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art by Richard Gagnon

Old Friends

Shane Wilwand lives in California. He mows lawns for a living.
The scientist carefully removed a thin gold filament from the robot's skull and the lights in its eyes went dark. Another robot, painted bright blue, stood over a nearby workbench, dissecting a beetle, one eye focused on the scientist and one eye focused on the tiny twitching bug.
"But why?" the blue robot asked.
The scientist jerked back his hand as a wire in the skull sparked. "Because J1-A here"--he tapped the dead robot with a pair of pliers--"can't learn like you can. He was stupid. His mind wasn't right."
"But J1-A was my friend."
"Well, I'm going to make you a new friend."
Light orange fluid was leaking out of the skull and the scientist reached for a pan. "He'll be able to learn like you do, just by watching. Maybe better than you." The scientist set the pan down and wiped his hands on his lab coat. "And he'll always have parts of J1-A in him. Most parts, in fact. So your friend isn't really gone."
The blue robot removed an antenna from the beetle and didn't speak as he set it aside. Then he removed a leg.
J1-A sat up, a new, large silver patch on his skull. His head swiveled, and the light from his eyes found the blue robot standing over a worktable, his back to J1-A.
J1-A whistled a question. The blue robot, his torso unmoving, rotated his head backwards to face J1-A and lifted his arms out to his sides.
Blood covered the whirring servomotors in his mechanical hands, the steel smoking slightly where it had partially rinsed off the grease that lubricated the tiny gears. The corners of the robot's mechanical mouth turned up to form a right-angled smile.
"I am making a new master."
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, September 13th, 2012


I tried to write this story with an almost setup/punchline structure, though it's not meant as a joke. (It's a little dark for that--I doubt anyone is thinking, with regard to the surprised evil scientist: "Can you imagine the look on his face?") But I guess whether or not "I am making a new master" sounds like a punchline would depend on your perspective.

I sort of think of this story as a joke that killer robots might tell each other around the office.

- Shane Wilwand

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