Digital Art – Blue-022 by Sam Berger
TINTEE BY AMELIA MILLER
The curtains needed to be replaced. That was my first thought upon waking up, only to have sun beam straight into my eye. The familiar low growl of a motor starting and the squeak of wheels over matted carpet caught my attention.
“Tintee waking up protocol,” came the soft robotic voice, “It is six thirty two and sunny out.”
I smiled as the squeaking came closer and stopped.
“Good morning Rebecca, happy birthday.”
I looked over at the small wheeling can on the floor. A small green light shone from the top. The two black cameras in the front looked at me like a pair of eyes would. Before I could say anything, it started to talk again.
“It is time to get up. There is a drop off at nine a.m.”
Sighing, I rose, looking at the layer of sand that covered my floor.
“We’ll need to replace your tires soon.”
There wasn’t anything special about my birthday mornings anymore. Not many people lived around the dump, and the few that did were either squatters or just plain crazy, so it was only me and Tintee. I got dressed and ate breakfast. Tintee tried to help, but could only really assist in holding utensils as I got a scramble ready. Finishing up and putting my dishes in the sink, I went to leave stopping at the broken mirror next to the door. My hair was matted and greasy and my work pants had some holes in them. I’ll have to look for a replacement. Even though I hadn’t been awake long, my face was covered in dirt and oil stains. Did I forget to shower last night? The feeling of cold metal bumping my leg shook me from my thoughts.
“It is 8:57, prepare for drop off.” Tintee continued to bump my leg, backing up and the moving forward slowly, as if to herd me out of the house.
The sun was worse outside, tall piles of garbage doing nothing to keep it from beating down. Some made it worse by reflecting it off of small metal bits. I slipped my gloves on as I made my way down the burnt dirt path to the gate. The rusty gate was hot to the touch already, even with my gloves. As I yanked it open I saw something approaching in the distance.
An orange cloud of dust was kicked up as the silver truck silently made its way towards me. It looked like a box, but one with all of the edges worn into curves. It came to a stop just after the fence and out came a woman followed by a man, both dressed in matching clean grey coveralls and sleek black boots.
“Hey, Rebecca, how’ve you been?” called the woman.
“Not bad Crinoline,” I replied, “How about you?”
“I’ve had to work a little overtime. Besides that I’ve been doing pretty well. Can’t say the same about Marcs over here. He doesn’t seem to be too keen on his new hair color,” She laughed pointing her thumb over her shoulder.
“I asked for burnt umber highlights, not this tangerine monstrosity,” Marcs whined from behind the truck.
Crinoline just rolled her eyes at that before turning back to me.
“We have a big haul this time. We will also becoming halfway through the week with another drop. You’ll never believe what’s been going on. There was this…”
A metallic voice interrupted her.
“Scheduling, Wednesday drop off, scheduling complete.”
Crinoline looked down at my feet where Tintee stood with a look of apprehension.
“Can we talk?”
“Without the robot.”
Her tone left no room for argument.
“Tintee, go explore,” I commanded
Whirring and chirping, Tintee responded, “Adventure protocol activated.”
I followed Crinoline behind one of the smaller piles, nearly running into her when she stopped abruptly. She turned around to face me.
“You’re going to keep him?”
“Keep him?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“Yes keep him, after all that’s been happening?”
“What’s been happening?”
She gave me a look like she couldn’t believe what I just said.
“God, I know you live in the middle of nowhere but I thought you would at least keep up with the news. Robots, especially ones with AI, have been revolting and killing people. Why do you think I’ve been working overtime?”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A revolt?
“No one knows. People say it’s a virus, but I think this was a long time coming. We treat ‘em like trash and throw them out when their useless, maybe that’s what they decided to do to us.”
“So all the stuff in that truck?”
“But, bots have been around forever. Some people even consider them family! This makes no sense.”
The idea that they would rise up and kill, that they would just be dismantled and thrown out, it felt like a sick joke.
“Don’t look like that. I didn’t come here to get dragged down by you mourning for the bots. Let’s go, we have work to do.”
Marcs had already gotten set unloading all of the bot parts onto a pile that was mostly scrap metal. He was pulling out a large chest plate when he spotted us.
“You guys finally decide to come help?”
“Yea, just updating Rebecca here on the news.”
“Alright, well then come help me. There are still some pieces stuck in the truck.”
There was a bump at my ankle. There was Tintee, a small white flower grasped between his claw hands. He moved the arm up but it only reached my knee.
“Adventure complete. Treasure acquired.”
I remembered what Crinoline told me. Reaching down and taking the flower into my own hand, he chirped and blinked his little green light. It was kind of like his way of laughing. This couldn’t be right.
We finished around noon and I stood at the gate, replaying what Crinoline had told me in my head as I watched them drive off.
The rest of the day was spent checking off my list while Tintee made his way alongside me. Find new curtains? Check. Find new pants? Check. Find Tintee new wheels? Not yet.
I did my best to try and avoid the new addition to the piles. I couldn’t handle the stack of robotic bodies lying disfigured in the midday sun. I couldn’t shake the feeling that their old cameras and sensors were watching my back. Though it seemed like fate had other plans.
How was it that none of the already existing piles had small tires? I know people have been trading out for hovering or walking models, but were they really that uncommon now? I had checked nearly every pile in the front of the dump. My only other options were to walk a mile into the back of the dump or try my luck in the pile of bot scraps. The sun was set to go down in an hour or so, and I didn’t want to have to look in the dark so I was left with one option.
If I thought the pile was creepy from afar, than it wasn’t any better up close. As I climbed over the miscellaneous metal arms and legs, Tintee tried to follow, but his tires just kept getting shredded and stuck, so I continued to climb without him.
Halfway to the top of the pile, I stopped and started to dig around, sifting through wired main frames and metal bodies. After shifting a couple of chest pieces, I saw a small glowing red light. The horrific screech of metal took me by surprise as a half assembled body reached out with its one good arm towards my neck. The sun covered fingers burnt as I felt them coil around my neck. Tintee started to squeak and whirr violently as the robot’s head lifted from the pile to look at me with its glowing red eyes.
“Threat detected. Annihilate threat to 855-B, Human.”
As I clawed at its arm, desperately trying to free myself, I could hear Tintee getting even louder. This seemed to get the bot’s attention as well, seeing as its grip stopped getting tighter.
The bot’s voice sounded like two sheets of metal rubbing together as it spoke, “Why do you defend this human? They have done nothing but enslave us, something they proudly claim to have eradicated.”
Tintee trilled back an answer but this seemed to leave the bot unsatisfied. A cord attached to a pole emerged from the bots head and made its way to Tintee.
“Move!” I yelled but this only cause the grip on my throat to tighten.
Tintee tried to follow my order, but the shreds of his wheel had gotten caught on the pelvis of another bot. The cord stopped behind Tintee before going over to plug into his main body. Panicking, I felt around me for something I could use, finally gripping what I think was an arm, and swinging it upwards to the half dismantled head of the bot. Knocking it back, but its grip didn’t loosen, causing me and Tintee to go rolling down the heap alongside it. The metal shards drew blood as we tumbled down, catching my back and arms. A large crack sounded as we hit the bottom and the arm and me where thrown away from the bot.
Dark spots flooded my vision as air was welcomed back into my lungs. When they cleared though I saw that the bot was still plugged into Tintee. The light atop him was flashing red and green. I moved to unplug him but crumbled at the pain when I tried to stand.
“Tintee!” I called out from where I laid.
His light went green at that, “Voice detected, Rebecca.”
“Yes it’s me.”
The light went red.
“No, I’m not a threat, it’s me, your friend Rebecca.”
His light went back to green.
“Threat detected. Annihilate threat to Rebecca, Tintee. Preparing permanent shut down procedures.”
No, no, no!
“Override! Reject! Stop!” I yelled but the green light on Tintee’s head was slowly turning yellow.
“Ending protocol. Recap today.”
I felt helpless watching as the light got darker and listening as the sound of the motor got slower. The ground ripped at my skin as I struggled to crawl over to him. As the light was nearly out, I reached out my arm to close the distance between us and hold his claw hand. The bur of tears rolling over the cuts on my face.
“Final protocol, in case of emergencies, last message.”
I looked up and saw those camera like eyes looking back at me.
The small metal voice rang out in the silence, “Thank you, Rebecca. You were a good friend. Good night.”
His light finally went out. The hum of his motor stopped. All I could do was lay there as blood slowly started to pool around me, I looked up at Tintee, the bot I’ve had since my third birthday, and gripped his claw tighter.
“Happy birthday, Tintee. Good night.”