His Robot Girlfriend

His Robot Girlfriend
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IshaJohnson,United Kingdom,Professional
Published Date:31-07-2017
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Chapter One Mike’s life was crap. And every day he got up out of bed and thought about how it was crap. Today he climbed out of bed and made his way through the discarded clothing on the floor of the bedroom to the bathroom. His worn image looked out of the mirror at him. He picked up his cordless razor and turned it on before remembering that it was Saturday. He stuck out his tongue at his reflection. Slipping off his underwear, he tossed it at the hamper just outside the bathroom door. It landed on the floor. Turning on the shower, he stepped inside the glass-doored stall, and stood beneath the spray. He took a deep breath and then began soaping up and rinsing off. Pouring a handful of shampoo, he scrubbed his scalp, rinsed, and then turned off the water. He waited about two minutes partly to drip dry and partly because he didn’t want to face the day before he climbed out of the shower stall. Once he was dry, he walked back into the bedroom, crossed to the dresser, and pulled out a clean pair of underwear. The underwear was so old that it looked more grey than the white that it had been, and the material had worn through enough that the elastic showed in the waistband. He slipped his left foot in the leg hole and then the right, getting his big toe caught for just a second. Pleased with himself that he had not lost his balance, he went back to the bathroom and combed his thinning and graying hair. It had been graying for a long time. It had only been thinning, at least noticeably for a few of years just since Tiffany had died. He brushed his teeth, and grinned at the man in the mirror. It wasn’t a friendly grin. Back in the bedroom, he slipped on cut-off jeans and a green t-shirt. Then he walked through the bedroom door, down the stairs, through the living room, and into the family room. He touched the screen of the vueTee hanging just above the fireplace to turn it on, then passed through the archway and into the kitchen. Pouring a bowl of cereal, he sniffed the milk before adding it. It was still good. Grabbing a spoon, he headed for the worn recliner which faced the vueTee. The screen was on, but it wasn’t alive with movement and sound. It still had the browser up and it was still on the Daffodil site. Mike had followed the link the night before from the very slick commercial he had seen during the Tonight Show. On the left side of the screen was a large yellow daffodil and on the right were four large yellow buttons, arranged vertically. The first said Barone, the second Amonte, the third Nonne, and the fourth PWX. Daffodil wasn’t the largest manufacturer of robots, but it certainly had the most cultural cache. Their commercials were by far the best. Everyone seemed to be talking about them. Mike could hum their jingle right now. The four buttons corresponded to the four basic robot units that Daffodil produced. Though there was some crossover between the four types based on the many options that were chosen, the Barone was usually an aid to adults—a robot maid, gardener, or grandparent. The Nonne was a babysitter type: a tutor, a nanny, or again, depending upon the options, a maid. The PWX was an industry grade robot designed for use by corporations and government organizations as a receptionist or a clerk. Finally the Amonte was a personal companion. It could be configured as an escort, a friend, or a lover. As the commercial said, it was “anything and everything you want it to be”. Mike leaned back in the chair and pointed the remote at the vueTee. He moved the curser over the Amonte button and pressed. The body frame options screen came up, but there was a small window along the left side that said “narrow your selections”. You could narrow them by price. You could narrow them by race-ethnicity. Or you could narrow them by gender. Mike ignored that side of the screen and looked at the body build. If you were going to dream, you might as well dream unencumbered. Dials allowed one to set height, chest, waist, and hips. He had already filled in these features the previous night. After that, one flipped through a series of screens where prospective customers could change almost every aspect of their robot. The head controls gave one control over the shape and placement of eyes, nose, lips, and ears, but also let one choose the forehead shape and jaw line, the hair color and style, the type of chin, and the placement of freckles. Other controls set every detail from fingernails to nipples. Mike flipped through them. The last screen showed the price for his particular build: 2699.00. That would just about wipe out his payNEtime account. Mike let his curser drop down to the search bar. He moved through the postings about Daffodil. There were many from people questioning certain aspects of the design, but few from people who had actually purchased one. Daffodil didn’t disclose their sales figures to the public, but experts estimated that they had thus far sold only about 300,000 units. There were a few messages from owners of the Gizmo robot, who went on about how superior it was, because you set its personality before purchase. There was only one posting that Mike hadn’t seen. He clicked on it and an aging woman with orange hair appeared on the screen. “I love my Daffodil. He does everything for me—takes care of the bills, fixes my meals. He drives me to visit my friends, and he rubs my feet every night. His name is Andre. I just don’t know what I’d do without him.” “Probably move to Florida,” said Mike. He flipped over to Today Saturday. As he watched Tania Marquez read through the top stories of the day, he thought about purchasing a Daffodil. Twenty seven hundred dollars was a ginormous amount of money to spend. If he had still been married to Tiffany there would be no question. He wouldn’t have bought one. He would still have wanted one, but he wouldn’t have bought one. Oh, Tiffany might have gone for a five hundred dollar model designed just to clean the house, but she certainly never would have let him get the one that he had designed online. Of course if she had still been here... Oh sure, he might have fantasized about a Gizmo Sexbot, but it would have remained just a fantasy. Besides, he didn’t want a Daffodil for sex—well, not just for sex. If he was going to get one, it would be for companionship. It would do all the things that it was capable of doing. The rest of the morning, Mike watched the vueTee. After Today Saturday was over, he turned to the Cooking Channel and watched Café Italiano, Breakfast at Bloomberg’s, and America’s Test Kitchen. When Noon Buffet came on, he turned off the vueTee and picked up his texTee. The New York Times had already downloaded, so he flipped through the pages. Most of it was politics. Mike didn’t hate politics, like everyone else he knew seemed to. It was just that there didn’t seem much point to it at the moment. All three major parties had chosen their candidates even though none of them had yet had their convention, and it was more than six months till the general election. The paper bored him after a few minutes, so he clicked through the book menu. He had the first chapter of The Janissary Tree, so he read it. When he was done, he still wasn’t sure if he wanted to spend 17.99 for it. He flipped over to Moby Dick. He had the whole book. Before this year, he hadn’t read it since college and wanted to read it through again, annotating it along the way—just because. It was slow going. Here it was April, and he was only on Chapter 24: A Bosom Friend. He tossed the texTee onto the floor beside the chair. Though he wasn’t really hungry, Mike decided that it was lunch time, mostly out of boredom. He went to the foyer, where his tennis shoes sat on the ceramic tile. Slipping them on, he grabbed his keys and wallet from the small shelf on the wall and headed out the front door. Climbing into the car, he drove down the block and around the corner. He thought about stopping at Hot Dog Paradise, but there was a long line of cars in the drive-thru, so he went to McDonalds. The girl at the window could have been mistaken for a real person at first, but just like in every other fast food drive-thru window, she was a robot. She was probably a Gizmo Servbot, though McDonalds had their own custom build that wasn’t quite like anywhere else. “I’ll have a McMeatloaf sandwich,” he said. “Would you like that ala carte or with an Arch Value Meal?” She had that slightly tinny voice. “Value meal.” “Would you care for fries, side salad, fruit slices, or yogurt sticks?” “Fries.” “And what would you like to drink?” “Diet Pepsi.” “Your total comes to 17.96.” Mike swiped his cash card through the slot just below the window.“Thank you for choosing McDonalds. Please pull forward.” At the next window a girl, a real girl this time, handed Mike his drink and then the bag with his McMeatloaf sandwich and fries. He drove back home and returned to his recliner to eat. The vueTee had automatically turned off in his absence, so he turned it back on. He watched Face the Nation as ate. Catherine Garvey was interviewing all three presidential candidates—one at a time. The Republicans had nominated another old man. The Democrats had nominated another old lady. It was the same old thing. Barlow said lower taxes. Wakovia said balance the budget. Only the Greens seemed to have picked anyone who wasn’t a cookie- cutter image. Mendoza was young, attractive, and idealistic, and probably didn’t have a chance in hell of getting elected because she had inherited all the problems of President Busby. As long as there were troops in Antarctica, nobody was going to vote Green. When he was done eating, Mike looked around. He really needed to clean up the house he decided. He would get up and clean for a half hour. He could manage a half hour. By the time he had emptied and then refilled the dishwasher and emptied the trash compacter though, he didn’t feel like continuing, even though only fourteen minutes had passed. He sat back down watched more vueTee, dozing off after a while and waking up just in time for Deal of the Century. Then came Rat Race and then Pajama Party. He opened a can of soup for dinner and went to bed after Saturday Night Live. Mike woke up just after five with a splitting headache. The bed was cold, not surprising considering he had left both the oscillating fan and the auxiliary air conditioner on. He got up and turned one off then walked downstairs to the family room to turn off the other. Stopping for a moment, he reached up and touched the vueTee screen, turning it on. An infomercial for the all-in-one electronic device charger blared to life, but he sat down and grabbed the remote, thumbing back to the browser and examining the Daffodil page once more. With a sudden sense of purpose he zipped through the custom design pages, changing most of the settings that had been there since he had first looked it over. He didn’t know why he made most of the changes that he did. It was as if something unseen and unknown inside him compelled him to do it. With a slightly hesitant hand, he pressed the “Buy Now” button. 2749.00. Then he went back to bed. It was more than five weeks later, May 31st, when the package arrived. In the interim, life had gone on much as it had for the past several years. Each weekday, Mike tried to teach World Geography to the dullards that passed for eighth grade students in Midland Middle School, after which he came home and vegetated the evening away. On the weekends, he skipped the first part, and simply vegetated. One night, the Saturday before last, he had dinner with Harriet and Jack. Every day he looked forward to the change that was coming. Even if the Daffodil never lived up to the hype, even if it was just an overpriced Gizmo Maidbot, it would be an improvement. It would pick up the laundry that had covered the floor for a month now, vacuum the carpet that hadn’t been vacuumed in two months, clean the bathrooms that hadn’t been cleaned since Tiffany’s funeral, and maybe dust the things that hadn’t been dusted… well, ever. Mike was annoyed that the box was just sitting on the step when he got home. Something that expensive, he should have had to sign for. Somebody could have just carried it off. But they hadn’t. It was here. The box looked impossibly small—only about thirty inches on each side. It was silver with a large yellow daffodil only partially obscured by the shipping label. Unlocking and then opening the front door, he picked up the box and brought it inside. It was heavy but not too heavy to lift. He set it down first in the foyer, but once he had shut and locked the front door, he carried it into the center of the living room floor. He went to the kitchen and returned with a chef knife. Carefully sliding the blade through the packing tape, he cut along each edge and then across the top seam. Folding back the two flaps of the box lid, Mike looked down to find it filled with packing peanuts. Brushing some of them out of the way, he almost immediately found a patch of smooth white skin. It was remarkably real looking—pearlescent on the surface and kind of peachy pink beneath, but not a single blemish or mole or hair upon it. Mike brushed more packing peanuts out onto the floor and uncovered more skin, and then plastic with black hair inside. Finally, setting the knife on the coffee table, he tipped the box over, dumping the contents into the center of the floor. White packing went everywhere. The Daffodil rolled out and came to rest on its side, facing away from him. It was curled up tightly into a ball.At first, Mike thought he must have ordered the wrong robot. Curled up as it was, it looked like a child. He just stared at it for a moment; at its naked back and buttocks and its black hair wrapped up in plastic. Finally he kicked around through the packing peanuts. There didn’t seem to be a manual—just a single sheet of paper marked “Quick Setup”. He picked it up and looked at it. There were two pictures and no words. The first picture showed line drawing of the back of a human-looking neck, except that the neck had three round holes in it and below them a button. The second picture showed the button being pushed by a line-drawn finger. Next to the button and the finger were the numerals 1, 2, 3. Bending down, Mike lifted up the plastic wrapped hair and examined the Daffodil’s neck. There were the three holes and there was the button. He pressed it and counted aloud “one, two, three”. Then he let go. For a moment nothing happened. Then the Daffodil tilted its head and unarched its back. It unwrapped its arms from around its knees and stretched out its legs. Rolling over onto its stomach and then, placing both palms on the floor, it rose in a push-up form, and then putting its left foot beneath it and then its right, stood up. It came to attention. “Please wait,” she said, and it was at this moment, that for Mike, it became a she. The Daffodil could no longer be an “it”. It was obviously not an “it”. And it was obviously not a child. Once upright, she was tall, maybe five foot seven. Mike examined her carefully. Though her hair was covered with a clear plastic cap, he could see it was jet black. It matched two dark, carefully arched eyebrows and a set of long eyelashes. She had no other body hair. Her face could best be described as cute, with large blue eyes, a button nose, and thick voluptuous lips. She had the kind of slender and yet curvy body that was just not possible on a real woman. Breasts the size of apples just kind of floated there above a perfectly flat stomach. Mike tilted his head down. She looked anatomically complete. “You are Michael Winston Smith?” “Huh?” “You are Michael Winston Smith?” She was looking at him. Her eyes seemed very life-like. “Uh… yes.” “I am Daffodil serial number 55277-PFN-001-XGN-F0103. My software is up to date.” “Good.” “The primary setup procedure requires approximately six hours. During this period, I your Daffodil, will be unavailable for other activities. It is recommended that during this time period you make a few basic decisions. What initial duties do you wish me to have? What clothing, if any, do you wish me to wear? What name would you like me to answer to?” Mike looked at the clock on the wall. It was 3:20 PM. He counted off six hours on his fingers—9:20. He sat down on the white sofa that was almost never used and looked at the shapely nude robot. With a wry smile, he realized that he could sit and stare at it for the next six hours, or he could get up and do something. He went back to the family room, picked up the texTee, and flipped open Moby Dick, but he didn’t read any more of it. Instead he turned the select dial to the bookstore and typed in “names”. The titles of half a dozen books appeared including “The Name Book”, “The Secret Universe of Names”, and “The Baby Name Wizard”. He selected the last book of the six: “Virtue Names”. It took about twenty seconds for the book to download to the texTee. Looking back to the screen, Mike turned to the first page of the name book. The first name was Agape. Agape? The book said that it had something to do with God’s love, but all Mike could think of was “hanging loosely open”. That was not a particularly desirable trait. He spun the selector dial and picked a page at random. Patience. Now that was a trait he could appreciate. But the book said it was pronounced Pay-shuns. That wasn’t right. Paish-ence. Mike had always appreciated those names, mostly associated in his mind with the ninetieth century, that illustrated the supposed virtues —Faith, Hope, Chastity—but he hadn’t considered Patience until now.He set the texTee back down and walked to the living room to look at the Daffodil. Did she look like a Patience? Close enough, he decided. Now what? He looked back at the clock. It was 3:33. What else did she say? Clothing. He felt his pants pockets. He still had his keys and wallet. He slipped out the door, locking it behind him and jumped back in the car. Walmart was right around the corner and it took him less than five minutes to get there and park his car. He felt more than a little self-conscious, venturing into the women’s apparel department, but it turned out that he was one of more than a dozen men there. Most were just standing around, waiting for their women to finish trying something on in the fitting rooms, though a few were actively shopping. Mike made his way through the racks of ugly old-lady dresses until he found the clothing that young women seemed to prefer. The Daffodil looked like she might be in her early twenties. The first racks held blue jeans, but there was no way that he would be able to figure out the right size. Then he found several racks of dresses that seemed more appropriate. He picked out a cute little one with blue flowers on it, then a white dress with large black polka dots. The smallest size on the wrack was a three/four, and it looked pretty small, so he picked out a size five/six for each dress. Having gotten used to looking through the women’s clothing, Mike’s discomfort returned when he moved into the lingerie section, the two dresses draped over his arm. There were counters and counters of underwear and bras. If choosing the correct pair of jeans was difficult, then choosing the proper size and type of bra would be insurmountable. The Daffodil didn’t really seem like she needed one, at least not from a purely functional perspective, though some women liked to wear them anyway. Moving on to the panties, Mike found a dizzying array of sizes, types, and styles. Then he saw some tiny, skimpy, little things called “Smart and Sexy” thongs. He didn’t know about smart, but they were definitely sexy, little more than triangular pieces of lace with elastic bands. They came in bags of three—tiny little lace bags. Mike bought a set in blue. At the checkout stand, Mike realized that he was hungry. He grabbed a Payday candy bar. The matronly looking Gizmo Servbot gave him his total: 148.17. He drove back home and raced inside with his purchases, but there was no hurry. The Daffodil hadn’t moved. It was only 5:01. Looking at the robot, Mike appreciated her sheer physical beauty like he hadn’t before. He pulled the two dresses out of the bag and held them up in front of her, one after the other. Though they had seemed incredibly tiny in the store, they now looked as though they would fit her and might even be a bit on the large side. Draping them over the arm of the couch, he took the Walmart bag to the kitchen and stuffed it into the recycler. This made him think about everything else that was lying around the house. He had company now, sort of, and he felt an urge to clean up. Starting in the living room, Mike began cleaning. It didn’t take much, since he hardly used the room at all. He picked up the packing peanuts and dropped them into the recycler, folded up the Daffodil box and put it in the compactor, and then he moved on to the foyer. He swept the tiles and straitened the several pairs of shoes by the door. Then he moved on to the family room. This room, though fairly large was crammed full of old furniture, including the recliner, sofa, two end tables and a coffee table, three bookcases, the entertainment center, and the piano. Most of the furniture and a good bit of the floor were covered with cast off items as well. Books, obsolete but not quite completely replaced by the texTee were everywhere, as were small piles of junk mail, interlaced with an occasional bill, and stacks of dirty dishes. Mike got to work, picking things up and putting them away until the room looked about as good as it ever had. He stopped to make himself a supper of a deviled ham sandwich, which he ate along with a diet Pepsi and a handful of potato chips. He stood in the dining room, chewing and looking through the passage at the shapely form of the Daffodil still standing naked where he had left her. When he finished eating, he started wiping down the kitchen counters. He had them nice and clean by the time eight o’clock rolled around and Gunsmoke came on. He went back to his recliner, which had long ago conformed to his shape. Just as the story was getting interesting, his phone rang. It was Harriet calling to see if he was alright. He assured her he was. When he closed the connection and put the phone back in his pocket, the vueTee went to a commercial. Mike turned around and then jumped in his seat. The Daffodil was standing behind him, looking at him from the arch between the family room and living room. “The primary setup procedure is complete,” she said. “The secondary setup procedure requires approximately thirty-six hours. During this period, I your Daffodil, will be capable of other activities.” “What did you do?” asked Mike. “In your primary setup, I mean?”“There are one thousand sixty seven individual tasks accomplished during the primary setup procedure, the most important of which are the initialization of the BioSoft operating system, registration of the InfiNet connection, and charging of the Honda X88 fuel cell.” “Well, that’s good. Oh. There are some clothes for you in the living room.” He pointed over her shoulder. She turned around and walked into the living room. Mike followed. She picked up the two dresses and held them in front of her one after the other, smiling. “I wasn’t sure what size you wore, um, Patience. That’s what I decided to name you by the way—Patience.” “Patience,” she said slowly. “The capacity, habit, or fact of being patient. Patient: bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain; not hasty or impetuous; steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity. That is a very good name. What should I call you?” Though both Mr. Smith and Master flashed through his mind, he said “Mike”. “You are named for the Archangel Michael, who is like unto God.” “I think I must be named after my uncle Mike, who is like unto, um, my grandfather.” “In answer to your unasked query, I will usually wear size 3/4 or 5/6 U.S. miss sizes. Which dress would you like me to wear, Mike?” “I think the blue one. It matches your underwear which is still in the bag there.” “May I use the bathroom to wash up and get dressed, Mike?” “Um, yes. You don’t need to say my name every time.” “During the secondary setup procedure, I will be adjusting my diction and vocabulary so that I am better able to communicate with you, Mike.” “I see.” “Which way is the bathroom, Mike?” Mike pointed. “There’s the little… I call it the privy… on the other side of the kitchen, or you can go upstairs, because this one doesn’t have a shower or anything.” The Daffodil went through the kitchen, toward the privy. Mike turned off the vueTee, and then sat waiting for her to return. It was growing dark out and both end table lamps automatically clicked on. She didn’t keep him waiting long. When she returned, he marveled at how real, how human she looked. She was dressed, and the plastic over her hair was gone. Her hair was long and straight and black, and cut with bangs across her forehead. She stepped to the center of the room and twirled around, then bounced up and down twice on her tip-toes. This made her look really young. “Shit. I forgot to buy you any shoes,” he said. “That is alright,” she smiled. “I can choose and purchase my own wardrobe if you like.” “Yes, that would be good. But you have a limited budget. I don’t have that much in the bank, and I spent all my payNEtime money on… well, on you.”“I understand, Mike. I won’t spend any money until I am sure of our finances.” “Our finances?” Mike remembered the orange-haired lady and how her Daffodil paid her bills for her. “Are you going to be my secretary too?” “I will be anything and everything you want me to be,” she said. “It is after nine o’clock. Have you eaten dinner, Mike?” “I had a sandwich.” “Are you still hungry, Mike? Would you like dessert?” “I don’t think so.” “Then may we sit a talk for a few minutes?” She made her way around the coffee table and sat down on the couch. “What time is your bedtime, Mike?” “Um, I usually go to bed about eleven.” “And what time do you usually get up, Mike?” “I get up at six twenty.” “That is not enough sleep, Mike. You should go to bed at 10:05.” “I have a hard time getting to sleep that early. I have to take Sleepova anyway.” “I’ll help you, Mike.” She smiled sweetly. “This is a very nice dress, Mike. Is this the type of dress you would like to see me wear often?” “Sure. Um, I would like to see you in different clothes too. Isn’t that what most people want? You are kind of like a big Barbie doll.” “Would you say you preferred me to dress demurely or provocatively or somewhere in the middle, Mike?” “Provocatively… sexy but appropriate. I’m a middle school teacher. I don’t want you to get me arrested, or worse, fired... although one would probably lead to the other.” “These are very nice underwear, Mike. Is this the type of underwear you would like to see me wear often?” “Absolutely,” Mike said. “Whenever you wear underwear, they should be sexy. That’s why you’re here.” “Sexual congress?” She looked at him wide-eyed, without the least hint of embarrassment. Well, she wouldn’t be embarrassed, would she? She was a robot. It was hard, looking at her, to think of her as anything but a real person. “Yes, well, not just for that. I’m tired of being single. But…I’m fifty years old. It’s hard to find somebody at my age, and let’s be frank—I’m nobody’s idea of a catch. I guess with you I don’t have to be though, do I? And I don’t want another wife anyway. I want you to be my companion, you know, in all the ways that another person would be a companion. You can do that, right?” “That is right,” said Patience. “I can be anything and everything you want me to be.”Chapter Two The next day was so busy that there were times when Mike forgot about Patience, at least for a moment or two. That was saying something, because it had been an eventful night. They had talked for a while, Patience quizzing him on his likes and dislikes, though in retrospect, it seemed scant enough information for any kind of detailed profile. Then she had given him a massage and they had gone to bed. The sex had been pretty incredible. It wasn’t like he thought it would be. She didn’t feel cold or plastic. She felt squishy in all the right spots—firm in the right spots too. She seemed to know what he wanted before he knew that he wanted it. Afterwards, he had fallen asleep, waking up once during the night to find her looking through his closet. In the morning, she had served him breakfast in bed—cereal and milk, toast and grape jelly, and orange juice, which was about all the breakfast food he had in the house. When he had taken a shower, she had been there waiting as he had come out with a clean, dry towel. Though he usually didn’t allow for any extra time in the morning, and eating breakfast had taken up enough time that he actually had to hurry, he still took a moment to notice that she had been cleaning during the night. She had picked up all the dirty clothes off the bedroom floor and the bathroom had been cleaned. Who knows what else she had done that he hadn’t noticed. “Turn your texTees to ‘Our World’ page 1056,” Mike told the class. “The ten review questions on this page will be the first ten questions of your final exam the day after tomorrow. Look up the answers you don’t know at this time.” Two hands went up. “What is it, Curtis?” “I don’t have my texTee.” “Is that your problem too Mabel? You don’t have your texTee? The dark haired girl two seats behind Curtis nodded her head. “Why even bother to show up without your texTee? You know it’s review day. Why are you even here?” “My mother makes me come,” said Mabel. “It’s not my fault,” said Curtis. “I left it at my dad’s girlfriend’s house.” “I would be willing to bet that you have your phone with you though,” said Mike. “Get one of the classroom texTees out of the cabinet.” “Whatever” said Mabel. As the two students retrieved the reading devices, these particular ones covered across the top with bright red reflective tape, there was a knock at the outside door. The classroom had an inside door which led to the hallway and the rest of the school and an outside door which faced a small lawn and the back of the adjacent power plant. Peering in through the metal mesh that covered the outside door was Patience. “I brought you lunch, Mike,” she said, when he opened the door a few inches. Patience was wearing the black and white polka dotted dress. “I usually eat in the lunch room.”“Here.” She pushed a soft-sided grey lunch box with the word Thermos on the side toward him. “Where did you get this?” “It was in the cabinet.” “It was?” She nodded. Then she turned and walked across the lawn. Mike could see the blackened souls of her bare feet as she walked away. “Who was that?” asked several students as he closed the door. “Was that your daughter?” asked Mabel. “Um, no. Let’s get focused on our review questions.” At lunch time Mike unpacked the lunchbox. There was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple cut into slices and bagged, a small container of a white semi-gelatinous substance that turned out to be vanilla pudding, a single large sugar cookie, and a diet Pepsi with a chemical cold-pack wrapped around it. “That’s a nice lunch,” said Miss Treewise from across the table. “Mm-hmm,” Mike nodded. “Somebody must like you,” said Mrs. Cartwright. Mike shrugged. When he got home, Mike found Patience waiting at the door. She looked pretty and pleasant and on impulse, he leaned over and kissed her on the mouth. “That was a nice kiss, Mike. Is that the kind of kiss you would like me to greet you with often?” “Wow. I almost forgot for a moment that you were a robot.” He looked down. “Hey, you’re wearing shoes.” Patience lifted one up behind her, taking a kind of Betty Boop pose. On her feet were black shoes with large white bows just above the open toe. They had a half-inch thick platform soul in the front and a four inch square heel in the back. “Do you like them? They’re called Peeptoe Platforms.” “Yes, they’re fine. But where did you get them?” “After I dropped lunch off to you I went to the store.” “You walked to the store? That’s too far, especially in bare feet. And the ground is hot.” “I did not mind,” she smiled. “Would you like a shoulder rub, Mike?” “Sure.”She guided him to a chair that she had apparently brought in from the dining room and set along the west wall of the living room, in front of the window. Once he had sat down, she stepped behind him and began rubbing his shoulders. “How did you pay for them… the shoes, I mean?” he asked. “I took the cash card out of your wallet this morning before you left for school.” “They’re not supposed to let you use that unless it’s yours. And besides, you should have asked first.” “The stores never check, and I did ask. You said that I should select and purchase my own wardrobe.” “Yes, but I’m not sure I can afford that right now. I don’t get paid until the tenth. I’m not sure how much money I have in my accounts right now.” “We have 2261.43 in account 116211130782-2 checking, 31021.69 in account 116211130782-1 savings, and 422.11 in the payNEtime account.” “Wow. That’s more than I thought I had… I mean we had.” She turned him back around and began rubbing his shoulders again. “I have ordered my own cash card, in any case.” “You did? Wait. How did you know all that?” “Last night I accessed all your financial data.” “You what?” He turned back around to look at her. “It is part of the secondary setup procedure.” “What else did you do?” he wondered. “I accessed your vueTee and browser files, read all of the books and magazines on your texTee, and all of your paper books too. I looked through your photo albums, ran your credit report, and googled you.” “Is that all part of the secondary setup procedure?” he frowned. She nodded with an innocent look on her face and turned him back around to continue with the shoulder rub. When she was done, he moved to his recliner and flipped on the vueTee, while Patience brought him a diet Pepsi. Although he usually drank them from the can, she had poured it into a tall glass over ice. “Did you buy ice at the store too?” “No, Mike. I made it in the freezer.” “You can do that?” She nodded. “Did you want to talk about your day at work, Mike?” “Not really,” he said. “If you don’t mind, I’d just like to watch vueTee for a while.” “That’s fine, Mike. The Star Trek episode ‘Let That Be Your Last Battlefield’ is on channel twenty-seven.”“Is that the one where Frank Gorshin is black on the left side and white on the right side?” “He is black on the right side,” said Patience. “All of his people are black on the right side.” Mike smiled as he flipped to channel twenty-seven. He watched the last forty minutes of the science fiction classic. Then he watched part of Seaquest DSV, which wasn’t so much of a classic. Mercifully, he fell asleep in his chair somewhere near the middle. He often fell asleep in the afternoon in his recliner to wake up to a dark and lonely room. This time when he woke up, both lamps were on. Patience passed by, walking through the room from the kitchen, continuing through the living room and on to the foyer. As she did so, she switched the vueTee to the evening news. “What are you doing?” Mike called after her. “Chores,” she said, poking her head back around the stairwell corner. The news was filled with politics. Winston Barlow was accusing Evelyn Mendoza of being an elitist and he was accusing Stephanie Wakovia of being a free-spender. Evelyn Mendoza was accusing Barlow of being uncaring and accusing Mendoza of being too closely tied to Busby’s Antarctica war. Mendoza was accusing Barlow of being out of touch with the young people of America and accusing Wakovia of being uninterested in helping the poor. The remaining news was filled with a story about the construction of the stadium for the upcoming Olympic Games in Surat, one about a pair of large tornadoes in Texas which did minimal damage, and the usual war news. Sixty four more American soldiers were killed today along with an estimated six hundred Russians. “Dinner is served,” said Patience, poking her head into the living room just as the news ended. Mike got up and walked to the dining room. Both this room and the adjoining kitchen had been cleaned spick and span. The table had been set for two, and in the center rested a dish of lasagna and a bowl of tossed salad. The old table had been spruced up with a floral-patterned table cloth. He pulled out a chair and sat down. Patience scooped a large portion of lasagna and then dressed the salad, placing a small pile next to the meat and pasta dish. She put the plate in front of him. Then she sat down across from him smiling, and watching him as he ate. “You’re not going to eat?” She shook her head. “Oh, yeah. I forgot for a moment. Hydrogen fuel cell?” She nodded again. “You’ve been doing quite a bit of cleaning.” “Yes, Mike. Is this the way that you would like me to keep the house?” “Secondary setup?” She nodded yet again. “Yes, the house looks great. You’ve just about got it all cleaned up.” “I will have by this time tomorrow.” Mike finished dinner and went back to the family room to watch vueTee while Patience cleared the table, packed up the left-overs, and put the dishes in the dishwasher. After Brain Quest, there wasn’t much on vueTee. Tuesday was a lousy vueTee night. Patience disappeared into the bedroom and returned wearing nothing but one of her lacy thongs. Mike had imagined that at his age, two nights of sexual activity in a row was excessive, but seeing her standing there, the very picture of perfection, disabused him of this notion. They had sex on and off the couch, and when they were done, Mike was completely exhausted though it was not even eight thirty. “It is because you are in terrible physical shape,” said Patience. “Yes, and I’m old too. I look way to old and fat to be seen with you. You look like what... like you’re twenty?” “My apparent age is twenty-two to thirty-two. And fifty is not old.” “Yes, well… What are you going to do tomorrow?” “I have several projects in mind,” she said. “I think you should walk to work tomorrow.” “It’s way too hot to walk.” “It won’t be over one hundred nine tomorrow.” “Well, I could,” said Mike. “Probably… But why?” “Walking is good exercise, Mike. And that way I can use the car.” “You know how to drive?” “Of course.” “But what if you are stopped. You don’t have a license.” “Robots do not need a license to drive, Mike.” Mike indulged in a hot shower before bed, then climbed between two clean sheets. Patience was there to tuck him in. He read a bit of the daily paper from his texTee, but set it aside after a few minutes and drifted off into sleep. He half-dreamily noticed that Patience came into the room to turn off the light, then she was off again, doing whatever it was that she did. When he opened his eyes in the morning, Patience was sitting on the edge of the bed. She had on the second of her two dresses—the black and white polka dotted one, and Mike felt a tug of regret that he hadn’t bought her more of a selection. “You need to get up seventeen minutes earlier since you are walking,” said Patience, handing him a bagel and a glass of orange juice. “Only seventeen minutes? I’m not going to run to work you know.” “It is not really that far.” It wasn’t really that far. He ate his breakfast, shaved and showered, then headed out the door with a lunch that Patience handed him as he left. He walked briskly to the end of the block under the awning that covered all the city’s sidewalks, but the rest of the way, five more blocks, went more slowly as it was up a slight incline. He rounded the power station and started across the lawn to the door of his classroom. Looking at the clock inside, he saw that he was arriving at almost the exact same time that he always did.This was another review day, the day before final exams, so it was busy as Mike tried to push the last bits of geographic information into the heads of his eighth grade students. Not surprisingly, his mind kept returning to Patience, standing there in her little thong in the center of the family room. He still couldn’t believe that she was here. He couldn’t believe that he had actually placed the order for a robot and he couldn’t believe how perfect she was. She was, in fact, about as perfect as she could be. He wondered what her measurements were. When he had designed her, he hadn’t been thinking in terms of numbers. He had done so based on the visual representation on the screen. He would have to find out if he was going to buy clothes for her though. Thinking back to the posted measurements of all the centerfolds he had seen, he thought she had to be about 34-22-34. She could probably have been a fashion model, though with those breasts he was sure she would make a centerfold for Playboy or Penthouse. She was of course waiting for him. The walk home, which was essentially all downhill, had proven more tiring than Mike had anticipated. He was breathing hard when he reached out to open the front door, but it had opened for him, and Patience was waiting on the other side with a glass of iced diet Pepsi. He took the proffered glass, trudged back to the family room, and plopped down into his recliner. “Welcome home, Mike,” said Patience. “You should know that the secondary setup procedure has successfully completed.” “That’s good,” replied Mike, pulling the lever to lift his legs up. “Is there a third setup?” Patience shook her head. She was wearing a little black dress which reached down to her mid-thigh. It was held on with half inch straps and had a plunging neckline. She had on a pair of cute little sandals with four inch wedge heels. Mike noticed how small her feet were. “Nice shoes.” “I don’t see why women’s shoes are so expensive,” she said. “These shoes cost almost five times as much as this dress.” “Exactly how much money did you spend on clothes today?” “1704.19.” “Wow” Mike pushed the lever and rocked forward. “Don’t worry. We will get more before we run out.” “Are we robbing a bank?” “I have our finances all figured out,” she smiled. Then she knelt down in front of him and for the next twelve minutes or so made him forget about anything as unimportant as money. Afterwards, she put on a fashion show for him, showing off the clothes that she had bought that day. She told him what each piece of clothing was as she spun around: a blue banded bottom jersey dress, a peach sleeveless knit mini-dress, a red over the shoulder dress with gored skirt, a black Cami lace trim top with black nylon leggings and grey plaid miniskirt, a teal silky halter-style evening dress. She had also purchased a pair of five inch chunky heel platform sandals and a pair of metallic-colored t-strap four and a half inch heels. The last part of the show was the lingerie: several pairs of frilled panties that despite the name “boy-leg” seemed to have no leg at all and left her cute ass cheeks hanging out, several pairs of mesh thongs, and a push up bra with one cup pink and the other sky blue. “You should have showed me this part when I first came home,” said Mike, amazed that he was already feeling amorous again. “This makes me want to buy you even more clothes, though it’s a sad commentary when seventeen hundred bucks only buys you five outfits, two pairs a shoes, and a couple of pairs of underwear.” “I also spent 661.57 on groceries.”“Oh, well, I’m sure we needed it, but that doesn’t sound like much food.” “It will be more than enough for now,” said Patience. “Would you like an afternoon snack?” “Sure.” Patience brought out a small plate with slices of fruit and cheese. Mike ate it all. “Is there more?” “Save room for dinner,” Patience called from the kitchen. “You shouldn’t be too full anyway. I don’t want you to get a stomach ache today at the gym.” “Gym?” “Yes,” she said, rejoining him in the family room and curling up to sit on the floor by his feet. “We will go right after the news.” They sat and watched first the local and then the national news. Patience rested her head on his knee and he ran his fingers through her thick black hair. It felt like real hair—like real human hair. She wrapped her left arm around his calves. Going to the gym was probably a good idea, he decided. If he was going to keep up with her, he really needed to get into shape. At six o’clock, Patience left the room. She returned a few minutes later wearing sandals and her little jersey dress. She brought Mike a pair of shorts that he hadn’t seen in so long he almost didn’t recognize them, along with a sweatshirt. He changed into them, and then they climbed into the car and drove four miles to the Club One Fitness Center. “I don’t have a membership,” said Mike. “I signed you up on vueTee. The first month is free.” “I think we need hydrogen.” he said, looking at the fuel gauge. “Are you trying to prevent our trip to the gym?” “No, of course not. We just need, you know…some hydrogen.” “We aren’t going very far,” said Patience. “We have more than enough to last until tomorrow.” “What if you get hungry?” Patience shot him a look. “We still have enough money to buy hydrogen, don’t we?” Mike asked. “We should use your Praxair-Aramco credit account.” “Is that account still good? I haven’t used it in a long time.” Patience nodded.At the fitness club a blond girl, with the right side of her hair dyed black, stood chewing gum. Mike gave her his name and she pulled out a dedicated texTee for him. It was set up with forms for him to fill out, as well as spaces for him to keep track of his workouts and progress. As he took it from her, she looked at him. “Didn’t you used to teach at Midland?” “Yes,” Mike replied, not adding that he still did. “I think I was in your class,” the girl said. “That was a long, long time ago.” Mike just nodded his head. “Is this your daughter?” asked the cashier, indicating Patience. “No…” said Mike. “She’s a friend.” The counter girl’s mouth made a little O. “She’s a robot, eh? You can hardly tell.” Mike just took the texTee to a nearby chair and began to enter the information with the keypad. Patience sat down next to him. “Well, that’s it,” said Mike. “It’s always going to be like that. It’s always going to be weird.” Patience looked at him uncomprehendingly. “Nobody will ever believe that a fat old man like me could ever meet a woman like you. They’ll immediately realize what you are and say ‘oh well, there you go, he had to buy himself a robot, cause no one else would have him’. Patience stuck out her lip. “I’m sorry. I know you’re more than a robot. You’re a Daffodil.” “It’s not that,” she replied. “I don’t want to hear you talk about yourself in a negative way. I wouldn’t allow it from anyone else, and I don’t want to hear it from you.” “Yeah, okay. Whatever. I need to find a trainer.” Mike changed the subject. “No. I will be your trainer.” Patience proved that she was as adept as a physical fitness trainer as she was at anything else. She put him to work doing a minimal number of machine exercises and had him spend most of his time walking around and around on the oval track. She walked right along with him, encouraging him to keep up the pace. Though she wasn’t really dressed for the track, she did look like a young woman out to have a little fun. She bounced along with the gate of a teenager, giving him a grin whenever she noticed him looking at her. When they returned home, Mike was exhausted and took a nap. When he got up, he took a long hot shower. By the time he returned down stairs, dressed, Patience had set the dining room table for him. The Caesar salad, lightly breaded orange ruffy, and garlic new potatoes were all perfect. For desert, she made a satin chocolate tart. Mike had eaten many good meals, but he had to admit he was impressed. He didn’t think he had ever had anything that good outside of a cruise ship or a fine restaurant. When he said so, Patience smiled sweetly. Afterwards, Mike watched vueTee, while Patience cleaned up the dinner dishes. Mike thought he would be too tired for sex that night, but the exercise actually added to his vigor. He felt as though he performed like a twenty year old. When he commented as much, Patience agreed with him, though this ended up irking him, as the more he thought about it, the more he was sure that it wasn’t true.“Are you going to get up and do housework all night?” he asked her as she lay next to him. “What would you like me to do?” “Why don’t you spend the night with me? I know you don’t need to sleep, but I think it would be great.” Patience smiled at him. “Alright.” Mike woke up several times during the night though. He wasn’t used to sleeping with someone else in his bed and the center part of Patience’s body was warmer than he expected. She was also always awake, as Mike had known she would be, and since she didn’t need to be there and it wasn’t all that comfortable for him, the whole thing just seemed a waste. “You can go ahead and get up if you want to,” he said, at last. “Thank you, Mike. I would like to begin cleaning the garage.”Chapter Three Thursday and Friday were exam days at school. That meant that for the students both days were half days of strenuous testing, with free afternoons to recover. For the teachers, the mornings were a scramble to get fourth quarter grades completed, and the afternoons were a scramble to grade tests, all the while attempting to get the classroom stowed for the coming summer months. In the evenings, after a work out at the health club, Mike would enjoy delicious dinners and relaxing evenings of watching movies on vueTee. On Saturday morning, Mike woke with the realization that not only did he not have to return to work that day, but that the school year was essentially over. Only Monday remained to finish make-up exams, clean up the classroom, and sign out for the year. Climbing into his recliner, Mike went through Friday’s mail as he watched cooking shows on vueTee. There were a couple of bills and a handful of ad flyers. At the bottom of the stack was a white envelope that felt abnormally thick. He opened it up to find a matching set of Visa cards—one in his name and one with the name Patience D. Smith. “Patience” She came in through the kitchen from the garage. She was covered in dust and dirt, but was otherwise completely naked. As she smiled at him from the doorway, he felt himself aroused. “How come you’re nude?” “I didn’t want to get my clothes dirty while I worked.” “Okay. How come we have new credit cards?” “I thought we might need them, at least in the short term. It is going to be a few weeks before I can earn some extra money, and I don’t want to spend all your savings.” “You’re creating more questions than you’re answering,” he said. “How are you planning to make money?” “I’m selling a great many things on eBay. Then I will take that money and invest it.” “I know I have a lot of junk around here. Just make sure you don’t sell anything I want to keep. I know you should have more clothes.” “The money is not for my clothes,” said Patience. “It is for yours.” “Clothes for me?” “Yes.” “Hmm. Yes, I suppose that is a good idea. I don’t want to look like such an old fart if I have such a beautiful, hot young woman on my arm. Why don’t we go ahead and do some shopping at the mall today?” Patience beamed. “So what is this name?” He held up the Visa card. “You’re not my wife. You’re just my… well, I guess you’re my girlfriend.” Patience leaped across the room and jumped into Mike’s lap. She planted her full lips on his and kissed him, then pulled back and smiled.“I’m your girlfriend?” “Sure.” She kissed him again. This was all the motivation that he needed. He pushed her up out of his lap, stood up, and then took her by the hand. He led her upstairs to the bedroom, where they spent the next half-hour, though Patience would not get on the bed until she had washed the dirt and dust off of her synthetic skin. Afterwards, Mike got up and went to the bathroom. Just as he was washing his hands, he heard his phone ring on the nightstand, and Patience answering it. “Hello.” Her eyes flashed at Mike as he reentered the room and she said. “Yes, Mike is here. May I ask who is calling? This is his girlfriend.” She stopped and listened for a moment. Then she said. “Just a moment,” and handed the receiver to him. “It’s Lucas,” she said. Mike grabbed the phone. “How is my son the general?” “Don’t start all that,” said the voice at the other end. “Tell me all about this lady.” “Well…” “Tell me. I think it’s great you’ve got a girlfriend, Dad. She sounds young.” “Umm. She’s a Daffodil.” “A what? A robot? Huh.” “What do you mean ‘huh’?” “I don’t know. She didn’t sound like a robot.” “She doesn’t look like one either,” said Mike. “I keep forgetting that she is one.” “Well, I guess it’s all good,” said Lucas. “Everybody’s getting one. I’m just glad you have someone to take care of you. Can I tell Harriet?” “No I don’t know what she’s going to say about it. I’ll tell her when she gets back from her trip.” “Alright Dad. Take care of yourself. I love you.” Mike hung up the phone. “He’s calling Harriet right now.” “Which bedroom belonged to Lucas?” asked Patience, in the car on the way to the mall. “The one on the northwest corner. Since we’ve been exercising, I’m thinking that we could make it into an exercise room. The room on the northeast corner, on the other side of the stairway was Harriet’s. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. I wanted to turn the south bedroom into a study. I keep thinking I might sit down and write a book about all the goofy things the kids at school do. So far though, it’s just become a trap for all the crap in the house—kind of like the garage.It was an hour drive to the mall, because the closest good one was in the nearby city of Pico Mundo. Patience spent the entire drive holding onto Mike’s arm with both hands, and pressing her face onto his shoulder. At the mall, the two entered by the food court. Mike bought a smoothie, and they began to circumnavigate the mall, stopping at each clothing store to see what was available for either of them. Mike let Patience make all the style decisions. “I would like to get my ears pierced,” said Patience, as they stopped in front of a jewelry store. “Are you sure that you want to?” wondered Mike. “Your holes won’t grow closed if you change your mind, will they?” “No. But would you like it if I had my ears pierced?” “Yes, I think I would.” When they went into the store however, they were turned out. “Humans only,” said the woman behind the counter. This made Patience pout, which in turn, made Mike smile. They had quite a load of shopping bags, by the time they made their final stop at the lingerie store. Mike sat down and waited while Patience gathered her selections and then stepped back into the changing booth. She stepped out again and again to show off tiny lacy bras, thongs, and some very hot little lacy things called tangas, as well as garter belt ensembles. With her perfect body, her chiseled features, and bright eyes, Mike thought she put to shame the giant photos of the models wearing the same things plastered across the wall of the shop. By the time that she was done, a sizable audience of men, some ignoring the women that they had come in with, were gathered around to watch. Mike decided that it was time to head home. Gathering all of the items that Patience had tried on, he sat them next to the register and, when the clerk had finished ringing everything, he paid for them. Both smiling, they made their way out of the mall and into the parking lot. The sun was going down. They had spent the entire day shopping, and had spent almost four thousand dollars. “I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much on clothes in a year, let alone a single day,” said Mike. They reached the car and opened the trunk to put away all of their packages. Then Mike heard a voice behind him. “Give us the packages and your wallet.” Mike dropped the shopping bags and spun around. Two men, both in their early twenties stood there. One was white, the other Hispanic. They both had shaved heads and they both carried butterfly knives. “Maybe we’ll have some fun with your little girl, too,” said the closest one. Mike snapped into action. He dived at the punk who had spoken last. Mike hit him square in the chest, and they both went down onto the pavement. As they did so, Mike felt the knife blade penetrate his stomach. The punk hit his head hard on the pavement, but he still managed to push Mike off of him. He was already on his feet while Mike was still rolling around on the parking lot. Just as Mike was finally regaining his feet, he saw Patience planting some kind of karate kick to his assailant’s neck. The other thug was leaning against a nearby car. It was obvious from the way he was holding himself, that she had already dealt him some heavy blows. She was about to hit the second one again when she saw the blood streaming down Mike’s shirt. With a small squeal she rushed toward him. When she did, the two would-be robbers took off between the cars as fast as they could.

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