No.9

A TALE OF REJECTION

9 watched as Beatrice gently brushed the child’s hair, drawing the brush through the long fair locks, laying it on her other hand, the child’s hair shiny and healthy in the sun.
As she did so, she hummed a soothing tune, not a particular tune, just a meandering melody from nowhere really, the child laughed.
9 watched…..
Him, or It, depending on your perspective was a ‘Homebuild’ the prospective owner was required to assemble the robot helper from a parts bin, parts purchased from an online Automata supplier somewhere in Southeast Asia, along with a handbook, usually printed with badly written instructions, which often as not, impede productivity and pretty much guarantee that the art of assembly becomes a nightmare of deciphering and backtracking. Something that’s not ideal for a machine.
Tom, Beatrice’ partner was often away on business trips, sometimes for a couple of weeks at a time, so he thought that in buying a robotic helper would take some of the most mundane household chores out of Beatrice’s’ hand and free up more quality time with their daughter.
Professional component assemblage, coordination and calibration were a pricey business, what could you do in this keep up with the Jones world. Tom did what he thought was best and for a relatively inexpensive cost.
The initial fabrication of the chassis was reasonably straightforward, not so the Artificial Intelligence, this should be left to the professionals, not a pre-programmed plug and play chipset, shipped with the other components.
9 was, as most standard units were supplied with limited neuro function, with basic cognitive capabilities and image processing. The ability was restricted to rudimentary convolution neuro networking, (object recognition) and his recurrent neuro-network, (remembering the past and acting on memorized information). The use of pattern recog’ and predictive algorithms were somewhat more advanced and because of the speed of information processing, 9 was able to function in a more effective way. To completely ‘dumb’ him down would be pointless if he was rendered non-productive.
Nevertheless 9’s Artificial Intelligence, for all its budget classification was still a very impressive piece of hardware, more than capable of learning potential. Just how much was still debatable, but certainly on a par with an eleven-year-old human.
9 stood a shade under five feet tall at 1500mm, he was of a standard bipedal, bimanual configuration, much the same as the hominid, (great apes and humans). His two forward facing optical receptors were independent of each other, with both having the function to gather visual information from two separate reference points, each with the ability to calculate distance and displacement. 9 was certainly not brand new, straight out of the box, but he was factory reconditioned, slightly rough around the edges, but functional none the less. He wore the colours of the Chen Corporation, a mixture of black, maroon and sported the distinctive yellow stripe down the centre of his head unit, indicative of the Southeast Asian manufacturer. A manufacturer with a not so unblemished quality control record.
It was late morning around 11.30am and the sun was reaching its zenith, so Beatrice put the brush down on the bench where they were sitting and gestured for the girl to follow her back into the house. The sun was very warm and the girl’s fair skin might get burnt.
9 watched…..

The faint whirr of his optics stepper motors accompanied the movement of the lenses, adjusting the depth of field as Mother and Daughter moved, he ran a filter over the receptors to compensate for the sun’s glare, giving them an eerie pinkish tint.
Beatrice and the girl walked toward the house, chatting happily. 9 seemed to have trouble re-aligning his processing, he should be focusing on his duties, today was allocated for lawn maintenance not focussing attention on his ’employers’. He calculated he was 39% in cognitive deficit and was almost in an electronic state of bewilderment ….. Obviously, this was not a possible scenario.
Soon after Beatrice and the girl entered the house and were out of sight, 9’s systems came back online and he was once again predisposed to carry on with his tasks.
9’s core programming allowed him to detour any schedule conflicts and perform his function as a garden maintenance robot. The time spent idle watching the woman and child had to be redeemed, so efficiency was key to productivity.
Sometime in the afternoon the girl and the woman, Beatrice appeared from the house and walked toward the gates at the end of the drive. Neither glanced even briefly at 9 as he worked the garden. Why would they, he was just another appliance, no more significant than any other labour saving device.
The couple disappeared through the gate as 9 watched, his attention was again rerouted from his designated function. What was happening to him, perhaps the woman and the girl were not satisfied with his work, his logic centres implied as much and his basic programming urged him to improve on his performance. He wanted to be acknowledged, to be appreciated, his purpose was hardwired into his electronic DNA.
He had a plan…..
The day’s task completed, 9 went to the outbuilding at the end of the yard and he plugged in for recharging, he had no need to monitor kinetics so there was an abundance of processing power to ponder the glitches in his behaviour. There appeared to be an error in his deep learning subset that seemed to allow him independent thought. As an appliance there should have to be no need for human appreciation, he was created for a number of reasonably simple tasks, nothing more.
9 stood in the charging bay, staring toward the house. He wanted to be acknowledged…. Loved even., he had the emotional intelligence of a young adolescent, he had not developed the ability to reason and solve problems on the feelings and emotions he was somehow experiencing. Obviously, he was not versed in the characteristics of social awareness and social skills, he had no real concept of how to deal with these conundrums, he was programmed to never harm a human, but not programmed to deal with these unforeseen circumstances. He only knew he had to act.
Beatrice woke with a start, there had been a noise, something was not right.
A mother knows instinctively when danger threatens their children, she burst into the child’s room to find to her horror, 9 sat on the girl’s bed, brush in metal hand, drawing it through the long fair locks, her bloodied, lifeless head in the other.
9 looked upward towards Beatrice, surely now they would recognize him as a valuable asset to the family unit, surely now he could be appreciated. He carried on brushing the child’s hair, she was strangely quiet, why no laughter?

The horror before her washed over Beatrice, like an icy deluge, her heart pounding like it would burst. She stood transfixed, unable to move for a moment, then the terror caught her.

Beatrice screamed, shocked and stunned she fled.