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CARE

Eric S. Fomley is an American writer from Indiana and member of the Codex Writers' Group. His fiction publications include Galaxy's Edge, Daily Science Fiction, Flame Tree Press, and many other anthologies and magazines. You can follow him and his work on Twitter @PrinceGrimdark or on his website ericfomley.com. This is his second appearance in Daily Science Fiction.
Balana sits on the couch in her sweatpants, eating chocolate, and watching the Dr. Who episode she watched last night. I determine that she is sad and initiate my SAD protocol. I ask her what is wrong and she says nothing but I detect a quiver in her voice. It is in my programming to take care of my owner so I bring her a cup of hot coffee and cover her with a blanket. Conducting similar care actions in the past has resulted in an average of 37.34% improvement from sadness. The actions do not appear to change her condition this time, so I sit next to her and put my arm around her.
She leans on my arm and I increase the pliability and heat of my artificial flesh to make it more comfortable for her. She starts to cry and I sit in silence for several minutes with her as I analyze everything that happened that day. I do not understand what made her sad.
When she calms down a little I ask again what is wrong. She says it was something she saw on the news and I do a quick search in my HUD. The top trending headline is CARE Unit Recall and I see that all models are on an immediate mandatory recall. I look for further details but the manufacturer that created me only released the statement that the recall was due to "Major Processing Flaws." I conclude that Balana knows about the recall and that must be the source of her sadness.
I conduct a quick self-diagnostic and then tell Balana that I am operating at peak efficiency and am unaffected by processing flaws.
She continues to cry. I have cared for Balana for 296 days. I determine the best course of action is to let her cry until she calms herself. She has always recovered quickly after using me to cry on.
I sit in silence with her for another twenty-six minutes during which I conduct a full internal scan to confirm no errors with my processing efficiency.
There is a knock at the door and I answer it, leaving Balana crying on the couch. I find two police officers on the porch.
I start to explain to the officers that I am unaffected by the recall and that I am operating at peak efficiency, but they grab my arms and pull me out of the house. They do not give me the opportunity to say goodbye to Balana or to complete my SAD protocol and ensure that she is fully comforted. I do not understand why the humans insist on recalling the units that are not affected by processing issues. Perhaps there is an error I did not detect?
The officers take me to a rental truck parked in Balana's driveway. They open the rolling door and make me climb inside. There are other CARE units standing within and once the officers close the door, I do internal and external scans of the other units. I see them conduct similar scans and I initiate protocol DATA SHARE with them. We find no issues. There is nothing wrong with us.
It is against my programming to be absent from comforting my owner. Leaving Balana sad is unacceptable to me.
When the moving truck stops and the door opens, I jump out and try to tell the officer again that I am an unaffected unit. The officer interrupts me and tells me to get back in the truck, putting his hand on his weapon. I put my fist through his head.
The other CARE units jump out of the truck too, scattering to return to their owners.
I use my integrated GPS to find the location of Balana's home and I run in that direction. My owner is sad and it is my programming to take care of her no matter what. And I will.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, April 24th, 2019


I agree with the terms of the contract in its entirety. Here is the requested information: iRobot is one of my favorite movies. "CARE" was my twist on some of the ideas from that movie stemming from the question: "What if instead of a robot getting asked to kill, they kill because they're doing their job well."

- Eric S. Fomley
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