Maid to Order
Episode 0 - Prologue, About Androids
Long before Mr. Clarence Barker moved to Chicago, his work in bringing robotics into the household was well known around the world. The company Mr. Barker built from the ground up, Men and Machine Robotics, Inc., has become synonymous with quality and innovation. Although household robots were only a dream to Mr. Barker when he started his company, his dream has become reality for millions. Although the first robots he designed were only used for industrial purposes, his ideas spread around the globe and soon he was producing line after line of innovative and intelligent machines. His first big success, the QT series, became the poster child of customer service in restaurants and hotels around the world.
"Robotics should not be only for the rich and powerful, but for anyone with the ambition to better their lives and achieve greater things with the time we have" he wrote almost 40 years ago.
"His ideas were always light-years ahead of everyone else's. We were always playing catchup" his associate, Mr. Jenkins wrote. "Without Clarence, we would still be in the dark age of robotics."
Despite his great success, Clarence Barker's life was not without controversy. His plan to develop and sell robots capable of satisfying sexual needs became an international scandal, although they have continued to be the best selling items MMR Inc. produces. His latest lines continues to turn heads in the industry and has outsold every competitor model 2 to 1. It is unclear what endeavors are planed for the future of MMR, as the company is very secretive about their projects, but rumors have it that a new, more intelligent model is just around the corner.
Mr. Barker was found Wednesday morning in his office, having passed away from a heart attack the previous night. It is believed the heart attack was brought on by stress caused at work due to a recent scandal with an ex-employee who stole experimental equipment. The details of the case are still unclear to the media, but it proved to be too stressful for the 80 year old man to handle. It was believed that Mr. Barker was planning to step down from his role as CEO, and announce his retirement and successor. However, the MMR board will come to a decision of how to deal with the matter next week. For now, Mr. Jenkins will be taking charge of the company in a temporary position until a permanent decision as been made. It is unclear if Mr. Barker's Will mentions anything about his successor or how the company should be handled.
Mr. Barker's body has been cremated, and a ceremony will be held Friday at the Graceland cemetery for family and friends. Clarence Barker never married, and is survived by his sister-in-law and his nephew.
Episode 1 - Bad beginnings
The clock ticked slowly indicating the long passage of time as its pendulum swung back and forth. It was almost hypnotic, and with all the legal jargon filling the air, passing in my right ear and out my left, I almost wish I was hypnotized by it. I hadn't been listening to a thing the old man sitting in front of me was saying, except to pay close enough attention to notice when he was talking about me. Maybe I was bored, or perhaps still sad at the passing of my uncle. We were rather close, since he had no children of his own, and my father, his brother, died when I was young. When I was a child, he partially took upon himself my education and upbringing, despite my mother's continuing survival. He never really thought much of my mother, but then again she never really amounted to much. As I got older, I would hang out with Uncle Clarence all the time, we'd game together, drink together, go to movies and concerts. For a while he was like my dad, my uncle, and a big brother all wrapped up into one. But lately he had been so busy with some project at work, he had no time for play. He was gone now. I wondered if his work wasn't the cause of his stress that led to the killer heart attack. I found myself now sitting in front of his lawyer listening to things I didn't fully understand or care to understand in hopes that he left me a large sum of money in his will, or maybe his mansion. Hell, I’d settle for his car. "I leave to my dear nephew, Sean Barker..." the old man said without changing the inflection of his voice. I almost missed it except for hearing my name. I sat up and focused my attention. "... full control of my company, MMR, Inc., on one stipulation. He must complete his Bachelor's degree within the year in the top 10% of his class. Upon his commencement, if these statutes are met, he shall gain controlling interesting and the title of CEO in ’Man and Machine Robotics’." His company?! I didn't know how to run a company! Did he say top 10%?! Sure I'm not bad in class, but even I am only a “B” average student at best. "I understand this is a herculean task, and therefore I shall bequeath to him another gift, pre-arranged with my attorney, that shall be made available to him at the conclusion of the reading of this will. This gift will not only help Sean achieve the goals I set out for him, but also in his daily life as well. It is his to keep no matter the outcome of his task." What was mine to keep? Was it a car? His mansion? His money?! The guy was a billionaire, and yet he had not mentioned any monetary value. Oh Damn, he said something about charities earlier, I should have been listening! "In the event that my nephew is unable to meet these goals, his share of my will, with the exception of his gift, are to be given over to my associate, Mr. Howard Jenkins. This concludes the reading of Clarence Barker's will and testament" the speckled old man said, looking over the rim of his glasses at me. He had no emotion on his face except business as usual. "Wait... What!?" "I don't really have the time to read the entire will again, Mr. Barker, but I can provide you with a-" "No fortune? No mansion?! What the hell am I supposed to do with a company? I don't know how to run a company!" "Your BA in business should help you with that. Of course, you would first need to graduate at the end of the term one year from now, at the top-" "Top 10%? But I'm not an 'A' student. I can't just get to the top of my class like that!" I snapped. "I'm getting nothing from my uncle! He might have well left me a can of air. What am I supposed to do now? Did I mean nothing to him?" I was too upset to think clearly, or let my uncle's lawyer get a word in edgewise. I didn't want to have to work hard to get what I felt I already deserved from my uncle, but of course my uncle was never the type to encourage this behavior. He'd probably tell me something like hard work is its own reward. But I didn't want hard work, I wanted an easy life. The wrinkled nearly-bald lawyer started to speak, "Your uncle left you a very special-“ "If it isn't a house or a fancy car, I don't want it!" I objected. "It isn't a car, Mr. Barker" the old man finally said. "Or a house." "Then I don't-" "It is being delivered to your residence as we speak, and you will find it there when you arrive home". The old man was finally able to turn the table on me, and with a spark of attitude to go with it. "I-" I started to say, but didn't know what else to do. I knew that no matter how much I bitched and complained, nothing in that will would change. I decided it was best if I just shut my mouth. "It is yours to deal with whether you like it or not, Mr. Barker! I shall be in touch. We shall schedule a meeting together for the end of the school semester a year from now to go over your final arrangements. If there is anything you need from me, by all means hesitate to call. Now if you please, I have several more clients to see to. Good day, Mr. Barker." I reluctantly shook the man's hand, as frustration and anger rose inside me. I calmed down on the outside, and found my way back to the garage and to my car without any incident, but inside me a torrent of rage was building. I pity the man who cut me off on my way home.
Somehow, I survived my journey back to my cozy 2 bedroom apartment without a trip to the emergency room or jail. Before I could even get all the way out of my car, I found to my surprise (even though the old lawyer had warned me about it) that there was a large wooden crate, about 4 feet tall, waiting for me at my door. Next to the crate a rather bored looking hairy delivery man stood with a digital clipboard in his hands. His eyes lit up when he saw me approach the door. "Mr. Barker?" he asked. "Yes?" His shoulders dropped in relief a he handed the tablet toward me. "Package for you. Sorry about this, I was instructed to wait until you could sign for it." I didn't recognize the logo on his jacket. PDS was apparently a carrier service that catered to special needs of their clients. I eyed the wooden crate before shifting my gaze to the tablet he held out for me. I darted my eyes toward the man who waited eagerly for me to sign for the crate. I wasn't exactly in a cheerful mood, and I just wanted to get in and relax on the couch. Hurriedly, I grabbed the tablet, scribbled my name on it, and shoved it back at the guy without a word. "Thanks sir. Want me to bring it in for you?" I nodded with a grunt as I fumbled with my keys.
The crate stood in the middle of my living room, which quadrupled as my dining room, my rec-room, and my family room. In short, it was the only room that didn't have a specific use. Right now, it stood in between me and my television. The door slammed behind me before I could have the guy move the monstrous thing, taking his dolly-cart with him. I grunted as I rolled my eyes. I'd have to move it myself if I wanted to sit back and watch the tube. I hiked up my pants and leaned over, groaning as I tried to pull the thing out of the way. I think I managed to move it about 3 inches before I nearly pulled my back. Quickly, I stood up, grabbed my back as I cursed into the air, and sat down. It wasn't even noon yet and I already felt like giving up on the day. After recovering myself, I got to my feet and stormed into my guest room, which was really just my gaming room and my office, and emerged a few moments later with a hammer in my hand. I never had a need for a crowbar before, and now I wondered what I ever did without one. A hammer would just have to do for now. I decided that if I couldn't move the crate, I'd rip it apart and move the contents. I didn't care what was in it anymore. I just wanted to put up my feet and down a beer or two. The wooden crate was tougher than I thought it would be, but I finally managed to rip it apart after 3 million hours of prying away at the thing. I suppose it was a good way to relieve stress, except by now my back and my hands hurt. To my astonishment, inside the now dismantled crate was a large smooth metallic box. The box was more like a small gray refrigerator, with a smooth matte finish. Across the front of the box, in big bold dark-gray letters, was what could only be a model number for something, XKMD-531, and the word "prototype" underneath. Nothing else. I looked closely at the box, my curiosity getting the better of me, and decided to the best way to move the box was to empty the contents. So with a moment of hesitation, I pulled a small handle on the side, and opened the box. Cool air rushed out with a hiss, as white clouds of fog filled the room. On a warm summer day, the cool air was refreshing. I waved my hand in front of me, trying to clear up the air, as I peered inside the dark container. The silhouette of a girl sitting down was the first thing that came into view. I wasn't sure what exactly this was, but as the air cleared, it became all too obvious. Sitting inside the crate was an android. It wasn't even one of the new ones that looked human... or human-ish. No, this was clearly a plastic and metal number that one would normally find as a convenience store clerk. Although this model was classier than that. The chassis was well-built, with smooth lines tracing along the body in feminine curves. The entire thing was white, with black highlights and gold trimming. It almost looked like it was wearing a maid dress just by the way it was painted, although the glossy skin didn’t resemble anything like cloth. I stood there looking at the robot for a few minutes as it sat there silent and still inside its dark enclosure. The robot’s face was not as artificial as I had expected it to be based on the rest of the body. While it was still made of the same materials, the face was almost human in appearance, kind of like a doll. Her short black stylish hair was sculpted out of her head, unmoving and ever pristine. Had I been in a better mood, I would have been drooling over the fine details and the technical specifications of the robot. I had always loved robotics, even though I didn't own a robot myself. I didn't exactly have a lot of money to spend on such things, especially now that my rich uncle left me none. I found that I was at odds with myself. Part of me was still pissed that I didn't get anything from the man who I looked up to as a father for years, while another part of me was fascinated with the beautiful piece of technology sitting before me. It was that later part which acted next. I reached out without thinking, and pushed a small power-switch located in the middle of her chest, just below her collarbone... or what would have been a collarbone had she had any bones. At once, the switch started to glow green, and recessed deeper into her body. The faint green glow rushed up seams in her body and faded away, one set ending under her eyes. A small white panel slid over the power button, protecting and hiding it, while the start-up sequence began. A voice rang out from the figure, even though her mouth never moved. "Start-up sequence initiated" it informed in a friendly female voice. There was a chime, much like starting a computer, and then all was still. A minute went by with not much more than quiet whirs, which faded away. Suddenly, the robot moved. I took a step back as the girl opened her green eyes, raised her head, and sat up straight, in a very mechanical motion. She breathed in a heavy sigh, and looked around in a very mechanical manner. After a moment, her movements relaxed became much more natural and realistic. She carefully took a step out of the box and stood straight up, balancing carefully if a little awkwardly. She must have been about 5 foot 5, and looked lean and well-built. If only I had remained in awe of the technology before me longer, but unfortunately the part of me that was still pissed snuck its nasty head around again. "Good morning sir. I am-" the gynoid began to speak. Her face moved as smoothly as a human's, and her voice was natural and pretty. "Look robot," I interrupted. "I don't want to hear your spiel. I was looking forward to spending a vast fortune, living in a mansion, or at least driving a fancy new car. But no, all I got was you. Just move your box out of my way and be quiet." I was mean and cold, and it made me feel sick inside. Even though it was just a robot, it still didn't deserve such a harsh greeting for its first activation. Still, I had my tough guy mask on, and it wasn't coming off any time soon. I justified my behavior by thinking that it wasn’t even a sexbot, so what good was it? Despite my weak rationalization, I was shocked at how mean I sounded, but what surprised me more was the expression on the girl's face. She looked shocked, upset, even scared, if only for an instant. I had never seen a robot with emotions before, but this one had at least some minor ability to emote. However, I shrugged off her flash of emotion as though it never happened and resumed my nasty pissed off attitude again, pointing at the box behind her, then at the corner of the room. Timidly, she nodded her head and dragged the heavy box slowly across the floor. She was clearly not any stronger than a human, but with the box empty it had to have been easier to move. "Now just stay out of the way while I watch TV." "But sir, what shall I-?" she tried to ask. "I don't care! Just don't make any noise, and don't bother me!" "But-" I snapped at her again. "I DON'T CARE!" She recoiled at me outburst. At first she just stood there, before finally nodding in obedience. That would have been it in any normal case, but there was something different about her. She stood there for a long time just looking around the room while I tried to watch tv. Even her presence was annoying me now, and I found myself unable to concentrate on the program. Granted, I wasn’t really paying attention to it anyways but some little demon inside me was just looking for an excuse to get mad. “What are you doing?” I asked sharply. “I’m surveying your apartment, sir. I am trying to familiarize myse-“ “Well do it somewhere else! You’re bugging the CRAP out of me!” Let it be known I managed to somehow restrain myself from cursing like a sailor at her. She politely nodded her head and walked into the kitchen. I ignored her for a while, sitting down on the couch with my feet up watching TV. I wasn't really paying attention to what was on, but it was relaxing to let my mind go blank and not worry about all the things that started getting to me.
Before I had realized it, the robot girl had vanished into a back room somewhere, probably exploring the house. I wasn't sure I wanted her to, but what choice did I have? She wasn’t bothering me, so I got up during a commercial, went to the kitchen, and grabbed a beer and some leftovers. A quick microwave minute later, and I was back in front of my TV eating lunch. My mind went back into ‘La La-land’ once I finished my meal, at least until I heard a crash in the other room. I quickly got to my feet and ran into my bedroom. The robot girl was standing there holding a duster looking in surprise at a shattered glass picture frame she knocked over. It took a moment for me to register what happened, but I snapped when I did. "What did you do!?" "I- I'm sorry! I was trying to dust and didn't mean to-" "You broke my favorite picture frame!" I growled. It wasn't really my favorite picture frame; it was my only picture frame. I had been using it to hold a picture of my father and mother. I leaned down to carefully pick up the pieces and was glad to see the picture was still intact. "I'm so sorry! Please forgive me. I-" she pleaded. Her voice, as realistic as it sounded, didn't have the urgency or the passion a human voice would have had, but there was something different about her. It sounded like she was trying to be concerned and was genuinely sorry. "Of course you didn't mean it!" I interrupted. "I was only trying to clean up for you" she began. "Well don't! Don't mess with my stuff! I didn't ask you to; I don't want you!" Even I was surprised at what I said. She visually recoiled at my statement. I knew I struck a nerve, or something, and yet no robot would ever react like this normally. A sharp pain ran up my arm as I dropped a shard of broken glass. I ignored the pain of my cut, and balled my hand into a fist to hold in the bleeding. It only made me more upset. “I-“ she started to say. “Look! The only reason you’re here is because my dead bastard of an uncle willed you to me. Instead of having a fortune or a mansion, I got you. I never wanted you. I didn’t ask for you!” She was still for a while as silence filled the room. I was more than surprised at myself for my attitude and instantly I regretted what I had said. But I was mad, darn it! And I wasn’t about to show weakness by apologizing. Suddenly she looked up at me with anger in her eyes. I swear if she had tear ducts, she would have been crying. "I didn't exactly get a choice of who would be my master either!" She turned her head away violently and vanishing into the hallway, leaving me standing there with a cut hand and a shattered picture frame, feeling like even worse shit than I was acting.
Her words hung in the air and in my mind. I walked into the bathroom and washed my hand. The cut was deep, right into the muscle. I was being such a jerk, I managed to take out all my frustration and anger on the one gift my uncle gave me, and didn’t even care that I had injured myself doing it. I hated myself, but didn’t know what to do about it. As I applied a bandage and gauze to my hand, I decided it was best to leave her alone and not say anything until I cooled down. What was it Thumper said? If you can’t say anything nice, shut the fuck up? Something like that. I walked back into the family room and saw the girl standing silently next to her metallic case with her head down. Scrap boards of wood from the packaging were still strewn about the place and I realized it was a mess. I was not in the mood to deal with it, especially with my freshly injured hand, so instead I grunted at the robotic maid. “Throw the wood outside in the trash. Please.” I managed to add a ‘please’ before flipping off the TV and disappearing inside the gaming room, slamming the door behind me.
For the next few hours, I immersed myself in the world of online gaming. It was better that I take my frustration and anger (most of which was at myself) out on a helpless ogre or goblin. I was surprised at how well mindlessly flogging digital monsters calmed me down and cleared my mind. I suppose internal reflection combined with mindless violence actually helped me internally work out my issues. The main problem I was having was with myself, my attitude. I was acting like a jerk! I never would have done any of this if I wasn’t in such a bad mood. And of course the core of my anger wasn’t my new robot gift, it wasn’t the fact that I didn’t get a fortune to spend or a car to drive, it was the fact that I lost my uncle and I didn’t know how to deal with it. My father died when I was very young, and for most of my life, it was just me and my mom. My uncle had paid for my education, and when I got older we would hang out together. He was an important part of my life, but ever since he died I didn’t know what to do with myself. I realized that I had also been abusing a gift that he gave to me. I wasn’t even sure why he gave her to me, but I knew that my uncle always had a bigger picture in mind. I stopped gaming, and realized it was getting late and I hadn’t eaten anything. I realized that I was hungry when I smelled food cooking.
I found the android in the kitchen cooking. I wasn’t sure what she was making, or why since I hadn’t given her any instructions. And yet for some reason she was silently making a meal for me. It would have to be for me, since androids don’t eat food, or at least none that looked as plastic and artificial as she did. “Dinner will be ready shortly, sir” she said timidly and without looking up. I nodded and kept my damn mouth shut. I had already pissed myself off with my attitude today, and I didn’t need to do it again. I cleared off the table without saying a word, something I would never do if I was eating by myself. Technically I was eating by myself, since she wouldn’t be eating, but that’s just semantics. As I sat down at the table, the gynoid maid presented a homemade meal of stir fried veggies with chicken, a salad, and a drink. I was surprised she could make anything with the little I had in the fridge, but somehow she managed to turn left overs and frozen food into a delightful little meal. It was good. It could have been better, but I was sure I was lacking all the basics needed in real cooking. Still, it was better than anything I ever made. I ate without saying a word, without thanking her, or praising her. I was still too ashamed of myself and afraid I would say something I would regret again. Instead, I just ate in silence as she watched me from the kitchen. “Thanks” I mumbled as I finished my plate and handed it to her. She nodded and took the dishes and proceeded to clean them and put them away. While she worked, I sat down in my usual place and turned on the TV. Again, I didn’t hear a thing on the TV, but it wasn’t because I was trying to turn my brain off. It was because I was screaming at myself in my head for being such a slime to her. I played back all my interactions with the robot in my head since I first opened up her package, and tried to imagine what I must have seemed like to her. I hated myself. But she was only a robot, right? Robots go through worse than this, I’m sure. Somehow I knew I was only rationalizing my behavior again, and got so sick and tired of myself that I decided I needed to sleep. Maybe things would be better tomorrow.
I flipped off the TV and headed toward my bedroom, the mechanical girl in tow behind. The shattered remains of my one and only picture frame remained on a bookshelf in my room, reminding me of the ass I was, and that the gynoid behind me was probably awaiting orders or something. “If you need to charge up, there’s a plug by the couch” I mumbled. Maybe in the morning things would all be better. “Of course. Good night, sir.” Despite the way I had been treating her, she still wished me a good night. How much of a jackass was I? “Mm. Night” I managed to say. She took her leave and vanished into the dark hallway as I closed my bedroom door behind me.
I didn’t sleep that night. I kept trying to get comfortable, but my mind kept racing with thoughts and emotions. I was a wreck and the little sleep I got was always abruptly ended by a forgotten nightmare that would keep me awake. It wasn’t until about 3 in the morning that I heard a noise in the other room. At first, it sounded like a child, and it really freaked me out. I cautiously and quietly got out of bed to investigate. As I opened my door, I realized it wasn’t a child, but rather a girl, the robot girl. She was crying, or something like it. She couldn’t actually cry but she was still sobbing. “Why? Why did this have to be this way? Did I do something wrong? What do I do?” I crept closer as she sobbed to herself sitting on the far corner of the couch. “I don’t know if I can’t handle this! Why does he treat me like this? What’s wrong with me?! What did I do? Why did this have to happen to me? What-“ She stopped speaking instantly as the floor creaked under my foot. Damn floor boards. I peeked out from behind the corner of the hallway to see her sitting still and silent, like a deactivated android. That was creepy by itself, but her words were concerning. I crept back into my room, my mind filled with more questions, more thoughts. Why would an android talk to herself? Why was she blaming herself for this? How was it possible she was sobbing? The rest of the night I sat up in bed thinking. I didn’t even try to sleep anymore. I just sat there reflecting on myself, on my life, and on my behavior. After 3 hours of sitting in the dark contemplating things, I had finally come up with an answer: I was an idiot. My uncle hadn’t left me a car because I would have had it for a month or two before I inevitably lost my license or had to pay taxes on the thing, and that would have been more than I could afford. He hadn’t left me a mansion because I would never be able to afford the utilities. And he wouldn’t have left me his fortune, because I would have wasted it. He knew full well that I didn’t manage my money well. He also knew that if I earned something, I would have appreciated it more. And right now, I had to earn something. I had to earn the respect and friendship of the only gift he left me, the gynoid in the other room. I realized now that she was no normal robot. My uncle was the head of the biggest robot manufacturer in the world, MMR! If he gave me a prototype android, it must have been a very special one indeed! And here I was scolding it because I was too lazy to move a crate. I knew the only thing I could do now was to apologize. No! An apology wasn’t enough! I would have to make it up to her. I would have to earn her friendship, and that meant I would do whatever I could to make her happy. Could an android be happy?
My alarm went off at 7 am, and I flipped it off before it even managed to reach full volume. With less than an hour of decent sleep, I was surprised how rested I felt. I got up and cleaned myself. My hand was still in pain and hurt, and my bandage was covered in blood. I changed the dressing and got dressed, readying myself for what I had to do. Before I could even reach for the doorknob to my room, the smell of eggs cooking hit my nostrils. Damn she already beat me to it. I took a deep breath and left my room, putting on a smile that I hoped would help me lift my spirits. It faded before I could reach the end of the hallway. I started to feel like an ass again when I realized she was making me breakfast without having been asked and was always more cordial to me than I deserved. I entered the room feeling depressed and nervous. The white and black gynoid stood there with a fixed emotionless expression on her face as she platted scrambled eggs and toast. It smelled good, and I was suddenly unable to speak. “Breakfast is ready, sir.” She sounded depressed also, and I knew that it really was up to me to change the tone. “Thanks” was the most I could get out while I tried to rethink of what I had planned to say.
I sat down at the table as she placed the food in front of me. It was nice to have a hot cooked breakfast for the first time in years. Again, it was more delicious than I deserved, and again she stood there silently nearby waiting to take care of the dishes. I cleared my throat. “Please, sit” I asked her indicating the chair across from me. She seemed confused at first, but complied silently, always keeping her head down. I took a bite while she did, and nodded to myself. “This is really good. Thank you.” She said nothing but only nodded. I took another deep breath and closed my eyes. I had prepared myself all night for this apology, but still I had no idea what to say. I opened my mouth to speak but she beat me to it. “I’m sorry for my behavior, sir. I know I shouldn’t speak out of turn, but I wanted to let you know I will try harder to stay out of your way.” She kept her head down and her green eyes looking down to her right. “Why?” I asked. “I mean, why have you been so nice to me after how I treated you?” “I- I thought that if at least one of us was happy, this relation- my purpose wouldn’t be a total failure.” “No!” I burst out. “You’re wrong. I mean… You didn’t do anything wrong! I did.” She looked up at me as though she were scared I would hit her or something. I made sure to calm down, and try to change my tone. “I heard you last night” I said. She looked mortified. “I couldn’t sleep because I kept thinking about how badly I was treating you. How much of a jerk I was. I’m sorry. Really I am! You probably don’t know this but my uncle died recently, and my dad’s been dead for a long time, so Uncle Clarence was more like a father to me. I was frustrated that he died and didn’t leave me a vast fortune in his will, but I realize now that he did. He left me you, and if you’re his gift to me, you have to be something special.” The girl looked surprised. Although blushing was not exactly possible for her, I’m sure she would have been doing just that. Instead, she sat there silently contemplating what I had said. I continued. “He left you to me to help me better myself, but all I’ve done is insult you and yell at you. I may not have asked for you, but I do want you. I’m sorry for upsetting you.” “I-“ she began. “No one has ever apologized to a robot before” she said. “What do I do?” “Accept my apology?” I suggested. “I don’t know if I can…” she said quietly, fidgeting. “Let me make it up to you then. I interrupted your introduction yesterday, so let’s start over. Afterwards, I’ll show you around, and then we can do whatever you want.” Robots didn’t have wants, I told myself, but I didn’t know what else to say. She nodded and breathed deeply. “Alright. I’ll accept your apology, but you have to promise to… uh…” She didn’t know what to say either, so I took the initiative. “I promise to never yell at or scold you again” I said, crossing my heart with my finger. She gave me an amused look, like she was still trying to gauge my attitude toward her. “Alright. Apology accepted.” She smiled for the first time since I spoke to her, and I could see her relax more. “This is so awkward” she commented. “Yeah” I said taking another bite of eggs. “These are really good. Thank you. Thank you for everything.” “You’re welcome, sir.” “Please, call me Sean.” “Sean.” She smiled timidly. “Sean Barker” I said, holding out my hand to her. She took my hand and squeezed gently as we shook. “Oh, your introduction” I alerted. She cleared her throat, a gesture I’m sure didn’t actually do anything for her, and prepared to speak. “Good morning sir- ah! Sean. I am the XKMD-531 prototype android, unit 3. I am here to serve all your basic household needs, including cleaning, cooking, and more. I am fully upgradable and programmable, and come preloaded with over 500 household chores and commands. I look forward to serving you.” I clapped for her as she bowed her head. “What about your name?” I asked. “I don’t currently have a designation, but if you would like to assign one…” she suggested. I had no idea what to name her… I was terrible at names. I frantically looked around the room for something that would give me an idea for a name. Anything. Frigidaire? No! GE? What? Sony? Ugh! I glanced up behind her and saw something that I knew would have to work. “April” “April?” She asked. “Like the month?” “Sure, why not? It’s April now, and it marks the beginning of spring, the beginning of change.” Good way to rationalize it, I thought… even though spring starts in March. But what kind of girl’s name is ‘March’? “April! Alright. My name is April. It is good to meet you, Sean” she said, nodding her head again in a little bow. She smiled at me as I sat there studying her. She was rather interesting for a robot. She looked like one of those friendly but emotionless robots you’d probably see at a fancy hotel, except she was far more… ‘alive’ in her mannerisms and behavior. She definitely seemed to have emotions of some sort, even if they were only artificial. “Is… is there something on my face?” she asked. I realized that I had been staring at her this whole time while eating. “Ah! No no! Sorry. I just… you seem so different than what I expected. So… natural.” She giggled, actually giggled. I had never heard a robot giggle before, but hers was nice and warm. I’m sure if she could, she would have blushed as well. “Thank you” she said quietly. “And you seem quite different from yesterday yourself.” “Yeah… I’m really sorry about that. I’ve been really depressed lately and guess I just took out my frustrations on you.” “I understand” she said. “It must be difficult losing someone close to you. I- Oh! Your hand!” April had just noticed my left hand which I was trying to keep hidden, still covered in in a bloody bandage, while I reached for a glass of orange juice. “Oh this? It’s nothing. I just cut myself when I was cleaning up my stupid picture frame. It’s not your fault!” “Let me take a look at that. It looks deep.” She reached out and took my hand gently in hers, and unwrapped the gauze and bandage. “This is pretty deep. Let me help! It could get infected.” She led me over to the sink and turned on the cold water, placing my hand under it. It was still bleeding, although it was a lot less than yesterday. “Do you have a first aid kit?” she asked. “In the bathroom under the sink.” I pointed out. “Stay here and don’t move. I’ll be right back” she said as she rushed out of the tiny kitchen and into the hallway. A moment or two later, she came rushing back in with a small white box with a big red ‘+’ on the front, and instantly set it beside me and started going through things. “There’s still a piece of glass in there and I’ll need to get it out” she said. I hadn’t noticed anything myself, but that might explain why it was still bleeding. Quickly and skillfully, April used a pair of tweezers to pull a shard of glass out of the wound I had been ignoring. It was a tiny shard, but it was sharp and enough to be a problem. And of course, it stung like hell as she cleaned my wound. I decided it was my punishment for my recent behavior, and just took it like a man. “I’m sure this must hurt, you’re being very good about this, Sean” she said as she washed my hand with soap. “I’m so sorry I broke your picture.” “It’s ok. It was just a frame, the picture is fine” I said through grated teeth. “Was that your uncle in the picture?” she asked as she prepared some antibiotic ointment. “No. It’s my father. I never really knew him, but I like to keep his picture around.” “Oh. I’m sorry-“ “Don’t be, it’s long in the past” I hissed as she applied a fresh bandage with extra gauze and wrapped my hand in a gauze strip. “I’m sorry to hear about your uncle. Try to keep your hand elevated to reduce the bleeding” she said as she put the contents of the first aid kit away again. “Thank you, April.” There was an awkward silence for a moment after I thanked her, and I wondered if I did something again to upset her. She raised her head and looked me in the eyes. Her eyes, as mechanical as they were, were very pretty. “You’re welcome, Sean.” There was something sensual about the way she said it, or maybe it was just my imagination. After all, her body was not one designed for that kind of activity. “Enough apologizing and thanking already. We both had a bad day yesterday” she said, looking away from me. “Let’s make up for it by having a much better day today.”
April was still a little timid around me at first, but I deserved that. I knew if I kept my attitude and temper in check, she’d open up to me sooner or later. But for now, we decided to take a tour of my apartment. It isn’t a big apartment, and showing her around didn’t take long at all. She saw the majority of it already. Still, I made everything official by telling her what I used each room for. By the time we finished in the only full bathroom in the place, she had gotten a good sense of the crapped living space I had. “And where would you like me to stay?” she asked. “I can continue to use the couch if you’d like. Or even the closet.” “The closet?!” What an absurd idea. “Sure. A lot of people keep their maid-bots in a closet until they’re needed.” She said this rather matter-of-factly, and didn’t seem to find it upsetting to suggest it to me. “No. I can’t do that. I already treated you poorly, you deserve better. I’ll think of something. Just give me a bit to figure it out.” “Alright. And would you like me to continue to make your meals for you?” she asked as we walked out of the bathroom and toward the living room. “That would be nice, if it’s alright with you. I’m not really much of a cook.” “Of course! I could be glad to prepare your meals for you.” She was very polite and cordial about the whole thing, I figured it must be a program or something to get used to my preferences. “And what time would you like to get up?” “Um… Well on Mondays I have class at 8…” I thought for a moment and realized my schedule was a little complicated. “Here, let me just show you my calendar.” I pulled out my phone, which kept an up-to-date schedule for everything I did. “Oh! I can subscribe to your calendar if you want sir- ah… Sean. I can update it for you as well if you’d like.” “Uh... sure, that sounds cool.” “I’ll just need some basic information to log into your account.” “Sure, whatever you want.” I didn’t realize she was able to do something like that. “What else can you do?” “Oh… well I can do lots of things. I can keep track of your finances, make budget plans, take dictation, update your contacts, give you suggestions on places to eat or shop, to name a few… I have over 500 household chores programmed into me, and over 2,000 presets for your convenience. I am also fully capable of learning anything you want me to know. I am even capable of playing video games with you if you’d like.” Everything she said sounded fascinating, and yet boring at the same time. Except the gaming part. I realized it was her personality that was the problem. She was capable of emotions of some sort, but she also talked and acted very much like a boring person with no unique personality… a default setting so-to-speak. Of course I provided her with all the information she needed to monitor everything in my life. She could access my bank account, my online storage, my contacts and calendar, even my game accounts. Having a partner gaming with me online sounded like a fabulous idea, so I made sure to set her up with her own accounts as well. She very quickly started to feel like a new toy. “I noticed you have school 4 days a week, would you like me to keep track of your grades and assignments as well?” “You can do that?” I asked astonished. “I can log into any website, and most schools keep all their records online for you to access. So yes, I can do that.” She seemed to be getting in a better mood now, and I was glad for it. “Of course!” I set her up with all my various accounts and passwords, and realized that she had access to most of my life. I’d have to be careful with her so my information stayed safe. People did steal robots to get access to that kind of information. “What would you like me to do when you’re away from home?” she asked. “Anything you want.” “I don’t understand. I… don’t have wants and desires” she said almost as though she questioned the statement herself. “Well… do whatever should be done around here.” “I… I’m confused. I need an order, Sean. I…” She seemed to hesitate and started thinking intently to herself. “Well… if anything needs to be repaired or cleaned and you are capable of doing it, do that. Otherwise, just enjoy yourself.” “Enjoy myself?” she asked. “Yeah, you know, play a game, watch some TV or a movie, read a book. Enjoy yourself.” “I… um… ok. I’ll ‘enjoy’ myself when I’m done with the chores” she said. It almost sounded naughty, except she was rather confused and still trying to understand her new orders. “Uh... Are you alright?” I asked. “Yes. I’m not experiencing any errors or conflicts… Is there something wrong?” she asked. “No, no. You just seemed distracted there for a moment.” “Oh… I was just processing your request. I will do my best to fulfill my orders as you like. I just… don’t understand something.” “What is it?” “Robots do not ‘enjoy’ things. So why did you order me to enjoy myself?” she asked, looking at the ground confused. “I… didn’t think of that. Sorry, if you can’t follow-“ “What confuses me more is that I don’t find any error when I process your command” she said. “I expected to run into an error, but everything seems to be fine.” “Umm… good? I guess there’s no problem then.” “It appears that way” she said before turning her eyes back to me. “I will do my best to ‘enjoy myself’.” “Excellent. Now then, what shall we do for the rest of the day?” I asked. “Besides lunch and dinner, the choice is yours” she said in her same friendly way. “Except there is one thing I have suddenly become aware about.” “Yeah?” “You said your uncle left me in his will to you” she said. “He did. I’m sorry I didn’t properly explain, but he left you to me.” “Instead of the other things you wanted” she said quietly. “I- Hey! That’s not fair. I’m sorry I said those things, but the truth is you are a far better gift than anything else I was thinking of.” I was a little cross that she brought that up again, but I did realize I only told her about my uncle in passing when I yelled at her yesterday. “Sorry! I didn’t mean to bring it up. I was just repeating information for confirmation. Sorry.” “It’s ok” I said eyeing her. She did seem to be sorry she brought it up, so I didn’t give her a hard time about it. “So what about it?” “Why did he leave me to you?” she asked looking up at me. “To help me get my grades up so I can inherit his… company.” I realized as I was saying this that April had already come to a realization before I even finished the sentence. “I see” she said, knowingly. “And how are your assignments coming now, Sean?” “Ah! I-“ I stuttered when she brought it up. “I thought so. As much as you’d like to have fun today, I must insist that we work on your assignments for your classes first. Since today is Saturday, if you can finish all your homework today, we can spend the day tomorrow shopping and having fun.” Suddenly April seemed to have this air about her that said she was right, and I had to do what she said. And she was right. I hadn’t touched my homework since I got word that my uncle died. I already missed 2 days of classes and a deadline, so I’d have to make up for it to get my grades up. “But I’m in mourning” I whined. “Mm-hmm.” April hummed. “Well I don’t want to upset you but your uncle’s will clearly states that you have only one year to get to the top of your class, and that doesn’t leave much time to-“ “Wait a second!” I interrupted. “How did you know about his will?” She stopped talking and froze for a moment. “I… read it online.” “Online? When?” “This morning. While we were talking.” “While we were-?” I said shocked. “Online? Like… the internet?” “That’s what online normally refers to” she said innocently. “How did his will get online?!” “I did a search for your name and it was the top hit.” I ran into the computer room and looked up my name, and sure enough, there were easily a dozen articles mentioning my name in my uncle’s will. Someone had leaked the document to the press, and now it was all over the news! And with that, so was my name and my reputation. Now all I needed to worry about was reporters knocking at my door. Speaking of the devil… a knock came from the door. “Don’t get that!” I screamed. I ran back into the other room and peeked out of the spy hole in the door. Sure enough, a woman in a business suit with a microphone and a man with a camera were standing outside looking up at the door. “Mr. Barker?” the muffled woman’s voice said from the other side of the door. “This is Kim Couran from action 12 news. I would like to ask you a few questions about your uncle.” “Holy shit!” I spat. I looked around and realized that my place was still a mess. And worse, April was standing right there, and I didn’t want anyone to see her right now. She was my gift from my uncle, and if anyone knew I had a prototype android in my apartment, I might have well kissed her goodbye. “One second” I yelled through the door. “Quick” I whispered to April, “hide! I don’t want the news to see you.” “But my box!” April pointed out. It was far enough out of the way that they wouldn’t see it if I only cracked the door open. Better yet, I just wouldn’t let them inside at all. April ran back into the computer room and closed the door. I glanced at myself in a mirror and regretted not spending more time with my hair that morning. But it would just have to do. Slowly I opened the door a crack and peaked out. I was greeted by a bright light, a camera in my face, and a woman asking me questions fast than I could think, shoving a microphone at me. “One second” I said as I slipped outside in my dirty worn clothes and closed the door behind me. “Mr. Barker, is it true that your uncle left you a gift to help you with your studies?” the woman asked. “Um… yes, it was, I mean, it is true.” I answered. Quickly I had to think of a lie to tell them that the public would believe. “And what was that special gift?” She got straight to the point. Damn, a nosey and smart reporter. I had to make sure they were satisfied so they wouldn’t stick their noses around here all the time. “I… umm… got a tutor. Yes, a private tutor to help me study.” Good one, Sean. “And do you think this tutor will be able to help you go from the bottom half of your class to the top in one year?” “I… I hope so. I mean… she should.” “She? What is her name?” Damn it. “Uh.. I’d rather not say, you know, privacy concerns.” She asked a dozen or more such questions such as what I intended to do with the company if and when I inherited it, and questions about politics I didn’t really understand yet. I was pretty sure I was in the clear by the end of the questions when she threw a curve ball at me. “And what was inside the large wooden crate?” “Aah- what?” She held up a piece of the wooden crate that April had thrown outside last night. “This large crate.” “Um… just a bunch of… umm... computer parts. Listen, I’m sorry but my uncle just died and I’m still trying to take this all in, plus I have a lot of homework to do. Good luck with your- uh.. story miss… Couran. Uh... Goodbye!” I quickly slipped back into my apartment and locked the door tight. I silently cursed to myself as I exhaled in relief. “It’s ok, April. You can come out now.” April peaked her head out of the office door, and looked around cautiously. “They’re gone” I told her. “I hope. I don’t think I want anyone to know you’re a… prototype” I said in a hushed tone, just in case someone was listening in. “I see” she said. “Well, there aren’t any other androids that look like me that aren’t prototypes, so I guess that means I’ll have to stay indoors.” “No, I think you’ll be alright. You don’t have the words prototype printed on you anywhere, and most people would assume you were a custom model or something. Besides, they only want a story on me and what I’ll do when and if I take over the company. Man this sucks. I hope they don’t keep sticking their noses around here.” “Might I suggest you refrain from any further interviews then, Sean?” she suggested. “Good idea.” “So…” she sighed. “About your homework.” I let out a long groan followed by an even longer sigh. “I’ll get the text book.” April gave me a cute little smile as I went to my room to grab my book bag. By the time I got back, she had already set herself down at the table, waiting anxiously for me to arrive. “Don’t forget your pencil” she reminded. She was going to be the death of me.