Synthetic Life

By Delphia Baisden

Written in the early spring of 2009

1

Sydney watched as the synthetics were assembled and processed. It was an amazing sight to behold. Once called robots, these very human-like machines were made with the most advanced technology and inspected rigorously until the builders were satisfied with their product. These machines were made to be like humans, to look like them and act like them, to imitate and adapt to their masters so that they were as comfortably life-like to them. They were needed for a variety of reasons, just depending upon what the future master needed.

For Sydney Grey, it was for protection and rehabilitation assistance. Following her recent divorce, and an unfortunate car accident, she found that she was in need of help from someone who could help her around until she was healthy again, not to mention to make her feel safe in her own home, as she lived alone. So her doctor suggested a synthetic, as they were called, instead of robot. (It was the politically correct way of referring to them, like referring to Native Americans as that and not Indians, etc.) Though she knew of the synthetics and knew how much help they could be, she still could not quite wrap her mind around the idea of owning one herself. She could remember a time when they didn't even exist, save for horror movies and techies who had overactive imaginations. In the last twenty-five years or so, those over-imaginative techies had produced the most useful and, by Sydney's standards, the most frighteningly human-like computer creatures.

"Really, Ms. Grey, they are very helpful and can prove very useful in protecting and caring for the humans they are made to serve," the doctor explained.

"I don't know, I've never had one myself. Frankly, I find them rather frightening," she explained, looking down at her hands. She was embarrassed at the fact, but it was fact all the same. She remembered when they were not so human like and people had them. They had looked like a motorized version of the tin man and had scared her away from the friend who had them.

"Frightening, Ms. Grey? Most people cannot tell a synthetic from an actual human anymore with the advances they've made in technology," he said. "Nurse Catherine who took you vitals when you got here, she's a synthetic." Sydney's jaw dropped. Catherine had seemed so sweet, kind, so life like. "I'll be you didn't even know, did you?" he asked smiling. She was not so amused.

"No," she said, biting her lip. The truth was, she didn't really want to admit she needed the help. Recently divorced and with a fresh dose of independence, she was desperately trying to prove to herself that she didn't need anyone to help her, anyone to care for her. She could and would be just fine on her own, hobbling dangerously around her two-story house and jumping every time she heard something shift within her home.

"You insurance would cover it for a time, since it could help you with your rehabilitation. And after that, should you decide to keep it for protection or what have you, it would drop your home-owner's insurance by about half." He said. At that, he had her convinced on the idea. It wasn't that she couldn't have afforded one, but if she could save money from it, why not do it?

"Okay," she said.

"And if at any time you wish to not have it anymore, you can simply bring it back and have it deactivated for no charge," he said. She nodded. For things that were so close to human, the word deactivated seemed very harsh when referring to the end of one's existence.

Sydney filled out the paper work and so her synthetic was constructed. She had filled out her form in request for a male synthetic, dark features, calm, quiet, and to be protective in nature. She also indicated that a muscular build, or muscular looking build, as she was not sure if synthetics even had real muscles, would be much appreciated due to her situation.

Her situation was a very jealous ex-husband with a mean temper who liked to drop by her house just to 'see how she was doing'. Adam Grange had been loving husband, for all of two weeks. Then, the honeymoon abruptly ended. He had taken to putting her down and being abusive when he was made to feel inadequate by her accomplishments. Sydney was the daughter of a wealthy, long-retired doctor and she had become an attorney herself, on his money. When she had saved enough from practicing in a firm very successfully, she became a private practicing attorney and began doing what she loved; she wrote books. And just before the Grand Age of Technology, she had done well enough that if she wished, she would not have to work again. After less than two years of the abuse and neglect, she had decided to divorce Adam. A divorce that had gone well for her. She had been smart enough when they married to write up a pre-nup that protected her wealth very well and left Adam with little from her. This should have been okay, since he himself was a computer genius, but because of Sydney's wealth and well-off life, he was still very jealous of and angry with her.


2

Watching her specifications come to reality was something to behold for a woman whose life had been laid out before her, her wants and needs truthfully non-withstanding. When she was just a baby, she had been given up for adoption by her biological parents, whom she had never met and had never searched for. At the age of nine, she had been adopted by Dr. John Grey and his wife Susan, when they could not produce their own children. It was told to her that she would either become a doctor, like her father, or chose a profession of equal wealth and respect. She had chosen to be an attorney, and then an author. When the time had been right, she had been told to marry her boyfriend of a year, Adam. When that had spoiled, she decided to move on her own and make her own decisions, but she was still having trouble deciding things for herself.

She had chosen not see her synthetic in the beginning stages, when he would only look like a robot of the past. She had seen the first synthetics and was frankly frightened by their appearance, though those who owned them claimed that they were gentle and kind. Much like cell phones and laptops, they had evolved from the tin-man looking robots of the past to the now pseudo-human synthetics that one could not tell at first glance whether they really were human or not.

In spite of her fear and apprehensions about them, the general rule about all synthetics was that they could not harm human life. They could do what was necessary to preserve human life, but when it came to actually hurting a human, they shut down. There was a literal firewall in their make-up that kept them from it. It was a beautiful concept, and one that had proven very effective in its purpose.

Sydney watched now with awe as the android began to show signs of life, moving its fingers, nodding its head in a slow, senseless fashion, even murmuring to itself. The builders and programmers referred to this as the 'awakening' period. She took in the image; a man, looking to be slightly younger than her, tall, masculine, dark hair, tanned skin, broad and intimidating, even in the seated position. Sydney wasn't sure if the old synthetics without the human features were more frightening, or this. She also began to wonder how many of these walked amongst her everyday and she didn't know it. The thought was unsettling.

When he finally opened his eyes, Sydney saw that they were brown, blending in well with his other colorings. He looked around drowsily, not seeming to really see anything.

"Incredible, isn't it?" the programmer next to her asked. She stared on with awe.

"Yes," she answered. "What's his name?"

"That's up to you, Ms. Grey," he said. She cringed. Naming someone, no matter how real or not was kind of a big deal. Too big a deal to put her on the spot with the task.

"Oh, I haven't a clue what his name should be," she said. She thought hard, looking at him.

The synthetic was put in a room with his clothing. This was one of his final tests. They had to see if he really was capable of performing human tasks. And he did. He dressed well and stood for a moment looking around. The basic knowledge was already programmed into his "brain", such as how to speak and interact with humans, how to dress himself, as well as another, food preparation, cleaning, medical knowledge of how to properly care for a sick or injured human. Within his brain also was the memory space and ability to acquire other knowledge. He could do it manually, or it could be programmed into him. Either way was effective and would allow him to learn. He looked at his hands, knowing immediately what they were for and how they worked. Though he could not technically feel anything, his skin did have sensors in them that allowed the brain to register certain temperatures and textures necessary for keeping himself and humans safe and comfortable. And it was at the moment he thought of humans that he looked up at the window of one-way glass that on his side looked like a mirror. He knew better, but was not frustrated as a human would have felt when put behind it. He was curious. He was programmed with the knowledge that he was created for a reason; to help a human. He was made especially for an individual human's care. And suddenly, he was very curious. They hadn't put any information about his human into his brain yet, nothing. Not even a picture. But from what knowledge he had, he supposed he was meant for the physical care and keeping of a human, as well as protecting whoever it was.


3

"I guess I would like to meet him before I give him a name, that wouldn't upset him would it?" she asked. The programmer smiled.

"No, he isn't capable of being upset with humans," he answered like she should have already known this. She blushed.

"Oh, I didn't know. This is my first contact with creating and owning a synthetic. I've known people who had them for years, but I guess I don't know much about them myself." She admitted.

They entered a room doused with sunlight from the windows. It looked kind of like a hospital room from the past, with the bed he had woken up in, though it was absent of any life support machines or fluid bags. Those were obsolete now. And in the middle of the room stood the man who she had observed in his awakening, now fully clothed in human clothes and shoes, facing away from them. He was looking outside. Sydney felt very nervous, like she always did when meeting new people. The fact that she had designed this one didn't make it any easier for her.

"Syn A 1901," the programmer addressed the man. Sydney decided at once to try to stop thinking of him as a synthetic robot and to put forth an effort in referring to him as a 'him'. The man turned to them, a pleasant smile spreading across his face. Sydney blushed and could feel herself becoming flustered.

"Yes sir," the man answered in perfect English, absent of any accent or impediment. The programmer motioned to Sydney, who had scarcely lifted her eyes to the man's.

"This is Ms. Sydney Grey, your designer and master," he said. The man smiled at her whole-heartedly, then came toward her. She instinctively took a step back before she had time to think about it and its implications. The man stopped, and looked to the programmer momentarily, then back to her. "Don't be afraid, Sydney, he's here to help, he can't hurt you," the programmer explained. She looked at him, then back to the synthetic.

"I'm sorry, I'm just not accustomed, that is, I never-"

"You're nervous," the synthetic said, not accusingly, only as a observation. She smiled apprehensively. "You needn't be, Ms. Sydney Grey. The programmer is correct. I cannot hurt you. I cannot hurt any human. I am sorry if I frighten you. I only wish to know my master better." He explained. She felt comfortable in the soft bass of his voice, the smooth way it seeped into her brain, like a comforting warmth of a summer day in the sun.

"I'm sorry," she said, not quite steady from the initial shock. He took another step toward her, and now aware, she made a conscious and successful effort to not back away again. The synthetic smiled, and held out his hand. She looked at it, and took it. She started a little, but the shock was only evident in her eyes. She was otherwise still and seemingly calm.

Sydney was surprised at how warm and real he felt. She had the pre-conceived notion that he would feel cold and very, well, synthetic. He didn't; he felt human, alarmingly so.

"It's nice to meet you, Ms. Sydney Grey," he said. Curiously she eyed him, wondering why he insisted on calling her the full title every time. Then it occurred to her that until told, or programmed, otherwise, he would call her what he had been told. As was the nature of synthetics.

"You can just call me Sydney," she said, trying to smile. He smiled successfully. She then remembered her task; a name. "Um, I suppose your name could be, um," she fought for a name and couldn't find a fitting one very easily. "I've never named someone before, I haven't the slightest clue what yours should be." She admitted, very embarrassed.

"It's quite alright, Sydney, I don't require a name right away," he said.

"No no, you must have a name because I need something to call you," she said. "I can't call you by your make or serial number or whatever you are referred to here. I could scarcely remember it." She looked at him and searched her brain feverishly. She then came upon the name of an angel in her mind, Gabriel, though she didn't know anything about angels. But the name fit, she supposed, and she settled on it. "Gabriel, Gabe for short, I think that'll do. Don't you agree?" she asked.

"I am not made to disagree unless the situation would put you in danger, Sydney, so yes," he answered. She smiled, looking to the programmer. He smiled.

"I will put it in the file and I ask you sign a few more papers before you go," he said. The programmer turned to leave and she waited for Gabe, naturally expecting to be last, since she was one crutches. But he waited as well.

"Go on, you don't want to be behind me, I move too slowly," she said.

"Oh no, Sydney, it would defeat my purpose and anyhow, I needn't speed. You are my concern, not anything else," he said. She blushed. This was going to be very interesting.


4

After signing the papers, including the one about his name, she and Gabe left. They arrived at her new car, a black one that resembled a sports car in the old days. Cars now were produced by one manufacturer in order to do away with competition, a peace-making effort that, though formerly heavily opposed, was accepted as the norm without a thought. She moved toward the driver's side, as did Gabe. She looked at him, confused.

"I may drive, Sydney, if that is okay, you are still hurt and shouldn't drive until you are fully healed," he said. She glared at him, but found that his intentions were so innocent. He was only doing what he was programmed to do.

"I drove here, and I was okay, but if you really want to, I guess that's alright with me," she said, handing him the key. He took it, then followed her to the passenger side, opening the door and helping her into the seat, carefully putting her crutches into the back and even buckling her seatbelt. She felt a little annoyance rise in her at this last thing, but dismissed it. It was his purpose, or however he'd put it. He then shut the door and walked back over to the driver's side of the car. She watched him carefully as he moved, monitoring for any jerking, anything less than swift in his movements that would give him away as a robot. She found nothing. He moved as gracefully and effortlessly as any human, even better than most. Nothing in his movements suggested anything other than human. He opened the door and sat down, and she listened for any mechanical creaking or noise that would indicate that he was made of metal and wires inside, and heard nothing but the shifting of his clothing and the light huffing of the seat as he sat down. She was amazed. And though he looked and saw that she was watching him so closely, he said nothing about it.

He turned the car on and drove them out of the parking lot.

"Where is your home?" he asked. She looked at him with ridiculousness, wondering just how he presumed to get them to her house without knowing himself how to get there.

"963 East Middleton Road, it's a white house," she said, still looking at him skeptically with wondering eyes, But something in his face seemed to click and the focused on the road. "Do you know where that is?" she asked.

"Yes," he said.

"How?" she asked.

He tapped his temple gently and smiled. "I believe they call it a global positioning system," he said. Her mouth fell open.

"You have a GPS in your head?" she asked, then felt foolish for having ever asked. Of course he did.

"Yes," he answered.

"I'm sorry, I've never had a synthetic, I mean, I have friends who have them, but I'm afraid I know next to nothing about them. I'm sorry if my questions are ignorant or annoying," she apologized.

"You needn't apologize for anything, Sydney. I certainly am not capable of annoyance or even judgment unless I am assessing a situation to ensure your safety and comfort," he said, flashing her a sweet, and she supposed forgiving smile.

"Oh," she said, feeling even more foolish. They rode the rest of the way in silence.


5

Once they arrived, Gabe parked, got out of the car, and helped her back out effortlessly. Most people would be annoyed with the constant having to help another person around, but he didn't seem to mind. He didn't seem to give it any thought at all. He helped her into the house, and once they were in, he stopped and looked around. She watched this as well. He looked with mild fascination, but she knew what he was really doing. She wondered what all his brain could do, but she had no doubt that he was somehow saving how her home looked for future use. When he realized she was watching him, he straightened up and smiled.

"You have a lovely home," he commented.

"Thank you," she said.

Gabe looked around, amazed and at the same time, reserved. He was programmed not to make a scene, but to take in everything. Her home was his home.

Before, in the waking room, he had effectively memorized most everything about her. Her hair was a pleasant brown with hints of red when the sunlight shone on it. She was precisely five feet, nine and three-quarters inches tall, and weighed 131 pounds. Her eyes were a startling hue of violet with blue undertones. Her ancestry was without question of the European English and a slight amount of Northern Native American, to be precise, of the Navajo tribe. When he shook her hand, her temperature registered at a healthy 97.9, slightly below the average norm, but according to what his reading was telling him, this was her normal temperature. He knew much more, but it was all simply filed away and stored in his brain under her file.

Now he was making it a point to remember her home, as he had recorded her car in his mind.

"May I look around? I would like to take in the house and file it away, if you don't mind. It will only take me a few moments or so," he said. She nodded.

"I'm just going to sit and rest for the time being," she said. He nodded once, smiling, then began to walk about the house.

He had begun in the foyer, taking in the large, decorative window above the door, then the door itself, studying the locks. He then looked above him at the ceiling; then around at the floor, walls. He studied an end table beside the door, with a vase of flowers and a small box fashioned like a chest. She kept her keys in this, along with a can of maze and a tazer. Smart girl, he thought. Though the crime rate had lowered considerably, she was still a woman living alone in a large house. He closed the box.

He then walked around into the kitchen, taking in all of the fixtures: a refrigerator, a stove and oven, a dishwasher, a double sink, a toaster, coffee-maker, and espresso maker. There was a large window in the kitchen that was outlined with simple curtains and had a small seat that stretched the width of the window beneath it.

Gabe then moved to the living room, where Sydney was sitting. Well, she had been sitting, but had since slumped over, fallen into a light sleep. He smiled a little and turned her over onto her side, laying her out on the sofa without waking her. He then continued studying the room. There was a large fire-place with a large flat-screen TV hung above the mantle, currently off. There was a rather beautiful grand piano in one corner, and there were windows on either side, and also about the room. He noted the piano and filed a note with it about learning to play it in the future, should she allow it. He then resumed his study. There was a sofa, which she was lying on, and a couple of matching chairs, a settee that sat completely engulfed in the afternoon sunlight, and a couple of large glass coffee-tables. On them were various books, a few remote controls, and some papers. There were a couple of large plants in the otherwise vacant corners of the room. The windows in here were also outlined in curtains like the ones in the kitchen. All of the windows so far were secure, without the ability to be opened from either side. People no longer had windows as such, because they proved too dangerous. One might wonder about the safety factor in the case of a fire. House fires had become a thing of the past. Kitchen appliances were now made so that, while they could cook your food, they could no longer heat to the point of catching fire.

On the first floor, he also found a small bathroom and a coat closet that contained Sydney's coats, jackets, and heavy-weather shoes.

He continued upstairs and found up there her bedroom, a spare bedroom that had been converted into an office/ study, a larger bathroom, and a room that he thought might be referred to as an exercise room. It contained a treadmill, a row of colorful barbell weights, and another flat-screen TV, this one a little smaller than the one down stairs in the living room. He found that all windows and rooms were secure. She was obviously a wealthy woman, and could afford all of what was safe and advanced. He peered into the study, seeing rows and rows of books on shelves. One side of the room had a built in book case containing nothing but reference books or various sizes and titles. The other had books of literature and pleasurable reading. Against the back wall was a desk with a computer, a printer, and various docks for cameras, music playing devices and other high-tech gadgets. His eyes then turned to the wall behind the desk, as it was arranged neatly with various certificates; National Honor Society when she was in high school, high school graduation with honor and distinction, a degree at Harvard in law, a few others, along with pictures of her taken at her various graduations and achievements. She was wealthy, and mostly of her own accord, which he could see. He then left the room, and returned down stairs. She was up now, trying to maneuver around the kitchen.

"Come sit, Sydney, I'll get you what you want," he said.

"No, its okay, I'm perfectly capable," she said. He came over to her, and she realized that he was not going to leave her alone, not now or ever. He was made to be her servant, if one got right down to the truth about the situation. And fighting it would only be ridiculous, since she had herself signed off on having him. She back up and went to sit down on the seat beneath the window.

"What would you like, Sydney?" he asked. She took a breath and huffed out, feeling a bit ridiculous about the whole thing.

"Nothing, it's ok," she said.

"No, it's been a long day and you are hungry, I can hear your stomach. What you like to eat?" he asked. She frowned at him, not having realized that her stomach was so audibly hungry. "Do not frown, Sydney, this is what I'm here for," he said, trying to convince her. He could see that she was not used to being cared for like this. It made her feel bad, he could tell. "Please tell me, Sydney," he asked. She sighed.

"Just a sandwich," she said.

"What kind?" he asked, getting the bread and the plate.

"Turkey," she said, not looking at him. He smiled, went to the refrigerator, found the turkey, and put it next to the plate and the bread.

"Any spreads?" he asked.

"Mayo is fine," she said.

"Okay," he said. He then made her sandwich and gave it to her. She ate half of it before realizing that he was staring at her.

"What?" she asked.

"Nothing," he said. "Just learning."

She put down the sandwich. "You're making me nervous."

"I am sorry, Sydney," he said. She put down the plate on the seat and stood up, walking toward him. He suddenly looked very shy, a little frightened himself, if such a thing was possible. She stood about two feet away from him, balancing on the island in the middle of her kitchen. "What?"

"Just learning," she answered. He smiled, all fear dissolving. "You looked afraid just now," she said.

"Not afraid, just worried, I suppose," he said. She let go of the island and lost her balance and in a split second, he was there next to her, catching her before she could hit the floor. She had done it on purpose, just to see what he would do. And he had not disappointed. She took in how he felt. He felt so real, only a little bit stronger than a normal human. A normal man would have lost some balance, even if he had not fallen. Gabe never faltered. "Are you alright?" he asked as soon as she was balanced again.

"Yes, I'm fine. Thank you," she answered. And she was.


6

Sydney had been half looking forward to when Adam would see her new companion, and half frightened. It would be a shock. She had warned Gabe, and he had taken the information easily and filed it away like everything else he learned. She had shown him a picture, briefly explained the situation, and he programmed into himself the proper reaction to the man's presence.

She was getting around without the crutches now. When the knock came at the door, she had gone to get up and get it, but Gabe was already at the door.

"Hello, how may I help you?" Gabe asked politely.

"Who are you?" and she knew that voice instantly. Adam.

"My name is Gabriel," he answered simply.

"Where's Sydney?" Adam asked.

"May I ask whose calling?" Gabe asked with the same politesse and she wondered if he remembered him from their discussions.

"Adam, her ex-husband," Adam said, now sounding very irritated.

"Oh, I see," Gabe said. "Sydney, you have a visitor." He called over his shoulder. She got up and went to the door, through which he had still not let Adam. She couldn't help but laugh at the look on his face.

"Hello," she said, smiling still.

"Who is this, Sydney?" he asked, sounding a bit hysterical.

"Gabriel, this is Adam, my ex-husband, Adam, this is Gabriel, my synthetic," she said. Gabe smiled in acknowledgment. Adam looked at him through narrowed eyes.

"Nice to meet you," Gabe said, holding out his hand. Adam looked at him, stared until he put his hand down. Gabe found it quite rude, but did nothing. Sydney had warned him, after all.

"What do you want, Adam?" she asked, not making any motion to let him in. Gabe also stood his ground.

"Just came by to see how you are doing, after the accident and everything," he said.

"I'm fine, thanks," she said.

"Yes," he said, eyeing Gabe suspiciously some more, "I can see that." It was a very rude and perverted thing he was suggesting.

There was an underground system of synthetics that were manufactured for the sole purpose of pleasing their masters, sexually. It was like a merging of the sex toy business with the escort business. And though Sydney had indulged in her fair share of sexual pleasure sought from a vibrator or two, that was certainly not Gabe's purpose in her life. And Adam knew it, he just had to find ways of getting to her without being liable for it.

"You can leave now, Adam. As you can see, I am quite fine and healthy." She said.

"Sydney, wait, look, I didn't mean-" Sydney had already turned to leave.

"I believe she told you to leave, and since this is her home and not yours, I now must ask you to leave before I contact the authorities to make you leave," Gabe said, still in that ever polite tone. Adam glared at him, then stepped back. Gabe shut the door, locked it, and followed Sydney to the back yard.

Summer was in full swing and from what he had observed, Sydney enjoyed it very much. She spent a lot of time outside in the hammock under the sun, reading, napping, always under his watchful eye. He came out and found her sitting by the side garden, bright with lilies of all colors, her favorite flower. But she was not looking at them, as she often did to relax. Her face was buried in her knees. He knelt down beside her.

"Sydney, are you alright?" he asked, sounding very concerned.

"Yes, please, just go inside Gabe," she said, not lifting her head. But he didn't go. Her voice didn't sound right. It was wavering, shaken. He took a hold of her gently and tried to lift her. She resisted.

"Sydney, please, what is it?" he asked, only touching her now, one hand on her back, the other on one of her legs at the shin. "I can't help you if you don't tell me what's wrong," he reminded her in his most promising voice.

"It's nothing, please, I just wanna be alone right now," she said. And suddenly, he felt something he could only place as frustration. It felt like this odd tightening in his chest, this need to understand, to help her. It was his purpose, and his only means of feeling worth. She lifted her head slightly, giving him just a glimpse.

"Sydney, what is it? Have you hurt yourself?" he asked, exasperated with the need to help. She fought him.

"I said go away, Gabe!" she screamed at him, standing up suddenly. He had never seen her look more upset. He had startled at her cry. And if she hadn't looked so helpless, he might have been able to obey her order. But standing there the way she was, shaking, tears, both long fallen and fresh down her cheeks, looking so lost and alone already, there was no way he could just leave. He stood up and pulled her against him, and this time, finally, she didn't resist. She folded up perfectly against him and he held her there. She sobbed into his chest, hiding her face still.

"Sydney," he whispered. And it clicked. She was upset about her ex-husband and what he had said about them. Gabe knew it wasn't true. He wasn't even sure he was capable of such a thing, though he knew he was completely anatomically correct. But he did care for her. He was programmed to, and he could not help himself.

After a few minutes, her sobs slowed a little. "Sydney, are you alright? Is there anything I can do to help?" he asked. She shook her head. She then abruptly pulled away from him, still keeping her face averted, and walked inside. He stood there for a moment, looking at the lilies, wondering if she had wanted him to follow. Maybe not. Maybe he should just stay where he was for a while. It hurt to not be able to comfort her, but he could bear it, assuming of course that he could truly feel pain at all.

Gabe couldn't really feel anything. The sensors in his flesh didn't allow for such things as pleasure or pain to register in his brain. He could sense hot, cold, soft, rough, hard, plush. Pain and pleasure were not possible for him to comprehend.


7

Gabe came back in the house a little bit later after watering her garden. He enjoyed the flowers. There was nothing complicated about them. They either grew or died. They had no feeling, no emotion, no love, no hate, no pain, no pleasure. He had also taken note that when she was upset, Sydney had gone to them to weep. So he decided that if that was her place to fall when upset or hurt, then it should be a beautiful and comforting place. He thought about the extremes of human emotion and sensation and he couldn't fathom what it must be like to actually be one of them. It was terribly confusing just working for one.

When he did come back inside, he heard the shower running upstairs. He was glad. She always seemed to feel better after a shower. She would come down in her robe and tousled wet hair and lay on the settee in the living room, letting the sun dry her hair.

That was another thing he was capable of sensing. Scent. Another reason why he loved the flowers. Each had its own distinct scent. Much like humans. Each put off their own brand of pheromones and chemicals. Sydney's were sweet and faintly earthy. Though she wore deodorant and perfumes, washed with various scents of soap, he could pick her out of a crowd based on her scent alone. The way her hair smelled as she let the sun dry it, the way she smelled after her morning run, it was all her own. And it was fascinating.

This time, she came down clothed in her favorite cropped sweat pants and a tank top, her dark wet hair pulled back behind her head.

"What would you like for dinner?" he asked.

"Nothing, I'm not hungry," she said. She took a chilled water bottle from the fridge and a granola bar. He had also noticed that when she was upset or stressed about something, she wouldn't eat. He felt badly to let her go when he knew her body required more nutrition than what she was putting into it, but he let it go. He didn't want to upset her. That would defeat his purpose even more.

She paused just as she was leaving the room, and turned back to him. "I am sorry for what Adam said. It was rude and obnoxious and I know he would never apologize to you himself."

"You need not apologize. While it was rude, I am not made to feel embarrassed or upset unless the situation puts you in danger. I don't have feelings or emotions, as you do," he said. She looked at him, seeming to think for a moment.

"I don't know if I believe that," she said.

"It's true, I don't even have a heart," he said. She blushed and looked away.

"I know, I just, forget," she said, biting her lip. "Look, I'm just sorry, for him, and for the way I behaved."

"Behaved? You were upset, so you cried. It's simple enough." He said.

"I yelled at you," she said. "For that I am sorry."

"Like I said, I have no feelings. You cannot hurt me," he admitted. She smiled a little Mona Lisa smile that made him feel something stir inside and he wasn't quite sure where or why.


8

A few days later, Sydney was running on her treadmill in the exercise room. Gabe was waiting patiently, wanting to see if she would need anything after her run. It was colder outside this morning and that made it harder for her to run outside without coming home with her lungs and legs ablaze. He peered into her study again, as he did many times a day. The books attracted him so, but he had not yet asked to go in there for any length of time.

Books, she had to be one of the last humans on earth who still had a substantial personal collection of them. To him, they were so beautiful and he wanted to look at them, maybe even read a few of them if she didn't mind. But so far, he had not asked her.

"Hey," she said, standing in front of him now. Her voice was breathy as she panted, wiping the sweat from her forehead.

"Sorry, Sydney. Is there anything I can get you? Did you have a nice workout?" he asked.

"Yes, it was nice. What were you looking at?" she asked, taking a long drink from her water bottle.

"Um, well, your books." He said. If it were possible, he would have been embarrassed that she had caught him staring at them.

She looked into her study. "Yeah, pretty ancient huh?" she walked into her study and the overhead light came on at her movement. He followed her. She leaned against the wall with the literature and fiction books. "Can you read, Gabriel?" she asked curiously.

"Well, not the way you do. Humans read word by word, line by line, don't they?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered.

"I do not. I read page by page. My eyes take in a whole page at a time, my brain digests it, comprehends it, and I move on to the next page," he explained. She looked at him in awe.

"Wow, so it wouldn't take you long to work your way through these then," she said. He looked at her, then the books, then back to her again. "Would you want to read them, Gabe?" she asked, already knowing that he would by the way he had been looking at them, the way he had so readily and willingly explained how he reads.

"Yes, if you wouldn't mind. I wouldn't harm them. I would take care of them and even organize and clean them if you would like." He said eagerly.

"You're not my slave, Gabe, you're my protector. I don't expect you to clean up and wait on me hand and foot," she said. "You may read them. Someone might as well. I can scarcely sit still to read for pleasure anymore with out a million interruptions."

"All the same, I will take care of them. Are there any titles you suggest? Any of them that are your personal favorites?" he asked. She smiled, her eyes scanning over the bindings until she came to her favorite. She lifted it off the shelf and handed it to him, and he took it, smoothing his hands on the less-than-immaculate cover.

"Wuthering Heights, written by Emily Bronte. It's a love story, so I apologize if it bores you. This is my favorite," she said.

"Something makes me doubt that any of these will be boring to me," he said.


9

Over the next few weeks, when he wasn't caring for her needs, Gabe was reading. Sydney rather enjoyed the idea of him reading her books. He had finished nearly a volume a day since she had allowed him access to them, and had not complained about any of them being boring; though, she wasn't sure if being bored was not something synthetics could feel, just like pain or pleasure. He read mostly in the over-stuffed arm chair in the living room she had deemed his. Regularly, she either sat on the sofa or the settee, and he had taken the arm chair closest to the fireplace. Sometimes, though she would never admit it to anyone, she pretended Gabe was her husband. It made her feel so less lonely to have him there to talk to.

One particular evening, just as he was finishing up Dracula by Bram Stoker, she sat up.

"You really seem to like those books, huh Gabe?" she asked, smiling. He looked at her and smiled back.

"Very much. There is so much to be learned about human life. I did not know that humans felt so many different emotions and feelings. It is quite fascinating," he said.

"What is your favorite, so far?" she asked. She was thrilled at the chance to talk to an intelligent person, trying to forget that she was talking to someone who wasn't really a person at all.

"I like most of them, maybe all that I have read," he said. But he could see the flicker of disappointment in her eyes. She wanted to know his favorite, though he was hardly capable of claiming one. But for the sake of her feelings, which he was learning more and more about through her books, he chose one that he had read a few times because he found the emotions so enthralling. "I suppose that my favorite would be the one you suggested to me first, Wuthering Heights. That was a truly beautiful book, Sydney. Poor Heathcliff, I really pitied him," he said. She smiled.

"I know, I felt bad for him too," she said. He looked her over for a moment, thinking about their situation. If he could feel some sort of love through his mechanical, high-tech body, he would be swimming in it right now. She was so beautiful lying there on the sofa in a black t-shirt that showed her midriff when she moved and a pair of cropped grey sweat pants, her hair braided over one shoulder, glasses resting on her nose instead of contacts. He realized that she was beautiful because she was real. Sometimes when reading her books, he wished that he could be a human man, just to experience what it would be like to be one. He couldn't imagine it, but he wanted it. Mostly, he wanted it so that he could fully understand how she felt and why. He wanted to experience pain, pleasure, everything; he wanted to feel what love felt like. All of the books she owned seemed to have one recurring theme, the idea of love; loving someone and either being loved back or not. He found that while love made messes of human life sometimes, at some point, it almost always made them happy, even if only for a little while.

She studied him back. "What are you thinking right now, Sydney?" he asked suddenly.

She smiled at him. "Just wondering why I have to talk to my synthetic instead of being able to find a person with the knowledge and understanding to discuss this with. No one reads anymore, Gabriel. No one cares about the stories of the past. Everything to be learned can be learned through technology and tricks of chemicals and machines. I can remember when reading was still the way people learned. Some people even enjoyed reading. Now, you have to go to the big cities to even find a library, and even then, it's like a museum, not a place where you can remove the books from the shelves for any length of time. I just don't know when reading went out of style," she explained suddenly. She hadn't realized that she felt so strongly on the subject until she blurted it all out. He looked on, as if waiting for more and completely understanding what she was saying to him. "Forgive me, I am very old-fashion," she said, blushing.

"You do not have to apologize Sydney. It is good that you feel so strongly about something. Passion I believe is what one would call it. Passion is beautiful, but it seems like your reading, it has gone out of style," he said. He was enjoying hearing her speak on something so passionately.

"Unfortunately," she said. "I remember when I was a child and a teenager, my parents would take me to the library and I could have wandered around for hours and I would come out with an armload of books. It was such a relief when I was amongst them, like being with friends. That's why I refused to get rid of my personal collection." He nodded thoughtfully.

"Friends," he said. He touched the cover of Dracula, and pondered the use of her word. An inanimate object as a friend. Something about it was off and he wasn't sure he understood completely what she meant.

"Yeah, like, when I open one of those books and re-read a story and see the characters through their lives, it's like we've become friends somehow. And being amongst the books reminds me of them." He nodded, a little more understanding of what she was trying to say. "Anyhow, I think it's time I go to bed." She yawned.

"Alright then, I'll see you in the morning," he said. He waited for her to go upstairs, waited until he heard her covers shift and her breathing steady as she fell into sleep.

Gabriel then got up and went about the house, securing all of the locks and drawing the curtains and shades, straightening things that had been displaced during the day. Once everything was immaculate, he went upstairs as well. He placed the newly finished book back on the shelf in her study, then stood there for a moment, thinking again of what she had said about them being like friends, the books. It was an abstract concept, but he supposed it was possible, if nothing but a metaphor. Sydney did not seem like the type of human who made friends with others of her kind easily. She was shy, hesitant, reserved. Divorced and alone, she seemed to enjoy herself most at home, amongst her own things, and in her own element. Sometimes, Gabe wished that he could see her when he wasn't there; when he was out grocery shopping or even just in another room. He wondered what she was thinking sometimes, what she dreamed about.

Dreaming was another thing he had learned about through her books. He had never heard of such a thing. A human falls asleep and can be completely encased in another reality, though safe from injury or death, they got to frolic in their fantasies while their bodies rest. Other times, they fought their worst fears and demons in their dreams. Such a curious thing was the human mind, he thought. He often woke from his hibernate state, much like that of which a laptop computer takes when it is off but still plugged in, hearing her speak in her dreams. Most of it was nonsense, but a time or two, he heard her talking to him in her dreams; it was something to think the he found his way into her subconscious.

He turned from the books for now and went to his own bedroom down the hall. Leaving the door ajar just enough, he removed his clothing, showered off, then powered down for the night.

Powering down for him was like sleeping for humans, only, if he was awakened suddenly, his eyes snapped open and he was instantly alert and focused. Settling into the bed Sydney insisted he have, he listened to her steady breathing down the hall, closed his eyes, and powered down.


10

The next day, he woke to find Sydney in the kitchen, already making breakfast. He smiled.

"I would have done that," he said.

"You snooze you lose," she said playfully. He understood the phrase only because she had used it before, and then had to take the time to explain it because he hadn't understood it originally. He smiled.

"What are you making?" he asked.

"Chopped fruit and pancakes," she answered. "I wish you could eat, you would enjoy this." She said. He could smell it and if he had to, he could also register its taste. But other than that, he had nowhere to put food in his body. She felt bad when she ate in front of him, even though she knew that he neither had any interest in eating, nor could he physically do it. She was a polite lady and was taught early on that eating in front of someone who was not also eating was rude and cruel in some instances.

"I am sorry, I wish I could sometimes as well." He said. It was true. All of those books he was reading truly did make him curious as to what being human might be like.

She was cutting up a piece of cantaloupe when he heard the slice of the knife go through flesh. He was immediately on his feet.

"Damn!" she said, dropping the knife and backing away, holding her hand. He got too her in time to see her bleeding from the slice, about an inch wide.

"Give me your hand," he said gently. She looked at him, then obeyed his request. He took her over to the sink and held the wound under warm water, rinsing the red away. He took some soap from the dish soap dispenser and washed over the cut, and she jumped a little.

"Ow, that hurts," she said.

"I am sorry, but it has to be clean," he said.

"Be gentle," she said. He ripped a paper towel of the roll next to the sink and put it over the wound.

"Stay there for a minute," he said. He then disappeared upstairs. She peered at the little cut and saw that it was still bleeding steadily. She suddenly felt light-headed, as she usually did when faced with the sight of blood, especially her own. She swooned and slipped to the floor. Her vision was a little hazy when Gabe returned. "Sydney, are you ok?" he asked, sounding very concerned now. She nodded. "What's the matter?"

"Blood, I don't like blood," she said, turning her face away. He took her hand and went to work on it, putting first a cleansing agent on it, then a healing one. He then began pasting the wound back together with a gel-like fluid. Once the wound was closed, he offered her a mild pain killer. "No, it's okay. It didn't hurt that much. It was just the blood." She said.

"Please take it, you looked like you were going to faint for a moment," he said, looking very concerned. She waved it off, attempting instead to get up. And faltered, terribly. Her vision hazed over again, making her stumble. Gabe caught her before she could hurt herself further. "Are you sure you are alright, Sydney? You seem ill now." He was worried about her immensely now.

"Yes, I just need, to sit for a minute, I think," she said as he helped her into a chair. He then got her a glass of water.

"Now I insist, take this," he said. She took it this time, but reluctantly. He then sat down in front of her and watched her carefully. Once she began to feel better, she giggled. "What is it?" he asked.

"You just look like you think I might fall to pieces right here over a little cut," she said, still giggling a little. He smiled, but never took his eyes off of her.

"It's my purpose to worry about you, Sydney," he said. She smiled now, leaning back in the chair. He shifted, then got up. He could see something in her eyes just a moment ago, something that frightened him.

"Gabe," she said in a low voice, almost a purr. And close behind him, so much so that it startled him a little. She had to be right behind him; he could feel her heat, smell her essence, a feminine mixture of sexy perfume, girlish deodorant, and her own pheromones. It conjured up images of exotic flowers and long, brunette hair and whispery lavender eyes. He gripped the edge of the sink, making himself not turn or run. That's when her hands touched his back gently. He startled again, this time tensing so that she must have heard some mechanical ting inside him. Gabe thought for sure he had heard one, at least. He then felt her lay her cheek against the part of his back between his shoulder blades, just below the nape of his neck. If he were human and could actually feel her in the sense that humans felt, he would have shivered. But because he was not, he held perfectly still, frozen. He had stopped breathing altogether. It was okay, though, he really didn't have to. And that at least shut out her enticing scent. "Gabriel, can you feel me?" she asked in the same low voice as before, now quieter, tenderer.

He wanted to tell her he could, that she felt wonderful, that he really was human and that he was all hers for as long as she wanted, forever, if she wanted. Instead, he said, "No," because he couldn't. Not in the sense that humans could. The sensors in his back were picking up her touch and registering it in his head, where the main computer, his brain, was. He thought for sure she would pull away, offended, and maybe that would have been better. But she didn't. She instead wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged closer to him. And she was still for a moment, silent. He then felt her slip away and take a step back. He turned to look at her. Her eyes were wide with wonder and possibly a touch of fear. "What is it?" he asked.

"Your heartbeat, you don't have one," she said in a whisper. He looked at the floor, then back at her. "I couldn't even hear you breathe for a moment," she said.

"I am sorry Sydney, but I do not have a heart. Or lungs. Nor can I feel anything. Not in the sense that humans have them and can." He explained. She stared at him for a moment, then shifted her eyes to the floor. Her cheeks were a heightened pink that he had seen a few times. He had come to learn well that it meant she was embarrassed. But her eyes said she was not only that, but hurt as well. She turned and walked out of the room with out saying anything to him. And when she was gone, he somehow yearned to feel her arms around his waist again, squeezing him tight.


11

That night, she ate the meal he had prepared for her in silence and left with out thanking him. Which shouldn't have mattered at all, but it did a little. He had grown used to her talk and thankful praise, even though he didn't require it. And instead of sitting with him the living room and reading or watching television, she had gone outside and was sitting in the hammock. It was summer and still sunny outside for quite a while after dinner, but when she didn't come in after dark, he began to worry. So he went to check on her.

He found her where he had watched her go as he cleaned the kitchen after its use in preparing dinner. In the hammock, asleep.

"Sydney," he whispered, trying to wake her up gently. She groaned, but didn't get up. Instead, she turned away from him. So he went around to the other side and knelt again. "Sydney," he said. She didn't groan, but he knew by the way she was breathing that she was asleep still. He felt bad for waking her, but being outside at this time of the night alone was not a good idea. And suddenly, looking at her in the moonlight, in the summer when it was still warm and smelled of freshly cut grass and the garden he had been tending, she looked so beautiful. And, as he had read of many men doing with their beloveds, he leaned in and kissed her gently on the mouth. Since reading about the act, as with others like it, he had been curious as to what it would be like. Her lips were warm and soft, unhindered by the sliminess of gloss or lipstick, her mouth was as lovely to kiss as it was to look at. And when he pulled back, her eyes were wide open. She stared at him curiously, disbelieving. But she didn't fly out, outraged and horrified as he had also assumed she would be in the event that he ever got up the nerve, as they say, to try it. She just laid there quiet, staring up at him, before blinking sleepily and smiling. He put one arm under her back, the other under the bend of her knees, lifted her up easily in his arms, and carried her inside. He put her in her bed and pulled up her covers. And just as he was about to leave her and turn out the light, she called to him

"Gabe," she called softly. He turned to her.

"Hmm?" he asked. And he knew she was about to ask him why he did it, had an answer prepared and everything.

"I knew you could feel me," she said. He smiled, caught a little off guard. She settled into her bed, not saying another thing. So he turned out the light and left her to sleep.

Gabriel lay in bed that night, pondering what she had said. He had explained to her that he could not feel her. He couldn't really feel anything. Sure, he knew when something was touching him, he knew if that thing was hot or cold, soft or hard, but as far as feeling it and associating it with an emotion, that he could not do. He was a robot, plain and simple, built and programmed to meet her needs as they were. He had not a mother, nor a father. He had not a heart, nor any of the other organs a human being had. Everything was for show. His flesh was a material spray-formed onto the hard outer casing in which all of the reactors, data sorting, and computers lay. There were some sensors just below the pseudo-skin. His strength came from the well-build reactors and creative genius. Everything was fake. He was given the capability of seeming as if he were breathing, which was cleverly made to be the ventilation to the motors inside him. Gabe was entirely anatomically correct, and that anatomy was male. He had a penis that he assumed worked, but he had no use for. He knew some synthetics whose purpose was their anatomy, but he was not one of them. And, what some technicians would call a heart, was not a heart at all, at least nothing like the one a human might have. It was instead a core generator that was visible when he had no shirt on. It was the only part of him that had none of the pseudo-skin covering it, making it easily accessible in the case of an emergency. From the outside, it appeared to be a small see-through capsule, about two inches in diameter, which glowed a pleasant light blue as long as he was 'healthy' and functioning properly. Green would indicate he needed a charge. Purple meant he needed maintenance as soon as possible. Red meant he was in critical condition and that he was either damaged severely or had a severe malfunction which needed immediate care. And then of course, there was no glowing light at all, which meant death. He had never seen anything but blue, as he kept himself well charged and saw a technician once a month. Sydney had never seen his 'heart'. He had even been told by the programmer that she had chosen not to see him in the first stages of construction. For some reason, it made him feel human. She had never seen him not looking kindly at him, and upon realizing it, he decided he wanted to keep it that way.


12

The next day, Sydney woke later than usual. She opened her eyes and looked around her sunny room, her vision still hazy from disuse. She could here Gabe downstairs, clanking around in the kitchen. She could hear a faint tinkering that as her senses sharpened from wakefulness, began to sound like music, beautiful, flowing music. And then the memory hit her like a bolt of lightening, making her gasp. He had kissed her. Last night, in the hammock, as she was trying to shut him out for a while and relax, he had come to bring her inside, always worried about her safety. But something was a bit different, because he had kissed. She had not been asleep when he did it. She remembered distinctly the soft pressure of his mouth over hers.

She remembered what he had said about not being able to feel her. She knew that. She had read thoroughly into the nature and capabilities of synthetics before she had invested in one, and knew that their functions and abilities, though they imitated human behaviors, were not the same. They could not feel emotion, though they could read their masters and react accordingly. That was what he meant. He could feel her touch him, could feel her hands on his back, around him, but he linked it with no emotion, and that was the difference.

So then why had he decided to kiss her anyway?


13

She came downstairs and came into the living room. He was playing beautifully and she was surprised at his skill. He was playing like a pro and she was speechless. She loomed in the doorway so that he would not see her and keep playing. She couldn't pick the tune, but it moved her, made her heart beat irregularly. Finally, when he realized that she had entered the room, he turned to her.

"Good morning, Sydney," he said, taking his hands away from the keys and folding them in his lap. Then sun shone through the window behind the piano, lighting up everything in its path and making her breathe a breath of happiness.

"Good morning, Gabe," she said, coming into the room slowly. She was still in her pajamas, which consisted of a light blue tank top and her favorite cropped sweats. Her hair was messy from sleep, and she was beautiful. He watched her.

"Your breakfast is in the kitchen," he said, hoping that she would not be upset that he had been playing her piano. "I hope you do not mind. I read one of your books on playing the piano and I wanted to try it. I hope that was alright." She nodded.

"Of course, I, I didn't know you could learn so fast. That was lovely, Gabe, truly," she said. He smiled.

"You don't mind then?" he asked.

"No, never, you can play anytime you wish," she said. He turned back to the piano and began playing another piece, this one he knew had words to it. He hoped that she would begin to sing with it. She slid onto the seat beside him and watched his hands and fingers move over the keys. She did know the song.

"Sing Sydney," he said. She smiled, hesitating.

"I don't want to ruin it," she said.

"You won't," he said. So she did, she sang. He was impressed, moved even, and kept playing so as to keep her singing. It was a song that mostly everyone knew, which was why it was in the book he had studied. She could play it, but not as fluently or as lovely as he did. She watched with awe. When the song ended, she got up, afraid of being trapped into singing another.

"Are you hungry?" he asked, rising as well. She nodded, and he led her into the kitchen. There was a plate of pancakes with syrup and fruit. She smiled at the setting, knowing that he had prepared it so that it would be pretty. She sat down and took a bite, then return her fork to it's place. When she did not pick it back up and continue eating, he worried.

"Is something wrong, Sydney?" he asked. "Did I prepare it wrong?".

"Why did you kiss me? I have to ask," she said suddenly. She was slow to lift her eyes back up to his, and when she did, she saw that he was not looking at her. He was looking down. She studied him; he leaned against the kitchen island, tall and dark, he was very handsome. His features, though she knew were chiseled out by a technician instead of nature, were very pleasingly male and attractive to her and she assumed would be to most women. He was colored and built as if his heritage was Italian, as he was also strong and sturdily built. His looks threw back to covers of novels she read in secret, romance novels with very steamy, racy bits that got her healthy teenage blood racing. She smiled when she thought of it, and flushed red. A few moments had gone by while she was studying him over and she forgot for that time that she had asked him a question. "Gabe?" she said.

"I was curious," he said finally, in a low voice. When he lifted his gaze, she met him head on and he had the expression of the little boy who stole the piece of candy and got caught. Guilty, and a little sad. "Your books speak highly of kissing, of feeling. I was only curious. I apologize if it offended you, Sydney."

"And?" She said. He met her eyes.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"What did you think?" she asked. He looked at her for a moment, tempted to smile. But he knew better.

"It was nice. But my curiosity is satisfied and I apologize for using you to test it." He said. She was suddenly offended. Not by the fact that he had done it, but because he seemed to think that she could just dismiss it like it was nothing. She shoved away from the table, leaving her food otherwise untouched. "Sydney? Don't you want your breakfast?" he asked. But she didn't answer him. And for once, he was not able to infer why she reacted so. So he followed her. "What is it? Are you ill?" he asked, following her upstairs, to her bedroom door, which she shut in his face. Inside, she got dressed and put her purse together. When she exited the room, she found that he was still standing in front of her door. She pulled her purse over her shoulder. "Are you leaving? Would you like me to drive you somewhere?" he asked. She shook her head as she turned and went back down the stairs.

"No, thank you, I am quite capable," she said. He heard her tone, a bitter mixture of anger, hurt, and frustration. But, even though he could detect the mood, he could not detect the source.

"Are you alright Sydney?" he asked, grabbing her arm gently. She jerked it free and struck him across the face. She didn't know why she had done that, she knew he wouldn't feel the pain. But he did flinch, and that satisfied some of her rage. "I'm sorry, did I hurt you? I certainly did not mean to," he said.

"Of course you didn't," she snapped half under her breath.

"I don't catch your meaning," he said, searching her face for the answer. But he could not find it. He could not find anything to match the angry distortion of her pretty features, nor the bitter, acidic tone of her voice. It was rather frustrating because it prevented him from doing his job. She tried to leave again. "Sydney, please, I can't help you if you don't tell me what is wrong-"

"Just leave me alone," she growled. And he let her go. She got into her car, slammed the door, started the engine, and sped off.


14

Sydney went to the place she had not visited since the days leading up to and including her divorce from Adam. It was a small cliff off a country road, with no sign of civilization. She wondered sometimes if she had found the one place left untouched by technology and human life. It was beautiful. She got out of the car, taking her keys, but leaving everything else locked in. She walked to the edge of the cliff, where there was a tree. She held onto the tree and sat down, letting her legs dangle over the edge. She remembered when she was too scared to get this close, then finding the courage, after a rather rowdy fight with Adam, to let her legs hang over the edge. Holding onto the tree kept her balance and security. She looked down into the water. The cliff overlooked a large lake about twenty miles away from her home.

She settled just on the edge and had been there for about half an hour when she heard someone walking up behind her. She turned. It was Gabe, on foot.

"How did you find me?" she asked. He stopped where he was and looked down at her.

"I can smell you and hear you," he said. "Humans are not hard to track." She turned away from him again.

"I wanted to be alone," she said. It was silent for a moment. So silent that he could hear her breathe, hear her heart beat.

"It is not safe for you to be so close to the edge like that," he said. She then heard him step closer. "Please come away from the edge." She didn't budge.

"How did you get here?" she asked.

"I walked," he answered. "Please, Sydney, just come off the edge. You are worrying me greatly." She turned and saw his hand outstretched to her. She looked at it, then up at him. She then turned away.

"You know, Gabriel, maybe it's time you go," she said. She heard his breathing stop, it was so quiet. "My rehab is done and Adam hasn't been coming around much. You yourself said that my home was very safe. Maybe your purpose has been served." She said.

Gabriel stood upright. He had never felt so, well, as close to hurt as he could get and be synthetic. Sydney and he were friends, or at least that's what he thought. They got along well, lived together harmoniously.

"If that's what you wish, Sydney," he said. It was really all he could say; all that he was programmed to say in such a situation. He felt something shutter inside, and it alarmed him. He looked down the neck of his shirt; his heart glimmered blue, nothing was wrong with him. Then why did it feel like something was wrong? That's when he heard her sniffle. "Sydney?" he asked. She didn't turn around. "Do you want me to leave you, Sydney? If that is what you want, then I will go." And that was when he saw her shoulders begin to shudder convulsively; and then, the sobs came. Gabriel fell to his knees without thinking, put his hands under her arms and pulled her away from the edge. He pulled her against him.

"No, no, go away, Gabe, I don't need you, I don't," she sobbed. She fought a little, but he still didn't let her go. He locked his arms around her and after a moment, she conceded, falling limp and tearfully into his arms. He looked at her as she fought, then stopped, and he registered the look as one of surrender. Something in her was fighting and it finally let go. And when her eyes met his, she leaned in and kissed him. His body halted suddenly of motion. She pressed her mouth to his, over and over, and it felt different. Last night, when he had kissed her, she didn't really push her mouth back at his in reciprocity. And it felt different to have her doing it now. He suddenly stopped and pushed back from her. She looked as if she might begin sobbing again, but he couldn't pull her back to him. He was too afraid that she might do it again. He couldn't distinguish whether he wanted her to or not, but he did know that he doing it had made him feel confused. He pulled his knees up into his chest and held them there, not quite knowing how to proceed.

When she realized what she had just done, she got up, brushing herself off, got her keys and went to get back in her car. Gabe stood up. He followed her to the driver's side. And suddenly, he was knocked twenty feet away. For a moment, he couldn't register anything. Then, he heard Sydney scream. He suddenly knew he was in the middle of the road, and that he had been struck by another vehicle, a truck. Something didn't feel right, and when he peered down, he saw the skin had been torn and gashed from his hand and arm, exposing the bright metallic silver of his inner body. He lifted his arms, but the one most severely damaged wouldn't go all the way to his face. The one that would touch his face and felt that skin had been scraped away from his face as well. He peered down his shirt and saw the purple light. He sat up, then turned.


15

Sydney stood in horror as Gabe was struck, then launched about twenty feet away from where he had been standing next to her. She screamed, and the truck screeched to a stop. It had blocked her view of Gabe. So she ran to him. But she wasn't prepared for what she saw. Gabe had sat up, and was turned to her just as she saw him. His face was gone. Shreds of the flesh were still stuck, but they didn't provide any protection from what she saw. The bright metal was gleaming in the hazy sun, his eyeballs exposed crudely, one scraped right across the front of his pupil and iris. The metal insides of his hands and one arm were exposed as well. She had stopped dead in her tracks. He watched as her face went white, and she turned away.

The man in the truck finally came to her, and saw what he had done. He looked relieved to see that it was not an actual person he hit, rather it was just a synthetic. Easily fixed, and much less expensive to remedy. He had to hold Sydney up as she let go of the contents of her stomach. He heard her crying. He then lay back down and did what he was programmed to do if such a thing occurred. He shut his eyes, and powered down.


16

Sydney sat in the waiting room for the two days it took to fix Gabe, even though the programmers and technicians told her that it wasn't necessary. She simply couldn't leave. It was like having a loved one or friend in the hospital. You wanted to be there when they woke up.

They had told her that he was completely repairable, and that he would be good as new when they were finished. She asked if repairing him meant that his memory would be wiped clean, and they told her no. The damage was all on the surface. Though he had taken a hard fall, the point of impact had been nowhere near any of his major computers or sensors.

"Ms. Grey?" a young man said. She looked up. "He's waking," he said. She got up and followed the man to Gabe's recovery waking room. She saw that all of the damage was indeed, repaired, and that all of his flesh had been restored. But when he saw her, his face fell. He looked ashamed. When the man left them alone, she sat in the chair next to his bed.

"How are you feeling?" she asked in a gentle voice. He looked at her for a moment.

"Fine," he said. She nodded, then looked around. He was back in the same sort of stark white room he had been in during his initial waking. She wondered then if it was possible for synthetics to feel about these places as some humans felt about hospitals. While she was pondering this, he turned over and sat up on the opposite side of the bed. He was wearing a hospital-like gown, and when he sat up, she saw the glowing orb in the middle of his back. She gasped. "What is it?" he asked, then felt that his core was exposed. He tried to cover it back up, but couldn't, and gave up quickly. What did it matter, she had already seen him inside anyway. And she had been very clear about how she felt.

"What is that?" she asked in a very awe and wondering tone.

"My heart," he said. He then jumped, feeling the pressure of one of her fingers touching the orb.

"Sorry, does it hurt?" she asked.

"No, it just feels strange," he answered. She was quiet for a moment, but he could feel her breath on his back.

"It's beautiful," she said. He sighed, and she drew back.

"Did you bring my clothes?" he asked.

"Yes," she said, sitting them on the bed next to him. He took them and put them on. She turned to give him privacy.

Once he was dressed, he turned back to her and she to him. He stood up, laying the gown on the bed. She looked at his face, not even being able to tell where the seams were, where he had been torn up and where not. It was amazing.

"I suppose this is the end, then," he said. She looked at him in disbelief.

"No," she breathed.

"No? I thought I had served my purpose, that you no longer needed me. Especially how frightened you seemed when I was tore up. You were ready to send me away," he said. She shuddered.

"I'm sorry, I don't think of you like a robot anymore. You're a person to me and it was frightening to see you like that," she said. He stood his ground in front of her and crossed his arms. She looked down, ashamed. "I'm sorry, Gabriel. I'm terribly confused." She admitted. And just as her face had crinkled like she was about to cry again, he let go of being stubborn. He couldn't let her hurt. Even though he didn't fully understand human emotion, he did understand what she meant. He came to her and put his arms around her.

"Me too," he said. She looked up at him, tears just brimmed in her eyes. And he looked back, warm, gentle, the Gabe she remembered. She was so worried that he would wake up new, with no memory of her. Part of her thought it would be easier that way, but another yearned to hold on to him as he was. She wasn't sure what she was doing, but with him, it didn't matter. He was not a human male looking for a mate, not sure if she was the right one. He was hers, permanently. She touched his face gently with her fingers, unable to distinguish where the tears had even been in the first place. It was fascinating, how really his skin felt. The only flaw was that their weren't any. He was too perfect, and that kept him from being totally human.

"Did it hurt?" she asked. Her eyes met his again, and she held them for the first time for any real length. She had never noticed how brown his eyes were, or the metallic glint in them. Another flaw, she supposed.

"No, well, maybe, I would not know really," he said. She smiled a little.

"Sorry," she said, realizing her mistake. He smiled.

"If I may come with you after all, I would like to go home." He said. She smiled, pulling out of his arms.

"Let's go," she said.

This time, Sydney drove home. The whole time, she wanted to reach over and touch his hand, just to know that it was okay. But she never did, because she was too afraid that he would brush it off like he had when he kissed her the first time. She had never felt so hurt, not even when she found out Adam was cheating, not when he hit her, nothing. Nothing made her feel the way it made her feel when Gabe had said he was sorry and that he had only kissed her because he was curious. She didn't quite know why she expected from him, but she knew it was getting serious. She wondered if she was falling in love with him, then quickly locked the thought behind an airtight door in her mind.

"Did you really mean it when you said I had served my purpose?" he asked, catching her off guard in her thoughts. She looked over at him briefly and saw he was looking at her. She wondered how long he had been looking.

"I was upset," she said. "You have to realize, this is hard for me. Whatever it is we have, it's confusing and frustrating, and I thought getting rid of you would make everything go back to normal." He looked at her.

"Whatever it is we have, what do we have, Sydney?" he asked. She looked over again briefly, then back to the road.

"I don't know. Are we friends?" she asked.

"I like to think we are," he said. "But I think what you are asking about goes much deeper than that." She said nothing in response because she didn't know what to say. "It's not uncommon for a master and their synthetic to have feelings for each other."

"Yes, but it's sort of selfish, isn't it? And indecent to an extent. It's like saying that I've given up on human men, so I go off and create my ideal mate whom I can equip how I wish and whom I may dispose of or replace should the mood fit it. It's cheating, isn't it?" she said. He pondered her thoughts.

"I have feelings for you, Sydney, great ones. Perhaps it is because you are my master and creator. Without you, I would not exist at all. I adore you. All I want is for you to be happy and safe. Would it be so wrong to even say that I love you? That I care about you?" he said. By now, they were home, but sitting in the car still, both compelled by the conversation.

"I suppose not, but it would be odd for me to feel the same. I'm human. You're not." She said. She didn't want to start comparing him to a pet or a child, but really, that's how society viewed synthetics in relation to humans.

Gabe looked out the window into the vast sky, graying as night was falling. "Of all of the books you own up there, most of them have to do with some sort of love. All in fact, when you really think about it. And great deals of them cope with what they refer to as 'forbidden love'. You're favorite even. Wuthering Heights and poor Heathcliff, bound from his love because of their separate seats in society. What all of those books show is how ridiculous society can be. We have government to set up guidelines on how we live, armies to protect the freedom to live reasonably free within those guidelines, so why must we have this other entity, society, to further govern over our rights and tell us what we can and cannot do? It makes no sense," he said. She thought about it all. He was right. She just stared at him in awe.

"You infer and reason all of that based upon what you have read in my study?" she asked. He nodded.

"I have known no other realms of thought besides what was programmed into me," he answered. She slumped back in her seat.

"I didn't realize I had acquired such a compelling collection," she said. "Nor did I ever think one could infer all of this based upon literature alone. But you are right, entirely." He smiled. And he was the one to finally reach over and take her hand into his. She smiled warmly, but didn't say anything. She felt the warmth of his palm and fingers as they wrapped around hers, and thought of the exposed iron of his hand just a few short days ago. She had wanted to tell him that her reaction to him when the accident happened was not entirely out of fear of robots. Sure, she was a little afraid, due to her upbringing in a world where robots only existed in horror movie about them taking over the world. But really, when she had gotten sick and began crying when she saw the damage done to him, it was like looking at a friend, a human friend, all tore up and mangled from the same accident. It was frightening because she was not sure whether he could be fixed, whether he was done for. She had thought that it would be her fault for telling him she didn't need him anymore if he didn't come back from the accident. But something in her kept the gushy, overly emotional exclamation from being said.


17

That night, Gabe slept next to her in her bed. Or rather, she slept, he lay awake for sometime, silently. He knew he should be powering down, but he just couldn't bear to take himself away from this reality. He lay behind her, holding her torso against his, his arms around her slim waist. He listened to her breathing, steady and sure, her heartbeat, slower in sleep, but still there. His face was inches away from the back of her head, and he breathed in the scent of her hair. She smelled so lovely, so female. He wished that he could cross the gap and feel emotion, so that he may link all of these wonderful things about her to a feeling. He knew he couldn't, but that didn't stop him from trying. Sure, he had memorized her scent, the temperature of her skin when she was normal and healthy, the textures. But memorization and feeling were two different things.

After a few hours, Gabe closed his eyes finally, but he didn't power down right away. He pondered what it would be like to really be with her physically. He was fully male and capable, but he wasn't sure how to go about activating his body for love-making. He had read thoroughly on the subject, as many of her books had explained it thoroughly, and was quite well-versed on how it was done. But he wasn't sure how to prepare himself so that he might make love with her. That is, if she would even want him to.

So with his curiosity in mind, he began to search the files in his main computer, the brain, for files on how his body worked. He knew there had to be some explanation on how he worked in that region. They couldn't just put the equipment there and not at least give some brief description of how to use it. And that's when he found it. Just like everything else about him, to work any part of his body, all he had to do was send it the command to do as he wanted. He was in control. That was the advantage of not being human. They were not so in control of their bodies, especially when it came to matters of sex. He had read much on the subject of being attracted to someone without any reason or previous pattern of being so. Not so with synthetics. He could tell his body who to be attracted to and who not.

He slowly opened his eyes and began to send internal signals, just testing if it would work at all. And for a moment, it did nothing. He thought that he, of all robots, had been left without that capability. And then, his penis became erect, even swelled a bit. He smiled. Gabe was too synthetic to be embarrassed. And with the knowledge that he could make her happy when she wanted him to, he closed his eyes, and powered down.


18

Sydney woke the next morning, not to the sound of food being prepared downstairs, nor of the smell of it. She woke instead, to a pair of lips being pressed against her jaw and ear. She shivered. Then, realizing that she was no longer dreaming, her eyes flew open. She looked up and there he was, on top of her, kissing her. She relaxed and smiled. She then realized that he was naked.

"Gabe, what are you-"

"I figured it out," he whispered. She smiled. They had discussed making love a bit the night before, just before falling asleep. He knew that he was equipped, but he was not sure of how to activate it. Now, apparently during the course of the night, he had figured it out. He began kissing her again, and she let him. She wanted this. Wanted to know what it was like. She had no expectation, but when she shifted a little underneath him, she felt how equipped he really was, and gasped. "What is it?" he asked. He looked worried suddenly. "Did I crush you?"

"No, you, you're," she couldn't say it. His eyes looked at her, so innocent and naïve about life. "I want you inside me," she whispered. He grinned with relief. He pulled the hem of her sleep-shirt up, exposing her panties. His hands splayed over her slim stomach and slid slowly upward to her breasts. Now she was certain he had been reading her books. He pushed the shirt up all the way to her neck and put his mouth to her breast. "Gabe," she groaned as he ran his tongue along the under-curve of her breast. But because there was no alarm in her voice, he didn't rise up and ask if she was okay. She was glad; he was getting the hang of human emotion and reaction. He devoured her breasts one by one with the passion of a human man. She locked her arms around his neck and arched her back again and again with every enticing move he made. She then took one of his hands and guided it between her legs. His eyes came back up to hers, heavy with uncertainty.

"Sydney, I am not certain about what I am doing," he said, sounding unsure than she had ever heard him sound.

"It's ok," she whispered breathily, pushing her panties off. He rose back on his haunches and she saw for the first time Gabe completely naked. She stopped for a moment and just took in the sight with awe. He looked entirely human and real. The only thing that kept him from being flawlessly human was the glowing orb of blue light in the center of his chest. He was otherwise a man with little to be ashamed of.

"Do I look alright?" he asked, sounding unsure. She smiled.

"You're perfect, I didn't know they made you so entirely human," she said. She then took off her nightshirt and panties and lay back down. He took in her appearance with as much awe as she had with him. She was entirely human, and beautiful through and through. The curves and valleys of her flesh were beautiful and soft. He couldn't resist because now, he wanted her as much as she wanted him.

"Help me," he whispered as he settled back down on top of her. She parted her legs and let them rest on either side of his hips. He remained balanced upon his elbows. She reached down and took a hold of his penis, taking into account how flawlessly human that was, and guided it to her tender, wet opening.

"Push into me," she whispered, letting go of him. He did, and pushed his entire length into her. She gasped, wrapping her arms around his waist.

"Is it okay? Did I hurt you?" he asked.

"No, no, it's, you're fine," she moaned. "Now, pull back, but try not to come all the way out, and push into me again," she instructed. And because he was not a bumbling idiot of a human man all giddy about his first time, he slowly pulled back but didn't release himself from her, and pushed back in. And she arched her back, moaning something this time that was not words. He smiled. He knew he was doing it right by the expressions on her beautiful face. "Again," she whispered in a shaking voice that made him want to kiss her more. He leaned in and touched his mouth to hers again, this time met eagerly by hers. He pulled back and pushed back into her. Now he knew to continue without being told. She was surprised at him and how well they worked together in this way. She would have thought that, even though he was very sweet and attractive, that because he was a robot, that he would have no finesse, no passion. She was wrong. He looked like he was enjoying it as much as she was. It felt so right. "How I do I feel to you?" she asked. He was thrusting in and out of her with a wonderfully healthy pace that satisfied and made her crave more and more of it.

Considering her question, he felt so, well, human. Because honestly, it was amazing. Sure, he could not feel her like a man possibly could, but he did feel her. She felt great, warm, soft, her arms around his back, her naked body pressed, warm and pulsing alive all around him. "Wonderful," he answered finally. She smiled up at him, and he began moving faster, harder. He didn't know exactly why, but she didn't seem to mind at all.

"More," she whispered. She had not had sex in a long time with anyone. He was bigger than she had expected, though in retrospect, she supposed she should have guessed by his size. It was thrilling, though at first, it had been shocking and slightly overwhelming.

He gave her more. He gave her everything. And when she came, she arched her back and hugged his shoulders tightly, her body shuddering and convulsing around him. He wasn't sure quite sure what was happening to her, but he held her tight, comforting her in her post-orgasm state. She held still for a moment before turning to face him.

"Did you come?" she asked. He looked at her, confused.

"Come?" he asked.

"Yeah, orgasm, did you have one?" she asked.

"Oh, uh, no, I am not sure I can," he said. Never-the-less, he looked content.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know," she said.

"Lack of nerve-endings, I suppose would be to blame. Do not apologize, though, it was rather very enjoyable to watch you orgasm," he said.

"It must be terribly unsatisfying," she said, feeling embarrassed. "I feel so selfish, I wish I'd known."

"I would not know if it were unsatisfying," he admitted. "But you looked happy, and that makes me happy." She shifted beneath him and he came out of her. They sat on the edge of the bed, wrapped scantily in the sheets and covers of the bed.

"Could you feel me?" she asked. He nodded.

"Yes, and it was lovely, the way you feel inside. I never imagined how wonderful love-making could be," he said. "You seemed to really be enjoying it, so that made me very happy to see. I had hoped I would please you." She blushed, averting her eyes.

"I must have sounded wild," she said, embarrassed. He took her chin between his thumb and index finger and tilted her face upward.

"You sounded beautiful. Happier than I have ever known you," he told her. She smiled. "You were happy, were you not?"

"Yes," she said.

"And that is all I wanted. That is my orgasm," he said. And he meant it.


19

Over the next few weeks, they grew closer, making love often and enjoying each other more openly. That is, within the privacy of her home. Their home. Sydney was secretly embarrassed, but the more time they spent together, the less it became. She found that being with Gabriel was easy, exciting, and worry free. Their would be no other woman to take him away, nor any disease or injury that could kill him or disable him. He really was faithfully and completely hers. She really was falling in love with him. She still felt it was some kind of cheating, but that began to matter less and less. Human beings were too unpredictable and unsafe. Gabe was safe and predictable and that made it all worth while. She loved him because there was no element of surprise, no fear factor. Only him, reading and re-reading her books, preparing her meals, and fucking her on a regular basis. It was entirely selfish, but when she thought about it, perhaps she was entitled. Everyone else in her life was allowed to be selfish and at times, even cruel. Why should she not have her vices, her indulgences?

Gabe was in love with her as well. He found now that, while his purpose was still to protect her, he now wanted very much to make her happy. He loved it when she said his name when she had her orgasm, laying her head on his shoulder, perhaps biting down softly if the sensations got to be too much. He loved talking with her about books and general philosophy, loved everything about her. Even the little things she did that she shouldn't. She would drink a little too much wine in the evenings sometimes, run herself a bit too hard some mornings, coming back winded and to the point of swaying as she walked, perhaps even running in the rain and coming back soaked and cold. Sometimes, she went shopping and spent a little more money than perhaps she should have. But he loved her, would follow her to the grave if she would allow him. He wished often, more so than ever, that he was a human man. He knew things wouldn't be the same, but he wished for just a day that he could see life as she saw it. To feel a heart beating in his chest, to feel emotion, to be able to come with her, it would be worth it. And the inevitable, to age with her. He knew that eventually, she would age, her hair already had some pre-mature grey, and that he would have to watch. He would not age. As long as they kept up on his maintenance and updating, he would stay the same forever. The thought of her aging and dying someday made him feel anxious and frustrated. What if she got sick? What if she got hurt and was taken from him earlier than she should be? It happened all the time to humans. That thought was even more unbearable than the aging one. He had brought it up once to her while they were winding down from making love one night.

"Sydney, what will happen to me when you die?" he had asked. She had startled internally at the boldness of his question, but did not turn it away. Sometimes, she viewed him as a child, curious, unconditionally in love with her, and brutally honest.

"That depends, I guess," she answered. "Why? What would you want to happen to you?"

"I am not sure," he said, thoughtfully. "I would want to go with you." He finally decided. She had giggled.

"I'm not sure that's possible," she said.

"Why not?" he asked, suddenly excited.

"Well, I'm not sure where we go after death. Maybe nowhere." She said. "Wouldn't you want to help others?"

"No," he answered truthfully. "I would want to be deactivated. I could not go with another and care for them as I have cared for you."

"But that's your purpose, to help people." She said.

"My purpose is to help you," he corrected her. He was getting upset, a first for him. She turned and sat up, and he did the same. "I love you, Sydney. I could not just forget you." He said.

"I thought they could wipe your memory clean, restart you," she said. Now he looked very upset, almost sick. "Calm down, Gabe, everything is ok. It's not like I'm going anywhere anytime soon." He crossed his arms over his chest, slightly covering that ever glowing blue orb that was his heart. "We don't have to talk about this now." She said gently.

"But that's just it, you are human, Sydney, a mortal. Things happen to mortals everyday. Accidents, diseases, anything. Anything could take you away from me at a moment's notice and who's to say what would happen to me. I do not want it to be like that for us." He said. Now he was upset. If he were human, he might have been shaking, even crying. He looked genuinely frightened.

"Gabriel, it's okay." She wrapped her arms around him. "I'm right here. I'm 36 years old, and very healthy, you know that yourself. And I'm a cautious person. I have you to protect me from most things." And that's when he covered his face. She was suddenly frightened. Was he having some sort of crash, some kind of malfunction that was making him upset like this. His heart was glowing blue, so by that standard, he was fine. But she was very worried watching him. She touched his shoulder. "Gabe?" He let his hands fall a little bit, and she saw what looked like tears in his eyes. Kind of. "Gabriel, are you crying?" she asked, pulling his arms, trying to uncover his face. He shook his head and tried to pull away. "No, Gabriel, no, it's ok. Stay with me, let me help you. It's ok to be upset. Death frightens us all from time to time. That's why humans try not to think about it too much." And he finally let go. His hands fell to his lap, and he looked at her. There were tears in his eyes, but they weren't like human tears. They were silver, like mercury that has been spilled from those now-ancient thermometers that her mother had kept in the medicine cabinet. She then wondered if they were mercury. "What are your tears made of?" she asked gently.

"Nothing dangerous, it's like water, only denser," he said, sensing her concern. She wiped them with the edge of the sheet and pulled him into her. "You should not have to comfort me, Sydney. For this I am sorry. And I am sorry too for bringing up death. I should have been able to infer that humans would not like to talk about their own mortality. I've just been thinking about it a lot lately."

"You don't have to apologize," she said. "It's going to come up sometimes. But as much as the thought frightens you, it scares me very much too. I'm the one with out a choice, not you. I would much rather have the option." He smiled slightly through his tears.

"And I would much rather experience it with you, rather than have to watch," he said. She pondered that, and the realization made her heart sink. There would come a time when he would appear much younger than her. It would be very embarrassing to age with him as a spectator to the process. She did not like the idea, but she thought that they had had enough upset for one day and left it as it was.


20

A few weeks later, Sydney got a call from Carrie Angleton. Carrie was an old friend who had relocated a few states away for a few years, but returning. Sydney was excited to hear from her and they promptly set up a day to meet and get reacquainted. They had decided to meet at Sydney's house, as Carrie had not seen the new place since her divorce from Adam, something which Carrie was very happy to hear, in that she knew how unhappy her friend had been in the marriage.

Upon hanging up the phone, she caught sight of Gabe out watering the flowers in the garden. She gasped, remembering suddenly that she had him. Carrie did not know she had a synthetic, it hadn't even occurred to Sydney while talking with her old friend. She dropped down on the couch, dumbfounded. This would be the first time that she would have to introduce him to someone agreeable. She had very little family left at her age, and no one to really call a friend. Accept of course Carrie. How in the world was she going to explain this without hurting him and keeping herself from looking like one of those freaks with a 'sex-bot' as they were called.

When Carrie did come to her house, Sydney was a bundle of nerves. She felt so anxious about how to explain Gabe. She wondered if Carrie would even be able to tell if Gabe was a synthetic.

A knock came at the door. Gabe was seated in his usual chair by the fireplace, reading.

"Would you like me to get that, Sydney?" he asked.

"No, I got it," she yelled as she came hurriedly down the stairs. Gabe remained seated and watched her open the door, closing his book and laying it on the coffee table next to the one she was currently reading.

"Hey," Sydney said excitedly as she opened the door and let her friend in.

"Oh my goodness, you look so good Syd!" came another female voice. A blonde woman came through the door, looking to Gabe to be about Sydney's age, maybe slightly younger. She was not quite as tall as Sydney, and her hair was a bit shorter. The woman embraced Sydney and she hugged her friend back. This made Gabe smile, as he had never got to see her with one of her own kind being as happy as she was then. It was sweet.

"Thank you, you don't look so bad yourself," she said in a happy voice that sounded very genuine.

"So this is the house, my you got it good, don't you? Divorce can do w-wonders," Carrie's eyes landed on Gabriel. She jumped a little, not having noticed the man during their excited greeting. She turned to her friend with happy and suspicious eyes. "And who is this?" Carrie asked to Sydney. Prone to blushing naturally, that's exactly what Sydney did. Her cheeks became a healthy, vivacious pink that was usually reserved for the beginnings of sex. Gabe grinned at the thought.

"Carrie, this is Gabriel, Gabe, this is my friend Carrie," she introduced them. Gabe held out his hand and Carrie accepted it. Sydney could see in his eyes that he was taking mental notes about her and saving them in his brain. She wondered feverishly if Carrie could tell he was not human.

"It is a pleasure to meet you, Carrie. Sydney has told me much about you," he said, politely shaking her hand. Her heart swelled at his perfect gentleman's grace.

"It's nice to meet you, Gabe. I only wish that Sydney had told me something about you," she said, shooting her friend an ever-curious expression. It wasn't the same as Gabe's child-like curious looks when he found something he didn't quite understand. It was more suspicious and suggestive.

"Should I make lunch?" Gabe asked to Sydney. She nodded, and Gabe left promptly. As soon as he was out of the room, Carrie turned wondering eyes on her.

"You didn't tell me you had a new boyfriend," Carrie said quietly. It didn't matter, Gabe could hear everything within ten miles, with the house being his most keen. But he didn't say anything and for that, she was grateful.

"Well, he, um, he's-"

"Gorgeous! That's what he is. I didn't think women our age could get men like him anymore, although you always did have the best luck in that department," Carrie said. She blushed. She wondered what Gabe thought of that statement. "Don't tell me you're married again, I so looked forward to being with my fellow single gal again like old times!"

"Well, you see, he's not my boyfriend exactly," she said. Now Carrie looked even more interested. And suspicious.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"Well, he, um, is, not real," she got out.

"I don't get your meaning," Carried said, looking genuinely confused.

"He's a synthetic," she said. Carrie suddenly had that look of understanding as the realization dawned on her.

"I knew he looked too perfect," she said. Then she gave her an even more suggestive look. "Exactly, what kind of synthetic?" Sydney rolled her eyes, but blushed all the same.

"Well, uh, I got him after the divorce and my car accident-"

"You were in an accident?! I didn't know that, why didn't you call me?" she said. She wondered immensely what Gabriel thought of this woman who was so much more excitable and enthused than she. She would have to ask him later.

"Yeah, I got pretty banged up. Broke a leg and got a concussion, everything. The doctor suggested a synthetic to aid with my recovery. Plus, you know, being here all by myself is spooky sometimes, so, it's good to have someone around, you know, to keep an eye on things," she said. Her friend looked satisfied, but still had a twinge of suspicion in her eyes. "Plus, well, you know how angry Adam was when I filed for divorce. He wouldn't leave me alone for a while. Gabe seemed to solve that problem pretty fast." Carrie nodded, but Sydney knew better than to think that her friend's curiosity was satisfied. She knew her better than that.

Gabe heard everything while in the kitchen making their lunch. Contrary to Sydney's worries, he was not hurt or offended by the fact that she had told her friend what he was, nor was he upset at the fact that she had not owned up to their private relationship. He didn't blame her. He knew what people thought of humans and synthetics having the kind of relationship he and Sydney had. It was unnatural, immoral, by some people's standards even disgusting. He had researched it a bit with her permission, on her computer in her study. There was a whole underground society of people who owned synthetics just for having sex with them. But the truth was that Gabe didn't think he and Sydney fell into that category at all. He thought that their relationship went deeper than just the sex they had. Sure, that was fun, but he loved everything about her. And she seemed to be content with just sitting next to him, reading, talking, going for runs together. They could almost function like a normal, human couple, and of that he was very proud. But he knew she was still wary of others knowing they had a relationship. She had explained herself beyond what was necessary to satisfy him. She just didn't want to be viewed as someone who had nothing better to do with her time than to fuck a robot. And he understood, mostly because he knew there was so much more to her, to them, than just the fucking.

"It's ready," he called from the kitchen. They came in and sat down. Sydney was still flushed from all of the talk about them. The heightened color made him think of making love, and that made him want to kiss her cheeks. But he restrained.

"Thank you, Gabe," she said, not able to meet his eyes just now. He understood, and would remind her again later that she needn't be so embarrassed or worried about not telling the whole truth about them. It didn't matter to him as long as she still wanted him around.

"You're welcome, Sydney, Carrie," he said. He sat down with them, though he did not eat. He couldn't eat.

"Gabe, you are an amazing synthetic, mostly because I would never have known you are one. You are very well constructed," Carrie commented. He smiled.

"Thank you," he said, gauging her comment as a complement and giving the proper response. Sydney and Carrie ate their sandwiches, chatting a little about times gone by. Gabe got to hear some interesting stories about Sydney's past that gave him more perspective on her now. In college, she had been a very good student, but she had also had a partying gene in her. Sydney had blushed as Carrie told about parties and the youthful fun she had had. Gabe found it fascinating. It made him wonder why she did not have more friends.

"So, how is Adam since you two broke up?" Carrie asked. Gabe's eyes rose to meet Sydney's, and she looked mortified. She hadn't wanted to discuss this in front of Gabe, even though it was inevitable. He would hear her no matter where they went to talk about it.

"Fine, I suppose, I haven't really talked to him in a while," Sydney said, trying to keep her cool. Gabe thought she did a good job, but he could sense her discomfort.

"If you don't mind me asking, what brought on the divorce?" Carrie asked.

"The better question would be what didn't bring on the divorce," Sydney said. "We just weren't meant for each other. We were too different. Always fighting, never agreeing on anything. And then I found out about the cheating." There was a moment of silence that was almost stifling between the three of them. Carrie had assumed there was cheating, and she had discussed it with Gabe, but they had a feeling she was about to tell more than she ever had on the subject.

"Oh, Sydney," Carrie said sympathetically. Maybe too much so. "You poor thing." Gabe watched her carefully for signs of upset, but she held herself very calm. He was impressed. "What a pig! I can't believe someone could do that to you!" Carrie said, sounding outraged.

"Well, he did. I guess he was looking for younger," Sydney said. Not raising her eyes this time.

"And dumber! That's what it was Sydney, you were too smart, too educated and he couldn't take it. It intimidated him," Carrie said. Sydney was grateful for her friend's words, but she couldn't look up. She knew what Carrie's face would look like and she could stand that. But Gabe, Gabe wouldn't understand. He would be looking at her like he wanted to hold her again, to ask why a man would become so intimidated by a woman's intelligence and success that he could no longer love her. And she wouldn't have the answer. She had been searching for it for over a year and still wasn't sure. Carrie's hand touched hers, startling her. "I'm sorry, Sydney, I didn't mean to upset you," she said. Sydney looked up and smiled at her friend.

"You didn't, I just, don't really talk about it. I need to," she admitted. "Holding it in hasn't done much good for me."

"You can always talk to me, Syd," she said. Sydney smiled and hugged Carrie. And over her shoulder, her eyes met Gabe's. He looked confused.


21

After Carrie left, Sydney wanted to avoid the inevitable questions she knew Gabe had. So she put on her running clothes and decided to go for a run.

"Going for a run? I'll come with you if-"

"Actually, Gabe, I just want to be alone. Carrie, well, she can be a little much, I just want some time to myself, away from everything," she said. She kissed him on the cheek. "I'll be back in a few." And she left. Gabe felt even more confused.


22

While she was gone, Gabe thought intensely about the conversation at lunch. He really could not fathom someone falling out of love with Sydney, no matter how smart and successful she would get. He couldn't imagine being attracted to anyone but her. He knew he was irrevocably tied to her, but that didn't change the fact that he could not understand it. He could see the hurt in her eyes when Carrie brought up the divorce. The pain in her expression made him anxious, made him want to fix everything and make it so she wouldn't feel it anymore, even though he knew it wasn't possible. She was human, her memories would always be with her. It was unfortunate.

He washed the dishes from lunch, put them away, cleaned what little there was to be cleaned, then resumed his place in his book, awaiting her return.


23

Sydney pushed herself hard this time, trying to combat her feelings of sadness and pain. She had voluntarily shut thoughts about the divorce and Adam from her mind, putting them behind a thick mental wall that kept them, safely away. Gabe had helped, both by scaring Adam off, and by being her lover. It was part of why she loved him. He made her feel safe and made her forget. She regretted not telling him more about the divorce, but at the same time, the fact that he didn't know made it easier to shut out. Now she would have to face it.

She returned out of breath and worn out.


24

Gabe heard her on the front porch and shut his book. He went to the door just as she opened it. Her face was bright red and she was panting rigorously.

"Sydney, are you ok?" he asked, suddenly very worried. She looked worse than she ever had coming off of a run. She nodded, but stumbled a bit.

"I'm fine," she panted. "Water," she said, trying to walk to the kitchen and stumbled worse.

"Sit, please, I'll get it for you," he said. She dropped onto the settee and tried to steady her breathing. He went to the kitchen and promptly brought out a cold bottle of water. She grabbed for it, and dropped it. "You're not doing so well," he said, looking ever-concerned about her. He opened the bottle. She looked at him, the realized what he was waiting for.

"I can," she panted, her breathing slowly beginning to calm, "do it myself," she said.

"I know, but you are very weak at the moment," he said. "Just let me." She looked at him woefully, then conceded. She knew he was going to insist anyway. Gabe placed the bottle to her lips and carefully tilted the bottle up small degrees, letting her drink slowly, cautious not to choke her. When she pushed her head back level, he took the bottle away. She was still breathing heavily, but it was not so much a pant anymore, and was decreasing all the time.

"Thank you," she said eventually, slumping back against the backrest of the settee, letting out a heavy sigh. He sat on the edge of it, pulling her legs out straight. The blood in her face was returning to the rest of her, leaving her only flushed and tired.

"Are you alright? You seem better," he said. She nodded. She looked up at him for a long time, studying his features. He looked so gentle, so concerned. She knew she had some explaining to do. And that was when he covered her face. "Sydney?" She began weeping, steadily and with much relief. She had tried to run out her emotions, and she had run most of the anger out. Now all that was left was sadness. "What is it, Syd?" he asked. She looked at him, taking her hands down. Her face was blotchy red and upset, but her eyes looked a little amused.

"You've never called me that before," she said. He frowned, then realized he had called her Syd instead of Sydney.

"Oh, I am sorry. I heard your friend call you that. It must have stuck. I apologize, Sydney," he said.

"No, it's ok, I liked it," she said. He held his arms out for her and she accepted them, falling into him like a safe haven. "I know you have questions, I saw them in your expression earlier." She said.

"I won't ask them if they will only upset you more," he said. She shook her head.

"No, I need to let this out once and for all. I've been burying it too long as it is," she admitted. "Ask away," she said.

"Who did he cheat with?" he asked.

"Women he worked with. I never found out exactly who, but I could guess," she said.

"Why? That really is my only question," he said. "I do not understand how one could want anyone but you, but I suppose I am only biased in that sense. But the reasons you gave Carrie do not make sense to me, honestly."

"They were the real reasons," she said, "but you're guess is as good as mine. I still don't get it and it's been over a year since it happened. I mean, I get it, but not really. I guess I didn't think he or anyone could be so shallow. Especially now, in this day and age. I didn't think those things mattered anymore." He nodded.

"I wouldn't think success and education would be deciding factors in whether or not you loved someone. I love you and obtain no monetary imbursement. But I suppose that this is another quality we could blame on my not being a human too, is it not?"

"It is. Human men are sometimes intimidated if the women they are with make more money, have better successes than they do. It makes them feel less of a man in the relationship." She explained. He nodded, but she doubted with his advanced mind whether he really did understand or if he only understood in theory. "Do you understand, Gabe?"

He thought for a moment. "I suppose. I still don't understand how someone could really base their love for someone else on those factors, but I understand what you are saying. It's odd, but I get it."

"That's why I love you," she said, reaching for him, her tears drying. "You're uncomplicated and easy to understand. It's what we humans should be, but unfortunately, old habits die hard." He wiped the remaining tears from her cheeks, then kissed her.

"And I love you, Syd," he said. "I will never leave you."


25

That night, she and Gabe made love passionately. It was a spontaneous coupling that emphasized their growing closer. He knew everything now, everything, and he still loved her, though she wasn't sure if he was capable of falling out of love with her.

She had just been drifting off to sleep when Gabe suddenly summoned on an erection. She gasped when the hot, impossibly hard flesh rose against her bottom, and wriggled back in response. She heard him chuckle once before putting an arm around her waist. He pulled her to him, then he lost control. Control, something he thought he had no matter what, something he was loosing. The scent of her long, soft hair, her skin, the subtle curves of her body, all wrapped up against him was suddenly more than he could bear. And to make matters worse, she wriggled back against him enticingly. He sucked in a breath; the erection he had enacted only swelled and grew in response to her movements. I can't take it, he thought, burying his face against the curve of her neck. He nuzzled there, trying to regain his control, fighting, but it wouldn't come back. He was lost.

Gabe very slowly pushed up her black nightshirt, revealing those full, soft breasts he had so admired. Her fair skin practically glowed in the faint moonlight that poured in the room from the slight part between the curtains. He took both breasts into his hands, gently fondling them. He kissed her tenderly behind the shell of her ear.

"Gabe," she moaned. He then ran his thumbs over her nipples, making them tighten, then lightly pulled on them, wondering how it must feel to her very human body. He yearned to be human sometimes, and this was definitely one of those times. She shifted again, moving that little heart-shaped ass even more firmly against his hips. His erection throbbed, almost impossibly big now. He moved one hand down her body, over her trim stomach, hesitating at the waistband of her underwear. He swore under his breath.

Sydney lay there, fully aroused, feeling Gabe's firm, sensual touch all over her. She bit her lip, moaning his name and groaning indistinguishable things in her pleasure, having to force herself not to tremble with her need. Need, she needed this, needed him. She could feel the arching shape of his hot, hard cock pressing against her bottom, threatening almost in it's brevity. He was as much on the brink as she was, she could feel it in the tense, masculine body wrapped around her. He was pulled tight, the arrow of his desire pulling him as tight as a bow.

Just as she thought she had him figured out, he began to move one of his hands down her waist, resting just above her underwear. He hesitated for a moment, then slid his hand down over the front of her underwear. He cupped her mound for a moment, pleasantly surprised at the dampness he found there. He kissed her neck, one hand cupping her breast, the other between her legs.

God he wanted her. He couldn't bare how much he wanted and loved her at the same time. His chest heaved with each breath he took. That's when he gently slid down her panties. He skimmed the dark, feminine curls, sliding one finger down, down, the rough tip grazing her sensitized opening. She was so wet, so hot, so damned close to having him plunge himself it into her with out so much as waiting for her to be fully ready for it. But that would be too easy. He wanted her to enjoy every minute of it as he did, minus an orgasm of his own.

He stroked her moistened labia for a moment before his bold, roughened fingertip found her clit. He circled it once, and she gasped, arching against his hand.

"Sydney," he groaned, nuzzling her ear even more attentively. It was maddening. He paused momentarily at the passion, amazed. He so wished he was human so that he might feel as she did, might fully be able to understand her reactions and desire.

"Don't stop, please, you can't stop now," she pleaded, arching her back, pushing back against his groin with her bottom. He moved so that he could face her, her violet eyes level with his. Even in the dark of night, she could feel his eyes on her.

"I love you," he said, his voice rasping with his desire.

"I love you too, Gabe," she answered in return. He stared at her for a moment, then kissed her; a hot, wet, open-mouthed kiss. He shifted back behind her. She couldn't see him, and wished she could. He had an amazing body and from the feel of it on her ass, was very well equipped, possibly even more than before. He paused for a moment, poised behind her. "Gabe, please, come inside me," she whispered, shifting her bottom back against him. He stilled her against him, letting her feel him in all of his bareness. She was shocked. But before she had time to say anything, he thrust inside her. She sucked in a harsh breath.

"How do I feel?" he whispered in her ear, his voice shaking.

"Please, don't stop," she answered. Gabe reared back, then pushed all the way back inside her. She still couldn't believe it. "God, Gabe, you're s-so big," she moaned as he began thrusting in and out of her. She threw her head back, letting moans and soft words and syllables out as he moved. He had one arm around her waist, anchoring her to him, while the other hand found it's way between her legs, stroking her clit and labia as he began fucking her like a wild animal. Or like a passionate, living, breathing human being who could feel and enjoy this as much as she did.

"Sydney," he moaned, rearing back, then driving forward, over and over again. All the time he had fantasized about her, right from the very beginning when he learned about love-making through her books, when he had envisioned bending her over her desk and letting his cock up her skirt, all of it coming to a head right here, right now.

It came in her, stretching, burning, spiraling up through her, making her fists gather the sheets and wrench them in her hands. She came, letting out a moan of satisfaction and relief. She clung to him as if she were drowning, right through the last thrilling spasm of pleasure. And he buried his head against the curve of her shoulder, tired, and completely content.

"I love you, Sydney," he groaned in her ear, making her nerve-endings tingle. "I really love you." And he really meant it.


26

Over the course of the next few months, she and Gabe grew close enough that if one didn't know their true relationship, they would have mistaken them for two human lovers. Carrie visited often, and on one occasion, she had finally gotten the courage to ask her friend what exactly was going on between she and Gabe.

"So why don't we go out on Saturday? Me and Sam can go, and I can set you up with Jack from work," she said. "You'll love him, Syd." Sydney rolled her eyes.

"That's what you say about everyone," she said.

"It's could be fun," Carrie said.

"Nah, I think I'll just stay home, I've got a book to finish," she said. It was Carrie's turn to roll her eyes. "Besides, Gabe is fixing a new dinner and I really want to try it."

"Ooh, then maybe we can all come here," Carrie said. A look of alarm crossed Sydney's face.

"No, it's just supposed to be the two of us, I promised him," Sydney said.

"You said he was just your synthetic, but the two of you act like you are much closer," Carrie had said, her voice heavy with concern. "Is something going on, Syd?"

Sydney had not met her gaze easily, but when she finally did, Carrie looked very worried.

"Sydney?" she said.

"What? I don't think that it is anyone's business anyway. Gabe is my synthetic and so what if we are close? Before you came back, the only friends I had were ones I met through Adam and we both know how the friends get divided up after a divorce. They all went with him and I was all alone in this house." Sydney suddenly seemed very upset to have to be explaining what was going on between her and her synthetic, which told Carrie that she was right after all.

"It's okay if you are close, Syd," Carrie said. "I just think that it might be good for you to start getting out and being with real people again. I don't think it's healthy that you spend all of your time cooped up in here with it." Sydney flashed her a warning look.

"Him. He may not be human, but he was there for me when no one else was," she said. Carrie could see not that bringing up Gabe this way had not been a good idea. Sydney and he obviously were having a relationship.

"All you had to do was call, Sydney, you know that," she said, hurt.

"You knew I was getting divorced, everyone in the world knew it and everyone thought that because the prenup protected my wealth and that I got everything I had earned and inherited and didn't have to work anymore that I was okay. Well, I wasn't! I was hurt and no one cared. Everyone felt sorry for him and I got to be the wealthy bitch out of all of this!" she was raging now.

"Sydney, calm down, I'm not trying to-"

"To what? To make me feel guilty because I love him?! Well, I'm tired of feeling guilty for getting what I want. All my life, I've had to be humble and pretend like I wasn't happy that I was well off! And now that I've finally found someone who treats me like I feel I should have been treated all along, I am supposed to feel guilty about that as well?!"

"Sydney, just stop, please, it's not-"

"No, you know something Carrie. Everyone wanted to tell me that I had nothing to be upset about, that I had won, that I always win. I felt bad for being friends with him, I felt bad for talking to him, I even feel bad when we're making love because I know what everyone is thinking. I am done feeling bad about myself! No one wanted to be there for me, now I don't need any of you," she sneered. Carrie was shocked.

"Sydney, I love you. Really, I only want to see you happy, but this, this will only lead to sadness, trust me," she said, pleading with her friend now.

"And then all of you can sit and say you told me so," Sydney said coldly. And with that, Carrie got up and walked out, tears streaming down her face.

"You can come in now," she called to Gabe. She wasn't exactly sure of where he was, just that he had been close by, listening. She came out from the laundry room. "I'm sorry about that," she said.

"Maybe your friend is right, Sydney," he said. She looked up at him in disbelief.

"Not you too," She cried. "No, I will not feel guilty about this anymore. They all had their chance and they all blew it. No one was here until you were." Her shoulders curved slightly inward and she began to cry herself, finally. He knelt before her.

"I'm not saying that you should. I'm just saying that, if you want to be with a human, I would not stop you. I want you to be happy, not upset or sad or angry. And if being with a human is what would make you happy, then I could only be happy for you," he said. She shook her head.

"You make me happy. You," she broke off into sobs.

"Then with me you should be," he said, pulling her into his arms.


27

Carrie went straight to Adam's house.

"How is she?" he asked.

"Not good. I think she and her robot are having some sort of love affair, Adam, it's scary," she blurted out, still upset from she and Sydney's confrontation.

"Sick," Adam said, suddenly enraged with disgust and anger.

"It is. I am truly scared for her. It isn't healthy, what is going on over there," Carrie said.

"Then we have to get her to see that," Adam said, already pulling together a plan in his mind.

"I don't see how that's possible. She all but shut me out and told me to never come back just now and I'm sure that thing wouldn't have any problem keeping me away from her," Carrie sneered.

"Then we have to get rid of him," he said.

"Yeah, and how do you suggest we do that?" she asked. But Adam had it all laid out in his mind already.


28

Sydney was out on her usual run, the ear buds of her iPod in her ears, blocking out all sound except for the music. She wasn't pushing herself too hard on this run. Gabe had helped her dispose of her anger in a much more enjoyable way. He was in the backyard of her house, their home, watering the flowers in the waning sun of the late summer afternoon. He was fascinated with how they had really progressed with a little help from him. It made him feel all the more real to know that he had helped to create something real. He had knelt down to touch the petals of a particularly beautiful lily when he heard something behind him. It caught him off guard and he whirled around, his hand catching something in his frightened frenzy. He was about to start apologizing to Sydney when he realized, it wasn't Sydney at all. It was Adam.

"What the hell is wrong with you?!" Adam yelled. Gabe came forward to him. Adam shoved him, throwing his own fist and landing it right in Gabe's eye. He knocked some of the skin loose from around Gabe's eye. Gabe jumped back and put his arms up, though he didn't try to hit back. He couldn't Adam was human.

"I'm so sorry, you frightened me, I didn't mean-" Adam landed another punch, this time dangerously near to Gabe's heart. He continued like this, landing them and damaging Gabe until he was lying on the ground, cowering because there was nothing he could do. "Please, stop, I didn't mean to hit you, please," and another hit came, this time to his back. Gabe silently hoped that Sydney would come before Adam could do enough to him to make him frightening to her as the accident on the road had.

"What's going on out here?" Sydney asked as she came through the back sliding glass door. Back from her run and seeing that Adam's car was parked out in front of her house on the street with him nowhere in sight, she was alarmed.

"You're slave-bot just sucker punched me right in the eye," Adam said, standing over Gabe, who was lying on the ground, pleading not to be hit anymore. Her heart sank.

"No, it was an accident, he startled me and I whirled around. I did not mean to hit him," Gabe looked bad, laid out on the ground. Flesh was hanging and tore in the places where he had been hit. Sydney looked around, trying not to become nauseous or panicked. She saw a toppled over watering can about three feet away. Suddenly, a rage swept over her like nothing she had ever felt.

"What are you doing in my house, Adam? You know you aren't supposed to be here," Sydney said angrily. She began to see a bruise form around his eye.

"I just came by to see if it was true," he said.

"If what was true?" she asked.

"I wanted to know if you were fucking your robot. I heard through the grapevine he was rolling you pretty good," Adam said. Sydney looked down at Gabe, laying there helpless, then back to her ex-husband with such disbelief. She knew Carrie would tell him, because who else would she have to sympathize with over their argument? But she had no idea that anyone could have inferred so far into their relationship to see this for sure.

"Please, we need to get some ice on your eye or it'll-" Gabe was still trying to help Adam, still trying to serve out his purpose, even while he himself was hurt worst.

"No, I think we'll leave it how it is," he said. He then turned to Sydney, a grin forming across his face. "I'll see you in court."


29

After Adam left, Sydney helped Gabe back into the house.

"How are you feeling?" she asked, kneeling in front of him, very worried.

"I don't know, I think I am alright, though," he said. She remembered his heart and pushed up his shirt and saw the glowing orb in his chest had turned purple.

"You're heart is purple, Gabe," she said, her voice tightening. She sounded upset and he wasn't sure how to help her. "You, we, we need to get you to the maintenance place as soon as possible, you could be badly damaged inside from all of the blows," she said, the last word coming out broken and shaky. He wanted to comfort her, but she got up quickly and called his maintenance office. He could hear her telling them what was wrong and his orb's color. He then heard the secretary on the other end telling her to bring him in as soon as she could. With that, Sydney thanked her and hung up. She then grabbed her purse and keys. "We have to go, Gabe," she said. He got up, then stumbled a little. And this time, she caught him before he could hit the ground. "Come on, easy, just take it slow," she said, trying to sound as comforting and lovingly patient as he did when he had helped her, but there was something labored behind her voice, something that sounded very, very afraid.


30

Sydney took Gabe immediately to the place where he had to be taken when he got hit by the truck. Only this time, after explaining the situation in its entirety, they knew they could not fix him right away. Not if a lawsuit was about to come down.

"He really didn't mean to hit him, it was a knee-jerk reaction," she explained.

"And it probably was, given the nature and history of this synthetic, but we cannot take a chance on being blamed for destroying evidence," the repairer explained. Sydney nodded, but her face looked sad, helpless. "Look, we can get him charged and figure out why his orb core turned purple, but we cannot fix him up entirely. He's not like a human, so don't be too worried. Humans deteriorate when left uncared for or untreated, not synthetics. They don't worsen, they stay the same," he explained further. She relaxed, but only slightly.

She came back into the room where Gabe was, sitting on the edge of a waking bed. He looked okay, but the flesh around his eye was exposing the silvery metal beneath, giving him an eerie look when he looked at her. He saw her enter the room and turned his head quickly, trying to hide his face.

"Really, Gabe, it's alright, it doesn't bother me anymore," she said, sitting down next to him. He stayed turned away from her, though. "They say you're going to be alright as far as your injuries go. But they can't fix them until we see if there is going to be a lawsuit or not." She explained. Gabe groaned.

"You mean I have to stay this way for a while?" he said, sounding upset. There was a beat of silence in which she didn't quite know what to do. The truth was that she was frightened about what was going to become of him. She didn't want to lose him now. He meant the world to her. Suddenly, she grabbed his hand and held it between hers. He turned slightly and looked at their hands.

"I'm sorry, but it's only for a little while," she said, not even sure if it was the truth or not. All she knew was that she needed him to be here, to keep him as he was. Even if she couldn't have anyone else, she at least wanted Gabe with her. "Please look at me, Gabriel," she said. He sighed, then turned to her. And she didn't jump or startle or scream at his lightly battered appearance. She just looked on with love and need. The metal that held in his vision sensor, what looked on the outside to be an eye, but was nothing more than a sensor made to look like an eye to fit the appearance of being human, was exposed; as was a tear through the flesh of his cheek. She knew there were other places that were like that on his body, and it made her sick with frustration and anger that she could not let him be fixed.


31

Sydney received notice that there was a lawsuit pending against Gabriel for assaulting Adam. Her heart sank. She had so wished that it wouldn't have to happen like this. Carrie called several times, trying desperately to get a hold of her friend, to tell her that she was sorry for ever having told Adam. Sydney ignored her calls and deleted her messages without listening to them. She knew what Carrie had done and was not willing to forgive her.

Meanwhile, she kept Gabe powered down and charging as much as she could, tried to keep him off his feet. She eventually saw the rest of the damage on him when she helped him bathe after he came home. Something in her wished he was human, perhaps for the first time, so his body would start automatically repairing itself instead of staying in its condition. He hated staying in bed, not performing his purpose or at least being with her, but she begged him to rest, so he did. She seemed upset enough at the situation without him arguing with her. She often let him sleep with her, as her bed was bigger and more luxuriously furnished with pillows and blankets. He told her that it didn't make the difference to him, as he could not feel the difference, but he conceded all the same when she told him it would make her feel better. Even in his state of injury, he was still trying to make her as happy as he could.

One night, as she drifted in and out of sleep, teetering on the edge of finally falling for the night, Gabe pulled her closer. He didn't saying anything, but she knew what he meant. He was afraid too. As much as he claimed he could not feel emotion, nor pain or anguish, he was coming closer than most. He pressed his head sideways against her chest, his arms around her waist, and just lay perfectly quiet and still.

"What are you doing, Gabe?" she asked softly.

"Just trying to take in as much as possible," he said. She didn't ask anymore. She couldn't get the words out. She bit her lip and squeezed him back.


32

The trial was a bitter and frustrating back and forth between Sydney and Gabriel's side and Adam's. The judge looked on with forlorn eyes as Adam told his side first. Then it was Gabe's turn. And while humans generally stayed on the side of other humans, Sydney felt that the judge and jury truly heard Gabe.

It wasn't long before it was in the judge and jury's hands.

After the final day of testimony before deliberation of the jury came, Sydney took Gabe to the maintenance center. He was fixed, honed, and brought before her good as new, of course with all of his characteristics and memories in tact. When he walked out with her, it was happy and for a moment in time, Sydney thought that maybe, she was supposed to have him.

They made love for the first time since the incident with Adam.

Sydney was dressed in a rather revealing piece of lingerie. She stood in front of the bathroom mirror, making sure everything was perfect, and she wasn't sure exactly why. Gabe walked in, wearing only his pajama pants, no shirt. She turned around to look at him.

"Wow," he said, "You clean up good." She rolled her eyes and turned back around. "I'm kidding," he said, pulling her against him, looking at her in the reflection in the mirror, "You're beautiful, Sydney." He said, his lips brushing her ear as he spoke. A shiver went down the length of her body. His hands smoothed over the silky fabric of her slip, feeling her lean, fit body beneath it. As he stopped to cup her ass, he was taken aback a bit by the straps at her hips so obviously showing that she was wearing a thong. His eyes met hers in the mirror, a sparkle in his she only saw when he was…

"Not much here," he rasped in her ear. He kissed her behind the shell of her ear, holding her upper arms with his hands. She shivered again.

"Oh, Gabe, I need you," she groaned. And he didn't stop. He took a hold of her hips and brought her firmly against him. She gasped. "Gabe, please," He silenced her by dragging the hem of the slip up over her ass, sliding his hand up the back of her thigh, cupping her from behind. She gripped the edge of the sink, her legs growing shaky as he used the course lace of her panties to rub her where she had grown wet, stroking her clit. She moaned uncontrollably, her balance depending solely on the sturdiness of the sink.

"Spread your legs," he demanded. She hesitated. She had never seen him like this, so acutely and wonderfully passionate. "Now, Sydney." That was it, his secret weapon and he didn't even know it. All he had to do was say her name that way and she would do exactly what he wanted. His deep voice turned her on, bad. It always had. Just the sound of his voice made her nipples prick and her panties damp now. She spread her legs, allowing his fingers to slide past her soaked panties and slip inside her.

"Gabe," she moaned. Unbeknownst to her, he was watching her in the mirror, her every move. Her face flushed and expressions of the line between relief and torture danced across her delicate features. He watched the way her body writhed and responded to his touch. It was almost more than he could handle as the erection he summoned grew harder, hotter. "Gabe, oh god," she moaned, throwing her head back against his shoulder. He smiled, feeling her inner muscles clench around his invading fingers. It was the best thing in the world as far as he was concerned, watching her as she came. Gasping sobs wrenched out of her full, parted lips with each dizzying spasm of pleasure. It made him feel like a legitimate lover, a human man. And that was the point of no return.

"Watch me, Sydney," he rasped, slurring like he was drunk. Drunk off of her. She lifted her head and her eyes met his in the mirror. Her face was deeply flushed, the dewy sheen of sweat making her look younger than she was. Sly bent her over the sink, her back to him. He wrenched her panties down her long legs, lifting one foot, then the other. He put his hands on her legs, still looking straight into her honey brown eyes. "Wider," he demanded, and she obeyed, spreading her legs even further. He freed himself from his pants. He needed to be with her, to be inside her. He took her hands and placed them back on either side of the sink. "Hold on tight." She gasped as he spread her, nudging his hard cock just inside her wet labia until he was lodged in her tight opening. "Look into my eyes," he told her. "Watch."

She cried out at the slow surge of his body into hers, but she didn't look away. She couldn't take her eyes off of him. He was so damn handsome anyway, but in this vulnerable state, his eyes sparkled. He lost all control as he repeatedly drove his cock in and out of her hot, slick pussy. She couldn't believe it, but she was so close to coming again that she thought she would pass out. Her legs felt like jelly.

Gabe began bucking in and out of her, hard and rough and fast. This is what he wanted, what his body yearned for; this frantic, desperate, fiery coupling that would leave them both exhausted and spent. He couldn't escape her; she was a part of him now. He needed her. And he made love to her with all the ferocity of a man in love, slamming his hips forwards, the rough, slippery noises it made between them mortifyingly audible. They were both panting and moaning heavily for the great exertion they were both putting forth and the building pleasure they were each receiving in return. Although he couldn't come, and he only thrust harder, rougher, trying to find the connection of touch and feeling with emotion and what he felt for her. He then made the mistake of looking up at the mirror. Her eyes had never left him. She came again, her inner muscles clenching around him once more. But it wasn't even the exquisite tightening of her pussy around his cock that made him feel closer to her than he ever had. It was that unforgettable look in her eyes. Finally, he tired, holding her in the aftermath of her orgasm. He pressed his face between her shoulder blades, panting to keep his insides cooled.

When he finally released her and she turned, he lifted her weakened body and carried her to bed.

That night, even though everything had felt right, everything was in place and when he locked his arms around her waist from behind and held her tight, she knew it was not going to last. Something about it just felt like goodbye. But she slept anyway, in her synthetic lover's arms, wishing that they could both wake up and be safe from everyone's judgment.


33

The following day was the proverbial and literal judgment day. Sydney and Gabe both knew what was at stake. If the ruled in favor of Gabe, he would be left as he was and would be free to continue his existence with Sydney. If they ruled in favor of Adam, then Sydney would be ordered to have his memory wiped clean and any damaged or worn wiring be replaced to prevent any dangerous or violent behavior from then on. This is what she feared. What if something had been wrong, slightly off, and that was why Gabe behaved and thought the way he did? She was afraid that when his brain was wiped, that she would lose him the way he was, that they would never be close again. And there was always the scenario in which they would order him destroyed all together. She wasn't sure which fate would be worst.

They stood before the judge, all three of them. Sydney stood close to Gabe without holding his hand or touching him in anyway. She didn't want to be judged as unhealthy, thereby altering the judge's opinion or ruling anymore.

"Syn A 1901, named by one Sydney Lin Grey, Gabriel, would you step forward?" the judge asked. He did, standing perfectly tall and handsome. Sydney didn't like being away from him for this part, but she knew how it would look if she got upset even before the judgment had been made. So she stood silently, alone, trying desperately to keep her arms from folding protectively over her chest. "This was a very hard case to deliberate, and I hope that all parties involved understand that while this was not an easy decision to come to, that it is the necessary one." Sydney felt her chest tighten, knowing how it sounded. "Syn A 1901, Gabriel, I find you guilty of assault and battery. You have violated your very creed and promise to never hurt a human. The element of surprise that brought you to this act does not warrant innocence in this matter. If you were human, it may, but you're senses should be high enough that you should have heard Mr. Grange enter the house long before he came up to you and the incident happened. I have looked at your file and programming stats and it shows that you were in perfect working condition and that a few months ago, you suffered an accident in which you were hit by a car and throw nearly twenty feet away. That is quite a throw. It says that after the accident that you were repaired, but the stats are a little off. It leaves a doubt in my mind whether or not you were entirely fixed when you were returned to the home of your master. Because of these factors, I have no choice but to find you guilty." A heavy wave of nausea swept over Sydney. She locked her legs into place so that she would not swoon, although she didn't know what good it would do now. "I order your master, Ms. Sydney Lin Grey, to have your memory wiped and your body fully repaired and certain things replaced. You will have five days to complete this task." Her heart felt like it had come up in her throat. She wanted to cry, to scream. She felt the heat of anger and anguish simultaneously rise in her cheeks and make her feel dizzy. How? How could they take him away from her? She sank down into the seat behind her, covering her mouth with her hand. Gabe turned and looked at her as the courtroom began to clear. He saw the insurmountable pain swimming in the tears brimming in her eyes. He came to her and sat down beside her, not sure how to comfort her now. She was upset and hurt by what the judge had rendered and he understood fully well what the punishment entailed. He would be gone and who knew if his personality and manner as it was now would return if she kept his body alive and serving her. He wasn't sure how to deal with such a huge thing as this, but he could see that Sydney, his dear, sweet, loving Sydney was hurt and afraid of what was happening.

"Come on Sydney, let us go home for now, we have five days," he said, reaching for her hand. She didn't flinch back from his touch, but she didn't accept it either as she usually did with a squeeze from her own hand. She couldn't. "Please, Sydney," he pleaded. He was getting frightened, wishing that she would just answer him. Instead she sat there, lifeless and quiet. He wanted to kneel before her and wrap his arms around her. He wanted anything that would make her feel even the slightest bit better. But he couldn't find anything comforting enough in his memory. Finally, she stood up and smoothed down her suit coat and turned to leave the courtroom. Almost everyone had gone, except Adam and Carrie. Sydney hadn't even noticed that Carrie was there. And with the task at hand, she wasn't sure she even cared. Gabe got up and followed her.

"Sydney, please, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to-" Carrie ran up to her friend, trying to plead with her, to beg her forgiveness. But Sydney only stood there, looking down at the ground. Her face was set, frozen in its cold, dead expression. She couldn't even look at her. She could only stand and listen. And when Carrie finally gave up, she walked on without saying a word.

"Don't even try, she's too far gone over the tin man over there," Adam said, now more like he knew that he had won and was proud of it. And for a moment, both Gabe and Sydney thought she might say something in return. But instead, she stopped and Gabe came up beside her, putting an arm around her back and supporting her as they walked out of the room. She grabbed a hold of his shirt with one hand and laid her head on his shoulder.

Gabe drove them home, careful and slower than usual. Sydney didn't notice.

"I'm sorry, Gabriel," she said, her voice smooth and sincere. She then put her face in her hands and began to cry. He was just pulling into her house when she began sobbing. He put the car into park and put his arms around her, kissing the top of her head repeatedly. "I'm so sorry," she sobbed like a little girl. "I'm sorry," and he held her for a long time. He felt sad inside, he knew it because when her body shook with her sobs, something in the core of his chest felt aching and hollow, but heavy at the same time. When he finally got her inside, he carried her upstairs. He undressed her, then himself, then bathed her. There was nothing sexual about it, yet it was so sensual and loving that she felt herself drowning in it.

And when he was done, he carried her to her bed, put her in, and crawled in behind her. This time, the slept facing each other. They held each other, but did not make love on this night. It wasn't necessary. They both knew they loved each other and that was all that mattered.


34

The next day, she took him in to the deactivation wing of the place where he had been created, awakened, repaired, and now was being deactivated. He understood her need not to wait. Goodbyes weren't necessary. It wasn't like he was going to be able to remember her saying it. He wouldn't remember her at all. She would be the only one who would get to remember this time of loving and hurting. She didn't want five days to suffer with the fact that she had to give him up, and he didn't want her to suffer at all over him. It didn't seem fair, and would yet again, defeat the purpose of his existence.

The ride to the place was silent, as was the walk to the room where they would irrevocably take him away, in essence. She sat on the bed next to him, silent, and he wasn't sure what to say.

"This is my fault, Gabe, all mine," she said, on the verge of tears.

"No," he said, getting of the bed and kneeling before her. He placed his hands on the outsides of both of her thighs. "No, Sydney, it is not your fault. I loved you, I wanted you to love me and you wanted me to love you. There was nothing wrong with that and that is not why we are here. This is happening because of an ignorant lapse of character and a man who wants nothing more than to make you unhappy. We are not to blame." He said. He kissed her knees, then took her hands and kissed them as well. Tears ran down her face and dripped down to her knees. He looked at the little beads of moisture on her knees and was fixed on them momentarily. He then wiped them with his thumbs as his hands held on her thighs.

"I love you and I am sorry that I wasn't there to prevent this," she said. "You are the love of my life and I will miss you everyday." She said.

"Will you keep my body and have it reactivated?" he asked.

"No, I don't think so," she said. "I never really needed the help. I only needed the company, truthfully." He smiled.

"Good," he said, because the truth was that he really didn't want her to have another synthetic. He didn't know where such a selfish thought could have come from, but he knew that he couldn't handle the idea of her having another one like him around, caring for her and perhaps even falling in love with her as he had, even though it would still be his body. It was never really about the bodies and their couplings. It was about the meeting of the minds, and how they had interacted and simulated each other. The programmers came in. Gabe turned momentarily, then returned to her. He stood to his full height and she followed. He wrapped his arms around her this last time and she pushed her mouth to his, not caring what anyone thought. Not here, not in this moment, in the wake of his death. And he kissed her back, holding her tightly. Then, pulled back and away. "It's time," he said. She wrapped her arms around herself tightly around her middle, biting her lip, trying not to begin crying hysterically. He lay down on the bed. He would be gone within the hour.


35

"Did you want to have him reactivated? He would be good as when he first walked out of here, maybe better," the programmer whom she had first spoken with when she was laying out the specs for him.

"No," she said. "I know this sounds crazy, but I want his body to remain deactivated and I want to bury him like a human." She said, bracing for the laughter that should surely follow such a statement. But the programmer just looked at her, nodding.

"That's not as crazy as you may think," he said.

"Really?"

"The more human-like we make them, the harder it is for their masters and families to let them go. Especially ones with children who have grown up with them. It is the price we pay for more advanced technology," he explained. "His body will be released to you to do with as you wish. I am sorry it had to end like this for you and Gabriel. It is unfortunate." Sydney nodded.

"Thank you for understanding," she said. "You know, it's better this way, really, because Gabe was so worried about me dying before him. He told me once that he would be devastated when I went. He actually cried silver tears. He asked me what would happen to him when I died and when I asked him what he would want to be done, he said that he would want to go with me. The only reason he's gone now it because he could not defend himself, it was not in his nature to hurt another human, and he slipped. Had he been human, you know he would still be here, perhaps even have gotten off without anything happening to him." She looked up at the man. "I'm sorry, I don't know why I felt the need to explain that to you."

"Synthetics are only as synthetic as we make them. Yours was more human than not and he suffered for it. I only wish he could have been saved," he said. She smiled a little smile of understanding.

"Thank you for your time," Sydney said. The man shook her hand and filled out the papers for Gabriel's release to her.

She did have him buried, in a cemetery not far from her home. She ran past it often, panting, slowing a little to look at it with it's double headstone. He lay to one side, and one day, she would lie next to him again.