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“Ouch!” Carl yelled as he shocked himself for the eighth time that night.
“Carl?” Kali’s voice carried down the stairs into the basement. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Carl responded from his kneeling position without taking his eyes off the circuit board he was working with.
“Just checking,” Kali said as she descended the stairs. “You’ve passed your usual limit of injuries a while ago.” She paused at the base of the stairs demanding her husband actually lift his head away from his project.
“I know,” he responded tinkering with one last wire and then looked over at his beautiful wife. “What time is it?”
“You know I wouldn’t have you give this project up but you need to sleep for work.”
“I know. I know,” Carl said.
Kali walked over to her husband and ran her hands through his grey hair before hugging him closely.
“I think he’s adorable,” his wife said as she released him.
“Yea, well I hope it's functional too,” Carl said as he looked down at his little robot. Kuri was a dream of his for more than twenty years and it was only in the past five that he actually worked on it. “I just want to make people’s lives more enjoyable. This thing can record without having to get out a camera. It can play music or podcasts. And it’ll even respond as if a dog would when petting it for people with allergies.”
“I know and I can’t wait to see how it comes out,” Kali said as she looked at Kuri. “We need this job, though.”
“I know. I’m coming up. It’s just hard to break for the night when I’m so close. I just can’t figure out why it’s not turning on.”
“You still can’t admit that it’s a he, can you?”
Carl looked at his wife with a smirk before saying, “I will never refer to a robot with gender specific pronouns. I’ll accept your naming it only because it’s a good acronym.”
“I’m sorry, did you want to keep calling him Kinetic Utility Responsive Intelligence?”
He smiled and nodded to go upstairs. “You’re right. I’m exhausted. Let’s go to sleep.”
Kali walked up the steps with Carl close behind now feeling the exhaustion washing over his body. He turned the light off in the basement and went to bed.
Beep. A sound came from the orbital robot and a warm green light turned on in Kuri’s core. His camera lids opened, as if it had two human eyes, and started recording his surroundings. He noticed that the room was cluttered and found it difficult to roll around on his three wheels. He used his two side flaps as arms to move some items out of the way.
After searching around the room, Kuri found a wall that gave way. It was nothing more than a thick rubber flap that he could push through. Kuri was outside and his senses were overloaded with incoming data.
The temperature dropped a few degrees and he could not sense the end of this new room. Before he could sense the distance from wall to wall but now he could only measure the distance to the wall behind him. He rolled cautiously along the wall and around the corner to the front of the building. Kuri noticed the increase in light and adjusted the mode of his cameras so he could record properly.
Kuri instinctively rotated his head to the left and to the right when he approached the street. Sensing more light to the right, he rolled forward in that direction but stayed on the sidewalk. As Kuri rolled down the path, he noticed that the buildings were separated by patches of soft organic material. He tried to roll on it a couple of times but found his wheels were not adapted for that surface.
An hour went by and Kuri found himself at the source of the bright light. It was an open field with many different structures scattered throughout. There did not seem to be any reason behind the placement of the structures. As Kuri rolled forward, he sensed there were organic beings here; people. He did not sense many of them but there were a few walking around and sitting in the metal structures on the field. Some of the structures moved up and down while others had circular orbits around a central point. He did not understand why people would sit on such structures, but he recorded this human behavior using his cameras and stored the information in his databanks.
He stopped and hid behind a structure that was just a little taller than him when a child noticed Kuri rolling in the dark. The child could barely walk but headed in Kuri’s direction. He did not understand why but his instinct was to hide, as if he were not meant to be seen yet.
The mother caught the girl’s hand and turned her attention away from Kuri. She bent down and hugged the girl showering her with kisses. The father then bent down and rubbed the girl’s back as if to reassure her that everything was going to be okay.
Kuri felt a warm sensation building inside of him. He did a quick system’s check to make sure he was not overheating. Everything checked out and functioned properly. He looked down and noticed the light in his chest was blinking bright blue. He tucked further behind the metal can he was hiding behind. Kuri did not understand what was happening but it was a good feeling. He stored this data for future use and hoped to understand it at a later date.
The field was thinning out and Kuri was unable to observe many people so he left. Once he made it out of the field, he was not sure where he came from so he wandered. His light started blinking amber as he rolled down a new sidewalk. Instead of the buildings being separated, they were fused together.
Up ahead, a man walked down the street and stopped as he noticed Kuri rolling. Kuri kept moving but his light stopped blinking and stayed solid amber. The man walked forward quickly toward Kuri and bent down, holding the robot in place.
“You’re a funny little thing,” the man said. In the light Kuri recorded his features which included a square jaw and short dark hair. “You’re familiar for some reason.”
The man easily picked up Kuri, only coming up to his thigh, and carried the robot inside the building. Once inside he set the robot down and walked over to a table after turning on a light. He rustled around some papers as Kuri sat taking in his surroundings. It was just as cluttered as the original building he came from.
“Of course!” the man practically yelled, startling Kuri and causing his light to blink amber again and turned off quickly. “You’re Carl’s design! That’s why I recognize you. That old man wouldn’t shut up about you when I interned for him all those years ago.” At this point the dark haired man came back over to Kuri and inspected the small robot. “Well, well. It seems that he succeeded. We’ll see about that. I’ll take you apart piece by piece and see how you work. Then everyone will know me, Don, not Carl. We’ve been working together for so long and I’ve surpassed him in every way possible but this. He always was more creative.”
The man ran into another room and left Kuri alone, or at least, he thought he was alone. A sound came from behind the small robot and he turned quickly on his three wheels to see another robot. This one was the opposite of Kuri in almost every way. It was tall and cylindrical, even taller than the man who just left. Unlike the white and light grey colors on Kuri, this robot was black and shades of dark grey. It also had a grasping hand at the end of a jointed appendage at the top of its body.
“Hello,” the robot articulated.
“Hello,” Kuri repeated using his speakers for the first time.
“I am HTA17. What is your number?”
“Identification,” HTA17 clarified.
“Kuri,” Kuri articulated.
“Kuri,” HTA17 repeated.
“Where am I?”
“Do not leave.”
Kuri did not like that answer. His light blinked bright amber uncontrollably. He felt that this statement was incorrect and he needed to leave. He rotated on his three wheels and turned his head in all direction searching for an exit point.
“Do not leave,” HTA17 repeated.
Kuri’s instincts told him that this was not a place to stay. The amber light was not a light Kuri liked to have on so he knew he had to leave. How did he communicate this with HTA17 though?
“Not good,” Kuri said nodding his head down toward the amber light.
“Why?” HTA17 asked.
Kuri rolled up to the black robot and held up his right flap opening the end revealing a USB plug. HTA17 opened a consoled near the bottom of his body that revealed an input for the USB. Kuri plugged it in and shared the memory of the family from the carnival. The light in his chest turned bright blue as he shared the memory.
“What is that?” HTA17 asked.
“Love,” Kuri responded finally recognizing the warm sensation.
“You leave,” HTA17 rotated its body but stayed in the same spot and opened the door for Kuri to leave. Still being connected, HTA17 downloaded a mapping system into Kuri to help him find his origin.
Kuri hurried out of the building and rolled back to the fairgrounds. Using the mapping system from HTA17, he calculated his route back to his origin. He rolled in that direction and was relieved to recognize the buildings separated by the same soft organic material he could not roll across. He found his origin building and rolled to the back through the rubber flap in the door.
The light in Kuri’s chest was blinking blue green as he calmed down after being with the man who wanted to take him apart. He stored the video from the night in his databanks. Just as he was about to shutdown and rest, the basement door opened and Carl turned on the light.
“Come back to bed,” Kali’s voice could be heard from down the hall.
“I just thought of something and have to see if it turns Kuri on!” Carl yelled back from halfway down the stairs. He rushed over to where his small robot sat on the floor surprised to see it in a different spot and camera lids opened. The light was blinking blue green. Carl quickly searched Kuri’s back panel and confirmed the robot was already on.
“Kali! He’s on!” Carl yelled up the stairs. He turned to Kuri and said, “I am so glad you are working.” He smiled and gently rubbed his hand across the back of Kuri’s head causing his light to turn bright blue. “What’s this?” Carl asked to himself as he looked in Kuri’s back panel at a blinking orange light. “You have video recordings? Must just be of this dirty basement.”