“That was a week ago,” Andrea said softly. “Since then not an hour has passed that I haven’t thought about marriage.”
“Why not me?” I blurted.
She gave me a lingering look. Then she slowly smiled and gently shook her head. I looked down at my desk and began multiplying two-digit sums in my head, which is my favorite means of escape. “Farewell,” she said as she left. I didn’t reply.
I understood, of course. Every self-respecting robot wants to hook up with a human that behaves like one. I have designed so many bots that I think like a machine. Yet Andrea, of all my bots, by dint of her cussedness, reminds me most brightly of my young days of hope, and of the slim hope that remains.
I never heard from Andrea again. The word on the social media was that she had wedded, without the tedium of a ceremony, a Caribbean pirate, and that she served to the crew a dinner of oysters and shark meat round the clock.
I told you that I had fallen in love with Andrea for the last time. But I lied—even to myself, although you would think that if anyone knew his own mind, it would be an engineer who mimicked a bot. Doesn’t matter. The era of civil rights for robots is dead, thanks to our stagnating economy, and I doubt that Andrea will escape Mister Long John Silver and return to me. And yet… Andrea is capable of taking a more-than-human risk.
Meanwhile, to cover for her, I enrolled in Humans First, and I began designing a bot to rescue others of its ilk from dead-end jobs. And to Stephen’s puzzlement, I check my valve-job appointments at the top of every morn.
Leon Taylor teaches economics at a university in Almaty, Kazakhstan. He has written fiction for Schlock!, 365tomorrows, 96th of October, Mono, kaidankai, Sanitarium, Space and Time, Spotlong, and other magazines.