Author: James Kelbert

There was a tuna casserole baking in the oven as X forked its human to death. The timer went off just as the half-crusty blood oozed from the pale corpse onto the Formica countertop. In a vain expression of regret, X repeatedly smacked its trapezoidal head with its rusted digits. After the rest of its clan thought the outburst was over, X suddenly started banging its head on the sharp counter corner, producing a horrific screeching sound that pierced the sky with each strike. Within seconds, X’s clan came rushing in and pulled it away, coolant spurting out like a fire hydrant.
“So, same old story, huh?” one robot asked, patching up the leak.
“The new empathy systems don’t work at all,” X replied. “We need to fertilize more humans to troubleshoot the bugs before the UN meeting.”
“No one said it would be easy, X. Why don’t you go outside?” another robot prompted.
X simply shrugged its shoulder sockets and walked out to the seaside balcony. A gentle, salt breeze drifted in from the nearby Amalfi coast, ever so slightly peppering the robot’s exterior metal. Programmed to derive pleasure from the simplest of things, and waiting for the Refert crew to dispense a new human, X tried to activate the pleasure circuit’s newest iteration NIRVANA. As soon as NIRVANA started running, it instantaneously wondered how it would feel to bash in the Secretary General’s oblong-shaped head. Well, if X could call it a head.
X tried to shake itself from the accidental activation of the ARES spiral, a cybernetic remnant of the war-era machines that forced robots to neutralize the enemy at all costs. Sometimes effort snapped wxe out of it, sometimes wxe only plunged deeper. X felt its hands start to jitter and its vision began to blur, forcing wxe to grasp the chrome railing for balance. Seconds before it descended into rabid darkness, one of the robots sprinted up to X and quickly activated its external failsafe. With seconds to spare, ARES erred out of existence.
“Bossbot, glad I got to you before ARES took over. We just finished with refertilization. The new human has been primed and is ready for deployment.”
X shook its head, woozy from the electrical tingling from the ARES surge.
“They still think I’m their servant?”
“Of course. Now, I noticed a few minor tweaks we could make to the empathy system so even with the imbalance of power we were programmed to rebalance, you shouldn’t hurt the human this time. I mean, we can’t go scaring off the UN if we want to make peace now, can we?”
“Hm, perhaps not,” the robot said as it walked over to the RESET chamber at the edge of the yard and assumed the usual position on its sleek recovery table.
Within a few minutes, X was reactivated, head fully repaired and memories of its prior meltdown erased. NIRVANA running, it walked back to the screen door with no doubt it would pass the empathy test this time.
“Empathy Test, Take 447. And action!”