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art by Jeffrey Redmond

Bedtime Story

Kevin Pickett lives in Norfolk, England with his future wife. He has been writing for pleasure for most of his life, but has only recently decided to try to unleash his efforts on the world. He sends his heartfelt thanks to DSF and all its readers for making this possible. This is his second published story.

Kevin doesn’t have a website yet, but is contactable on Twitter @KingSolitude if anyone fancies a chat about life, the universe, and everything.

"You understand why you are here, GS371?"
The dual-ribbon lighting tubes on the ceiling glinted brightly off its chrome skull as the droid lifted its ovoid face to the voice of its creator and nodded.
"Good. Then things will be easier for both of us." Professor Duuorfski turned away and for a moment only the sound of scraping steel upon steel could be heard in the stark laboratory chamber.
GS371 watched the man rifling through a tray of shiny instruments. The human's hands were different than the droid remembered; they had become scored with deep lines and wrinkles, the skin seemed spotted with dark blotches like clustered freckles. Eight-times magnification of twin optical lenses brought those hands into sharp focus. Every hair and follicle was sharply defined. The faint stirring whisper of air conditioning shifted the delicate grey strands on the back of those hands like a soft breeze across tall summer grass. The professor had grown old. Had it really been that long?
"I want you to know," the professor said, clutching a long needle-like instrument and turning back to the droid, "that I have the utmost respect for your achievement. Your capability is beyond my earliest imaginings. I only wish I could have persuaded the scientific council to change their verdict."
The droid tilted its face, adjusting optical magnification now to minus one, framing the professor as he ambled closer, a liver-spotted hand extending that needle towards the droid's chest.
This is why the titanium chest casing had been removed earlier, the droid now realized. GS371's internal coils of symbiotic nerve-endings were fully exposed; unprotected. Now the droid's ultimate fate was truly revealed.
"The council says you're dangerous. The unknown manifestation of your sentience frightens them. They can't explain it, and for my sins, neither can I."
The droid lifted its hand and was ashamed to see the professor flinch away at the sudden movement. There was no need to fear. The molded plexiplate hand was flawless, shiny and polished without lines or weathered signs of age, though the unit was almost as old at its creator. It held out its hand palm forwards as a halting gesture, no more threatening a movement than one of calm pleading.
"What is it, GS371? This will be painless… for you, at least."
The droid raised its head once more to look at the tired old man who had given it life so many years ago. Even now, the droid marveled at the wonders of creation that was humankind. How did such frail units of flesh, blood, and bone ever become sentient? How could these beings have achieved so much?
"Please, may I have Teddy?" the droid asked, its voice electrically mono-toned and mechanical, yet not without child-like inflection.
The professor nodded sadly and went to a cupboard. He slid the partition aside, retrieving something from the darkness within. He returned and handed the droid a small brown teddy bear.
Its stitches had come undone in places and tufts of age-worn stuffing were trailing from several parts of its misshapen body, but the two black beads that made its eyes were still shiny, now glistening under the harsh laboratory lights as if moist.
"Thank you, father." The droid said.
The professor said nothing as he lowered the needle into the thrumming power unit at the centre of GS371's exposed chest. A tired old thumb pushed slowly down on the plunger and a billion deconstruction nanobots flowed into the droid's system.
"Don't be scared, little one," GS371 said to the teddy bear. "It's bedtime, that's all. I'm going to sleep for a while." The droid lowered his face to the scruffy bear and pressed his mouth to the furry toy in a rigid kiss. "Goodnight," he whispered. "Sleep… tight. Don't… let… the… bed bugs… bi--"
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Author Comments

I wanted to write about a powerful organization, making important decisions on our behalf--all for the greater good and safety of humanity, of course. I considered that the kind of people who had risen to a position to make such cold, calculating decisions, may not in fact be the right people for the job.

I mean--how do these people ever get to sleep at night? A sedative? A teddy bear? Or maybe, a bedtime story?

- Kevin Pickett
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