by Justin Meckes
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
Sitting at a long white table, Joseph Larson — also known as LR-091 — spooned a pudding-like substance into his mouth. As he swallowed, he pushed his tray to the side and turned his projection on.
After a moment, he stopped reading and said, “Unit, temperature?”
A female voice responded from the paneling above his table. “The temperature is currently 70 degrees Fahrenheit.”
“Decrease by two,” said Larson before he resumed reading and spooned more of the gelatinous substance into his mouth.
Larson’s unit consisted of polished hospital-like materials, mostly white, a lighter shade than his pallid skin and in stark contrast to his closely-cropped brown hair. His living quarters were composed of a shared bedroom and a kitchenette, which included a large table that spilled out into an oversized living room.
When the outer door slid open, Larson turned his head and saw M1, an android who came hovering into his unit. The android was an early model, mostly plastic with exposed cabling and a round, empty face. In a metallic voice, the droid said, “Good afternoon, LR-091. It’s time for your supplement.”
Larson nodded as M1 retrieved a small cup from a kitchen cabinet. After two discs ejected from her palm and rattled around the bottom of the cup, the android handed the supplements to Larson and asked, “Do you want them diluted?”
Larson shook his head and swallowed the discs dry, allowing them to dissolve on his tongue.
After analyzing and removing Larson’s tray, M1 said, “Are you ready for your session?”
Larson pushed to his feet and rounded the table. Joseph Larson had no wrinkles on his face and was extremely agile despite his proximity to sixty years old. He sat back down and began rubbing his eyes as he waited for M1 to begin. She hovered around the couch and positioned herself between two faux-leather armchairs before saying, “Are you feeling tired?”
“I’m a little tired of doing this, if that’s what you mean.”
M1 nodded and said, “I have something new for you today. But first, I noticed that you’re not shaved.”
“I decided not to.”
Larson scratched his chin and said, “Is that a problem?”
“I would hate to have to shave you.”
Larson sat forward. “I’ll shave. I just wasn’t in the mood this morning. It’s not like I have anywhere to go.”
“I’ll have to shave you if you don’t comply,” continued M1.
Leaning back, Larson said, “I know, I know.” He crossed his arms and added, “And you’re not exactly gentle when you turn someone’s head. But what do you really want to talk about, M?”
“You are having difficulties with your partner.”
After raising his eyebrows, Larson began: “Well, is that really a surprise? I mean, she was assigned to me.”
Two lights glowed and shifted back and forth across M1’s face, mimicking the scanning of human’s eyes while reading a document. Larson narrowed his own eyes and waited.
Finally, the android said, “You haven’t copulated with her in over two weeks.”
Larson nodded, then spun and saw Kimberly Dutton, his partner, walking through the kitchen. She was wearing a lightweight uniform over her tall frame. It was skin-tight and was often referred to as a skin suit. The suit included a hood that was considered optional in the regulations.
She sat down and said, “Did I hear you two talking about me?”
M1 nodded. “We were discussing your relationship difficulties.”
“You know, I’m not sure this is necessary,” said Larson.
Turning toward Kim, M1 said, “Do you have anything you’d like to say?”
Kim said, “Why haven’t you wanted me, Joseph?”
“Why haven’t I wanted you?”
Larson’s question was meant to be rhetorical, but Kim answered, “Yes? Why not?”
“You had no qualms in the beginning,” said M1. “We can enhance your desire.”
“No,” said Larson. He’d seen this supplement advertised on the far wall. The coms played on a giant screen that broadcasted virtually everything known to the inhabitants of LR-091’s tower. He was a member of a class of individuals isolated and locked inside a pharmaceutical facility dedicated to human testing, but he was one of the lucky few who had moved up in the ranks due to certain genetic markers and external demands for more humane treatment of patients.
After burying his head in his hands, Larson wiped his face and said, “I’ve talked about it before. I don’t have anything new to say.”
M1 replied, “Do you lack emotional connection?”
“No,” said Larson. He looked at Kim, who had become a bit emotional herself. “But let me guess: you have a pill for that, too.”
“It would conflict with your new regimen,” said M1. “There’s been an outbreak in the Pharmacon. You will be receiving a stronger—”
“Wait a minute,” said Larson as he leaned forward. “An outbreak?”
M1 continued: “We will have to make you impotent if you continue to deny Kim.”
M1 didn’t respond.
“Why?” asked Larson.
“We could demote you to a lower level, instead,” said M1.
Larson shook his head, then looked at his partner. “Do you have anything to say about this?”
“No,” said Kim, but she appeared grieved.
Larson took a breath and said, “Let me think about it, okay?”
“Very well,” said M1. “Is there anything else you’d like to discuss?”
Larson crossed his arms and said, “Not that I can think of.”
“Then, I will continue,” said M1. “Are you reading the coms?”
“It’s still permitted, isn’t it?”
M1 ignored his question. “Then you must understand that we are working to eradicate harmful, unnecessary genes and disease.”
“I know,” said Larson.
Kim pushed closer to Larson on the couch and put her arm around his shoulders.
Larson said, “I know I’ve asked you this before, but how long am I going to be on this level?”
“That has not yet been determined,” answered M1.
“So you don’t know when I get to move on?”
“It has not been determined.”
“Then why can’t I meet some of the other people on this level? At lower levels, I was allowed to move a little more freely.”
“There is a possibility of contamination,” said M1.
* * *
Copyright © 2018 by Justin Meckes