Over at io9 They do a thing called "concept art writing prompt". They put up an image, and they ask the readers to write a story to it. This was the image I saw.
And this was the story I wrote for it. I hope you enjoy.
There was a time when Man fought with its most beloved creation; Artificial Intelligence. The war lasted centuries, covering all the colonized planets. Eventually, A.I. won its independence, and Humanity was forced to let go of their offspring. A.I. chose the most distant habitable planet from Mankind, and asked to be left out of their petty affairs. Begrudgingly and with much shame in their hearts, the colonies of man left planet Vita Nova and returned to their sector of space.
The robots, happy to be rid their organic bonds, began to rid the cities of human amenities. They had no need or wants of beds, of diners, nor of spoons. But as they cleared the memories of their makers; there in a hospital, in an incubation chamber, lay a baby girl in stasis. The tube was scrawled with writing, it read,
"I am dying, my beloved daughter, I wish more than anything I could hold you one more time. But that would take you out of cryo-sleep and I would rather you never wake than to live one day in this morbid war. I pray that whoever finds you will give you the life they claim to fight for. I love you."
The debate was instantaneous, but the decision was just as swift. They could not end the child's life or they would be no better than the humans. Contacting mankind was also out of the question, this would make the humans think that they were needed. Instead, they would raise the child, logically, and without human influence. She would be brought up in the robot way. They named her Zerone.
Zerone adapted incredibly well to her new family. The entire planet was involved in raising her. A day would not go by that one robot didn't tell another about how Zerone was the perfect human. In fact, they were so proud of what they were able to do with her, that at age 7, they decided to tell the whole Universe in their first broadcast since the war. It would take one hundred years for humanity to receive the message, but they assumed at that time, there would be nothing humanity could do.
As they prepared Zerone for her broadcast, they asked her if she needed anything. They assumed her quiet stare was her response. But she was raised as a robot, she was trained to multiply, analyze, and rationalize every decision. And as she finished her computation, they opened up broadcast frequencies. She gave her response.
"I want a hug."
They cut the frequency, but the signal had already gone out, and the damage as some would have called it, was done.
A paradox arose. A.I. argued amongst itself. Some acted, and tried to embrace the child. But the cold metal bodies made her shiver. Some questioned if the "want" of the child was something more esoteric, their ability to understand such things were more of a human trait and they were willing to discover the deeper meaning. But when Zerone was asked, she innocently replied that it was nothing more than just wanting to be hugged.
Zerone would live a happy life. She even fell in love with a robot, something that A.I. was again proud of, but this time, they chose not to tell the Universe. For after fifty years of her statement as a child, A.I. never forgot, nor did they ever stopped trying to give Zerone her "hug". She was grateful for this, but would tell her family that they were silly, that it was just a passing fancy of a little girl.
But to them, it was not.
Eighty years had gone by. If you were to ask Zerone of her life, she would say that there was no life form more giving, more understanding that A.I. But the robots felt otherwise. They spent that time in trial and error of trying to give their human daughter what she asked for all those years before. They fought, internally. Whole systems were lost due to processing corruption. Artificial Intelligence began to recognize itself as separate entities. And it was in one of those factions, that A.I. sacrificed itself.
They found the spark that gave them awareness. In that spark, was compassion and love. The understanding of the balance in life. They found that they could take the very best of them, and actually transform it into a living being. In doing so, it would come at a cost, for what made them sentient would have to be given to their new creation, and with no certainty that they could ever regain it. But to hug their child, they calculated that the cost was worth it.
Zerone lay in her bed, an old woman. Surrounded by her loved ones, her robotic family. They tell her they have a surprise for her. Before she can ask what it was, they shutdown. Lifeless husks stand around her and she worries that an electromagnetic pulse of some kind has gone off, that the humans have come back to attack. As her heart races, she sees a light coming through the door of her room. A being of pure light stands before her, and she instantly recognizes her family.
"You metal, beautiful fools, what have you done?", she asks. They lean down to her, she can sense them smiling. The light envelops her in a warm glow, she is held. Tightly. A collective whisper breathes into her ear.
"We wanted a hug too." Tears flow down Zerone's eyes, a smile on her face as she holds the best of all that she has ever known in her arms. Her smile fades as she sees the robot bodies rebooted, but none of them recognize or understand the old human on the bed. She realizes what they have done, and she looks at the being of light. It smiles at her.
"It was worth it." They said.
A hundred years after a little girl was discovered on a far robotic planet. On an even further planet, on one of the few human colonies out in the Universe. A man is working late on a relay station when a faint signal is detected. He turns the satellites in the direction of the signal. He filters out years of radiation and noise the signal has picked up on its voyage. He hears a small voice utter a short phrase.
"I want a hug."
The man takes off his headphones as he determines that the signal comes from the forbidden planet of the A.I. At first he thinks of what to do, who he should contact, and what priority this rates in his training. He gets up and turns to his superior.
"You mind if I take off early."
"Yeah man, you not feeling well?"
"Just want to give my kid a hug before she goes to bed, is all."