The boys sat on the pier looking down at the quiet waters below. Their shirts slung over a post as their sunkissed skin stretched over their skinny frames. They had been 9 months at sea. Each day they found themselves sinking into a spiral of boredom and carelessness. Their antics lead them to the very port to barter for repair parts on the 60 foot yacht; an oddity amongst the fishing dingy’s scattered about the port.
“I don’t think it’ll hurt at all.”
“Why wouldn’t it hurt?”
“Well because you’re a robot.”
“How can you be sure? I think Carl would have told me I was a robot by now if I truly was one.”
“My dad wouldn’t have told you because he’s afraid that I would become detached.”
“I don’t understand.”
“After my mom died he brought you home to be my companion and make me feel better.”
“That’s not true! We met at school.”
“I know.” Cameron proclaimed exasperated. “He programmed you to understand me better and dropped you off at the school so I wouldn’t know. You’re really just a Social Anxiety Bot to help me cope with mom’s death.”
Leo stared far out towards the sunset searching for a way to refute the logic. He retorted, “I remember my mom and dad. I even have a sister at home.”
“Why would any family let their only son go on a sailing trip for a year and never write or call?”
Leo squinted as a group of dolphins surfaced near the horizon. Cameron was right. Why would his family let him leave for a year. Why didn’t they care?
Cameron placed his arm on Leo’s heat soaked shoulder and said, “You’re not the first companion robot my dad has bought.”
Leo turned to look at Cameron with wide eyes. “Well what happened to it?” Cameron gulped, “She died.”
Leo stared at his sand crusted feet as they dangled off the pier. He asked, “What do you think happened to her?”
“She got upgraded to a new version.”
Leo wanted to ask a question but he couldn’t bring himself to do it.
Cameron chimed in, “For robots it’s like evolution. You’ll get upgraded and come back as a better version of yourself.”
Leo considered, “Like the Neanderthal?”
“Yeah, or like the Cro-Magnon man. Like Darwin said, we adapt to survive. Robots can adapt and return in their same body instead of waiting all the years like those giant turtles we saw on that island.”
Leo was emboldened, he scooted towards the edge of the deck. Then he paused, “Cameron, just in case I do have a mom and dad and a sister can you tell them I loved them?”
Cameron consented with a smile, “I promise I will.”
Leo slipped into the ocean his metal skeleton accelerating him towards the bottom. He landed with a dull thud remaining upright with his two feet covered in sand. He wasn’t drowning. He just seemed sleepy. All at once his fluids slowed, his pumps stopped and his body collapsed into a heap onto the sandy ocean floor.
Carl returned to Cameron on the pier as he kicked at the water below. He asked, “Where’s Leo?”
Cameron frowned, “He wanted to go for a swim and I told him that you forbid us. But he did it anyway.”
Carl sighed, it was the second robot he had lost this year. He couldn’t trust a human with his cargo and getting a military grade robot would be too suspicious. He needed absolute trust. He needed a family. Leo was just extra help after Samantha malfunctioned. They were already a day late for their delivery and he couldn’t go fishing out spare parts while the guerillas waited.
He motioned to Cameron to come to the boat. Like clockwork, Cameron untied the boat pulled up the anchor and took a seat. Carl started the engine and paused to stare at the boy. There was something unsettling about his demeanor. He motioned to Cameron to come over.
Carl said, “Engage Safe Mode.”
Cameron’s head slumped with his chin on his chest while balancing on both feet.
Carl watched him for motion to ensure the command worked. He commanded, “Search for software upgrade.” He couldn’t afford another malfunction.