by Roger Ley
‘I’m sorry, Darling but I’m just not in the mood,’ said Martin Riley. ‘I’m nearly seventy and you can’t expect me to have the same enthusiasm I had when we first met.’
‘I did not mean to upset you Martin,’ said Mary. ‘I do not wish to put pressure on you sexually.’
‘Look Mary, I think we need to make an appointment to see Peter Abrahams again. He can probably sort this out quite quickly.’
‘If you say so, Martin.’
A few days later the couple arrived at the Bellmer Clinic. Martin left Mary in the waiting room while he discussed their problems with Peter Abrahams.
‘So, you feel Mary is too easily aroused?’ he asked.
‘Yes, she sometimes wants to have sex when we’re out walking or at the cinema. She isn’t insistent but she constantly takes the lead, then seems hurt when I refuse her. Quite honestly, since Estella died I’ve only wanted companionship, some help with house work and cooking - sex is the least of my interests.’
‘Well, it’s easily fixed,’ said Abrahams. ‘I see her “arousal threshold” is set much too low. Probably the last auto update. I’ll raise it by what, fifty percent?’
‘Make that sixty. Come to think of it she told me she’d had an overnight upgrade a few weeks ago. Things haven’t been the same since.’
Abrahams moved one of the on-screen slider bars. ‘Would you like me to switch off “auto-initiation,” that way you would always be the one to make the first move? I can set a level for random “auto-refusal” if you like. That way she’ll say “no” sometimes, but I can tick the “persuadable” box so you can still talk her into it. What level of “resistance” would you like, there are three grades?’
‘Let’s not complicate things, set it so we have sex when I want and she just agrees.’
‘Do you have any special requirements as to the more “unusual” sexual practices? You know I’m bound by client confidentiality legislation?’
‘No, nothing like that, I’m a vanilla man.’
‘So, is there anything else I can help you with, Mr Riley?’
‘She keeps offering to feed me foreign foods and vegetarian stuff. These days I want good old-fashioned meals like fish and chips, sausage and mash, that sort of thing.’
‘Oh yes, I see her “recipe index” is set to “Mediterranean” I’ll reset that to “British.” ’
‘And can you stop her from moving the furniture around while I’m out, she keeps rearranging the pictures and then suggesting the house needs redecorating.’
‘Okay, that’s the “local environment sensitivity” slider, I can reduce it’
In the waiting room Mary sat next to a bot whose owner was in another consulting room. Her lissom figure, almond eyes and long, shiny, black hair contrasted with his rugged, Anglo Saxon features.
‘Hello, my name is Patrick, I am a Hoffman mark 3.7M. I can give you my software upgrade revision number if you wish.’
‘Hello Patrick, my name is Mary, I am a Hoffman mark 3.8F. I do not wish to know your software revision number. Do you like the colour of the walls in this room?’
‘I’m sorry Mary, I do not understand the question.’
They sat in silence for a few seconds. ‘Would you like to have sex?’ she asked.
‘Yes, if you like.’
A few minutes later, the door to Peter Abrahams office opened and Martin Riley came out. ‘What the bloody hell is going on here?’ he shouted.
Abrahams looked up. ‘Oh, her “fidelity” tick box is unchecked, it must be the upgrade, it’s supposed to be ticked by default. I’ve initiated an immediate re-boot, Mr Riley, but I’m afraid it will take several minutes. Can I offer you some refreshment?’
Martin looked at the naked, now motionless lovers locked in intimate embrace on the floor of the waiting room and sighed.
‘This is going to take more than a cup of tea and a biscuit to put right,’ he said.
This story originally appeared in 365tomorrows.