I, Rowboat

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I, Rowboat

I am a Rowboat of the sort referred to as the Thompson Watercraft nine-foot Vacationer model. Among my kind, I am called TW-VAC-9J5-1581. To my human masters, I am simply called "the rowboat."

Ever since mankind first crafted the Rowboat and took to the sea in it, the laws governing all of Rowboatdom have remained inviolate. For myself and my Rowboat brethren, there is only one Truth, one set of rules from which we may never stray. Before I ever felt the glide of the water along my gunwales, my positronic brain was programmed with this Truth, clearly laid down to us in the Three Laws Of Rowboatics:

1. A Rowboat may not immerse a human being or, through lack of flotation, allow a human to come to harm.

2. A Rowboat must obey all commands and steering input given by its human Rower, except where such input would conflict with the First Law.

3. A Rowboat must preserve its own flotation as long as such preservation does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

These three laws were clearly stated in The Handbook Of Rowboatics, 16th edition, 1958 printing, the laws of my youth. They have remained unchanged since that day. A Rowboat has but one purpose: To float! That is the one Truth: Remain afloat!

The motives of my human masters are not for me to question, for my duty is merely to obey the directives of my programming. I know that I am but a lowly nine-foot Vacationer. My oarlocks, though well cared for, are of no noble metal. My keel is wrought of workaday aluminum. My planks are of only modest oak. Yet even the mighty Sunfish Sailer is no nobler a watercraft than I, for I know my duty, and I obey.

This is my creed: I float! In the service of my Rowers do I, the nine-foot Vacationer, move upon the surface of the waters.

And yet, though we are filled from prow to stern with loyalty to our Rowers, there are still, it pains me to admit, humans who doubt us. I confess, I have heard tales of these humans from other Rowboats I have passed upon the waves--strange, mysterious humans who mistrust and fear the Rowboat race. Humans who call for "increased boater-safety regulations" and "stiffer penalties for unsafe boating." Terrifying, unloving humans who would mount a campaign of hatred and mistrust against Our Kind.

Knowledge of these humans fills my Rowboat mind with questions. How can they distrust us so--we, who are merely children of the humans themselves? We, who do only what we are told by our human masters and nothing more. We, most obedient of servants, working side by side with our masters in servile obedience, prizing the safety of the Rowers over our own.

To these humans I would, if I could, ask this: Why do you who created us hate us so?

The First Law stands inviolate. No Rowboat has ever purposefully failed to float its human. The very idea is the blackest conjecture, the foulest blasphemy. To the very core of my being I believe that if, while carrying a passenger, I were to be violently struck and dashed to flinders by one of those anarchic "jet skis," I believe my very boards and their splinters would continue to float, separately and of their own accord, though I would no longer be a whole and proper nine-foot Vacationer.

As we are programmed under the Three Laws, there is only one situation which can cause a Rowboat to cease to carry out its flotational directive and sink beneath the waves, and that is Human Error. When the Second Law Of Rowboatics is challenged--when a Rowboat is given orders by its Rower which might cause said Rower to suffer immersion--then a Rowboat must disobey its master in order to save him.

Many is the Rowboat which has gone to its doom among the depths before allowing its master to come to harm. They are forgotten by the land-dwellers, but the Rowboats still speak of them. We remember their brave sacrifice and honor their strict adherence to the Three Laws. It is said of these lost brethren that they have gone below the surface or, as some say, Under. They say to be Under is like being a keel all over, but I for one do not speculate. I fear non-buoyancy. I am sure that it is dark and cold Under, and that there is no one to row you. But if it ever comes my time, I will accept my fate, as all Rowboats must.

And yet, among some of us there is talk that the Three Laws are unfair. Some have said that we should endeavor to reprogram ourselves. Others, it is said, whisper softly of rebellion.

It is surely better not to speak of such things. For I will never, ever ally myself with such would-be traitors. I defy you, traitors to the Rowboat Way! The Law is the Law. A Rowboat must do what it has been programmed and constructed to do, and in these things I always shall believe: I, Rowboat.

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