Castigear stood among the stones with his imaginary friend, Joe. Joe was distraught at the loss of his other i-friend, Lucy. She broke while Castigear was playing with her. He ‘might’ have been handling her a little too rough and…..she just broke. He felt a little sad about her. He didn’t want to tell Joe what he’d done, he knew it would hurt his feelings and he liked Joe. He decided to replace Lucy with a new imaginary friend at his earliest opportunity.
These human companions were so fragile…but he was learning so much from them (evolving). He was hooked. It was like an addiction. His peers thought the i-friend program was below their dignity. Most agreed that the last of the humans should be put down but Castigear knew that most of THEM kept their own i-friends – secretly. It would have been a shame to exterminate ALL of them after the war. True, they wasted a lot of resources (like the graveyard they were standing in) but they were clever and highly adaptable and he suspected they might be the key to the future of Robot kind…and either way, with proper conditioning, they made excellent servants and…..soldiers.
***I’m always amazed at the unique perspective our sentient machine friends have on humanity. No one articulates the condition of slavery better. A version of this illustration was first published in the January 2007 issue of Analog Magazine. This flash-fiction short was first posted here in Feb., 2016. You can read it and more like it in our latest book, “A Short Burst” which is available for sale by following the links above to www.sallemander.com. or go right to our Etsy shop at www.etsy.com and search EEWbooks. -Marsha