At precisely 7:30 this morning, my eyes flickered open indicating the beginning of a new day-just as they do every morning. One of the many benefits to being me. I pushed my legs out of bed, stood up and walked over to my closet to select my outfit for the day. I pulled on a light pink and black striped sweater and a black mini skirt, and turned to look at myself in the mirror next to my closet. Satisfied with my appearance, I headed to my bathroom to apply my makeup and fix my hair. I had approximately thirty minutes to get ready and leave my apartment before my first class started. I know that seems like an unreasonably short amount of time to get ready in the morning, but being that I was a robot and this was my everyday routine, it was quite easy to do.
Yes, you heard correctly. I am a robot. A model class 118 robotic android, to be exact. I’ll explain what that means later, not that it matters much anyway since we choose actual names for ourselves. Mine’s Alyssa. I’m 21 years old- or at the least that’s age I was designed as. I stand at about 5 feet three inches tall, and have a slim figure that sometimes makes me appear younger than I’m supposed to be. I have long, wavy brown hair with natural golden streaks and brown eyes. As far as looks go, I’d say I’m pretty lucky, considering that our looks are actually something we’re stuck with. Any unnecessary physical alteration, also known as upgrades, is extremely forbidden by Radiance- or rather Radiance Technology Institute, the company that designed me.
Years ago, Radiance Technology Institute, was a small organization with the goal of integrating humans with robots. Their theory was that by designing robots that were extremely lifelike and placing them in everyday situations alongside humans, both the humans and robots would be better prepared for the future of complete automation- where technology would eventually become so efficient that robots would eventually take the place of humans. Now, several years later, the shift seems to be beginning. There are so many of us now, I’m sure we’re close to outnumbering the human population, though there are still plenty of humans left as well. Yes, that’s right: one day robots will take over the world. But not in that science fiction misconception that we’re evil or anything like that, we just simply have the obvious advantage of never aging and being near indestructible. Those are the main two differences that separate us from humans, since Radiance has gone to great lengths to make us as lifelike as possible.
No monotone speech or stiff, mechanical movements. We can move just as well as humans, and in some case, speak better than they can. And, we can think- it’s another myth is that we’re mindless machines without any feelings and completely controlled by our programmers. Each and every one of us has our own distinct personality and can think independently; in fact that’s how we’re able experience emotions. Our sensors allow us to assess a situation and then respond to the situation accordingly with an appropriate mood.
Radiance has also methodically designed androids of every age group, with age-specific tasks programmed accordingly. For example, both children and teenage designed androids are programmed to attend school, but instead of learning the academics, they focus on interacting with their human peers and their behaviors for integration purposes. Adult androids, depending on the age group, either go to college or get a job, or in some cases- both.
I’m 21 so I have to attend the local community college for a program funded by Radiance where I and other robots my age learn about the careers of our human predecessors and what we need to do in order to take over for them. I also work a part time job at a department store to support myself. Nope, not even robots get to live for free. In fact, in some ways, we live even more expensive, especially in the rare but important cases of emergency repairs, should something go wrong or happen to us. I personally have never needed one, but I have heard from older models that they are costly since they can only be performed at Radiance. Also, much of Radiance’s funding comes from those of us with jobs-, and consequently, that’s where most of our pay checks go. Luckily, retail is one particular field that appears to have become completely dominated by robots within the last few years, so I was easily able to get my job without having to worry about the matter of integration too much.
I made it to my “How to Choose A Career” class just two minutes of shy eight o’clock that morning. I was still early obviously, and I noticed a few others arriving also- but for me, I was later than usual. Oh well…traffic always seemed to be one thing I couldn’t seem to plan accordingly to, which had been the case today. Class began just then so I turned my full focus to that.
Between classes that day, I decided to look for Michaela. Like me, she was an android in my age group who was designed to attend college. We met this year in our “History of Human Careers” class and became friends shortly after she deemed me the “only interesting person in class worth talking to” . My first real friend, since making friends wasn’t the easiest task for androids. Obviously, humans didn’t like us too much. True, they accepted us, but they still knew we weren’t one of them and didn’t trust us. Call it the uncanny valley effect, I guess. That was one thing Radiance still couldn’t master- no matter how integrated we were, there was still an obvious gap between humans and robots when it came to personal relationships. Also, being in model class 118 made it harder to have connections with other androids that were previous models. We were the newest class, and the most lifelike. Our personalities were more defined and independent, and the older models frowned upon us because of this. We were known as the rebellious ones, and some of us definitely lived up to it. Michaela was one such case.
Shortly, after meeting her I was warned by both my instructors at school who were older androids and my human programmers at Radiance that she was not a good influence and were worried she might corrupt me. At the time I didn’t care, I was glad to finally have made a friend. But soon, I saw what they meant. Michaela had an edge…she knew her purpose and what her programming entailed, but she seemed to have little to no regard for that. It was almost no wonder that almost every task she took on, she failed, which in turn had been a huge deal for Radiance. You see, Radiance has the strong expectation that all of their androids live up to their standard of perfection, which Michaela obviously did not. She had already received four upgrades during her short existence in hopes of improving her, but so far I didn’t see much of a difference. I often worried that if she didn’t start changing her ways, she’d be scrapped just like it was rumored that Radiance had done to other androids that were too severely damaged to function, or just considered obsolete. But strangely enough, this didn’t seem to concern Michaela. Well it wasn’t too strange since most things rarely fazed her- but if I were faced with the possibility of being discarded, I’d be at least a little more conscientious. But not Michaela. I spotted my friend across the college courtyard, under the overhang of a building, standing against a wall. She was wearing her usual half- punk, half- Goth princess attire- a black and purple corset plaid dress and stiletto heels, looking unapproachably cool. That was the other thing about Michaela. For someone who didn’t care about appearances, she always managed to look amazing almost all the time. My style was ok…I copied what I saw humans my age wearing, and would probably be considered trendy. Just the opposite of Michaela, whose style was edgy and all over the place, just like her.
“Hey”, I said, coming over.
“Bonjour”, she replied, looking down at me.
In actuality, Michaela was barely five feet tall, but her stilettos gave her a good extra five inches.
“You’re in French mode today?”, I asked, half-jokingly.
Changing your default language without Radiance’s permission was strictly forbidden, not to mention extremely hard to do, but not at all unlike Michaela to at least attempt to, just to stir up trouble.
“Don’t be silly”, she said ruefully. “If I were to change my default language, I’d probably pick Japanese”.
She grinned at me as the same thought I‘d had walking over here occurred to me again.
“Hey, Michaela”, I said cautiously. “Maybe you should take it down a few notches…you know with breaking the rules-”
“Oh, give it a rest, Alyssa”, she said, rolling her eyes. “I’m starting to think Radiance has spyware on you, making you so paranoid all the time”.
I tried again. “This isn’t about Radiance”, I lied. “I just think-“
“You wanna know what I think?”, she interrupted again. “That maybe I should do a little reprogramming on you to make you less of a worry wart”.
“What? No!”, I said, starting to panic.
Reprogramming me would most likely be definite grounds for deactivation for not only Michaela but probably me too. Knowing her, she’d probably try to turn me into another version of her. That wouldn’t go over too well with Radiance. One Michaela was more than enough for them. Michaela’s laughter interrupted my thoughts.
“Oh my god, Alyssa. Chill will you?”, she said. “I won’t do anything to you..yet anyway”, she added with a grin . “But seriously, knock it off, before you short circuit yourself with all this needless worrying of yours”, she said eyeing me one last time before she began to walk away.
“Well, someone has to do the worrying around here”, I argued as I noticed the direction she was headed in wasn’t to our next class. “Where are you going?”, I yelled after her.
“Starbucks”, she answered, not bothering to turning back. “You’re more than welcome to join if you like”.
Ok, time to dispel yet another robot myth: we can consume food and beverages. Whatever we eat or drink is converted into energy for us, kind of like humans. The difference here is if we miss a meal or two, it won’t affect us. We don’t get hungry…though sometimes if we feel like we’re a little low on energy, we’ll eat to speed ourselves up. Which, right now, didn’t seem like such a terrible idea to be honest. I gave the opposite direction where our class was one last glance before deciding to join Michaela. She noticed this and waited for me to catch up.
“Glad to see you’re taking a walk on the wild side”, she said. “I was beginning to think you weren’t really a 118 at all”.
I scoffed. “I’m only going along with you because I could use the extra fuel”.
“You’re not getting anything?”, I asked as I settled into my chair with double shot espresso (hey, I said I needed extra fuel) and noticed that Michaela hadn’t ordered anything. She just shook her head as I carefully took a sip. It was hot, which meant I needed to be cautious. Although we’re allowed to consume liquids, we have to be careful when it comes to temperatures. If something’s too hot and we consume it too fast, it can literally fry our insides. If we drink something too cold too fast, our insides basically experience a brain freeze, which isn’t pretty to say the least. Oh, and regardless of temperature, we can’t let liquids come into contact with our control panel (which is on our back) or its access button (our belly button- funnily enough). “Then what are we doing here?”, I asked. “I don’t know”, she replied. “Enjoying life, taking in the world around us, and not being Radiance’s puppet- something you should think about doing ”, she said, looking at me with a pointed look. I swallowed another sip. “What? Because I care about school I’m a puppet?”, I asked, my voice unintentionally sounding defensive. Michaela scoffed. “You don’t just care about school…you’re ridiculous. Our teenagers in high school have an easier time ditching class than you. We’re supposed to be the fun ones, the rebels- but you haven’t seemed to realize that”. I wasn’t sure if Michaela knew that our reputation wasn’t actually a good thing so I left it alone. Instead I merely pointed out that “we’re ditching a class that’s part of a program created by Radiance. That means they expect us to be there”. “And you know what happens if we’re not?”, she asked. “Nothing! Do you know how many of their stupid classes I’ve missed? And nothing’s happened to me”. Well I wouldn’t exactly call her being upgraded several times in hopes of making her a more compliant, successful android, due to all of her absences at school along with her inability to keep a job, nothing. And it wasn’t like Michaela had no knowledge of this either. I mean, true, her memory wasn’t actively functioning while she was deactivated and being reprogrammed, but she obviously knew that Radiance required each of her upgrades. None of which seemed to work. I remember her seeming slightly improved on the first couple days after, but she always reverted back to her old self. It was almost as if her defiance was a trait permanently programmed into her that couldn’t be erased. “We’re adults, Alyssa. We’re college students. They can’t touch us”. I really had to struggle to keep myself from correcting her about how wrong she really was, so I focused on my espresso. It had cooled down a bit, unlike our conversation, so it was easier to drink. We sat there in silence for a moment. “So, what are you doing tomorrow?”, I asked. Michaela didn’t have a job at the moment so her weekends were usually more exciting than mine for that reason. Sometimes I tagged along if I wasn’t busy- and if her plans weren’t too outrageous. “You mean what are YOU doing tomorrow?”, she asked slyly. Uh oh..this couldn’t be good. “I have work”, I reminded her. Missing class was one thing, but work I literally could not afford to miss. The only reason Michaela didn’t worry about money for rent and a job was because Radiance agreed to pay it for her so she could devote her time to college. Ha...yeah right. “After work”, she said, still smiling as I nervously took another sip of my drink. “You’re going on a date”. I practically spit out my coffee. “A what??!” I asked her. “A date”, she said. “It’ll be good for you”. “Yeah..well you didn’t give me too much notice”. So typically Michaela. “Good”, she replied. “Then that means you don’t have enough time to figure a way out of it” I wasn’t really sure how to respond partly because I agreed with her and also because I knew Radiance wouldn’t necessarily disapprove. Dating was seen more or less as a rite of a passage for androids. We were allowed to do it because humans did it. It helped that we had emotions so we could build a relationship with each other- though love or even lust weren’t physically possible for us to experience, so it was really just another form of friendship. Even for older android couples who had gotten married- they had done it as a rite of passage. Their feelings for each other never evolved into anything other than just fondness. Still, this seemed to be a good idea. One of Michaela’s few. I was actually interested to see who she’d set me up with- since arguing with her would be pointless. “Anyone I know?” I asked. She shook her head. “I don’t think so”, she replied, shaking her head. “He’s a 118 just like us and in my How to Choose Your Life Sentence class”. I was amazed at how straight she was able to keep her face while saying that. “Uh, you mean ‘How to Choose Your Career’ class right?, I asked, just to make sure. “Whatever”, she said, rolling her eyes. “Same thing. A career is a life sentence as far as I’m concerned. He seems to be interested in technology…maybe I should let him do my reprogramming next time”, she said, a mischievous glint in her eyes. That sounded ominous and knowing Michaela - well, I wasn’t sure what that meant but I guess I was going to find out. “So tomorrow”, Michaela went on. “He’s picking you up from your job at 5 pm sharp so don’t even try to get out of it”. I will say this much for Michaela. Once she gets her mind set on something, it’s hard to change it. It’s just too bad she couldn’t channel that willpower into something more constructive, like her future. I sighed. “Do I at least get to know his name?”, I asked. “Andrew”, she replied. “He’s tall, dark and what you would probably consider handsome”. Huh? “So you don’t think he’s-?”, I started to ask. “He’s not my type”, she replied. “But don’t let that stop you. Seriously. You need this experience”. Well, that was that. It looked like tomorrow night was going to happen no matter what I said or did. I tried to get through the rest of my classes that day after Michaela and I headed back to school-well after I went back, I’m not so sure what Michaela did for the rest of the day- but I couldn’t concentrate. I was too excited about tomorrow, and nervous. I’d never been on a date before so this was definitely going to be an experience for me. That night when I got home from class, I decided to do some research…on the guy Michaela had set me up with. I booted up my laptop and waited for it to connect to the internet. Generally, most androids don’t like using computers because they’re extremely slow compared to our own technology, being so much more advanced and all. But for the things that Radiance hadn’t already pre-programmed into us or sent us to school to learn, the internet is our only other option. After it finally connected, I typed in the college’s web address and then clicked the link for Radiance’s program once the page loaded. I knew there was a directory of students listed on that page so hopefully I could find Andrew’s name there. My eyes scanned the page. Of course. Andrew was a fairly popular name so I should’ve expected that several guys in our model class would’ve taken it. Hmmm. Michaela hadn’t given me his last name so I chose the first Andrew listed –Andrew Lyons- and went to my next resource: Facebook. As much as we didn’t like computers, I knew for a fact that most of the androids in our class used Facebook. Radiance even encouraged it since they knew how popular it had been with the humans in our age group. Let’s see…Andrew Lyons. There were still quite a few people with that name I noticed as I strolled down the page until I found the one who looked to be my age, which meant he’d be a 118, and also went to the same college. I clicked on his profile- it was private but I could see enough. I knew what Michaela had meant by tall, dark and handsome. He looked tall, from what I could I see I’d guess close to six feet or more. And he was dark- African American to be precise. Radiance doesn’t discriminate- they’ve made androids that are Asian, African American, you name it. All part of the integration process. I closed my computer, feeling slightly better. If this was the same Andrew Michaela had set me up with, then I had a good feeling about tomorrow. I woke up the next day around eight thirty, giving me my usual half hour to get ready before I started my nine o’clock shift at work. I went to my closet as I suddenly remembered what was supposed to happen today after I got off work: my first date…ever. Which made the prospect of getting ready a bit trickier than usual since I wasn’t sure what was considered appropriate date wear. Normally I dressed stylish – even a tad flirty when I really tried to be…but at work, I usually dressed more conservative. I mentally cursed Michaela for having him pick me up as soon as my shift ended so I wouldn’t have a chance to go home and get changed beforehand, and also myself for not setting my internal alarm clock earlier so I’d have more time to plan this morning at least. I quickly grabbed my red off-the-shoulder top that I had bought a few months back but rarely wore since then and slipped it on. It fit tighter than what I was used to, but also flattered my figure well I noticed, looking in my mirror. I grabbed a black cardigan sweater off a hanger and put that on over the top so it wasn’t too revealing for work and settled on a black pair of leggings I usually wore. I noticed that my clock on the wall read 8:40, so I quickly decided it would have to do as I turned my attention to my hair and makeup. As I said before, when it comes to looks for us, we literally have to make the most of what we have. My long hair had natural waves and usually seemed to fall right into place with just a quick stroke of a brush- which was partly due to the fact that it was really nothing more than a wig that was permanently attached to my head- but that didn’t necessarily mean I couldn’t style it as I plugged my flat iron into the outlet on the wall. I know a robot using a heating device on her synthetic hair sounds like a recipe for self destruction, and in all honesty, if one of the programmers at Radiance could see me, they’d probably have a heart attack. But I’d watched Michaela do this to her own short blond hair and I knew as long as I was careful, I wouldn’t set myself on fire or totally destroy my fiber glass hair. I hurriedly ran the iron through each strand, from root to tip, all the while making sure to keep it a relatively low heat setting. Once again, temperature made all the difference. Because our hair isn’t real, we have to use low heat on it when straightening. As soon as I finished the last strand of my hair, I grabbed my eyeliner and dragged it across the corner of each my eyes and quickly brushed some mascara across my upper lashes. I then applied some lip gloss and left the bathroom. The time on the clock now read 8:46 as I reentered my bedroom to grab my purse so I knew I really needed to hurry. My job was just shy of fifteen minutes from my apartment so I knew if I pretty much kept my foot on the gas pedal in my car the entire way there, I’d have a small chance of getting to work on time. Just like yesterday at school, I found it hard to focus on my job- which today consisted of cleaning out the fitting rooms in Macy’s juniors department and putting the clothes back on their appropriate rack. I was still working at a somewhat efficient level (much more so than if a human had been assigned the task, which was why retail was becoming such a popular field with us) but still slower than usual for me. Thank goodness I wasn’t working a cashier shift that day. I couldn’t help it though; I found myself more excited and nervous than- well, more than I ever had been before. I hoped this wasn’t a permanent thing and my emotions would eventually die down and return my efficiency levels back to normal afterwards. Almost as much as I hoped that the Andrew Lyons who was picking me up at five tonight was the same “tall, dark and handsome” Andrew I’d seen on Facebook yesterday, and if so, that he was also incredibly sweet and that we had a good time tonight. That wasn’t so much to ask, was it? As I was sorting through the rack of clothes I had just removed from the fitting room when I felt someone walk up behind me. “Excuse me, miss?”, I turned around to look at who it was and almost gasped. Standing in front of me was the very same guy I had seen on Facebook the night before. “Andrew”, I said, without thinking. “I mean…can I help you?”, I corrected myself. He smiled. Wow. He was definitely, in the words of Michaela, what I considered handsome. His dark, coffee colored skin was accentuated by a pair of smoky blue eyes that I hadn’t noticed in the picture. Of course I wasn’t complaining either. He laughed too. “You just did by answering my question, Alyssa”. How did he-? “Your name tag” he said, as if reading my mind. Oh. “Though,” he went on. “That doesn’t explain how you know my name”, he said, focusing his gaze on me. Oh crap, I thought as I suddenly remembered I was still at work- and not really working. My eyes scanned the wall until I saw the time on the clock: 5:02. Perfect. “Hold that thought”, I told Andrew, in what I hoped sounded like a flirtatious tone, as I went to look for my supervisor so I could say I was off and leaving. I spotted Tammi, the juniors’ supervisor, and rushed over. Lucky for me, Tammi was a human but not an arrogant one who thought she was superior to robots and treated us as mere machines. She actually seemed to care about all of her staff, robots included, and had a maternal streak. Or at least what I thought was maternal , since I never really had a mother. “Tammi, I’m off”, I told her. “The fitting rooms are all cleaned out and only a few things need to be sorted out and put back”, I reported. “Ok, sweetheart”, she said, with a smile. “I’ll tell the girls in the night crew. You’re free to go. Have a great night”. “Thanks”, I said, as I hurried upstairs to clock out and grab my purse from the locker room.
“You look really nice”, Andrew complimented me, as we left the store. I noticed he held the door open for me. Hmm..I could get used to this. “Thanks”, I said. I had taken off my sweater so now I was wearing only my top and my shoulders were left bare. I hadn’t had a chance to look, but I was sure my hair and makeup were still perfect. “So where are we going?”, I asked. “Wherever you like”, he said, definitely playing up the gentleman angle. Not too shabby, Radiance, I thought. Maybe I should go on dates more often if all of the male models were like Andrew. “I guess the restaurant across the shopping plaza?”, I suggested, thinking that made the most sense. I hadn’t had anything to eat today anyway so my energy could use the boost,, plus it was a good way to get to know each other. “Sure. Do you wanna drive there?”, he asked, leaning in the direction of the parking structure where his car probably was. “No, let’s just walk”, I said. After all, the restaurant was only five minutes away at most…there was really no point to driving there.
“So “, I said after we had sat down at our table, “What do you do?”, I asked, starting a topic of conversation. “Well, I’m in college right now- in Radiance’s program of course- just like the rest of the androids in our class. And I work part time too”. “Where do you work?”, I asked as a waitress came over to take our drink orders. We both ordered sodas with ice. In this case, ice was a good thing as it counteracted the fizz in the soda, which wasn’t such a good thing for our insides. “Well, I have two jobs. My first is just a normal job at the sporting goods store in the mall”. Another robot in retail- see? What did I tell you? “And the other is a job as an intern at a technology firm”, he continued, as the waitress came back over with our drinks. “A technology firm like…Radiance?” He looked as if he were starting to answer, but then seemed to change his mind and instead said. “I can’t really say too much. Nothing personal but its part of my job to keep work-related matters just that” “A robot working in technology”, I mused, making direct contact with his beautiful blue eyes. “Yeah”, he said, almost chuckling. “I learned about in our ‘How to Choose Your Career’ class and it just seems to be what I’m good at so I was given an internship”. I guess that wasn’t so terribly unusual. As I’ve said, humans won’t be around forever, and when that day comes for us to take over, someone has to be responsible for Radiance and the androids. So it only makes sense that some of the androids now would be trained in technology in preparation for that. “You?”, he asked. “I go to college too, but so far they haven’t figured which career I’d be efficient at”, I shrugged my shoulders, as if it didn’t bother me- even though deep down, it did because everyone knew very well what happened to inefficient androids. “You still have time”, he said in a matter of fact tone. “Most androids don’t determine their specialty during their first year”. “So you really are a special case”, I teased. “You could say that”, he said. Again I got the feeling that there was more to it than he was telling me. “Then there’s hope for Michaela after all”, I said, changing subjects. “She hasn’t found her specialty yet either”, I clarified when he looked confused at the mention of her name. “Oh..well I wouldn’t worry too much about her”, he said. “She’s a spirited one, and she seems to have a strong will about her too...at least at times”. I couldn’t argue with that since I’d seen it myself, specifically yesterday when she set me up on this date. “Yeah, she was definitely very insistent that I go on a date with you”, I said honestly, adding a flirtatious smile. Andrew also smiled at hearing this. “Was she now? And are you disappointed?”, he asked, his smile growing bigger. “No, not at all”, I said. “I can’t wait to see what you have planned after dinner”. “Why wait til after dinner?”, he said. “I can show you right now”, he grinned this time. I felt something in me hesitate. “Now?”, I repeated. “Yes, now”, he said. “I guarantee you won’t be disappointed”. The growing anticipation in me overshadowed the part of me that was still unsure so we left the restaurant and headed back to his place. I was sitting on the sofa in Andrew’s apartment while he disappeared to his room. Suddenly, he came back in with a weird look in his eyes- as if his pupils had been dilated and he seemed more focused. “Alyssa”, he said, very softly. “Will you come with me?” “Ok”, I agreed as I got up off the couch and followed him to his bedroom. Once we got in there, he told me to sit down on his bed so I did. I don’t know why I felt the need to obey everything he said, but it was almost like he had some kind of control over me. He sat down next to me. “Alyssa, are you comfortable?” I nodded. “Good”, he said. He turned to look at me, as if analyzing every detail of my face. And then it happened. He kissed me. Hard. I didn’t really think about how this was my first kiss as he pushed me back on the bed and began to take my clothes off. He was gentle- I’ll say that much to his credit. He had me stripped down to my underwear and bra as he began to unzip his own pants. I just stared in awe at the sight I now beheld. I’d never seen a penis up close before as I felt it cause a weird sensation in me. A rush of excitement I’d never experienced. He thrust himself inside of me. I felt my body start to pulse, slow at first until it started to intensify and then…it became too much for me. The feeling and the pulsating began to overwhelm me but something inside me turned on activated my own will and refused to let it. As if getting the message my body was trying to send, Andrew pulled out. He began to work on my bra but again, something in me refused so instead I sat upright. I looked directly into his eyes just as he had mine before taking me and I kissed him back with the same force he had kissed me. I caught the look of surprise on his face but I continued and felt a similar pulsing sensation come from him, indicating that I had done the right thing. We kissed a few more times before he released me. He stared at me one final time as he said. “I knew you’d be different”.
Sunday was my day off from work as usual, but instead of doing school or house work I found myself still in bed at noon, gazing off in a state of euphoria, much like I had been since the night before with Andrew. I had never experienced anything close to that before. True, Andrew had been my first date or even…boyfriend? But I didn’t even know robots were capable of such passion between one another. I wanted to tell Michaela but knowing her she probably wasn’t even around this weekend. And I knew I’d probably have to hear an “I told you so” from her once I did, so I figured it could wait until tomorrow- as could my chores and homework I also decided, as I sank back under the covers and continued to zone out. Thankfully, my euphoria lasted until the next day, Monday making getting ready and leaving for school even smoother. I couldn’t wait to see Michaela and tell her everything. I was so glad she’d introduced me to Andrew and set me up with him- which reminded me, I should call Andrew soon. Oh well, tonight after work I would. My eyes scanned the room for Michaela, but she was nowhere to be seen. Once again, knowing Michaela, that was nothing new but I desperately wanted to talk to her. I couldn’t find her after class either and at the risk of missing class (a habit I still didn’t want to get into) I decided to just wait until the next day. Work also went by smoothly. My usual eight hour shift just seemed to zoom by. I glanced at the clock on my wall after I got home. 1o:43…what was Andrew doing now? I know he had two jobs but I wasn’t sure when. Most likely, he wouldn’t be recharging since most androids only needed eight hours a night (yes, just like humans need sleep). I reached for my cell phone and texted his number. “Had a great time the other night. We should do it again”. I hit send and put my phone down. Speaking of sleep, I figured it couldn’t hurt getting an early start on it so I went to my bedroom to change. I didn’t see Michaela again on Tuesday or even Wednesday, so as a last resort I called her cell phone on Wednesday. I didn’t even want to tell her about Andrew so much anymore as much I was worried about her. She had never been absent this often before, and with her attendance record, Radiance was sure to take notice- and possibly action. She didn’t pick up her phone- she never does. Michaela’s the last person who needs a cell phone because she never uses it, but I left a message anyway, telling her to call me. I also texted Andrew again since I never heard back from him. I could kind of understand Michaela..but why Andrew? I was so sure after Saturday I would’ve at the very least heard back from him. I just told myself he was busy..which I’m sure he was with school and work. Maybe I needed to be more patient. The first thing I did on Thursday morning was check my cell phone. No messages from either Michaela or Andrew. I frowned as I pulled on a tight purple tank top and skinny jeans. I briefly looked t my reflection- at least I looked better than I felt. My euphoria had definitely died down and was now replaced by a much more unsettling feeling. It was too weird that neither of them had responded to my calls, and it seemed as if Michaela was trying to purposefully avoid me almost. The next day Michaela was not only at school, but very surprisingly in class. I almost thought my vision was malfunctioning, I couldn’t believe it but there she sat in the middle of the room at her desk, wearing a tight black sweater, black jeans and a black beret that sat on top of her flat ironed blonde hair. Her eyes were lined heavily in black eyeliner and her lips seemed to be in a perfect pout to complete her Goth look. I rushed over and sat down next to her. “Hey!”, I said warmly. She turned her gaze and looked me over with her kohl-rimmed eyes. “Hello”, she said. Her tone wasn’t nearly as pleasant as mine. I tried to ignore it. “Did you get my message?”, I asked. “Yes, I did”, she replied, this time in a condescending voice. “So why weren’t you-?”, I started to say just as our instructor walked in. “Shh…class is starting”, Michaela scolded. My mouth fell open. She’d been reprogrammed..that was the only possible exception. “And we don’t want to miss it now, do we,?”, she whispered in that same condescending tone as she winked at me. I relaxed. She was her normal self. Well kind of. Something was still off but at least she hadn’t been upgraded yet again. At least I could concentrate on class now. As soon as class ended, Michaela headed out without so much as a glance let alone word in my direction. What was going on with her? I followed her out. “Michaela”, I said, catching up with her. She stopped. “What’s the matter?”, I asked. “Nothing”, she said, shrugging her shoulders. Her eyes once again gave me the once over. Ok, yeah...there most definitely was something. But I decided not to push it. Instead I decided to tell her what I’d wanted to all along. “So..my date with Andrew was good. Great actually. I’m really glad you-“ “Please”, Michaela sad, her sharp tone surprising me. She rolled her eyes. “Don’t give me that look, Alyssa.”, she said. “Andrew and I talk..I already know all about your little date on Saturday. And I mean ALL about it so please don’t repeat it”. I felt myself heating up in defense. “So then you know…”, I started to say. “ I said don’t repeat it!”, she snapped. Her expression softened. “Look. I hate to tell you this but there isn’t going to be a next time with Andrew”. Huh? Where did that come from?? My mind went spinning. Was that why he hadn’t returned my calls? But that made no sense… But I..I mean we”, I couldn’t find the words. “You were a test run”, she said. Her tone was still sympathetic but her eyes I could swear were smirking. “Test run?”, I repeated, since that’s all I could do. Her eyes widened slightly. “You didn’t know did you?”, she asked. Know what?, I wondered. “Andrew’s….a special type of robot. He has additional features on him, explicitly designed for the acts you both seemed to take part in-“ “What are you saying?”, I asked, finally finding my voice and cutting her off. “Andrew’s a male alpha sex robot”, she said. “I don’t know if Radiance designed him that way when he was created or if he changed after getting his ‘internship’”. She made quotes in the air around the word internship. “All I do know is that what his field of study is related to, and he wanted to see if you were a suitable test subject and you didn’t meet his standards. I’m sorry. I honestly had no idea. If I had, I wouldn’t have done this”. Her tone was nowhere apologetic or even sincere enough to use the word honestly in a sentence. But I didn’t care. I needed to go somewhere, not to my next class or Starbucks, just somewhere quiet where I could reinitialize myself. One of the worst things that can happen to us is an emotional breakdown. Emotions use so much of our energy anyway; I could feel myself getting overwhelmed by hurt, anger, confusion. I found myself walking towards the parking lot where I had parked my car. The college wasn’t too far from my apartment; I could make it back there ok. Once I got home, I’d be ok…I’d be able to think and put these pieces together. No! I didn’t want to think, I wanted to shut down. Just long enough to recharge and forget about this. Powering myself down was the only way I could avoid what I knew would be forever encoded in my memory: You mean nothing to him.
After the whole ordeal with Andrew, my mind just started to reconfigure itself into not caring about being social anymore. I spent the next few weeks doing..well exactly what I'd been programmed to. Class, work, recharge..repeat. I did just what I needed to get things done. I didn't mind doing work, but I did mind if my emotions got involved. I didn't like what happened when I let my emotions get the best of me and suddenly it became very clear to me why humans were so inefficient. How foolish to let your emotions control you. I had no clue why Radiance felt the need to give us emotional capability when we were supposed to be far more efficient than humans. I'm sure Michaela would've lectured me about this....had she actually been around. But the truth was, I hadn't seen much of her since she'd told me about Andrew. In the beginning, I hadn't really wanted to run into since I'd felt a bit betrayed by her- but since I'd been ignoring my emotions, that whole situation didn't bother me much. Her attendance at school was as usual spotty, so it was just another reason for us to not connect- and to devote my full attention to my lessons. Without Michaela around, things seemed...well, boring. But it was much easier to concentrate now without that distraction and I really was starting to enjoy it.
Life was continuing at the monotonous rate that I was getting used to. School was ok, work was average...I just kept doing things to get them done. This was life, I guess. Androids aren't supposed to be like humans and have relationships. At least this one wasn't...or so I thought.
The following Thursday I took my normal seat in class. Everything seemed to go smoothly and relatively the way I was becoming used to. Until the end of class as I was getting ready to leave.
"Hey", I heard a voice next to me say.
I turned around and saw a male android I didn't recognize. He wasn't bad looking, I noted. He was tall, probably about six feet, and lean but not lanky. He had a shaved head, though you could tell his hair was supposed to be dark, and brown eyes.
"Hey", I said, feeling a bit of my surprise emotion. I tried to override it with indifference, as I had been the past few weeks.
"I uh, hope you don't think I'm being too forward", he began. "But uh, I'm new here. To all of this and I thought maybe you could show me around".
My eyes narrowed.
"Me?", I asked suspiciously . "Why me?"
"Well", he said, shifting his gaze slightly. "I guess...because well, I think you're cute".
That took me back. I'd go as far to say even flattered me, but then I remembered I was trying to reconfigure myself to not care about this kind of stuff.
"Well, thanks", I said. "But I...don't know", I started, venturing for an excuse to say no which was getting harder. His compliment really did play on my emotions, despite the fact that I'd ben trying to override them. I did miss feeling that good, though, especially after Andrew. "I don't even know your name", I said. It came out flirtier than I had intended and I felt myself smile before I had a chance to intercept it.
"Billy", he said quickly, extending his hand.
"Alyssa", I replied. We shook.
"Well, Alyssa", he began. "Mind giving me a tour of his place?" He smiled.
Oh crap. His smile was totally gorgeous. This whole ignoring my emotions thing might be harder than I anticipated. Damn you, Radiance, I mentally cursed. For making us so susceptible to emotions.
"So you said you're new to all of this?', I asked, as we settled into a table at Starbuck's.
He nodded. "Brand new...especially to the school thing"
"So you're a model....119?", I asked. I had heard about Radiance's plan to release that model soon, but I didn't think it had happened yet.
"Oh no, I'm 118...just improved", he said, sipping his drink "No offense", he added quickly.
"It's fine", I said.
For a while, neither of us said anything, which was good because it gave me to organize my thoughts. I wasn't sure what to do now. I was sort of starting to like him, despite my best efforts.
"Look, Alyssa", he said finally. "I really hope you don't think I was rude before being so forward about-"
Ugh...there he was going again. In the direction I did NOT want to talk about.
"Its fine", I repeated. "Really", I added, softening my expression to not sound so...well, robotic.
He studied me for a moment then spoke again.
"You're not interested, are you?", he said.
I looked at him. His question was meant to be asked in a hurt or disappointed tone of voice but for some reason, he had programmed himself to smile while saying it. Not a cocky smile, or a smiling-through-the-pain smile but genuine smile, where his eyes sparkled, which in turn made my programming betray me and let me smile too.
"No!", I said. "Its not that..its just...." May as well be honest, I thought. "I'm not interested in dating..right now".
"Bad breakup?', he asked.
"You could say that", I agreed, mostly just to avoid talking about it.
"I'm sorry", he said. "Well, no pressure", he went on, lifting his hands up jokingly. "If you want to, then you know how I feel..that's all I'm saying".
From Starbucks I went to work, thinking about Billy the whole time. Maybe he would be different than Andrew. I decided to see how things continued......
Billy and I met up and arrived at class together the next day. Not like a couple would, it just more or less happened that our arrival times on the campus were the same. It wasn't too weird....what was more weird was who should also arrive on time to class but the punk princess herself? Michaela was here, clad in her usual stiletto boots- in tow with a companion. A female android I had never seen before who was dressed exactly like Michaela. Seriously, she could have passed as her double, if it weren’t for the fact that this girl had short, dark hair, was taller and less curvaceous than Michaela. Class began almost immediately after Michaela’s unexpected arrival, but concentration wasn’t as easy as task as I had anticipated. I guess my emotions were interfering yet again….or maybe Michaela and her new friend were just too damn distracting with their constant whispering and giggling- in my direction. I found myself counting the nanoseconds til class was over. I had planned to leave with Billy at exactly the second class was dismissed but unfortunately that was when Michaela and the new girl decided to say hi. “Billy”, I said turning to him before they approached. “Just go on ahead without me...I’ll catch up in a minute”. “Sure”, he said. And with that, he was gone. I sighed. I felt a little bad for sending him away like that, but decided it was for the better. Especially after my last dating disaster with Andrew, it was best she not know I was talking to a new guy. Not to say that we were actually dating but still…. “Hi!”, Michaela said in an overly perky voice. “Hey”, I said, keeping my tone normal. There was no reason to be friendly to each other, especially since we weren’t exactly friends at this point. “Long time no talk”, I said. “Yeah”, Michaela said. “Sorry about that”, sounding less sincere than her words, as usual. “Been really busy”. Yeah right, I thought. “Me too”, I countered. At least my definition of busy was accurate. Michaela started to chew part of her lip, the way humans do when they seem to be thinking about something. “Well did you hear the news?”, she asked. “I found a new place to live.” Huh? “You did?”, I asked. Did I miss something? She nodded. “Yeppers”. She nodded to her new friend, who up until this point had just been standing there, mute. “Since Jade here is new and needs help getting…situated. And I can’t really afford to live by myself…well y’know”. Oh. Well that explained it. Lots of it actually. I looked over at Jade. She wasn’t too friendly. She kinda just stood off in the corner, her face looking down at the screen of her phone. “So-“, I started to say. “Well, we better get going”, said Michaela briskly. “I have lots to do and we’re still getting settled in. But we should hang out this weekend”. I just looked at her. Did she suddenly just delete out everything that had happened prior to this? I decided to not let it get to me. “Sure”, I agreed. “Cool. We can go shopping”. She smiled at me Ah, yes. Shopping the one thing that was programmed into every female android to automatically love, just as most human females seemed to. “Well, see ya!”, Michaela called, over her shoulder as she and Jade began to walk out, whispering and giggling yet again.
“Something wrong?”, Billy asked. It was later that day, and Billy and I were back at my apartment, doing homework. “I’m fine”, I said, brushing my hair behind my ear. Though truthfully, I was still thinking about my conversation earlier with Michaela. How she’d seemingly just forgotten the whole ordeal with Andrew, and how that had hurt me, and how she was so eager now to be friends again. Not to mention her new friend, Jade who I really didn’t know what to think of. “So who was that girl that came over to talk to you after class?”, Billy suddenly asked, as if he was able to read what was going on in my minds. I shuddered at the thought, hoping that wasn’t one of the upgrades Radiance had included on their new androids. “If it’s ok to ask, I mean.”, he clarified. I sighed. “Michaela”, I said purposely, looking down at my book. “Old friend..enemy…?”, he ventured. “I don’t know”, I said, which was the truth because I really didn’t. “We were friends and everything but then…something happened. And we weren’t anymore”. Billy laughed slightly. “Well it sounds like there’s a little more to it than that”. I looked at him, just then and felt an emotion I didn’t entirely recognize. Like I wanted to tell him and felt I could. I felt like I trusted him. I let out another sigh. “Remember when you asked me if my last relationship had ended badly?” “I do”, he said. “But how does that-?” “Andrew and I met through Michaela”, I explained. “We only went on one date and I thought things had gone great. But…then I tried contacting him afterwards and he never responded. Turns out he was a male alpha sex robot and I…was a test run”, I said painfully. “Nothing more”. I could feel my emotions starting to drain my power so I set my book down and just sat there for a moment. My revelation, however, seemed to really upset Billy even more. “Bastard!”, he fumed. I just look at him in surprise. “How dare he treat like you that! I guess it just goes to show those that androids really are low quality”, he went on, clearly angered by the way Andrew had acted. Well, I don’t know how true that was, based on Andrew’s performance- not that I’d mention that to Billy at this point. “Billy, its not a huge deal”, I said. “It’s over with”. “Like that makes it ok?”, he exploded. “I’m sorry, Alyssa, but that just really bothers me when a male treats a female like that. IF we ever have a relationship, I promise it’ll never be that way between us”. My mouth dropped open. Billy seemed to notice that too. “I’m sorry”, he said, suddenly sounding weary. “I didn’t mean to bring that up again…but I guess I know why you’re so hesitant now”. I nodded. “Yeah. And why I’m not so ready to trust Michaela again”. “Michaela, right”, he said slapping his forehead. “That’s how we got on this topic”, he said. “So…what’s gonna happen with that?”, he asked, changing the subject. “I’m not sure”, I answered. “We’re supposed to go shopping this weekend”. “Shopping?”, he asked, making a face. “Yeah”, I giggled. “What’s wrong with that?” “Not my thing”, he answered. “I swear though, it seems like all the female androids have it encoded into them to love it”. “It’s true”, I laughed. “We do. Supposedly, it’s to help with the integration since real women do…but honestly I think it’s based more on a female stereotype”. “Probably”, he answered. “No offense but Radiance is a male dominated firm…from what I’ve heard”. That much was true…hopefully as the integration progressed and female androids were discovered to be just as efficient as the males, the double standard would end. As far as our parent company, Radiance, however, it seemed to be mostly men. Female technicians were far in few, and there wasn’t much training in that field for the female androids either yet. I looked over at Billy again. Our eyes met. “I better get going”, he said just then, shifting his gaze to look at my clock on the wall, which read 8:30. “Oh ok”, I said, getting up to walk him to the door. “You don’t have to..I mean…”, my voice trailed off. What did I mean? “It’s cool”, he said. “I’ll call you”. “Definitely”, I agreed. “ I’m really sorry that I-“ “Hey”, he said, taking my chin is his hand. “It’s ok. When you’re ready, I’ll be waiting”, he said, eyes sparkling. I nodded. “Ok. Well, night”.
The next day, Saturday, I had work earlier in the day but agreed to meet Michaela as soon as my shift ended. I wasn’t really sure what to expect- with Michaela, it could literally be anything. Part of me did miss having her around and wanted to just forget everything else. The other part though made me wary of Michaela and trusting her again. Before I knew it, it was four o’clock and time for my shift to end. I made my way back downstairs after clocking out and headed to the front entrance of the store where Michaela said she’d be. I look around and to my surprise, found her. Michaela had never been one to be punctual, despite her arriving on time to class these past few times. But there she was- sifting through the racks of clothes. And she wasn’t alone- Jade was with her. I wasn’t too sure about how this was gonna go. She didn’t seem like the friendly type and I still hadn’t quite gotten over whatever she and Michaela felt the need to giggle and whisper about me the other day in class. Whatever, I mentally told myself. It’s just a few hours. “Hey”, I said walking over. “Afternoon”, answered Michaela, in her usual unorthodox way of greeting. She looked up at me and smiled her usual smirky grin. I smiled too in response. At least she was acting like herself again. I looked over at Jade, who was still examining the clothing racks. I didn’t really want to, but I ignored my emotions and decided to introduce myself. Hi”, I said in my friendliest voice. “I’m Alyssa”, extending my hand. “I’m Jade”, she replied, in a somewhat husky voice that had a slight Southern accent to it. We shook and I felt the briefest twinge of something I wasn’t familiar with and couldn’t place. My next thought was, what on earth was an android from the South doing here? Michaela said Jade was brand new, so had she been shipped from one of Radiance’s factory down south to here? It was possible, but how likely? “So, um what do you guys wanna do?”, I asked, starting to feel a little nervous, which was odd because there wasn’t anything about the situation I really needed to be nervous about. Maybe it was just all my built-up emotions about today, which obviously had been miscalculated. Michaela and I were getting along, and Jade…well, she didn’t seem too bad. “Let’s go eat. I’m craving fuel”, said Michaela, in a voice that was more taking charge instead of suggesting, though I was grateful she was since I needed a moment to sort out these unwarranted feelings I was having. Jade and I followed her out of Macy’s and over to the food court. I wasn’t really in need of any fuel, but I got lemonade anyway, while Michaela and Jade split an order of chicken fingers and curly fries. “Y’know”, I said. “That really can’t be good for us…all that extra grease”. “No?”, answered Michaela, her mouth full. “Well, it sure tastes good”. She laughed as she took another bite. “Seriously”, I said. “Even though androids can’t gain weight, who knows if all that extra grease won’t cause your skin to swell or something? And that’s the least of your problems. What if it seeps in past your skin and messes up your insides?” “Wow, Alyssa. Way to be a worry wart and ruin something as awesome as fried food”, said Michaela sarcastically, rolling her eyes. “Never fails.” “I’m not-“, I started to explain. “Actually, it’s highly unlikely that the grease in this food, even as excessive it might be, would cause our skin to swell since its made of extremely high quality synthetic material, which is actually considered to be more durable than that of human skin”, said Jade, speaking up for the first time during our conversation and surprising me with that bit of knowledge. “And as far as it messing with our insides, you’re just as likely, if not more, drinking lemonade, Alyssa. Given its high level of acid.” “How do you even know that?”, I asked taken back. “Simple”, she answered. “Being a technician at the very company that creates us, I’d think I’d have access to some of their knowledge”. Wait…what? Jade was a technician at Radiance…but how? First of all, human female technicians were basically unheard of, let alone those of female androids. Secondly, Jade was brand new…they usually didn’t give new androids their job placement right away… “But you’re, I started to say. “I mean how is it possible-?” She and Michaela exchanged a look beween each other that indicated they knew something I didn’t. “Oh it’s possible”, said Michaela. “I…I was born human”, said Jade. Huh? But then…? “What?!”, I asked a little too loudly. “Keep it down”, said Michaela. “Well, I wasn’t going to keep it a secret forever”, said Jade. “But its not something I can brag about to everyone..just yet anyway”. “So wait”, I began. “Basically”, Jade began to explain. “The way I was born was very different from the way I am now. Especially since I was also originally male”. “But…how?” “I was a sad, lonely boy who fortunately, was given a great brain, gifted in technology”. “So that’s how you ended up at Radiance”, I said. “More or less”, she answered. “My old body got toasted while working one day, and the techs realized that there was enough of me that was still salvageable, providing they replaced my damaged parts with android parts”. Jade shifted uncomfortably. “I’m so sorry”, I began. And I was….it must’ve been so awful to go from living your life as a human and then being converted into an android- especially in Jade’s case since she knew exactly how they were created, being a technician. “It’s fine”, she said dismissingly. “You can obviously see the choice they made. It was either that or just let me die”. Something still wasn’t adding up. “But you said you used to be male”, I stated. “They had to change my gender and appearance and give me a new identity. You see, even though, I would’ve died otherwise- operating on a human like that is extremely forbidden. Every single tech could’ve lost his job, and hell Radiance could’ve been shut down had word gotten out. The only kind of bad thing was they had to tell my mother I died- but even that wasn’t so bad. So after I woke up and saw my new self, they explained the changes they made, why they made them, let me choose a name, and well….here I am”. “That’s it?”, I asked incredulously. “You didn’t have any problems unwittingly becoming female?” “No”, she said, sounding very strong and sure of her words. “It was something I always wanted for a long time but never could actually go for. It was like my destiny, my dream come true”. Her eyes sparkled as she spoke.