by: CJ Fogarty
Did you miss me, baby? Sorry I’ve been away. I guess you think I’m such a tease, don’t you? But, honey, when you’ve an entire bar full of other people, you tend to get sidetracked with other, less important business. Take, for example, the cops showing up at my club, unannounced and mostly blundering as usual, saying that they received another anonymous tip that a murder took place at my establishment, and that they have a warrant to investigate the premises.
So I says to the man in charge, “What is it this time, Officer? Not getting your fair cut on the roulette machine? Or were you and your husband dissatisfied with the girls I sent you last week?”
I say this with a cute, yet honest smile. Officer Bourdain is a long-time friend of mine, back from before I owned this place. Once, he was a cute, shy yet by the book rookie thrust into the criminal underworld with an undercover assignment, starting with the gunrunning racket allegedly tied to the Alley Cat Club. I’d picked him out almost immediately, as I’d become good at nabbing undercovers for the boss, back when this club had a different crowd and a slightly younger girl working the bar. But, I’d known that the boss was on his way out, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to make as many good connections as I could. So, I promptly introduced myself and, after a few Cateseyes, said that I needed to visit the little girls’ room. I invited him along, but, he sheepishly stated that he was gay, and proud of it. Ever since that night, he’s identified himself as bisexual, and helps keep the law off my back.
“Well, Iris”, Henry begins. Oops, I mean Sergeant Bourdain of NYPD-Homicide, “we got an anonymous tip on Unsolved Murder #127: Homicide- Murder of one Ricardo Gutierrez, reportedly occurred on the night of August 11, 2069, time of death estimated at between 11:00 PM and 2:00 AM. Where were you during this time?”
“I was right here, tending this bar. I think I had finished my last set at midnight”, I replied, matter-of-factly.
“Do you have any witnesses to back up this alibi?”!
After that, about a good dozen people raised their hands, almost on cue. These included the only occupants of the bar at the time: a scarred, aged daily patron raising a Cateseye with his cybernetic hand, and my ever-loyal android bartender stoicly raising his.
Appearing satisfied, the Sergeant said, “Well, I suppose there’s nothing that I can hold against you, since no forensic evidence ties back to this place. But Gutierrez was in your bar at around midnight on August 11?”
“Oh yeah”, I replied, suddenly remembering, not really though, “but he left after my last number. He had a good lot of drinks in him, and when he ran outta creds, I had my bouncer, Wilson, here”, gesturing to the big black man on the tiny tin stool by the door, “to politely escort him out.”
Sergeant Bourdain stared at me for a moment, and my eyes looked into his as I flashed my signature smile once again. He responded in kind, so I knew he understood. Folding up his digital notepad, he told me to go about my business, and that he’d be expecting REAL girls next time, not androids.
“It’s the smell”, he explained quietly, with a touch of timidity, “it’s faint and metallic. Most people don’t notice, but I do, and so does Johnny. So please, could you do that for me next time?”
“Sure thing honey”, I replied with a kiss on the cheek and a girly chuckle.
“Alright then”, he sounds off like a man, “come on guys, we’ve got all the information we need.”
And just like that, he had left. I, of course, reprimanded the bouncer, Wilson LaFayette, for not putting that punk’s body in a dumpster further from my place. Added to it, he lost the bastard’s class ring, just about the only thing of value left on him when he’d run out of credits to pay for his expensive girls and drinks. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but the man had it coming. He was a slimeball to begin with, and I could tell he was the type to burn his creds fast. And it’s not like I was above politeness and class either. I ordered Wilson to ask Gutierrez for his ring in payment for the two hundred creds that he had gone over. He responds by sending the ring into Wilson’s forehead, followed by a glass to his head. He was a bit of a problem, some juiced up college jock who only had his glory days and booze to keep him going. Well, he won’t be needing to worry about regret anyway, for “no good nor ill can come of the dead”, as the sage once said.
Anyway, back to the present, it’s simply another night at the club. The regular crowd slowly getting boozed, shuffling to the slow jazz while something much more modern, overtly sexual and auto-tuned plays in the Pink Room downstairs. Different atmospheres I guess. So, I make my way back to the bar, just to hang out, really.
Well, the regular crowd’s here tonight all except that one guy who’d always sit on that seat nearly every night. What was his name again? Dave or something? No, that’s stupid, why would his name be Dave? Nobody’s named Dave anymore. Hmmm, it was something with a ‘D’, though.
What, is he from Carolina now!?
Hmmm, I remember it was something out of the ordinary, yet, I remembered it from somewhere.
Was it Dan? Maybe Dorian? Oh God, Dorian! Ain’t that a tacky name. God, I feel so stupid now.
Hm, but, it doesn’t matter. I remember faces better than names anyways. And I had gotten used to his. Very much so. Because he was cute, not anything else. I don’t think I ever got to sleep with him, did I? No, wait, I remember, I didn’t get the chance cuz that cyberpunk girl walked in and swept him off. Bitch.
Woah, there Iris. Sorry, I guess I shouldn’t be obsessing this much really. Here, can we change the subject, please?
Great, I’m glad you’re such a flexible listener. Say, you remember the bartender I told you about earlier? Yeah, the one serving that party of obnoxious, giggling kids in grown-up suits a few seats down? The skinny, handsome-looking android with fine, black hair, a medium tan and Hispanic features? Oh wait, his eyes aren’t right, they shouldn’t be green, they should be brown. That’s what I get for letting Wilson set Kenji’s programming this week. Honestly, if he didn’t know how to kick ass whenever I ask him, that failed fighter would be outta here.
What? Oh, about the bartender? Yeah, I mentioned he’s an android right? One capable of altering his synthskin to match the preset features of a number of races and profiles? His designated name is K1-005223, hence, although, I believe we’ve been referring to him as Jorge this week. He was Asian last, as is his default programming, and he was nicknamed Kenji, to my recollection. That name takes after his father, well, “father”, per say. You see, Kenji Hakura was known as the Grandfather of Robotics, ‘grandfather’, because he was the inventor of the first synthetic humans with artificial intelligence capabilities. This was back in, umm, 2045, I think? Don’t worry, this won’t be another history lesson. I’m sure you’ve had enough of those, honey.
Anyway, the actual Father of Robotics, or ‘Parents’ I should say, are Eva Torres and her famous/infamous husband, Ezio Cortanza. An engineer and metallurgist respectively, Torres and Cortanza organized a contract with Hakura and his research team to begin mass production of the first conventional automatons, which hit the market with stunning fanfare at the Tokyo World’s Fair of 2045. In a manner of years, new developments were made by the genius Hakura which allowed robots, oh, excuse me, androids, to not only blend in with human society physically, but mentally as well. The K1 series, designed as a labor of love by Hakura himself, were special in the sense that they could learn and mirror human emotions and interact so accurately, people started wondering whether they were talking to an actual person or not. The term, ‘robot’, soon became a derogatory slur, since, it literally means, “slave”.
Apart form world events, the story of dear ol’ Kenji begins in a sunny little laboratory on Okinawa, when the mechanical man opened his eyes for the first time. And I’ll tell it to you, just as he told it to me.
The new man woke up in a whitewashed room, and a teal curtain surrounded him. The feeling can be compared to waking up from a long sleep, finding themselves in a hospital with aching bones and a slight apprehension as to where your clothes went and who undressed you.
Perhaps the answer revealed itself when the curtain parted, and a little nurse enters, casually at first, then, surprised to see a pair of eyes staring back at her. He doesn’t know why she’s so surprised, however, the nurse with her long black hair, petite figure and fine lips, appears to glow with a fixating light.
She turns then, and gestures to someone behind her, exclaiming, “Hakura-ishi! Hakura-ishi!1
Then, another one entered, this one older and hunched a little, with balding grey hair, deep dark eyes and a mouth opened wide. His expression and the nurse’s slowly melted into a smile, and, suddenly, the man felt very warm inside, but he can’t explain why.
The old man shuffled forward, opens his mouth and, “Ohayō (Good morning)”, but, the man is puzzled by what this means.
“Um, sensei”, the nurse whispered humbly, “remember, we programmed this model with English to start out.”
The old man chuckled warmly, and a feeling resonates within the man again.
“My apologies”, he said, “Good morning. My name is Doctor Hakura, and this is my assistant, Kotabyashi Tomoko”.2
He gestured to the girl, who bowed and smiled politely.
“And well”, the doctor excitedly continued, “Kenji. You don’t know how good it is to see you are awake.”
The name he used. Kenji. It sounded familiar to him, somewhat. He tried to sound it out.
Only, it sounded very odd when he said it. But, while he thought little of it, Doctor Hakura and Tomoko were suddenly struck with ecstasy at what was apparently a wondrous feat. Once again, he felt very warm because due to this praise.
“Kare ga kataru! (He talks!)”, the nurse exclaimed, and the man, Kenji, still notices that she radiates that vibrant glow.
“Hai!”, the doctor excitedly replied. Then, looking back at Kenji, “it appears that his environment adaptor is working so well that he can learn speech patterns after only a few sentences. Let’s try something else. Kenji. Can you get up from your bed and walk?”
Walk. What does that mean, he thought.
“Here”, the doctor offered, taking a few shuffling steps of his own, to show the man what to do.
Suddenly, images flash through Kenji’s mind, and he feels motivated to sit up from his bed, remove the cover, and yes there’s a hospital gown, he’s not buck-naked or anythin, and shift off the bed. The floor was ice cold, sending a sensation so great that Kenji wonders why his legs don’t give out.
But, he must follow the doctor’s request, he felt, and so, shuffled from his bed to the curtain.
Turning around to see their reaction, he found Tomoko giggling and the doctor laughing in a raspy tone, “He walks like a fat old man”.
Kenji didn’t feel warm by their reaction however, but a sensation around his cheeks, and a slight tightening of his chest.
“Oh, sensei, look. He is turning so red”, Tomoko uttered, concerned, “let’s stop laughing, I think he’s bashful. It makes sense since the first person he sees walk is you.”
At this now, Kenji felt warmer again, but, not for himself it seems, but for Tomoko. For her sympathy, as he would later learn.
“That is correct, Tomoko”, the doctor replied. Then, bowing to Kenji, “once again, my mistake ‘my Honorable Creation’”. The doctor moved close up to Kenji, his big, excited eyes looking into his. Then, “Kenji, you will show the world something it has never seen before.”
And, that was how it began. Eventually, Kenji was placed into special teaching by the staff at the Hakura Research Facility on Okinawa. And he learned at an astounding rate, going from basic algebra to calculus in a few months, when it takes most kids several years, never for some. But, the ultimate goal of their experiment was to find out how an automaton would view its existence and form its own thoughts. So, they had him drilled with a ton of books, from Eastern thinkers like Confucius and Musashi, to Westerners like Aristotle, Darwin, and Nietzsche. Eventually, he came to learn that he was not human, so that won’t be a major part of the story really. Of course, though, that doesn’t mean Kenji himself wasn’t one for questioning things. Kenji told me that as soon as he could speak, he never ran out of questions.
“Ishi”, he’d say,”why did you create me?”
After some thought, Dr. Hakura replied, “Don’t human beings all seek to create something? Leave their mark?”
“Yes”, Kenji replied.
“Does this desire not include wishing to create another life, so comes the desire to reproduce?”
“But, why do humans WANT to create things and leave their mark? What is the mental benefit for them?”
The doctor thought again for a long moment, and his lips tightened as he mulled it over.
Then, finally, “well, we feel most accomplished when we create something and most powerful when we create someone. The life a man and woman conceive becomes their own creation, and they look to protect it at all costs because it represents their prime state of being. The fulfillment of their most basic, evolutionary need and the advancement of their species.”
“So, human beings wish to create life because, perhaps, it makes them feel like God?”
At this, the doctor’s eyes widened in astonishment, an emotion which Kenji shared, feeling it for the first time. Why was he astonished. Why did he just say that? Was it the Nietzsche he was reading earlier? Or, perhaps, a recollection of the Bible verses he had poured over last week, translating from English into Japanese?
“That is possible”, Hakura replied, shrugging unsurely.
From that day, onward, Kenji began wondering a lot more about himself. He could form thoughts like that when his programming should only allow him to learn and calculate at limit, according to Tomoko and the good doctor.
I can tell that you’re probably wondering just where the hell this story is going, but I’ll get to that, hon.
Hakura and his team took Kenji to the Tokyo World’s Fair that year. Next to the aerocar and holophone, it was the most successful and outright, the most advanced exhibit. Older models of androids had been developed, but never before could one hold a conversation with one, nor would anyone ever dream that an automaton could display such honest emotion. The success of the K-1 automaton was so great that, suddenly, everyone wants to start building and using them. Naturally, there existed a great deal of criticism from technophobic groups, many of whom feared that human beings would soon be replaced with these ‘replicants’ as they called them. Nonetheless, the market had spoken and the people wanted androids like Kenji in their lives. And nobody was more willing to answer than Eva Torres and Ezio Cortanza, who fought off both government legislation and technophobes in order to get their results.
Some years go by and, by 2050, K-1 series androids rolled off the Cortanza Robotics belts almost more frequently than aerocars. Elderly couples found their presence calming in retirement homes, tourists found android cab drivers more amicable, and a good many desperate individuals found android hookers more enjoyable than real girls, and less judgemental too.
But, Kenji himself remained the truest of the K-1 series, in that his emotions and thoughts had no limits as to how they could grow. As Eva Torres joked on camera one day, “the androids you see released onto the market have several limits and safety measures in case of malfunctions or dissatisfying conduct. They are, lobotomized, if you will, so as to fit consumer standards.”
Hm, Torres never really had much of a filter on television. Maybe that’s why people cracked open champagne when she died a year later. But, that’s another story, honey.
Back to our Kenji then. One night, he was sitting front of the television, for the seventh hour in a row. And you think you’re lazy.
But, since he didn’t have body fat or cholesterol, it didn’t really matter how long he sat. His goal was to take in as much as he can, and for our Kenji, that means watching something as mundane as reality T.V. or sitcoms in order to figure out what being human means. For him, something as intellectually devoid as Keeping up with the Kardashians is a welcome learning experience. What? Not a fan of older shows?
Anyway, Kenji told me that he was watching a movie, and a profound experience hit him. It was something about two kids working at a burger joint but one does it to pay off a car accident or something. Watching, Kenji got an idea.
“People go out and work. They do so in order to earn something of arbitrary value which is, for a reason unknown to me, accepted by all human establishments. But, from what I know about what they call, ‘money’, its value is ever-fluctuating according to factors beyond human control. Additionally, money itself only serves a practical purpose when businesses and governments accept it. So, why do they work, especially if it isn’t all that rewarding?”
Kenji continued watching, and the movie unfolded with other twists and turns as the two boys met increasingly colorful people and shared comical moments. Oh, what the hell was it called, I seriously can’t remember. Anyway, so, Kenji came to a realization…
“…that humans seek out employment for the environment as much as the outlying reward. They seek interaction and happiness through relationships, people to share common experiences and moments memorable or embarrassing.”
Come morning, Kenji had many things to ask of Doctor Hakura.
“Hakura-ishi”, he began as the doctor eased into a seat opposite Kenji’s table. Behind his morning tea cup, Doctor Hakura’s eyes signaled for the Creation to continue, indicating that the doctor was aware that Kenji wanted something.
“I wish to work in a business place”, Kenji continued. If that sounds weird, it’s because it’s supposed to. Kenji never really got a firm grasp on language until much later as he told me. It makes sense that if most of you’re human contact is behind a glass screen, your command of communication won’t be all that strong. Eventually, however, his Japanese proficient to the point where Hakura and Tomoko no longer needed to speak English around him.
“You mean, you wish to have a job?”, Hakura inquires, intrigued.
“Yes, Ishi. Also, I want to be able to have a house and live in a neighborhood with other people.”
“But, you already have this room in which to live”, Hakura reminded him, “isn’t this enough?”
“This room is nice”, Kenji replied, gesturing to the modestly- furnished and monotonous apartment which encompassed his home within the installation, “but, from what I have studied of people, they are not inclined to life alone, by themselves. They seek out another person to share a life with and then reproduce. Didn’t you tell me doctor that reproducing was the highest aspect of human life?”
“I did”, Hakura replied as he shifted in his chair, “so, what do you want?”
Kenji paused, but the doctor keeps his eyes intently fixed upon his creation, waiting on his next words.
“Perhaps”, Kenji said after a pause, “I want to have a family.”
“A family?”, Hakura repeated.
“Yes. It is for the purpose of the experiment, but, there is a feeling I
have. Some days I am able to not think of it, but, it is ever present inside me. I feel it here”, Kenji gestures to his half-mechanical heart, “and, it is, empty. I feel it most when I see other people on the television when they appear to be very close and in love, as humans call it. It makes me think that I do not have what they have. So, in that way, I suppose that I want a family.”
“I see”, the doctor replies. He pauses for a long time to mull this over.
Then, “My Honorable Creation”, he says softly, yet, Kenji detects a hint of caution, “I will be honest with you. Your ability to think and feel was given no limit, unlike the androids released onto the market. In here, we are able to monitor your progress and change your surroundings as we see fit. But, out there, in the real world, there is no way of telling exactly how you would process everything that you would encounter. The world is a complex thing, and you may not be fit to live in it.”
“What makes me unfit?”, Kenji inquired evenly, “I maintain my own environment largely by myself. I display emotions similar to that of human beings and am able to keep up an even conversation. There are many humans who spend much less time actually talking to each other than I do, as, from what I have observed, many prefer electronic means of communication. Also, while I haven’t made a lot of connections with other people, I think I have connected well with you, Ishi, and with Tomoko-chan over the past few years.”
Hakura noded at all of Kenji’s points, but expressed that he is still unsure.
“I suppose I ought to have predicted that this desire would come to you sooner or later”, Hakura went on, “however, I am concerned that, without moral guidance, you may make decisions which are harmful to other people simply because you may not understand the situation.”
“Then, perhaps you or Tomoko-chan could live with me. Show me the proper way to live.”
Now, Kenji later told me that he didn’t understand why he started referring to Tomoko with the ‘-chan’ honorific. That title is specifically used to signify affection in Japanese, most commonly towards a girl. Kenji had said that there was always an association of emotions around her that he didn’t quite understand. It combined amazement with embarrassment, warmth with emptiness. It didn’t take me long to realize that he had fallen in love, something androids are NOT supposed to do. But he’s living proof for ya. I don’t think he ever knew that that was what he was feeling, and, frankly, I think he still denies it, even to himself. Isn’t it funny how many people do that to themselves, and yet, Kenji is the one considered to be inhuman?
What’s that? Oh wow, the club’s starting to clear out, is it? Who’s still here? That annoying group of suits is gone, thank God. Honestly, do you know who those people were? A group of business executives from some big firm on the third level. They come up here almost every other Saturday and drink like college kids, trying to turn my club into some frat house. I think they have some kind of initiation process for new members involving downing seven Cateseyes in two minutes or something like that. They may be annoying but, to be fair, they kiss my feet plenty, keeping certain cash flows off the books so I don’t get taxed. In exchange, I put up with their antics and have Kenji, or Jorge rather, let ‘em drink for free some nights. Although, sleeping with new accountants tends to get the job done too.
!But I digress.
So, it took several months, but, Kenji finally got his wish. Realizing how expensive real estate was in Tokyo, Kenji was moved to an apartment in New York. Cortanza and Torres felt that living in America was most conducive to a human experience, given the clash of cultures as well as the sense of opportunity through good ol’ capitalist determination.
Oh yes, I’m sure you could disagree with that sentiment as much as you like. As for me, it wouldn’t really matter. No matter the system, with a face like mine and a loose enough dress, I can have any job I want. Kenji’s apartment overlooked the second level’s Torres Gardens, which truly is a beautiful work of art. Some cyberpunk artist sculpted each statue, fountain, and even every tree outta Cortasteel, with special paint that changes from green to orange according to the season. Remarkable ain’t it? You really should see it sometime.
He was given a job at a locally-owned burger joint, where most of the customers were far younger than Kenji, and most of the employees far older. While not much for outright charisma and American charm, Kenji became renowned for his patience with difficult people, which is the most valuable aspect of working a job like that. Trust me, I know. I think he told me about one time when this one mother brought her infant twins into the restaurant and one of them dropped his juice all over the food and Kenji.
“Um, Miss Iris?”!
So, when he brings the mother a second meal, the other twin throws up over that one too!!
I mean, can you imagine!? But, he just cleaned himself off and got them a third meal! I’d slap the kid if he did that to me twice. Especially if he ruined my hair.!
What Wilson! Can you see I’m trying to have a conversation?!
“It’s one o’clock, Miss Iris.”!
It is? Let me check my watch….Well, alright then, you can go home.
“Thank you Miss Iris.”!
I don’t see you at 4PM sharp, there’ll be hell to pay, honey!
“You got it, Miss Iris.”
Ugh, Wilson. Sorry about that. Wilson was never taught manners as a kid. So, where was I? Hm, oh! Who was watching Kenji this whole time? Well, obviously Cortanza’s people kept their eye on him, but, as for his personal roommate, Tomoko got that job.
Tomoko Kotabyashi wasn’t really vocal in her opposition of being assigned as Kenji’s guardian. She certainly had grown to trust the Creation over the years, so, it wasn’t as though she feared for her safety. But, Kenji said that he always detected a bit of hesitation early on when they had moved in together in early 2047. He never figured out what it was, until a few weeks in. It had been a slow Sunday and, since it was winter and most of the other employees had families to tend to, Kenji’s boss let the entire staff go. Kenji opened the door to find the room dark. Outside, the sun was setting, since it was the second level, the sun set at just about 4PM for them. On the balcony overlooking the Torres Gardens stood Tomoko, wrapped in her own arms and noticeably sobbing. Kenji was suddenly filled with a sense of distress and also sadness, for he knew what sometimes follows when a crying girl places herself on a balcony.
Kenji slid the door open quietly, but not soft enough as it were, for Tomoko turned around, then, bashfully quick, attempted to clear the tears from her eyes. She smiled in an attempt to dispel the mood, but Kenji wasn’t fooled.
“Hello Kenji-kun”,Tomoko attempted, using the affectionate honorific for males, “you’re home early.”
“Tomoko-chan”, Kenji cut to the point, “why do you cry?”
Tomoko’s tears welled up again, and she turns her back, unable to speak.
So, Kenji goes on, “I know that people cry because of events outside their control. Most often, it is because they are put through bad times. You’re not having a difficult time, are you Tomoko-chan?”
Tomoko shook her head.
“Okay, then, I also know that human beings cry because someone has died? Has someone died?”
Again, she shook her head. Kenji then asked of more reasons he thought that she might be sad, yet not one situation fit. It was just as Doctor Hakura had told him. There are some situations that he just hadn’t the ability to process.
“I don’t understand then. Tomoko-chan, why are you crying?”
Her sobbing largely out of the way, Tomoko turned to him, wiped her eyes, and sat down.
“I guess I don’t know why I’m crying. Not really”, she began, “And, I don’t think you’d understand if I tried to tell you.”
“Please, try, though”, Kenji pleaded, “I’ve been getting much better at processing human emotions since I’ve been here with you.”
Tomoko paused for a moment, clearly unsure whether or not to open up to an android.
But, she finally relented, “I mean, I had a boyfriend once, and ever since he left, I’ve felt very lonely. And then I barely see my family anymore since my father died and my mother’s been in the nursing home and my brothers don’t talk to me. But, that’s all in the past, and I’ve worked so hard to try and make Hakura-ishi proud, and he really seems to be. He’s really like a father to me, you know?”
Kenji nodded. Of course he knew that feeling. But then why was she sad?
“I guess I just don’t feel close to anyone”, Tomoko admitted, “I just wanna feel like someone really cares. I just-oh you wouldn’t understand.”
“No, I do. I think. Human beings are not designed to be alone. They seek the company of others in order to feel comfort and then they seek to have families because that is the highest protocol of their processing. Or, rather, they want a family because being close means being safe, accepted, and happy.”
At this, Tomoko smiled, and Kenji felt a sense of great warmth, yet, he was somewhat disappointed.
“Unfortunately, that is where my knowing things ends, since I can’t really tell you how to not be sad”, Kenji laments, “I don’t know a way in which human beings can be happy all the time. That answer, among others, is away from my reach”
Tomoko then got up and moved towards the android, and promptly wrapped her arms around him.
Then, “The answer, Kenji-kun, is that there isn’t one. People cannot always be happy, because one who knows great love, also knows great pain.3 I know that you cannot help me, but at least, you are here for me. Thank you, Kenji-kun.”
This was the first affectionate, physical contact Kenji has experienced. It was unlike anything he had ever encountered, a surreal moment which was gladly accepted by every bit of his half-mechanical body.
What do I mean by “half-mechanical”? Well, certainly not that he’s a cyborg or anything. I say “half-mechanical” because I don’t consider my good Kenji to be a machine, since his overriding human qualities ought to make him at least half-human. You wanna see one of those cyborgs, look to Ryker over there. Yeah, you know, the grizzled old guy with the cybernetic arm. Yeah, he’s got a mechanical eye, leg, and I think part of his torso too. He’s passed out over there on the other side of the bar. I swear I think he doesn’t have anywhere else to sleep. And it’s not like a guy like him can sleep without a ton of booze, so, this place works for him.
Do you mind if I light a cigarette? I thought not. Anyway, this story’s pretty cute isn’t it? Hm, I wished it stayed that way.
In the following years, Kenji commuted to the Stanford University, where he received a double major in business and biology, graduating in 2050, after just three years. Shortly after that, Kenji was approached by a certain powerful, black-suited man, and was offered lunch.
“It’s Kenji, correct? Kenji what?”, the thin man with long, blond hair began.
Kenji was suddenly at a loss. He hadn’t been given a formal name at his Creation, nor had he thought about adopting one. So, he answered with the first name that came to mind.
“Kotabyashi, sir”, he replied, hoping the lie stuck.
“Kotabyashi”, the man repeats slowly. He had this way of speech that was very measured and slick, and uncommon in pattern. It sounded raspy, yet, the inflection often went up as he began his sentences and drolled out as he finished them. Additionally, he took odd pauses. Kenji found his voice very strange, yet, his small eyes commanded his contact.
“Alright, Kotabyashi”, he continues, “my name is Corliss. Andrew Corliss. And I represent an organization that has been very interested in you. We have…watched your work at Stanford University, and I have been very pleased with what I’ve seen. You’ve managed to graduate one of America’s most challenging universities in just three years. You’re affluence in English is…perfect, even though you were raised in Japan. You are…special I think. I’d like to offer you a job.”
“What sort of job, Mr. Corliss”, Kenji asked.
“In the exchange of stocks”, Corliss explained, “dealing with very influential companies, most of whom work in the Asian market. Many members of the board themselves are Japanese, like you. I think you’ll feel…right at home. What do you say?”
“Yes, Mr. Corliss. I will sign up”, Kenji replied evenly.
“Good”, Corliss replied, “now, can I have you in by Wednesday?” Then, remembering Tomoko, “May I call you about that later, sir?” “Do what you need to do, son?”, Corliss replies with a devilish smile. The two of them shook hands, and Kenji walked slowly home as the sun went down. He was feeling like the king of the world at this rate. He struggled to keep himself composed at what he had heard hearing. This was exactly what he had wanted. Actually, it was more than that, because not only was he working and living as a human being, but he was counted as standing out among them. At that moment, our little Kenji felt at his most powerful.
“What’s in your pockets, slant-eye?”
A disgusting-sounding voice brought Kenji outta dream land. Before him stood a young white guy, medium height with muscular arms and a juvenile complexion. Kenji turns to find another man and what appeared to be a woman, though, it was hard to tell. All of them sported fuzzy heads of dyed blond and swastika tattoos on their necks.
“I do not understand your question”, Kenji replies to the man in front, evenly. Going through his head were sudden images of fightin, cursin, and violence. Kenji swore to me that a trigger was bein pulled in his head, and it burst when the man behind him locked his arm round his head.
The “woman” barely got to hold her SS dagger to his neck and threaten, “give us your fucking money, gook!”, before a threatening action prompted a vicious reaction.
In a display of force the Creation had never known, Kenji threw his holder over his head, landing a heavy, merciless stomp onto his stupid skinned skull. Time seemed to slow down as the woman brought her knife into Kenji’s back repeatedly, only to find neither blood nor pain from him. Yes, Kenji could certainly feel the knife, but what he felt was neither pain nor fear nor guilt as he seized the woman’s arm and twisted it until it cracked, with little effort. He then gave her a roundhouse that sent her right into the wall, cracking the bricks and the bitch’s skull into pieces.
Kenji then turned his eyes to the punk kid in front of him, who had taken off running down the street a top speed. Yet, Kenji took off after him, catching up like an Olympic runner against a high school track star. He then grabbed the Hitler Youth, terror and tears crossing his face, and sent him flying into the street, where several cars took turns running him over.
He didn’t get up.
None of them got up.
Immediately, however, sirens began flashing off in the distance.
Suddenly, several cars appeared on the scene, two of them flying above him, surrounding the area. Kenji started running down an alleyway, yet as he did, he noticed that his fists in front of him looked odd. He stopped for
a second, and realized that his whole skin had changed, to a richer, darker color, and that his hair had become a flowing black. The cops did manage to get a picture of him, so he told me, but looking for another average- looking Hispanic man in Los Angeles was futile.
So, yes, the first time Kenji changed was in response to the great change that he’d just seen. it makes sense doesn’t it? After you kill someone, you change just as much as he did, just on the inside. But Kenji didn’t know the significance of what he’d done. As he told me, he perceived a threat, and executed it according to his programming. His nature, rather. Thus, he headed home thinking little of it. Little did he know that a fire of ire was burnin inside him, and he was ready to let it loose.
“Good evening Tomoko-chan”, he greeted as he walked through the door. There was now a wonderful sense of happiness in him, almost as though his metal heart sang, yet, it was hidden beneath his robotic exterior. Tomoko, meanwhile, was in the middle of making dinner, having traded in her lab coat for an apron, which, I think, complimented her slender, petite figure and had tied her hair back, looking like a cute little housewife. Honestly, if you could’ve seen them, they were such an adorable couple, Kenji always wanting to be happy, and making Tomoko laugh all the time, simply by being there.
“What is it, Kenji-kun?”, she asked.
Kenji reveals that he had met the office manager of a branch of a huge international firm, although he never even told me what the company was. In fact, I wonder just how many names he may have changed in his story. Anyway, to continue,
“He wishes to give me a job in an selling stocks for big international companies. Most of these companies deal in the Asian market and many members of the board are Japanese. The job would be on the third level of the city and-“
“Wait, Kenji”, Tomoko interrupted. Then, taking his hand, “I am very happy for you, you know that but this man doesn’t know exactly who you are. And if he somehow found out…”
Kenji just stares back at her, not upset but confused.
“Listen Kenji. This was only an experiment to see if you could function in a real setting. And you have proven yourself beyond the expectations Hakura-ishi, our benefactors, and even me. But, I think that this may be more than you are able to do. You will have to make schedules and sacrifices and you’ll be gone all the time. There are certain limits that we have in place and I was assigned here to make sure that you followed them.”
As she spoke, Kenji began to feel something growing in his chest. His chest was tightening and his muscles clenched. He was almost afraid of this emotion because it was very new to him. Anger, he would later learn, it was it’s called.
“Tomoko!”, Kenji yelled, showing the first sign of anger in his life. This took Tomoko back as well as Kenji, but he pressed on, unable and unwilling to control himself.
“I have earned this!”, he yells, storming across the room, “I have lived as a human being for eight years! That is more than enough time for you, Hakura-ishi, our benefactors, and everyone else to accept me as a person! I desire for my life to advance and continue. You will not deny me this!”
“Ken-ji. Please.”, was all that Tomoko could squeak out.
Breathing heavy, the android struggled to control himself, but these were feelings he wasn’t prepared to handle, and that’s what scared him.
“I thought you cared about me”, he accuses her, “I hoped that this
wasn’t just an experiment. I hoped that-that you had affection for me!” There was a long, awkward pause, where no words nor eye contact were exchanged.
Tomoko finally looks Kenji straight in the eye, without tears, and shakes her head.
“Kenji. I-“, but it was all she could get out before the Creation had his hand around her throat. He lifted her off the floor, a steady, hard glance in his eye. Tomoko tried to tear him away, but machines are not so easily moved. For other androids, there had been emergency measures for situations like this. But, for Doctor Hakura and Tomoko had thrown them out in Kenji’s case. Because they trusted him. Because they loved him, but not as Kenji. As the Creation.
Stepping out onto the balcony, Tomoko looks down. Realizing just how futile, how helpless, and how near to death she had gone in ten minutes, all she could do was stop struggling, and start weeping.
Was this to be the moment where Kenji decided his fate? Would he choose to be a heartless machine, climbing up in the world’s ladder yet ashamed if it saw him for what he really was? Or, would he become what he’d always dreamed: a human being. A human being with a metal skeleton, but a human being no less?
As much as you’d like to believe something went a different way. As much as your brain has you believe in different alternatives, reality is rarely as reasonable. More often than not, it deceives you.
After Kenji did what he had to do, he picked up Tomoko’s holophone. He dialed the number given to him on a business card, and a silhouette answered him.
“Mr. Corliss”, he greets in English, “Wednesday would be great”
“Good”, the silhouette replies, delighted, “there are many others like you in our organization, Kenji my boy. We are happy to have you.”
Ah, alright. Let me just douse my last cig. So, did you have a nice night? Sorry if I kinda hogged the talkin stick, honey. But you know, you’re such good company. Oh what’s that? Oh, Doctor Hakura. Well, he died shortly after The Forgotten Crisis of 2061. After a bunch of his androids were reported to have been involved in the bombings of several major cities by The Forgotten, I guess he died of a broken heart. It’s kind of a shame. He tried to give a heart to so many mechanical beings whom nobody believed deserved to have them. And yet, what surrounded those hearts was cold, unafraid, and, perhaps, predestined to destruction. But hey, aren’t we all. Hm.
Oh Kenji? Darling, bring this man one last drink, and then close up. Take that sorry cyborg with you, would you honey?