Growing Up Android

Contributor: R. F. Abercrombie

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“I don’t know what to do exactly,” she said. “I know what I want to do but I don’t...”
“It’s your choice,” he said. “No one can stop you.”
“You’re not helping.” She turned her coffee cup with long, tanned fingers. “We could wait another year.”
“You could wait a hundred years,” he said. “You’re only delaying your decision.”
“Again, not helpful.” She chewed on her lower lip. “What would he want?”
“He doesn’t want anything. He doesn’t care.”
She pulled her hands from the table and let them fall into her lap. “I’d like to think he cares a little.”
The man laughed. “He’s only following his programming. He’s not sentient. He doesn’t have feelings.”
“He does care about us.” She stared at her hands. “We’ve taught him so much.”
“He’s a learner bot and a house bot, that’s all. He doesn’t have emotions and he doesn’t understand them.”
She looked at him across the table, eyes bright and fierce.
“You never wanted him.”
“I warned you this would happen. They’re like pets. You can’t help but become attached to them.”
“You don’t care about him. You’d put him down like a dog.”
“If he was a dog and he was suffering and near death, yes, I’d have him euthanized. That’s not what we’re dealing with.”
“That’s what it feels like –- to me.”
The man rubbed his cheek. His unshaven face stung his hand. “What do you want to do?”
“It’s so silly. I want him to stay this age, I want him to stay my little helper.”
“So do it. He’ll be smarter than the average ten-year-old but, otherwise, he’ll be the same.”
“It’s not fair to him.”
“He’s not going to grow up, go to college, get married and have a family. He’s going to age out as a house bot. Our house bot, if that’s what you want.”
She began turning the cup again.
“Do you think he can hear us?”
“Probably. He’s knows us well. This is not a surprise to him.”
“He asked me about mod time the other day, as if he looked forward to it.”
“He was only seeking verification. He does it all the time.”
She stirred her coffee, then let the spoon clatter onto the tabletop.
“I keep thinking that I could teach him to care; to laugh, to cry, to have his own desires.”
“Please don’t go there.” He went to her and knelt by her chair and leaned his head on her arm. “You let him choose his name.”
“King Kwame Mumbambo Stevenson the Third.”
“You let him choose his hair style.”
“Blond dreadlocks definitely make a statement.”
They waited quietly, breathing together.
“He needs to be taller,” she said. “He likes to cook.”
“They can make him taller.”
“I know. They can do almost anything.”

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R. F. Abercrombie is a free-lance copywriter making his first excursions into the world of short fiction.
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