This piece was published in the Fur Reality 2014 conbook. It was the first story I’d written since graduating from college. It’s not my best work but it was good enough to be accepted into the conbook.

“NO!” Hammond screamed as he awoke. A flash in the corner of his eye caught his attention. The Network reported the local time was 03:14 and his servant BG-4413 was offline. 

The sergal sat up. He was in his own bed, not getting shot in a dark alley. His chest was tight, he couldn’t breath. Nausea rose from his stomach. He threw off the sheets and staggered into the bathroom. He leaned on the counter and heaved bile into the sink.

His internal medpak alarmed and displayed his vital signs. A short list of available medications and nerve adjustments appeared. He canceled it. It was only a panic attack. If he could just get control of himself, he would be okay. He didn’t need his doctors getting a note from his medpak. 

A message from BG-4413 appeared: «Inquisitor, do you require assistance? (Y/N)»

His servant, Thirteen, was a decommissioned BG model Police Enforcer refitted with a commercial AI module. Its occasional, annoying lapses into formal tone was an artifact of its base software. Hammond dismissed the message. He didn’t need a well meaning bot tattling on him. 

The sergal slumped on the non-slip textured floor of the bathroom. He heard Thirteen speaking from the other side of his apartment.

“I’ll be there in a minute, sir.”

A growl escaped Hammond. He didn’t need this. At least Thirteen was taking the time to boot its AI instead of its faster but more limited robotic decision tree. The decision tree would probably have called for medical assistance. 

His medpak alarmed again. He was hyperventilating. The alert brought everything into focus. He needed to be controlling his breathing, not worrying about the decisions of his robotic servant.  If he failed to act, he would pass out and Thirteen would call for assistance no matter what he would want.

Hammond held his breath and started a 20 second timer. The timer appeared in the corner of his vision. In the background, an anti-gravity generator hummed to life. The Network informed him BG-4413 had logged in. Hammond focused on the timer. It reached zero and he took a breath. The alert went away but his medpak reported his vitals hadn’t returned to normal. He held his breath and started the timer again. He did it twice more and the display went away. 

He looked into the bedroom to see Thirteen hovering. He attempted to speak but all that came out was a croak. In frustration he sent a network message instead.

«You didn’t need to wake up. I’m fine.»

Thirteen dipped on its antigravs and the red light on its eye bar looked in the direction of the sink. 

“I can see that,” Thirteen paused. “There’s hot water in the kitchen if you’d like to make tea.”

Tea sounded like a good idea. With the assistance of Thirteen’s tractor beam, he got on his feet. He washed the bile out of his mouth and headed into the kitchen.

To his surprise, the countertop was clear of all supplies for making tea, except for a electric kettle rumbling with boiling water and a single spoon. Hammond frowned. He wondered what bizarre software incompatibilities had caused Thirteen’s AI to have sarcasm as a core personality trait.

He collected his thoughts and retrieved the teapot and its matching mugs from their place on the kitchen table. He found the chamomile tea tin in the cupboard. He set about making tea while the occasion buzz of Thirteen’s tractor beam could be heard from the bathroom.

The sergal’s movements were mechanical and therapeutic. He rinsed the teapot with hot water and scooped tea into the strainer. He poured the water over the tea making sure to soak all of it evenly and then shook the strainer so it wasn’t all stuck to the mesh. All that was left was for the tea to steep. 

He walked over to the couch in front of the floor to ceiling windows that dominated his living room. A command sent over the Network turned the windows from opaque to transparent. The vast city outside the windows was bathed in a gentle yellow light. His mug had heated from the water and he cradled with both hands as a sob caught in his throat. 

This was the city he was supposed to protect. He had let himself get into a situation where his defense protocols had activated and killed two citizens. An inquiry had already been started and he was to give his statement in six hours. 

The hum of antigravs and buzz of a tractor beam let him know that Thirteen was hovering behind him.

“Tea, sir?” the bot asked. 

Hammond nodded and Thirteen delicately filled the mug from the teapot and floated the mug towards him.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

Holding his mug, the sergal looked out the window. The weight of responsibility threatened to swallow him. He looked over at Thirteen who waved its directional fins. 

“Don’t worry about the inquiry,” the bot said. “I haven’t reported anything. If you would like to lie down, I’ll wake you up in a few hours.”

Hammond set his tea on the coffee table and reclined on the couch. Thirteen tractored a blanket over him and dimmed the lights. The sergal felt warmth in his heart for the first time in days as he looked at the bot. 

“Thirteen,” he said. “Thanks. I don’t know where I’d be right now without you.”

Thirteen’s directional fins fluttered as if in indecision or perhaps punctuation. 

“You would be alone and you would have a dirty sink.”

Hammond snorted and pulled the blanket close. No matter what happened at the inquiry he would have a sarcastic bot to return home to.