Friends

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“D’s Central Cafe” had been a staple in the greater Portland area for ages. The layers of grime and build up in the kitchen were like rings on a tree, if someone had chosen to scrub them all the history they would have uncovered might be considered a scientific discovery. The old grease fryer, the gas range and the massive grill were all old, newer than some of the oddly stained tiles or the wash basin, but still ancient. It was the old time feel that many claimed gave the food here its trademark charm and added a little something to the food. The whole place had become a staple in the neighborhoods and there were days when the regular customers made up the vast majority of the patrons rather than newcomers. The staff were always happy to see their favorites come through the door. The cook knew exactly how the old man from up the street liked his reubens cooked, the waitresses knew exactly how to chat up their pseudo-friends and the inside jokes that would always garner a smile.

One particular waitress was nearly as old as some of the equipment in the kitchen and along the serving bar. She didn’t look like it though, she was permanently locked looking like a twenty something young woman. Long blond hair that was permanently tied up in a ponytail adorned her head and customers would often comment on how piercingly blue her eyes were. Amber, was what was printed on the name tag she wore, though in reality it wasn;t really her name, she didn’t have one. Amber was an android, one of two that the cafe had bought when they were all the rage. The owner had done his best to try and keep them up and running as long as possible, after all they were paid off and didn’t need a paycheck or benefits, just a wall plug to recharge in the evening. Time took its toll on Amber though and her owner had given her the unfortunate news a few days before. Her model was already obsolete, and she was beginning to show signs of breakage that couldn’t be repaired anymore.


After her shift nearly four days prior, Dennis had called Amber into his office. Amber had stepped in, still in her work clothes and closed the door behind her.

“Hi Dennis, what’s up?” Amber had said, cheerful and positive as she always was.

“Hey Amber, uh, how are you today.” Dennis said, running a hand through the thinning salt and pepper hair on his head.

“I’m good, functioning as best I can these days” She replied, chuckling a little.

“Yeah, uh, about that.” Dennis let out a long sigh, he had been trying to think of the best way to tell Amber. He knew that not only was she a machine, but she belonged to him. Still, over the years he had learned to respect and treat her well, she was just as much a part of everything as any human employee. He let another sigh pass through his nostrils and he looked at Amber again.

“I’m real sorry sweetie, but I got an email from your manufacturer. They stopped making parts for you this week. So uh, god how do I say this..” Dennis said, and went quiet for a moment. Amber caught on fairly quickly. Her artificial mind wasn’t the sharpest in comparison to many modern units, but she knew what he was driving at.

“You have to decommission me, don’t you.” She said, saying it matter of factually. Dennis was caught off guard at how bluntly Amber had stated what equated to her demise. He was silent for several long seconds.

“..Yeah..” Dennis finally confirmed, looking down at his hands.

“It’s alright Dennis, you are doing what you have to do.” Amber said, then unprompted she scooted forward and wrapped her arms around him in a hug. Dennis hesitated only for a moment before hugging her back. Once the two broke apart, AMber looked at him and smiled, it looked so genuine, so real, and it hurt Dennis to see it. She looked like she had no issues at all with being scrapped, but he supposed that that was all part of being a machine.

“Ok, I better go plug in for the night, see you in the morning boss.” Amber said, then stood and left Dennis’s office. She turned left out of the office and walked up the back hallway to the back storage room. Among the shelves of spare bathroom tissue, cans of ingredients for the kitchen and cleaning supplies was a small corner that was cleared of everything. Nestled on the wall were two electrical outlets with some kind of plug that was very non-standard. Amber stepped up to the wall and leaned against it. She was used to remaining partially online while charging. Her balance systems and passive listening would remain online, but most other systems would be offline. Amber stood there for only a moment before she rolled up the sleeve on her shirt just as a small whirring sound could be heard. A small panel slid into her wrist then retracted towards her upper arm. Inside was a small plug, copper prong sticking out at odd angles. Amber pulled the plug out of her wrist and then bent down and plugged it into the perfectly matched wall port.

She began shutting off most of her unneeded systems one by one. Though tonight she left a large part of her human emulation online. She normally only used that particular subset of programming when on the cafe floor since it aided her in relating to the customers, it was very likely the most advanced part of her entire being. Tonight, though, she was utilizing it to contemplate what Dennis had told her from a more human perspective. Her artificial mind took an introspective turn and she began thinking of all the things she hadn’t done in her nearly fifteen years of service. There were plenty of things that were minor, almost unnecessary things, like never walking through a field of flowers or catching a fish. These were all things that were likely not going to be accomplished in her remaining short time in service, but there were other things too. She realized she had never kissed anyone, or been intimate, or had physical contact with someone outside of the occasional high five. In fact, the hug with Dennis earlier was the closest she had ever come to another person in regards to physical contact.

Amber had the envious ability to recall and perfectly simulate what her synthetic skin and body had felt in that moment. She recreated it and reran the entire sensation again and shivered from it. She wasn’t sure why she did it, but she started a checklist of things she wanted to do before her deactivation. Some small things, like tell her co-workers that she appreciated them, she wanted to walk more than ten yards away from the diner, and she wanted a kiss from someone who was special to her. She was totally unsure how she would accomplish most of the items on her growing bucket list, but she would do her best.

The next day she received an official alert from both her manufacturer and from Dennis, it was a simple notice of termination. It outlined the process and what needed to happen, as well as an automated programming macro that would engage as soon as the final day of her service ended. She was given three days, at which point she would return to the back room, plug herself in and shut down completely. From there a collection service would retrieve her within two business days and take her to a recycling center where she would be disassembled and any useful part would be refurbished for resale. Anything that couldn’t be used for resale would be scrapped and sent to an incinerator where it would be destroyed completely and securely. Amber knew it was all coming, but reading the notice and knowing it applied to her put a certain amount of finality on things, but it also gave her a timeline for accomplishing what she could.

Over the course of the next two days Amber managed to encounter each of her co-workers, Dennis included, and tell them all how much she appreciated working with them. Most of them were very receptive to the farewell, and only a select few thought it was odd that a machine was trying to say her goodbyes. No one was outright hostile towards her, but she definitely had a few awkward moments. She had asked Dennis to remove the distance restraints on her systems after work on the first day and promised she wouldn’t run away. She even asked him to go on a walk with her for a few blocks, just so she could see the sights of the city she had never seen before. Dennis admitted to Amber once their nearly forty five minute stroll through town was over that he had enjoyed her time together, both on the walk and in general. Dennis unlocked the cafe and let her into the space and then locked the door behind her. Amber walked briskly to the back room, smiling the whole way, delighted at what she had seen that day and plugged herself in for what would be her final charging session.

On her final day, Amber did as she was programmed, mildly flirted with customers, cracked jokes and served food. It wasn’t until the tail end of the noon rush that one of her very favorite customers walked in. Thomas had been coming to the cafe for nearly ten years now, every Friday he left his work early and came down to the cafe, ordered a burger and sat and just enjoyed the time sitting and watching the world around him. Amber had heard that he was some kind of accountant, and it showed, he was usually dressed in slacks and some variety of solid coloured button up shirt. He always looked professional but so friendly. His smile could light up the room when he walked in, his hair was always perfectly styled and despite the salt and pepper look to it, he seemed young. Amber admitted to some of the other waitresses how she thought he was cute and they all noted his lack of wedding ring.

Through a flurry of giggles two of her co-workers suggested that she take his table one last time today. Amber had no issues accepting the offer and she quickly moved over to Thomas’s table.

“Hey there Amber! Hows things?” Thomas said, his voice chipper and happy as always.

“Uh, ok I guess. You in the market for the house burger, well done, no onions?” Amber said, knowing his order before he even had a chance to look at the menu. Not that he needed it, he ordered the same thing every time.

“You got me all figured out don’t you.” Thomas said with a hearty laugh.

“You’ve only ordered the same thing every Friday for the last ten years. Call it an educated guess.” Amber responded with a wink, which prompted a smile in her direction. Amber picked up the unused menu from the table and turned to leave when she heard Thomas’s voice again.

“Amber?”

She spun around and looked back at Thomas, he looked somewhat concerned, turned to face her.

“What’s up hon?” She said sweetly.

“Are you ok?” Was his response. The question caught her off guard, she had never in her fifteen years had someone ask her if she was ok. It triggered something in her human emulation that she hadn’t ever felt. She struggled for a moment to articulate it, but soon the word emerged in her mind, regret.

“I’m-” Amber sighed and slipped into the seat across from Thomas and looked at him, pursing her lips. “Today’s my last day here and I don’t know that I’m handling it very well.”

“Aww no, you were always my favorite!” Thomas said, “But I’m sure whatever comes next that you’ll be great at it.” He said with confidence that he was hoping to reassure her. Amber stared at Thomas for just a moment, realizing then that he either thought of her as a human and that she was just leaving the job, or that she was just moving on somehow.

“Yeah I won't be around any more, so I’m just trying to say goodbye to folks, you know?” Amber said, looking down.

“I get that.” Thomas said, then an awkward silence fell between them. “Is there something I can do to maybe help make your last day here a bit more special?” Thomas finally said.

Amber opened her mouth to respond, her systems had already queued up a response that there wasn’t anything, but she manually stopped the process, opting instead to have her human emulation respond. She took a deep breath, not knowing how her request would land.

“Uh, maybe.” She hesitated just the right amount of time before speaking again. “So I’ve had this crush on you for a long time now.”

Thomas had to chuckle, “And here I thought I was the only one.”

“What? Really?” Amber said, genuinely surprised.

“Of course, why do you think I come in here every Friday. Seeing you is the perfect way to start my weekend” Thomas said. Another new sensation flashed across Amber’s processors, she was blushing.

“W-well in that case. How would you feel about coming back to the diner tonight, after we close up, and we have a private date here?” Amber said, sure that there would be pushback.

“Of course! That sounds great!” Thomas responded enthusiastically.

“Okay! I’m sure Dennis wont mind..I hadn’t really expected you to say yes.” Amber said, sliding out of the chair and smiled down at Thomas. “I guess I’ll see you tonight then!” Amber said and after Thomas nodded and winked at her she strolled off to place his order. Amber managed to talk Dennis into letting her have one small date with Thomas once the diner closed, he knew she wasn’t going to rob the place or cause trouble, if anything he felt bad for her and granted her this one last request as a parting gift.

After the doors locked at eight, and everyone had left Amber sat on one of the bar stools, waiting and the minutes ticked past. Nearly fifteen minutes passed before Thomas showed up and rapped his knuckles on the glass pane of the front door. Amber was quick to hop off the stool and open the door and allow Thomas to come inside. He didn’t hesitate to pull her into a hug, this one so much more delightful that the one Amber had with Dennis.

“Ok, so here I am. What are we doing for our date?” Thomas said, clearly happy to just be there and be alone with Amber.

“I hadn’t actually thought that far ahead. Maybe we could just sit and talk for a bit to start with?” Amber suggested, to which Thomas happily agreed.

“Uh, we might want to move to the back room or something, these big glass windows are going to make it feel like we’re in a fishbowl.” Thomas suggested.

“Oh, good point, yeah come on back.” Amber said and led Thomas back into the storage room behind the kitchen where she pulled the chair out of Dennis’s office for him to sit on and she simply found a box of canned peas to sit on.

“I never thought I would be alone in the cafe with THE Amber” Thomas said as he took the chair. Amber giggled and nodded into the silence around her.

“So, I got the impression that there was more to the story that you couldn’t tell me this afternoon.” Thomas said after a moment.

“Yeah. I- I made this list of things I wanted to do before I..had to leave. There’s still a lot left on it, but the big one is..it’s something that’s just not going to happen so I figured we could just talk” Amber said.

“What’s the big one, I’ll bet we could take care of it.” Thomas said, smiling gently at Amber. She sucked in a fresh breath of air that helped cool her internal processor core, then blew out the hot air through her nose.

“It. It’s embarrassing honestly. I just- I’ve never been kissed.” Amber said, flushing bright red and looking away. She became vaguely aware that Thomas was moving somehow, and she assumed he was leaving. When she looked up she saw him standing over her, his hand was outstretched in a gesture indicating that he wanted to help her stand. Amber took his hand and rose to her feet and found herself looking into Thomas’s eyes.

“I think I can help with that.” Thomas said, placing his hand on Amber’s cheek and was surprised at how cool her skin felt. He paid it little to no attention as he brought his face to hers, tilting it to one side before tenderly pressing his lips into Amber’s. She made no move to stop him and when his hand moved from her cheek around to the back of her head and pressed her firmly against his mouth she let it happen. Partially because she loved the feeling, it was a new and amazing sensation that she had never expected. It was also in part due to the extreme volume of new data that was surging through Ambers systems. Her internal operating system was alive with new processes that had never run before. The artificial flesh of her lips were alive with the buzz of data and her aging processors were struggling to keep up with the flow of data from all over her body. Devices that had never been used checked in and requested permission to run programs and protocols. The most prominent of which was her sexual programming, which sent a relentless stream of requests for activation. Amber did not enable them yet, but she could feel herself getting very very hot.

Amber did have some rudimentary programming in store for this kind of situation and she used it as best she could. She brought her arms up and wrapped them around Thomas’s neck and held him close to her. The sensors in the skin around her face and neck alerted her to Thomas’s subtle movements and she was able to react. When he moved gently to the side, Amber matched his movement, allowing Thomas to easily and comfortably draw more and more kisses from her. She detected the subtle movement in his lips and was able to move her own to allow Thomas’s tongue to slip into her mouth. Her tongue was coated in a saline based saliva, and even if it tasted just a little off to Thomas, he never said anything about it. Amber allowed her internal programming to take over the movements of her tongue, dancing and gliding along with Thomas’s. Her robotic tongue was always alongside his as he probed and explored the inside of her mouth.

Thomas soon broke the lock on her lips and began making a small trail of kisses down her cheek and then to her neck. Once there he took the opportunity to nibble ever so slightly on the soft flesh. Amber responded in kind by letting her head tilt to one side and allow him all the access he needed to her. The sensors on her neck light up with data, small bites, gentle kisses and the warmth of Thomas’s breath all raced through the fiber optic cables inside of her body to her processor core. Instructions were decided and spread throughout her body, and soon Amber let out a small soft sigh and a whispered “oh yes” as Thomas continued his barrage of small kisses intertwined with longer desperate ones. Amber felt her arms tightening around Thomas’s body, holding him somehow closer to her, and with that closeness came the feeling of something pressing into her pelvis. The sensory data was clear on what it was, and Amber didn;t struggle against it.

Within mere moments of pressing their bodies together, Amber felt Thomas’s hands slipping up the back of her shirt, and began to work the clasp on her bra. She let it happen, she wanted it to happen, this was what she was hoping for all along and this being her last day in operation she welcomed it. Her internal systems were alight with new and exciting data points and she fully embraced all of them. It was a dream come true to Amber and she was delighting in every moment of it. Thomas had just managed to unfasten the last clip on her bra and was working his hands around her body to her chest, his lips still pressed into her throat, when an alarm sounded inside of her field of vision.

Closing time had come and passed and the grace period for her continued operation had finally come to an end. Despite how she fought against it, her operating system took her human emulation and her artificial mind offline, just as the first waves of sensory data from Thomas’s hands on her breasts swarmed her processors. She stood up straight and her face changed from its previous lust filled expression to a blank slate, devoid of emotion or life.

“Amber? Wh-what’s wrong?” Thomas said, pulling back and removing his hands from Ambers shirt, leaving it disheveled and clinging weirdly to her torso.

“Unit AAG-34567 has reached its end of life time. Please store this unit for pick up.” Amber said, her voice flat and emotionless.

“What?” Thomas said, clearly confused. Moreso when Amber abruptly turned and marched to the corner where she was set to recharge every night. She peeled back her sleeve and the panel in her wrist slid open. With the same precision that only a machine could have, she pulled out the cord, bent down, and plugged herself in. She then stood up straight and tall, not at all bothered by the loose bra hanging off of her chest below her shirt. Meanwhile Thomas watched, wide eyed as the waitress he had been falling for every week for years revealed herself to be merely an android. He hesitated for only a moment before walking over towards Amber, who’s eyes had just shut and her head dipped forward, chin resting against her chest. Thomas waved a hand in front of her face, then poked her shoulder a bit before trying to lift her head. Each attempt resulted in the same answer, Amber was indeed a robot.

“You’re..you’re a robot. Good lord…” exasperated, frustrated, and more than a little turned on from making out with Amber, Thomas let out a hefty sigh. He shook his head and pressed his lips together. He wanted Amber so badly, she was the reason he had come back to the diner every Friday, just seeing her and their little conversations between ordering and eating had become the best part of his work week. Now, not only was that being taken away but he was beginning to wonder if those interactions were the same chats she had with other customers. He wondered how much of this girl was programmed, and how much was made up on the fly. Amber stood there, powered down and looking like she had been fondled by some creep, Thomas didn’t want that type of look for her. He stepped up and reached around her, doing his best to reconnect the clasps he had just undone, and once firmly clipped in place he awkwardly adjusted her breasts and fit them back into the cups. She looked like herself once again, and Thomas sighed, next week maybe there would be a new waitress to replace her, maybe she would also be a robot. Thomas wasn’t sure he would be in on Friday to find out.