Aggie walked to the brow of the hill that overlooked the city. Aggie had never been to the city, but she loved to watch the traffic bustle in and out. Airplanes circled overhead waiting their turn to land, the dull roar of their engines muffled almost to silence by the distance. One day she had watched so long that she had seen the lights come on one by one until it was lit up like a fairy kingdom.
Today she arrived at the hill to find an enormous metal man leaning against the edge of the cliff. He was watching the city.
“Excuse me,” she said politely, “you are blocking my view.”
With a great grinding and clanging noise the metal man turned to face her.
“Who are you?” he demanded in a voice that was so deep that Aggie could feel it in her teeth.
“I’m Aggie,” she said, “I live with my mom and dad over there.” She waved her arm vaguely over her shoulder.
“You should go home,” rumbled the iron man. “This is no place for little girls.”
“This is my place,” Aggie said, “And you are rude.”
“I told you my name. You are supposed to say ‘Pleased to meet you Aggie my name is…'” she paused, “What is your name?”
“Name?” said the metal man, “I have no name. I am a robot.”
“What is a robot?” asked Aggie.
“A robot is….” the metal giant paused. “I am a robot.”
“Where are you from?”
“From? I am from nowhere. I was built over there from metal and glass.” The giant man pointed into the mountains.
“Why?” rumbled the robot, “To destroy the city.”
“The city?” cried Aggie. “Why would you want to destroy the city? It’s wonderful.”
“My master hates the people in the city. He says they are evil and selfish.”
“But even if they are selfish, they don’t deserve to be destroyed.”
“My master wants them destroyed. So he built me to destroy them.”
“But you can’t destroy the city.”
“It is what I am made to do,” said the robot. “I must do what my master made me for.”
“But it’s wrong.”
“I don’t know wrong. I only know obedience.”
Aggie walked to the edge of the hill and looked out over the city. She felt tears forcing their way out of her eyes. The cars and planes blurred. She thought of all those buildings broken and burning; people hurt and crying.
“No!” she shouted at the robot. “You can’t do it. Your master is wrong.”
The robot bent down further with more clanking. She could smell oil and electricity.
“I am not built to know what is wrong. I am built to obey. I cannot disobey.”
“I disobey my dad sometimes.”
“Your dad didn’t build you well.”
“Dad didn’t build me,” laughed Aggie, “I was born.”
“What is born?”
“I’m not sure. I asked my dad once and he just turned red.”
The robot shook his head.
“Whether born or made, we must do as we are told.” He turned again to look across to the city. The sun glinted on windows and winked from airplanes. A breeze blew the faintest sounds of activity to the hill.
“We start out doing as we are told, because we don’t know anything,” Aggie stepped up to the edge of the cliff. “But the more we learn, the more we need to choose for ourselves.”
Aggie heard the metal grind as the robot nodded his head.
“Come with me,” he said and held out his hand. Fearfully, she stepped onto his hand. He curled his fingers to protect her. “We will go and learn.”
Aggie was sure that his footsteps shook the earth, but she couldn’t feel them away up in the air cradled in the metal fist of the robot.
“I am listening to them,” said the robot after a while. “They are laughing because some geese are crossing the highway and traffic is stopped.” He walked on.
“They have seen us,” he rumbled. “But they won’t attack because they see you. They won’t hurt a little girl even to save themselves.” They arrived at the edge of the city. Police cars and fire trucks were lined up across their path. Planes circled overhead.
“It is time,” the robot said, “I must obey.”
“But you can’t.”
“Then you must stop me.”
The whole city watched what happened next. How a little girl stood in front of the colossus with tear streaked face and pushed on the robot”s foot. Miraculously it tottered, then fell backward with a great crash and lay still.
“He could not choose to disobey,” Aggie told them, “but he could choose to fail.”