Justin sighed and watched as the two young men kissed softly, tentatively. Chances were that they had been paired via the massive computer that held all the personal details of all LA’s residents. Forced together because they matched genetically, one a carrier and one an impregnator. Despite it they seemed happy. Justin would settle for that kind of happiness.
His watch beeped, reminding him that he was due back at his office. Balling up the bag that had held his lunch he stood up and dropped it into a trashcan. He took one more look at the young couple, who were now being questioned by a police officer, forced to produce their licence or be arrested. Just yesterday the paper had run a story how an illicit relationship ring had been smashed. The boys sentenced to between three and four years a piece on different breeding programs. Justin watched as the lovers produced their ID cards and licence and the officer left them to go on their way.
As he entered his office, Lance, a tall deep voiced Mississippi native and his receptionist, looked up and smiled, handing him a pile of papers.
Justin shrugged and took the offered files. “ Same O, same O. Oh there was a licensed couple in the park.”
Lances pale green eyes shone, “really! I bet they looked really happy. Wish I had a licence.”
“You could always apply.”
The deep voiced blond shook his head and looked down, pretending to shuffle the pile of documents he had on his desk, so that his boss and friend wouldn’t see the tears that gathered in his eyes.
“No I couldn’t. They’d never give me a licence, not yet and Chris is so much older than me. I know he applies every year, but he’s never been matched yet. I’m in that computer too, we all are and he’s never been matched with me.”
Justin worried his bottom lip. “Lance you and Chris need to be careful or apply for a licence. You know what the service did to Joe. I don’t wanna see you go through that.”
“We can’t risk applying for a licence. Do you know Tony and Kyan? Well they applied. They were refused on grounds of non-compatibility. The bastards tagged them. If they go within a hundred yards of each other an alarm is raised and they will be arrested.” Lance gave a brief pause to compose himself, his voice heavy with sadness when he continued. “It’s heartbreaking to see them. They are so much in love and they can only look at each other from a distance. I don’t want that to be me a Chris. I’ll risk breaking the law if it means I can have him love me.” Lance looked up suddenly frightened. “You won’t give us up will you?” he asked, his eyes wide and worried.
“Of course I wouldn’t, why would you think that? Lance, just promise me you will be careful okay.”
The blond gave a tiny lob-sided smile and wiped his eyes. “Promise,” he said. “Here’s your calls for this afternoon.”
Justin took the offered pad and read down the list. “What the hell is Mantronics?”
“It’s the automated service manufacturers, they want you to head up a new Ad campaign for them.”
“I suppose this had been authorised.”
“Yeah, your daddy set it up himself. It’s a good opportunity Jup.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of. Dad’s been trying to get me to take over his role in the company for a few months now.”
“Why? He isn’t that old.”
“He is to be having a baby.”
Lance’s face lit up. “Oh my god! Jup you’re going to get a brother? How? Well I know how but after all these years.”
“Lance can you keep a secret?” Justin sat on the desk and leaned close to his friend and confidant. “They paid black market to have dad impregnated. They are in court next week; their relationship licence was going to be revoked because in all the time they have been together they only managed to produce me. They were desperate. So daddy took a chance, it paid off.”
Lance slouched back in his chair. “I hate this world, the repression. Why won’t they just let us be happy?”
Justin sighed, “I don’t know Lancers, I really don’t, but be careful who you say that in front of. Its treason.” Justin patted his friend’s shoulder. “Get back to work, you know where I am if you need me.” Justin went into his office and closed the door behind him. He walked straight over to his drinks cabinet and poured himself a large brandy before walking over to his desk and sitting down. He sipped the fiery liquid slowly, gazing into space. Then opening his right hand drawer he pulled out a photograph. He traced the young mans face with his fingers, before burying it back under the pile of rubbish that he keep for the purpose of hiding it. He allowed himself the luxury of a small heartbroken sob before he drained his glass and composed himself for the afternoons work.
His appointment at Mantronics was for three o-clock. He really didn’t want to go. The androids and automated machines freaked him out. He never was quite sure if he was talking to a real person or not. He waited patiently in the reception area for his appointment, trying to ignore the obviously automated receptionist.
“Mr.. Timber .. Lake. Mr.. Richardson .. Will … see.. you.. now.” Justin gathered up his briefcase,. and walked through the door that opened on its own.
“I’d have thought at least they would have a robot that could speak in sentences,” he muttered to himself as he walked down the corridor. As he approached the big double doors they too opened by themselves, revealing a tall dark haired man with neat facial hair.
“Mr. Timberlake I assume.” Richardson held out his hand for Justin to shake. “I’m glad you could make it. When I asked around, who was the best? Your name came back to me at least ten times.”
“I’m flattered, but I’m just an average Joe.” Justin felt uneasy, he looked at the man who was now pouring him a drink, trying to decide if he was real or animated.
“What?” Justin was jerked out of his ponderings.
“You were wondering if I was an android.”
“No … no I was…”
Richardson gave him a knowing look. And Justin gave a small relaxed chuckle. “Okay I admit, I did wonder.”
“Everyone does.” Richardson handed Justin a glass. “Brandy okay?”
“Perfect.” the young executive sipped his drink and sat back waiting for Richardson to explain why he had asked for the appointment.
“How much do you know about Mantronics ltd?”
Justin put his drink on the desk and pulled out a file from his case, putting it next to his glass. “Founded in 2010, for the mass production of robotic workers to replace the millions of people lost during the last war. You took over as managing director in 2045, which means you have been in charge for the last five years. Good for someone of your age.”
Richardson laughed and gave a slow hand clap. “Well done, well researched. Do you want to know why I contacted you?” Justin smiled , one thing he was used to in this business was the waiting game. “My company has been commissioned to manufacture a new product. A government funded product. And I want you to promote it.”
“What is it?” Justin asked intrigued.
“A legal lover. There are thousands of men out there, men like you and like me, who stand little chance of getting a relationship licence. Why should we spend our lives in solitude when we can have someone of our own?”
“You’re talking about a synthetic lover,” Justin drained his drink and stood up. “Thanks for the offer but no thanks.”
“You really don’t have much choice Justin. Not only has your fathers endorsed your involvement , but the government have confirmed Timberlake Advertising as their chosen promoter.”
Richardson refilled Justin’s glass and handed it back to him. “You have been chosen to test drive our new model. Each model is individually geared to its owner. Genetically made and programmed to love and cherish. Each and every model is individual, constructed from answers that the owner will provide. We are not talking about an updated Nick here, the Nick series was good for a household accessory but that was about it.”
Justin coughed and paled, you expect me to actually use one of these machines?”
“Just take the questionnaire and try him out for a couple of weeks. You can always bring him back.”
“Okay I’ll answer your questions and I’ll give it a go, but I really don’t feel comfortable about this.”
“That’s no problem.” Richardson pressed his intercom and his secretary came into the room. “Daniel, take Mr. Timberlake to the prep room will you. We do need to take a small DNA sample so that we can make the android to match your appearance.”
“I don’t want a clone!” Justin exclaimed, suddenly incensed.
“No you misunderstand. He won’t be a clone. He will be made so that he complements your own looks. You will look like the perfectly matched genetic couple. In fact people that don’t know won’t be able to tell the difference.”
Reluctantly Justin allowed himself to be led to the prep room where swabs were taken from the inside of his mouth and fed into the computer. Then he was sat in front of a consul and the questionnaire flashed up before him.
What body type do you prefer?
1) Athletic, muscular built
2) Tall wiry
3) Short stocky
4) Thin well-defined muscles
5) Slightly overweight chubby
Justin highlighted choice number one then on a whim changed it to option four before moving on to the next question. Most of the questions were geared towards height, weight, hair colour, and eye colour, that sort of thing. The final section was more personal, more to personality preference. When he had finished he was taken into a laboratory where Richardson was waiting for him.
“All your answers have been programmed into the computer. Now what happens is this. The android will be finished off to your specifications. It takes mere minutes.”
Sure enough within five minutes the conveyer belt jerked into motion and out rolled a perfect anatomically correct male. He was naked with his arms laying down his sides. The androids eyes were closed but had thick brown lashes that laid in crescents against the top of his high cheeks bones. His hair hung in soft loose brunette curls around his face and his lips were pressed together, soft looking and pouty.
“What do you think Justin?” Richardson asked excitedly, this was the very first model to roll off his production line and he was a beauty.
“He looks almost real.” Justin stroked the androids skin and pulled his hand back in surprised as the tiny hairs reacted to his touch.
“Touch sensors,” Richardson explained. “He reacts to touch and pain just as a human would.” The scientist felt around the side of the androids face pressing a hidden switch. The androids mouth opened. “Feel.”
Justin slipped his fingers inside the mouth, marvelling at the reality of the creation. “feels so real.”
“Every single detail on him is designed to give the illusion of life, he even sweats when he’s exerting himself. Stand back.” Richardson tapped a code into his keyboard and the androids eyelids flickered. They snapped open and the android looked about him curiously.
The android sat up slowly, looking about him, his head cocked slightly to one side, and swung his long legs off the belt, standing up. Richardson walked around his creation. “Do you have a name?”
The android seemed to think for a second before answering. “I have been designated Joshua.”
“Justin meet Joshua. Joshua, Justin is your owner. You will be going home with him today.”
The android looked at his new owner curiously. “He doesn’t seem to be happy.”
Richardson chuckled. “Owning an android is new to him Joshua. It is a new experience for both of you, you will adapt. Go with Daniel and he will give you some clothes.” The android obediently followed the young man into another room to dress.
“There is one thing Justin. Joshua isn’t fully programmed yet.” He handed him an envelope. “When you decide if you want to keep him there is the program completion details. Now I must strenuously point out that you must not complete his programming unless you mean to keep him. And if at anytime after his programming is complete you decide you have no need of him he must be returned to Mantronics for destruction. He cannot be sold or passed on to anyone else. He will be bonded to you and will not be able to adapt.”
Justin took the instructions, nodding. “So I try him out and then comprise an advertising campaign to sell Joshuas all over the states.”
“Not Joshuas, there will never be another Joshua, he is unique, made especially for you, your answers, your DNA, your perfect lover.”
Richardson grinned as Daniel and Joshua came back in the room. The android walked up to Justin and nuzzled into his arms, taking the young executive by surprise once more. “Can we go home now please?” he asked and Justin swallowed. He felt so real, warmth radiated out of his body and Justin found himself unable to resist stroking his fingers down the silky smooth skin of Joshua’s face. His eyes met Richardson’s, the older man smirking with satisfaction. Justin pushed Joshua away. Come on he said. He shook Richardson’s hand once more then led his new lover out into the world.
Justin got into his car and started the engine. Sighing deeply he got back out and walked around to where Joshua still stood on the pavement, looking blankly about himself. “You have to get in the car.”
Joshua focused on Justin then on the car. “How?” he asked innocently.
Breathing another exasperated sigh Justin opened the passenger door. “Just sit in there.”
Joshua ducked his head and go inside mimicking Justin as he fastened his seat belt. He then watched with fascination as his human master put the car into drive and pulled out into the traffic.
Joshua was confused. “Stop what?”
“Staring at me. Stop staring at Me.” When the android looked even more puzzled Justin tried to explain. “You were fixating on me, its off putting. Look out of the side window or something. Better still switch yourself off till we get to my office.”
The android looked genuinely hurt. “Oh … if that’s what you want.” Without another word he clicked off, his head tilting lifelessly to the right.
Justin sighed with relief it was going to be a long two weeks. When they got to his office Justin discovered another problem, turning Joshua back on. He spent ten minutes feeling all around the androids face, accidentally depressing the switch that opened his mouth, he pressed it again hoping that that would shut it again but it didn’t. “How the fuck do I switch you on?”
At the sound of his voice the android switched back on, his mouth snapping shut. He seemed disorientated for a second, then he spoke. “where are we please?”
“At my offices, come on you will have to stay here with me today. As from tomorrow you will stay at home.”
Lance smiled approvingly as Justin entered the office with a tall slim man in tow.
“Lance, this is Joshua, he’s going to be staying with me for a while.” Justin said flippantly dismissing the presence of the android. He went into his office leaving Joshua standing in the reception uncertain of what to do.
Lance smiled at him. “Why don’t you take a seat?”
“Take it where?”
Lance burst into laughter. “Oh very funny, yeah right take it where.” He went back behind his desk and began typing. He looked up baffled that Joshua still hadn’t sat down and was watching him closely. “Sit down,” he said his eyebrows drawing together.
The android looked around then walked over to a padded seat under the window and sat down, his hands resting in his lap as he sat motionless.
Lance stared at him for a while then shaking his head got on with his work. After an hour Justin still hadn’t buzzed for his visitor to go in and see him. Lance stretched and yawned, jumping as he realised Joshua was still waiting. “Gesh, I’m sorry I forgot about you. Can I get you some coffee?”
“No thank you.”
Wanting to make conversation Lance asked. “How do you know Justin?”
A warm smile spread over Joshua’s lips. “We met at Mantronics.”
“Cool, you are an engineer then?”
The android tilted his head slightly and answered almost shyly. “I am, sort of, I can repair most androids.”
“You know, I’m having a dinner party tonight at my place. Just a few friends getting together. Would you like to come?”
Joshua thought about it for a while. “I’m not sure if Justin wants me to meet his friends, maybe you should ask him first.”
Lance grunted, “Oh him, fuck him. I’m inviting you. You know you are kinda cute I’m sure my friends would love to meet you.”
Joshua accessed his programming and blushed, causing his face to colour prettily pink, he lowered his eyes coyly, then peered up at the blond receptionist through his long dark lashes. “You think I’m cute?”
“Yeah I do.” Lance came from behind his desk and sat beside the enigmatic brunette. He felt strangely drawn to him. He tilted his face in towards Joshua and the android leaned in to accept the kiss.
“What the hell? Lance I pay you to do my paperwork and answer the phone not hit on my … my …” Justin stopped ranting, seeing the look of total shock on his receptionist’s face.
“I’m sorry Justin, I don’t know what came over Me.” the blond hurried back behind his desk, his face burning bright red.
“We are going home Joshua, now.”
Joshua stood up and walked over to the desk and held out his hand for Lance to shake. “It’s alright, I understand that you won’t want me to come to dinner now. I’m sorry I got you into trouble.” He started to walk away when his hand wasn’t taken.
“Joshua, Justin knows the address. 8 o clock see you then.”
Joshua turned and smiled, then ducking his head timidly followed Justin out of the building.