(Androids story #1)
Xenodyne Automation had high hopes of making a killing with the Mark 2. The Mark 1 had been popular; close to seven million units had been sold. But the Mark 1 was a rudimentary android – a basic machine, physically strong, but slow, and ugly as a trashcan on legs. The Mark 2, on the other hand, was a true android. Twice as strong, and with noticeably faster reactions, it could be taught to carry out virtually any task. Covered in a new material indistinguishable from human skin, it looked almost human. As the advertising slogan said, ‘The Age of the Android!’ had finally arrived.
Reginald Pforsky was one of the first to buy a Mark 2 unit. Taking advantage of the time-limited offer of a generous trade-in, he drove his vintage Winnebago from his home in Madison Creek, Washington State to the factory in Portland Oregon to collect his purchase.
The round trip took 24 hours. When he got home, he booted up his new acquisition and introduced himself. “I’m Reginald Pforsky.”
“Pleased to meet you, Reginald Pforsky,” said the android. “My designation is Beta 25264.”
“I shall call you Beta,” said Pforsky, and he headed for the kitchen to put a kettle on.
Beta followed him. Gently, but firmly, she relieved Pforsky of the kettle. “Let me do that, Reginald Pforsky.”
Pforsky was taken aback. His Mark 1 had obeyed his orders to the letter, but it had never done anything on its own initiative. He experienced a moment of anxiety, but when Beta demonstrated that she knew how to make a half-decent cup of coffee, all his worries evaporated.
“Milk and sugar, Reginald Pforsky?”
“A small drop of milk and one sugar. And call me Reggie.”
In the days that followed, Beta proved that she could fulfill all the essential functions of a dutiful wife to the highest possible standards. Her voice was a little irritating, but he could switch that off whenever he wished. She was frugal, she never made any demands, and she laughed at all his jokes.
Pforsky was a happy man. He gave Beta unfettered access to every corner of the house and yard.
She took charge of running the household. First, she cleaned and tidied the whole house. When she stumbled across his collection of exotic magazines, there was a moment of confusion, but no embarrassment. Then she put him on a diet and rationed his beer intake. That could have been a redline issue for Pforsky, but he agreed to follow her regime, while keeping a secret stash in the Winnebago. Slowly, he began to get his figure back. Then one day, she asked him for the key to his gun locker...