Chapter 1 - The Unveiling
On the elevator ride up to Mr. Axell’s office I couldn’t help but to continue to think, did I get her breasts right?
I put the question to Cran, the large shiny piece of metal that shared elevator space with me that morning.
“I don’t have any real world experience with breasts to accurately say with 100 percent certainty, but, from what I’ve been able to visually ascertain from various interactions with women, and from what information I’ve collected until this point they appeared to be more than above average in quality,” he answered me reassuringly.
“But, is that not irrelevant, sir? Can they not be augmented to the client’s specific preferences and sensibilities?”
“You’re correct,” was all I said.
The elevator ride to Mr. Axell’s office was long. His office was on the top floor of a building with 235 floors, the third largest structure in the city. The ride would be quick, regardless, but it did give me just enough time to give the project some last thoughts before the unveiling.
I asked another question.
“Did I calibrate her correctly?”
“Excuse me, sir?”
“She had that problem, remember? Where the grip strength of her left hand was significantly stronger than that of her right. Did I take care of that?”
“I believe that problem was handled with three months, five days, eight hours, forty-seven minutes and fifty-seven seconds ago, sir. Fifty-eight, fifty-nine, forty-eight minutes now, sir.”
“Okay. But, are you really sure?”
“I suppose I could be wrong. But I believe that I am not. You programmed me to be accurate about these things.”
“I have this nagging feeling that I didn’t, though. Squeeze my hand,” I suddenly requested, sticking my hand out in front of him.
“Squeeze it as hard as you can.”
“I don’t believe that is something I should do, sir. I possess the ability to crush every bone in your hand. That is not an exaggeration.”
“Then squeeze it as hard as you can just short of crushing every bone in it,” I pushed. He hesitated just slightly before he complied with my request. He stuck out his hand and took mine, and before I knew it I blacked out for the shortest of moments. I came to a second or two later in the kneeling position looking up at him.
“And what was the point of that, sir?” he asked me, perplexed.
“I wanted to test out your strength,” I said, as I brought myself back to my feet, rubbing my sore hand. “You can’t be sure of something unless you experience it for yourself. I certainly hope you’re right about her. If your grip is any indication some clients might be in trouble.”
I started to inspect his metallic body, grasping his arms and shoulders, checking for dents in his skull.
“I’m sorry. I just… I worry about quality. Did I program her correctly? Did I make her durable?”
I thumped his chest with my finger.
“This alloy, I helped make this, you know?”
“I’m aware, sir.”
“I wonder, can you hold up to large of amounts of physical trauma? If you were in a firefight could you hold up?”
“I can’t imagine any scenario in which I’d be in a firefight, but if I were I have a large amount of confidence that the metallic skin you’ve given me would keep me beyond well protected. You’ve built me quite strong, sir,” he said, knocking his fist against his head making an amusing clanking sound that made me laugh when I heard it.
I turned around and looked out through the glass window of the elevator at the cityscape passing my view as it was bathed in early morning sun. It looked very optimistic.
“Am I doing right by her? Sally, I mean?” I asked him.
“I do believe if she were here that she would be very proud of what you’ve accomplished,” he answered.
“I want to believe you, I really do.”
“I detect high levels of concern in your tone of voice, sir. Is something troubling you?”
“I’m just a tad nervous, that’s all,” I told him.
But I was lying. I was extremely nervous.
The first rule of the set of laws the Bureau of Robot Rules and Regulations put out states: “No artificial humanoid robotic creation shall be made so realistic that it cannot be indistinguishable, verbally or physically, from the human form.” These rules were set in place when, a few decades back, millions of elderly citizens worldwide were swindled out of billions of dollars collectively, by a robot telephone scam. Indeed, it’s why my assistant appears aesthetically simple, looking as if a nine-year-old designed him––I did base his design off of drawings I did when I was that age.
It’s also why he speaks the way he does, calling me sir and such. I had much preferred that he wouldn’t as it was such an archaic way of address, but I had to comply with the rules.
Which is why I was so worried about this project––I would willingly be breaking the law. But Mr. Axell’s proposal provided an opportunity for me too enticing to pass up. Plus, with his might, I felt that I needn’t worry too much about repercussions should any problems arise.
As the elevator reached the top floor, we exited pulling out a large metal container with us. There was a woman sitting at a desk in front of a wide door and a very comfortable looking couch. The placard on her desk read “Mrs. Smith.” She looked very pleasant.
“Good morning. You must be Doctor Okamura,” she said to me with an attitude so cheery, that it gave a little boost to my mood, which was convenient because it was something I sorely needed.
“That would be me. But how did you know?”
“What kind of half-assed assistant do you think I am? I do my research. I don’t need to be replaced by one of your models just yet,” she said with playfulness in her voice.
“Oh, I didn’t mean to––”
“I’m just kidding. But I have been looking forward to seeing what you have for us for a while. Very intriguing. Maybe you’ll work on a male version if this all goes well.”
“That would be something worth looking into,” I said.
“Please, you two have a seat. I’ll let Mr. Axell know you’re here.”
She pressed a finger to her desk and said, “Mr. Axell, your 8 o’clock is here.”
We had not sat down for but a second before a disembodied voice said, “Let them in. And tell them to leave it outside for now.”
I looked at Mrs. Smith, slightly confused to what he meant by, ‘it.’
“The container,” she said, clearing it up for me. “You can go in now.”
We stood up and walked to the door, but hesitated before we opened it.
“You can go in. Your prints are verified if that’s the worry,” she said, again, but I still didn’t budge.
“Are you okay, Doctor Okamura?”
“Just a little nervous. First unveiling and all,” I said.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine. I think it’s a really exciting project,” she said. Her words were calming, reassuring.
“Thank you, Mrs. Smith,” I said, and I put my hand on the security plate, opening the doors to a darkened room.
We stepped in apprehensively. I was able to make out an outline of three men standing in the middle of the room.
“Stay there,” one of the silhouettes said. “Watch this.”
Suddenly, a holovideo was being projected in midair. It depicted various women lying across couches seductively talking about “the end of the age of lonely men,” and similar heavily vague hyperbole. I wasn’t quite sure of what I was being shown so none of it clearly registered in my mind, but one of the actresses in the video looked familiar. It seemed very rough, very… sleazy.
After the video played the dimming feature of the window dissipated and let in some light, unveiling the owners of the silhouettes: two of them were very large and intimidating. They flanked a smaller man I recognized standing in between them. He waved them off and they left the room, not bothering to acknowledge Cran and me.
“That was the promotional commercial we plan to run very soon to investors and potential clients. What did you think of it?” Mr. Axell asked me. I tried to answer as honestly as possible.
“It’s very, um, very––” was all I was able to awkwardly spit out before I realized that his question was rhetorical. He cut me off mid sentence.
“It’s not final, of course. We’re still working out the kinks. As you see, we are missing quite a bit of footage that we had to fill in with crude acting and tepid voice over, provided by our Mrs. Smith out there. Decent secretary, horrible actress.”
I didn’t make it a habit of laughing at other people’s expenses, especially someone so sweet, but I had the feeling that if I didn’t react to everything he did or said he would pull all of my funding, and start the project over with someone else, so I smirked.
“For the official product name we’re calling it a ’Compandroid,’” he said, “Wonderful name, isn’t it?” He did not ask for me for my opinion on the title.
“My name. It’s Okamura, not Takamaka.” I corrected him. The name ‘Takamaka’ does not exist in the Japanese name vault, no matter how closely it might resemble one just because it contains the same syllabary. But he didn’t care. Why should he correctly remember my name? We had only met once before, briefly, at a meeting when he explained what he wanted and threw money at me before sending me on my way to realize this for him. I was just a walking dollar sign to him.
He looked at me as if I were crazy for interrupting him before he corrected his expression and apologized.
“I’m sorry. Mr.... Okamura.”
He paused for a second as if to allow me a moment to confirm the correction. It was less-than-subtle sarcasm. I wanted to correct him on the suffix as well––I didn’t spend twenty-five years studying in the world of robotics, and ultimately achieving my doctorate in advanced robotics and engineering to be referred to as mister by some executive at some possibly corrupt company, especially when I’m doing work for them related to my field of expertise––but I said nothing. I nodded and he continued.
“Mr. Okamura, I don’t think I have to tell you how excited I am by your presentation today. I’ve left you alone for the past couple months, by your request, to perfect her, and I do hope you’ve perfected her. I’m expecting quite a bit from you now.”
The words that flowed from his mouth at that moment felt threatening. I was intimidated––no, scared is the more accurate word. I’ve heard stories of people working on projects commissioned by Axell Products Incorporated, making mistakes and never being heard from again. Horrible baseless rumors designed by liberal opponents and protesters to discredit him and his company no doubt, but no less affective in their objective.
“You’ve had sexual relations before, correct Mr. Okamura?”
I felt insulted that a grown man would ask another grown man that kind of question, but as I still looked like a stereotypical nerd––unkempt hair, slightly dumpy appearance, and glasses, the mark of a true dork, and the fact that I’m Asian––it wasn’t out of the ordinary. It was the year 2116, one hundred and sixty some odd years after the first usage of the word ‘nerd’ and it still carries with it the stigma of a sexless human male.
But more importantly, what was he getting at? I didn’t want to answer but I did anyway.
“Then I assume you must be familiar with the concept of delayed sexual gratification as well?”
I was feeling more than a little uncomfortable at this point. I quickly answered, “Yes,” hoping that this conversation would reach its conclusion sooner rather than later.
He made the long trek back to his desk at the end of his office. As I understood it, I was the first one to visit since the completion of its renovation. It was unnecessarily large and hugely artificial, just like this man’s personality. It wouldn’t have surprised me if he were compensating for a lack of something larger elsewhere in his life––physically or mentally.
He made it back to his desk and poured himself a drink. He lifted his glass in an attempt to offer me one; the glint from his glass as the morning sunlight hit it for a moment blinded me as he did. I suspected he had done that on purpose. He must have known it was difficult for me to see him perform this gesture due to the distance between us and the amount of back light provided by the sun shining through the ridiculously large window behind him that drowned out his image. I declined, to his delight no doubt. He wouldn’t have to waste his valuable alcohol on me.
After he took a swig of whatever type of libation filled his glass, he continued.
“You must be wondering––if I’m so eager to see your creation––why then am I waiting so long to have you show it to me.”
“A bit, yes.” I answered shortly.
“Well, I liken this to delayed sexual gratification.”
I really, really wanted him to reach his point.
“I so want to see your creation very badly, Mr. Okamura. But, as I see the silhouette of it just behind my door, I don’t know how much longer I can wait. If you’ll allow me to continue with the metaphor…”––I didn’t see what other choice I had––“…all these days, weeks, and months of waiting have been like the physical act of copulation itself, and I see this morning as the culmination of said act. The point of….”
He paused for a second. I don’t have the proof, but I felt as if he wanted to say the word “ejaculation”, but he did not.
“…Euphoria,” was what he spoke instead.
He might as well have said “ejaculation.”
“So, I’m going to walk to my chair and sit and finish my drink. And when I do I’m going to sit this glass on this table. And when I do it will make the sound of glass hitting wood.”
I knew he was speaking in that manner for effect, but it felt like he was describing it to an infant. His tone was unmistakably condescending. I don’t think he had experience speaking to scientists, or, to humans for that matter. That, or he just didn’t give a care how he spoke to adults.
“And when you hear that sound, that will be your signal to open that door and bring her in to meet me. Do you understand the sequence of events, Mr. Okamura?”
Again, I know he spoke that way for effect, but I still wanted to drive my fist into his creepy face for it.
I nodded to show that I understood him and he started his sequence.
I watched him as he walked to his chair and took a seat. He put his feet up on his desk as he took his first sip of alcohol.
He drew the glass from his lips and stared strangely at me. It was a look that made me feel like a young girl being leered at from the other end of a compartment on a public train by a lecherous old pervert. I didn’t know how I should have reacted, so I looked down at my shoes. He then made a grunting noise that signaled that he wanted me to continue looking at him, and so I looked back up and tried to remain as expressionless as possible; it would have been difficult to see, but I didn’t want him to accidentally see the disgusted look on my face if I had made one.
I watched as he took more sips from his glass. All in all it took three gulps for him to finish the contents of that glass––as he finished he purposely slammed down the cup on the top of his desk with force to make sure I would hear it.
I then took my cue and placed my hand on the security plate. The door slid open to reveal a large nondescript metal container. I signaled to my android helper and he slid the container in to the room. I looked at Mr. Axell who was now sitting forward in his chair with his eyes wide open, a very hungry expression appearing on his face. Cran started to bring the container forward but Mr. Axell stopped him.
“No. Right there is fine,” he said.
Cran looked at me and I looked back. He seemed just as confused as I was.
“Open it. Slowly if you can,” said Mr. Axell.
“I am afraid this lid only has one speed, Mr. Axell, a speed that I cannot control,” Cran answered back, very matter-of-factly. I could feel Mr. Axell’s disdainful stare burning a hole right through Cran’s metallic head. We shrugged it off, and I signaled Cran to listen to Mr. Axell’s instruction. He entered the button combination on the face of the container and it opened with a long and piercing hiss. The lid slid upwards revealing the silhouette of a human-like figure, packed in a memory foam block.
“If you would, please,” I said to the figure as I motioned for it to step out into the open. The figure that emerged was distinctly one of a female human being, about five-feet, seven inches in height, the average for an American woman. She wore a white, loose, yet mostly form-fitting shawl, just long enough to cover the important parts; I designed it that way for maximum visibility without being too provocative, perfect for a presentation of this kind. The shawl matched her short white hair, her stark white pupils and her snow-white slightly translucent skin that exposed a network of wires, her structural skeleton also faintly visible in a certain light. She was an unfinished creation––essentially a blank slate.
“On with the presentation,” ordered Mr. Axell. Cran stepped forward.
“Yes. What we have here is a fully-functioning female human imitation android capable of––”
“I was not speaking to you,” Mr. Axell interrupted, “I was speaking to your creator, Mr. Okamura. Do you understand?” His tone was unnecessarily harsh.
“Mr. Okamura, please instruct your… helper, or whatever you consider it to be, not speak to me out of turn again.”
Cran looked at me once more. I could see the hurt in his large round yellow eyes. I tried to program Cran with as much emotion as I could, but he was my first attempt at doing so with an android and unfortunately, I was only able to successfully program two emotions into him: humility and shame. As such, he excelled at both; the other emotions did not take. I am now much more adept at programming, but I am hesitant to alter Cran any further. I prefer to keep him as is, slightly imperfect but highly functional.
And so, when Mr. Axell reprimanded him I felt just as bad for him, as if I were the one being scolded. I motioned for Cran to step back so that I could take over.
“If you will allow me to continue, this is––” I said before Mr. Axell abruptly stopped me. He was skilled at rudely interrupting.
“No,” said Mr. Axell. He arose from his seat and came around to the front of his desk and sat on the lip of it.
“Bring her closer,” commanded Mr. Axell.
“Please move forward,” I said to the sleek white android in blank white clothing, and she did as I said. She glided towards Mr. Axell, her bare feet barely making a sound on his office floor that was seemingly made from marble tiles. I meticulously watched her every step the way a baker watches his or her soufflé rise in the oven, or better yet still, the way a parent watches their baby take its very first steps.
She was but a few feet from Mr. Axell when he held up his hand motioning her to stop. He folded his arms and studied her with his eyes, surveying her from head to toe. He did this several times before he turned his attention to me.
“What do you call her?” he asked me.
I looked at her face. She was staring obediently at Mr. Axell, a tiny smile on her lips. The sun hit her and reflected off of her like a white board, almost lighting the entirety of the room in which we all stood. I didn’t expressly design her with anyone in mind, but looking at her I couldn’t help but be reminded of….
“Sally. I call her Sally.”
“Sally? What a strange name. Why Sally? Why not something slightly more pleasing, something more becoming?”
I was hoping most of his questions would be rhetorical, but none more so than this one; I had personal reasons for naming her this that I was not at liberty to discuss with him.
“Not that it matters,” he muttered under his breath. To my relief it was, indeed, rhetorical.
He continued to stare her down and she continued to blindly smile, unaware of how slimy he came off.
“She’s so…. White. So beautiful.” He raised his hand to her face but stopped just millimeters from her cheek. I could tell he was still delaying gratification. As her creator, I felt like her father and very much wanted to slice off the hand of any man that would touch my daughter without her permission. But also, as a creator, I was very proud of what I had created and very much wanted to show her off to anyone I could. Unfortunately, Mr. Axell was the closest someone at the moment. Curiosity got the best of me.
“Please… touch her skin,” I said, as I directed his touch to her arm instead of her face. If he had to touch her I’d rather it be somewhere more impersonal.
Mr. Axell had a look of disappointment in his eyes but he complied and brought his fingers to her bicep. As he grabbed a handful of artificial flesh I watched his eyes grow from skeptical to wonderment.
“My god, Okamura. What the fuck?”
As much as I was wary of this man, I must admit, his excitement did indeed please me. This was the first person besides myself to witness the synthetic skin I had made and judging by his reaction, I had achieved something great.
“I’m not quite sure how accurately I was able to recreate the skin of a human, but if I do say so myself, I think I did a relatively good job.”
“Oh, it’s perfect Okamura, too perfect. Trust me, I’ve fucked enough women to know what this is supposed to feel like. Color me very surprised.”
I cringed a little at his cavalier vulgarity; the alcohol he consumed must have lowered some verbal inhibitions. And I’m also very sure it was another implication that he thought that I hadn’t had a lot of experience with the opposite sex.
“How’d you do this?” he asked me.
“Well, at first, I experimented with many different types of material, ballistic gel, silicon, you know, the usual materials that many very early prototypes were made from. But ultimately what I ended up going with was a mixture of….” I trailed off as I realized it was another question that he had no interest in the answer to.
His eyes wandered to her midsection and his eyes changed from amazement to creepiness in a flash. I was now more than a little worried for what might come next. A second later my fear was completely founded.
“I wonder if it’s perfect everywhere,” he said as he looked at her face, as if he were waiting for an objection, but she continued staring straight forward with the same unassuming innocent smile on her mouth. His hand gravitated towards the bottom of her shawl and he slowly began to raise it. Naturally, I stopped him.
“Excuse me. What are you doing?” I asked and he looked at me with contempt.
“I want to see if she feels perfect where it counts,” he said, as if no other part of her body counted––the phrase gave me chills.
His hand moved quicker, as if he was trying to get to his destination as fast as he could before I impeded him once again. I had to think quickly and come up with a rational reason for why that would be a bad idea. Thankfully, one manifested without much effort.
“Mr. Axell,” I quickly interjected, and he looked at me once again, this time with murder in his eyes.
“Yes?” he asked, with extra hiss at the end of his word.
“Wouldn’t––wouldn’t it be, I mean, from a purely scientific stand point, wouldn’t it be more prudent to have our test group be the first ones to test out that, um, function?”
He stared at me as he thought about my suggestion. After a moment or two, his expression softened.
“Scientific stand... point…” He released her shawl from his grip. “Yes, Mr. Okamura. You would be correct.”
The tension in my body suddenly disappeared and I relaxed.
“Speaking of the test group…” Mr. Axell said as he walked behind his desk and brought up a holomail message from the surface of it. “…I have the specs the first client has requested.”
“If I may ask, who are these clients anyway?” I asked. He did not answer immediately. I could tell he was growing tired of my inquiry.
“Clients of mine, of the company’s. That’s all you need to know, Mr. Okamura,” he said suspiciously.
I wanted to know more. I did not feel comfortable handing off my creation to someone I didn’t know, but that was the purpose of this test and I knew that going in. I did not ask any further questions. Mr. Axell already looked about ready to slap me.
“Shall I continue?”
I nodded, but Mr. Axell still hesitated.
“So, how does this work? Does she automatically change as I yell the specs at her? Or do I give you these so you can drag her back to your hole for another ten months to make more specifications?” he said, his words slathered with horrible alcohol-fueled sarcasm.
“Let me set her up.”
I waved Cran over. He took his place next to Sally and directly in front of me. Two thin wires sprang forth from a compartment in his chest that had just slid open. I grabbed one of them and plugged it into a socket that was buried deep into Sally’s ear canal. I took out a device from a pocket on my lab coat and connected the other wire to it. This didn’t have to be done manually as I did have a code that I could have spoken that would have allowed me enter the commands verbally, but I did not want Mr. Axell to hear it. Something told me that he would most likely take advantage of that knowledge. I couldn’t be absolutely sure, but I didn’t want to take the chance.
“I’m ready,” I told Mr. Axell through the transparent wall of text that now separated us. Even though it appeared backwards to me I could have read it if I tried, but all I could think about was how I had hoped it was an actual physical wall between us. He cleared his throat before he spoke.
“Height. Five-feet, six inches,” and I entered that into my device. Mr. Axell looked directly at Sally very confusedly.
“Well? When’s the change supposed to happen?” he asked.
“It already did.”
“Are you fucking with me?”
“I built her at five-feet, seven inches. It was only a difference of one inch so the change was very subtle. Assuming the client doesn’t want a pale, transparent woman with short white hair the rest of the changes should be quite significant,” I said, trying to hide my sarcasm much better than Mr. Axell did.
Mr. Axell looked slightly defeated, but he brushed it off and continued.
“Hair color, golden blonde,” and as soon as the words left his mouth, he stared hard at the top of her head; he was determined not to miss the change this time.
I input the command for blonde hair with a touch of gold, and what once was colorless was now a glorious and shimmering yellow-orange cluster of hair. Mr. Axell pointed to her hair and looked at me; I knew what he was implying.
“Extremely thin optical fiber, graphene, and a specialized type of ink among other things,” I answered simply. He looked satisfied with that and continued.
“Hair length… the little shit didn’t specify. Just says long. I told him to specify,” he said with a frustrated sigh. “Just improvise,” he told me.
“Yeah, just make it past the shoulders for fucks sake. But not all the way to the tits,” he said and I winced again. He had grown used to me and was less careful with his choice of words. That, or he was frustrated. I also suspected it was the alcohol. I input the command and all the fibers on her head instantly went from neck to chest in a matter of seconds. I also improvised as he instructed and took the liberty to give her a flip curl, the kind that was first popular almost a hundred years, worn by many female television stars of the far past. I also gave her bangs. Mr. Axell looked impressed.
“Good. And speaking of tits, thirty six double Ds,” he said. I got the impression that was a suggestion of his own and not the desire of the client’s. I gave her the cup size he specified.
“Fucking incredible,” he whispered under his breath as he took a much closer look at her head and chest. “Just fucking incredible.”
His amazement still made me feel good about what I had accomplished, but it also filled me with disgust. To my relief, he continued onto another feature.
“Eye color, ocean blue,” he said as his eyes moved from chest to pupils. I entered the code for the color specified, and as soon as I pressed enter on my keypad, her eyes suddenly came alive with a spectacular, yet decidedly unnatural shade of blue that flooded her irises like a drop of ink into a thimble of water. Mr. Axell was mesmerized.
“Okay, now let’s get some color into her skin, make her a real live girl,” he said.
“And what color would the client like?” I asked.
“Fucking green with pink neon stripes, because that’s what color humans usually come in.” The color of his sarcasm now was irritation instead of contempt.
“I meant, what race would the client like her to emulate?”
“What else goes with golden blonde hair? Indian?”
I stared blankly at him. He finally just pointed at himself. This man didn’t understand that there were other fair skinned races in existence.
I‘ll be honest. I did very much wish to cause some kind of physical harm to him. Luckily for him, I was a rational man and had very limited fighting capabilities. That, and a strong dislike for confrontation. I took the implication and entered code for a combination of light yellow, peach-like pink, orange and a pinch of red to create, what I thought, came close to a Caucasian woman’s skin tone. The color rushed into all parts of her translucent body like a morning sunrise illuminating a dark valley.
“Brilliant, man. She’s shaping up just fine,” he said, with extra jubilation in his voice as he patted me on my shoulder.
“You wouldn’t have any make up on you, would you?” he said, with a chuckle.
“I’ll go ask Miss Smith for some.”
“No need,” I said, and I typed a command into my device and a light shade of red spread across Sally’s lips, a subtle shade of purple-blue shadow adorned her eye lids and her cheeks turned just a tad pinkish.
“Wow, real women would kill for that feature, man. Perhaps we can work on something regarding that later,” he said. I sincerely hoped he was kidding. I did not want to work any further on any projects with him or this company if I could help it.
“Is there anything you can’t do with her?”
“Well, aside from her bust size, I can’t add mass to her, yet, unfortunately, so if the client wanted a model a little more curvaceous than usual I would have to make one specifically to his desired size.”
He laughed heartily.
“A little more curvaceous than usual? Just spit it out. No one wants a fat chick.”
“I don’t find that to be true, sir. From a financial stand point,”––I had to appeal to his capitalistic side—“if this were successful, wouldn’t it be smart to cater to a wide spectrum of clientele?”
“When you’re right you’re right. We’ll handle that one case by case when it comes to it.”
“Is there anything else?”
“One final spec. Personality. Outgoing, flirty,” he said and he stopped.
“Only two traits?”
“That’s all the little cunt sent.”
As I said, I had gotten much better at programming personalities and was eager to test them out on someone other than myself: I had tested many types back at my lab, but it was only when Sally was a disembodied head on my table––I looked forward to this moment as I had no idea how her body language would reflect my programming. I waited for this moment to try it out.
I input a series of commands into my device and pressed enter, sending a surge of A.I. into her. Both Mr. Axell and I looked to Sally for a change. Her eyes went from glossy and empty to lively and aware with the push of a button. She looked around with astonishment, like a child in a toy store, until her gaze fell upon me. She jumped gleefully in place and gave me a great big hug.
“Harold, my favorite Harold. It’s so good to see you,” she squealed as she squished her cheek against mine. Mr. Axell looked a bit jealous. She turned her attention to him.
“And who is this handsome man?” she asked as she released me from her embrace and made her way over to Mr. Axell, a long wire still awkwardly lodged into her ear.
He extended his hand to her; he was a bit flushed. He no doubt had experience with women, but this was no ordinary woman. He didn’t know how to react to her at first.
“None of that now,” she said and she swiped away his hand and threw her arms around his neck. He came to his senses and lifted her off of her feet into high the air.
“Oooh, now that’s what I like. A man with power,” she giggled.
“I’m Sally. What’s your name?” she asked.
“Axell, Jerrald Axell,” he said trying his best to sound suave. I had wondered, if that was his usual manner of speaking when addressing women, how he was able to coax any women into going out with him, let along getting into bed with him. At the risk of sounding sexist, and judging by what I had seen of the kind of women he surrounds himself in the news, I think his clout and financial stature had more than a little to do with it.
“Pleasure to meet you, Jerrald.”
She kept her arm around Mr. Axell as she once again addressed me.
“What’s next on the menu, Harry?” she said, calling me by a nickname I didn’t know I had. I had done a great bit of programming with her if she was able to improvise so flawlessly.
“I think we’re finished,” Mr. Axell said.
“Not quite,” I said and I entered one last command. I looked to Mr. Axell for a change in his expression. He started sniffing madly and finally realized that the source of the new smell was standing right next to him. I added a fragrance to Sally; one that smelled faintly of a field of flowers after a night rain, at least that was my intention when I put that concoction together. I also added the necessary pheromones, provided by a chemist friend of mine.
“Oh, Harry, I smell so nice. I like this,” she said as she took a whiff of her own armpits. “Thanks, babe.”
Another nickname I wasn’t aware of. That one I didn’t like as much.
“Perfume. You thought of everything, didn’t you?” said Mr. Axell.
“Well, let’s wrap this up, shall we?” he said.
“Nuh uh uh, Harry,” Sally said, and she held up her hands in front of her face and wiggled her fingers slowly.
“And what color would you like them, Sally?” I asked her. She checked the color of her hair and the color of her skin, and looked up in thought for a moment, then very easily said, “Red.”
I entered the command and gave her red fingernails at a reasonable length.
“Mmm, just long enough to do some damage,” Sally said, and she hissed and made a scratching motion toward Mr. Axell, yanking on his tie. I could tell he was restraining himself from jumping on top of her right then.
“I’m very satisfied, Mr. Okamura. Very pleased indeed.”
“As am I, doll, as am I,” said Sally in a sultry voice. She softly mussed Mr. Axell’s hair and he smiled. I was once again, uncomfortable.
“I regret that we must cut this meeting short. I’ve got some business to attend to,” Mr. Axell said as he fixed his hair and readjusted his tie. I motioned Sally back to Cran’s side.
“And how are you doing today, Cran? Good to see you again,” she said to Cran as she took her place next to him.
“Miss,” he said, and he gave a cordial nod just before I shut down her A.I. and disconnected the wires attached to her ear and my device.
“Mr. Okamura, she’s perfect. Hair, skin, eyes, smell. All perfect. You have done something quite wonderful here I must say,” he said as he took a place next to me. He placed his hand on my shoulder as he stared into Sally’s eyes, which were once again glazed over and lifeless, like the eyes of a porcelain doll.
“You have it set up so we can watch and hear everything as it happens through these, correct? That was the understanding I had.”
“Yes sir. What she sees, we will see.”
“Great. Assuming everything goes off without a hitch and your programming is without fault, and it definitely seems like it is, we could all be making a lot of money very, very soon. In my case, more than I already need,” he said. He laughed heartily and gave me a strong smack on the lower back.
“My programming should be very sound, sir,” I said as Mr. Axell poured himself another drink.
“You sure you don’t want one?” he asked again and I once again declined.
“And if there are any problems while I watch her proceedings on the live feed,” ––I continued––“I have a manual override system implemented that allows me to take control should anything go wrong.”
He then turned around upon hearing this and looked at me with seriousness chiseled all across his face.
“Override system? Override…” He finished his drink in one, quick gulp. He then stepped toward me very threateningly, causing me to take two steps backward.
“Mr. Okamura,” he said, and took two more menacing steps toward me as I took two more back. He was now so close to me I could smell his alcohol-infused breath.
“Let make this perfectly clear. Do not under any circumstances use that override function, do you understand me?”
“But––” I tried to interrupt, but he would not allow it.
“No buts, Mr. Okamura. I need to see all of the data to make an accurate judgment. If you interfere with that, how can we make accurate judgments on the operation of our Miss Sally?”
“But, I feel, in the case of an experiment of this nature, an override system is necessary for––” I said, before he placed his palm calmly over my heart. I could tell he wanted to jab a finger, or a fist, into my chest instead, but he was struggling to remain professional.
“Mr. Okamura, Scientifically speaking,” ––he used my own strategy against me––“wouldn’t it be best to let the experiment carry itself to its natural conclusion?”
“Ye––yes. Normally, that’s how we would proceed, but as I stated, in experiments of this particular nature, there have been times where it’s in our best interest to––”
“Mr. Okamura,” he said my name again, this time clearly and slowly enunciating every syllable.
“I will decide what’s in our best interest. Understood? Your job now is to watch for bugs and if anything goes wrong, we will make the appropriate adjustments after we receive all of the data.”
“I’m not in the habit of making veiled threats, Mr. Okamura... Well, seeing as it seems to be your new favorite conjunction, but...” he said with extra emphasis. He lightly brushed the lapel of my lab coat.
“I’ll just leave it at that.” He could feel the tension rise in me.
“Don’t worry. We’ll take good care of Sally,” Mr. Axell told me in an attempt to calm me. “We’re express-shipping her to the client today, so she should be online for all of us to view by tomorrow morning. I’ll be in contact. Now, if you will excuse me Mr. Okamura, I really must be getting ready to depart.”
He extended his hand toward the door. I bid him farewell and Cran and I walked toward the exit.
“Go home and relax, Mr. Okamura. All will be well. Sit tight.”
I wonder where that phrase originated.
I told myself that day to go home and look up the etymology of that idiom, but I forgot to. Something like that just seemed so trivial.