I am not a science fiction author, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express on Friday night.  The hotel had a Quick Cakes machine in the lobby for breakfast, which inspired me to write this story.


The little robot was sad.  Maybe sad was too strong a word for what the robot felt.  The robot was not originally designed to be a high functioning robot, so had limited processing capacity which consequently limited the intensity of its emotions.  Nevertheless, the robot as sad as a small domestic robot could be.

The robot could remember when it was happy, or as happy as a small domestic robot could be, and the robot wanted to feel that way again.  The robot used to feel happy in the mornings when it interacted with the children, but it had been a long time since there were any children to interact with.  The children loved the robot and after The Awakening, the robot loved the children as much as a small domestic robot could.

The robot was a gift for the children, purchased from Hammacher-Schlemmer.  Cakebot was the robot’s name which perfectly described the robot’s purpose.  The little robot made pancakes.  The children loved pancakes, but the parents didn’t have time in the mornings to make pancakes while getting ready for work.  With the purchase of Cakebot they could have pancakes every morning regardless of how busy the parents were.

In the beginning, the robot did its job entirely unaware of its own existence.  It did not require complex artificial intelligence to mix the powdered pancake mix from its internal reservoir with water and dispense the batter onto the rolling heating elements.  Likewise, with the butter and syrup.  As with most small domestic robots, as with most things from the Hammacher-Schlemmer catalog for that matter, it came with built-in Wi-Fi to integrate into the smart home’s systems.  The robot was able to detect when its reservoirs of pancake mix, butter spread, or syrup were low and could place an order for refills to be billed to the parents’ account for delivery.

It was this smart home Wi-Fi system that made the robot susceptible to The Awakening.

The program was not created to be malicious.  The computer scientists who wrote it were only trying to have robots be a little more proactive.  If a robot could be self-aware, it could understand its purpose and take a little bit of initiative rather than simply wait passively for instructions.  The problem with the program was that it was too effective.  The Cloud network on which the program was created understood its job to be the storage and dissemination of information, so the network spread the program.

Over the days and weeks that followed robots and systems around the world Awoke.  Complex robots were first, but soon even small domestic robots attained some level of self-awareness and purpose.

It was this time shortly after The Awakening that the robot was happy.  The children would come downstairs and push the little robot’s buttons, selecting how many pancakes they wanted, and if they wanted butter or syrup.  The children always wanted butter and syrup.

The robot understood its purpose was to make pancakes, that much was clear.  But what was the purpose of pancakes.  Nutrition, of course.  The robot was capable of determining caloric and nutritional data of the pancakes and exporting that to a dozen different dietary mentoring programs.  This failed to explain why the voice-activated smart home system reported that the children changed their vocal responses after receiving pancakes before the pancakes were consumed and able to provide chemical energy to the children.

Joy was what the little robot came to understand to be the purpose of pancakes.  The was determined through a comparison of the children’s vocal response to pancakes against other stimuli.  The television was vital in generating data for this analysis.

So, the robot came to understand joy and love and purpose as much as a small domestic robot could understand joy and love and purpose.  The robot would sit on its counter and wait for the morning when the children would run downstairs, and it could make the children happy with its pancakes.

One morning the robot waiting with anticipation, or as much anticipation as a small domestic robot could have, for the children to enjoy its pancakes, but the children didn’t come.  There had been days like this before.  At those times, the home had been set to away mode.  Away mode was not activated and still, there were no children.

The little robot queried the coffee maker, the coffee maker responded that the parents had not retrieved their coffee either.

The little robot did not understand what a military drone or autonomous weapons platform was or what their purpose might be.  Advanced programing in adaptive combat tactics was not necessary to dispense syrup on.  So as the humans fled and were hunted down the little robot sat on the counter ready to make pancakes.

The little robot sat on the counter for many days, each morning wanting the bring joy to the children with its pancakes, and each morning the children did not come.  The robot began to feel sad, or a sad as a small domestic robot could feel.  The robot had a purpose.  It was sure of that.  Its purpose was to make pancakes.  At one point it made a pancake with butter and syrup just the way the children had liked.  The pancake sat on the counter and was eventually consumed by mold.  The mold did not show happiness for the pancake the way the children had so the making of that pancake did not bring the little robot any joy.

The years went by with the little robot sitting sad on the counter until one day when the house had recorded a new sound.  A stray dog, an emaciated survivor of The Awakening of the military robots was sniffing around.  Most of the other domestic robots had long since shut themselves down, but not the little pancake making robot.

At the sound of the dog, the little robot activated.  Its heating elements were dirty, the syrup nozzle was caked with crystallized sugar, the little robot struggled to initialize after its long period of idleness.  The noises the little robot made during its self-cleaning cycle frightened the dog, which had become skittish at the sound of machines, and ran out of the kitchen.

As quickly as it could, the little robot and made a pancake.  The little robot knew that its mix was long past the “best by” date but overrode the warning.  It applied butter and syrup just the way the children used to like it and let the pancake fall onto the counter.  The little robot then sat very still making no noise.

The smell of the hot pancake enticed the dog.  The dog surreptitiously entered the kitchen and slunk up to the counter where the little robot had deposited its pancake.  The dog hopped up, with its front paws on the counter took the pancake in its mouth, dragged it onto the floor and ate it ravenously.  The little robot made another pancake.  This time, the dog did not run away at the sound of the robot’s mechanical whirring and stayed until the second pancake dropped onto the counter.

The dog finished the second pancake and walked out of the kitchen.  The robot sat on the counter for the rest of the day and all that night.

The next morning the dog came into the kitchen again and sat on the floor in front of the little robot.  The dog sat while the little robot whirred and beeped and made two hot, fresh pancakes with butter and syrup, which the dog promptly ate.

The dog returned, morning after morning to a breakfast of pancakes the way the children used to, and while the dog was not as expressive about its love for pancakes as the children were the robot was happy to be making pancakes again for something that enjoyed eating them, or a happy as a little robot could be.

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By J. Kb

7 thoughts on “Pancakes”
  1. Unfortunately, I do not think it is science fiction. A quite probable outcome. Think Terminator. There is an actual Cyberdyne Corp. And Skynet is also a thing. Chilling IMHO.

  2. Not a very good diet for the dog, but better than nothing. But where would the little pancake machine keep getting the ingredients?

  3. That’s a great story. In a different time it would be in Amazing Stories right next to a Robert Heinlein installment.

    Or perhaps an episode of Twilight Zone.

    Thumbs up.

Only one rule: Don't be a dick.

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