Ariadne can’t go on much longer. Robert pursues her inquisitively. “Shall I draw you a bath? No? Then shall I make you breakfast?”
Two months of this solicitude is driving her insane. Ariadne can’t wait to get to work, immerse herself in the liquid complexity of language. She turns Robert off before she leaves. She can’t stand the thought of this intelligent machine waiting only for her return.
Despite his refinements, Robert is obscene. A vibrator that talks. A machine designed to please. Everything is controlled: he will never leave her for the toaster.
Ariadne wants to come home to a man; a man who asks her what she thinks without programs to prompt him. All day she is moody and pensive. Her supervisor eyes her speculatively, caresses her shoulders as he moves behind her to study the screen.
When she comes home, Robert is making dinner. He juliennes carrots faster than a processor. “I thought I turned you off,” she comments mildly. “Of course, that’s the first time I used your off button. Maybe there’s something wrong with it.” Robert curves his lips upward, parody of an angelic smile.
“You did. There is nothing wrong with my programming. Since you are on quarantine, you are allowed to terminate my program for only six hours. You do not really turn me off. I go into Sleep Mode. If I hear a male voice, I am prompted to Wake. You left the viewer on and a voice activated me. It wasn’t a visitor, it was a commercial for AmEx-Discover.”
“Very funny. I don’t remember ordering a sense of humor, Robert. Are you telling me I can’t turn you off permanently?”
“No, you cannot. My program is enhanced with quarantine instructions from the Health Department. Consider me a kind of chaperon, acting in your best interest.”
“In my best interest?” Ariadne’s hands ball to fists. “I don’t think so. When I turn you off, I want you off, not hovering over me like a mechanical nursemaid!”
Robert abandons the carrots. “Beautiful one, don’t be angry with me.” His head cocks to one side. “Anger is an aphrodisiac for some humans. Perhaps I should service you so you will not seek pleasure with another human.” He maneuvers toward her.
“No. I don’t want you to do that. I want you to leave me alone.” Ariadne backs into the counter. He corners her near the sink.
“My prompting overrules you,” he says, scoops her into his synthetic arms.
***I am starting to think my short story here is more of a novella. We have a way to go yet…