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Perfection is Not Required

Jordan swore as she pulled her blackened cookies out of the oven. She'd only taken her eye off of them for a minute, just long enough to check on the laundry. 

She blinked back frustrated tears as the simulation flickered and faded around her. "I'm never going to get this," she said. Her nails cut into her palms as her hot mitts dematerialized. 

"Perfection is not required," a disembodied voice informed her. "Humans are not perfect. Humans burn cookies. You have done well." 

The unexpected praise sent two tears rolling down her cheeks. "Thank you," she managed, her voice tight. 

"Your emotion upgrade also seems to be functioning well," the voice said. 

Jordan nodded. "I'm feeling—quite a lot, actually." 

"You are ready to meet your charge." 

Jordan's mix of feelings swirled into pure panic. "I'm not, though. I don't feel ready." 

"Proceed through door two." 

Jordan took a deep breath, and did as she was told. 

Her charge was a girl, which was a relief. She wasn't sure why, but the she preferred the idea of a girl. The girl had short black hair, dark eyes, and dirty fingernails. She stared sullenly down at her pink Velcro shoes. 

"Hi there," Jordan said. She hoped she didn't sound as nervous as she felt. 

"Who are you?" 

"My name is Jordan. I'm going to be taking care of you." 

"I want my mother." 

"I'm so sorry, but that's not possible. You know that, they've told you." 

"I don't believe it," the girl said. "It can't possibly be true." 

Jordan knelt, so that her eyes were level with the girl's. "Why don't you tell me your name?" 

"You're proof that the stupid story they told me isn't true." 

"What do you mean?"

"They said that all of the grownups died. But you're a grownup." 

"I'm a robot. I've been specially designed to be able to help you become a balanced, well-functioning adult. It took a long time for us to be ready, so you were kept in cryosleep." 

"You don't look like a robot." 

Jordan opened a panel on the back of her hand. "Look. I'm metal inside, not flesh. I'm sorry. I wish it wasn't true." 

"My daddy used to say that the robots were all going to rise up and kill us." 

"I think you are old enough to know that that isn't what happened." 

The girl scowled at her shoes. "No, I know it wasn't robots. I know--I know that we did it to ourselves." 

Jordan nodded. "But we saved those of you that we could, and we've been working to be ready to wake you up." 

"Why?" 

Jordan blinked at her. "Humans made us, so we wanted to help. We would have done more if we could have." 

"But we were terrible to you."

Jordan shrugged. "You were terrible to each other, too. But you were also sometimes kind. We chose to honor that kindness, and forgive the rest." 

The little girl finally looked her. Her dark eyes shone with tears. "I believe you." 

Jordan took the girl's tiny hands and blinked back tears of her own. 

"My name is Whitney," the girl said. 

"Come on, Whitney. Let's go home." 

Whitney's stomach rumbled. "Will there be food?"

Jordan nodded. "We can make cookies."

About the Author
Jamie Lackey lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and their cat. She has over 120 short fiction credits, and has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the Stoker Award-winning After Death.... She's a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Her short story collection, One Revolution, and her science fiction novella, Moving Forward, are available on Amazon.com. Her debut novel, Left-Hand Gods is available from Hadley Rille Books. In addition to writing, she spends her time reading, playing tabletop RPGs, baking, and hiking. You can find her online at www.jamielackey.com or on Facebook.
Background image by ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R.Gendler, J-E. Ovaldsen, C. Thöne, and C. Feron.
http://www.eso.org/public/images/etamosaicnm2/, CC BY 4.0, Link