30 July 2010

"Guys and Dolls"

By Curtis C. Chen

"Come on, Mike, it's easy money." Tracy waggled an unlit cigarette between two fingers. "I'll deal with the client. You never even have to meet him. Totally clean."

Mike closed the file folder and slid it back across the table. "Look, you got the wrong idea. I don't know who told you what, but I can't help you."

"Don't be like that." Tracy's forehead wrinkled into a frown. "Word on the street is you are the man when it comes to robotics. Come on, help a brother out."

Mike shook his head. "I can't do the job your client wants."

Tracy pointed an accusing finger at Mike. "You made that android to take care of Gramps Hogan when he got sick. Don't even tell me you didn't, 'cause those manipulation subs did not come from the factory."

"I don't do repros," Mike said.

"This is not a repro job!" Tracy opened the folder again. The club's blacklights made the white pages glow. "Look. No identity features. Flat-texture fingertips, bloodless retinas, it's all legal—"

"You've got voiceprint specs in there," Mike said. "Chemical analysis of perspiration and skin oils. Your client wants an android that looks, sounds, and smells exactly like his dead wife."


"All my droids are originals," Mike said. "That's the deal. I don't do repros."

"Well, why not?" Tracy slapped the folder shut. "Isn't that what your day job is all about? Using a template, stamping out identical droids on an assembly line?"

"That's different." Mike sighed. "If your client really wants to fuck a corpse, he can pay Genepool to grow a clone in a vat. But it might be cheaper for him to just buy a wig and rent a hooker once a week."

"What the hell is your problem?"

"We're done here."

Mike stood up and turned to walk away. A hand clamped down on his shoulder and spun him back around. Tracy jammed the barrel of a black pistol into Mike's stomach.

"Why don't we step outside," Tracy said. He now held the cigarette between his lips on one side of his mouth, making the other side sneer when he spoke. "Have a smoke. Relax and continue this conversation."

Mike glared at his cousin. "It's like that?"

Tracy nodded.

Mike swung his left arm over and closed his fingers around the pistol. He squeezed hard, crushing the chamber and most of the barrel, sending jagged ceramic bits flying everywhere.

Tracy flinched and let go of the pistol. Mike pistoned his right arm back, then forward, slamming his palm into Tracy's shoulder. Tracy spun and flew backwards, knocking over their table and two more before hitting the back wall.

Mike leaped over the debris, knelt down next to Tracy, and yanked the client file out of his jacket pocket. "I'm going to burn this. You're going to forget about being a digital pimp, and you're going to call me on Monday about an internship at the factory."

Mike dropped a business card on the floor next to Tracy's face. "First lesson? It's cybernetics. Not robotics."


Photo: "Programmable Android" exhibit at Tommy Bartlett Exploratory, July, 2008