by Tamara Sheehan
Stranded in his empty apartment, the android Cassidy gone, the TV screen chattering incessantly, Matt Carlyle decided to make another android. Another girlfriend named Cassidy. A Cassidy mark two.
When the second Cassidy left, he realized he should have altered the program a bit. He changed the preferences in Cassidy III so socks on the cooker and unflushed toilet would register as “cute.” It worked just fine until she started doing it. So in Cassidy IV, Matt corrected this. But in the end, she left too.
It hadn’t been a problem, really, to keep building the Cassidy model. They were flesh and blood and nerves and he had his own maker and enough juice to make a rocket in it, if he’d wanted to. So they left, so what? He had a knack for making them. He’d make another. The newest one was always better than the last.
Settling down at his work station at the Sun! newsfeed channel, slowly chewing his way through the little lunch Cassidy V had packed for him, Matt glanced over the city wide feed networks, trolling for headline for the late edition of the Sun! And there it was:
Due to the increasing number of androids abandoned or rejected by their creators, city council has voted overwhelmingly to force creators to pay for the maintenance of their androids. “This initiative will save the city millions.” Said Councilor Stephanik, who spearheaded the motion. “It’s time creators took some responsibility for their creations in the same way divorced parents have been maintaining their children for a century.”
When asked about the possibility of simply turning off the androids, councilor Stephanik answered, “Well, they’re essentially humans, except for the manner of their birth. The Ethics Commissioner is, however, currently reviewing shutting down for humanitarian purposes.”
Matt went rigid, staring at the flickering screen of Channel 88, over the white bread sandwich. Maintenance payments? He thought and a twinge of panic took away his appetite. He tucked away his sandwich and wiped his hands on his trousers. Four AI units to support? No way I can afford that. I’ll have to do something.
On his way home that night, Matt popped down to the MakerMart and bought one of the new solar batteries. Then he caught the inter-city bus and rode down to the Pediway.
He called Cassidy I from a vidbox outside her place. He said he had some things of hers he wanted to bring over, and just unplugged her when he got there. He hadn’t made her very smart.
Cassidy II was just as easy. A shock from the new maker battery fried the circuits under those the brown curls, and the light went out of her eyes. He left the battery by her input centre. Junking up on new batteries, it would look like accidental overload.
Cassidy III lived close to Cassidy II. With her, Matt chose arson.
With socks all over the cooker, all he had to do was drop in to say hello, turn on the cooker and let the socks start a fire. He’d never programmed Cassidy III’s emergency response centre. Instant reactions are complex things to program, and he’d reasoned she would never need it. As he walked back along Junction Avenue toward the skytrain, as the light came up behind him like the sun, he wondered briefly if he should have pulled the fire alarm. He boarded the train and went to Cheku station.
Cassidy IV wasn’t in. He left a message with her door, something sweet about how he’d like to talk with her, maybe work things out, then left, feeling rather pleased with himself. He went home to Cassidy V.
The apartment was rich with smells of supper. He hung his coat in the closet and kicked off his shoes. The table was all ready set for two, wine filled the good crystal glasses, linen napkins swaddled silverware. Cassidy met him at the kitchen door, smiling.
“You’re home late,” she said and pecked him on the cheek.
“Busy day,” he answered.
She set the dish down and pulled out her own chair. “That Cassidy was here, the one that you made before me.”
“Ah, so that’s where she was.” He tucked into his dinner, suddenly aware he’d had nothing since lunch. “What did she want?”
Cassidy V shrugged. “She read about some sort of maintenance payments for androids. She came looking for money.”
Matt took a swallow of wine to force food passed the sudden restriction in his throat. “What did you tell her?”
Cassidy shrugged again. “Nothing.” She carved a piece of meat on her plate and lifted it to her lips. Her movements were so delicate, Matt thought, watching. The perfect girlfriend. He had programmed her with such care.
“And she went home?”
Cassidy looked across the table at him. “Well, we can’t very well afford to pay all the previous Cassidys, can we?”
Matt smiled. “No, we can’t.” He’d always known she would understand. This one, this Cassidy, was perfect.
“And it just seemed like such a waste,” Cassidy said as she took another bite, “to put her in the disposer.”
Copyright © 2006 by Tamara Sheehan