Author : John Kuhn
Bata stood beside Danny and held out his soda. The game blared in front of him.
Danny glanced at her.
“Thanks,” he smiled, wondering if the smile really mattered.
He took the drink and relished the sound of ice cubes clinking against the glass. His gaze reverted instantly to the game; kindness lingered in his eyes even after he’d forgotten she was there.
She was hesitant to interrupt, but this was important. Danny looked at her.
“Danny, I want to learn to paint.”
Danny’s world stopped. “What?”
The man dropped his drink on the floor.
He swore, but not about the spill.
Danny stood and squeezed Bata’s shoulder, and she slept. He lay the lithe creature in a heap in the back seat of his car and set the navigator on a course for the Ministry building.
Danny stood outside the double doors holding her in his arms. She was lighter than a human her size. A man in blue coveralls came out.
“What’s the problem, sir?” he asked.
“Desire,” Danny replied sadly.
The man nodded and seized a radio from his belt. “We have a 504 in the front,” he said.
“Take it on back to the processor,” crackled an androgynous reply.
“Can I watch?” Danny asked before the man could take her away.
The man looked him in the eyes. He had gone through a customer sensitivity update the day before.
“Sure,” he said softly.
Danny followed the man in blue coveralls through a powered gate to the back of the building, onto a cracked cement parking lot punctuated with hardscrabble weeds. The processor hummed in the center of the lot–it was a huge tin box with a conveyor belt jutting in front and a rusting bin in the back. Danny showed no emotion, lest the laborer think him an idiot.
The man in blue lay Bata on the conveyor belt and flipped a switch. The box came to life and Danny watched as the conveyor pulled her into its gnashing teeth. The titanium under her artificial skin squealed, and glinting sparks dove in arcing flight away from the destruction.
He drove home in brokenhearted silence.
“Bata,” he whispered over the soft music playing in the car.
The house welcomed him by echoing his every footstep across the cold kitchen tiles, its emptiness exaggerated by her missing standard welcome.