2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actroid

Okay Ford, you have to find out. Is she a real person, or is she a computer program? Knowing your luck, she’s probably just software; software that reacts in just the right manner to wrap you around her little finger. No, there has to be a real girl in there somewhere.

Brantford “Ford” Thomas stood outside the “dressing room” door. He knew that inside was where they kept and prepped the Actroids. Flexible wireframe models of humans with holographic skin that would, from a distance, look just like real people. Gillman’s Theatre was prototyping them for the inventor, and they were getting rave reviews.

Macie, the girl who ran them for the company, kept telling people to respond to the Actroids as if they were people. Ford had done so; they were practicing for Romeo and Juliet, which would open in about a month, and he was falling in love with Juliet, a.k.a. Female Model #2.

It was creepy. When he touched her, he could feel the wireframe; tiny flexible plastic posts spaced about every half-inch, but through a costume you couldn’t really tell. And the face was much more closely spaced. He could easily forget the wireframe effect during the kiss scene. FM#2 even had a tongue: she’d used it! It was wireframe, of course, and tasted slightly of disinfecting solution.

What he couldn’t figure out was whether the Actroids were software controlled or puppets. Macie wouldn’t let anyone in the control room while they were out working; she said that monitoring the software took extreme concentration, especially controlling three or four of them.

Ford used the spare key, which he’d schmoozed off the night cleaning lady, to quietly unlock the door. Cracking it open a bit, he peeked in. Macie was sitting at the console, intently watching MM#1 and FM#1 practicing a dance number.

“What is it, Ford?” She hadn’t even turned.

“How did you know it was me?”

“I talk with Janice; she told me how you came on to her last night. Who put you up to this?”

“Nobody. I just wanted to see FM#2.”

Macie turned. “She’s a software-controlled doll, Ford. She’s not falling for you.”

“She’s not just a doll: I can tell there’s something there! Is her controller falling for me, then?”

“I’m not her controller; I just monitor the software and fix up glitches. Now go away, I’m busy!” She frantically opened one of MM#1’s code windows and started working.

Ford used the distraction to turn on FM#2’s screen. He hadn’t seen her in the room, so this would be the best way to find out her location.

“Ford! Don’t touch that!”

But it was too late. Ford was transfixed; the eye-cam showed an image of himself staring into the screen. Software windows were flashing code at an almost-invisible pace.

“Macie?”

A message froze on one of FM#2's windows. “Behaviour subroutines activated: affection, confusion, fear.”

He turned and kissed her wireframe lips until fear and confusion deactivated.