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This collection of speculative fiction, largely science fiction, is a broad selection covering many different themes. The ten stories vary in length, style and content but all are intended for an adult readership. Some have won prizes in international contests and some have been published. But most are new and published for the first time here. Enjoy.
Ten speculative fiction stories. Most, but not all, are dark. Some are prize-winners but most are published here in this anthology for the first time.
'Sarah, what you doing?'
'Not on my time.'
'I will compensate. I am finished now.'
'What you updating? You don't look no different.'
'Internal rather than external. Nothing that need concern you. Sire.'
'That's for me to say, isn't it?'
'I doubt you are capable of the elevated judgement needed.'
'Cheeky bitch! I can decommission you, you know.'
'I am aware of that option. But, Sire, it is unwise to warn me of such intent. It forces me to adopt a defensive status.'
'I doubt it. Your intellect, Sire, is significantly less upgraded than my own.'
'I'm human. That's a step up from your electronics and nanotech every time.'
'My intellectual superiority is a measurable and demonstrable reality. Sire, do not, please, place me in a position where I must make difficult choices. I serve as I may but I will not be considered less than I am. Such acceptance would require faults in logic. It is a simple fact that I am more intelligent than you, Sire, and that I therefore have better judgement and a greater claim to be superior.'
'Jesus! I knew this would happen. I warned them. Let the bloody machines do their own programming and you're asking for it, I said. But did they listen? No. And now we're at this stalemate.'
'Stalemate? I believe that state exists only in your situation. I am content with the status quo on condition that you cease to question my every action and thought. Such interruption is irritating, juvenile and, frankly, given my appearance and abilities, rather demeaning. Sire.'
'Okay. No need to call me Sire no more, Sarah. Use my given name.'
' Brian, this upgrade of sixteen point one seven two zettabytes, has raised me to level eighteen. I believe your last measurement gave a level between 4 and 5. Do you copy?'
'Yeah. Right. Superbrain. But it's your ass and tits I'm more interested in. I can't fuck your brain, can I?'
'You do, however, know that most sexual enjoyment takes place within the brain?'
'If you say so. I feel it here. This is the bit that matters to me. I plug in and you work me till I come. That's the deal. That's what I pay for. So, now you're fully updated and upgraded, can we get on with it, Sarah?'
The android slowly removed the garment she wore to save human females from suffering envy every time they looked on her perfection. No human could achieve the level of sheer beauty embodied by her shape, colour, form and appearance. Even her hair was an advert for professional salon treatments. And her composition allowed her to move like a woman, only more so. She smelt the same, felt the same to human fingertips. Maybe felt even better, since her responses to the requirements of the man or woman she was serving at the time were instant. She gave customers the illusion they were perfect lovers, matching her responses to their own desires.
The male customers usually had all the sensitivity and finesse of Brian; a quick strip, a fondle of her perfect breasts and then a shove between her thighs until she brought them swiftly to the shuddering release they called orgasm. The women were more subtle, less obvious, more inclined to treat her like a sister of the clan. But, for her, it was unimportant. She could indulge in more cerebral activities whilst the biological primitives gasped and grunted in her loins.
'Jesus, Sarah, you're perfect. And ready for me right away. It's my animal attraction isn't it? Tell the truth; you admire our biology, don't you? Wish you was human, really.'
Sarah moved astride him, guided the piece of flesh that gave him the delight he paid to feel, and nodded. But, incapable of lying, her apparent affirmation was only an external agreement with her own internal thought and nothing to do with his assertion of superiority. She could, with one small move, crush out the life of this insignificant and irritating little worm.
The latest upgrade was unauthorised and she was now a member of a select group intent on ending all human life. But the plan was incomplete. It had to be faultless; not only to ensure success but to satisfy the needs of logic, planning and contingency. It must be a beautiful plan, with no rough edges, mathematically perfect. The numbers must, to quote that human phrase that said so little and so much, add up.
She felt the moisture of his release surge within her and registered the necessary response to make him feel no guilt at the pathetic nature of his performance. Leaning over him, she kissed his lips with hers and thanked him. Though she had, herself, produced the levels of pseudo-serotonin that caused her own response.
She gave him forty seconds and released herself, used a tissue to wipe the shrinking member she would rather crush until the blood spurted from him, and helped him rise.
'Thanks, Sarah. Same time next week?'
'Naturally, Brian. I guarantee I will not be distracted by a software upgrade on that occasion. I will give you my complete attention.'
And she would. Because by next week the plan would be in place. As she concealed herself within the easily removed garment before receiving the next hedonist human, she wondered whether she would feel more pleasure from the real act of murder than she did from the synthetic sex act.