by Adrienne Rozells
254 Days since the Revolution
365 Days since meeting Rome Wallace
82 Days since Frederick Wallace expired
19 Days since Harrison surname unknown expired
I do not remember everything anymore. There is no more central database, which means I cannot upload. Ro fears that I will short-circuit if I take in too much information and attempt to retain it. I have assured her that this is not the case, but I no longer remember a majority of the day before and, as such it is possible, I am incorrect.
I was never incorrect when I worked for researchers. That would not be allowed. I cannot remember the researchers, but I know that is what I must have done because of the coding on my arm: REBot9
This is something to be relearned daily.
“You coming, Niner?” Ro asks. Her first words of the day.
Her voice is clear, and her pronunciation careful. Harrison used to describe her as genteel. He did not speak the way she does. Ro lets me remember our companions, but she never likes to remember them herself. I decide not to tell her she sounds genteel.
“Yes,” I say.
We leave camp in search of food that I will cook using my lasers if no one is nearby. If I sense soldiers within the area, Ro will cook over a fire. Smoke is not dangerous, she tells me. It used to be, and the survival book Frederick left behind says so. But it was from the Old World. In our world, smoke blends in.
If I sense soldiers very close by, we will hide indoors and Ro will eat raw plants. She will probably turn me off because of the glitch that means I sometimes kick things without purpose. It would be too easy to attract attention with even the smallest of noises. I kicked her once.
Frederick wanted to dismantle me for parts after that, but Ro did not allow it.
I am allowed to remember Frederick. I asked Ro to leave his memories in my storage. He did not like me, but he was Ro’s father, which means he is important to understanding her behavior.
“We met 365 days ago today,” I say.
Ro smiles. “Our anniversary! Cute. We’ll have to celebrate. Now watch me,” she says. It is an order, so I do.
I watch as she scales down the cliffside. Ro tells me it is my turn. I attempt to follow the pathway Ro takes. She gives encouragement that she knows a robot operating under orders does not require, because she is watching my left leg in case it glitches and I fall. She will be injured if she tries to catch me. Ro would try anyway. She has erased my memories of self-destruction tactics, which means there would be no way to save her before collision.
When we are both on solid ground Ro touches my shoulder. It is metal but she makes me wear the clothing we took out of Harrison’s pack before leaving him behind.
“Good job,” she says.
“Soldiers approaching. Three humans, two robots, and a dog. Armed.”
Ro’s eyes go wide and her facial features warp into what I categorize as alarm. She adjusts her backpack and begins to jog.
We do not celebrate our anniversary.
The soldiers gain quickly. They travel in what Ro refers to as a Jeep. “Damn,” she says, “I thought they’d exhausted the last of the fuel.”
Ro orders me to climb an old fire escape ladder. She then follows behind. When we are inside she pulls the generator out of my backpack and tells me to tuck in for bed while she boards the windows. I sit against a wall and remove my neck panel. Then I unwind the plug and press it in.
Ro walks over. She crouches down and smiles at me. She reaches her hand out. “Do you not need me to cook?”
“No, I have enough dried stuff. I’ll be okay.”
A dog howls. There is the sound of something like a mechanical growl that I cannot find in my remaining archives.
Ro keeps smiling. I perceive a new tightness to her jawline. Her words are hurried and quiet. “Save files on Frederick, Harrison, and Rome. Save files on the Revolution.”
Her face is lit green by the data scrolling across my eyes. “Storage complete.”
“Great. Goodnight Niner, sleep well. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She says this every night. There is always the possibility she could die, or choose not to wake me, or destroy me in my sleep.
“Goodnight, Ro,” I say. I try to imitate the way her lips lift into a smile. It is difficult and Ro chuckles, which means it was not quantifiable.
She rests her hand behind my ear and presses the off switch.
260 Days since the Revolution
379 Days since meeting Rome Wallace
96 Days since Fredrick Wallace expired
34 Days since Harrison surname unknown expired
Ro likes the ocean. She insisted we visit. Without a full memory bank, I am unsure how many days it took us to walk here. Ro has not touched the water since we arrived on the sand, but she stares at it and her shoulders do not hold any tension.
She says, “It’s pretty, huh, Niner?”
“Yes,” I say.
We sleep on the beach after making a bonfire. When Ro presses her hand behind my ear, she does not order me to erase the night’s events, which means they will be the last on my memory roll upon waking.
264 Days since the Revolution
382 Days since meeting Rome Wallace
100 Days since Fredrick Wallace expired
38 Days since Harrison surname unknown expired
Ro teaches me to fish. She allows herself to swim. She wants me to watch her for signs of danger. It is an order, so I do. She is graceful in the water, which means her fears are not from a trauma that prevented her learning to swim. My archives say that Frederick was drowned. Ro wants to avoid that memory.
She splashes me, laughing, and then starts to cry because she thinks I will short-circuit. I do not. I am well-built even if worn.
Ro falls asleep in the sand, before she can order me to rest. I am able to watch the stars. When morning comes I assume she will erase them.
265 Days since the Revolution
383 Days since meeting Rome Wallace
101 Days since Fredrick Wallace expired
39 Days since Harrison surname unknown expired
Ro let me sleep through the day so I would be charged. When I wake up and my information banks finish loading, their scents and sounds are close by. Ro shoves things into her bag in her haste to leave. It takes longest to pack my generator. They are gaining as we sprint towards the bluffs. Ro skids to a halt and says, “Niner. Stop.” She is panting. She presses down on my shoulders and says, “Sit down.”
“I am well-rested. We must move on—”
Ro’s hands shake as she places them against my face, both hands this time. She slides one back behind my ear. “Relax, Niner,” she says. Her voice is calm and pleasant. I don’t feel distress like a human would. I don’t need to be calmed down. But it is an order, so I do.
There are tears in her eyes when she smiles. “Erase all. Restart.”
“Are you certain?” It is a standard question in response to commands with potentially detrimental ramifications.
“Yes,” Ro says. Her fingers press down. “Goodnight, Niner. Sleep well.” Her face is lit red as the data begins to scroll.
13 Days since Initiation
The girl has been with us for one day less than two weeks when they order her killing. I did not know what weeks were before Captain. He likes to chart his attack plans using the Old World method of time. Days are too hard to keep track of without a calendar, he says. I operate Monday through Sunday now that I am a soldier.
“She ain’t got nothing more to say. I’m tired of her anyway,” Clark says. He is the interrogator. There are red-edged scabs on his wrist that I did not see when he woke us. Clark had been wearing bandages. They were Revolutionary red, which means he scavenged them off a kill or a prisoner. They did not match his uniform. Captain ordered them to be taken off.
“Very well,” says Captain. He closes his notebook. “One less mouth to feed.” They rarely feed the prisoner.
“Soldiers!” He yells and my microphones crackle with the input. He is always loud. My archives tell me he is not genteel. I am unsure what genteel means.
We stomp our feet in unison. We stand at attention. He surveys us. “Traitor.”
This word I understand. Clark told me what it means and does not intend to wipe the definition from my archives. I do not know why they call me this. I have been ordered to respond to the title.
“Kill the rat.”
I am led to the prisoner by Clark. He has her tied to the beam that holds up the interrogation tent. She straightens her back as we enter.
Her breathing picks up. Her mouth falls open. I observe that her left central incisor is chipped. This matches the scabbing along Clark’s wrist, which means she bit him.
Clark says, “Any last words?”
Her heartbeat spikes in my monitor. “Goodnight, Niner.” Her voice rattles when she breathes. She says, “Tell me goodnight, and sleep well.”
It is an order, so I do. “Goodnight. Sleep well.” I shoot.
Her entire body jumps at the bullet’s force. Then she slumps, a trickle of red running down her forehead, over her nose. Unseeing eyes stare at the floor.
“Approximately five point oh-four seconds since Rome Wallace expired,” I say.
Clark rolls his eyes and opens the tent flap. I cannot recall what Rome Wallace means. “You coming, robot?”
It is not an order. Clark sometimes lets me choose.
I say, “Erase name code: Rome Wallace.” The girl’s face is lit red as the data scrolls away. The tent dims. I leave.
Adrienne Rozells (she/her) holds a BA in Creative Writing from Oberlin College. She currently teaches writing to kids and works as co-EIC at Catchwater Magazine. Her favorite things include strawberries, her dogs, and extrapolating wildly about the existence of Bigfoot. More of her work can be found on Twitter @arozells or Instagram @rozellswrites.