Tom Purdom





The legs had been the first modification.  The thing didn’t need legs.  He lived in an apartment with good elevator service.  Wheels would do fine.

“There are still venues in which visitors have to access stairs,” the selection adviser had said.

The selection adviser had been a Thing, too.  It looked like a competent, slightly overweight woman in her fifties but it was a thing just like the thing they were giving him.  They probably had fifty selection adviser modes stashed in a store room.  Give Mr. Largen Number Twenty-eight.  His psychometrics indicate his comfort state maximizes with mature knowledgeable females.

“I’ve cataloged my routine,” Morry said.  “Wheels will be fine.”

The face had been the biggest battleground.  Morry would have opted for a square metal box with sensors and a loudspeaker if they’d let him.  Like the robots in most of the comic books he’d read as a kid.  But without the sappy friendly look.

“Facial expressions are an important aspect of emotional communication,” the selection adviser advised.  “They can communicate, for example, the difference between a minor disruption and a true emergency.”

So he accepted the need for a fully flexible “skin”.  They wouldn’t budge on that.  But he rejected every offering that simulated a human face, male or female.  Cutesy cartoon faces got eleven vetoes before the adviser decided he really was going to reject the entire category.  Uniforms, robes, and various forms of historic and unhistoric costumes received the same treatment.

A ninja model tempted him for a few seconds.  Black all over.  Half the face covered.  A reminder the thing could be lethal.

“You are rejecting any feature that might encourage emotional bonding,” the selection advisor said.  “Is that true?”

“It’s a thing.  A machine.  That’s all it is.”

“Most recipients find that a degree of emotional bonding increases their overall satisfaction with the relationship.”

“It’s a machine.  You’re a machine.  I’m not looking for a friend.  I already have friends.”

So there it was.  A shiny column planted on a flat platform with four oversized wheels.  Three tentacles with metal hands.  A square half-size “head”.  Two lenses that looked like camera lenses.  A square speaker with a grill.

“Your name is Clank,” Morry said.  “You will call me Mr. Largen.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Largen.”

The “skin” over the forehead could contract into a frown.  The “cheeks” could swell or redden.  But it couldn’t smile.  There was no danger it would smile.


The woman who lived two doors down the hall, Georgia Coleman, called her thing Elly.  She had opted for a facade that made it look like a tall bodyguard—like the kind of trim, alert women who hovered around presidents and junketing cabinet secretaries.  Georgia went out a lot.  And Elly always went with her.

Elly paid the cab driver.  Elly helped her up stairs.  Elly stayed near her in the lady’s room.  Elly’s hands could deliver shocks.  Elly could kick and punch.  And squirt the spray she carried in her shoulder holster.

“Like a guard dog you don’t have to feed,” Morry had told Georgia.

Georgia smiled.  “Elly’s a little smarter than a dog, Morry.”

“And she talks to you.”

“Right now she’s teaching me how to play chess.  Have you ever played chess, Morry?  We started out playing backgammon but I got tired of that after a month.  Chess is something else.  I could spend the rest of my life studying the Sicilian Defense.”


Copyright 2012 by Tom Purdom. All rights reserved. This document may be printed out and archived for personal use. All other use is strictly prohibited.

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