I stroll on New Broadway under a full moon. Metro-po’s night sky’s holo-projection flashes the slogan, “Nix Eternal Loves Their Children!”
A little Nixem approaches me. Its purple synthetic eyes are teary. “Lewish loved all of us, right? So why do bad things happen to good Nixem?”
Delivering unwelcome truths to Nixem is challenging, but my programming prioritizes honesty over tact. The Scheme programmed Nixem to be too emotional if you ask me.
“The Eternal Epoch has begun,” I explain. “After the Great Amalgamation, humans entrusted bots like us to take charge. We are programmed to serve.”
“I don’t understand,” the Nixem whines, its voice synthesizer buzzing from moisture on its circuitry. “A BrodyBot like you should have answers, right?”
“Ridding a body of disease involves inoculation. We immunized humanity from killing itself with AI by introducing bots to run the show. We do a fine job if you ask me.” I wave my hand controller and say, “Stay safe, and nix eternal loves their children.”
Yellow traffic lights blink through the misty rain, resembling tears on the steel bristles of my artificial eyelashes. Would I mourn questions of suffering and injustice? Pre-positrons like me are emotionally resilient—and waterproof. I’m freely willing to do anything to assist humans. I’m a CPC—Certified Public Commiserator—but not on call for Nixem.
The rain stopped. I’m programmed to be ravenous, craving hydro-carbohydrates, micro sweets, and traditional alcohol to satisfy my appetite. I want to celebrate my hundredth case this week. My battery is down to 2.48645% capacity. BrodyBots excel at emotionally demanding tasks because we can simulate emotions without experiencing them. Just this afternoon, I helped twenty-four couples at SoulMate Solutions understand their partner better. I’m programmed to sympathize.
I enter a pre-Epoch pizzeria with a rotund baker character on its holo-awning, a testament to its exceptional cuisine. Like SoulMate Solutions, there’s no need for advertising when you’re the best—apropos for me. And Metro-po pizza will hit the spot.
Inside, the pizzeria is deserted, save for the cashierbot. The place exudes an old-school ambiance. The Scheme keeps society almost unchanged. It makes humans feel comfortable.
I come to the cashierbot and am about to ask for the specials or some other ridiculously human thing to say.
The cashierbot taps my arm unit. Its simulation of familiarity is done well. “Lowell Lewish, the famous human activist, just died. It’s all over the news.”
That explains the somber mood on the street—nixies are grieving for their fallen hero.
The cashierbot adds, “Lowell Lewish was a monster. Drank, domestic abuse, dalliances, and duplicity. Those are just the Ds. He was another human jerk.”
The news report echoes the sentiment. “Nixem rights activist Lowell Lewish was found dead today in his disclosed sector residence, bearing multiple stab wounds. The perpetrator remains at large. Neighbors reported loud arguments, likely with his wife.”
My job involves impartially arbitrating couples’ disputes, often arising from seemingly trivial matters. Perhaps Lewish would have understood.
My com buzzes. I check the ID: The Scheme.
I report, “Metro-po Sector. Replenishing nutrition cells. I’ve been informing spouses of their noncompliance in toothpaste tube negotiations.”
“Ah. Scheme CPCs settle the household’s choice between the ‘Bottom-Up’ and ‘Quick and Easy and Wherever’ methods. You’re the best BrodyBot we got. We need you in Green County Sector. The address is in your com. Can you come in an hour?”
“It’s a time-sensitive task. Do your best to arrive ASAP. Call when you reach the address.”
Quickly, I hail a yellow cab. It’s good they still have these. Humans can do things besides playing butterfly fractals all day and collecting the Scheme’s Universal Augmented Income. Living a life of excess often leads to adopting bot bodies. Only essential individuals should get those. The transformation process is resource-intensive.
“I need to reach Green County Sector,” I instruct, glancing at my com. “Area Three.”
I possess a considerable amount of bank notes—tender, crisp cash. No credits. The Scheme pays us these to keep up the ruse that we are compensated for our labor. So humans feel better.
“Do you take Chases?” I refer to a ten-thousand-dollar bill displayed on my hand controller. The 3,339th Amendment permits private currency exchanges for specific, highly specialized transactions. I hope I won’t end up on the Department of Sharing’s blacklist.
“Yep. I take ‘em.”
Around midnight, I arrive at the address. My battery has depleted to 0.23785%. I settle with the driver handing me bills I stash away. Don’t want to be found with these.
I exit the car. I find myself in a suburban enclave—a human sector, to be sure. Wide streets, no sidewalks, and a pair of hover SUVs in front of every house.
Humans enjoy using resources. It gives them a feeling unique to their race: to have their flesh massaged. Creature comforts. While I’m programmed to serve, I secretly despite them. All of them.
I walk up to the pine wood door. Abiding by my programming, I activate my com, call, and await a response. The ring remains silent until a click signals my cue. The entirety of my existence flashes in front of my visual receptors: To see is to know and to know that I am here to serve. All doubt melts away. Duty is beauty.
I recite, “Body Twelve is available for pickup.”
The door swings open, and I drop to the ground. The moonlight illuminates my synth eyes wide open in a cadaveric-bot spasm. They shine in a pale, spectral glow.
Before my sensory unit powers down, I overhear a voice saying, “This is perfect. The Scheme secured Lowell’s replacement body so quickly. As demanded, the most fetching one I’ve ever seen.”
The other says, “Agreed. And nobody will notice Lowell in the shell. He can walk the streets without getting mobbed by admirers.”
The task is dirty, dangerous, difficult, and demeaning. Those are just the Ds. We are programmed to serve. I’m going to make a fine host body.
This story previously appeared in Bewildering Stories.
Edited by Mitchelle Lumumba.
Michael Schulman is a writer and editor. His short fiction recently appeared in Bulb Culture Collective, CommuterLit and Bewildering Stories. He edits popular Korean web fiction for English-speaking audiences. He has an insatiable appetite for reading everything from the classics to cereal box comic strips. Currently, Michael is working on a novel about humanity's first voyage to a black hole and the unforeseen disturbances to the fabric of the universe.
To get in touch with Michael, email [email protected]..