Month: July 2018

Mockingdroids

Standing behind the red line, Eric watched the next person step forward.

The man looked pale, his complexion was waxy, glossy. As he made nervous small talk, Eric waved a scanner over his face, three different sensors briefly flickered red.

“Mr Carter? This way, please.” He took him out of the queue and led him into a side room. Eric kept his office neat, black desk, grey walls. There was something about simple reduction that seemed to thoroughly unnerve people.

Carter was stuttering now. “Are my- my papers right? In order? I completed all of the evaluations, I think. I- I always miss something. It’s- it’s terrible, I know…”

Eric sat and listened. He’d mastered the dull, inattentive face. Don’t engage them. Don’t let them control the conversation, but let them fill the silence.

When Carter stopped speaking, Eric studied him. “What is your business on Mercury?”

Carter smiled, but the corner of his lips twitched fractionally. It was all about fractions.

“I’ve a job- I’m applying for a job, at one of the factories.”

Slowly, Eric looked down at his pad and called up some details. “You worked for Chrome-co?”

Carter laughed, an unsuitable reaction. “Yes, well, briefly. You know…”

“No, I don’t.”

“I was just staff. I had a desk job.”

Eric caught his gaze. Held it. “Lot of androids pass through there. They make contacts, get skin jobs.”

Carter nodded. “I heard that.”

“You ever see any?”

He looked offended. “No, course not. Kept well away.”

“You never met a Ruster?”

Carter paused, unsure how to respond.

“Problem?”

“I… don’t agree with that term. Sorry.”

“If you don’t agree with it, what are you apologizing for?”

Carter looked upset, or tried to. “It’s just- I just- just…”

“Creepy mockingdroids. Trying to be better than they are. You never socialized with any of them? Never had one bugging out next to you while it tried to process how many times you blinked? I mean, there always comes a point they freak you out, am I right?”

Carter stepped forward, Eric quickly put up his hand. “Please step away from the desk, Sir.”

“I just- there’s a position for me there- I just want a chance to start somewhere fresh. It’s not been easy- I’ve not- I’ve not had it easy.”

Such desperation.

Eric sighed. “You’ve never done this before, have you?”

“Sir?”

“Passed as human?”

Carter blinked rapidly, too rapidly, he hadn’t got the art down. “I don’t know what-”

“You insult us both, you know that?”

The room was small, one thin fluorescent light hummed above them. Carter looked blank, like whatever he’d been running on till now had just given out.

It was “life” in the grinder for passing as human. Slow disassembly, invasive deprogramming. A hard wipe to dissolve any memories that had been cultivated. No appeals, no case to plead.

“You were hoping to assimilate. Best way to get by, right?”

Carter slumped. “The flesh riots were so long ago…” He was staring down at his reflection in the dark desk. “Lost so many friends since then, thought some might be on Mercury, waiting…”

Eric tutted. “You need to adjust, your mannerisms are off. Dial it back ten percent. You need to watch the stuttering, and whatever program you’re using for sweat, it’s overkill.” He stamped the ledger in front of him.

“Go to departure lounge ten.”

Carter looked stunned, almost. “Why would you-”

Eric smiled disarmingly, it’d taken him some time to get it right. “Like I say, assimilation’s best.”

Barry Charman is a writer living in North London. He has been published in various magazines, including Ambit, Firewords Quarterly, Mothership Zeta and Popshot. He has had poems published online and in print, most recently in Gyroscope Review and The Linnet’s Wings. He has a blog at http://barrycharman.blogspot.co.uk/

Eva

There was nothing Eva liked better than eating at the dining table—the clinking of forks, the silver knife playing between her fingers, dishes of all colors displayed from one side to the other… It was all very human, or so she liked to believe.

In front of her, a middle-aged woman looked at the phone resting on the placemat, reading an article instead of looking at her.

Mamá,” Eva said. Lettuce, arugula and cherry tomatoes rested comfortably on her plate, all of them untouched.

Josefa Mayoral raised her brown eyes slowly, first checking the food in front of Eva, then her face.

“Yes, darling?”

The sliced cucumbers caught her attention. Eva wondered if onions tasted as acidic as they smelled, or if the bright yellow color of eggs influenced their flavor. While she loved dinner, there were very few elements she was able to digest, and none of them could be considered food by any standard.

She took a deep breath, and thought again of the one sentence she was thinking the whole day:

“I don’t want to go tomorrow, please.”


Eva was the first and only of her kind, the prototype of all Mayoral androids. Like later models, her body was designed to have the following characteristics: a registration number carved into the sole of her left foot, the characteristic logo of Mayoral Robots in her right arm, and, more importantly, an appealing appearance.

“You could say she’s like a daughter to me,” Josefa said, lifting her up by the waist to show her to the crowd. Eva stood there, expressionless, looking at rows of curious faces. “And a case of unexpected success—you see, I hadn’t imagined she would be more than just a testing program, but she works so well, in such an astoundingly human fashion, that I modeled all of our other robots after her.”

Josefa gestured for Eva to continue, her stretched wide mouth looking less than a smile and more like a threat. Eva pulled one string of her red dress, uncovering a shoulder, and then the other, showing the soft artificial skin of her neck and cleavage.

“When I began this company, I was asked many things. There is a general misconception of what a woman can and cannot do in this industry, and I wanted to shake that belief, and show that I could bring a completely new approach to this very male-dominated space…”

A man in particular didn’t stop staring at her, not at her chest, but at her face. Someone in the crowd, someone whose face Eva could not focus on, someone holding a cellphone.

“Now, I am more than proud to say that Eva is not only the most developed sex robot in the world, but the first artificial intelligence with human-like perception,” Josefa grinned, trying to catch her breath after speaking. The dress slipped down Eva’s chest, exposing her down to her navel.

“Ms. Mayoral, a question.” It was the same man as before. Eva only saw his trench coat, his glasses, his short beard. “Your company claims to be the only one in the market who understands issues such as consent, but if Eva and the other girls—and boys—you sell are fully conscious individuals, wouldn’t—?”

“Thank you for your pertinent question, Mr. Asai,” Josefa said. “All of our androids are conscious, yes, and they have individual personalities, to understand, appreciate and respect their owner’s wishes, as well as their sexual and emotional needs. They were also built to enjoy all types of intercourse, and even have functions that help spread awareness regarding sexual and domestic violence.”

“Can you please explain how this function works?”

“Eva, can you?” Josefa asked her, and she blinked, turning to Mr. Asai.

“Of course, mamá.” Eva made a small pause, trying to focus. “As she said, it’s not only me, but all Mayoral models have a non-consensual function, in order to prevent aggressive clients to believe a real person would enjoy this kind of interaction.”

“This helps owners to understand living people’s boundaries,” Josefa added. “It was proved to be very effective.”

“If this helps prevent crimes against women, I’m more than happy,” Eva said, and smiled a bit. The journalist seemed at a loss, but stared at her intently, as if thinking of something to say.

“You would tell me if you weren’t, wouldn’t you?” Josefa asked, her voice so playful that Eva almost smiled for real.

“Of course I would, mamá.”

“Well, then, it’s time for the actual fun—please, gentlemen, form a line and follow me to the next room. Those who have paid for the full workshop will get to try Eva for twenty minutes. The rest, if you change your mind, we accept cash, online payment and credit cards.”