CRUSH • by Alexander Burns

He peered into baby blue eyes. Scott analyzed them first, because if something didn’t check out there he could skip the rest of the inspection. Eyes were too important. The engineers had a love-hate relationship with the eyes–darker eyes hid circuitry better, and the dyes were easier to mix, but the market generally demanded brighter colors.

TI-94 possessed perfect eyes. Well, not perfect. Perfect would be boring. The baby blues lay slightly off center, not enough to notice, but enough to create an interesting dynamic to the face. Scott checked the ratio, just to be certain. They were a little cloudy, just enough to hide the rats’ nest of wiring inside the brain cavity. He flicked the light on his work table, ensuring that the iris and pupil functioned properly. (Not that it really mattered–all models after the TI-35 employed a complex sensor array located in the neck, rendering the eyes little more than window dressing. Still, people liked to look into the dilated eyes of their lover and know they were wanted.)

Scott expanded his examination. Thin, nicely arched eyebrows. Smooth, high forehead. Small, graceful nose. High cheekbones. Narrow chin bisected by a small, full-lipped mouth. He brought down the magnifying glass clipped to his helmet. No major imperfections in the skin, though there was a small, nearly unnoticeable mole on the right cheek. He double-checked the schematics to make sure it was supposed to be there. Scott punched up the approval form and signed off on the face.

“Some great work on the TI-94 here,” Scott said.

“She’s gorgeous. You should see the body,” said his partner, Ari, looking up from the large chamber that contained the TI-94 chassis. He peered over at the disembodied head. “She kinda looks… you remember, what’s-her-name… she looks like Natalie Portman. Before, you know.”

“I guess. Eyes are all wrong,” Scott said.

“Yeah, but still.”

“She’s a little skinny to me,” Scott said. “You remember the TIx-76? Now that was a body.”

“Whatever, man. This one’ll sell five million units, easy.”

Scott resumed his examination. The hair lay in a tangled mess, but he checked the color and length. All TI-94s would ship with the standard mid-length brunette package, and were fully compatible with the optional color and length mod-packs already at the dealerships. He carefully clipped an inch off some of the strands, then powered one of the wires piled at the base of the neck. After a few seconds, the severed strands regenerated. Scott checked off the appropriate box and noted the delay as well within industry standards.

“You ever wonder what happened to them?” Ari asked. Ari stood beside Scott’s station, cup of coffee cradled in his hands, gazing down at TI-94. “Why they all left?”

“Nope.” Scott didn’t look up. “Hell, why wouldn’t they?” he muttered. He snapped the magnifier down to examine the eyes again. He frowned.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Ari murmured. He slurped at his coffee.

Scott sighed. The engineers were wrong this time. This model needed brown eyes. He couldn’t believe he didn’t see it before. Blue didn’t match the skin tone or the mole. He pulled up a cancellation order on his monitor.

“Whoa, what are you doing? She’s perfect!”

“The eyes are wrong. I’m putting it back in for 3A6s.”

Ari stared for a moment, then shrugged. “Okay, I can see that. I’m approving the body, though, tell you that now.” He shuffled back to his workstation as the assembly line rotated away TI-94’s pretty but flawed head. A new face, TI-96, appeared on Scott’s table. He peered into emerald green eyes.


Alexander Burns lives in Ft. Worth with spousal unit Alpha, who has beautiful 3A6 eyes. He has a story coming out this spring in A Thousand Faces.


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Every Day Fiction

  • GMoney

    Liked the premise but was confused over who left and why, so it felt as if there was more to know.

  • I’m a sucker for robot stories, and this is a good one. Enjoyed the read.

  • Oonah V Joslin

    I agree with GMoney. I wanted some twist that would tell me why the Tlx 74’s left and where they went to. You have a longer story here.

  • Gerard Demayne

    Baffled…

    TI-94 was a computer, of course. Was that deliberate?

  • Hmm, Jordan warned me this might happen, but I didn’t think it really would. None of my first readers had any trouble with it. I’ll wait a little longer before I go explaining anything.

  • Alex Dane

    I thought it was obvious who left.

    This story appeared in my inbox today and I thought it was so good I felt the need to come here and say … Great story!

  • Bonnie

    It is obvious who left…women! Left all the guys behind to make robots (heh). Although they must’ve had reason, as the protagonist acknowledges.

    This is good. I like stories where you have to do a little thinking.

  • Virginia

    I really love this story. I can imagine the world Scott lives in! You’ve created an imagination explosion in my brain! Thanks!

  • Jamie

    I, too, had no problem figuring out who left, for what it’s worth.

    Awesome story, Alex. 🙂

  • Windows to the soul. Well done.

  • Sandra

    I enjoyed it enough that I want to see a second story written from the women’s perspective. See if they have robots, too! 🙂

    • Yes, but all they do is take out the garbage and change dirty diapers. 😉

  • Erin

    I love this piece! Well done! 🙂

  • Very sad. I mean that as a compliment.

  • Well done.

  • Jordan S

    Good read. A little bit of a play on Philip K. Dick’s, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner), and that’s not a bad novel to be reminded of now and again.

  • Enjoyed this one! 🙂

  • Always liked robots.

  • mark dalligan

    Enjoyed this episode on a futuristic assembly line.

    Cheers

    Mark

  • Lindsay

    Good story. I knew that the women had left, but I would definitely like to know why…

  • GMoney

    Ah, yes, the women! I guess it was too subtle for me to pick up on in a lunchtime read. Obviously a lot of people got who left, but some of us didn’t, unfortunately. Knowing this now makes the story more appealing, although I still want to know why they left (just in case they’re plotting as we speak…)

  • Thanks for the comments everyone!

    The “why” isn’t really something I considered terribly important. Like “Y: The Last Man” or “Children of Men,” it’s just the premise from which I ask the question: If women were to suddenly [die out, vanish, get fed up with us and storm out, whatever], would we continue to obsess and fixate on the same ridiculous little things we did before, and continue the same sort of behavior for which the women probably left in the first place? Very sadly (as Rena pointed out), the answer is probably, yeah.

  • Hope K.

    Excellent story, Alex! I love robots and I have a good idea of why the women left 🙂 I liked that it wasn’t spelled out but I didn’t have a problem figuring it out. Very creative yet the characters are believable.

  • Gerard Demayne

    I guess the TI-94 reference wasn’t deliberate.

    I thought he was asking why all the model Tlx-76 models had left. If you pare away everything but the conversation that’s what it looks like. So unless real women had been given a designation it doesn’t make sense.

    • Fair enough. I guess I felt like enough time had passed during the intervening paragraph for it not to cause confusion.

  • Penny

    I loved this description “… just enough to hide the rats’ nest of wiring inside the brain cavity.” I felt the wiring of the robot was symbolic of women’s circuitry. (Heehe.) At first, it seemed to me that it was going to be an observation from a man’s point of view and his scrutiny of a first date or meeting a potential mate but then the emotion pulled it down and twisted it into something else entirely. Interesting.

  • I interpreted it as saying that the women had left because of the men demanding (physical) perfection from them – something which the men apparently didn’t learn from, since they are (ironically) asking why the women left while striving for perfection in the replacement androids they’re building.

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  • Paul de Anguera

    Very interesting, but could be done more emotionally. These guys don’t seem much moved by the withdrawl of all women from their society, just a vague “Huh.” Could be why they left.

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