Short story: Friendship of steel

The rain clattered on the streets. Neon lights reflected in the puddles and filled the dark alley with a cold glow. A heap of rusty metal lies against the wall. Collecting raindrops on its rusty surface. In the distance the sound of splashing can be heard. Slowly it is getting louder and louder, but then it stops. An old man in a long dark overcoat kneels down beside the heap of metal and grabs one of the thin slates. He smiled and his white moustache curled up.
“Well, well, well, what do we have here?” he said to himself. Slowly he rose with the metal still in his hand. The metal frame jerked up slowly and revealed the skeleton of an old robot. “Let’s get you some shelter, old boy.”

The dim light of the apartment illuminates the simple setup of the room. One chair, a table and a big bookcase full of small electronic parts. Krrt, krrrt. The electric screwdriver screwed in the last screws and the old man looked pleased at the rusty robot.
“Alright, let’s see if you still work.”
He reached behind the head of the robot and flips a hidden switch. The robot started to shake for a bit and the sound of fans started to fill the room.
“Bios setup complete. Running program at 56% capacity. Loading protocols. Greetings. SH1007-004, at your service. Maintenance mode activated.”
“Good, maybe we can test how broken you still are. What year is it?”
The rusty bot took a few seconds and its head started to wobble a bit.
“Requesting data. It is the year 2077. Please confirm.”
“Alright, looks like primary data operations are intact. Confirmed.”
“Data confirmed.”
“Now lets test your data banks. Who is the current president of the world?”
It grew silent again. This time it took a bit longer before the robot was able to answer.
“Data found. Current president of the world is Kid president. Additional information found. Currently Kid president is under investigation. Sources say he might not be a child but an adult with a growth disease. Information not confirmed. Action required?”
The old man smiled and patted the iron giant on his shoulder.
“No, Rob. You are fine.”
The robot tilted his head slightly.
“Unidentified username. Invalid input. What is a Rob?”
“Haha, you are. We humans like to name stuff. Makes it easier to talk.”
“Confirmed. SH1007-004 is now known as entity Rob. Testing. I am Rob. Nice to meet you.”
The old man stood up and looked at his new metalic friend.
“Well, nice to meet you too, Rob. Where do you come from and why are you here?”
Rob raised both his hands and formed them into a heart shape.
“Rob is looking for love.”
The human laughed out loud and snorted a bit.
“In all the wrong places?”
“Error. Does not compute.”
“Sorry, Rob. A little joke.”
A few LEDs started to flare up on his chest and a few rusty parts moved around.
“Selecting proper response to joke. Ha Ha Ha.”
“Still doesn’t tell me where you came from.”
“Insufficient data. Primary objective still stands. Find love. Do you have love?”
The old man gave a wry smile and looked at the old photograph on the table.
“No, I am afraid I lost my love a long time ago.”
“Do you require Rob’s help to find it?”
A sadness came over the old man.
“I am afraid that is not possible. My love died over ten years ago.”
Rob tilted his head again. The old man smiled and recognized the confused look of his robot companion.
“I will try to explain it in your language. She was… discontinued. No longer in production. Beyond repair.”
“Affirmative. Rob understands. Rob detects a leakage on your facial unit. Do you require assistance?”
The old man removed the tears from his face with a swift sweep of his sleeve.
“Haha, no, Rob. Those are tears. I still miss her dearly every day.”
“Love can hurt?”
“Yes, Rob. But it can also bring happiness. Like friendship.”
More LEDs started to flare up. It looked like Rob got more lively with every sentence.
“Additional information required. Explain Friendship to Rob.”
“Friendship is when two people, or more, like each other very much and like to spend time together. They form a friendship and call each other friends. They share stories, laugh, cry, and share other emotions. They help each other. That is what we humans call friendship.”
“Friendship is a kind of love?”
“Haha, yes, you could say that. But it is getting late, Rob. I will need a good night sleep. I will see you tomorrow.”
The rusty robot calmed down and the flashy lights slowly weakened in brightness.
“Process data. Slumber mode activated.”
“Good night, crazy robot.”

Morning came and the old man came down the stairs. He looked around, but the chair was empty and a can of oil was gone. The man scratched his head and sat down. Then he noticed the small piece of paper on the table. Curious he grabbed it and read the message.

“Rob and man shared stories, helped each other, laughed, cried and shared other emotions. Conclusion. This must be friendship. Thank you, friend. End of line. Rob.”

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