Editor’s Note: This story is by Igor. Do you know Igor? You should know Igor. It is rumored Igor lives in an abandoned missile silo somewhere in the Nevada desert where he makes robots out of old kitchen appliances and whispers the scriptures of the new religions. If you want to speak to him (and who doesn’t want to speak to him) leave a message at the beep…
Old Eve, New Dawn
by Igor Teper
During quite possibly the most spectacular sunset in Earth’s history, as they all now were, what looked like a man but was really a Know-It-All walked out of the radioactive slaglands into the slightly less radioactive ruins of a small town.
Among the many things that the Know-It-All knew were the date and time, the temperature, the absolute and relative humidities, the ambient radiation levels, the soil toxicity, the particulate content of the atmosphere that painted the sky such an extraordinary pink, and the entirety of humanity’s technical knowledge and cultural heritage.
Among the few things that the Know-It-All did not know was the future. In particular, it had no idea while it ambled down what had once been Main Street that it was about to encounter a human being until it heard a piercing shriek off to its left.
She dashed out of the rubble and embraced the Know-It-All before it even had a chance to greet her. A girl, in her late teens or early twenties, who, her tattered clothing and generally disheveled appearance notwithstanding, appeared to be in excellent physical
She released the Know-It-All and stood back, her hands resting lightly on its upper arms, looking at its face with unbelieving elation.
“I knew you would come!” she said, her lips and jaw trembling, her words coming out in gasps. “All these months, I was ready to give up hope, but I never did! I just knew you would come!”
“It is a miracle that you have survived this long, and in such good health,” the Know-It-All said, “and another miracle that I have found you. But now you do not need to worry about anything. I shall take care of you.”
“Yes. Yes!” she said, nodding, her hands squeezing his arms. “We will take care of each other.”
“My own well-being is in no danger,” the Know-It-All said. “I was designed to be entirely self-sufficient and to survive in far more extreme conditions than the ones here and now.”
“Designed?” she mouthed.
“With the war seemingly inevitable, I was created to be the last safeguard against humanity’s extinction,” the Know-It-All said. “To be the perfect companion and guardian to those humans who might survive the war’s devastation.”
She took her hands off it and stepped back.
“Do not be alarmed,” it said. “I am fully capable of taking care of all your needs. I am fully skilled in all known medical procedures and can synthesize a variety of drugs and other useful chemicals. I am anatomically male and fully functional, and I hold within my abdomen large quantities of preserved sperm, specially shielded from radiation. And if you should prove to be infertile, I have another reservoir of preserved ova, and I have the further capacity to configure my midsection into an incubation chamber that would allow me to carry an embryo to term. I will not let you down. Together, we will lay the foundation for a new, better humanity.”
The girl had sat down on the ground and buried her face in her hands, and was quietly sobbing. And for all the things that the Know-It-All knew, it could not fathom what could have made her cry.
Originally published as “R is for Robot,” as part of “Thought Experiments: An Abecedary”
in Son and Foe in 2006.
Igor Teper is a colony of single-celled organisms that spontaneously
achieved sentience just in time. He once had a pet right-handed
neutrino, but he took it out for a walk, and it escaped.