It was a hard decision, going home with Dr. Mensah after she bought my contract. There had been a moment, on the station, where I'd thought of... getting out, talking my way onto a cargo transport and just going. Maybe I'd find out what was going on with GrayCris. Maybe I’d become a vigilante, traveling the stars and looking for injustice. Maybe I'd just relax and watch my entertainment downloads until we docked and I could download some more.
Dr. Mensah had told me that she had uninterrupted download access. That was what decided me, in the end.
Now I was lying in the grass while an animal investigated me, trying not to let the boredom overwhelm me.
I queued up an episode of Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon, then deleted it from the queue. The animal tentatively licked my head.
"Do you want to come in?" asked one of the kids that lived on Dr. Mensah's farm. I wasn’t exactly sure if she belonged to Dr. Mensah directly. There was more than one family on the farm, and I was having a lot of trouble keeping the kids' names straight. All of them had brown hair, and big eyes, and also I'd suppressed a bunch of my critical thinking systems to an unsuccessful attempt to come to terms with the deadly abundance of time and nothing to fill it.
I was used to working. I was programmed for working. And now I just got to lie in the grass and be licked by animals.
“Murderbot?” asked the kid. “We’re gonna be late for dinner.”
"I don't eat," I told the kid.
"Yeah, but you could come sit with us," she said. "It's nice to be social."
The animal licked my head again. The kid giggled.
"The dog's eating you," she said.
"He's not doing a good job of it." I waved my hand at the dog, and he licked that too. I sighed and succumbed to being slowly devoured.
"Are you old enough to give advice?" I asked.
"I'm twelve," said the kid.
I didn't really know what that meant. In context, that is, I do know how to count. Kids on the entertainments seemed pretty wise at any age. Kids in real life seemed just as confusing and irrational as adults. I decided to take my chances.
"How do you do it?" I asked. "Just, you know, live? No one telling you what to do. No duties, no people to rescue. I figured I'd watch media all day every day if I had the chance, but it turns out even that gets boring when you don't have to hide that you're doing it."
"I dunno," said the kid. "I've got chores."
"Chores." I thought about it. "Maybe I need chores."
"You can help me feed the dogs," said the kid. "After dinner. Come on, my moms made mashed rutabagas."
We couldn’t miss that. I hauled myself up from the grass, and the dog danced away from me, barking and wagging his tail. The kid held her hand out to me, smiling in a way that suggested she didn't recognize that she was offering to hold hands with a deadly weapon.
Well. Maybe she didn't. She was twelve, after all, whatever that meant. I'd just have to make sure it didn't become an issue.
"All right," I said. "Let's go."