“The cause of death was determined to be liquid damage. I am sorry for your dataloss,” says the brown-skinned man at the Customer Service desk.
“Yes. Thank you,” Walter responds, dragging his tongue along the bottom of his burly white mustache. He stands over the Bot, laid at rest in its original packaging, its freshly buffed shell surrounded by decorative bubble wrap. Its unlit LED eyes remain open, two black and empty vessels not-staring at the sky. “Although technically its not my data. I designed the model, but it’s an autonomous intelligence, so I never…” Walter hesitates. He drags his hand down his face, stretching out the skin and wiping spittle from his upper lip. “We never really had much of a relationship.”
The Customer Service representative grips Walter’s right hand with his own, then places his left hand atop their joined shake. He closes his eyes and nods solemnly and says, “We must all grieve in our own ways. No man should have to bury a son.” He looks at Walter but does not move his hands.
Walter swallows and tries to collect himself. “I…thank you. But again, I just designed the model. It’s not my son, it’s…” he says, slowly pulling his arm away. A look of disgust and confusion washes over his face. “Is the hard drive…where is whatever was inside of him?” He waves a hand over the Bot’s face, closing the thin metal lids that protect its optical receptors. The unliving alloy on its face is freezing to his touch.
“We replaced all the hardware after the autopsy, so everything that was there should still be inside of it. Sometimes we do reclaim or refurbish parts if it’s in the Bot’s contract, but even then we usually wait until after the funeral.” The brown-skinned man smiles sadly at Walter. He bobs their cluster of hands up-and-down like buoys on a calm sea before he finally lets go.
“Could you figure out why it did that? Why it would…I thought I programmed these machines to be smarter than that. If it’s something I did then I should know so I can fix it. If you recovered any data at all then maybe –”
The man behind the desk bows his head and slowly shakes it left to right. “The liquid damage to the hard drive is too great. The corrosion is irreversible. Now, if you don’t have any other questions, I can take the unit into the back so we can begin preparing it for tomorrow’s showing.”
Walter’s face remains neutral as he looks the Bot up and down once more. He reaches into the box and lifts its clunky, lifeless left arm. With his other hand he traces the scratches where its forearm extension meets the grabber and the end, then lets the ingot extremity thunk back into its crate.
“No,” Walter says as he looks back at the brown-skinned man. “That should be all. Thank you.” He watches the man roll the coffin away. He does not cry.