Author : Lisa Play

Daphne scared me when I saw her take the stairs to the catwalk this morning. The way she moved, I wouldn’t have given her a second glance. That was a problem. Normally there was a slight tick that gave her type away, something stiff in the knees or the elbows. Her steps were so effortless, it made me think she must be new, fresh from Development. Her skin was taut yet supple, not a blemish or a scar anywhere. The Mast Laboratory Natural ASUORI Line was finally beginning to look, well, natural. This was better for hospice work, sure, since the androids don’t need to eat or sleep and can be constant companions for dying, their voices (male or female) calibrated to a soothing pitch, their movements finally powerful yet fluid after six developmental generations of testing.

We didn’t need to make the ASUORIs as strong or good-looking as they turned out to be. They had to look convincingly human and they had to be efficient. ASUORIs are for the dying, they needed a face like a mother’s, friendly and nourishing and gentle. Hands that would stay at human body temperature so that the patients would not be reminded of the chill of death as Nancy (or Jill or Anne or whatever) gave them a sponge bath or changed their clothes. It was very considered. We were designing farewell bots, not to be worn down by the emotional toll of their work, to be a comfort to the survivors.

Corporate was only contrary on one point: “Moms don’t sell, guys. It’s not going to look good in the catalog. Can we have a little more Sofia Loren and less Susan Sarandon?” It wasn’t a suggestion. So the skin tightened up, the waist came in, and the bustline perked up a bit. The softness of the face fell away to reveal intense cheekbones. The features we had designed to mellow the beholder were overtaken by those that would intrigue, excite. We, my development team, considered ASUORIs differently after their redesign, worrying if our patients’ families would regard the technology less seriously because the androids looked closer to Victoria’s Secret models. But they did sell, regardless. We expanded into a “male” line as well, endowing them with biceps sculpted enough to imply strength without brutality and a gentle jawline. The face of death was becoming a pleasant one.


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