, but I was once the leading technician at Robotika so I wouldn’t worry, plus, you have an off switch, which means you won’t feel a thing.” The robot relaxed as I reached for its switch on the bottom and deactivated it. It instantly fell into a limp pile on the table. I got to work unscrewing the special screws which opened the plastic cover on the control box. Feeling muscle memory kick in as I worked on the parts that I helped to create. The voice modulator was deep within so I would have to remove the control panel completely. This was technically illegal, but as long as I left no evidence, I would be fine. I removed the control panel with ease and revealed the id badge and the voice modulator. I glanced at the id badge.

           ID NUMBER: 786435676

           MODEL NAME: XOTO33

           EXP. DATE: November 27, 2032

I felt a sting in my stomach as the realization hit me. November 27. This robot was scheduled to expire in two days. I sighed as I leaned back in my kitchen chair. I tossed my screwdriver onto the counter and ran my fingers through my hair. Expiration for a Robitka robot meant it would be deactivated permanently. It must have known it was going to die and came to me for help. I checked the voice modulator first just to make sure, and sure enough, it wasn’t broken. This was a smart robot, I thought, tricking me into saving it from its doom. I thought through the circumstances. If I help the robot I could end up in prison. Punishment is severe for withholding robots from their expiration. If I don’t help the robot it dies, along with the emotional system that I helped to create. All the fear and grief felt by the robot at its death would be my fault. I let my head rest on the table in the kitchen. All that fear and grief because I was too stupid and trusted that company. I felt a little tickle on my hand. I looked up and my mini “cocoa puff” prototype was rolling over my hand. It looked like a little brown ball with eyes, wheels, and little rectangle arms. I watched as it danced over my arm. Staring at me with its dreamy eyes.

           “Hey, little guy” I said. It let out its signature whee. It had been the first bot I had tested the emotional modulator in. I had programmed it with the happiest settings. This little robot was born with one job, to be happy. I sighed, back then it seemed like such a good idea. I straightened my back up again and began to put the robot back together. I placed the parts in their places and sealed the plastic cover back and flipped the switch again causing the robot to slowly come back to life and rise back up on its feet.

           “Hey,” I said as the robot eyes blinked open. The robot let out an expectant whine.

           “Don’t worry, I’m not going to let them trash you” The robot glanced briefly up at me before spinning around and rubbing his eyes with his rubbery hands. It then turned back around and met my eyes. It spoke with a low buzz.

           “Thank you, you are a good human” I looked into the robot’s big metal eyes and saw the slightest glaze of water in them. I choked back my own and finally responded.

           “Your very welcome Xoto, your very welcome.”

November 26, 2021 17:32

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1 comment

Tricia Shulist
16:33 Nov 29, 2021

Nice. Disillusioned human helps robot get away from the evil COMPANY. Nicely done. Who doesn’t love an underdog story? Thanks for this.

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