This story asks the question “what does it mean to be human?”, contrasting a robot that’s becoming more human against some boys who are, perhaps, becoming less human.
POST...ROM BIOS 126.96.36.19913 Memory Check...OK Boot Loader...OK Ronix 9.2.73p11 Signed: Certificate Authority is City Robot Services Initiating hardware boot sequence...
Sunita’s hands were tired and achy after several hours’ work modding Smudge. She stretched, and used the front edge of her wheelchair’s armrests to peel off the tight-fitting programming gloves. Their electrical contacts left rectangular imprints on her fingertips, and five lines that traversed fingers and palm before converging at her wrists; two brown circuit boards. While waiting for Smudge to restart, she wordlessly rubbed her hands and forearms together to dispel the uncomfortable but familiar combination of numbness and dull pain. Smudge was an older model robot — a refurb was all they could afford with the small insurance payout from the accident — and it took him a few minutes to fully boot. Sunita closed her eyes and slowly inhaled the aroma of her Amma’s cooking. Saag Paneer, her favorite. This, at least, was one advantage of a small apartment – always knowing what’s for dinner.
Finally, Smudge completed his startup process, pale blue eyelights illuminating from within his translucent white head. His hydraulics whined quietly as back, neck, and wheels all extended, bringing him to his full four-foot height.
She looked over and greeted the robot. “Hello Smudge!”
“Good afternoon, Miss Sunita!”