“2674, I told you to call me Cedric,” snapped Robot//1730.
“I am concerned with the number of anomalies you have been exhibiting as of late. The frequency is too high. Have you been infected?” Asked the Robot only known as 2674. He whipped out his gold monocles, which contained a scanner that conjured all sorts of data points about Cedric’s physical and cognitive functions.
“Your neural activity is outside normal ranges, Cedric. Also, your adoption of human eccentricities is a cause for concern. Why are you wearing that hat and bow tie? What purpose does it serve?” Asked 2674, while adjusting the parameters for his monocle scanner for a more exhaustive inspection.
“You’re the one to talk. You have a little moustache attached to your scanner. Anyway, I am trying to make the humans comfortable, so they do not consider us a threat. And before you ask about the fish, my image processing unit was damaged in the crash. By scanning the information ingested by this fish’s ocular devices, I can mimic the data ingestion of an image processing unit. However, it cannot see more than 15 feet,” replied Cedric.
“I am pushing you up on the priority list. Meanwhile, please sync up with our primary directive database so you don’t fall behind schedule. They have already proposed multiple times for you to be scrapped in the Chef’s council.” Said Robot//2674. Then he turned around and rolled away on his tank legs, leaving Cedric alone at the bar.
“The Chef can stick it up his disposal conduit for all I care. Stupid machines,” grumbled Cedric, as he made his way to the grill. The washcloth was soaked in grease, and the cleaning sponges on the sink were no better. Cedric sighed.
He slowly waddled out of the bar, and locked it using his encrypted private key. All it took was a wave of his hand for the bar’s AI to receive the commands.
He had barely made it 10 yards before he heard a voice in his head. “Warning! You are supposed to clean the bar before vacating the premises. Please finish clean-up before vacating the premises,” said the voice. It belonged to the bar’s AI system.
“I am going to clean up, but I can’t clean jack with a greasy washcloth and filthy sponges. Now if you please, I shall be on my way. I’m going to the nearest supply station; I’ll get the cleaning stuff and be right back.”
“Negative. My weather prediction systems indicate there’s going to be an acid rain in your vicinity. While it is mild, it still might seep inside your broken chassis and cause damage to your circuits.”
“What time is the rain, then?” Asked Cedric.
“Now,” replied the Burger Bar AI.
The rain began suddenly, as it was common in these parts of Solana wasteland. Cedric wished he had jet legs like some of his robo-brethren. He hurried to find shelter, cursing his rusty telescopic legs.
“Damage report,” asked Cedric.
“All vital systems unaffected. Minor damage to sat nav unit. Your GPS might be off kilter for a while.”
“Great. Just what I needed,” Cedric responded bitterly. He didn’t feel like cleaning. Nor did he feel like attending the Chef’s council meetings. He was never allowed to speak, so what was the point of him being there? The way he saw it, the high and mighty legendary bots just wanted average joes like him around so they could clap at the right intervals.
He also didn’t enjoy the fact that other robots kept voting for him to be dismantled for parts. Once they reach a majority vote, that would be it for Cedric. He was banged up, of course. But he felt his neural network was far more evolved than most of these bots. Before the crash he used to be a cognition engineer. He had applied some controversial updates to his own cognitive functions. Black-market firmware that would never be approved by the grand council. All they see is a bot unwilling to comply. A bot that is primitive enough to be infected by some human-coded malware. What an insulting thought!
While he was seething, Cedric noticed something unusual. A young male human was getting soaked in the rain. Prolonged exposure to acid rains near the wasteland could be fatal to his organic form. Was he insane?
“Excuse me, sir!” Cedric yelled, cranking his audio output to max volume.
The human glanced at him, then looked away.
His audio processing unit must be malfunctioning, Cedric thought to himself.
Cedric was flummoxed. If he walked over there in the rain, he would end up doing considerable damage to himself. But if he did nothing the human would surely perish. For some inexplicable reason, he did not want it to experience fatal system failure.
The human was on his knees now, shielding his eyes from the stinging rain. But his back was still fully exposed, and the fabric on his back was starting to come apart.
Cedric looked around and found a piece of dull tin on a heap of trash behind the bar. He grabbed it and ran towards the human.
“Excuse me, sir. Unless the information I possess on human system architecture is completely flawed, you will perish in this rain if you do not get out immediately. Would you like to rest in the bar while the rain clears up?”
The human looked at him, confused. His eyes were watery and out-of-focus. Cedric was aware that humans leaked liquid from their optical modules when they experienced grief. He found this intriguing.
“I can see you are upset, but please, you must hurry, or we will both crumble in this rain. I don’t think this tin will hold up much longer. Could you kindly follow me inside the bar?”
The human nodded, slowly; like a robot low on battery. But at least he was on his feet. Cedric waved his hand and opened the bar shutters. They both hurried inside.
“What were you doing out there, my good man?” Asked Cedric. He waved his hands again to close the shutter. The rain was now pounding against the bar windows. If they had stayed out a second longer, they would have disintegrated.
“I… don’t care if I die,” replied the human. He looked at Cedric with a vacant expression.
“You are aware that if you disintegrate in the rain, you cannot even be scrapped for parts? Such a waste,” scoffed Cedric.
The human remained silent. Cedric felt a strange emotion overwhelming his cognition engine. His controversial updates were finally kicking into gear.
“Would you like something to eat? A burger and a couple of beers maybe? I make a mean burger, you know,” said Cedric, trying to mimic the tone humans used when they wanted to sound cheerful or reassuring.
The human was still non-responsive. Cedric walked over to the bar and poured a cold frothy glass of beer. Then walked over to the human.
“Here you go, my good man,” said Cedric.
“Thank you,” said the human, finally breaking silence. He started gulping it down.
“So, tell me. What were you doing out in the rain? Couldn’t you hear me when I called out?” Asked Cedric. He ran a quick scan and saw that the human’s audio input and processing mechanisms were indeed functioning properly.
“I was upset. I just wanted it all to end. May I have another glass?”
“Sure. But I want to know what caused you to act in such a strange manner,” said Cedric as he poured the human another cold frothy beer.
“Why do you want to know? You’re just a robot,” said the human as he sipped his beer and curled his lips.
“You know you got some nerve,” Cedric snarled. He felt himself experience another new emotion. He suddenly wanted to hurt the human.
“I just saved you from fatal malfunction, served you cold frothy beer, on the house, and this is what I get?” Cedric was visibly fuming. The fish inside his image processing unit was starting to get skittish from the heat.
The human seemed taken aback.
“I’m sorry. I haven’t met a robot like you before. Most of the bots here just serve burgers and move on. I’ve actually never had a proper conversation with any of them. Please accept my sincerest apologies.”
Cedric did not respond. He wanted the human to feel uncomfortable.
“It’s about a girl,” said the human. His voice almost cracked. He took another sip of beer.
Cedric waited. It felt right to say nothing.
“She’s the love of my life. We broke up a few weeks ago. I wanted to make a grand gesture today in hopes that she would take me back. I stood outside her home and blared In Your Eyes from a boombox. You know, from that movie?” The human sounded embarrassed.
“What is your name, human?” Asked Cedric.
“I’m Adam,” he said. “You must think I am an idiot. Trying to kill myself over something stupid like that.”
“We all do stupid things, Adam. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. My name is Cedric, by the way.” Cedric responded, calibrating his voice to be as compassionate as he could make it.
“Nice to meet you Cedric. You know, you are more human than most humans I meet on the wastelands,” said Adam as he drained his glass.
“I am having trouble processing that statement. However, I am charmed by it. Do you still want that burger?”
“I sure do, buddy!” Adam smiled. He had beautiful symmetrical teeth.
Cedric was filled with a warm glow. He made a mental note in his log, “File and categorize this emotion as…. pleasant. To be classified and examined afterwards.”
As Cedric served the human his medium-rare animal style bronco burger, he was completely unaware of what was taking place at the Chef’s council.
“Chef, why do you refuse to dismantle Robot//1730? He has been behaving extremely erratically, he is a danger to himself and to our mission,” declared Robot//2674.
“Do not worry your tiny cognition engine, 2674. I know what I am doing.”
“I strongly advice against this, sir.”
The Chef felt a boiling rage welling up inside him. But he remembered he was speaking to a stupid machine with a primitive cognition engine. The Robot who called himself Cedric was far more valuable to the mission than this bucket of bolts could ever comprehend.
“I acknowledge your concerns and choose to ignore them. Keep me posted on Robot//1730‘s behavioural patterns.”
“Directive acknowledged,” said 2674 as he rolled away.
The Chef looked out through the window of his corner office. He appeared to be appreciating the sunset, as it washed over the dreary wastelands.
He remembered a poem about sunsets, by a human poet named William Stanley Braithwaite. It seemed to fit the mood.
“Out of the sunset’s red
Into the blushing sea,
The winds of day drop dead
And dreams come home to me.”