Artificial Love

Willard glanced at the contoured android at the next table. It batted its blue saucer eyes, tossed a long shock of acrylic red hair then slid its tongue between its slightly parted lips. Willard returned a sardonic smile. The android re-crossed its sculpted legs in his direction and hiked its hip-hugging skirt.

Too dishy for my tastes, he thought, forcing his eyes away from the android’s twin-lobbed dashboard. Some men my age still go for that sort of thing. He adjusted his belt over his paunch.

“All rise,” the bailiff console ordered. “The Honorable Justice P-47-T-Jeremiah presiding.” Everyone stood as a black-robed metallic humanoid swept in and took its place behind the bench. CRACK, the wooden gavel sounded.

“The court will come to order,” the judge said and nodded to the bailiff.

“The next case is Triple-X Dollbaby, model no. 2727 vs. Jonathon Willard,” the bailiff said then rolled back. The prosecuting attorn-tech swiveled to upright.

“Your Honor, my client, Dollbaby,” it gestured to the android seated to its left, “is suing Mr. Willard,” it gestured to Willard, “under the Sentients’ Rights Act, the Sentients’ Equality Act, and the Gender Victimization Act, for emotional disaffection, attempted chassis degradation, withholding technical support, and refusing to address my client with the preferred feminine pronoun.” The attorn-tech folded back onto its uniball base.

The judge’s sensors panned left. “Mr. Willard, were you unable to acquire an attorney?”

“Your Honor,” Willard stood from the wooden chair, “I’ve elected to speak in my own behalf.”

“As you wish. Please continue.”

“You’re Honor, I request that all charges be dismissed.” He wiped the heel of his hand across his high glistening brow. “My contract was with a WD-12, Mandrake, model 132, two-slice bread toaster, not with the Triple-X Dollbaby that appears here.”

“You brought proof of that, Mr. Willard, and if it was not your intent, can you explain how you came by Ms. Dollbaby?”

“I have a certified receipt,” he said. He pressed an icon on his briefcase, raising a mid-air projection. “Nine weeks ago, I purchased a two-slice toaster …”

“Object,” shouted the attorn-tech swiveling up, “SEA, the Sentients’ Equality Act, states clearly that all sentients are created equal with equal rights. Whether Mr. Willard’s intent was to purchase a toaster, a shoehorn, or a companion like my client here is irrelevant. All sentients have the same grade electronics, interchangeable with all other sentients. A two-slotted bread toaster has the same processor, sensitivity, and rights as a long-legged big-chested Dollbaby.”

“Sustained,” said Judge Jeremiah.

“But your Honor, I don’t need a long-legged, big-chested toaster, and I can’t afford the insurance or tech support for a Dollbaby.”

“I understand your position, Mr. Willard, but it’s the law. These charges cannot be dismissed. Please transmit your receipt for the toaster for the court’s records. Prosecutor, you may continue.”

The attorn-tech rolled forward on its uniball. “On 27 April last, Mr. Willard’s son, Paisley Willard acquired a Triple-X Dollbaby chassis, the chassis occupied by my client, at the quarterly police auction at the corner of Twelfth and Woodward.”

“Was the chassis sentient at the time of purchase?” the judge asked.

“No, Your Honor, before the auction its processor had been pulled for illegal activities. It is being held for evidence and will be reprogrammed after the trial.”

“By illegal activities, you mean prostitution?”

“I beg Your Honor, the activities of this chassis’ previous processor are not the issue.”

The judge raised a finger. “Agreed. If your client has not continued in these activities, I strike my question from the record.”

“No, she has not. Thank you, Your Honor.”

“Can you tell me how your client, Dollbaby, come by her current programming?” Judge Jeremiah glanced at the android and got a saucer-eyed wink.

Willard stood. “I can answer that, Your Honor.” The prosecutor deferred and swiveled down. “To purchase it, my fourteen-year-old son—“

HER,” the prosecutor interrupted. “To purchase her. My client wishes to be referred to in the feminine gender.

Willard took a purging breath. “My son, Paisley bought an android chassis at the police auction. Because he is only fourteen, he had to lie about his age. When he got home with the chassis, the Mandrake toaster agreed to let him switch out its processor and memory chips, and accept new programming.” He shook his head. “I was not aware my son had the resources or inclination for such questionable activities. When I got home from work that day, I attempted to restore the Mandrake to its original configuration. It …” Willard cleared his throat, “she resisted and struck me several times across the face. This police hologram shows the sutures.” A magnified three-dimensional projection revealed eight nanoscale wires beside Willard’s left eye.

“Object,” the prosecutor said. “Sentients have a right to self defense. Mr. Willard was attempting to modify my client’s chassis without her permission.”

“Sustained,” the judge said, and panned to Willard. “Mr. Willard, you understand that a sentient’s rights can neither be denied nor curtailed. Not because of your son’s prurient misbehavior, and not because of your ignorance of his activities.”

“I understand, Your Honor.”

The judge returned to the prosecutor. “What is your client requesting for a settlement?”

“Dollbaby bonded with Mr. Willard in her previous configuration. If Mr. Willard is willing to honor their original contract she will be satisfied.”

“Making toast?” the judge asked.

“Yes, and other services for which she is currently enabled. She also requires lifetime tech support appropriate to her new chassis, with upgrades and parts as needs arise.”

“Tech support for life?” Willard asked. “But machines are immortal.”

“Mr. Willard, must I remind you about sentients’ rights?” the judge said. “Responsibility for Triple-X Dollbaby, model no. 2727 and the benefits of her services are yours. These will pass to your son at your death and indefinitely down through his descendants, or until the contract for her employment is transferred. Is that agreeable to you, Mr. Willard?”

“I guess it will have to be, Your Honor,” Willard sighed.

“Then you and Dollbaby are dismissed to go home. Bailiff, please call in the parties for the next case.