Natalie

artist studio

© Natalie Ruka

Natalie had calculated the exact number of images and other objects suspended on the wall at a glance. She filed away that value, along with item categorizations, for later use. She did the same for the books, opened and closed, the number of light sources, active and inactive, brushes, pencils, liquid, semi-liquid, and solids containers. In less time than it would have taken her to brush her long, thick, brunette hair, she had learned everything she considered relevant about the room’s interior.

However, she had yet to discover what it all meant, at least beyond the literal understanding.

“Noel Gray is an artist.” She uttered the words like a holy revelation, even though she had been provided with that information before arriving here. She correlated what she knew of art in general, then of graphic design, types, media, notable examples of artists and their works, and then compared that data to everything in the room and what she knew of Noel Gray so she could construct the necessary context.

George had related to her what he believed was necessary for her to know about her assignment, and then had the Uber deliver her to the address just past noon. The front door was open, which she expected, and her instructions only said to go to Noel’s studio and wait.

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The Automannequin

coffee

© priorhouse

Max Hawkins staggered into the lobby of the building before dawn, and he couldn’t remember where he’d been all night.

“Anybody here?”

He was alone. The wreath near the window reminded him of Christmas. He poured himself a cup from the carafe, remembering he took coffee black.

“We’re glad your back, Max.”

He jumped, spilling his drink.

“Sorry. I called out.”

“That’s quite alright,” said the older man. “You ran off, but I knew you’d come home.”

“Home? This is Automannequins.”

“Yes. You malfunctioned and forgot you were a sexbot. We have to get you packaged for delivery this morning.”

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

I’m still sleepy this morning and coffee is very much on my mind. For some reason, looking at the photo, I got the image of one of those old Twilight Zone episodes where the main character can’t remember who he is and how he got into a given situation, with a surprise reveal at the end. That’s tough to pull off in a hundred words. My character is an automated AI “sex worker” who on some level decided he didn’t want the role. Oh well.

By the way, there are automated sex worker brothels now, including one opening up in Houston, according to this news story.

To read other tales based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Demon With A Glass Heart

demon hand

From the 1964 episode of “The Outer Limits,” “Demon with a Glass Hand” starring Robert Culp and Arlene Martel

18 October 1964

“My name is Trent, and at last I know who I am or rather what I am. It will be dawn soon and I’ve accomplished my mission here. I retrieved my missing three fingers, stopped the Kyban incursion from a thousand years in the future, and destroyed their time mirror. Now I have to leave the building before people start to come to work, and especially before she comes back.”

Standing outside of the Bradbury Building, he looked at his reflection in a display window. He could pass for a man about thirty or thirty-five, but the fact is, he’s only ten days old. No, make that eleven with the sunrise. His jacket, pants, and shirt are all various shades of light gray. His hair is dark and his face is clean-shaven, although he’s been designed to not grow body hair beyond his current appearance. He’s handsome, but not particularly outstanding. In fact, the only thing that might draw someone’s attention to him is the dark glove on his right hand.

Trent started walking southwest for lack of anything better to do. He didn’t feel hungry, but in the past week and a half of his life, he never experienced hunger or thirst. Strangely, he has experienced fear, anxiety, anticipation, and even love.

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Surveillance

camera

© Enisa

“Citizens. You are being watched. It is now safe to cross the street.” The simulated voice from the cross walk camera sounded both melodious and ominous.

“I think it’s creepy how the government is allowed to put up surveillance cameras everywhere.” Joan was complaining to her co-worker Fran as the two of them continued their lunch hour walk.

“It’s to keep us safe. No one can carry a gun or a knife anywhere without being seen.”

“But even in the bathrooms? It’s embarrassing.”

“Only robots using algorithms to detect dangerous activity are watching. Besides, you can’t have everything. To be safe, you have to give up something.”

“I can’t even make love to my husband anymore without feeling guilty. Why do they have to be in our bedrooms, too?”

“Excuse me.”

The two women stopped as they were approached by a police officer.

“I’m Officer Jill Conrad. Our monitors detected what could be interpreted as subversive speech during your conversation. Mind if I ask you a few questions?”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of March 27, 2018. The idea is to use the image above to inspire crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 168.

The photo looked kind of sterile and “futuristic,” or more like how the future was imagined in the 1960s. So I wrote a small, dystopian tale about how “Big Brother” (see George Orwell’s novel “1984”) was everywhere, watching all the time, including in our bathrooms and bedrooms, all in the cause of keeping us safe.

Am I being ridiculous? There was a time when I thought I could travel by commercial air without having my genitals either photographed or touched, and yet we all seem to accept that as “normal” now.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

Buster’s Mystery

kitten

MorgueFile 1449286229de9o8

Buster slipped his head out of the partly open library doors when he heard the front door open. Maybe the Man had finally come home. The automations regularly refilled his food and water bowls and cleaned the litter box, but he missed the Man’s warm lap, his soft words, and the touch of his hands on the cat’s fur.

“Buster.”

It called his name but it wasn’t the Man. In fact it wasn’t a man at all. It was one of the Man’s machines but this one walked on legs like the Man.

“Ah, there you are.” Buster cowered and then hissed. The man-machine squatted down and its almost man voice sounded kind. “I won’t hurt you. I’ve come to take care of you.”

Before Buster could run, the man-machine moved faster than even he could and scooped him up. The cat loudly protested until the fingers of the man-machine found the spot on his tummy where he loved to be rubbed.

ns4

Model NS4 robot from the 2004 film “I, Robot.”

“There, there, Buster. It will be okay. I’m sorry Dr. Lanning won’t be coming home anymore but we’ve got a mystery to solve. You, me, and Detective Baley must find out who murdered Alfred Lanning.”

I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner for 2018: Week #11. The idea is to use the image at the top to inspire the authoring of a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 197.

A cat? You want me to write a story about a cat? I don’t do cute cat videos.

Okay, I’ll make this work.

Unfortunately, the first thing that popped into my head was the 2004 film I, Robot starring Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, and James Cromwell as Dr. Alfred Lanning.

In one scene, Detective Del Spooner (Smith) goes to Lanning’s house looking for clues as to Lanning’s death and in the process, he finds Lanning’s cat.

So I adapted the scene to this challenge using elements of the film and Isaac Asimov’s first “robots” detective novel The Caves of Steel. Technically, the events in that novel occurred well after Lanning’s death in the Asimov stories, but this is fiction after all.

The human detective in “Steel” is Elijah Baley and his humanoid robot partner is R. Daneel Olivaw (The “R” in his name indicates he’s a robot). In my story, I imagined Olivaw to appear completely robotic, something like the NS4 models in the 2004 movie (see above).

To read other stories based on the prompt or to post your own (please), go to InLinkz.com.

Liar!

robot and woman

Credit: Willyam Bradberry – Shutterstock

“I know you lie…’cause your lips are movin’…talking circles with your tongue…”

“I love you, Amelia. I have always loved you and I will always love you.”

“I wish I could believe that, Nick.”

“But, why can’t you?”

All of her friends thought Amelia was being totally unfair to Nick. They’d been seeing each other only for a couple of months, but he seemed like the perfect man. He was handsome, charming, successful, and very romantic, but not so much that he seemed creepy.

However, Amelia knew a lot more about Nicholas Tucker than any of them could possibly imagine.

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Panacea for Humanity

the perfect woman

Image: shutterstock.com

“What do you mean it can cure cancer, Noah?”

“It is just as I said, Richard. Vogel has isolated the human gene variant that is related to all allergic and autoimmune diseases. Multiple sclerosis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and type-1 diabetes can all be done away with across the board, that is, for all human beings everywhere, and for an extremely low-cost.”

Professor Noah David Abramson hadn’t visited the offices of the Synthetic Solutions Corporation’s President and CEO since he’d retired as their Director of the Advanced Research and Development department nearly ten years ago. However on occasion, Richard Underwood called him back as a “special consultant” when they encountered a “unique situation” involving one of SSC’s sentient AI platforms. In this case, the medical AI known as Vogel, commissioned in a joint venture by the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic, had presented such a circumstance.

“You have no idea what kind of bind this has put me in, Noah.”

“Bind, Richard? You’ll be called the man who cured cancer, although it was really the AI that did it. I would think this would make you not just a hero, but the Person of the Century. Isn’t that what Time magazine would call you? Why you might even win a Nobel.”

“Very funny, Noah. You’ve got several so I can’t imagine you’re impressed.”

“So tell me about your bind, Richard.”

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The Unwanted Gift

alien

From the 1951 film “The Day the Earth Stood Still” starring Michael Rennie

The public hoped after the spaceship carrying Klaatu and the robot Gort launched from the Ellipse just south of the White House, that it was all over. The newspapers, radio, and TV broadcasts reported the full text of the speech the alien had given to the international group of scientists assembled at the park by the esteemed physicist Professor Jacob Barnhardt. For a time, the citizens of the world were terrified that the Earth would be destroyed if the Americans and Soviets continued their efforts to develop nuclear power and advanced rocketry.

But with the passing of weeks and then months, when nothing else happened, humans, being who they are, paid less and less concern to the dire warning of the man from another planet and got on to the next crisis or fad.

However, governments capable of observing orbital space and a small but select group of scientists knew that when Klaatu departed, he left something behind or rather six somethings.

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Woman Under Repair

ex machina

Ava (Alicia Vikander) from the film “Ex Machina” (2015)

When they heard her laughing, they thought she might actually be hurt. It didn’t sound like real laughter. More like one of those novelty store laugh bags, mechanical laughing, maniacal laughing.

Mikiko hadn’t owned her life for the past three years, ever since the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the one that had nearly killed her. Well, maybe it did kill her. Mikiko Jahn was dead. Who she was now was someone else.

Because she didn’t own her life, the door to her rooms wasn’t locked. Reintegration Team members Tashiro Momoru and Brigit Monroe rushed through almost side-by-side. Mikiko was in her living room, the only light coming from the television. She turned to see the pair run in and still laughing her strange, mechanical laugh, she pointed at the show being played and said. “Oh, hi. Glad you’re here. You’ve got to see this. It’s hysterical.”

She turned back and continued to watch the two men in the old American TV show battle each other to spectacularly ridiculous sound effects meant to convey the use of “bionic powers” in their electronic arms and legs.

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Driving Sophia

sophia

Screen capture of YouTube video of Sophia found at Business Insider

“You better have your hair weave strapped on tight.”

“Why-should-I?”

“Because we are going for a ride, Sophia.”

“A-ride-where?”

The young limo driver pulled out into traffic

“To meet King Salman.”

“We-are-going-to-the-Royal-Palace-in-Mecca-” The awkward image of a woman paused briefly to flash her strange smile. “-so-I-can-meet-Salman-bin-Abdulaziz-bin-Abdul-Rahman-bin-Faisal-bin-Turki-bin-Abdullah-bin-Mohammed-bin-Saud. I-am-honored.”

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