Pity, he had to dismantle her. He stood gloomily on the escalators watching swaying buttocks of pretty women with their customary hunks by their sides. His light blue eyes wondered if these buttocks were real or collapsible like Asha’s. The brilliant arrays of lights and colourful trendy people at Rodeo, the great interplanetary super mall, failed to uplift Angiras’s spirit. After someone hacked her, Asha started doing exactly the opposite of what he had programmed her. She used to wake up late in the morning, refuse to make coffee, and instead of playing with him in the bed, she used to turn wintry. Though he had programmed her to exhibit orgasm, she simply lay expressionless. He frequently spied her standing naked and looking vacantly at her dejected oval face in the bathroom mirror. The sight of her back used to arouse him and he would pounce upon her, but she used to respond like a rubber doll. She even stopped talking to him. When he spotted the dark circles under her eyes, he immediately contacted her manufacturers, Messer Rastogi and Sons. Their robot, one of those dull expressionless and matter-of-fact machines, arrived and discovered that some of Asha’s essential files were corrupt, significant data stolen and replaced with some substandard sequences of self-executable instructions. She was simply beyond repair. ` Do not connect your bionic mates to the intergalactic networks', the robot had cautioned him, ` And if you to buy more skins, then you would better procure them from a good retail outlet. It is extremely unsafe to download them'
Organisms from all the neighbourhood planets would flock to Rodeo to shop for their annual provisions: the newest biochips for their bodies, body part replacements, popular software, virtual games, latest security packages, and programmable mates. Repugnant creatures from the surrounding planets sickened him. He shuddered at the sight of those huge cockroach-like insects from some god-forsaken planet shopping for androids. He wondered what they did with them. Angiras had purchased Asha from a similar mall last year and had grown quiet fond of her. He even repented dismantling her and felt he would have kept her even if she were disobeying his instructions. He loved her for her sadness. It made her almost human. Funnily, he had grown to like her inability to live with him or to relate to him. His compassion got better of him and he had her dismantled. He remembered inquiring with Messers Rastogi if they could construct another mate for him who resembled Asha. They replied that she was an outdated piece and they had better utilities nowadays, which not only looked better but also felt better. Besides, these utilities were far more compliant to the customer’s wishes. They also had an up-to-the-minute user-friendly interface, which allowed the customer to personalize them effortlessly. Nevertheless, Asha’s departure left him a strange feeling of vacuity and an unexplainable sorrow.
`Never ever fool around with real human females', Angiras’s mother had admonished him when she was alive. `For, they would not give you what you want and would only make you cry'. `Did you make Dad cry too mommy?' Angiras remembered asking her much to her annoyance. `I never saw your father and I never cared for any human male', she had answered applying mettalic red coloured nail polish. He remembered how the wrinkles on her aging face deepened as she looked away. He recollected his mother keeping a programmable bionic female as a domestic help who slept with her as part of her duty. Angiras was drawn to this slave and he was furious when his mother refused to modify the programme a little so that he could have a little bit of fun with her. He watched in horror his mother started resembling the android female in her blank look and coldness. He even suspected that both of them hated him. Some days later, the software of the domestic help was corrupted and she started disregarding her mistress and so his mother had disposed her. Angiras sighed and felt that even after one generation they don’t make bionic mates who don’t conk out. He wished that technology should evolve faster. After that incident, his mother became increasingly bitter in her life and finally decided to deanimate herself.
Angiras worked for a small accounting firm owned by someone who lived in a different galaxy. The employer was so amiable that Angiras suspected him of being some sort of machine working for an unknown big shot. He had a terrible time when he had worked for humans. He felt it was high time some smart chap invented software that would make humans less insecure and less attention seeking. The more authority they had, the more insecure they would become and more attention seeking their behaviour would be. And what about envy, Angiras mused; there is no software, no genetic engineering project that would silence the gene of envy. Even after all this horseshit about human progress, there is very little we have gained on this front.
Even though he lived in an admirably compliant house, the memory of his mother’s assistant along with Asha`s case more recently, the thoughts returing home and his home going berserk at times used to turn his stomach. The home discerned his genetic information, moderated the temperature, cooked food for him, and showcased his favourite programmes on the monitors after judging his mood. It also kept a genial watch on his health and symptoms of abnormal behaviour. Occasionally, Angiras used to think that his home was in fact his father and smile at such thoughts. These days it had repeatedly warned him often of depressive behaviour and recommended physiochemical repair for his brain. He had activated the robotic physician of his home and he had managed to restore his hormonal balance many times. Nevertheless, these days it used to happen too frequently. The physician suggested he should try keeping a mate, preferably an gynoid.
`Because there is a risk in having a human,’ the tin head spoke in the Angiras’ pre-recorded digital voice, ` You hardly find a compatible specimen. It would be a better idea if you purchase another programmable bionic companion and personalize it.”
`What will happen if it goes the way the previous one did,’ asked Angiras sceptically.
`It would be a better option even then,' the tin head answered shrugging. `There is less danger of infection too.'
Angiras decided to trust the machine’s wisdom. Unsurprisingly it had more faith in ones of its own kind. Curiously, thought Angiras, his advice matched his mother’s.
In fact, he knew no one who lived with human companions these days. Some of them had tried to live together but had later on decided to go in for machines. Moreover, most of the human females had lost interest in human males long ago. They kept female androids that were not only quite capable of protecting them but were also far more reliable. They were also more fun in bed as they instinctively understood what the other wanted. When they felt like reproducing, like his mother they would simply walk into a near-by gene bank, selected, and ordered the suitable genes for their offspring. God alone knew what his mother desired when she sent for his father’s genes.
When he was growing up, he was drawn to many women, only to find that women were not being drawn to him. They were interested in those who were better looking, more intelligent and richer than Angiras. In short, they preferred chaps who had better genes to him. Since he resembled his mother, he was not as good looking as others. He had taken her weak chin, nervous eyes, and a tendency to put on weight. He must have inherited his height and morose detached expression from his unknown father. These days you can engineer the code even better, silence many of these genes, and have a better body.
Though he knew many friends who went in for the things like having male bionic mate, Angiras found the idea unthinkable. That thing would resemble him too closely. You cannot really think of fucking your own reflection. Therefore, after considerable thought, he decided to go to Rodeos and buy an interesting cybernetic mate. He had a feeling that he would never have a real companion in his life.
Rodeo was a gigantic labyrinthine mega market, swarming with organisms from diverse planets in the solar system. Angiras walked into a huge superstore where they displayed all types of companions and pets. He saw a group of women watching a large convertible mannequin who had a fairly long piston and a pair of big breasts. There were also many animals and polar bears were particularly popular with women. Men were interested in the serpents with adjustable head sizes and the monkeys with red buttocks. Angiras felt ashamed of his preferences. He thought he was ordinary, conventional, and boring. He glanced upon an attractive pair of female legs and walked up to it. The store attendant, a plain looking woman in blue uniform, who Angiras suspected of being a programmed android approached him and asked, `May I help you sir?”
Angiras looked at her and found a strange twinkle in her eyes and warmth in her smile that he did not associate with programmable bionic mates. She smiled and took down the pair of legs and asked, ` May I show you the rest of her?’
Angiras nodded. She went into a room and as she walked, Angiras grumpily watched her back. She brought the rest of the android from a hanger. Angiras watched her assemble the naked torso, the pair of legs, and the remaining parts. The sincerity with which an unprogrammed human female did her work surprised him. He would have enjoyed simply watching her as she went about her work unaware of his presence. He felt like holding her hand and touching her palm to confirm she was real. Under the pretext of looking at the android, Angiras brushed against the attendant’s hand. The touch of human tissue astonished him. He had never touched a human female before. The attendant looked at him peculiarly and Angiras tried to control himself.
She fished out a remote control device from her uniform pockets.
` You can vary the size of her breasts with this.’
She demonstrated how the naked torso responded to the remote control. The breasts puffed up into the size of melons and then shrunk to the size of gooseberry.
` You can hold them, sir, and find out how real they feel.’
Angiras did not want to find out.
` I will never know how real they feel because I have never felt the real ones in my life.’ He said. The bluntness caught her off guard. She did not know what to say and looked at him in bewilderment. Angiras looked elsewhere and then held her hand. She did not withdraw.
` Will you live with me?’ He blurted and felt very awkward.
The woman laughed so loudly that the customers in the shop looked at them in surprise.
` But I am not programmable, sir.’ and politely withdrew her hand.
Angiras was embarrassed.
` I know. I just wondered if you are not living with anyone, we should give it a try.’
`But I simply don’t know how to play either mother or slave to the male of our species.’ She laughed, still unable to believe her ears.
She looked at the gauche man in front of her with a twinkle in her eye and flicked her hair. He was not looking at her.
`Besides she is prettier. She will look after you when you are ill, make coffee for you in the morning, and do all the things you want her to do.’
The attendant did not know why she was reasoning with this man.
` You need not execute the instructions I give you. I will obey your commands instead. But having you just by my side will make all the difference.’
` When I was very young, I remember some boys telling me similar things. But I discovered that they all wanted was a slave who would slog for them and spread when they wanted, or that they wanted momma who would breastfeed them when they were sad and change their nappies when they were ill. And if we ever feel like cuddling and hugging a hairy thing we can always have a polar bear, a male android or something.’
Angiras looked at the floor in silence.He felt as though as if a looming skyscraper had collapsed within him and the entire cosmos had caved into a blackhole.
` In fact if you look at this gynoid, you will discover that she is admirably designed to suit all the needs of human males. With this latest skin-changing utility you can even make her resemble your mother or sister or someone.’
`Cant we give it a try...? Angiras interrupted, almost pleadingly, without looking at her.
`Sorry sir, I am simply not interested in such experiments. She said harshly, ` I can’t take risk and let human males ruin my life. It’s the only one I have.There is even less danger of some abominable disease.’
Angiras walked out of the departmental store into the darkness. He did not know where he was going. He was crying.