Short Story: Rust

Trigger Warning: Violence, Horror themes

Verice swept past the rocky shoreline for the tenth time today. He was making excellent time, as usually he was less than halfway through his daily grind by primary solar noon. Verice hummed to himself as he clattered along, slowly transforming the whole beach into a mess of chain-tracks and red flecks. He looked down at the rushing waves surrounding his lower appendages, and as he watched the rust get drawn away to the coral sea he remembered a similar colour that had crossed his memory circuits years earlier.

Mother’s eyes had watered profusely as she looked at the little splashes of red on the great blue rocks they called “sunbathers”. They looked so pretty to Verice, like rubies twinkling under a Jupiter moonrise. He sighed and went about his work – after all, that’s what Father had always told him to do when Mother was crying before. 

Verice was responsible for keeping things in order, and he did such a wonderful job. Everyone said so, especially the men in grey business blouses who kept coming back. Verice had needed to add several modules to his onboard dictionary to keep up with what they meant. Such glittering, exciting words like “revolutionary”, “breakthrough” and “visionary”. Verice fairly swelled with pride. It was one of his favorite things to contemplate while changing Little’s nappy or pushing her on the swing-a-slide.

Little was new, and in Verice’s opinion unnecessary. Things were simpler and more efficient without her. It was true that Mother seemed more cheerful, and that Father’s muscle mass had increased – but to Verice these were inconveniences. It was obvious that Verice was the true offspring of Father, and the time spent on Little detracted from the progress they were making. True artificial intelligence, and he was the most advanced mind of his kind.

So proud was he, when the time came to leave and Mother said that Little couldn’t possibly live without him there to assist. What a compliment and opportunity! What an important synthetic he was, to have his humans form such a bond with him. When Father said that it was time for him to be shared with Greater Humanity, Verice felt righteous. 

So Verice went about his day, preparing for the 6 o’sol departure time. He took care of Little, making sure that she would not miss him when he was gone. And then he started putting things back in order, making sure there was no mess at all. 

Mother’s screaming brought Father to the rocks. Father looked at Verice with a look he had never used before. Verice wondered what it meant then, and he still wonders now. Once upon a time, he could have added a module from the library – but there is no library now, and very few modules. 

Father took Verice into the workbench, and he brought all the mess with him. Then he removed all but one of Verice key modules and placed the mess inside. Father looked at Verice, and he said six words that Verice still pretends to not understand. “You know what you have done.”. He replaced Verice’s core directives with just a single new one, and then Mother and Father left.

Verice has not powered down in three hundred, forty-two cycles. He follows his core directive, which is to look for Little. However long he searches, he has not found her. He cannot find her, the vengeance his Father wreaked on him was too clever for that. But on the other hand – she is always within him, and he knows he can stop searching any time he likes.

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