Aphelion Issue 277, Volume 26
October 2022
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The Replacement

by R. Gene Turchin

“There’s a kid with a green Mohawk kicking the shit out of your mower out back,” she said as she walked away from the window, cradling her coffee mug. “You might want to check on that.”

“I hired him after the incident with the neighbors’ dog,” I answered. Down in the yard, Matt was stomping on the mower control box.

“And the flower beds,” she reminded me. “You know Cheryl was really pissed and I can’t blame her. She spent considerable time planting and arranging those plants and they were so colorful. What did that cost us? One fifty?” Cheryl and Steve lived in the brick ranch next door and used to be good friends.

Her voice had a quality of smugness to it, like she was saying, “eat that dirty feather laden crow and swallow it all.”

I wouldn’t characterize my wife as a Luddite, but she had no patience with what she referred to as my ‘tech toys.’ I admit I’m a first adopter. There is a degree of elite satisfaction being the first on the block with new gadgets even if it’s not-quite-ready-for-production.

The Robo-mower was one of them. Built in GPS and enough low-level AI to be capable of learning the characteristics of your lawn. Mow without supervision. ‘Child and pet safe’ the ads proclaimed.

It decided to mow at two-thirty-seven AM, and even though it’s electric and the noise level hangs around 75 db, the dull humming in the wee hours should have been a giveaway that it wasn’t performing optimally.

It deployed the next afternoon while their dog, Bozo, was chasing birds in the yard. Robo-mower did not physically harm Bozo. It only chased him to whimpering exhaustion before Steve heard him howling and rescued him. Steve made it to the patio door with the mower nipping at his heels. Robo-mower had violated several protocols by slicing into their yard and hounding Bozo. I performed a reset as per the instruction manual.

A few days later it systematically masticated Cheryl’s beautiful flower garden. No one knows how it managed to breach the wall of bricks delineating the flowers from the rest of the yard. I can only surmise it must have been very tenacious.

I sauntered into the back yard, where Matt’s boots had succeeded in dislodging the control head from the mower body. It was still moving but his hobnails were persistent and he gave it extra whacks with an old shovel. He looked up as I approach.

“Little prick don’t give up easily,” he said. The mower did look pathetic, like it was trying to crawl away.

“Why don’t you just cut the battery?” I asked.

“It needs to suffer for its transgressions.”

Matt was a ‘chipper’, a new trend in trans-human with chip inserts and some bio-mechanical accoutrements like muscular enhancement. He needed money for his mods, so he was going to take over the lawn duties from Robo-mower MK1, by pushing an old-school gas cutter around the yard.

“Does it look banged up enough to have been run over by your car?” he asked. I nodded, thinking maybe it appeared crunched up a little too much.

“You didn’t video this?” I asked. “Because that could screw up the payments.”

He looked sheepish.

“I did but, like, I’m not going to post it. It’s for personal use.” Matt had one of those dot eye-cameras in his brows. Gave the same perspective as looking through his eyes. Also had the subcutaneous hotspot chip embedded in his shoulder. Always connected. Always on. Still lived at home.

“When you get the insurance settlement I’ll sell it for parts,” he said. He reached down to the frame and tore the cables from the battery.

“Fine. I’m okay with that. Just stay away from Cheryl’s flowers when you mow,” I cautioned as I turned back toward the house. “And don’t mess with Bozo, he’s still in therapy.”

With the insurance payment, I can order the Robo-Hawk home security system. It’s guaranteed to chase intruders from your property. The beta version will be available in two weeks. At a discount!

2018 R. Gene Turchin

Gene Turchin made the rookie mistake of not submitting a bio with his story.  A resident of Arkham Asylum, he spends his time (when not bouncing off the walls) drooling quietly and tapping away at the keyboard.  He is allowed visitors on Thursdays.

Find more by R. Gene Turchin in the Author Index.

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