“These things are not men!” A man in a suit screamed from his podium. The crowd cheered. “They are machines. They have no mind. They have no heart. They have no soul. But you, you are all men. You are blessed in the image of God. These things are nothing but the hubris of man. They are a bastardization of us.”
Robert screamed along the crowd, holding up his homemade sign that said, “It’s not murder if they’re not alive.”
“This country. It used to be great at one point.” The man continued. “Back when I was young, we would’ve never allowed these robots the right to vote. They cleaned our toilets. They delivered our food. They served us. That’s why they exist. They are tools, no different than a wrench or a pencil. But we allowed so much to get out of control that people, those confused by the liberal rhetoric, are marrying their god damned toasters!”
Once more Robert screamed along the crowd.
The rally ended after an hour. People stood in line to get signed autographs of the presenter, one of the few politicians that still had his head on his shoulders. The people dispersed after some went home, but some others, including Robert, went to after parties, gatherings of like-minded individuals.
Robert parked a block away from the bar, cursing at the bad parking spaces, very sure that it was because the robots had argued for the liberation of driverless cars, arguing that it was slavery and unfair treatment of a conscious adaptive AI. God, those claims burned Robert from the inside. This was where his tax dollars went. To the defense of a toaster.
As he walked out of the car, he locked eyes with two of their kind. They walked hand in hand. Robert spat and groaned as he walked past them. “God damn toasters,” he repeated as they said in the rally.
“Excuse me?” one of the things called out.
“Honey, don’t,” the other toaster said.
Robert turned and rolled his hands into fists. “I just call it as I see it, ya god damn toasters.”
The one that had responded first let go of the other and walked up to Robert. It was taller than Robert, but it was skinny. And guessing by the amount of metal exposed, Robert knew this one was the fragile can. It shouldn’t have been stupid enough to talk to him.
“Say that to my face again, I fucking dare you,” it said.
“Fuck you, toaster. You ain’t no different than a damned pencil. You’re meant to serve us.”
“Honey, please. Don’t. We can just report him. Let’s go home. Don’t do this,” the other one said.
Robert licked his lips. Fuck it. This thing had asked for it. He swung first. When his fist made contact, he was surprised by how fragile the thing actually was. He’d expected, at the very least, the same resistance he’d get from punching something made of metal. But it felt more like aluminum paper. He nearly punched through it.
It staggered back and then lost its footing, ending on the floor with a clank. The other one screamed and rand to its aid.
But it wasn’t enough. This was a learning moment. This thing had to learn never to speak to a human that way. Robert had to teach it its place.
Reaching into his car, Robert took out his sign and ripped off the cardboard off the long wooden stick. “I’m gonna make it so you never forget the day that you fucking dared to talk to a human like this.”
But Robert wasn’t dumb. This thing needed to learn a real lesson. Just beating it wouldn’t actually make it never fight back. If anything, he’d double on fighting back. No, Robert had to take away something, just like one took a toy away from a child when they were a nuisance.
Raising the stick above him, Robert smashed it against the other one’s face, shattering its eye into pieces. It screamed loudly. The one he’d punched tried to stop him by fighting back, but two hits brought him back to the floor. Robert then continued to beat the one who’d wanted to flee, hitting it relentlessly. A few hits dislodged its arm. A few more made sure that it would walk on a limp. And another hit made sure it went quiet.
After growing tired, Robert threw the stick at the one that had stood up to him. “I hope you learned your lesson, you toaster.” Robert grinned and walked away. No one called him out for it. No one did anything about it. The incident didn’t even hit the news. Eventually, he even forgot about it.