Brother’s Keeper

by R.T. Allenson

Kenneth sat alone in the room where they left him. It was a cold and unfeeling place, and there was little light except for the small light bulb at the very center of the ceiling.

His fingers impatiently patted the desk before him and tried scratching the surface. They left him in this cold place not long after they murdered his brother – his baby brother with a bullet through his brain. He tried his best to appear calm; he knew there were surveillance cameras, but he was screaming inside.

He was screaming why they didn’t shoot him instead.

Presently, a woman entered the room. She smelled like cheap perfume, and it made Kenneth’s nose twitch. She eyed him – almost suspiciously – and managed a forced smile.

“Kenneth? How are you feeling?” Her eyes stared at him quizzically, and he felt a weight on his chest bear down on him.

“I’m okay.” Kenneth replied. His eyes twitched and the hairs on the back of his neck started standing on its ends. “I’m okay, but my brother isn’t. They killed him.”

The woman took off her glasses and sighed, pausing to scratch the back of her head. “Kenneth, your brother isn’t dead. He can’t die. He’s an android remember?”

“But they shot him right in the head!” His voice flared slightly and the woman raised her eyebrow slightly. “I saw the insides of his head on the floor in front of me. He’s dead.”

“I assure you he isn’t dead.” she shifted in her seat and stared at Kenneth, “While it is unfortunate that they had to shoot him, his personality core survived intact.”

“In fact,” she said, opening one of her folders. “Jim, your brother, was reactivated just a few hours ago.”

“Why can’t I see him then?”

“Because he’s going to be tried for the murder of your father.”

Kenneth slumped in his seat, trying to hold back tears. “He’s only twelve. It isn’t right.”

“That’s why I’m here – to set things right. I need to know what caused him to malfunction and murder your father in cold blood.” She took out a notebook from one of her folders and wore her glasses again. “And why he didn’t kill you and why you helped him escape.”

Kenneth sighed and slumped back in his chair. “He’s my brother. I know he’s not human. I know he’s artificial. But I had to protect him.”

“Please.”, the woman took a second to glance back at Kenneth. “Tell me everything. Start from the beginning.”

“Okay. Okay.” Kenneth shook his head and slouched forward.

When they told me that I’d be getting a brother, I wasn’t sure how I should react. Dad and mom aren’t in good terms and I actually haven’t seen her in three years. She got custody of my baby brother who I think is around the same age as Jim is right now. He’s eleven now – two years younger than me.

Dad loved my baby brother more than me. I admit; I’m not exactly the son they hoped for. In the back of my mind, Dad still blames me for tearing him and mom apart even though it was all cause of his drinking. My mom knew about Sandra too…

Anyways, Andro-Co sent these flyers a few weeks before about their new R-89 Androids. You know, the ones you can customize? I remember when they first showed the ad in the news. People were rioting. I mean, I kind of get it – customizing a human being, even if it’s actually a robot isn’t great. There’s so many implications, but my dad was elated at the idea. He could finally get the son he lost.

Well, they sent Jim over and Dad was the happiest I’ve seen him. So happy in fact that I think the rift between us was mending. Jim was the perfect son – made in the image of the real Jim but only knew me and dad. He was the perfect son…and the perfect brother.

I’ll be honest – I hated Jim at the start cause he was the apple of dad’s eye. But there was one time when he tripped over and he skinned his knee. I know, he’s artificial, but he reacted like a real kid and I reacted for the first time like how a big brother reacts. He cried. I didn’t know androids could do that, but he did. And I was there. I told him that it’d be alright and I bandaged him up even though the mechanisms inside him were already repairing the synthetic skin.

I really bonded with him after that. You know he was kind of cold to me before, but after that, he started looking up to me like a big brother. We were cool after that – we spent all our free time together. I was even teaching him how to ride a Windboard. It was great…

And then I came home that day and he…he was acting off. He was asking all these questions – asking if he was doing things right. Asking if he was real boy. He was getting rough and I could feel his strength – the android strength he had – starting to get the upper hand. He had already lifted me a few inches off the ground when my dad burst in. He yelled at Jim for the first time and was screaming in real anger why he was hurting me.

And you know what, ma’am? I was actually happy. I was happy that I what I was seeing was genuine concern from my dad. I was happy he was worried about me. Dad raised his hand; he was about to hit Jim, and then his self-defence mechanisms kicked in. Jim’s hand shot through dad’s chest like his body was paper. Right through the heart. Dad died instantly.

I think the three laws don’t really apply anymore when your robots are as human as you. That’s what I think. That’s what I was thinking then. And then reality kicked in – dad was dead, and Jim was glitching out. The red glare from his eyes faded and he started crying like he did when he skinned his knee. His strength faded and he collapsed into me. He was crying again, and the auto-sensors had already sent out the signal that an R-Series had malfunctioned. We started running. He kept asking why but he knew it in his heart – he was afraid of getting caught. He had first hand experience what death was like, and he was afraid of dying.

It took three days until the authorities caught up with us. At this point, Jim was just insane already. He’d revert to his programmed voice and his ‘real’ voice, and he was asking all these questions. He’d keep asking if what he did was wrong and if he was real. 

That’s when they broke down the door and their guns were all pointing at him. I had to stand in his way but Jim pushed me and he started approaching the men. I think they got spooked but Jim was just giving himself up. And then they shot him.

“And now I’m here. And nothing makes sense. I want to see my brother. Is he really alive?”

The woman closed her folder and slouched back into her seat. “Yes, Kenneth. Jim is still alive. I’ll take you to him later. But we’re not done yet.”

“But I already told you everything! What else do you need me for?”

“I told you. Your brother’s going to stand trial, but we can change that. We can save him from being turned to scrap and from Andro-Co wiping his personality core. But you need to cooperate with me.”

Kenneth was mad now. He stood up from his seat and slammed his fists on the table. “What else do you want? I told you everything!”

“Not everything.”

The woman took a small cube from her pocket and placed it at the center of the table. “This,” she said pointing, “is Jim’s personality core. It also contains his memories.”

“I know that.”, Kenneth interrupted.

“Andro-Co installed a standard recording device in these things. It’s for safety reasons, apparently. It’s to ensure that any instances of the R-Line of androids going berserk are recorded to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future.”

Kenneth’s eyes widened and he felt his heart race. He slunk back into his chair.

“Now.”, the woman said, “We want to confirm what we saw. The reason why Jim went berserk.”

And just like that, the imagery and scenery swells in his mind in the same way feelings of pain and self-loathing swell in his member. He turns his eyes away from the images the recording device plays in front of him, but the woman makes him see.

His secret shame he had buried in those days, but now, he knows that everyone needs to face harsh truths – especially when love is on the line.

“Now, Kenneth. I apologize if you had to see that, but it was necessary.”, the woman says, turning off the device. She turns to Kenneth, reduced to a whimpering wreck and almost curled up in his chair. “What made you do it?”

Kenneth cocked his head upwards and glared at the woman, “Why do you need to ask that? Why? You already saw what I did? What’s the need to ask me why I did it.”

The woman shook her head disappointingly, “If I was like the other lawyers and investigators, I’d say it’s to give you a fighting chance. This world has changed in the past few years, and regular people care little for who your manhood lusts after – be it  a man or woman; brother or sister, or a robot. Even a human robot.”

The woman shuffles in her seat uncomfortably; the subject, Kenneth thinks, is something she is not used to. “And while it is to give you a fighting chance, the truth is Andro-Co is adamant in finding out why their latest model of androids went berserk. This case is a high-profile one and will affect their sales terribly. One thing that has not changed is the capacity of our kind – humans – to be greedy.”

“So tell me, Kenneth. Why did you rape your brother?”

Kenneth’s eyes are water, but he musters enough sense to face the woman and return her question with a glare. Her eyes twitch in response, and she waits for him to speak.

“I will not lie – I love Jim with all my heart, but I also hate him. I hate how perfect he is.”

In the back of my mind, there was a hatred that was brewing like a cauldron. As much as I love him for the brother I always wanted and bringing some laughter and love in my father’s gaze, he was too perfect. He was too everything that I never was and will probably never will be.

And I think that you’ll agree with me when I say that there’s a thin line between love and hatred. The sentence that your mind gives to your heart is severe, don’t you know? What that sentence was aggravation mixed with love. 

I didn’t lie to you. That day, Jim was acting off. Normally, he’d say hello and hi and be on his way to do whatever he does as he is programmed to or what he has programmed himself to do. But he was off that day because when I got home, he came to me and hugged me and told me that he had missed me when I was gone.

And then, he lays the perfect kiss on my lips – my first one and his. I pushed him back because I was not expecting it, and then he asked me if that made him a real boy. And I…

I pushed him into my room. I laid him on the bed and tore his clothes off. He kept asking what I was doing, but I didn’t care. He kept asking me, but he didn’t put up a fight. I turned him around and did what my throbbing member was asking me to do. His body, warmth and flesh felt real, and as I took his virginity, I whispered the answer to his question: “Yes, you are a real boy.”

It took a few minutes for his self-defense sub-routines to kick in. He pushed me away and grabbed me by the neck. That was when dad got home and heard all the ruckus. He saw Jim strangling me, and he took my baseball bat and whacked him on the back of his head. Jim responded by extending his arm right through dad’s chest, tearing his heart out and killing him instantly.

Cold, red eyes greeted me afterwards and then, that’s when he glitched out. The blow to the back of his head must have damaged his internal processor, cause he was asking me what was happening. He was asking why dad was dead, why he was strangling me, and why he had blood on his hands. He collapsed on me like a whimpering child, and I knew that the signal had already alerted the authorities. That’s when we ran.

“And that’s the truth, ma’am.”, Kenneth said. His face was filled with emotion, but he was neither afraid nor ashamed. “That’s the truth.”

The woman stood from he seat and gathered her things. “I suppose that is. Thank you for being honest.”

“What will you do now?”

“I’ll send this report to Andro-Co. I’ll be honest, they already know what happened – what you did. But we live in a society that requires fairness even for the most deplorable actions.”

“And what about Jim? What’s going to happen to him?”

“Like I said, he’s alive. He’s been reactivated. Everything has been restored.”

“And what about me?”

“You’re a minor, so you won’t go to jail – yet. But I believe the court will sentence you to something worse.”

“Worse?”, Kenneth asked. He felt a chill pass him by.

“A worse prison – you’ll live with your brother, Jim, in Andro-Co.”

“How could that be worse? I think that’s a light sentence.”

“Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong.” the woman replied. “You see, Kenneth. When they restored Jim, they restored everything – even the memory of when you raped him.”

Kenneth’s eyes widened.

“Your brother knows what you did to him. He knows everything. You will have to live with him until you get transferred to prison.”

Tears started forming in his eyes, and he bowed his head in shame.

“That is, unless he finds himself capable of forgiving you.”

The woman pats his head and bids him to stand up, “Come now; he’s adaptive and time’s wasting. He’s ready to meet you.”

The woman leads Kenneth to his new room – a modest accommodation where the glass, he thought, was two-faced and prying eyes could see him. An unbearable prison that’s worse than a cold cell.

There he saw his brother, waiting for him – eyes awash with hatred and pity. The woman leads him close to where his brother is sitting, and promptly leaves the two of them.

“I’m sorry.”, is all he could say. “I’m sorry, and I love you.” He stretches his hand to his brother, but the android does not respond – only staring at him with cold eyes.