BY CARL PERRIN
Copyright is held by the author.
I find these things, these creatures, these homunculi — I don’t know what to call them — disgusting, unnatural, an affront to God. I can’t stand to be around them. They’re not human, but they’re more than a machine. They’re weird, bizarre, creepy.
I am doomed to be stuck with one of these creatures. It is — or was? — my business partner, Alex Petrovich. Alex was the creative genius behind our enterprise, and I was the public face. I sold the various products that Alex invented and made the company run. Even before Alex’s transformation, he was a weird duck. When he was working on one of his projects, he would spend weeks in his laboratory — he pronounced it lab o? a trie — he wouldn’t change his clothes or shower. He didn’t want to talk to anyone. If I absolutely had to talk to him, he would answer in monosyllables.
His last venture was the Immortality Project. His goal was to achieve everlasting life for himself. He had created an android body that would host his mind when the time came. Ironically the host body didn’t look anything like the real Alex. Where Alex was short and flabby, the host was tall and robust. It looked like a matinee idol. Alex was weird looking, even when his face wasn’t twisted into a monstrous grimace as he concentrated on one of his projects.
We were a successful team, with his creative ideas coupled with my sales ability. We made a lot of money. We were both multimillionaires. But I was tired of it. I was 56 years old, never had time to marry or start a family. I wanted to retire and sit in the sun in Florida. Beside it was not easy being a partner to such an antisocial person as Alex. Except for driving a new Porsche every year, his only real indulgence, he just wanted to sit in his lab o? a trie and invent things. The other indulgence was his lab assistant. It was always a blonde with big boobs.
When I told my partner that I wanted to quit, he vetoed it. You see, he has something on me.
First when I met Alex, we were both in our 30s. I was impressed with his ideas and inventions. I proposed that we go into a partnership to manufacture some of his concepts. I was sure we could make a lot of money.
“The problem,” he said, “is we would need almost a hundred thousand to start.”
“Let me see if I can raise it,” I said.
He smiled that strange half-smile of his that I would see so often over the years.
I quickly found that no one was going to lend that kind of money to two unknowns, but I had another plan. I worked for the Waynwright Corporation at the time. I was able to set up a separate account and deducted two or three cents from every transaction for that account. Even I was surprised how quickly it added up. In less than six months I had the money. I closed the special account, covered my tracks, and quit the job.
No one ever discovered how I had acquired the money, no one except Alex. I didn’t tell him: he just knew. I never figured out how he knew. He was really brilliant and knew all kinds of things. Although he never knew how to act around or talk to people, he had lots of insights into what went on in people’s minds.
When I told him I had raised the money, he got that weird half smile that usual meant he was onto something.
So, when I told him I wanted to retire, he just said, “I don’t want you to retire, Max.” He didn’t threaten to blackmail me or make any reference to my embezzlement. But I knew he had me.
He just went back to his it lab o? a trie and continued working on his venture, the Immortality Project. He already had the android in place. The next step was to download all of his memory into a neuralink. Then when it was time, he would transfer the neuralink to the android’s hard drive.
I was a slave to this madman. I would never be able to retire. I would have to work for him, for the company until I literally dropped in my tracks. I had to do something.
I decided to use one of his own inventions against him. It was called OverRide. With that gadget, I could take control of the computer in his Porsche. While he was driving, I could speed the car up to one hundred miles an hour and take control of the steering wheel away from the driver. The car hit a bridge abutment, and Alex died in the accident.
The next morning, I tried to assume a sad face when I went to work and told the employees that Alex had died in a tragic accident. The one who was most upset was Molly, his lab assistant. She burst into tears and then said, “Mr. Petrovich told me just what to do.”
Before I could stop her, she ran into Alex’s laboratory and locked herself in. A couple of hours later Molly came out with this monster, the android who supposedly had all of Alex’s memory.
The thing held up its hand until everyone was silent. “Thank you for your kind thoughts,” it said. “I am going to be able to continue where the other Alex left. Today I am going to take the day off and buy a new Porsche. Tomorrow it’s back to the lab o? a trie for me.”
It turned to me and shook my hand. “I’m glad you’re going to stay with me, Max.” Was it my imagination, or did I see Alex strange half smile on the android’s face?
Then he and Molly walked out the door.