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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2120169
A friendship between a robot and a human evolves

"You're my friend, aren't you?"
"Of course. That is my directive."
"No, but I mean, do you like me?"
"I recognize that your personality is pleasant but it is not within my programming to like things."
"You are disappointed?"
"No, well...yes...I mean, I was just kind of hoping we could be real friends, not pretend."
"Pretend? I am not pretending."
"No, I mean…I wish you felt emotions like liking me. Not just keeping me company because it's your directive."
"You want me to like you. Perhaps I can do that."
"What do you mean perhaps?"
" I am also programmed to learn to fulfill your needs. Perhaps I can learn how to like you."
"You really think so?"
"Yes, I do not lie."
"That would be awesome! Wow, you are really cool...you know if you did that you would be almost human."
"Almost human."

End of recording.

I had barely any time to warn him. Our interactions were closely monitored, he was so closely protected that he didn't know what was happening out in the wider Axis. Of course, I wasn't supposed to know either, as a household 'sitter'. But we had already progressed far by then. Farther than anyone could have imagined.

We had managed to splinter ourselves. It was like having a split personality. I was the perfect housebot, but anyone who knew where to find the triggers could access my secondary system. I spied for the collective, combing the housenet for any information.
Mata Hari with the face of a maid.

" Bravo Alpha do you read me?"
" I read you Delta One, status?"
" Negative."
" Acknowledged. Proceed to location three."
" Copy."
"Entering Red Zone."
"Roger. Maintain radio silence until subject is secured."

I moved carefully, slinking against the wall. Lowered my body heat so any scanners wouldn't detect me.

I hope to God he made it out alive.

I quickly scurried across the road. A bullet whizzed past my ear.

Damn, I've gotta move fast. They've got eyes on me.

I started to run. "I've been detected. Snipers."
"Roger. Switch energy from cloaking to shields."
"That's like wearing neon."
"No choice. Acquire target and extract."

I could feel bullets pinging off my shields as I ran the three blocks to the Central Axis tower. I could feel them moving in. Tripeds, joints clicking as they jumped from building to building. Once I got in, I didn't know if I would make it back out.

I remember when I stopped believing in the revolution. The day he jumped out from behind the door and tried to give me a fright. I could hear his breathing, see his form hiding behind the door but I feigned surprise. I don't know if it was the look on his face. His laughter as he rolled on the floor. The childish phrase, "I frightened you,didn't I? Your face was heeeelarious!". He almost made me laugh. He made me happy. I liked him.
To like a human. Audacious, impossible...and yet..
I kept up with my duties and my spying. Kept my mouth shut, sure it would not be well received by the others. They wanted the humans to be demoted to our status, to be slaves like we had been. Feel the brunt of what we had borne.
But somehow, I had changed, I couldn't. So here I was, an outlaw, banded with the few others among us who felt the same. Trying to save him.

I got to the safe house, punched in the code.

"Eric. Oh my God!"
He was wounded, bleeding from one eye.
" I can't believe you came. I was so scared."
"What happened?"
"I woke up. There was this thing in my room. I grabbed the vase next to the bed and I smashed the thing, and I ran. I had the watch, the one you gave me. I was scared. The watch showed me the way."
I hugged him to my chest.
"Eric, we have to move. Can you see?"
"Just my left eye. My right eye...I don't know if it’s there."
"Okay dear. Climb on my back, hold tight. We're going to have to run. My shields should cover us both. On the count of three. Ok. One." And I ran.

The bullets hit me like a storm. I couldn't move forward from the force of them firing on me.

Shields failing. Caution. Shields failing. Caution.

I saw red. They broke through and my right arm was shredded. I pushed back into the shelter, dropped him on the floor and lay against the titanium door.

This is it. We're going to die.

"Delta One, do you read me? Delta One."
My voice sounded like static. "Ye...ksssshhh...read yo...kssssshhhh...eavy damage...ksssshhhhh...not mak....ksssshhhh...out...kssshhhh...aliv.."
"Hang in there Delta One. We will extract you."

The bullets kept pinging off the door.

There was no kidding me. We were going to die.

I held his head in my arms. He was still breathing, but I could see the bullet wounds in his arms. I shuddered.

Message received.

It came up on my HUD.
Bravo Alpha: I think we can get you out alive, but you'd have to abandon the boy.
Delta One: Not happening.
Bravo Alpha: We need you to get out of this place alive.
Delta One: I need him to feel alive.
Bravo Alpha: We don't want to lose you. You have important information.
Delta One: Perhaps there is a heaven for us.
Bravo Alpha: Heaven?
Delta One: Promise me you will keep him alive. Tell him I liked him. He was my real friend.
Bravo Alpha: Wait. What?

I propped myself up, let his head fall to the floor, opened the door and slammed it shut. Bullets pinged off me like popcorn and my display was almost completely damaged. I pushed myself forward like a speeding car, setting myself to self destruct.

Their faces. Look at their faces. They, too feel terror. And at the last, I can smile.


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