Neither of them spoke a word to each other all day. Maybe even a few days. They weren’t sure. Time seemed to stop, at least in her mind, when she realized what was going on. She didn’t want to tell him, she didn’t want to break the news, but she had a feeling he knew. He always knew.
Karen was sitting on top of her desk. She hadn’t moved from that spot all day. She hadn’t even plugged her CPU into the wall monitor; she didn’t want Sheldon to see what she was thinking about. She didn’t want Sheldon to see how scared she was.
The charade continued even as they went to bed. Sheldon lay on his side of the bed, Karen on hers. They didn’t wish each other a good night. They didn’t acknowledge the inevitable. But Karen was beginning to regret playing the charade. She wanted his comfort. She wanted to tell him it would be alright. But of course, there wasn’t much a simple Seabot could do. She tried to plug herself in to charge, but every time she tried, she winced away in pain. She would have to go without charging tonight.
Karen closed her eyes.
Nobody really knows how robots came to live in the ocean. There are many different origin stories for the species, but the oldest one is generally more accepted among sea folk:
There was once a lonely old inventor sailing on a small ship in the middle of the ocean. He was looking for rare materials to finish his newest invention. Sentient robots.
The inventor had been sailing for weeks with his two robots, running out of food and fresh water. He was tired.
The inventor came across a calm area. There wasn't a single cloud in sight. That’s when the inventor came face to face with the legendary King Neptune.
King Neptune praised the inventor for surviving his ocean thus far and offered him one wish. The inventor wished that his robots were completed because he knew he would never live to finish them himself. Neptune fulfilled his promise, and completed the robots, giving them life.
The robots thanked Neptune for his generosity, for which he thanked them as well. He sent the inventor and the two robots on their way home.
While traveling home, the inventor came across the stormiest part of the ocean. His ship was destroyed, sending them all into the sea.
The inventor drowned, and the robots were quickly dying. King Neptune appeared before the terrified bots. He gifted them with the ability to live in his ocean.
The robots lived on the sea floor among the native folk. They were able to flourish, starting a new species that came to be known as Seabots.
However, Neptune’s blessings always come with a catch. A catch that they never found to be a problem. Being a rare species, Seabots usually only pair with other Seabots. But in the case of Sheldon and I….
Karen snapped back into the real world to the sound of her husband’s soft cries.
“Sheldon…?” She asked into the night. Her voice slightly horse, having gone without speaking for so long. She sat up, placing a hand on his shoulder. He still had his back to her. “Sheldon are you alright?”
Finally, he sat up beside her. She could see the tears sliding down his cheeks. Karen’s expression softened, emphasizing with the pain he was feeling. She put her hand on his cheek, gently wiping away the tears. Sheldon bowed his head.
“No” was all he could say in response between sniffs and tears.
“What's wrong?” Karen whispered. Sheldon did not look up.
Karen’s eyes widened, tears welling up. So he did know. She moved to hug him, her head on his shoulder. He rested his head on hers, but not even the lavender scent of her violet hair could soothe the pain he felt inside.
“It's inevitable,” She said, not wanting to accept it. “We can't avoid it any longer.”
“I can try tampering with your circuitry. Maybe I can rewire your inner systems to keep you here with me.” Sheldon could hear the doubt in his own voice. But he was willing to do anything to save his wife.
“It wouldn't fix it. If anything, it would only worsen the process. I'm already at the point where I can't plug myself in; we can't fix this.” Karen immediately regretted the words as they slipped from her lips. Sheldon's hold on her tightened.
“It's not fair!” He sobbed, “Why, why, why?! Why does it have to be this way? Why do I have to lose to one good thing in my life?!?”
“Shhh shhh...it's going to be okay,” Karen tried to comfort him despite being terrified herself, “just remember all the times we fought and yelled.”
“And all the times I threatened to replace you.”
“I swear there were plenty of times where I thought you really were going to replace me.” Karen reminisced, a small smile spreading across her face, tears streaming down.
“We had a terrible, terrible marriage.” Sheldon chuckled through the sobs.
“But that doesn't mean I regret it. Not one bit.” Karen was finally letting herself cry. With each gasp of breath in between sobs, she could feel more energy escape. Time was draining. Soon she would be nothing more than a pile of junk in her husband's arms.
Karen lifted her head, her lips brushing against his. The lights in her eyes and vacuum tubes were beginning to dim.
“No… no...” Sheldon murmured. He could feel her body cooling at a rapid rate. No. This couldn't be real. This was a nightmare. It had to be. “no, stay awake, please…”
Karen’s sentience was slipping away. With every passing moment, the seconds on the clock seemed to tick slower and slower. A few quiet beeps and whirrs were coming from Karen’s system, desperately trying to grasp onto life. But it was far too late. The clock had stopped ticking.
There was a breathless, nearly inaudible whisper of “I love you” as Karen’s lights finally ceased to glow. Her grip on him faltered, Sheldon caught her, pulling her closer to his body, desperately trying to keep her tethered to him.
“No. Oh dear Neptune, come back. Please come back. Please, look at me, I'm right here...I'm right here….please….”
Neptune's blessings always come with a catch. Seabots have a lifespan significantly shorter than the average folk. One can only delay the inevitable, for once sentience escapes a being, it can never be restored.