Author : Suzanne Borchers
Edwin studied the soft-fleshed android beside him on the laboratory bed. Fred had the same plug-in cables as himself, same size arms, legs, head and torso. What made Fred better? Was it his flesh colored appendages, his manipulative facial features, and his warmth?
Edwin tapped his cold metal fingers together. Father had pronounced him superfluous. Father had ordered him destroyed. Father didn’t want to see him ever again. Edwin despaired.
But then Edwin felt the warmth of the newly fused synapses in his brain. Even knowing Father intended to dismantle his parts and that he would be lost forever, Edwin didn’t believe it would happen. Was this warmth called hope? He remembered learning its definition long ago but not understanding the meaning. He still didn’t understand, but he enjoyed its warmth within his cold circuits. Could he survive? “Perhaps,” he murmured, and wished he could smile.
When Edwin’s circuits powered up in the morning, he found himself alone. Father had come for Fred and ignored him, leaving him to sleep, knowing the bed would be empty when he returned Fred that evening. Father didn’t want him. Edwin despaired.
Edwin welcomed the pulsing tiny warmth in his brain. Hope. He reached behind his head, stripped off the cables, and sat up. He waited. He hoped.
Hours later, footsteps approached. Measured, light steps. They weren’t Father’s steps. The cadence became faster, louder, and then stopped. The door opened slowly. A woman’s face appeared to scan the room until her eyes found Edwin.
Edwin remembered her as Father’s assistant. She would stand quietly as Father plugged in his cables. She was always in shadow. Hers was the feminine voice behind the door when Father ordered him destroyed. She was here. Edwin wished he could shudder.
As she approached him, Edwin realized her face was asymmetrical. Her right, blue eye was larger than the left. Her nose wasn’t centered, but pulled a bit to the right. She smiled at him with lopsided lips. A dimple on the right winked at him.
Could she understand how he felt? Perhaps.
“Hello, Edwin.” Her voice was soft. She reached out her hand to his and gently clasped it to flood his arm with warmth. “It’s time.”
Edwin jumped to the floor and paced his steps with hers. They left the room, moved down the corridor, entered the elevator, and rode down three floors. When the doors opened, Edwin hesitated.
He surveyed a large room filled with android parts in overflowing boxes. Metal heads stared blindly from rows on a top shelf, with huge crates marked “Feet,” “Hands,” “Arms,” and more on the successive lower shelves. Across the room, two technicians were dismantling a metal android on a slab.
His brain pulsed with warmth that became fainter as he stood looking out of the elevator. This was the end. Father had ordered her to destroy him. It was her job.
He felt cold, and he despaired. He wished he could disobey. He wished he could plead.
He hoped it would be over soon. “I’m ready,” he said.
He stepped out of the elevator with the woman. He began to move toward the technicians when she stopped him.
“No, Edwin,” she said.
She led him to a door that opened at her touch. As it opened, he blinked his eyes at the brightness on the other side. He stepped through the doorway into warmth.
“We’re going home.” She gently squeezed his hand.
Edwin wished he could smile.