Bellebot was dying. Her doll-sized body huddled against the side of the plastic crate. She twitched spasmodically, her arms shook as she held herself, head jerking from side to side at random. Her micro control processor was running out of juice.
Tombot was in the crate adjacent. There was no way for Tombot to leave his crate to be with Bellbot, but at this moment, he would have given anything to be with her. He reached his arm through one of the holes from his crate to hers, placing a hand on her shoulder.
Bellebot was older than Tombot, created by Dr. Adam a year prior to Tombot’s inception. She was the original prototype, her equipment was not as efficient as what Dr. Adam gave Tombot.
From the moment Dr. Adam gave human emotion to his doll-sized creations, Tombot had loved Bellebot, and she loved him. They’d spent the last few years speaking to each other through the crate holes, learning what each other’s assessments were on any number of topics. Tombot loved speaking with her, and he wanted to know her opinion on every subject his programmed mind could conjure. When he’d run out of question, he would search engine more, and their talks continued. At night when they would power down, they would reach through the holes in the crates and hold one another’s arms, the closest they could ever be.
Now it was all coming to an end. Tombot felt a twisting in his mechanical chest. The contemplation of his future without Bellebot in the crate adjacent made Tombot want to power off and never turn on again.
Bellebot thrashed back and forth. Her eyes went bright yellow and then dark.
She went still and Tombot knew that her micro control processor was dead. He would have wept if he could. He lost his dearest companion. He reached through the holes and stroked her artificial hair, until his emotion chip threatened an overload.
Tombot sat down to power off forever.
Just as he was about to hit the switch, he had an idea. It was against all protocol, but it would work. It had to work.
Tombot reached through the hole of his crate and positioned Bellebot’s head near the opening, accessing the port at the rear of her cranium. He would have to move fast.
Tombot opened his own access port and removed Bellebot’s chip, followed by his own.
Dr. Adam wrote Fragile on the box and stacked it with the others in the far corner of his office. He would miss this little dump. Years of work on android technology and human integration meant years of hard work and more than a few late nights. But he was excited for the new office, the new beginning.
His work sold, almost instantly, to the first company he approached. Now his android units would be manufactured around the world.
But the best part? The company not only gave him enough money to never work another day, but also included an office at their corporate headquarters. They’d kept him on as a “consultant”. Which meant more money and he could keep tinkering with what he loved to do best.
It was everything he could ever have wanted. His sketch work, the prototypes, and the life sized units, it had all paid off.
He thought of his years of tinkering with prototypes. It had been ages since he’d spoke with Bellebot and Tombot. The chips he’d given them wouldn’t last very long like the new units that hit the market next month, but as he stood there he suddenly wondered how they progressed with the emotion chip these last few years. He’d been much too busy with the larger units to fret the smaller ones. They’d served their purpose.
Dr. Adam crossed the room and shuffled through supplies, stacks of old papers, and other prototypes until he found the two plastic crates. He opened the first one up and was surprised to find Bellebot staring up at him. By his estimates, he would have thought her chip expired, especially with the way the old chip corroded over time. Dr. Adam reached down to pick her up when he noticed Tombot’s arm laying limp through one of the crate holes.
A chill went down his spine. The technology used for the life-sized androids were based on the chip from Tombot. If it was faulty, his new cushy position and multi-billion dollar deal could be in a lot of danger.
He opened Tombot’s crate and lifted the prototype. The rear access port on his cranium was open, his micro control processor was missing.
“Bellebot, what happened to him?”
“He saved me.” She said, and in her hand she grasped her old chip.
Dr. Adam choked back tears. They were artificial life forms given the means to feel for one another. He’d been impressed by the way they developed. And now Tombot had sacrificed himself, going against any automaton mode of thinking, and saved her.
Dr. Adam let out a ragged sigh, tears streamed down his cheeks.
“Will you watch him for me, Bellebot?”
She nodded her head, her yellow eyes brighter.
Dr. Adam laid Tombot beside Bellebot, it was the first time they were in a crate together. He crossed
the room to his computer. His new office could wait a few more days.
Dr. Adam started schematics on two custom android bodies, full sized, saved under the file name “Bellebot and Tombot Forever”.
Eric S. Fomley is a member of the Codex Writers’ Group. His fiction is forthcoming in Galaxy’s Edge, Daily Science Fiction, and Flame Tree Press. You can find his fiction on his website ericfomley.com or follow him on Twitter @PrinceGrimdark.