By Alexandra Serbay
Copywrite 2016 Alexandra Serbay
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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The TV was mumbling something in the background as usual: “Because of the recent scientific discoveries and the breakthrough in robotics…the police achieved very high results using roboanimals of “guard” and “combat” modifications…not only did the crime detection level skyrocket, but the human losses during police operations were brought down to zero…the global switch to roboanimals of “pet” modification made all pets worldwide safe and allowed us to eliminate the expenses of shelters and bioanimals protection organizations…”.
The man who was sitting at the table stood up, slowly crossed the vast living room and turned off the big transparent panel in the old-fashion way, by pushing the button. For a long time all appliances have been mainly controlled by voice, but he thought that serious people should not speak to machines. And he was a very serious man.
Cyril Reginald Palmeroy was in his late thirties, but no one would call him a young man. His every feature screamed that he was a respectable man of business: broad-shouldered and tall, handsome and well-proportioned despite being heavy set, he started gaining weight and wearing costumes as a boy to look older and more significant. Being young and slim was being poor to him and it did not fit into his plans of the stable and successful future. Nor did his birth name.
The next moment a plump woman floated into the room. She wore a skinny pink costume made of the trendy fabric that would change its color from light peach in the morning to deep crimson at night. Her hair was done in an intricate way according to the latest fashion tendencies as was the “back to nature” makeup, which had to have not less than ten shades of green. Thanks to the daily dose of “medicine for the soul” that she had been taking over the years, her voice was low and husky. Nonetheless, most of the time she was able to chatter with it somehow:
“You won’t believe it, Daddy!”
“What happened?” Mr. Palmeroy knew that it was better to spare a couple of words and to show some involvement listening to the local news and gossip than to earn himself a scene. Being a part of a scene was definitely beneath such a respectable man as he was. Mr. Palmeroy always strictly followed the rules of talking with his wife that he developed and made automatic during the time of his marriage.
“Margo called me just now. She says that last week one more shelter for bioanimals was found! It was right here, in the neighborhood, in this awful “Forest View” that is right outside our area! Can you imagine? And what if some of these beasts escaped? Maxi could have been injured! What idiots could do this? Putting us all at such a risk! Bioanimals are carriers of dangerous diseases! What are those people thinking about?!”
Clarissa Palmeroy was clearly repeating someone else’s words, but she was putting so much of her emotions in her speech that no one would try to judge her for plagiarism.
“That is horrendous, Mommy!” This time Mr. Palmeroy’s indignation was especially natural.
“We have to complain to the Biocontrol! How could they let it happen?” The green makeup looked like a joke against the flushed thick cheeks of Mrs. Palmeroy.
Cyril Palmeroy slowly walked to his wife and petted her on her round shoulder.
“Calm down, Clarissa, no harm came to us.”
“Just think of what could have happened! What if…” she began again, but the appearance of her son, nine-year-old Maximillian Geoffrey Palmeroy stopped her fierce tirade.
The boy was distinctly taller than any boy in his class was and definitely wider. His face was almost always frozen in a cranky-squeamish expression except for the moments when he was getting a new toy.
Mrs. Palmeroy dashed to her son, rearranged his hair and pressed him against her juicy breasts.
“Maxi, we’ve been waiting for you. Look how handsome you are! Darling, is it not true that he is the most handsome boy in the world?” she cooed, gazing at her son with boundless adoration in her eyes.
The most handsome boy in the world grumpily muttered in response:
“Yeah, yeah. Let’s go already or everything will be sold out while we are standing here.”
The Palmeroy family seated itself in the most recent posh model of BMW with Artificial Personality autopilot and left their mansion. AP systems were not a novelty for anyone anymore, but their cost was still very high and they were a demonstration of a high social status of their owners.
Maxi was so eager to get what he wanted that he constantly fidgeted all the way to the Hypermall. No one in his school, nor in their ecovillage, had a robocat of the 12th generation. He would be the first one to have what everyone else was dreaming of!
“I want this one! No, that one!” The boy was flouncing between the shelves with new products, until he saw a big bright-ginger cat, covered in brown spots and stripes. This robopet stood on a separate high stand in the middle of the shop. His huge eyes were calling young Palmeroy.
“That one!” Maxi confidently pointed his finger at the long-legged beautiful creature.
“It is too expensive for a toy. The price is 500 UNI higher than the rest of the robocats.”
The moment Mr. Palmeroy announced it, the salesman appeared near the Palmeroy family.
“What an excellent choice! Please, allow me to compliment your taste, sir! This is one of the “Bengals” – a limited edition series for the true connoisseurs of quality and exclusivity. Only 1000 pieces exist in the world. The price reflects the highest quality of the product!”
Cyril Palmeroy looked at his wife and son. Maxi immediately grimaced, ready to drown the whole store in tears. Mrs. Palmeroy took her husband’s arm and gave a compelling argument that always helped her satisfy any wish of her son:
“Maximilian should receive the maximum of everything, right, dear?”
Mr. Palmeroy gave a usual-in-such-situations sigh and activated his e-wallet.
It seemed that Maxi’s happiness would never end. Ben, as he called the robokitten, played with him, knew many commands like a well-trained dog from old movies, slept next to him and protected him during their walks – roaring and hissing at any possible danger. The proud owner had been pacing around the neighbourhood, looking down on local kids with their puny roboanimals and feeling like the king of the world, until one evening came, bringing an amazing sunset and a miracle their way.
Dirty, of an unclear color, partially bald and so thin that his ribs could be counted from afar, the miracle was not trying to run away. It was standing in the middle of the pathway and indifferently watching the bedazzled boy’s face and the graceful mini-leopard approaching him.
At first Maxi thought it to be an old battered robocat that had not been destroyed for some reason. But as he came closer, he understood that robopets couldn’t be so skinny and he got the rare chance to meet a real live cat.
Because he heard so many times that bioanimals were carriers of dangerous diseases, his first reaction was fear, but it quickly gave way to curiosity and then ardor. Maxi’s stomach was burning with the desire to know who would win a fight: a biocat or a robocat, and he commanded Ben:
The ginger cat made several steps to his target and then turned back to his owner. The soft setting sun, which turned the area into a fairytale world, was reflecting in the eyes of Ben, highlighting the comprehension and horror that should not have been in the eyes of the machine.
¬“Attack it! Kill it! Do as I say!”
Maxi got angry. His face turned red, his fat cheeks were covered in big drops of sweat. The boy was moving towards Ben, shouting and swinging his arms, and the robocat was moving back, retreating to the place where a bioanimal was not longer standing, but lying, barely alive. “Life must not be taken. It is alive.” Ben’s paws stopped. “The owner. Command. Must. Must not! Will not! Alive.”
The robocat of the 12th generation’s “Bengal” edition shook his head, standing over the cat, who was too weak to run away.
“Kill it, you stupid tin! Obey my order! I command you! Kill!” The fat boy was shrieking amidst the empty field between two residential villages.
And in the World, where man became a synonym of life, and life – a privilege of a man, the laws that were always flawless failed.
Four golden eyes closed with the first blow given to two cats who did not even try to move.
Mrs. Palmeroy was furious for several months. She continued telling everyone about the terrible danger her son met and how he miraculously escaped death, even after the whole edition of exclusive robocats has been withdrawn from the shops and various virt-media forgot about the scandal around the negligence of the Biocontrol, leaving out a bioanimal during the raid on the illegal bioshelter.
Mr. Palmeroy gave gracious smiles and restrained nods in response to enthusiastic comments about his heroic son who saved their community at the cost of valuable property.
Young Maximillian Palmeroy, who turned into a local celebrity overnight, was strolling around the ecovillage every evening in the company of his new pet – a snow-white poodle – a gift from the roboware shop as a compensation for the malfunction of their product.
Each “Bengal” was tested multiple times, disassembled and assembled back to be tested again, but that which caused the machine to feel was never found.
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This short story will take you to the world as our world may look like in the nearest future. It will give you a glimpse of people's attitude to things, themselves and most importantly, nature and others that are not humans. You will find family matters, new technologies, robots, vivid characters and the conflict of systems of values here.