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Del Gets A Cyber-Clone!
A Short Story By
Delius Cranston, Del to his friends, was ecstatic when he looked past the shabby curtain of what was effectively his ‘front’ window. He lived on the second floor of an apartment building with four levels, and his placement front and slightly right of center put his window in a direct line with 41st Street. He’d heard the double honk just a few seconds earlier, and lo and behold, the Astor Manufacturing delivery van was out there waiting for him.
Excited as hell, Del snatched the filter mask from his bookshelf and ran out the door. Del ran back just as fast, though, because if he didn’t shut the door the flies would be streaming in to watch TV with him. It wasn’t that Del or his immediate neighbors were pigs or anything. The damned flies would always travel from the ground floor stairwell up to the landing on his floor, where they socialized, procreated and hovered about until, well, until they croaked and he had to sweep the tiny remains away before they got stuck on the bottom of his shoes.
Del was a black man in his early thirties, thirty-two to be exact. In that day and age, an excited black man couldn’t just run full gallop toward a delivery van. A security drone might spot him and give him the electro-shock until a UN police-soldier came by to investigate. To prevent giving the impression of criminal potentiality, Del forced himself to slow down and he jogged out to the sidewalk instead of running like a looter, or worse, like a protester.
The deliveryman and his co-rider were Latino and Negro, respectively, and they both had their masks on. When they saw Del’s approach, they took out their little cans of pepper spray and pointed them at him.
“Hey, hey!” Del held his hands up in surrender. “I’m the guy you’re delivering to!”
“Delius Cranston?” The driver asked.
“That’s me.” Del nodded.
“Hold up your right hand for verification.” The helper said.
Once Del’s hand was up, the helper used a scanner to read Del’s implanted Microsoft chip. The scanner beeped and showed a green light.
“It’s him.” The helper confirmed.
“Good to meet you, Mr. Cranston.” The driver changed his tone. “We can’t take any risks over being robbed. You know how it is. Please respect our social distancing.”
“Yeah, I do know how it is.” Del replied. “I had a woman spitting on the computer terminals the other day at my job. The soldier-cops came by and she spit on them too, until they pulled out their shockers. They shut her up right-quick!”
“She rode the lightning, huh?” The driver grinned.
“Man, they pronged her in the head!” Del remembered, causing both of his listeners to wince. “That bitch did the electric bugaloo for like five minutes!”
“You didn’t get that on video, did you?” The driver asked.
“Hell yes, I did!” Del grinned. “Live-Star! Open link your phones and I’ll send it to you.”
For the next few minutes, all three of them watched and laughed at the woman writhing on the ground.
“In-tense!” The helper said.
“I’ll second that.” The driver nodded. “Well, Mr. Cranston...”
“Call me Del.”
“Del, you know why we’re here. We are delivering an Astor model 600-X cyber-clone, female model. Jinx, will you have Del sign our electro-doc while I open up the back?”
Del remembered the commercial for that specific model. The closing scene showed the spokesman smiling and saying, the X stands for Sex!
In a short while, the deliverymen pulled out a large white box on a hospital-style stretcher with collapsible legs. For a second, the box looked like a coffin. Once it was set upright it looked like a refrigerator.
“You’re on the second floor, huh?” The driver frowned. “How about we open her up right here, instead of lugging this box up those stairs. Do you have a problem with any of your neighbors knowing you ordered a cyber-clone?”
“No.” Del shook his head, but he did look around to see who else was outside. Very few people were thanks to the stiff $1000 fines the sightseers were saddled with nowadays. “We can do things out here, no problem.”
“If you open-link, I’ll forward the manual to you.” The helper said. “You know the basics, right?”
“Yes, I do.” Del confirmed. “She eats and drinks, but only about half as much as normal people. She goes to the bathroom and she needs rest.”
“Good.” The driver said, undoing the security locks on the box and swinging its door open. “There she is.”
Del had ordered his clone to look like a black woman, slender with a handsome face and good figure, but no exaggerated curves like some people wanted. She was dressed in a simple white robe. “I have to ask this. The black men that order cyber-clones, do they choose a white clone or a black one?”
The driver deferred the question to the helper.
“It’s about half and half.” Jinx nodded. “Only about eight percent of blacks order something other than black or white, like Asian or Hispanic. The strangest one I’ve seen is a black man ordering a male Indian clone. That’s a little too freaky for me!”
“It sounds freaky.” Del replied.
“Hispanics order Hispanic clones.” The driver shrugged. “95% of the time, anyway. The toughest orders to fill are for white women. They can’t make up their fucking minds. They want this and that color clone every other week. Maybe we should make a rainbow-colored clone! I bet that will make them happy!”
For the next quarter hour, the deliverymen-slash-technicians tested the clone’s brain waves, awareness and physical reaction times. They ran the speech testing three separate times, but the clone only spoke in a monotone drone.
“I ordered the Southern Drawl plug-in.” Del said, frowning.
Unfortunately, the driver was frowning too. “I don’t think the factory installed the right module. It’s not showing up on the software bundle. I think she’s basic.”
“Can’t you just download the software?”
“Not that easy.” The driver answered. “A drawl uses different parts of the throat and mouth. We have a special module that handles it. We’re going to have come back in a day or two to take care of that.”
“What?” Del scoffed. “You can’t leave her like that! She sounds like a schoolteacher! Every time she starts talking I’m going to fall asleep!”
“We could set her on Silent Mode, where she won’t speak at all.” The driver shrugged.
“Hold on, bruh.” Jinx said. “Maybe we have a spare module in here somewhere.” The helper jumped into the back of the van and began going through boxes. “I think we’ve got one in here that somebody used as an April Fool’s joke! Here we go!”
The driver looked dubious.
“What is she going to sound like?” Del wondered.
“I don’t know.” Jinx said. “It says Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. I’ve never heard of her. Anybody know who that is?”
“No.” Del said.
“We can look her up on the Net.” The driver suggested, before he checked his phone. “Wait, we have to get going to the next call soon. The junior college is having another malfunction with their baby triplets.”
“Baby cyber-clones?” Del inquired.
“For their baby-raising classes. The students keep feeding them weird things like frogs.”
“Let’s just install the module and go.” The helper said. “If Del doesn’t like it, we’re going to come back out in a couple of days anyway to put the new module in. Whatever this Elvira voice sounds like, it has to be better than monotone, right?”
The driver scanned the device’s ID number. “It’s not just a voice, it’s an entire personality module. It’s a complete character that somebody custom ordered.”
“Del, this will give you another choice.” The helper informed the unhappy man. “You can go with the monotone, you can listen to her as Elvira, or you can just tell her to go silent.”
Both deliverymen were looking at him now.
“Yeah, you can install it.” He nodded. “Sure, why not?”
“The special order stuff is really expensive.” Jinx said. “After paying all that money, I wonder why the customer didn’t want the module.”
“People are picky.” The driver shrugged. “The person who ordered it probably got exactly what they wanted. Somebody else in the house must have hated the gag and here we are.”
Del had to look the other way when the techs installed the module. They had to open up the brain portion and get beneath all the processors of what otherwise looked like a real person.
(Continued in next post.)