D84 did not understand humans. He did not understand humans, but he understood his primary function to serve and assist them. He had been made and was owned by the Company, and he had been instructed to serve and assist Poul specifically. He did not understand Poul, but that was not necessary. His memory had stored many instances of times when the illogic of this human had achieved their purpose in service of the Company. He had no need to question or to understand; only to obey.
Sometimes, D84 felt he did not understand Poul more than he did not understand other humans.
Every night since they had been on board the Storm Mine, Poul had undressed and redressed D84. First he would remove his face and look at the mechanical components that were behind it. Next it would be a hand, to find only a metal joint, no blood or decaying flesh. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but that at least.
The first few nights, he had told D84 to leave him alone, that it was not necessary to protect him by standing guard in his room at night. He had frequently added that he did not even believe Taren Capel was on board (there was no definite evidence, D84 agreed), and that he, Poul, was capable of looking after himself without a stupid robot hanging about where he wasn’t wanted.
This contradicted his primary function and instructions. D84 reminded Poul that it was not rational to refuse protection he had been instructed to give. Poul did not speak again, save for any orders, until the next night. D84 only thought that logical.
It had changed, a few nights on, to an insistence that he promise not to harm him while he stayed. D84 saw no problem with repeating the obvious: “Of course, Chief Mover Poul. A robot cannot harm a human.”
“Yes,” Poul had started to say now, at that point. “Yes. You’re not like the others, are you? You’re different. You’re on my side, not theirs. You won’t hurt me. You’re not like the others at all.”
I am not like the other robots, D84 always agreed, for it was a fact. He was far more sophisticated than even SV7; he was a prototype more advanced than any other robot on board Storm Mine 4. I will not hurt you. I am incapable of harming a human. I am here to follow your orders.
And then, some nights, Poul would throw words at him – sometimes more than words – but never anything that could pierce D84’s metal exterior. None of it had any meaning to a robot.
Now, these last few nights, once that was over, Poul only begged to be held, to be safe where the others could not reach him. Hide me. D84 did what was asked of him. The only satisfaction he knew was to fulfil the purpose for which he had been created.
D84 did not understand humans. He wondered now if that might be a failing in his programming.