By C.E. Gee
“Remote display info,” said Betty. The mediaroom’s 3D-array, which took up most of one end of the room, displayed the time, date, channel, the current show’s playing time, title, a short synopsis.
“Remote, clear,” said Betty. The array returned to the program, a period piece concerning the romantic antics of the crew of a research station orbiting Neptune near the middle of the previous century.
Betty, sitting on one of the room’s couches, turned to Lee, her husband, said, “They should be here any minute.”
Lee nodded, put down his tablet, tapped out the ashes of his pipe into the nearby ashtray. The sweet scent of Oregon Magnum, a premium brand of marijuana filled the air.
“Guess I should be on my best behavior,” replied Lee.
“Please,” begged Betty. “I think Jane’s really serious about her new boyfriend. I’d like for his first impression of us to be a good one.”
Lee sat up straight, smoothed down the front of his jumpsuit, ran his fingers through his hair, patted down the top. Lee smirked, shook his head, said, “She hasn’t talked much about this one. I wonder what’s wrong with him.”
“Lee!” exclaimed Betty. “Maybe she hasn’t said much because maybe, just maybe this one’s a keeper.”
Lee snorted his bemusement, derisively replied, “Yeah, right.”
The front door swung open, Jane entered the room followed by her boyfriend.
Lee’s smirk broadened. Betty’s mouth flapped open.
Jane’s new boyfriend was an android. It wasn’t the sort of android that could pass as human; this android was a military model.
Steel, aluminum, titanium gleamed from reflected light. When the android moved, very faint whirring sounds of electric motors sounded.
When the android said, “Good evening,” the greeting came from a speaker. The android had no mouth, just a grill over a speaker where a mouth should be.
From watching news shows and documentaries, Lee knew enough about military androids to know they had human brains encased in armored containers within the chest area. Usually the brains were from soldiers who had been wounded, died in military hospitals.
Lee rose, offered his hand. “Glad to meet you,” said Lee.
“Daddy,” said Jane as Lee and the android shook hands, “this is Bill. Bill, this is my mom and dad, Betty and Lee.”
There was another couch at one end of the room placed at a right angle to Betty and Lee’s couch. Jane and Bill sat.
For near an hour Lee and Jane and Bill chatted, mostly about androids and the current dust-up in Africa. Betty contributed almost nothing to the conversation.
As soon as Jane and Bill were out the door, Betty sat forward. Elbows on knees, hands supporting her head, Betty whined, “Oh dear God, what next? Where did we go wrong in raising that kid?”
“Now honey,” replied Lee, “this country owes its very existence to veterans. Show some compassion for crying out loud.”
In near a sob, Betty exclaimed, “I want grandchildren!”
Lee put his arm around Betty’s shoulders. In a low, soothing voice he said, “You’ll get your grandchildren, if not from this guy, from another.”
Betty shrugged off Lee’s arm while saying, “He’s a machine.”
“Listen,” replied Lee. “If some person in the military is in a hospital, and it looks like they’re not going to make it, the medicos harvest their eggs or sperm, freeze ‘em. In fact, in the case of sperm, it can be harvested up to a coupla days after death.”
“Really?” replied Betty.
“Yep,” said Lee. “Learned that off some news show.”
Betty cuddled up against her husband, switched on the 3-D array, tuned in a popular sitcom.
It was almost bedtime when Jane came home, again sat on the other couch.
“Honey,” said Betty, “I have to admit, I’m a little concerned here. I mean, your new squeeze, how could he possibly make you happy?”
Jane giggled, said, “Oh mom, he makes me very happy. You know that toy you’ve got hidden in your closet. Well Bill has an entire collection. They’re detachable, interchangeable.”
Once again, Betty’s mouth flapped open. She then said, “When did you snoop through my closet?”
Lee chuckled as Jane replied, “Back when I was a level 11 student.”
Jane rose, sat on the other couch, sat, put her arm around her mother’s shoulders.
“Listen mom,” said Jane, you’ve nothing to worry about. Bill and I, we’re in love.”
Jane’s mouth began to tremble. She continued, “You know, for the first time in my life I’m really, truly in love. It’s wonderful. I never knew it could be like this. And I never thought I’d be involved with a veteran. But he’s not like any guy I’ve ever known before. He’s real, no games. Besides, when we’re together I feel safe, even when on the streets at night.”
Lee smiled a broad smile as Betty patted Jane’s knee, said, “I’m happy for you dear. I really am.”
- - -
Retired from the electronics/telecommunications industries, also a disabled veteran (Vietnam 1968, 1st Infantry Division), C.E. Gee now writes Science Fiction.