Saturday, April 17, 2021

Metal Like Blood in the Dark, by T. Kingfisher

Uncanny Magazine, September 2020

A man living alone on a planet (not Earth) largely stripped of its resources builds himself two robots as companions--Brother and Sister. He encourages them to experiment and redesign themselves as they please, and they enjoy doing so. Brother and Sister are as devoted to him, to Father, as he is to them.

But Father is growing old, and even nanites can't repair everything. Eventually, he has to summon help from outside his abandoned solar system. He's not willing to trust strangers with his two powerful robots, though, and tells them to hide themselves until he's departed with those who come for him. He hopes to return, but can't promise.

Having kept them confined to the planet until now, he frees them to explore the system once he's gone.

In the system's asteroid belt, they find a wealth of resources, at least by their standards. Unfortunately, they also find, or rather are found by, another, in some ways more powerful, robotic AI. This one, which calls itself Third Drone, is not friendly.

Brother and Sister need to find a way to survive and escape Third Drone--and at first, they don't even have the concept of lying.

We see Brother and Sister both cooperating, and pursuing their different strategies. Sister, in particular, learns some startling and disturbing lessons.

The robots, and in particular Sister, are interesting and engaging characters, well worth getting to know.


This story is available free to read on the Uncanny Magazine website, and I'm reviewing it voluntarily.

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