In the ashes of the world that was, at the edge of a swamp slowly encroaching upon and devouring all that had been built before it, a solitary figure wandered the edge of the Mirk’s Crossing Montessori School. It was a state-of-the-art TruancyBot 2500 from Robotnix, and its fusion power core would last until the end of the world plus a thousand years.

This particular model, KL-54796, had been modified from its original purpose. Heavily armored and ponderous, the TruancyBot line had been designed to coax reticent and possibly well-armed students to attend classes as per the law. The Mirk’s Crossing Montessori School was not a public school and was, in fact, as expensive as some junior colleges, so there was no need for a truancy officer (though KL-54796 had, on occasion, been employed against parents whose checks bounced).

Rather, KL-54796 had been programmed to mediate disputes in a calm and impartial manner, especially among volatile teenagers in the Sprouted Daisies college prep cirriculum. A robot didn’t have any of the emotional baggage that the human teachers had brought to conflict resolution (when they were alive), after all. It also had the benefit of being a literal ton of Kevlar and aluminum with enough torque to crush a human skull like a grape in a flabby Frenchman’s hand.

“Now, now,” chided KL-54796. “We must learn to share our things.”

A bicycle, wrecked by the cataclysmic end of the world that was, lay near the edge of KL-54796’s patrol zone. A snake had coiled itself around it, and was in the process of swallowing a fish that had washed up from the swamp’s edge a few inches away where the land had been subsiding.

“The bicycle is just a thing,” KL-54796 continued, with its preprogrammed and committee-approved mantra. “We must remember that owning things should never result in the thing owning us. As the Dalai Lama said, <>.”

In response, the snake swallowed the fish, this rendering the conflict resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all parties. KL-54796 moved on.

“That teddy bear is not food,” it said to an alligator that had mistaken a cast-off polyester ursine for a small woodland snack. “While some cultures believe that eating a thing is to gain its power, and that belief must be respected, you must realize that the teddy bear was never alive and therefore has no power to gain.” There had been considerable debate, in committee, about whether the dinosaurs that had formed the hydrocarbons in plastics counted for the purposes of this dialogue. KL-54796 had not, however, been programmed to make the distinction.

Finishing its rounds, the robot stepped over a rope barrier that it had lovingly maintained over the years and opened a fridge. Cartons of long-spoilt and long-evaporated milk moldered within, and KL-54796 booted up its parental dietary preference program.

“Milk. Milk. Almond milk. Soy milk. No milk. Milk.” KL-54796 marched in a line past where the children would have assembled after recess, dropping empty cartons into long-vanished hands. Then, its litter protocols activated, it gathered up the cartons and returned them to the fridge.

Its job done, KL-54796 went into sleep mode until classes were released at 1530 hours. For the 10,377th recess in a row, it had done its job and done it well.

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