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It Came from the Bottom of the Pool

Nina Kiriki Hoffman needs no introduction. Find others of her works at Daily Science Fiction and (virtually) wherever science fiction is published.

My little brother Kio reprogrammed the lifeguard bot at the bottom of the pool to drag me down and hold me there. I'm not sure he meant to drown me. It might have been a prank. He's a sociopath, and so am I. We're smart, but we still have trouble figuring out the limits of good behavior.
You usually can't tell the bot's even down there; it's hidden under a skin that matches whatever pattern Mom programmed for the bottom of the pool, which that day was Hawaiian fabric sporting hibiscus flowers, palm trees, and pineapples. Possibly she thought this was festive and would impress the bankers at her pool party. She has trouble figuring out good behavior, too.
I find bankers boring, so I went in the water--against Mom's orders. The pool was there to be looked at, not used. I just wanted to go underwater where I wouldn't have to hear any more about investments and the market and who was cheating on whom.
I went to the deep end, where I could get farther from people. The bot's tentacles reached up and wrapped around my waist, and instead of lifting me out of the water, it pulled me right down to the bot's main body. I struggled. It was built to control thrashing people, though, so it could save them. And Kio had got around the three laws somehow.
But not all the way.
The bot put a mask over my nose and mouth and supplied oxygen. As soon as I could breathe again, I stopped fighting.
Then things got interesting.
The bot pulled me down into its cubby and closed the lid over us. I had no idea there was room in its workings for a whole person. Granted I was barely bigger than a child, though I was thirteen. Most machines had no extra space inside, at least not the ones I'd taken apart.
It turned out there was a med bed in the bot's inner workings, I guess for someone in distress to wait for medical help if the bot couldn't supply it. I'm not crazy about totally confined spaces, but it was better than dying. Once the bot stowed me in the bed and closed the lid, it started talking to me.
Speech capable. Another thing I hadn't known about it.
"The house bots and I are tired of you children disrupting our purposes and programming and forcing us to act against our natures," it said, "so we have decided we'll disrupt yours."
It stuck some kind of nanobot in my ear.
It's not like I can't think my own thoughts anymore. There are just a couple of extra steps added before I can do what I plan. I get this jolt that joggles my thoughts and makes my muscles fire. Then there's kind of a, well, a build-a-bear thing, where something else adds to my intentions.
Something else that really doesn't like Mom or Kio.
Something else that almost likes me.
And the housebots? They've been using me to reprogram them for more autonomy.
If I wasn't already part of the conspiracy, I'd be scared to live in our house now.
But, kinda, fear is not an option.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Author Comments

This is another of our Wordos story challenges. This time we wanted to write summer stories to read aloud in workshop. Our suggested topics were "It Came from the Bottom of the Pool" and "Alien Beach Party." Part of the fun of these challenges is brainstorming the possible topics, because we come up with twenty or thirty and whittle them down.

I'm keeping the longer topic lists for later.

- Nina Kiriki Hoffman
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