Author : Mark Thomas

The blues singer hung his head, sad and mystified. “But the oscillator confirms perfect pitch.” He looked directly into his band leader’s eyes, and noted a slight dilation in Bob’s pupils, but no sympathy. “Perhaps,” the singer suggested meekly, “if I adjusted the raspiness factor.”

Bob sighed. “Raspiness isn’t the problem, Fysh. You’ve already set it to three unfiltered packs. There’s nowhere else to go.” They both knew what the fundamental problem was. In an age where raw emotion in live musical performance was valued far above technical perfection, highly-skilled entertainment robots were being steadily replaced by human musicians. It was both unfair and inevitable.

“But we’re scheduled to play The Dungeon this Thursday…” Fysh said weakly.

“I’ve already found a replacement.” Bob waved a hand dismissively and the robot picked up his guitar case and shuffled out of the hotel lobby.

Fysh was worried that his girlfriend, Heathen, would be unreasonably disappointed. Her self-esteem was knitted into her association with the successful band. But the robot received a surprisingly sympathetic reaction. “You poor dear,” she said, throwing her white arms around his neck cables. “It’s been coming a long time, though. I’ve seen the little gears turning in Bob’s skull.” She pulled away and hung onto Fysh’s elongated metal fingers. “Everything will work out. You take a shower, and I’ll run out for some coffee, then we’ll have a long talk.” She kissed Fysh on the zygomatic arch.

The robot walked into the bathroom and adjusted nozzles for a wash and light lubrication. He raised his arms and felt jets of hot air penetrate the folds of his carapace. As a silicon mist coated his outer plates and wires, Fysh heard the doorbell.

The robot quickly dressed as he walked towards the apartment entrance. When he pulled the door open, he was surprised to see his landlord standing there with two surly uniformed men. “Come in,” Fysh said.

“Get out,” the landlord said. “You’re being evicted.” He passed a sheaf of papers to the robot who quickly scanned them. A series of dated notices and final warnings were all signed by his girlfriend.

“This is the first I’ve heard of this. I’ve been sending all my money to Heathen while we were on our last tour.”

The three men in the hall laughed loudly. “You sap. That tramp hasn’t paid a nickel since you went on the road. You should have seen what she was up to while you were gone.” The landlord leered unpleasantly.

Fysh glanced around the almost-empty apartment. He hadn’t noticed that most of their personal belongings had been removed. And his guitar was no longer by the door. Heathen must have taken it as she left.

“Ah,” Fysh sighed, accepting the inevitable. “But I have no place to go.”

The landlord shrugged. “You’re a CT model. You can survive outside until you find another place.

“Alright,” Fysh said. He shuffled out of the apartment.

The robot walked aimlessly for hours, and found himself underneath the Coulter street bridge. Homeless men and machines tended to congregate there, near the giant exhaust vent from the obsidian polishing plant. Fysh picked his way through living and synthetic detritus and sat on a blackened fragment of concrete right in front of the massive industrial grill.

As night descended, the sad menagerie powered down. Fysh’s head slumped between his knees as a super-heated current of air was expelled from the tunnel and penetrated the layered sheets and looped cables of the robot’s dorsal quadrant.

A soulful harmonic resonance was created, although no one was awake to hear it.