Skin

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Good Morning

When she was finished and it was time to take her home, I was incredibly nervous. I waited until the dead of night and snuck her out of the lab and into the passenger seat of my hatchback. At home I carried her out of the car, brought her inside, dressed her in night clothes and put her into bed. Then, I began her start up sequence which would, after a few hours, begin the next phase of my life.

I monitored her initial boot up progress vaguely on the laptop, but couldn't really give it the attention it needed. Instead I just looked at her as she slowly came to life. Sometime just before dawn she started breathing very gently. At that point I shut down all my equipment, packed it away and climbed into the bed. Our bed.

I lay there facing her, simply in awe. Up to now she had been standing or lying stiffly in my lab. Full of potential, but nonetheless lifeless. Her hair was always perfect, her face always still, and her clothes hanging limply on her. Now she lay there in our bed - in our home - and the subtle forces of her own movement pushed her face into amazing shapes I hadn't yet seen from her, and rumpled her clothing and body in a way that was so much more real than I had imagined it could be. There was a lock of hair draped across her face which, by force of habit, I reached to move. I stopped myself when I realised that that was no longer my job. She was her own person, and would learn to deal with such things. The hair served to slowly rouse her from her sleep. She looked at me with sleepy eyes and a huge smile on her wonderful face.

‘Hey Just. What a night, eh?’

I swallowed. This was it. ‘Hi there, beautiful. Sleep well?’

‘Like a log. You?’

‘Not really, no. Was up all night thinking about this thing I'm doing at work. But I think I sorted it out, so it should be all really good from now on.’ I looked at her in silence for a while and then simply said ‘I love you.’

‘Do you now?’ She laughed. This was something I had programmed into her memory. It was what I had said in nervous response to her the first time she told me she loved me, and now it had become our code for ‘I love you too’. It all seemed so natural, like we had done it all for so long. ‘That's all very well Justin, but that's not going to get this birthday breakfast you promised made.’
‘Shit! I completely forgot. Stay here, I'll be right back.’
And that was the beginning of our life together.

The following week, I went back to work and soon after, presented Terry with the completed commercial model. As promised, I essentially took our current simulations from our site and enhanced them to include my new AI skin, and autonomous movement. I also offered sixteen quickly knocked together personality types, based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators. All of which would be configurable via our website. This was all the kind of ‘built it yourself’ kind of stuff that was easy for us to mass produce and easy for the clients to customise. Terry was impressed.

They still looked and acted like dolls, of course, because I hadn't put the care into them that I put into Abby. But also our research has shown that the kinds of people that buy these things are actually looking for something that is like - but that isn't - the real thing.

So I was happy. I was living with Abby and production had started on the new dolls. I was also given free rein to work on a new version. I already had ideas on how to improve the model we had just started, and was happily working away on the new designs. Life was good.


Abby was, obviously, perfect. She was incredibly good looking, and was outgoing. We got on really well. While I had never really had time for socialising before we met, once she came into my life we started going out together, and she was amazing at meeting people. I made more new friends in the 3 weeks after Abby came home than in my entire life before her.

James was a single sales manager for a perfume company. One night a few of us were out seeing a local band and he remarked that I must be very secure.

‘What do you mean?’ I had to shout over the noise of the band.

‘Well, you seem very comfortable with letting her talk to anyone, guys or girls. Aren't you worried that she's flirting too much?’

I shrugged. ‘I don't really see it as flirting, and neither does she.’

James looked at me quizzically. ‘How can you be so sure? I remember when she first started talking to me I thought I was on to something, then she mentioned she had a boyfriend.’

‘See? She's not hiding anything, and I know how much she cares for me.’

‘I suppose so. Funny thing is, when she mentioned you I was pretty disappointed, as you might expect. But I was still happy to talk to her, and to meet you. There's something about her that is just so likable. Sorry, Justin, that's probably out of line. But anyway, I gotta say you're a pretty lucky guy.’

‘Tell me about it.’

But luck didn't play as much of a part as James thought. The thing is I knew that if she was perfect then she would know that she was too good for me. So I had done what I had to do. I programmed her to love me. But not in a creepy unconditional way. I want to make that clear. I didn't give her some kind of software-based love spell which meant she would dote unconditionally on me. That wouldn't be right. I wanted her to be real, and to love me because I was the kind of person she would love. So I had developed her to be attracted to my body type, my personality type, to the kind of person that I am. If she was going to love me it would be because she wanted to.

But I cheated. I had to. When I gave her her memories I had given her not only family and background memories, but I had also given her our first date. In fact I gave her around six months of our relationship. I also gave her some past relationships. Some flings, some short term things that everyone knew were doomed to fail and - and looking back at this I am ashamed - one ultimately unsuccessful, and reasonably traumatic, long term relationship. He was cruel. He didn't respect her. And he cheated on her.

My idea was simple enough. She would be with me because she loved me. But she would stay with me because she didn't want to go back to dating, back to being single and, even worse, back to someone like him. Never underestimate the power of momentum in keeping a relationship together.

And she did love me. She really did. We had fun. We talked. We enjoyed each others' company. And it lasted for a while. About a year, in fact.

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