by Ben Cooper
Arnold squatted down between Cassandra's knees. Her skirt was already hitched around her waist and she spread her legs in compliance.
"Today is an important day." Arnold grabbed a pair of forceps from the low coffee table. Opening them he picked up a small white sponge and plunged it into Cassandra's vagina.
"I'll have to get this replaced soon." Arnold began to corkscrew the forceps back and forth. "It's looking pretty worn out."
He pulled the forceps out. The sponge had turned yellow and gave off a smell like cheap glue. He flicked the sponge at the nearby waste bin and missed. The bin slid across the floor and sucked the sponge up. Standing up he grabbed a control pad from the coffee table.
"Now which color?"
"I like purple."
"Green looks better on your skin I think. Yes." He pressed twice on the flat screen and Cassandra's hair, lipstick and eye shadow turned a dark green. Definitely the green.
Arnold stood back and looked at her.
"Stand up." He tugged at the end of his moustache. "Pull your skirt down. Turn around." He watched as Cassandra turned, the whirring noise from her joints always annoyed him, reality pressing in. She looked alright but in this light you could still see the plastic quality to her skin.
"Lights down two steps."
Crossing from the living room into the kitchen Arnold peered through the window. Outside the sun was high, the sky clear except for a smudge of cloud. Some children were playing with a small dog. He glanced at his watch. It should be here by now. Then he remembered, he had set the windows to Idyllic Summer.
"TruVue." The summer scene vanished. Outside cars and buses oozed past in the morning commute, and a haze hung around the expanse of prefabs. The street lights had already been forced on by the smog.
"It's here!" Running from the kitchen he pushed Cassandra aside and looked at himself in the dead TV screen. Still looking good.
He had worn his best suit, a tasteful green. In an instant he decided an orange tie would work better. He ran his thumb over the pad on the back of the tie until it changed to just the right shade of orange. Spitting on his hands he slicked his hair back.
The doorbell rang and he shouldered past Cassandra, knocking her back on to the sofa, and rushed into the hallway.
The delivery man handed over his cargo with out speaking. He simply thrust his data pad towards Arnold for a thumb scan and signature then left.
"So... hello Sylvia. Please come into the front room." Arnold led his new gynoid into the room. "Sit down." Sylvia sat down on the sofa and Arnold slumped next to her.
Sylvia looked around the bare room. She turned to Arnold and took a slip of plastic from her pocket.
"You'll need this. My imprint code." She handed him the sheet. Arnold took it and placed it on the arm of the sofa.
"You are incredible." He leant forward and stared at her face, his eyes roaming down to her breasts. His eyes looked too big for his head and a wispy moustache clung to his upper lip. He ran his hands over a weak chin and touched her. His hand was damp. Sylvia noticed the bad stitching on the shoulder of his suit strain as he moved.
Arnold's hand moved down to her skirt and he pulled it up. He pinched her thigh leaving a small red mark.
"Amazing. Real flesh." His head darted forward and he kissed her.
A faint whirring caused Sylvia to pull back. She looked up into the face of another woman. The woman held a glass of whisky in one hand.
"Hello," Sylvia said.
"Oh this is Cassandra. My other gynoid. She's a model C though." Arnold groped Sylvia's breasts.
Sylvia stood up. She looked at Cassandra, the long dark hair, high cheek bones and wide set feline eyes.
"Pleased to meet you."
"Likewise." Cassandra held her hand out. Sylvia held it tight. "Arn, I brought you a drink."
"Why? I've got other things to be doing." His hand disappeared up Sylvia's skirt and he pulled her back onto the sofa. "If I want a drink I'll tell you."
Cassandra returned to the kitchen. Sylvia watched her graceful movements as she placed the whisky in the synthesizer and vaporized it. Cassandra returned and stood next to the sofa.
"Jesus. Don't just vaporize it. I'd have had it later. I'm not made of money. Don't waste creds like that you dumb machine."
"Why don't you sit down. There's space." Sylvia pressed up against Arnold and Cassandra sat next to them.
Arnold stood and yanked Sylvia to her feet dragging her to the door.
"I want some food ready in a few hours. And for Christ's sake clean the kitchen." He turned and took Sylvia upstairs.
Cassandra went into the kitchen and began her work.
"Here, let me help you with that." Sylvia took a sponge from the bucket and began scrubbing the floor. She pulled her robe tight, covering the bruising on her thighs.
"Thanks." Cassandra knelt back and rested on her haunches. "Is he coming down?"
"No. He's asleep I think."
Cassandra stood up and stared out of the window. In the light Sylvia noticed that one of Cassandra's arms was a darker shade to the rest of her skin.
"What happened to your arm?"
"It broke. Arnold bought a new one."
"How?" Sylvia stopped scrubbing.
"Just wear and tear."
"Your chassis has a 120 year life span." Sylvia stood up and touched the dark arm. She let her hand rest on it, feeling the cold silicone skin soften and warm to her touch. She pressed her fingers down feeling the alloy chassis beneath.
"Where's my dinner?" Arnold walked into the kitchen, his pale stomach guiding him forward.
Sylvia removed her hand and stepped back.
"I'll fix it now honey." Cassandra moved to the synthesiser and began to tap buttons.
"Sylvia, come with me." Arnold turned and went to the sofa.
Sylvia looked at Cassandra's back for a moment then went into the living room.
"I'm bored." Sylvia leapt off the sofa. "Let's go to the shops."
"What? You know androids can't be outside without a human."
"Oh come on." Sylvia grabbed Cassandra's hands and pulled her onto her feet. "It'll be fun. We could look at some new clothes. Besides, can you tell I'm a "droid." Sylvia turned a circle, wiggling her hips.
"No." Cassandra smiled.
"Then let's get out of here." Sylvia pulled Cassandra toward her and hugged her. She held her close then quickly hopped back smiling at her.
The department store was enormous, twelve floors high and two miles long. Inside Sylvia picked out half a dozen outfits and ushered Cassandra into a fitting room.
"Try this one." Sylvia held out a long purple dress with a low back. The tones shifted in the light like oil on water.
Sylvia watched as Cassandra slid her skirt over the curve of her hips and let it fall to the floor. As she removed her top it snagged on an earring. Sylvia stood up and helped her, laughing.
Cassandra slipped into the dress. The material clung tightly to every line on her body, a high slit on one side revealing a lean thigh.
Sylvia smoothed the dress down at the back, her fingertips straying onto the olive skin on display. She moved her hands up to Cassandra's hair and flicked it about, letting her dark curls tumble naturally.
"You look beautiful."
"Purple is definitely your color." Sylvia smoothed a crease on Cassandra's flank.
"I've always liked it. Arnold says green is my colur."
Sylvia turned Cassandra around. "If you think purple is your color then it's your color." She smiled at her.
"But Arnold thinks that..."
"I know. Green." Sylvia sat down on the bench. "Come on let's get back home, he'll be back soon."
Sylvia waited outside the cubicle while Cassandra changed.
Sylvia lay on the sofa watching TV. A sales android was trying to persuade her to buy some robotic mops.
"It's every housewife's dream." The android craned his neck forward, too many teeth showing in his smile. His hands were linked in supplication.
"Do I look like a housewife?" Sylvia changed the TV to passive before the android could respond, then changed the channel.
She sat up and felt something sharp dig into her leg. Reaching down between the sofa cushions she removed her imprint sheet. It's been three weeks. He must've forgotten. She placed the sheet on the table and turned back to the TV.
After a moment her eyes strayed back to the sheet. She picked it up and turned it over in her hands. Standing up she moved into the kitchen. She could hear Cassandra upstairs, cleaning and tidying as usual.
She threw the sheet into the synthesizer and vaporized it.
Cassandra bent under the clear plastic table and sprayed some cleaner to the underside of the top. Her arm twisted at an unnatural angle to smear the cleaner around; a foamy scum began collecting at the edges which she scooped up and flicked into the bin.
"I've finished the bedroom." Sylvia sat down on the sofa. "Come and sit with me."
Cassandra stood up and sat down on the sofa next to her. Some of Cassandra's hair had fallen out of the tight ponytail and hung down over her eyes.
"Let me fix that." Sylvia pulled the band off and Cassandra's hair fell about her shoulders. Sylvia gathered the hair up, feeling the synthetic harshness against her skin. She thought about her own hair, sleek and growing. Human.
She tied the hair back, knotting it high above Cassandra's slender neck. Leaning forward she kissed her neck.
"What are you doing?" Cassandra turned her head.
"Cassandra...I love you."
"But Arnold...You love Arnold." Cassandra shifted away from her. "I love Arnold."
"That's just your imprint program. I love you." Sylvia reached out and grabbed Cassandra's arm. "Let me re-imprint you. It's easy. Model C's don't need a code sequence."
"Let go." Cassandra pulled back, pushing against the sofa with her thighs. "I love Arnold."
"He doesn't love you. I want you to love me. We can go away. Together."
"No. Get off me!"
Sylvia tightened her grip and lunged forward. They fell off the sofa and onto the table knocking it over. Cassandra screamed trying to pull away but Sylvia sat on top of her, straddling her chest, pinning her shoulders down with her legs. Probing through Cassandra's hair Sylvia found the small cover and slid it back. Cassandra bucked and writhed on the floor, her eyes wide. Sylvia found two buttons and pressed in the larger one.
Cassandra became still, her mouth hanging open.
Sylvia slid off and knelt next to her. She closed Cassandra's mouth and kissed it. She kissed her face, her eyes, her hair. She pulled hard and sat Cassandra up.
Reaching into the hair she found the buttons again and pressed them both in.
Cassandra's eyes flickered then looked around the room finally resting on Sylvia's face.
"Hey there." Sylvia removed her fingers, leant forward and kissed Cassandra.
It was rare to get a half day. In fact Arnold couldn't remember the last time it had happened. No pay, but who gives a shit, beats carting dead bodies around in the freezing cold.
He swiped his card through the slot and the door slid open, greeting him home.
The lights were off. He walked into the front room and found nothing. The cushions from the sofa were spread across the floor and the table had been knocked over. A noise came from upstairs.
He walked up the stairs and edged towards the bedroom door. He could hear Sylvia and Cassandra. They were laughing. Opening the door he stepped inside.
They were lying on the bed. Naked. Their bodies knotted together, hands moving over each other, around breasts, down backs, lingering between legs.
"What's going on?"
Sylvia and Cassandra jumped apart and stood up, scrabbling for their robes.
"We were just getting ready for you." Sylvia pulled on her robe and tied it around herself.
"What do you mean? I wasn't due home for another six hours." Arnold moved towards her cutting her off from the doorway. "What are you two doing?"
"We're in love," Cassandra said.
Arnold turned to her. "In love?" His shoulders were hunched up.
Sylvia tried to move around him but he grabbed her hair and threw her back against the wall.
"You love me. I'm your master. I own you. You're my fucking property." He moved towards Sylvia. He struck her across the mouth. Blue lubricant spilled from her mouth down her chin.
"We are in love. We don't want to be here any more." Sylvia wiped the lubricant away
"You think you have a choice? You're a machine. A tool for me to use as and when I want."
He hit Sylvia again and she staggered back against the wall hitting her head. As she slumped down he fell on her, his mouth contorted, Sylvia raised her arms to her head and he hit them repeatedly, then drove his fists into her abdomen again and again until her arms fell to protect herself, he punched her face breaking her nose and drove his elbow into her throat, blue lubricant welled up in her throat and coursed down her chin, then Arnold screamed, saliva flecking Sylvia's face, and he grabbed her hair and drove her head into the wall.
And then he stopped. He blinked rapidly and his eyes rolled up. A fine line of blood ran from one of his ears and he keeled over to the floor. Cassandra stood behind him holding the bedside lamp.
Kneeling down Cassandra rolled Arnold's body off Sylvia and helped her to her feet.
"Are you OK?" Cassandra used the hem of her robe to wipe away the blue that covered Sylvia's face.
"Yes. I'm fine. It'll heal." Sylvia felt her swollen eyes. She clicked her nose back into position. She looked down at Arnold, his body perfectly still, a pool of blood around his head.
In silence they dressed and stuffed a small bag with clothes and some credits. They didn't know how far they would make it, but together they had the strength to try.
© 2009 Ben Cooper
Bio: Ben Cooper is an aspiring writer from Devon, England. His SF short fiction and poetry has been published in Aphelion and his non-fiction in Bass Guitar Magazine and Acoustic Magazine. Ben's most recent Aphelion appearance was a double-header: the story Torn and the poem Orion's Belt, both in the June 2009 edition.
Visit BenCooper-SF for more information.)
E-mail: Ben Cooper
Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum
Return to Aphelion's Index page.