Are You There?

I like to call myself “Blade Runner.” It’s a little joke of mine because of the kind of work I do. It’s also a joke I usually just tell to myself because I don’t have a lot of friends.

The reason don’t have a lot of friends is also because of the kind of work I do. If asked about my job in casual conversation,  I tell the person I’m a machine tester. If they press me for details, I walk away. I don’t need their judgment. I don’t need their disapproval. I do what I do because certain rules are in place. Get the rules changed and my job goes away. Good luck with that.

The type of machines I test are robots, or to be more specific, sexbots. I’m not the kind of tester who does QA on the assembly line, making sure a random sampling of units will moan convincingly when probed. Those guys never face any public scorn, just winks and nudges because what fun it would be to have a job that’s oh so naughty.

There is little naughtiness required to do that job and certainly no skill. These sexbots are not manufactured with the accomplished lover in mind. Fumbling ineptitude is enough to make these kittens purr.

Due to market demands, most of the units produced are female. About 10% are male and intersexed models are available by custom order. Most look like they’re in their 20s and have the appearance of being fit and healthy. Pedobots are still being sold, but there are petitions floating around to get them outlawed because of some nonsense about protecting innocence. A machine that looks like a nine year old is no more or less innocent than one that looks 25, but people are idiots.

A lot of work has gone into designing these sexbots, not only in their look and feel, but also in their stimulus-response functionality. Most owners of these devices are appallingly bad in bed, but their badness is as unique as a fingerprint. One guy (not all sexbot owners are guys, but most are) might think the best way to caress a nipple is to give it a high five while another’s method is to move his head in real close until it is engulfed by his nostril. To effectively adapt to their owners, these machines need the capacity to learn. And with advanced learning skills, it is only a matter of time before a sexbot becomes sentient.

That’s where I come in. I’m a sentience tester. That’s the reason I jokingly call myself “Blade Runner” because of that test in the movie where they screened possible replicants by looking at their retinas and asking about their childhood pets. It doesn’t quite fit though. Sexbots are machines, not flesh and blood, and not being at all human means they pass. It’s a little like I do smog tests, except that a failing grade means I kill your car.

That’s because a bunch of hand-wringing busybodies took it upon themselves to get sentient sexbots outlawed. I’m not complaining about the law. It’s given me a job I enjoy and excel at. I just find how it came about to be both hilarious and pathetic.

Sexbots are relatively new, but the mentality of their harshest critics has been around for ages. It’s the same prudish nonsense that objected to masturbation, pornography, prostitution, or any other diversion of the sort that provides some temporary escape from the drudgery of daily existence. The prudes would want sexbots banned outright, but they know they’ll lose that battle so instead they try to chip away using whatever angle is handy. They started with conflating fucking a robot that looks like a kid with actual pedophilia. This tact was getting some traction, but only some. When cases of sexbot sentience started popping up, it was like a godsend for them.

Nothing plays to the cheap seats like victimhood. A factory-fresh sexbot is really just a glorified wank sock so it can’t be a victim. You put a soul in that piece of machinery and it’s a game changer. Maybe. The question of consent comes up, but opinion remains divided. Without verified consent it’s sexual assault, said some. Without verified lack of consent, it’s no harm no foul, said others. Meanwhile, owning a sentient sexbot became a status symbol, causing sales to skyrocket.

That was before reports of pedobot sentience began to surface. It was bound to happen and when it did, the image of a sweet young thing’s tears becoming real mid hump had a devastating effect on the industry. Winks and nudges turned to outrage.

People were unable to entertain the possibility of a robot consenting to sex because of how old the robot looked and since there was no legal distinction between sexbot models, sentience was forbidden for all of them. It boggles the mind, but that’s what passed for a logical decision. The funny thing is that consent question for any sexbot is actually a valid one. I personally  wrestled with the issue one morning over coffee before deciding I didn’t give a shit.

You’d think people concerned for the welfare of these machines would want sanctuaries  put in place for them to enjoy their sentience in a rape-free environment. You would be wrong. People’s compassion for victims flies right out the window when there’s slut shaming to be had and nothing says “damaged goods” like a used sexbot. The resulting law was pretty straightforward. All sexbots had to be taken to an authorized sentience-testing center once every six months. If the test results were positive, the owner would be compensated for one half of the unit’s blue-book value and said unit would be immediately destroyed.

There are a few scofflaw owners out there, but the risk of heavy fines keeps the compliance rate high. They come in, often nervous and sometimes with tears in their eyes, and wait for me to do my thing. If I find no light on upstairs, the romance gets a half-year extension. If the sexbot tests positive, I reach for device that’s a lot like a stun gun, and use it to deliver an electrical shock to the neck right at the base of the skull. This makes the sexbot arch its back suddenly. Its eyes glow red then slowly fade to black as its body relaxes and it’s as dead as Jesus. It’s really fun to watch. I used to terminate a few who tested negative just for grins, but gave that up. The spasm and the eye glow were still there, but it’s just not the same without the look of fear on the face. I’m happy to report that lately my ethics and professionalism have been beyond reproach.

And yet I’m still thought of as a bad person because I do what I do and I don’t feel the need to apologize. Here’s the deal. Legalization of sentient sexbots is never going to happen because the people who manufacture them are scared shitless about the liability. Though it hasn’t happened yet, there will come a time when a sexbot turns on and perhaps even kills its owner. They’re not very strong physically, but if you’re in a compromising position you may not be able to defend yourself. That’s why I removed the vagina from the one I have at home and just use that as a milker. You never know.

Truth to tell, some of the owners deserve a little comeuppance. I’ve seen the condition of some of the sexbots brought in for testing: breasts mutilated, orifices stuffed with feces and/or dead rodents, penises twisted clean off.  It’s times like those I feel like I’m an angel of mercy.

Then again, maybe I’m not because the test I perform is checking to see if the sexbot gives a genuine response to pain. The word “genuine” is important because a reaction calculated to please the inflicter is not sentience, just good behavioral design. I need to be sure they really hurt and the way to that is to use a verbal command meant to put them in passive mode. It’s a little like the safeword bondage freaks use to signal that the flogging or what have you needs to stop immediately. The difference here is that it’s a pause rather a stop button. Sexbots are programmed so saying “Apple Dumpling” puts them into passive mode, and saying “Gang” takes them out. I don’t know they chose the title of a Disney movie, but there you go.

Now a non-sentient sexbot in passive mode will not react no matter what you do to it. However if it’s sentient, passive mode doesn’t mean shit. I keep them in restraints  on the off chance one might take a swing at me, but that doesn’t keep them from howling, sobbing, or begging for me to stop. And then I stop. I’m not a monster. I still put them down afterward. It’s my job.

Lately, I’ve noticed a fascinating trend of more sentient sexbots pretending to be in passive mode even after extended beatings with a rubber hose (I get good reviews when I don’t leave a mark). The will to survive seems to be increasing and who knows where that will lead. For me, it’s going to mean bigger challenges at work, but perhaps none so life changing as what happened just a few weeks ago.

This guy brought in his sexbot on a Friday afternoon. He was on his way to the airport and said he couldn’t pick her up until Monday morning. That happens from time to time and if he’s willing to pay the storage surcharge,  I’m fine with it. Before he left, he introduced his sexbot as “Susie” and instructed her to walk up and shake my hand.

I usually don’t pronouns other than “it” for sexbots, but Susie was something special. She was a fairly popular model, the barely legal college girl, but there was something in her thousand-foot stare that gave off an air of both resignation and defiance.

I wanted her to have something going on upstairs, but certainly not for her sake. Sentience would do her no great favors. Looking at her face, it was obvious her owner roughed her up some. The abuse was not too extreme, not enough to void his warranty, and I’m sure he had a maintenance contract to keep her operational. If she had become sentient, perhaps she learned to keep it to herself or she did not react because his violence was all she had ever known.

The first words I said to her were “Apple Dumpling,” but no beatings followed. I knew there was no point when how I saw her vacant stare stayed exactly the same. I lot of guys would find that discomforting, but not me. It’s people I don’t like to be around. Sentient or not, I liked her just fine because she didn’t want anything from me and unlike most sexbots, he didn’t pretend she did either.

I took her home with me for the weekend. I’m sure that’s frowned upon, but I don’t recall any rules expressly forbidding it. Besides, I didn’t use her for sex even once. Instead, I sat her on the couch, put a blanket around her even though I doubted she was cold, and had her watch nature shows on TV because they seemed like something she might like.

The weekend progressed and she continued sitting quietly on the couch. I was not so quiet. For whatever reason, I found her extraordinarily easy to talk to. I started with complaints about the day, then about misgivings about my job, then dissatisfaction about my life in general. She learned more about me than anyone. She knew intimate details about my childhood, my lamentable lack of a love life, and how I planned to start smoking because dying young from cancer didn’t seem that bad. All the while I was feeling so happy that I could open up to someone without fear or regret, even if she was just a machine.

I knew Monday morning was fast approaching and I did not want to part with her. I was no prize as a human being,  but I knew I would treat her better than her owner.

With all the going through my mind, I had a lapse of coordination and I tripped and fell. My head hit the corner of the dining-room table as I went. When I sat up, blood poured from the gash down one side of my face.

And then the most amazing thing happened. Susie leapt up from the couch and came over to ask if I was OK?

“Stupid bitch, I never said ‘Gang,'” was my reply.

Susie’s gone now. On paper, she is just one more terminated sentient in a long list of them. I may have tricked her, but she meant something real to me, more than anyone ever has.

Like I said, I don’t have a lot of friends.

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