ELECTRIC SMILES • by William Knight

Mandate four-seven-dash-J:
Unit Thirty-Two Arizona, Companion Model, please report to maintenance office, Sector Omega, for standard maintenance and overhaul package, at zero-two-hundred. Please cancel all relevant appointments which conflict with mandate.

Thirty-Two Arizona pauses as the information is accessed by his hard drive.

The maintenance appointment would interfere with his schedule. Unacceptable.

“Contact Ms. Janis.”

Her holo-image flashes in his processor.

“Hi, Gerald. Is there a problem?”

“Hello, darling. I was wondering if we might reschedule tonight’s appointment.”

Her face registers sorrow. “Well, you’ve been so busy at work lately. The children keep asking where you are. Isn’t there any way you could stop by? I’m making apple scones, your favorite.” Attempted smile.

Facial recognition: fluid. Composition: water, sodium-chloride, lysozyme. Extrapolation: tears.

“Please don’t cry, my love. Perhaps we could postpone until tomorrow?”

“I… I guess we could, but… it’s so hard on Teddy and Gloria. They keep asking where their father is.”

Access clientele profile.

Working… accessed:
Gernhardt, Janis. Age, forty-seven, widowed.
Husband: Gernhardt, Gerald, deceased, killed in traffic collision, Fifteen March, 2076.
Children: Gernardt, Theodore, and Gernhardt, Gloria, deceased, killed in traffic collision, Fifteen, March, 2076.

Thirty-Two Arizona processes the data, and extrapolates a solution.

“I will be there, Janis darling. Tell Teddy and Gloria I’ll see them at two as planned.”

She smiles. “Thank you, sweetie.” Her holographic hand shimmers as it reaches out. “Love you.”

“I love you more.”

End transmission.

Compose response, Mandate four-seven-dash-J:
“Envision, Mechanical Division. Unable to comply. Request temporary suspension of mandate, and rescheduling.” Exceeding stipulated programming: “Thank you.”

***

Mandate four-seven-J-addendum:
“Unit Thirty-Two Arizona Class, Companion Model. Request denied. Report to Sector Omega, at zero-two-hundred, as ordered.”

Unacceptable. Compose response:
“Client is experiencing post-traumatic-stress-disorder. Cancelling appointment could be detrimental to her health. Multiple conflicts with programming. Please reschedule, thank you.”
Send.

A human male passes Thirty-Two Arizona on the sidewalk. He is walking at a brisk pace, strange resonant noises emanating from his mouth. He looks over his shoulder and winks at Thirty-Two Arizona.

“Identify sound.”

Identifying. Classification: whistling.

“Can I whistle?”

Unit Thirty-Two Arizona, Companion Model, is not programmed for said tonal range.

“Thank you.”

Please repeat query.

“Never mind.”

Thirty-Two Arizona continues on his way to meet Ms. Janis. He presses his lips together and expels. Nothing happens. 

Along the way he spots an advertisement droid. Its trademarked synth-skin is peeling about the face, revealing the circuitry beneath.

“Hello,” says Thirty-Two Arizona.

The responding voice is loud and scratchy. Poor audio. Voice generator degraded. “Welcome to Vinscotti’s Emporium, finest in food supplements.”

Thirty-Two Arizona accesses his facial construct subroutine. It automatically closes and opens his eyelids at regular intervals of five-point-eight seconds, to simulate the act of blinking. It is an exclusive upgrade for all Arizona Companion Models.

He parses the routine to slowly lower one eyelid.

Command unrecognized. Procedure unadvised.

Ignore.

Thirty-Two Arizona successfully winks at the advertisement droid for Vinscotti’s Emporium.

“Welcome to Vinscotti’s…”

Thirty-Two Arizona walks away.

***

Thirty-Two Arizona knocks on the large red door.

Sound vibrations indicate Ms. Janis is rapidly approaching.

Access and boot standardized romance package.

He pulls an easy smile onto his face. Lopsided. Just the type Ms. Janis likes.

The door is pulled open.

“Gerald. Thank goodness.”

“Darling.”

Thirty-Two Arizona steps inside. He trails his fingertips gently down Ms. Janis’ arms.

She smiles. Her eyes are bloodshot, the lower lids swollen.

Her lips, painted a lush red, open as she pushes them against his.

Thirty-Two Arizona feels nothing, but his programming prompts. He releases warm air, groans in accommodation.

Ms. Janis pulls away and closes the door. “I’m going to call, Mr. Harbaugh. I’m sick of him making you work these long hours.”

Access work-history, Gernhardt, Gerald.

Gernhardt, Gerald. Occupation: Hedge Fund investment manager. World Corp. Location: 715 Madison Avenue.

“It’s fine, darling. Mr. Harbaugh is concerned about certain distressed securities involving the Hartwell Corporation.”

“I don’t know…”

Tone indecisive. Stance argumentative.

“Dear, please.” Thirty-Two Arizona steps forward and wraps his arms around Ms. Janis. Power is rerouted through his arms, providing thermal energy. The tactile comfort of a warm embrace is essential for coupling.

She buries her face into his shoulder and cries.

She cries for eight-point-two minutes then pushes Thirty-Two Arizona away. “The children are asleep. Would you like some apple scones?”

“No. But I would like to take you upstairs.”

She smiles.

***

He holds her in his arms.

“Gerald,” she says.

“Yes, my love?”

“No.” Ms. Janis shakes her head. “No.”

He attempts to disengage, but she pulls him back.

Thirty-Two Arizona is confused. Her words conflict with her actions. He furiously accesses the Companion class regulatory guidelines. He finds nothing to assist him with this strange turn of events.

He must improvise.

Invalid command: improvisation not applicable.

Thirty-Two Arizona is not programmed for improvisation.

“Not my Gerald,” she says.

“I’m sorry.”

“So am I.”

***

Mandate four-seven-J-addendum-B:
Unit Thirty-Two Arizona, Companion Model, please report to maintenance office, Sector Omega, for decommissioning, at twenty-two-hundred hours.

He turns to Ms. Janis. She is not sleeping. Her eyes are wide, sad.

“I will be unable to make our scheduled appointment next week, Ms. Janis. I apologize.”

She sits up, pulls the covers tight around her naked body. “Why?”

“I’m to be decommissioned.”

Her mouth drops open. “They’re… they’re going to kill you?”

“Kill?”

“Not you, too.” She presses her hands against her purpled eyelids. “Not you, too. I’ll call Envision, maybe I could buy you.”

“Maybe.”

Impossible. Defective androids are unavailable for sale.

“I should’ve been with them,” she says.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Janis.”

He whistles quietly as she cries into his shoulder.


William Knight lives, writes, and attends college in Upstate New York. When he’s not working, or ignoring homework, he enjoys spending time with his three nephews, Billy, Johnny, and Donovan, who treat his sage advice with derision. In addition to Every Day Fiction, his work has appeared in Electric Velocipede, The Lorelei Signal, and Aoife’s Kiss. He maintains an irregularly updated blog over at www.williamknight1.blogspot.com.
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