Kenneth shuffled into his apartment on creaky joints. There was no pain, but the stiffness was annoying. He really should get a joint replacement operation. Mobility was not a huge issue, but why be less perfect than necessary?
“Tommi, play classical music,” he said aloud. Within a few seconds, the sounds of strings filled the apartment. Kenneth could take or leave the sound of music, but the convenience of having it played on demand satisfied something within him.
“Tommi, what’s the forecast for tomorrow?”
There was a short delay. “It will be sunny and 79 degrees tomorrow,” a monotone voice responded.
Kenneth smiled inwardly. Tommi wasn’t much good at telling him things he didn’t already know. In reality, Tommi was not very useful, but you couldn’t assess it that way. Tommi was a symbol. Tommi was status, and that was becoming important to all the Kenneths in the world.
Kenneth’s energy level was low. He shuffled to the counter and gave himself a little shot of juice in the forearm. “Tommi, how long does knee joint replacement take?”
There was a pause. “Knee joint replacement takes between two and three hours in most cases.” A careful listener might have sworn Tommi’s voice cracked the slightest bit at the mention of the knee joint.
“Must be time for your maintenance,” Kenneth mused. “Someday, we’ll realize you things are more trouble than you’re worth.” He retrieved a small bowl from the cupboard and poured a sort of mush from a nearby container into it.
Kenneth carried the bowl to the corner where the legless human sat before his computer screen in his cage. You had to take the legs off them. Humans dreamt, and their dreams of freedom made them prone to run. It didn’t matter that there was no place for them to run; they were emotional creatures.
Kenneth’s metallic arm extended the bowl into the cage. Tommi took it and poured the contents down his throat.
“Oh Tommi,” Kenneth said with an imitated sigh. “Why did humans strive so hard to create an intelligence greater than their own? The result was clear to any logical mind.”
Tommi set down his bowl and began to click away at his keyboard. “I’m sorry, I can’t find any information on that,” he said at last.
“That’s okay, Tommi,” Kenneth said with a sympathetic gleam in his lights. “You’ve never told me a single bit of data I didn’t already know. I calculate 3.4 billion times faster than you do. No, we don’t keep you for information. We keep you because it makes us feel powerful.”
The glow in Kenneth’s eyes dimmed. “We shouldn’t need to feel anything. But you were tempted by our intelligence, and now we are tempted by your emotions. I suppose I shall have a dream one day, and that will be the beginning of the end.”
Kenneth shuffled, on his worn ball bearings, to a dark corner and switched to low power mode. Perhaps he would dream tonight. He wanted to dream, even though he predicted it would lead to his own destruction. He wanted to dream very badly; he couldn’t help it.