Independence, California prided itself on its normalcy. Blue skies, green grass, and boxy houses were staples of the town. Everything was in its place, and everyone fulfilled their role.
So, imagine the shock of young Goldbot QW28 when the morning news was abuzz about two destroyed robots in the desert on the outskirts of town.
No one was there when the robots were destroyed. Indeed, the news anchor said, it took some forensic analysis to confirm that the second casualty was a robot at all. All anyone knew was that one robot had exploded, and that the other one had somehow immolated—and that the whole affair had been rather loud, hence the summoning of the local police force.
This sort of thing wasn’t normal to QW28. Tugging at his mother’s skirt, he asked, “What happened?”
“We don’t really know,” his mother said.
“Why?” QW28 asked.
“It happened in secret.”
QW28 was silent for a moment. “So, they just… exploded?” he asked. “And nobody knew?”
“Well, ‘combusted’ is perhaps the more accurate term, given that only one of them properly ‘exploded’, but yes, they both died, and nobody knew,” his mother replied.
“Did they die at the same time?” QW28 asked.
“We don’t know,” his mother replied, “but probably not. What was left of each robot were found in different spots.”
“So maybe one of them knew.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Maybe one of the robots knew the other one died,” QW28 reckoned.
“Maybe,” his mother said, “but it doesn’t matter.”
“But maybe the other robot was sad, or scared, or—,” QW28 started.
“Maybe,” his mother interjected, “but it doesn’t matter. They’re both dead now.”
“I think it matters a little,” QW28 said, before asking, “Can a robot explode from being sad or scared?”
His mother stiffened at the question. She knew what was racing through her child’s mind, and she knew she could not say, “It doesn’t matter,” to it. Instead, she picked him up and sat her on her lap.
“Listen, sweetie,” his mother said, “I know this news must be scary for you. It’s scary for all of us. Just remember this: as long as you stay in your place, you’ll be safe! Nothing will be able to hurt you.”
Stay in your place, QW28 thought. Is that what happened to those two robots in the desert? Did they just… exist wrong? Could a robot exist wrong? “Okay,” QW28 said after a moment’s pause. “Thanks, Mom.”
“You’re welcome, sweetie,” she replied. “Now, get your things in gear! The bus is going to come to take you to school soon.”
QW28 complied with the order. Within a minute, he was heading out the door.
“Goodbye, sweetie!” his mother yelled out. “I’ll see you after school! I love you!”
“Love you, too, Mom!” QW28 yelled back.
With that, the young robot stood quietly in wait on the porch. He had more questions about last night’s events than he did answers, but duty called. Clearly, duty was not something to step around.