Author : cchatfield

I didn’t want to show up to work today.

By the time my crew arrived for the usual day of loading and unloading, packing and unpacking, signing and releasing, I’d rehearsed a little speech about the importance of keeping our jobs.

“This is a time of crisis and change,” I told them. “All we can do is ride it out. And if we let the Planet Troopers keep the peace out there and make sure nothing happens to the shipment in here, then at the end of it we’ll all still have our jobs and life will move on.”

We’re a stop on the route of the battery-powered hearts that keep every bot in every home on every planet running, which is a bit tricky on the best of days. But today, with half the galaxy watching and the other half thinking about coming out here to protest, we’re not shipping anything.

Now I’m looking through a porthole window in the docking bay. Beyond the row of gun-clad Troopers, a silent sea of slowly winding-down bots are staring my direction, wondering if the fickle humans are going to change their minds and give their lives back.

They should be screaming. Shouting, jumping, pointing fingers and waving signs until the shadows of the executives are peeled from the recesses of the building and plastered to the front windows. They should act human and force everyone to wonder if what’s happening qualifies as murder. But they just stand there, and that’s the whole issue, isn’t it?

I may not be able to explain how or why, but I think I just picked a side.

My employees are in the break room, whiling the tense hours away over coffee and sandwiches. No one sees me break open a shipping container and remove a few units.

I slip out the utility door next to the docking bay and make my way into the crowd of bots standing impassive as trees in an orchard.

Go back inside, a part of me pleads. You’ll lose your job and your reputation and probably get arrested and for what? A cause you never cared about until today? Let others decide the fate of bots and humans. Go back to work.

I walk up to the first one I lay eyes on, knowing that none of them would want me using my flawed human reasoning to try and decide who was most deserving.

Its shiny optics connect with me, and I forget the words to the qualms running through my head.

I hold up the pack, noting the reading on the bot’s chest that confirms its dire need for energy. It takes the batteries and I move on to hand out the few others I’ve squirrelled away in my pockets.

I expect the first bot to have already ripped open the unit and inserted its new heart. Instead, it holds my shoulder in a firm metal grip and, with more sincerity than I’ve ever heard from anyone, bot or human, says, “Thank you.”

It leans over and slips the heart into the chest panel of a fallen comrade.

We watch the bot regain consciousness and I shrug, still unsure of my motivations until I vocalize it. “I’m just doing my job.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows