The robot stares at me with two yellow, digitized eyes. Are those even its eyes? It looks more like a display, like one of those faces they give robots working in construction and road work to make them seem more human. If that’s the case, than whoever built this thing fucked up royally. It was short, about five feet tall. The robot stood on one, thick metal leg, which was probably motorized to let it get around. The torso – if you could call it that – was made up of a rotating selection of spatulas, knives, various cups probably used for measuring, and any other tool for baking you could imagine, like the Swiss Army knife of baking. The robot probably attached and detached them from his hands as needed. On top of this was the screen that made up its face. The screen’s expression was pleasant enough, a bemused smile, but put the whole thing together and it was like a machine out of a nightmare. A cake-baking nightmare.
“What the actual fuck,” I said. I still hadn’t moved from my spot at the door. Too busy gaping at the world’s first baking robot like an idiot.
“Can UB help you, human? Perhaps you would enjoy one of our many types of baked goods?”
“Uh, yeah, actually,” I said, and eased open the door; the robot’s big yellow eyes followed me as I closed the door behind me, so maybe it really did see through the TV screen it called a head. I glanced this way and that, checking to see if anybody living was waiting to jump out of a corner and bust me. It looked clear enough. This was going to be the easiest robbery in history. “Do you have one of those little one-serving cakes? Strawberry with cream cheese frosting?”
“Indeed we do, human!” The robot sounded excited, but they were programmed to express – simulate? – positive emotions when helping humans. I always thought that just made them creepier.
The robot puttered over to a large, industrial size wheeled shelf and picked up a tray of small cakes. Bigger than you’re average cupcake but still meant for one person, the little things were the rage of all the town. Expensive as all hell, but treating them as a special treat just seemed to make people love them all the more.
The robot picked up the little strawberry cake so gently it reminded me of someone picking up a small kitten.
“Here you are, human,” it said, a digital smile now plastered over its face-screen. “Would you like UB to box this for you? Extensive research into our customer response surveys has shown that many humans enjoy being presented this cake as a gift.”
“No thanks, robot,” I said. I took the cake from it. It was really a thing of beauty. The frosting was white and smooth cream cheese, and someone had drawn a strawberry onto it with strawberry topping, and the whole thing was topped off with a little pink frosting flower next to the strawberry.
“Did you make this, robot?”
“I did, human. It brought me much satisfaction to see many humans enjoy this one’s creations.”
“Satisfaction? You’re programmed to feel pride of your work?”
The robot didn’t blink, but if he had working eyes, the silence that followed my question made me think it’d be blinking.
“That question does not compute, human.”
“I mean – “
I whirled around to see a woman in a white baking apron standing at the door I had just walked through. Her eyes were huge with shock and her mouth kept contorting from anxiety to anger and back again.
“What the hell are you doing here?” She practically yelled at me, so I guess she settled on anger.
The woman slammed the door behind her, and the resounding boom that echoed off the walls filled me with a pit of dread, like I had stumbled into something I wasn’t supposed to see. It occurred to me for the first time that there was probably a reason why they had never made their robo-baker public.
“Is something the matter, Creator Agatha?” the robot asked.
“No, nothing’s wrong, UB. Everything’s fine,” the woman said, waving away the robot’s question. She stormed past me toward the front of the store and stuck her head through the door that separated the store front from the kitchen.
“JESSICA! Get your ass in here! We have a problem.”