by DW Getchel

Samantha didn’t know she was different until her 8th birthday. Betty, her mother had kept a secret from everyone. The secret became known, quite by accident and shocked all the kids and their parents at Samantha’s party. Her father was off working with NASA on “things” her mother always said. She never knew what to tell the other kids when asked what her daddy did. Whenever she said he worked at NASA, they all thought he was up in space. They could be right, but she wasn’t sure.

Samantha’s memory wasn’t very good. Teachers asked her about her younger years, but she couldn’t remember. Mommy said she had hit her head and that’s why she can’t remember anything past her 7th birthday.

Bill knew he couldn’t have gotten away with stealing NASA property though he’d done it anyway. It hit too close to home. Losing his daughter affected him and his wife in such a way that it just made sense. Parents shouldn’t have to go through that. He knew he was playing with fire, trying to bring back his daughter. Samantha was always a little off from the original and no matter how many tweaks he made, couldn’t quite make her right. Even when it was based on her.

Nobody told him the backup was on the fritz. He took it, modified it, placed it into their lives and the hole that was there. Now they had their daughter back. He had his little girl. Or as close as he could make it.

Word traveled fast when Samantha lapsed back into a militarized state. He wasn’t there for her birthday party, but he would have been vaporized along with his wife and those families attending.

Officer Reggie had shown up first to the scene. Samantha had been advancing towards him before abruptly stopping, turning to the right and walk right past him and down the street. His gun was drawn, but he still didn’t know what was going on. There were piles of ash and bits of clothes, birthday cake and balloons. Nobody in sight. A neighbor had heard screams and called the police. Not happy, playing screams. More like terror screams the old lady had described.

Running to catch up to Samantha, Reggie kept calling out to her with no response. Not even a flinch. He’d stop in front of her and she’d walk around him or through him, bumping him to the side.

Samantha walked towards the base. Her calculations stated she was 7.892 miles away. Repair protocol had been activated and she was returning home.

They were tracking Samantha as she started heading back, pre-programmed to head home when things aren’t quite right with the computer systems.

Bill knew exactly what was going on as soon as the alarm sounded. The emergency meeting he was in centered the discussion around how the machine determined the people were hostile. There shouldn’t have been any reason for it. Everyone around the table kept going back to the wonky way the backup always acted. Nobody could figure out why. Bill had laid out all his misdeeds to his bosses and their bosses and he found it a little odd that they seemed calm about it. There was a huge crisis going on with a potentially rampaging humanoid robot. Bill thought they were stunned by the power she exhibited and thinking how that could play out in future missions.

When the army showed up to escort her back, all hell broke loose. Officer Reggie took the sideline to let the military handle it.

The two helicopters flying above her were the first to go. Her vaporizer rays sliced through them like butter from a hot knife and before anyone on the ground could react, she broke the necks of the four soldiers surrounding her. The humvee gunner started blasting her with the 40cal which knocked her off balance for a moment, giving the guys around her that hadn’t yet died, time to take cover.

Samantha’s skin was coming off with each bullet hit, revealing the metal beneath. Slowly she moved towards the gunner until she reached the back wheel and with both hands, flipped it end over end, the occupants still inside. As it rolled, it crushed those who had sought cover.

After that round of destruction, she continued walking west, where the base was located. Some people had drawn their curtains, others were standing out in the yard, watching her walk past. It really was a limp though, the damage the 40cal had done to the weaker sections in the legs were affecting her.

Because the escort failed, the army ordered every one back. No contact, not even personal or vehicles in a two block radius. Police made sure the path was clear so they didn’t have another altercation.

Bill and the rest of the guys watched through the monitors as Samantha walked back into her holding container. Collectively holding their breath until their computer indicator light blinked from green, to red, to yellow. She was powered down and in standby when they finally sighed in relief.

They closed her blast door and locked it tight. Even if she somehow glitched again and turned on, her box would keep her there.

One of the senators who showed up later that day, wondered why there hadn’t been a kill switch installed. They had. Two separate ones and both failed to execute.

It all comes back to a buggy backup machine Bill kept telling them after the dust settled.

Bill was sitting in a windowless room, waiting his fate. He wasn’t in cuffs yet but it was only a matter of time. His wife and fake daughter were no longer here so whatever happened, it didn’t matter.