[Good Brother/Bad Brother Inc., 1,424 words, Genre: Science Fiction]
* Image courtesy of Dirk de Bruyn
It was a quiet day the day Timothy McNeil was born. He was born in the city and the traffic outside had petered off throughout the night. The lingering traffic was from drunkards outside the hospital cursing out at the night. There were plenty of babies crying through the hospital ward. Perhaps with their sensitive states of being they had somehow picked up on the fact that the world was not a great and grand place and that misery was lurking outside.
The current state of the world was this. No one could afford to raise their own children anymore. They had left that duty to babysitters, nannies and other state supplied resources such as the education system. It was difficult to raise a child in the current state of the economy. Hell, it was difficult to even come to support one’s self in the current state of the economy. There was plenty of food, but the larger corporations had placed a stranglehold on the world because of how much debt had been accumulated over the years.
Timothy McNeil’s parents were wealthy. And they were not the only ones. But his family maintained its wealth from working laboriously all of the time. They had so little time to spend with their own family, that they would have to hire the services of someone or something else to help raise their newly born baby boy. It was difficult to tell which was the best way to raise their child. No living human being was willing to take on that sort of work full time, for the very fact that they would be considered liable if the child screwed up in any way. And seeing as most children who were raised grew up cursing their parents in some way or form for their upbringing, nobody wanted the task of raising children. A lawsuit, most people considered, was inevitable.
And so Timothy McNeil’s parents were left with no other option but to take up the services of the Good Brother/Bad Brother robot services. The business had been at the task of raising children for some time now. The company would give you two robots, who took on the role of older brothers, that would take on the task of raising children. They had their own inbuilt artificial intelligence to a degree, but most of that artificial intelligence was based on a choice and option taken by the children whom they were raising. The essential characteristic of the Good Brother/Bad Brother robots was that one robot would take on the role of the nurturer and the other would take on the role of the authority figure. With these two roles exposing the child to two different methods of raising, the child would then have to learn and grow for itself, with exposure to these two elemental types. The company had somehow managed to maintain that their services, because the robots possessed no distinguishable feature of artificial intelligence and that their actions were reactions to the child’s behaviour, the company had never been considered liable for how the child turned out in the long run.
Initially the robots tasks were easy enough. They took care of feeding and clothing the child. As Timothy soiled himself: the robots would change his diapers. When Timothy required feeding: the robots would feed him a sustainable diet based on the infant’s nutritional needs. They would check his temperature and ensure that the child, Timothy, was in good health. But that was only the beginning.
As the child grew older the robots had to toilet train Timothy with a set of rudimentary tasks. And then would teach the child to speak in the native language of the country which was English. The child also had another option in which it would have to make its first choice of its natural life. And that second option was to learn a second language. The authoritative brother robot gave the infant a list of words spoken in a foreign language. The word that the child repeated or felt accustomed to using would then become the child’s second language. The authoritative robot voiced a few different words in different languages and the language that Timothy innately mimicked was Japanese. And so in the course of teaching the child Timothy the fundamentals of the English language, they were also teaching him some simple phrases in Japanese.
Timothy grew and grew. It was around the age of six years old, when he had just begun his first year of primary school, that things began to change. Timothy had been caught shoplifting with some of the other children from the school. It couldn’t be helped really. It was one of those things that were the initial stages of corruption of some of the other children of the neighbourhood. Children who hadn’t been given the same opportunities in life. Children who didn’t have the luxury of affording the Good Brother/Bad Brother robot services. They were raised wild and free and it showed. While Timothy was at school with these other children, nothing could be done in that fact. The parents and robot brothers simply had to hope for the best within those school hours and hope that Timothy made the right choices. He had made his first mistake by shoplifting.
The authoritative robot brother in initiating disciplinary action when it happened. Physical punishment was inflicted upon Timothy with the act of spanking his bare bottom. It was an old fashioned punishment, it was simple, yet effective. Those were the initial stages where the young Timothy began to create a dislike for the Bad Robot brother. There were several other times that Timothy broke the rules of society in a similar way, and every time the Bad Robot brother enforced an appropriate punishment depending on the severity of the crime. Then the young Timothy would run crying into the arms of the Good Robot Brother who soothed him gently after the punishment was applied.
Over the years, the robot brothers took on some wear and tear from their activities in raising Timothy. The Bad robot brother took on some damage from having to perpetually spank the young Timothy. Its arm grew out of its socket. It was not that the actual spanking took effect on the robot’s arm. It was that the young Timothy had begun inflicting his own punishment upon the robot by untightening screws and bolts that held the robot’s arms together. And although both brothers had some plastic features on their faces that resembled human like characteristics. Timothy had begun to draw upon the Bad Brother robot’s face overnight. Creating a warped and deteriorated looking creature that was a figure of discipline.
When Timothy entered his teenage years. That’s when things really got out of hand. Timothy would no longer listen to the Bad Robot. And would intentionally avoid it. He grew angry at his parents when he realized what they had done with him by entering him under the care of the two robots. And then upon the interference of the two robots in his teenage life, Timothy sought to destroy his two mechanical guardians.
It didn’t take him long. He managed to destroy both of them and dispose of their mechanical parts. And now was on his own in the world. He didn’t hate the Good Brother… But something happened when he destroyed the Bad Brother. It was as if they were both functioning of the same internal processor. When he destroyed the Bad Brother, the Good Brother shut itself down automatically. It was as if the two were connected.
When his biological parents found out what he had done. They complained to the company that their products were faulty and had been destroyed by their teenage son who now lacked any figures to look after him.
When the representative from the company explained to the parents that this was what was meant to happen they were shocked.
In a phone call the representative explained, “It is natural for the child when it comes of age to rebel against its paternal relations. In this case they were the robots. The child overthrew the robots instead of overthrowing and destroying your lives in rebellion. This is just a natural phase of the human life cycle and how each individual goes through the phase of gaining their independence. The robots aren’t faulty, they’re disposable. This was how it was meant to happen. Your child is now fully functional and capable of looking after itself. Thank you for using our product.”