Author: Suzanne Borchers
Cedric BotIV noted the blanket of artificial feathers had slipped off the old man’s shoulders. He lifted them back onto his master. Master preferred to dream of flight and the soft feel of his blanket mellowed his dreams. Cedric BotIV whispered, “Fly, soar, and touch the sky. Dream of cottony clouds. Fly, soar, and touch the sky. Float in warmth and pillows.” He pulled the blanket up a bit closer to the master’s bristly chin.
Cedric BotIV had faithfully served Master for seventy plus years—some at play, pretending to be an airship; some at work, constricted by metallic walls in flight; and now, as nursemaid. He hummed a few notes of the aviation hymn as he watched the rickety chest barely rise and fall.
A dilemma faced Cedric BotIV.
The master had commanded that Cedric BotIV etch his own name on the flight vehicle console stationed outside their dwelling. To do so would obliterate the master’s mistake from their last flight to Xerez just weeks ago. Of course, this would serve the master. The master was a proud man who had flown countless successful missions. He was a legend.
Oh, that horrible flight– those agonized destroyed beings, those smoking ruins of obliterated civilization. Cedric BotIV had felt their pain, had wanted to eject from the flight deck into the abyss below. The master had pushed the wrong key–striped red instead of striped pink. The master had wept until he landed home. He had taken to his bed in total silence despite all the communications from Base One and ambassadors from Planetary System. Cedric BotIV had protected him.
Cedric BotIV moved to his cot but hesitated in plugging his power cord. Cedric BotIV possessed an IC (Integrity Chip). The IC chip prevented him from lying to any human, from being anything but Cedric BotIV. If Cedric BotIV etched his name on the Ship’s log it would be a lie. The IC chip would burn his circuits. The old man’s command would destroy him.
And, yet, the master demanded Cedric BotIV lie. The master told Cedric BotIV that he would then retire, his renown and legacy unstained.
Cedric BotIV checked once again that the master was covered and sleeping before he plugged in his power cord. He was faithful.
Forceful tugs at the cord pulled Cedric BotIV awake.
“Well, Cedric IV,” Master said, “You will do it.” Brown watery eyes peered into Cedric BotIV’s sight probes. “You will…won’t you…old friend?” These last two words were whispered.
Cedric BotIV felt the IC warning pain surge through his circuits. He wished there was a way to circumvent the IC chip’s purpose. How could he choose oblivion? He actually enjoyed being Cedric BotIV. But, on the other hand, Cedric BotIV had always served the master with selfless affection. Cedric BotIV had always obeyed. And the master could keep his spotless reputation. Was it really such a hard choice?
“Of course, sir.”
“Today.” Master’s voice commanded.
“Yes sir, today.”
“Yes sir, now.”
Cedric BotIV’s metallic steps echoed throughout the room toward the door. He turned to the old man. “Sir, it has been my honor to serve you.” Cedric BotIV’s steps passed through the front doorway.
Once in the ship, Cedric BotIV gave himself a moment before he etched his name in the log. Pain shot through him. From the ship’s monitor, he heard the old man’s voice, “Base One, reporting for du—“ then silence.