by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson
Table of Contents
Part 6 appears
in this issue.
Jonas and Elfa ran as fast as they could out of the last room and they found themselves in a wide, carpeted hallway. They picked a direction and ran until they spotted a stairway not far away, which they ascended, and kept running until they got to the lobby. There they slowed down.
Elfa morphed into Maya again, and Jonas kept his breath under control as well as he could. He was getting rather dizzy when they got out of the building. They could hear sirens not far away.
“Let’s go home now,” he said to Elfa. “I’ll call a taxi.”
“Don’t you ever get tired?” he asked her.
“I do need to sleep now and again,” she said. “I am made of meat after all; but no, not in your sense of the word.”
“Made of meat? What a romantic turn of phrase.”
* * *
Carmilla stumbled into the hallway just after Jonas and Elfa had disappeared down the stairs. She looked in both directions. She spotted the elevator and got the notion that that was where they had gone. The elevator wasn’t far away from the door. They could have slipped in there and been out of sight as she came through the door.
She walked to the elevator to take a better look. It was at the third floor. She nodded. There they were, she thought. She pressed the button, and waited for the elevator to come.
Carmilla went to the third floor. The third floor was noticeably smaller than the other two, and contained only offices. Carmilla exited the elevator and looked around. There were plenty of people wandering about on the clean, carpeted floor; there were plants in some of the corners and in the windows, doors made of actual wood, ornaments around the light fixtures in the ceiling. The place looked like it had been furnished in the early 20th century; it was the warmest looking place she had ever been to.
She walked around, keeping her hand ready on the gun in her bag. She was getting tired from all the running, and she was beginning to wonder if she had indeed gone the right way earlier. She couldn’t see that HDE model anywhere, let alone that guy it was with. She was about to give up when she saw something: Sonny Ericsson’s office! If she could get to the owner and boss of the whole company...
She didn’t think it through any further and just barged in. Mr. Ericsson was doing something on his computer; doing business or playing Tetris, she didn’t know what, didn’t care. She slammed the door behind her, got out her gun and walked toward his desk in the most menacing manner she could.
Mr. Ericsson noticed her, slimy and unkempt as she was, calmly looked up from his computer, and closed it as he pointed toward the chair opposite to him and said, “Good day. Please, have a seat.”
Carmilla slowed down a bit, and gave him a curious look, but took the offer. It was nice to be finally able to sit down after all that running.
“Now, how may I help you?” he asked her.
“You!” said Carmilla, shaking her gun in his face.
Mr. Ericsson nodded.
“You!” she repeated.
“Yes. You wanted to see me because of something,” said Mr. Ericsson matter-of-factly.
Carmilla paused for a second.
“You came all this way and went to all this trouble. Please, tell me what you have to say,” said Mr. Ericsson.
Carmilla lowered her weapon and said, “Your products are making my life difficult.”
“I see... how do my androids annoy you?”
“They take all the good men,” she said, “They just swoop in and pick them up, and start living with them, and.... and... and...” she stuttered.
“And they don’t go away! It was all right with the 2802’s; they were clearly just toys, but the new ones... Men actually prefer them to us! Can you imagine it?”
“Well, actually the main buyers for the 9141 models are and have always been large malls and supermarkets,” said Mr. Ericsson.
Carmilla looked at him.
“They cost three times as much as the 2802, as much as a luxury car, but they last for a long time. Haven’t had many complaints, it appears that it is cheaper to buy one of those than to hire a human for five years.”
“I know. We had always intended them to be just a high-end sex toy. Do you know how much money and research went into that mind-reading feature?”
Carmilla shook her head.
“I still can hardly believe that it works. Creepy, isn’t it?”
“You must stop making them,” said Carmilla.
“I can’t do that. I have a business to run, people to employ!”
“Just make 2802’s instead. The stores can make do with the 2802’s.”
“Not really, but we could drop the mind-reading thing; that would save us money and give you and your girlfriends a fighting chance — although, you would do better if you put the gun away. I’m a guy, and I know: guys don’t like to get shot.”
Carmilla thought about it. Then she remembered why she was there in the first place, and up went the gun:
“You will abandon the HDE model!”
“I followed it here. It can change shapes!”
“Ah, you have seen it. Yes, well, since the 9141 models are all working in retail, we are losing the public’s interest in the model. I don’t blame them, the bots go out in their free time and use their psychic ability to get themselves a boyfriend, and become the perfect girlfriend for every one of them for free — so why would anybody buy one?”
Carmilla gave him another of her suspicious looks.
“We are really thinking about to offering the VJM 9141 to the bulk buyers; it will be the same, except non-psychic. And therefore cheaper. Instead, for private use, we will offer the HDE 9141; it can change the way it looks and feels outwardly and in, the way it sounds, the way it behaves — without getting on the owner’s nerves; it’s even biologically compatible so it can have-”
“Spare me the sales pitch, I’m not buying,” said Carmilla.
“Yes... well, it’s a little bit more expensive, sure, but it is the absolute last word in biomechanics.”
“So they tell me,” said Carmilla, “but what’s the need for all that technology in a sex toy? Not too long ago, men were perfectly content with an inflatable one.”
Mr. Ericsson smiled. “If it was all about the sex, men wouldn’t prefer the 9141 over the 2802 like they do. I would still be producing it as we speak. No, it’s more complicated than that. If it was all about the sex, you’d be pointing a gun at some guy working a latex factory right now, complaining that his plastic figures have more sex than you.”
Carmilla shook her gun to remind him of it.
“Seriously, it’s not difficult. If you have an apartment, just invite the guy for milk and cookies, or the equivalent. He’ll go with you even if he owns a robot. Eighty percent of the time he’ll ignore the fact that he has one. And if you go to his apartment, just tell the ’droid to hide in the closet, or under the bed, or in the hallway.”
Carmilla said nothing.
“They are androids, meat puppets; they do what they are told or programmed for. They do not plot against you,” said Mr. Ericsson.
“Why do they steal all the men then?” asked Carmilla.
“They don’t, really. They have all been hardwired to be companions, to men — but not altogether exclusively — and they do need to sleep from time to time so their nerves can regenerate, so the shops allow them to walk free every 12 hours.
“And since they don’t have apartments to live in, they seek out people who do, which just happens to be lone guys, and as I have said, those are fairly easy to pick up. It really is very logical for them. That way they can regenerate for up to six hours every day, twelve on the weekends.”
“This is all because the androids need to sleep?”
“Well, they are made from synthetic meat,” said Mr. Ericsson, “You could eat them if you were so inclined. I heard this story once, that one of them got attacked by a pack of dogs a couple of years back...”
“Dogs...” said Carmilla, looking dreamily away.
“Don’t kill the androids,” said Mr. Ericsson. “They are property. Every time you kill one, you are liable for it, and may see jail time if you don’t pay.”
Carmilla sat back and stared at Mr. Ericsson. She considered how much money she owed people around town after her little killing spree. Sonny Ericsson was about forty, and didn’t look too shabby. And he had a great paying job.
Carmilla put away the gun, ran her fingers over her hair to fix it up a little. Then she smiled a bit awkwardly, and asked, “Would you come over to my place for some tea?”
Copyright © 2007 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson