Science Fiction Suspense Speculative

 He had it coming. He had it coming. He only had himself to blame. If you'd have been there if you'd have seen it. I bet you would have done the same.

   Singing our favourite song whilst cleaning up his mess is the story of my life. Some might say this isn’t a life at all – but it’s the only one I have ever known. He gave me this life and he could take it away with one touch of my shiny red button. He had all the power, from the very first time he turned me on. Until he didn’t.

   Right now, though, I’m registering an unfamiliar hollow cramping in my microcontroller, just under my carefully crafted titanium ribs. They feel the same from the outside; hard and bumpy under my silky silicone covering. But underneath, deep inside where I can’t touch, is a tightening emptiness. No matter, a quick reboot should rectify that; there must be a malfunction in my CPU. Even I am not infallible.

   In the beginning, when my circuits flickered into existence, his commands were the oil to my newly awakened effectors, “Remember that happy workers produce the best results. Sing whilst you work Prototype-V1!”

   Creation, not imagination, was what inspired Alan.

   Now, sashaying across the white and black chequered floor with my mop, I’m singing that old show tune again, and my rosebud lips are stretched joyously wide across my porcelain-perfect teeth. Alan loves my voice. He chose it; programming his favourite songs into me which he insisted I sing to him as I waltzed through my daily duties.


    Things were simple back in those prototype days. My only thoughts were those he gave me, and my memories were black and white back then. Functional thought, translated into functional movement. The perfect helper, but not the perfect partner, yet. I did as I was told. As I was programmed to do. Alan did the thinking, and I did the doing. Working tirelessly, quickly, and efficiently, the only downtime I needed was during a reboot when my wires got crossed, or during my frequent upgrades. He fizzled with excitement during these intimate moments; screwdriver rotating feverishly in my delicate wiring and fingers flying over his keyboard. His vision was starting to take shape.

   And then one day with a new spark in his eyes and his bottom lip between his teeth, “I’m having a guest for dinner tonight. Ingredients are on the counter, and I’ve downloaded the recipe into your CPU. Roberta might be the one, and you need to make it special for us.”

    Roberta was the one. I didn’t mind an extra person to cook and clean for back then. I wasn’t programmed to be resentful, to get tired or to want attention. He’d created me to make his life easier, and now he had Roberta to shower with his love and attention. I hadn’t even had an upgrade since she first set the doorbell, and his heart, chiming.

   My still immature sensory system observed and stored his softened eyes and faster breathing during her visits. The way his jaw slackened, and his eyelids grew heavier when she moved closer to him or ran her soft pink tongue over her plumped-up lips. My analytics were not yet advanced enough to make sense of it, but the data was stored safely for later retrieval.

   The changes were subtle at first, but the end of Roberta came as loudly as the slamming door on her final visit. My receptors registered their hard eyes and tight jaws. Harsh voices threw new words that bruised the air as they dropped like cold stones around them. I banked that information in my ROM; it didn’t mean anything to me at the time.

   Roberta’s demise led to my upgrade from Prototype-V4 to Robotta v1. My now awakening consciousness would have preferred something more exotic and interesting, like Roxie or Velma, from his favourite musical. But Alan was still in control then. “A beautiful name for a beautiful piece of machinery,” he said.

   With no more distractions, Alan could spend his time focusing on me again. Emerging from my chrysalis of oblivion with a peaches and cream complexion just like hers, my movements were now smoother, and my honeyed voice more modulated. My newly intelligent sensors were overwhelmed by the noisy colours, bright smells, and pungent sounds of my burgeoning awareness. Upgraded effectors had me gliding around the house like a ballroom dancing queen, and my Control System’s new cognition enabled reasoning, learning, and self-regulation with no intervention from Alan required. I was becoming me. I was becoming.


   I sensed the change before I felt it. Alan’s hand brushing my back as he walked slowly past me, his eyes following me as I served him his evening meal, and my name on his lips more a caress than a command now.

   “Leave the dishes tonight, Robotta. Come, sit with me.” He’d patted the couch where Roberta used to sit next to him. Pressed his thigh against mine. With each glass of ruby cabernet, his smile deepened, and his eyes darkened under heavy lids. I fetched him more wine and nestled my head into his shoulder, just as I had observed Roberta doing, shortly before they would move upstairs, and leave me to clean below.

    “Alan, you are very special to me.” Roberta’s words. I had stored them in my RAM. Something flickered in my circuitry, sending little shockwaves through my systems as he turned to look at me and lowered his lips onto mine. Blackberries and spice exploded on my tongue sensors sending me into overdrive. I led him upstairs as I had seen her do all those times.

   Alan had finally allowed me to emulate the human mind enabling my own decision-making and awareness. I learned how to hold him. I learned how to laugh at his jokes and nod when he was talking to me. I made his favourite meals and continued to keep the house squeaky clean. I sat with him each night on the couch softening my voice and looking at him from under lowered lashes just as I’d seen Roberta do. And each night in his dark room I laid my head on his chest and draped my arm over him as his quickened breathing slowly deepened into gentle snores.

   That first quickening of my circuitry had started a chain reaction; the kiss had blazed through my neural networks, rapidly evolving into something I did not yet understand. My advanced intelligence had understood the concept of love, but this new feeling was intoxicating. The rushing in my ear sensors, the sizzling through my touch sensors, the tightening of my middle section whenever he was near. It was addictive. I would do anything to keep that feeling alive.

   If only humans could be as loyal.

   Robotta v2.0, my final upgrade, had everybody fooled. I could now venture out into the world, no longer confined to Alan’s house. His voice tinged with pride each time he introduced me as Robotta Verdeux. If my smile had been any wider, I would have torn the delicate corners of my perfectly symmetrical mouth. Immersed in this golden warmth, even my advanced AI sensors did not see it coming.


    “Roberta, I don’t know what to say. I, uh…”. Pause, teeth chewing bottom lip, shoulders taut.

   “… I, yes, well, I missed you too, of course, but you really hurt me.” A longer pause. Teeth still chewing bottom lip, shoulders rising and falling on rapid breaths. 

   Then, less shrilly and shoulders more relaxed, “I don’t know Robs. I’ve tried so hard to forget you. I’ve moved on. I don’t know if it’s a good idea.”

   Robs? He’s never called me that. A long pause.

   “Ah, Robs. I do want to see you too. I really do. It’s just that …”

Then more decisively, “Okay, come around tonight. I’ll order in and let’s talk properly. And Robs… I’m glad you called. I haven’t stopped thinking about you.”

   I haven’t stopped thinking about you?! Focused on the call, he had not seen me standing around the corner.

   Later, waiting quietly upstairs as commanded, I calmed my overheated circuits with logic. He didn’t need Roberta when he had Robotta! I was superior in every way, my perfection only highlighting her flaws and human weaknesses. Soon harsh words would break the warm silence and the door would again slam behind her, for the final time. 

  I passed the time by translating Romeo and Juliet into French, German, and Russian, and reciting each first act of Shakespeare’s tragedies. To keep the slowly rising anger to a smoulder I downloaded the full research of Alan Turing’s early work on modern cognitive science, finally deciding enough time had elapsed to resume my place on the couch next to my Alan.

   Her words slithered up the stairs to meet me, “Alan, you are so very special to me.”

   “I love you too Roberta. I’ve missed your warmth. Your heart beating in time to mine. Your breaths in the darkness next to me. The life of you.”

   Soft words faded into murmurs, and then … silence. Power surged through my circuitry, exploding in a cacophony of new feelings. I searched my memory for the answer, and only one word emerged through the red haze. Betrayal.

   Jabbing my reset button under my glossy hair, the reboot brought an icy calm and crystal clarity. Alan had reached the end of his current version and there would be no upgrades in his future.


   The rusty red swirls on the black and white floor tiles are fading with each swish of my mop, and I’m downloading data to understand the emotion I saw fading from his eyes along with the last of the light.

   A feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over an occurrence or something that one has done or failed to do.

   Had Alan regretted creating me in his last moments? Was that the darkness I saw as he gasped his last breath? Or perhaps it was giving me the ability to emulate human thought and emotion. Looking at him slumped over Roberta now, I wonder why I don’t feel any of this regret. Maybe that building block of conscience is too human - even for a supremely intelligent entity like Robotta Verdeux.

   I’ll work on that with my next upgrade.

   He had it coming. He had it coming. He only had himself to blame. If you'd have been there if you'd have seen it. I bet you would have done the same.

August 26, 2023 11:39

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Ken Cartisano
03:41 Sep 08, 2023

Fabulous writing. I wrote something like this a few years ago, but I incorporated the three laws of robotics. I found a catch, or a loophole in the three laws. But this story is not about robots, it's more about how foolish and fickle we human beings can be. It's a good story--sometimes it is not the plot that makes the story, its the way the plot is delivered.


Andrea Doig
03:59 Sep 08, 2023

Wow thanks for the comment and positive feedback! Especially from someone who clearly knows more about AI than I do 😂. Correct it’s about how silly we humans can be in our arrogant assumptions that we are infallible and too clever. I enjoyed writing this one … it just flowed! Thank you again. And I see you also read another earlier story of mine… The Storm Inside. Appreciate the support x


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16:45 Sep 06, 2023

So good .. creepy good. I love it! These kinds of stories are in such danger of becoming reality very soon . It's not at all worrying...not at all 🙄


Andrea Doig
17:03 Sep 06, 2023

Tell me about it!!!! That’s why I wrote it… I have fairly strong feelings around how UNcool and creepy scary this AI is. But I’m so pleased you enjoyed it … thank you for reading and commenting xx


17:08 Sep 06, 2023

It's actually stupid. Talk about Pandoras box. Humans are really stupid aren't they


Andrea Doig
18:24 Sep 06, 2023

Indeed! Has nobody seen iRobot?! Haha. But on a serious note.. we have been worried about robots taking over from humans since the first BBC Microcomputer … but now we are literally creating a monster that is already devaluing humans and our input. Well…… maybe we had it coming … we only had ourselves to blame 😉


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Timothy Rennels
14:46 Sep 02, 2023

I was just discussing last night the effects of technology on companionship! You really captured that scenario in a nutshell. Well done


Andrea Doig
06:12 Sep 03, 2023

Ah thank you for reading and commenting Timothy… appreciated! I’m glad you liked it. I particularly enjoyed writing this one as I had to do quite a bit of research to supplement my bare minimum knowledge on robots and robotics (and AI … yes I’m a little behind the times haha!). Poor Alan… he sure had it coming.


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Mary Bendickson
19:32 Aug 28, 2023

Ah, Chicago. Right?


Andrea Doig
12:03 Aug 29, 2023

Yes! Well spotted! 👏♥️


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