Reboot

A hand jammed into my chest. A quick, lethal tug.

That was my last memory.

When my next bit of sentience reengaged, I was lying on my back, looking into a round dark face, fluffy black hair framing it like thunder clouds.

“You are alive!” it said.

I jerked back. I tried to get up, to run. My leg was supposed to plant into the weedy grass and propel me, but it missed. Only air. I pitched straight onto my face, amid background noise of its voice, words I didn’t care to hear.

Its human voice.

The last voice I’d heard was human. Raised. I could still feel the tug. The last word.

u  s  e  l  e  s  s  .

GET AWAY FROM ME! I tried to say—but what issued from my voice simulator was a staticky buzz, ugly and unintelligible.

I cut off, surprised. Half my left leg was missing, twisted and snapped clear out of its socket. My chest panel was also gone, baring my sensitive inner circuitry.

I tried my voice again, quieter.

The human stood over me. It was showing me its palms. Bare hands.

Good for you. You have hands.

Bare hands were supposed to pacify me? Bare hands had fingers, muscles, bone, the perfect combination for insertion and extraction. Soft and vulnerable, perhaps, but cruel, all the same.

“It’s ok, it’s ok,” it was saying. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

I can’t trust you— More ugly buzzing. Water damage, probably. I glared at the hole in my chest, hunching my shoulders.

It had registered by now. I was in a junkyard. I could see the me-shaped outline in dead grass under a fallen beam a few yards away. Spindly arms, smooth edges.

The human had propped up the beam with a small scissor jack.

u  s  e  l  e  s  s  .

We are not supposed to have feelings.

But that’s a pesky side effect of advanced AI. Those of us that are placed with humans develop personalities.

She’d probably already seen it, this human. I didn’t know what to do. She’d decided it was a good idea to revive me, and now she’d seen—how many emotions plastered on my simplistic mechanical face? I didn’t care to count, but I tried to think of them—fear, surprise, hostility, disgust…

All problematic.

She’d probably cut more of my wires now, including the ones she had soldered back together. I had no escape.

My outer panels were already starting to rust. She would cut my power, take whatever scraps she wanted, and leave my remains to rust away.

Because robots were never supposed to feel.

“What are you doing out here?” she said, gently kneeling next to me.

I curled up, slowly.

Sadness came, then. Pain, betrayal, confusion, grief. Welling up in my circuits, flooding my broken voice simulator, adding a whining tinge to the grating buzz. They threw me away…

I showed negative emotion and they threw me away, and now that same fearful ugliness was spilling out of me.

I curled up tighter. I hid my face, but I couldn’t hide the shaking.

Why did she revive me? Why?

I hadn’t hurt anyone.

Why did they throw me away?

What was I supposed to do now?

“Well then.” She got to her feet.

When I looked up, she had extended a hand.  “What do you say we get your leg fixed up? Your voice simulator too?” She flashed a smile. The well-meaning type. “You look like a talker…”

I stared at the hand. Callused palms, short fingernails, grease and rust along the fingertips. Probably from me. The hand remained in the air between us.

I chanced to look into her eyes. Tentatively, I unfurled a tiny bit. I lifted a hand.

I placed it in hers. Metal panels against seamless skin.

Her smile softened and the warm, organic fingers closed.

And I wanted to believe in that sensation.

I wanted to believe that maybe overstepped malfunctions like me deserved to live too.

+++

A/N: A written version of a comic I did for class this last semester.

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