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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