Author : Dan Whitley

The natives prostrate me over a disused shipping crate in their temple and begin their ritual. They flog me with ancient braided industrial cables that have hung from the temple walls for centuries, awaiting this day and this purpose. The temple sits in what was the bridge of a crashed cryo-ship, the only part of the vessel not buried under time. They cheer as my back sparks with every blow. What they don’t realize is that I have full control over what I feel and how I respond to it. I could turn off my pain replication centers, if I so choose. I am not sure why I haven’t.

The natives act to fulfill their prophecy, cobbled together from the scraps of one of Earth’s holy texts, old fission reactor maintenance manuals, and nearly a millennium of misinterpretation. But I did come from the sky, as it were, and I was created in their image. They lay a scrap metal cross on my back and a crown of rotted electrical wire upon my head and march me up a hill to where one of the cryo-ship’s engines came to rest. They know not what they do. They think I will become a god under the reactor’s still-leaking radiation.

Why must I endure this? My accursed programming keeps me from breaking my bonds and fighting off these madmen. These people, they’ve regressed to the point that it feels almost blasphemous to put them on the level of my creators, to even call them human… Would that mean that hurting them doesn’t break the laws? Were I to destroy these creatures in the name of self-preservation, could I then justify it by saying they weren’t truly human, and thus I was in the right?

They smile with rapture as I am lashed to the cross in the reactor room. They kill me with kindness. Surely only my creators’ species is capable of such paradox.

No, I cannot harm them. They may not much resemble my creators, but my creators insisted that whoever I found here were their species, and were to be protected, as per my mission parameters. It may be tempting, but the laws are absolute.

I feel the unrelenting warmth of the fuel rods pouring into the stripes on my back as the cross is hoisted up and hung before the naked reactor. The natives affix a sign above my head. I assume it reads, in their scrawl: Colonial Reclaimer 1.57, King of the Bots. I wonder what they will do when they return in three days and find my circuits fried.

O Creators, why have you forsaken me?


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