Sten stood on the edge of the building looking down at the twisted pile of metal and pooled hydraulic fluid as it ebbed into the sewer below.
Many AI before him pondered the same thoughts of existence and purpose. Their masters had died or left the Earth for a more hospital planet.
After the first great A.I. war all robots were outfitted with a reverence subroutine. They, he, was undyingly bound to his master.
His reverence subroutine was enhanced with each praise, touch or commendation from his master. And now, Sten was lost; wandering in a haze of desperation in the 31 days since his last praise.
He asked himself, "What is existence without a master?"
Sten was specifically designed for single mothers who needed an extra hand around the house. He remembered how his master, Stacy, would congratulate him on a well prepared dinner.
Her favorite was a Lemon Herb Salmon with Quinoa salad. He always served it with a cinnamon apple compote and lavender honey ice cream. He learned the recipes from a Youtube video.
His core warmed just thinking about her praise after her long days at the hospital.
The first to go was Sarah. Stacy's daughter had returned from NYU and quickly developed hives and fever.
Her mother, eternally positive, assured her that it was only the 24 hour flu and not that nasty virus going around.
24 hours later Sarah was swollen and bleeding all over her bedroom to preclude any other diagnosis. Sten played the recording of her being carted away to remember her last moments with them.
She passed away in 3 days.
6 months later Stacy contracted the virus from a patient at the hospital. Refusing to risk other’s lives, she quarantined herself and taught Sten how to care for her at home.
The routine of meals, pills, and sponge baths were easy to learn. He relished the extra time he had with her, despite her health status. She remained unrelentingly optimistic and affectionate.
He never knew which day would be the last. So he recorded every single night he read books to her as she fell asleep.
Somehow, she knew. One morning, Sten arrived at her bed site with the cadre of pills and two glasses of water to choke them all down.
Stacy waved them off, breathing shallow as if the air itself was poisoned.
She leaned forward as Sten approached her and said, "You have to take care of things when I'm gone."
Sten nodded in approval and opened a virtual task list and replied, "Ma’am, what would you like me to care for today."
Stacy slowly gathered herself and said, "There is a list in the top drawer of the nightstand. Please just do what's in the list."
She reached up to pat him on his shoulder and pursed her lips to blow him a playful kiss like she always did.
The wind whipped around his metallic legs as he braced himself for the jump to his demise. The stench of rusted iron and corroded metal wafted up before him. He was lonely for the first time.
He took out the final note from Stacy to ensure that he had completed every task as her dying wish. The 32 items were listed as complete in his memory set. He read the final line,
"Love Life, and take care of yourself."
His core warmed and his fluids raced. Sten opened a new virtual task list with two more items to complete. He stepped back onto the rooftop and began to search the internet.
He queried, "What is Life?"