His Robot Girlfriend – Chapter Two, Part Three

“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 roughy, 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.  “All right.”

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.”

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His Robot Girlfriend – Chapter Two, Part One

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, though some places were warmer and some were cooler.  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 Worldpage 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 tiny window in 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 back across the lawn.  Mike could see the blackened soles 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 sole 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 $42.11 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 Trekepisode Let That Be Your Last Battlefieldis 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.”

His Robot Girlfriend – Chapter One, Part Three

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 all right.  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 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 all right,” 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 will 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.”

His Robot Girlfriend – Chapter 1 Part 2

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 on both the oscillating fan and the auxiliary air conditioner.  He got up and turned off one and 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.  $27,499.00. 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, 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, coming 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.  Sitting down on the white sofa that was almost never used, he 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 pressed the icon for 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 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 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 rack was a three/four, and it looked pretty small, so he picked out a size five/six for each dress.

His Robot Girlfriend – Chapter 1 Part 1

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.  Then he took a deep breath and 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, Mike 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, and 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: $26,999.00.  That would wipe out his payNEtime account, and then some.

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 thousand 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 thousand 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 feed 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 another Gizmo girl 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 he 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.

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 6 Excrept

Norar Remontar, Malagor, and I made our way across the vast interior surface of the planet Ecos. We had been walking for quite a long time. I cannot stress enough, the meaninglessness of time when one does not have the convenience of a day and night cycle with which to gauge it. Norar Remontar had occasion to discuss the concept of time at great length with me. Realizing that the Amatharian was from a highly technological society, I asked him if his people carried timepieces. I could see no watch carried openly upon his person. He didn’t seem to know what a clock was and I of course tried to explain.

“Yes, we have a device which we use in Amathar to note the time, but we do not measure it,” he replied. “I find this idea of yours that time is a constant that can be accurately and evenly measured to be most improbable. My people are taught that time varies. As I talk with you, time moves quickly, and when I, at the end of our conversation, look back, I will see that we have traveled a great distance. When I am not talking to you, but am instead quietly thinking of home, time moves very slowly indeed, and when I look back after what seems to be an eternity, I find that I have not traveled that far at all.”

I thought a great deal about Norar Remontar’s statement, and I decided that in a world of eternal noon, it seemed to make perfect sense. There was certainly nothing that I could think of to discredit the idea.

Time was of course not the only thing that we spoke of on that trek. So long was the journey in fact, that even if we had spoken but a small fraction of the time, our conversations could fill several volumes. Norar Remontar took great pride and delight in telling me all about the people and the culture of Amathar. Here is a brief synopsis of that history as he first recounted it to me.

“Long, long ago, my ancestors were savages. They lived in small tribal kingdoms, and they warred against themselves, as well as with other nearby races. The people knew nothing of technology, nothing of art, and most importantly, they knew nothing of honor.

“Into the land, came the man known as Amath. He was not one of the people. He was from a place far away. I don’t know where. He united the people of the tribal kingdoms against their common enemies, yet he taught them to recognize their friends as well. He found the Garden of Souls and he organized the City of Amathar around it. He taught the people art, literature, love, and honor. He was the first leader of Amathar, and so the city is named for him. He chose the best of the warriors to be his successors, for he had no offspring of his own, and he founded the Holy Order to guard against the evils in the hearts of men.

“All of this was long ago. Amath has been gone two or three hundred generations, but all that we Amatharians are, all that we hold as truths, are due to his teaching and his guidance. Each of us carries his tome of teachings.”

The knight produced a small book from an unseen pocket, and handed it to me. It was bound like an ordinary book one would find on earth, but the pages were some type of plastic. The characters on the page were tiny little animals and other recognizable shapes— the sun, a tree, a human hand. I handed Norar Remontar back his book and determined that some day I would learn to read the strange writing, and find out just what the teachings of Amath were.

Many times on our journey I pressed the knight to tell me about his city. On these occasions he would simply smile, and say that I would have to see it for myself. Of course my personal interests were constantly being drawn to the subject of his sister. I didn’t want to arouse Norar Remontar’s ire by accidentally disgracing her somehow, and truth be told, I was somewhat embarrassed by my single-minded desire to see this woman again. Of course being no fool, he saw through my efforts to artificially generalize the subject, but played along with me anyway. It seemed that in Amatharian society, both the men and the women were able to become knights and pursue careers in any field. The culture was a matrilineal one. The Amatharians passed on their family name from mother to daughter, but even more important than the family name, were the family crests, and these were passed from elder family members, to those children, grandchildren, and even nephews and nieces, who managed to achieve knighthood. Norar Remontar and a cousin had received their crests from an uncle who was a war hero. His sister inherited her crest from her grandfather.

We crossed planes and hills and valleys and an occasional mountain range, and must have been some thousands of miles from the sight of the airship battle when we reached the edge of an immense forest. It stretched to the left and right as far as the eye could see. Of course as with all things of this scale, when we came up close to the edge of the woodland, we found that it was not one great forest, but a vast area of connected forests with small glens and meadows scattered here and there. We plunged into this new terrain and continued on our way.

The first several hundred miles of the forestland was lightly wooded. There were a great many open areas and we found many fruits and vegetables along the way to supplement our hunting. As the miles went on by though, we left the lightly wooded areas behind us, and entered an increasingly dark and forbidding landscape. It was the kind of forest that one might find in an old black and white horror movie or one of those fantasy novels with pointed-eared goblins peaking out from behind large oak trees. In this densely wooded country, hunting became more difficult, but because of the urgency of our quest, we could not take any more time than was absolutely necessary in any one location. So it was that when once more we had to make camp, for the first time, we sat looking at one another over an empty spot on the ground where our food might normally be found roasting on a spit above a small camp fire.

“This is most discouraging to me,” said Malagor. “It is not right for a Malagor to go without food.”

“At least we have water,” said Norar Remontar. “I am surprised that we have been able to stay as well fed as we have. Before this trip I had been hunting only three or four times with my uncle, and I mean no disrespect when I say that Alexander seems to be as unskilled as I am in this arena.”

“He has led a soft life,” explained Malagor. “I am guessing that even though you have done little hunting, your life has not been soft. You are a warrior.”

Princess of Amathar – Available at Kobo Books

Mysteriously transported to the artificial hollow world of Ecos, Earth man Alexander Ashton finds himself in the middle of a millennium-long war between the reptilian Zoasians and the humanoid Amatharians. Adopted by the Amatharians, Ashton must conform to a society based on honor and altruism, ruled by Knights whose power comes from the curious energy forms known as “souls” which inhabit their supernaturally powerful swords, and rife with its own peculiarities and prejudices. When the Princess of Amathar, whom Ashton has longed for since first seeing her, is captured by the Zoasians, he must cross an alien world, battle monstrous creatures, and face unknown dangers to save her. Princess of Amathar is a sword-swinging novel of high adventure in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is the story a strange world filled with alien races, aerial battleships, swords and energy weapons, amazing adventures and horrible dangers, and the man who must face them all for the love of a woman he has never met.

Princess of Amathar is available at Kobo Books and for all Kobo reading devices for $2.99.  Follow this link.