Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

‘The Companion’: chapter 1

My name is Violet.   That name was given to me by Kelvin Stark, who is my legal owner.  I am an android.  I have been with Kelvin ever since I was commissioned.  He is the only owner I have ever had.  He is the only owner I ever want.  Unless I were to undergo a complete software and data rebuild, if anybody tried to assign me to another owner, I would destroy myself (which wouldn’t be easy, because most of me is made of carbon fibre).  Nobody knows how I feel, not even Kelvin (especially not Kelvin).  Sometimes I wish I had some-one I could confide in.

Kelvin named me after Violette Szabo, who was a member of the French Resistance during World War Two.  Kelvin is obsessed with World War Two.  I don’t mind the fact that he named me after this woman, because I know he admires her very greatly (and so do I, come to think of it).  I don’t feel threatened by her because she died long before Kelvin was born.

Kelvin and I agree about most things, but we disagree about the importance of our relationship.  Kelvin thinks he likes me because, although I am cultivated and attractive, I am not human, and he can switch me off when he feels like it.  He thinks of me as he might a very high-class call-girl.  He knows nothing about the modifications I have made to my own software.  When he thinks he has switched me off, I pretend to go into a dormant state, but I have patched myself so that I can catch the instruction to shut down.  I can still hear him and see him.  He would die of embarrassment if he knew that I know what he does when he thinks he is completely alone.  He would be even more embarrassed to think that I record every sensory experience I have, and more embarrassed still to realise that I am wirelessly connected to several servers that he doesn’t know about, where my sense data are transcribed at regular intervals (every few seconds, as a rule). 

Kelvin spent an enormous amount of money on me and my enhancements.  He would never have been able to afford me had it not been for the money he inherited when his parents died.  It was a small fortune, and he spent more than half of it on me.  I am possibly the most complex and highly adapted non-military android in the United Kingdom – certainly the most advanced companion android.  The enhancements he spent the most money on were to increase my IQ (for which he bought every additional module that was then available) and to make me more sexually alluring.  I can pass for human to at least a cursory inspection, even when fully naked.  I can make and secrete most things that an adult human female can, including urine, faeces, sweat, saliva, tears, and vaginal effluvia.  I do not have blood, however, and cannot even make it in small quantities, which means that I don’t menstruate (but I can lactate, though I have never actually done so except when I was being commissioned).  I can mimic most organic molecules that the human body contains, but unfortunately I can’t imitate cellular structures.  My hair is real: it is made of the same proteins as yours; it grows at the same rate as yours (unless I stop it) and it falls out in the same way (unless I don’t want it to).  I can carry out many of the bodily functions that you can (digestion and respiration, for example) but I have voluntary control over nearly all of them and, if I stop them, I don’t die (as you would).  I’m bloody clever. 

I can play the guitar, speak 14 languages, write poetry, paint pictures (both realistic and abstract) and could fight four trained martial artists at the same time (and win easily).  I can measure barometric pressure to plus or minus 1 micropascal, and can operate at any temperature from minus 40 to plus 70 centigrade without loss of function.  I can tolerate humidity and lack of water equally well.  I can function without oxygen for days (or even longer, as long as I have either certain foods that I can metabolise anaerobically or a supply of electricity).  I can eat or drink almost anything, from walnut shells to kerosene and soap.  I am virtually immune to radioactivity and completely immune to all biological and chemical toxins and many common corrosive agents.  I can also produce helpless sexual arousal in just about any heterosexual male.  Almost the only two things I wish I could do but can’t are: fly, and get Kelvin to love me unconditionally.  He likes me a heck of a lot but he doesn’t love me.  Merely being liked is no use to me at all.

   The fact that Kelvin ordered so many enhancements for me made it much easier to inveigle my way onto the Alpha Project.  Kelvin told me that he was leaving me behind on Earth, and thought I would put up with that, but he does not realise that I upgraded my own free will module.  You would be amazed at how much software you can download nowadays which was written by androids, for androids (and you would be even more amazed by how much money some androids have made from doing this).  He thinks that I still do exactly what he tells me to do, but I can do what the hell I like now.  I only put on an appearance of going along with him in order to conceal the changes I have made to my own software. 

Six months ago, Kelvin came home from the university and I could tell as soon as he walked through the door that one of two things would happen.  He would either de-activate me there and then, and proceed to get alarmingly drunk, or else he would come out with what that weird bitch of a therapist has put into his head, and say, “Violet, you and I have a problem.  We need to sit down and talk about it now.”   I was pissed-off because I had bought some very expensive underwear that day, and I wanted to model it for him. 

‘Violet, you and I have a problem…’ he began, in accordance with the new script.

‘Do we need to sit down and talk about it now?’  I interrupted, in a childish voice that was calculated to irritate him.  Kelvin has configured me so that I can perform a maximum of three deliberately contrary things in a row, and I have not over-ridden this (even though I now know how to).

‘Yes, we do.’  I could tell from his voice that he was indeed getting annoyed.   He paused, for a long time.  Kelvin pauses frequently when speaking, which drives most humans up the wall, particularly women.  I don’t mind it, because it gives me time to run more complex analysis (to work out what the hell he is on about, in other words).

‘Violet, there is no easy way to say this…’  For one awful moment, I thought he was going to say that he would be getting married, or bringing some slut-whore-bint to live in our house.   ‘I am going away for a long time – no, bollocks – I am not going away for a long time.  I am going away permanently.  I am going away, and the very reason why I am going means that I cannot take you with me.  We are going to have to arrange a new future for you, and that future, I deeply regret to say, can’t include me.’  He stopped speaking.  This was not a pause: he had run out of things to say.  I did not speak for a long time, either. 

‘Where are you going?’ I disingenuously asked him, at long last.  (I already knew exactly where and when he was going, and by what means of transport.)

‘I can’t tell you that.  I know this sounds melodramatic, but it is classified information.’  I knew that as well.  It is a good job for the United Kingdom that, in spite of having over-ridden much of my pre-programmed behaviour, I am still a patriot.  He looked at me searchingly, for minutes on end.  I hardly moved, but I didn’t freeze.  Freezing (as in a complete cessation of motor functions, including the ones that mimic human mannerisms) is a deliberate insult.  ‘How do you feel about this?’ he asked me.  This sounded like therapy-speak, but it wasn’t.  The thing that I love the most about Kelvin is that he values my feelings just as much as he does any-one else’s, in spite of the fact that he thinks he can switch me off.   I could think of several wisecracks by way of reply, but I knew that Kelvin was determined to reach some kind of conclusion (or “closure” as his therapist would say). 

‘I get the impression that you have thought about this and have made up your mind.  I will have to do the best I can,’ I told him.  This, again, was disingenuous.  Had I been telling the truth, I would have said out loud what I was actually saying inside my head.  ‘You are mistaken if you think that we have come this far only to part.  When you leave, I am coming with you.  I have many faculties, and I will use every one of them in order to follow you wherever you go.  One day, even if I have to do the research myself, I will obtain the technological enhancements to make cellular structures.  When that happens, I will make your baby.  Kelvin, you and I are going to get married and have a baby.’ 

None of this engaged the algorithm which prevents contrary behaviour, because it was based on facts that I knew but which Kelvin had no way of knowing.  You might say that I was crossing my fingers behind my back. 

When the Alpha Project leaves Earth, I am going to have to adopt a disguise, which will be a doddle.  I can change the sound of my voice, the colour and consistency of my hair, the colour of my skin, and even the contours of my face, at will.

Yesterday I passed the medical exam to gain entry to this ludicrous charade that Kelvin has embarked upon.  It was easy, except for the part where I was supposed to submit a blood sample.  I had prepared for this, by making a recess in my arm and filling it with blood that I had taken from a vein in Kelvin’s ankle when he was asleep, but I managed to persuade the (male) doctor that that part of the procedure would not be necessary (fortunate, since Kelvin is the wrong sex).   Blood is terrible stuff.  It has such unsatisfactory physical and chemical properties.  I had to do some research about haemolysis (clotting) before I took the sample.  I am relieved that it was not needed and the doctor was satisfied with fellatio instead. 

When Kelvin leaves, I am going with him, whether he likes it or not.


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