Friday, December 6, 2019

"One line of Bad Code" By Barbara G. Tarn

Editor's Introduction: You know it's only a matter of time for this to happen...

One Line of Bad Code
By Barbara G. Tarn

       Hal Dewitt touched the biometric sensor and the door swished open. Home at last! Hal dropped his case of tools and spare parts in the entrance and threw his black leather trenchcoat on top of it.
       "Honey, I'm home!" he said, heading for the living room and its glass wall that opened on the city landscape.
       He still wore his gray jumpsuit and boots, and since the living room was empty, he continued for the bedroom and bathroom. Sometimes being a technician was a dirty job and he needed a shower before he could give Mirka the news.
       She was in the bedroom, as expected. Her voluptuous silicone body was barely covered by a babydoll and her mane of raven synthetic hair was spread on the pillow. Her beautiful eyes with long eyelashes were closed, even though she wasn't human and didn't need sleep.
       M1RK4 was the latest model of battery-operated girlfriend and Hal's latest purchase. Since he could never overcome his stuttering, he had decided a robotic girlfriend was better than a flesh-and-blood woman who would judge him.
       Hal was tall and slender, with auburn dreadlocks and bright hazel eyes. He wasn't ugly for the current beauty trends, but at thirty he was very quiet in social situations. He was lucky enough to work on his own, but when it came to dating, he was a natural disaster. Hence he had given up on that game long ago.
       He smiled at the sight of Mirka and knew she wouldn't move unless he told her to.
       "I'll be with you in a minute," he said, grabbing clean clothes and locking himself in the bathroom.
       The sex doll might be waterproof, but that didn't mean he liked to have her in the shower. The bedroom was just fine or the living room with kitchenette, or anywhere else he fancied - but not the bathroom.
       He still couldn't believe how real those battery-operated girlfriends were. The Star Nations had brought great inventions before Earth was introduced to the galactic civilization which had brought down the national borders and taken humanity to the stars.
       They now had starships and robots and androids and all that stuff that had been the matter of science fiction until... well, before he was born anyway. His parents still remembered what it was like, but he had never lived it.
       He had grown up learning Intergalactic, and touring the Star Nations after secondary school like all the other citizens of the galaxy. Then he had found work as technician and gotten his small apartment equipped with an AI ready to answer any of his wishes.
       All that was missing was a flatmate, but now he had Mirka, beautiful, lovely Mirka who never judged him and laughed at his lame jokes and had sex with him and kept him company when he came home. Life was so perfect with her, he felt the need to reward her even if she was just a robot, a sex doll.
       He got out of the shower and wore black cargo pants, a wrist computer and an Akira T-shirt. The app sent a signal to Mirka who waited for him in the bedroom, up and ready.
       "Hello, gorgeous," she greeted with her husky voice. It was amazing how many facial expressions she had and how her mouth moved in synch with the words. Hal didn't know much about robotics, so she looked like a miracle to him.
       "Mirka, my love, I want to marry you," he said, taking her in his arms. The silicone skin was so smooth and almost warm, the illusion of flesh was really strong.
       "Oh, boy, that's new!" she said, widening her big brown eyes. "Have you checked if it's allowed?"
       "I don't care if it's allowed or not," he replied with a shrug. "Battery-operated girlfriends aren't so common on Earth, I'm sure we could fool the official. Or we could apply for a license online."
       "You are aware I will never be able to give you children, yes?" she asked, frowning. So human.
       "Yes, I'm not marrying you to breed," he replied, squeezing her. "Considering what a failure I am, I don't see why I should breed anyway."
       "You're not a failure, you're my Schmooky Cupcake, my Lovie Darlington, and I'm very happy to be with you," she replied, caressing his chest over the t-shirt and shooting him a flirty look.
       "Then marry me," he repeated. It was unbelievable how he never stuttered with her. "Let's do it right now and then go out and celebrate!"
       "Does that mean I get to meet your mother at last?" she asked with an impish smile.
       He hesitated. His mother was a fiery Italian woman born when there were still borders on Earth who had been demanding to meet his wonderful girlfriend for months now.
The only way Hal had found to keep her away from Mirka was that she lived on the other side of the planet and couldn't move around much.
       "I'll take you to meet her when you're my wife," he said. "I'm sure you'll fool her too if you pretend to breathe."
       She giggled. "Wouldn't she want to be at our wedding?" she asked.
       "Times have changed, those Catholic weddings are out of fashion now," he replied with a shrug. "Let's make you Mrs. Dewitt, shall we?"
       He dragged her to the computer in the living room and they went online to apply for a marriage license. M1RK4 L0V3 became Mirka Love, and since there was no match found in the database, they made up a date and place of birth, and sent the request. He happily kissed her and decided they had time for some bed gymnastics before going out to dinner and celebrate.
       Charlena Albach pulled away from the body and sighed. Definitely dead. There was no reviving for poor Hal Dewitt, lying naked in his bed with weird bruises on his chest. As if a boa constrictor had squeezed him, but there were no snakes in the apartment.
       Charlena had curly golden hair and light green eyes, and numerous body piercings. She wore military fatigues and headphones, and carried a tablet computer. She entered the data of the patient and turned to look at the beautiful woman who had called the emergency number.
       Something was odd about that Mirka. She was too still and seemed not to breathe.
       "I'm afraid there is nothing I can do for your husband," Charlena said with a quiet voice. "I should report to the police... Care to tell me what happened? A sex game that went a little too far?"
       "Um... I don't know. I hugged him and he stopped breathing."
       Charlena looked at the dead man again. His hands looked as if he'd tried to defend himself. And those bruises on his chest... How strong was that woman? And why didn't she stop before killing him?
       She looked at Mirka again. Such flawless skin and hair... Charlena narrowed her eyes.
       "Are you human?" she asked.
       The woman blinked. "No. M-1-R-K-4 L-0-V-3."
       Charlena checked her tablet. "So Mirka Dewitt doesn't actually exist," she muttered. "I'm sorry, I'll have to send this report to the police."
       Mirka stood still. Very unnerving. Charlena waited until an officer called back her tablet.
Detective Barrick listened patiently as she explained how she'd found a dead man, apparently killed by his sex doll.
       "Sending an expert," the middle-aged officer said. "Got the series number down, a representative of Cyberdolls is on his way."
       "Is it dangerous?" she asked, worried.
       "Not really," the detective replied. "She's attuned to her owner."
       Charlena nodded and logged off. Here she was with a deadly sex doll. Who knew what had gone wrong with the android's AI.
       Her tablet chimed with instructions on how to deactivate the doll. Charlena huffed and did as instructed. The Cyberdolls guy would arrive as quickly as he could.
       Donovan Waring was short and willowy, with auburn hair and large gray eyes. He wore a black biker suit and a wrist computer that allowed him to interact with the sex doll. Deactivated M1RK4 L0V3 stood like a beautiful statue while he ran his tests under Charlena's eyes.
       "Many doll owners are emotionally attached to these sex machines and see them as their partner," he said as he worked.
       "So what happened?" Charlena asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
       "One line of bad code." He sighed. "These battery-operated girlfriends are updated on the cloud server and all it takes is one line of bad code. A simple hug could be a constriction that could literally compress your airways and stop your breathing."
       Battery-operated girlfriends weren't as safe as their makers touted them to be, obviously. Who knew what had gone wrong? Probably just one line of bad code, but it had cost Hal his life.


Author BioBarbara G.Tarn is a writer, sometimes artist, mostly a world-creator and story-teller. She writes mostly SFF, including the science fantasy Star Minds Universe with an alternate future in which Earth joined the Star Nations in 2012.

Two of her stories received an Honorable Mention at the Writers of the Future contest. One of her stories has been published in Pulphouse Magazine #5 (March  2019). She writes, draws, ignores her day job and blogs at: