(Vintage) Robofriend

[Another year, another science fiction story.]

Robofriend

1/14/2004

Kenneth Burchfiel


Jameson house

7:52 am

It was Christmas morning in the year of 2089. In the Jameson house, the electro-fire was crackling merrily under the mantel, the visio-windows were set to “light snow”, and the robotic tree was pouring out the scent of fresh pine. The family was busy opening their presents under the tree- Mrs. Jameson received a can of nano-paint that could change the wall color from red to blue, Mr. Jameson got a self- flipping grille, even the cat got a robotic mouse- complete with five speed modes and a lifetime warranty. But the biggest present was yet to come- and it was for Brad- the only child in the family. He was a happy kid- he had lots of friends, always got straight A’s, and could fix a faulty hologram projector faster than anyone. But nobody knew how the present Brad received would change his life…

“Oh my gosh!” Brad exclaimed as he tore through the wrapping paper. Thank you so much!

“Yep, son,” Replied Mr. Jameson. Your good grades paid off… we got you a Robofriend.”

Robofriends were robots built with state of the art technology. Basically, they were meant to be a “perfect friend”. The buyer would input more than one thousand traits into the robot’s computer, so that it could be just what the receiver wanted. However, the were relatively new technology, so nobody knew what would exactly happen…

Brad was shaking with excitement as he tore off the last bits of wrapping, then pushed the power button on the Robofriend’s back. Instantly, he sprang up to life. He only came up to Brad’s nose. Brad was short, and he liked having a height advantage over people.

“Hey Brad! Want to go up to your room?” the Robofreind uttered in a mechanical, but almost humanlike voice. “Sure!” replied Brad. The two laughed and bounded up the stairs.

Robofreind laboratories

8:56 am

Company conference

“Wait- let me get this straight.” The chairman put down his cup of coffee. You’re saying that people can become addicted to their Robofreinds?

“Well, not exactly…. Addicted,” replied the technology worker. “More like… not wanting to leave them.”

“Oh…”

4:12 pm

Jameson house

“Brad? BRAD!”

“Yeah?”

“Sam wants to know if you want to go shoot hoops.”

“Not right know… the Robofriend’s teaching me how to tie a square knot.”

“Oh, ok. Sorry Sam… he’s kind of busy at the moment.”

8:03 am

Jameson house

“Brad! Time to go to school!”

“I don’t want to. I want to stay with Robofreind.”

“Well, you’ll have to. You have a big math test today.”

Brad sighed. “Oh, all right…”

4:45 pm

holophone conversation between Brad’s teacher and Mr. Jameson

Hello?

Hi. This is Ms. Bradley, Brad’s teacher?

“Oh hello. This is Mr. Jameson.”

“Oh… it’s about Brad in school today.”

“Uh Oh.”

“I just felt today…. That brad’s mind was somewhere else today… he just wasn’t himself.”

“What was wrong?” there was a twinge of anxiety in Mr. Jameson’s voice.

“Well, he’s usually an attentive little boy, but today he was really in his own little world. He had his head near the desk, like he was daydreaming, and whenever he raised his hand, he said something about… a Robofreind?”

“Hmm…” replied the father. “How was his test?”

“I’m afraid he didn’t even put anything down. He filled his paper with doodles of a robot- like creature. Really… these are all firsts with him, and if there’s anything I could do… maybe the school counselor could help him out?”

Mr. Jameson paused before answering. ”I’m sorry, but I have a feeling that this goes farther than the school counselor.” He pressed the off button on the hologram, and walked away.

8:32 am

Robofreind laboratories

Emergency conference

“All right,” said the chairman. I’ve called you all here because of a problem with Robofreinds. A big problem. See… we’ve created Robofreinds to be so good that they’re… well, too good. We’ve seen this in a lot of cases. What happens is that the recipient of a Robofreind becomes addicted too it, as I said before. I’ve prepared a chart of the stages…”

He unraveled a chart on the wall.

“Okay. The first stage is called the light addiction stage. What happens is the recipient receives the Robofreind, and usually spends time with it for the next five or so hours. When the Robofreind is removed, or attempted to be removed, the owner is usually frustrated or even hostile, depending on what has already taken place. The second stage is what we call the ‘transition zone.’ Here, the recipient spends almost a third of the day with the Robofreind. He begins to stop caring about other friends, and may spend the day in one place, playing with the Robofreind. They become hostile towards anyone who they feel could harm the Robofreind, and stop caring about vital necessities such as food, exercise, even sleep!”

He rolled the chart back up. “So far we haven’t gotten past that stage, but researchers are predicting a possibility of mental problems- forgetfulness, tunnel vision, small levels of insanity. They will only spend time with their Robofreinds, they may even forget their parents- who knows, the sky’s the limit!” He sighed a deep, deep sigh, and walked out of the conference room.

8:45 am

Arkinson elementary school

Rm. 121

Mrs. Bradley looked up from her desk as Brad came in.

“Good morning, Brad!” she said.

“Who are you?” Brad replied.

“I’m Ms. Bradley, your teacher.”

“Oh.” Brad paused for a few seconds. Then, he asked, “where’s Robofriend?”

12:34 pm

Arkinson elementary school

Lunch time

Rick, Brad’s best friend, walked up to the table where Brad was sitting. “Hey Brad, want to come over after school? I got a new basketball. Maybe we could play.”

Brad didn’t even turn his head. “I don’t like you. You’re not my friend. Robofriend’s my friend.”

Rick did a double take. “What?”

“Go away.”

Rick still looked shocked, but his confused face turned into an angry one. “Fine, I don’t care. I have other friends. I don’t need you.” He stormed off.

Brad, who never turned his head at all, asked, “who are you, anyway?

6:33 pm

Jameson house

“Brad! Time for dinner!”

“I’m not hungry. I only want Robofreind.”

“Ok, you’re sure you don’t want any food?”

“Leave me alone!”

“Ok…”

9:38 pm

Jameson house

“Hey, Brad!” said his dad. “Time for bed.”

“Who are you?”

“Uh…” I’m your dad? Brad, come on, time to go to bed.

He tried opening the door, but it was locked.

“Brad?”

“Go away. I don’t need you. I only need Robofriend.”

“Come on, Brad, let me in!”

“No.”

“Brad…”

10:02 pm

Jameson house

Parent discussion

Mr. Jameson walked into the kitchen. “Miranda, we have to talk. It’s about that Robofriend- it’s gone too far.”

“What do you mean?

“Brad has changed. He doesn’t know my name. He can’t get away from that robot. It’s like he’s not even my son!”

He got a hammer from the tool cabinet. I’m going to have to destroy the robot. Then he’ll be back to normal.”

“Let’s hope so.”

12:23 am

Jameson house

Mr. Jameson crept into brad’s room. Brad was fast asleep, and the robot, turned off, was lying on his dresser. With a face of true grit and determination, Mr. Jameson took out a hammer and placed it above the Robofriend’s head.

“This is for what you did to my son,” he said, then smashed the Robofriend to pieces.

1:33 pm

psychologist’s office

“Well, have you found anything out?” asked Mr. Jameson.

“We have, actually. After conducting a small series of tests, we have found that your son’s insanity has been caused by shock, not a long-term effect. Let me ask you this, sir- has your son just suffered a fast loss of someone he loved?”

Mr. Jameson paused before answering the question. “Yes… yes he has.”

4:50 pm

Public news conference

The chairman stepped up to the podium. His mind was rushing with thoughts. It had been a long run for the Robofreind company, and now- now that would end.

“Ladies and gentleman. The Robofriend company is officially recalling all Robofreinds. Any still in use are required to be destroyed. This is being put in effect because of mental harm resulting from the Robofreinds. What has happened is that people have become ‘addicted’ to the Robofriends. One particular case is that of Brad Jameson, who is now in the hospital with a case of severe mental trauma, which includes memory loss, short temper, and a short attention span.”

He went on for several hours, talking of Brad Jameson and how he progressed into a mental patient. After the conference, a reporter walked up to the chairman and asked him a question.

“Sir, you seem to know a suprisingly large amount of knowledge about Brad Jameson. How did you learn all of this stuff?

“Because,” he replied, “Brad Jameson… is my son.”

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