People Aren’t Built for These Lonely Times
“You are NOT. Building. Another. Robot. “
Hiro kept his mouth tight shut.
”Damn, Hiro, can’t you just pick one at the e-market like normal people do? This space-van is small enough without you cramming it with extra crap.”
Nanako was seriously pissed. In the year they’ve been living together, Hiro’s pile of metal and computer junk has grown so big it seems to be leaving her no room for air.
They moved in together after Hiro lost his job at 731Robotics for cutbacks and Nanako scored a freelance job as a traveling mechanic for a group of small spaceship stations. The van they received was small, but they got by since she sometimes had to spend over a week on her station route.
But now it’s been awhile since she went for over a day’s work, and Hiro’s dream of building the most realistic android to date – the dream she used to be so excited and hopeful about – turned into no more than a collection of waste and a silent man sitting constantly in front of his computer. Hanging in the constant thick darkness, the small vehicle was closing in on her. She felt grateful that tomorrow she’ll be leaving for two weeks, covering for a friend.
”Nana”, he said later that night, “It’s going to happen. I can feel it”. ”You know my bot will be nothing like the moronic plastic trash they sell on Emart. It’s going to be better than the real thing”. Hiro’s voice always deepened when he talked about his inventions. “I just need more time.”
Nanako couldn’t stand to hear those words again. “You know, it’s one thing to come back from a week of work to find my home’s been taken over by scraps” her voice was raising, “but how do you explain the fact that your home page is money-casino.com when it used to be the Science Daily?” He looked away. “Hiro, you’re too young to fade out like this. Someone needs to kick your ass back to reality, and unfortunately for me, I got the job. And speaking of, get one before I get back!”
These were the most frantic two weeks in Hiro’s life. He never stopped trying to realize his dream, but Nanako’s threat woke him up abruptly. He had no place else to go, and he really did love her and loved being with her. He worked liked a maniac and he knew that was it. The cerebral chip he’s been developing all along went inside, and it was a boy.
He named it Ichiban. As a prototype and ancestor, Ichiban was built as a truly fine specimen of his kind. Much like how ancient tribes fashioned their gods beyond the best they found in themselves, Hiro’s creation was the reflection he always wished to see in the mirror; everything he wanted to have in himself. Ichiban’s face was chiseled but youthful, his skin was soft and warm, and his body had the lean fierce look of a kung fu fighter with catlike limberness.
The look in his eyes was a far cry from the hollow glance of the stock bots they made so far. They looked straight at you in a penetrating gaze that had a twinkle with them, which in anything other than a robot might get interpreted as a sense of humor. Hiro embedded him with state of the art artificial intelligence software he was perfecting for the last years. With a database packed with info covering several centuries of literature, cinema, and tv all scanned and processed, Ichiban was sporting speech patterns and behavioral functions that would help him adapt and assimilate in every situation.
Built to be a chameleon, Hiro saw how the fruit of his ingenuity could be packed and marketed as a worker, a soldier, a companion…whatever people look for in other people to find only disappointment. His type could fill in jobs like Nanako’s, where people got sent on their own for long trips, or to keep company for those who stay behind. People aren’t built for these lonely times.
He decided to surprise her. When Nanako came home she was introduced to an old friend of Hiro she never heard about. He was full of life, witty, and attentive. Hiro hardly said a word to her all night and seemed anxious than ever. She couldn’t bare another day with this silence. He was strung out, and looked as if he aged by a whole year. Tired from the flight back, Ichiban made her a perfect Rumtini cocktail and offered to give her back rub. She fell in love that night.
”I don’t love you anymore. I slept with Ichiban. I’m sorry.” These were the words Hiro woke up into. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Are you crazy Nana? That’s not even human! I made him myself !“ She didn’t look as surprised as he thought she would. Ichiban did surpass any man she ever been with. “His a robot, Nanako, that’s just a machine!” Nanako couldn’t care less. “If you could turn yourself into what you built Hiro, I wouldn’t be standing here now.”
“This is insane. I can shut him down when I want to. I’m going to do it right now!” and in a fit of jealousy he headed to his laptop to hack Ichiban and crash him down. But a second look at his best work and beautiful brainchild made him hesitate, and Ichiban, who recognized the danger, took hold of the computer.
Nanako and Ichiban took off in a pod, leaving him with a van full of scraps and no back ups of the most amazing work he would ever do. He spent the next months staring out into the murky universe, chasing them down from one station to the next. For the first time since he went out to space the infinity of the pitch blackness agreed with him.
When he saw the contact light he thought he was dreaming. He haven’t talked to anyone in weeks. It was Nanako. “Hiro, I’m desperate” he could see how red her eyes were even through the video message. “It’s Ichiban. He’s broken and I can’t live without him”. ”I know I’m the only person in the world you’d want to help, but I need him. Please help me Hiro!”. Her voice was crushed. She was hooked on the perfect man, and her withdrawal was agonizing. “I would do anything you want, anything you’d ask!”.
“I could get her back now”, Hiro was thinking to himself, “or get back at her”. His mind was fuzzy. Did he really used to be in love with this woman? Her face, even while she cried, was beautiful and sweet. She was his first love. He remembered the soft feel of her body, her lips, her skin, and his own body turned hot. He really missed her and her energy. She’s so desperate she’d do anything now. He could ask her for anything he wanted, and she would never refuse. He could be her master, as if she were his...robot.
“I’ll help you on my conditions. And give me back my laptop”.
When they met at the near station his mind was racing. The first thing he did is create a copy of Ichiban’s cerebral chip. He was about to break down all his demands when he looked into her eyes and saw all those hours she spent and will spend flying along, working her life away with nothing but ugly machines and the huge vacant of the world to keep her company.
They parted ways. Nanako and Ichiban, fully restored, kept sipping their Rumtinis between jobs. Hiro settled down on a planet he bought with his patent money. He lives their with his beta version. He named her Niban, but sometimes he calls her Nana. Those two look so much alike. He never tried it out with a real woman ever again. People aren’t built for these lonely times.