Author: Thomas Tilton

I am not the creator, just the keeper.

People say that bots don’t have human feelings, that to assume they do is even more dangerous than assuming, say, the crocodile swimming next to you isn’t hungry.

Sure, there are dolly bots for kids, companion bots for singles, carebots for the old folk. Those bots are designed to appeal to our human sentiments. They even look mostly human.

Not the Obliterator, though.

The Obliterator is all chrome, taut wiring, gnashing metal teeth. Like something from a child’s nightmare if that child only ever saw the interior of a space station.

Nothing human there. Or so they say.

Me, I’m not so sure.

Six times a day I feed the Obliterator. Mostly protein paste supplied by the cybernetics lab, but occasionally I drop a rat down the grates. Since the Obliterator was bred to hunt, I figure it’s only proper.

It’s frightening how fast it moves.

“Sick!” remarked the boy Taos, thrilled to see the Obliterator obliterate.

“It’s something,” I agreed.

“Would it do that to a … person?” Taos asked.

“Used to,” I said. “All the time. It’s what it was built for. Warfare.”

“And it does to them like — like it does to the rat?”


“Sick,” the boy said, eyes fixed on the grates and what was underneath.

The black eyes of the machine stared back at us.

I saw only poisoned malice in those eyes, but Taos helped me see something different.

“Aw, look, he’s lonely,” said Taos.

Looked to me like it was sizing up the next meal, but — and maybe it was just the way the harsh dome lights reflected in the Obliterator’s black orbs — but maybe Taos was right.

“Can’t we find him, you know, someone?” he asked.

“I’ll have to talk to some people.”

Talk, I did. Discreetly. I kept the cybernetics folks out of it, and the command of course remained entirely in the dark. I spoke mostly to the other keepers, and a few experts outside the facility.

We finally decided on a sentient wrecking ball, but it was Taos who added the finishing touch, a bright red bow made from a scarf. Pretty assumptive about gender, I thought, but I figured it wasn’t the time for a lecture. Taos was so happy with his match-making. We dropped the ball, so to speak.

The Obliterator destroyed it.

Taos wept.

Next we tried a standard companion bot with settings for maximum sadomasochism. It, too, was obliterated. But the cries of pleasure it gave as its synthetic husk was devoured made it more like a send-off than an execution.

Afterwards, the Obliterator paced hungrily.

“Maybe it’s not lonely,” Taos said.

I had an idea then.

“Maybe we’re not giving it the right person.”

The creator was about as heavy as the wrecking ball, but quite feeble. Harnessing him was a job, but he didn’t struggle too much. Mostly he whined and spat up, as is the way with most of the old money gentry. He never learned to talk. He just communicated his whims through his implanted brain nodes.

He died, sure. But not like they said. It was a loving embrace that killed him.