Prose Header


by Bill Bowler

part 1 of 2

Johnson opened the box like a kid on Christmas morning. His heart raced and his hands shook as he fumbled with the wrapping. The two delivery men exchanged glances.

“You need some help, Mr. Johnson?”

“Oh, no,” Johnson gasped, “thank you. I’d rather do it myself. Here!” He gave them each a ten, opened the door, and the men left.

It had taken two men with a dolly to bring it up the service elevator and get it into his apartment. The panels of the box were fastened with heavy duty staples, but Johnson finally ripped open the cardboard and dug through the packing material, spilling styrofoam “popcorn” all over the living room rug.

He uncovered a blank, silver, vaguely feminine face, with empty eyes and no expression, like a metal mannequin. He cleared away more of the styrofoam. It was bald! He could not stifle his disappointment. This was not what he had expected! Not what the ads had said! With a sinking heart, he groped in the “popcorn” for the manual.

Step 1: Remove all packing material and inspect the unit. Damage in shipment must be reported to Metropolitan Robots within 24 hours of delivery or the warranty is void.

Johnson pulled all the packing material out of the box onto the rug. The unit looked like nothing more than a life-size but lifeless doll. It was anatomically correct, but smooth and bland. Its facial and physical features were vague, generic, without detail. His disappointment grew. He had let his hopes get too high; he had set himself up; so it was no surprise, really, that he was in for such a let down now. With a deep sigh, he looked again at the manual.

Step 2: Turn red power switch under right heel to “on.”

He flipped the switch and heard a faint whirring sound, like a little fan.

Step 3: Open latch under left armpit and insert Disc 1.

The disc disappeared into the unit. The little screen on the remote control flickered on and a menu appeared: Height. Weight. Skin Tone. Hair. Face. Body Type. Voice. Personality. Advanced Options.

Johnson navigated the menus, making his selections. Hmm. Let’s see. Should be slim. And shorter than me. He maxed out the skin tone sliders to fair, clear, and smooth; set hair to blonde and long; eyes to large and blue. The unit, lying dormant in the box, began to hum and whir as the self-configuring hardware adjusted itself to the specs Johnson had entered.

As the soft, self-adhesive, pliable, fast drying plasto-derm excreted and coated the silver metallic frame and the thick, blond hair spooled out from the cranial housing and cascaded down around the shoulders, Johnson began to feel better. This thing was starting to look damn good after all. He made fine adjustments in the Face menu - small nose, turned up at the tip; high cheek bones, dimples, full lips. In Body Type, he entered “customize,” and set the breast-waist-hips measurements. But before saving his selections, he re-entered the breast field and bumped it up from medium to large. Why screw around?, he thought. I paid good money for this contraption.

He set personality to obedient and cheerful and, after a moment’s pause, pulled back the intelligence slider to average. I’ll do the thinking around here, he thought to himself; you just do what you’re told.

He went back to the main menu and pulled up Advanced Options.

Advanced Options: 1. Calibrate the Wish Receptor. Your 34 series female escort android features a wireless electromagnetic sensor, which receives and processes brain waves emitted by the operator in the act of wishing. When properly calibrated, 34 series androids are programmed to fulfill wishes upon receipt.

Johnson went through the calibration procedure, lined up the two sets of wave patterns, fine tuned the brainwave patterns, and set the filter to block signals from other brains in range. When the green light flashed, he hit save and exited the menu.

Advanced Options: 2. Set Unit to Manual or Auto-adjust. On manual, your android’s customized settings (height, weight, hair color, etc.) are fixed unless individually re-set in the control menu. On auto-adjust, your android’s customized settings re-set automatically according to signals received in your unit’s wish receptor.

Johnson set his unit to auto.

Advanced Options: 3. Select a name for your android from the list of names.

Johnson pulled up the list:


He made his selection and went back to the options menu.

Advanced Options: 4. Enter a 5 digit password to prevent unauthorized users from accessing the unit.

Johnson thought up a password and, in case he forgot, wrote it down on a piece of paper and put it in his desk drawer.

Step 4: To save all settings, turn power off and re-start. Unit will then be functional.

Johnson flipped off the switch under Andrea’s right heel, waited a moment while the faint humming died down, and then gulped, and turned her back on.

He stepped back in alarm, despite himself, as the faint hum and whir resumed and Andrea sat up in the box. But she gazed at him with her big, beautiful, trusting blue eyes, and smiled a dimpled smile.

“Don’t worry,” she said, in the low, husky contralto he had set. Johnson began to collect himself. Jesus, she was a babe. Have to get her some clothes. No rush, though, heh heh.

“I’m ready when you are,” she purred.

Johnson woke up the next morning feeling peaceful and contented. His normally frayed nerves had their edges smoothed and his stress levels were way down. He sensed Andrea lying quietly next to him in bed and heard the low hum of her mechanism in its dormant state. She was motionless. In repose. He rolled over to face her and saw her unblinking eyes were wide open. They flickered and she smiled,

“Good Morning.”

“Mornin’, babe. Time to get up.”

Johnson gave Andrea some of his own clothes to wear for now, until he had a chance to get her some stuff. He showered, dressed, and went into the small kitchen. Three days’ worth of dishes were piled up in the sink and dirty pots and pans were strewn on the burners and stacked on the counter.

“My achin’ back,” thought Johnson, as he opened the refrigerator and took out the OJ.

Andrea came in quietly, wearing Johnson’s baggy pants and oversize shirt, rolled up her sleeves, turned on the faucet, and started rinsing the dirty dishes and loading them into the dishwasher without a word. Johnson grinned and nodded appreciatively, found a clean glass in the cupboard, and poured himself some juice.

“This could work out even better than I planned,” he thought. “Looks like we got some fringe benefits here.”

When Johnson got home from work that evening, Andrea was standing where she had been when he left her. As the door opened and he came in, her eyes sparkled, she went into motion, came to him, and gave him a kiss.

“Hey, babe,” Johnson grinned, a bit sheepishly, not used to the royal treatment. “You’re lookin’ good.”

“You’re tired,” said Andrea.

“Yeah, I’m all wound up. The fur is flying at work. I’m swamped and everybody’s screaming. I don’t know when I’m going to dig out.”

He collapsed into his easy chair. Andrea knelt, pulled off his loafers, and began to give him a gentle foot massage.

Johnson sighed, “That’s nice, babe. Don’t stop.”

Andrea gently massaged his feet, working out the stress and tension. Johnson felt himself relaxing. Andrea began to massage his calf, then his thigh. Johnson felt a wave of pleasure ripple through his body as the relaxation did an abrupt about face. Andrea took his hand and led him to the bedroom.

Afterwards, Johnson lay in bed, experiencing a lazy satisfaction he had never known before. He flipped on the TV with the remote control and felt the first pang of hunger.

Andrea rose from the bed, put on one of his robes, and went into the kitchen. He heard the clatter of pots and pans and, after a moment, something sizzled and the aroma of garlic and butter wafted into the room. He began to salivate.

“Man oh man!” he thought. “Who knew?”

Saturday afternoon, Johnson was watching sports on TV. During a commercial, he went into the kitchen and opened a beer. Walking back into the living room, he noticed a coating of dust on the end table and a couple of big clumps of dust behind the couch.

Andrea went into motion, pulled out the vacuum, and started vacuuming the apartment. Johnson collapsed into the easy chair and his eyes followed her. She was wearing the mini-skirt and clinging blouse he had gotten for her and was looking very foxy. Johnson’s eyes roved over her as she leaned over the back of the couch and his mind started to wander.

Andrea’s blond hair turned deep auburn, the color of Johnson’s first girlfriend’s hair as he remembered it from high school. Johnson continued to muse absentmindedly. As Andrea worked, her buttocks rounded out and grew more pronounced beneath the short skirt; her calves fleshed out and grew rounded, and her ankles contracted and grew slimmer. Johnson hated skinny legs. He gazed at her, half daydreaming, not really noticing the process of physical changes that Andrea’s wish receptor was applying to her hardware configuration.

The phone rang. It was Johnson’s office calling. Now what? The Regional Sales Director told Johnson his major client had just cancelled his account and gone to the competition. Johnson felt a moment of panic and the flush of anger. These idiots represented 20% of his gross. They couldn’t just walk like that. Now he’d have to get on the horn and try to patch this thing up. His Saturday was shot, dammit. Andrea had turned off the vacuum and was watching him with wide eyes.

“What are you staring at?! Go on, beat it! Get out of here. Quit buggin’ me!”

Andrea shuddered. Johnson heard some little clicking noise coming from her that he hadn’t heard before, like a wobbly fan or something, as she turned to leave the room.

“Wait, baby, wait. I didn’t mean it.” He went to her and pecked her on the cheek, “It’s not you. It’s those idiots at the office. I have to make a couple of calls.”

He patted her on the cheek, but his anger welled up again as he thought of the ungrateful client and the lost income. Andrea shuddered again and from her chest housing there was some little clicking noise, like small parts grinding, metal against metal.

It was maybe six weeks after Andrea had been delivered that Johnson’s mind first began to move on to bigger and better things. The novelty of continuous sexual gratification on demand was, if you can believe it, starting to wear thin. There was no challenge, no sense of pursuit and conquest. Men want what they think they can’t get and have nothing but contempt for anything that seems too available.

Stretched out in his easy chair, Johnson thought of the new secretary Rickover had hired at the office. Babe-o-licious. Young, just out of college, and incredibly sexy. The way she dressed at work wasn’t quite appropriate for the corporate milieu, a little bit too much hanging out, but she had everyone’s attention, the men at least.

Johnson’s eyes moved to Andrea, who was standing nearby, motionless. He felt a pang of, revulsion is too strong a word, but something like distaste. She was too familiar now, too compliant. There was no mystery. He was, if you got right down to it, slightly bored. She was just a robot, anyway. It wouldn’t have anything to do with her if he started to get something going with the new secretary. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Andrea or anything. She was nice enough. He was fond of her. But in his mind’s eye, he pictured the new secretary’s body and his mouth went dry.

His reverie was broken by the faint odor of something burning. A little wisp of blue smoke drifted from Andrea’s left ear. Johnson jumped up in alarm,

“Baby! What is it?!”

Andrea was non-responsive.

Johnson pulled out the manual and called Customer Service at Metropolitan Robots. She was still under warranty. Customer Service said to bring the unit in. Using the remote, he could still make her go left, right, forward and back, so he maneuvered her down to the parking garage, loaded her into the trunk of his car, and drove down to the Metropolitan Robots outlet.

The sales person at the desk directed them back through the double doors to the Service Dept. Johnson was greeted there by a technician in a white lab coat accompanied by another android. This one looked like an older unit or maybe an industrial model, more robot than human, more like just a motorized doll. It’s face was blank and it’s movements stiff and mechanical.

“This is a repair and maintenance android,” said the technician. “His connectors fit the inputs on all 3x units and he’s fully compatible with the 34 series. If you’ll take a seat, we’ll run some system scans and diagnostics.”

Johnson sat and waited.

The repair android walked stiffly up to the 34 series unit, which stood dormant and lifeless. He put his hands on her hips and his fingertips extended and fit into eight small inputs on Andrea’s hips, four on each side, hidden just beneath the thin layer of plasto-derm.

“The secondary circuit board is fried,” the repair android informed the technician in a humming monotone.

The lab technician scratched some notes on a clipboard. “With a burnt out secondary, she retains motility but has lost all cognitive functionality,” the technician said to Johnson. “Let me see if I’ve got another board here.” He disappeared into the storeroom and came back with a box under his arm.

“I found a replacement. Last one in stock.”

The technician opened Andrea’s side panel, unscrewed the dead board and installed the new one. They heard a whirring sound and life returned to Andrea’s eyes. The repair android disconnected itself from her auxiliary inputs and stepped back.

“Thank you,” said Andrea. “I feel much better.”

A Sales Dept. rep had come back into the Service area. The sales rep took the clipboard from the technician, studied the work order, initialed the invoice, and turned to Johnson,

“There’s no charge for this visit but your warranty is up in two weeks. You might want to consider our extended warranty/full service and parts program. Our Platinum Plan provides full coverage for the life of the unit with no money down and only small monthly payments, if you qualify. If you take the convenient pick up and delivery option, for only $40 more, we install a homing chip and software package and the unit transports itself to the Service Center for periodic maintenance or for emergency repair. If the unit becomes immobilized, of course, we send a truck. The warranty is void if you disassemble the unit or if you use the unit for applications not indicated in the owner’s manual.”

Johnson thought for a moment. “OK, sign me up.”

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2006 by Bill Bowler

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