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HR representative Neil Proctor and Mobile Android scientist Keri Sanford sat silently in the glass penthouse office and awaited their final appointment of the day. Since the newest androids (not so new, as they had been developed and on the market for nearly 40 months), had been so improved that they looked and sounded exactly like living, breathing humans, older models were being phased out.

It wasn’t a “recall,” Softgoo Labs insisted. But they did hasten the stoppage of use of earlier models by removing replacement parts from the marketplace and offered generous rebates for turning in such dilapidated machines for these incredibly lifelike units. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance for an improvement?

Neil furrowed his brow as he saw not a single unit, but a group of people getting off the elevator at once. He glanced at his colleague as they both stood up and moved to the front of the glass partition.

Keri and Neil moved to greet the group arriving.

“Hello,” Keri said gathering the group to stand together by reception.

“We hadn’t expected a whole family to show up.”

The man who was likely the patriarch of the group spoke. “Surely this isn’t the first time this has happened?”

“Well, it kind of is,” Neil said. “We’ve had a solo family member escort their unit, but never everyone, kids included!” Neil chucked the head of a small boy who immediately punched Neil in the thigh.

“Look, we understand just how difficult it is to give up a,” Keri consulted her clipboard “a B9-THX1138 unit.”

“Please!” the little boy shouted. “Call her Rachael. That’s her name.”

“Listen,” Neil pleaded. “This isn’t easy for anyone. But it makes sense to, um, turn… in…”

That’s when Neil noticed that there were two identical looking androids.

Neil looked at Keri’s clipboard, looked back to his notes and looked up at the family.

“There’s only supposed to be one unit being retired today.”

The eldest man of the group spoke again. “That’s right. One of these is Rachael, and the other is my wife made to look exactly like her.”

Both Keri and Neil circled around the twins eyeing both them and each other. The husband continued, “So, we have a situation. If you can tell which one is the actual android, we will leave her with you, no questions asked. But if you cannot, then you must provide parts, labor and service for Rachael for the remainder of all of our lives.”

“B-b-b-but that’s not how this works!” Neil stuttered. “You can’t come in here impersonating a machine and expect to get your way!”

“I understand your concern,” one Rachael said.

“But my family truly cares about me,” said the other Rachael.

Keri finally spoke up. “Look, as a creator and a scientist, I understand the desire to hold onto the things you… value.” She looked back and forth at the two Rachaels. “But let’s not make this into something regrettable.”

“Can you tell?” Said one Rachael.

“Which one is human?” Said the other Rachael.

“It would only take a couple of minor checks using our metallurgic…”

“No!” the father said. “You have to decide without the use of any tools or products.”

“Who made you the rule maker?” Neil said, staring him in the eye. “We are just doing our jobs. And these decommission sessions can’t take more than twenty minutes!”

“Please don’t be angry,” One Rachael said.

“This is, at heart, about love,” Said the other Rachael.

The entire group stood motionless, everyone shooting glances at everyone else. Then, Keri and Neil backed away into an alcove.

“Okay, so I can’t tell, based only on observation, which is which,” Keri admitted. “They made the wife up to look just like the unit, even with the serial hashmark behind her left ear. I checked for that first.”

“What about this. Put both of them in retirement tubes. Call their bluff.” Neil said with a tone of defiance. “They would never let their own family member…”

“I don’t know,” Keri said, shaking her head. “They went to all this trouble, they probably expect us to do something like that. Besides, if we kill a human, then we…”

“Yes. But if we don’t get this unit then we…” Neil reminded her, harshly.

Keri scrolled through her clipboard, and came across a concept she thought might work. “Let’s try this,” she said, holding up the notes for Neil to see. They walked back to the group.

“Listen. You aren’t the first family to want to keep their B9-TH…” Keri paused as the small boy was giving her the most hateful look she had ever known. “Um. You aren’t the first family to want to keep their Rachael.”

“But, hey! Look at the ‘Green Family’!” Neil took out a remote and pointed it at the wall. A video of a family in their dwelling began, everyone doing their own things, eating, interacting with video screens and computers, exercising in virtual gyms, all while their B9-THX1138 could only stand by and not do those things.

Then, in the next segment, the new android was participating in all family activities. The family was smiling and laughing together with the new unit. Neil pressed the remote again and the video disappeared.

“So, you see, this is the better way to go!” Neil concluded.

The family stood in stony silence.

Neil looked to the father figure. “Did you know that new androids also function as a purifier? That’s right, they will pee pure water! Now, there’s a fountain you’ll want to drink from!”

After examining the father’s countenance, Neil said, “I see where your son gets his expressions from,” trying to lighten the mood.

Neil pulled Keri back away.

“With all your technical know-how, you can’t tell one from the other?” Neil angrily whispered.

“Not just by looking. They did a really good job of mimicking the elements that made the B9 units obviously android.” Keri lamented.

“What are we supposed to do? We can’t let them go!” Neil stated.

“Time’s running out. Maybe we should try it your way,” said Keri. “Put them both in the retirement tubes. What other options are there?”

“Let’s do it.” Neil hissed, then practically ran back to the family.

“Alright. Here’s how it’s gonna go,” said Neil, grabbing one Rachael by the arm. Suddenly he was on the floor, the father standing over him.

“Do not lay hands on my family members,” he said in a voice so calm it was bone-chilling.

“Please walk over to this area,” Keri said, motioning for each Rachael to follow her to the back of the partition, as Neil got to his feet. Keri directed one Rachael to get into the tube on her left, the other into the tube on her right.

“We have placed both of these androids in the retirement tubes.” Neil said. “With one flick of this switch, they will both be eliminated.”

“Except, we know you can’t harm a human being,” the father stated. “You might say we’re calling your bluff.”

Neil pulled Keri back out into the reception area. “Isn’t there a scan, a remote device, something?” Neil looked at the clock. “There’s only five minutes left.”

“We can send them partway through the tube and see the reaction. Then, when we know, we bring back the human.” They rejoined the others.

“We’re really sorry, but we must follow through on our assignment,” Keri said, with a look of sympathy, before turning to the control panel and flipping two switches, then turning two meters.

The two tubes shuttered then sprang to life with a whoosh of air.

Keri then flipped the switches off and reopened the tubes. The Rachaels were gone.

“Sorry, gang,” Neil said. “You didn’t give us any choice. We had to do our jobs.”

The two eldest daughters immediately hugged, sobbing into each other’s shoulders, while the father and son stared at Neil.

“While you might say you were doing your job, we’d call it murder,” the man stated.

Keri chimed in. “Now that we’re through, which one was the actual human? You know, just for the record, and all!”

The father wiped his eyes and thought. “Who went in which tube?” he thought again.

“Could you please make it snappy?” Neil said glancing at the few seconds remaining.

“In all honestly,” the man said through his tears, “I don’t know.”

A buzzer sounded and two large barrel shaped robots entered the area. They reactivated the tubes and brought the two Rachaels back. Each one escorted them from their would be demise back to the family, then turned to Neil and Keri, each grabbing one and placing them into the tubes and shooting them out before summoning the elevator for the family.

“Wow,” the dad said, kissing his Rachael, and hugging his other Rachael. “I guess those new androids really are human-like!

//

This story, with apologies to Philip K. Dick, was written for LJ Idol using the prompt: Patchwork heart

Date: 2017-04-18 08:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] i-17bingo.livejournal.com
THX1138--I see what you did there.

I like this. It was clever and intense, and that was a great little twist at the end.

Date: 2017-04-21 11:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
I definitely didn't think I'd sneak that reference by you! (B9 was the type of robot on the television series "Lost in Space" which I referenced again with the "barrel shaped robots" at the end). Thanks for a great compliment!

Date: 2017-04-18 11:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] adoptedwriter.livejournal.com
What a great story! I was hooked!

Date: 2017-04-21 11:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Thanks a lot!

Date: 2017-04-20 02:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rayaso.livejournal.com
A Turing test for androids/people -- what a great idea for a story! Also, I loved the water purification upgrade. This was a lot of fun!

Date: 2017-04-23 03:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Thanks so much!

Date: 2017-04-20 09:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marlawentmad.livejournal.com
You took such an interesting take!

Date: 2017-04-23 04:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Thanks very kindly.

Date: 2017-04-21 05:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wildrose.livejournal.com
This was kind of creepy but also sweet :)

Date: 2017-04-23 04:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
That's basically what I was going for, so thanks for a lovely compliment!

Date: 2017-04-23 04:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wildrose.livejournal.com
You're welcome :)

Date: 2017-04-21 07:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] banana-galaxy.livejournal.com
I enjoyed this. Clever family!

Date: 2017-04-23 04:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Thanks! I don't want to quite say the dad was poly, but...

Date: 2017-04-21 08:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lolaslaughter.livejournal.com
This was such an interesting story!! It gave me goosebumps with that twist ending!!

Keri chimed in. “Now that we’re through, which one was the actual human? You know, just for the record, and all!”

Loved this so much!! <3

Date: 2017-04-23 04:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Thanks for a really fantastic compliment!

Date: 2017-04-22 12:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beeker121.livejournal.com
I particularly like the son who was going to take no grief from these people. This was fun and tense, an impressive combination.

Date: 2017-04-23 04:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Yes! The son was the surrogate for the audience, really! Thanks very much!

Date: 2017-04-22 02:55 am (UTC)
shadowwolf13: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shadowwolf13
Super intense! I love it!

Date: 2017-04-23 11:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading and a lovely comment!

Date: 2017-04-22 07:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] halfshellvenus.livejournal.com
This.Was.Awesome!

What a dilemna created for the testers-- but not for the family. They knew what they wanted and what was right.

I feel a chorus of "Fight the power!" rising up inside me...

Date: 2017-04-23 11:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Haha. I couldn't find a way to squeeze a Bender reference into this without calling overt attention to it. But yes, moral dilemmas aren't made any easier by machines!

Date: 2017-04-23 03:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dmousey.livejournal.com
A very cool tale and take on the prompt! Straight up, with a twist! Hugs and peace~~~

Date: 2017-04-23 11:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Thanks so much for reading and a great comment!

Date: 2017-04-23 06:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dmousey.livejournal.com
A very cool tale and take on the prompt! Straight up, with a twist! Hugs and peace~~~

Date: 2017-04-23 08:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] favoritebean.livejournal.com
This was fantastic!

Date: 2017-04-23 11:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Date: 2017-04-23 11:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eternal-ot.livejournal.com
Superb take! Loved the twist. It was engaging throughout. Well done:)

Date: 2017-04-23 11:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading!

Date: 2017-04-23 12:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kajel.livejournal.com
This was a lot of fun!

Date: 2017-04-23 11:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading and so glad you liked!

Date: 2017-04-23 12:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alycewilson.livejournal.com
I was worried for a moment! Glad there was a happy ending.

Date: 2017-04-23 11:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Thanks so much!

Date: 2017-04-23 06:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] messygorgeous.livejournal.com
Wow! Awesome story! I was shocked when they jettisoned the two Rachael's and seriously surprised by the ending! Loved this.

Date: 2017-04-24 05:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading and for a wonderful comment back.

Date: 2017-04-23 06:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xlovebecomesher.livejournal.com
Great story - I love your take on this prompt!

Date: 2017-04-23 11:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Thanks, Hillary!

Date: 2017-04-23 08:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fodschwazzle.livejournal.com
Reminds me a lot of Solomon's test, but in this case everyone is the bad parent willing to push it until it looks like the worst outcome has been achieved. The happy breakdown at the end is a little chilling, since they were only willing to own up to their own poor decisions after the greatest possible cost was introduced.

Date: 2017-04-23 11:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
It was a bit of a tightrope, admittedly, and I always think about the length and making it all work and fit and incorporating elements I think would be challenging or at least interesting! Thanks for a really great comment.

Date: 2017-04-23 10:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] roina-arwen.livejournal.com
Niiiice! Great job with this!

Date: 2017-04-23 11:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Thanks a lot!

Date: 2017-04-23 11:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] d0gs.livejournal.com
as always, loved your piece! the combination of creepy and happy end is right up my alley :D

Date: 2017-04-23 11:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penpusher.livejournal.com
Haha! Yes, I do like the hybrid mix. Thanks for reading and your great compliment!

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