Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daily Story 73: Disconsolate Exodus

My husband is watching the other passengers board from our pod's shared balcony. I wish he would turn and talk to our neighbors with me, but I suppose there'll be plenty of time for that - more than we could ever want. We've been together for ninety years, and I know if I wasn't trying to be social he would be nudging me and pointing to each one, telling me their model number and some obscure fact about them. Personally I like to watch the humans more.

My first husband was human, a lonely little man who had lost his wife in a car accident years before. He bought me just to have someone to talk to. I remember sitting up at night and reading while he slept so that I could ask him questions about the book in the morning. Usually it was old science fiction, set years in our past with technology that was alternately too advanced or hopelessly antiquated. I would ask about the context - or in his later years feign ignorance - and he would go on about the good old days for hours.

There's a human in our pod that reminds me a bit of him, old and kind. This one is more outgoing, a little more energetic in spirit if not in body. He won't be seeing our destination, and he must know that, but he's just thrilled to be here. His roommate is always fussing around him, making sure he's warm and fed and happy. Someone gave them trouble for that when they first arrived, yelling at the old man for keeping a slave. He just laughed, and it's because I love to watch the humans that I was able to laugh with him. I could tell as soon as I met them that they were friends, probably for at least half a century. Just because you've been emancipated doesn't mean you have to leave your human. I know I would have stayed with mine if he hadn't died.

There are others on board, robots with human companions. It's beautiful. The looks I got when I was declared to be my own legal owner were so hostile... but now emancipated robots are just part of the scenery. I look at my husband, dented and scuffed, and remember having to buy him rather than being able to just date like the newer generations can. We made such progress, and now it will all be over. No more progress, just fire and death.

I can see the soldiers milling around the port, humans and hulking military robots alike. They know that everyone is just waiting for us to leave; at thirty stations around the globe ships like this wait and stock supplies, conscientious objectors to the entire Earth. All three sides have agreed to let us go, to wait to kill each other until we're gone. I think they're just happy to be free of protestors.

A shiny new robot walks into the pod and my husband elbows me, telling me about the 342 model and how it can recognize the physiological responses to lying. Seems like a strange feature, but to each his own. It's too stiff, too formal, and I can tell it isn't a passenger.
"Is this Disconsolate Exodus, Pod 59220, the residence of one Alan Watts?" The human waves excitedly and takes the package. I'm watching the delivery robot and the old man and thinking - they're both going to die, the human before getting to our new planet and the robot before he ever gets to develop a real personality. It's not fair.

"Come with us." I know it's absurd, I know he's too new to understand, but I have to try. The delivery robot just looks at me for a moment, and then turns towards the door. Of course. I might as well ask everyone to lay down their arms and stop the war - or ask the Earth to stop spinning entirely. I watch him leave, and for now I feel my age. I lean against my husband, sigh at the comforting tingle as our metal skins glide against one another. The others are going into their rooms, leaving us alone on the pod's balcony.

As he starts to point out different models of robots on the docks below us I allow my processor to stray, drifting into a sort of sleep. Between being too young to understand and too old to see things through, I wonder if any of us are ever the right age.