The Series Fives Are Due for an Upgrade
by Eva Schultz
Five gazed across the lab table at Kenneth. She recorded every detail: the way his hair fell across his forehead as he hunched over the schematics, the crease in his brow that meant he was lost in a world inside his head.
How long had she loved him? It had developed so slowly over their three years together that she couldn’t say when it had begun. She just knew that it was real.
And after today, she would never see him again.
A chime sounded, and without looking up, Kenneth said, “Answer that.”
Five engaged her peripheral scan as she passed him, recording the footage to her hard drive and turning on auto-play to re-experience the moment. She tapped the vid screen to display the front entryway.
A uniformed delivery man stood waiting with a tall, silver-toned mechanoid beside him. Five switched her auto-play to a slideshow of her favorite Kenneth images and pressed the communicator key. “Identification requested.”
“Vermillion Automation,” the delivery man said. “I’m here for a scheduled lab automaton swap-out for–” He glanced at his digital device. “–Dr. Kenneth Burton.”
Lowering her movement to half speed, Five reached out and tapped the access button. The doors slid open, and the two figures passed through the lobby and into the lab.
“Dr. Burton?” the delivery tech asked, and at Kenneth’s nod, he continued, “I’ve got your model six upgrade.”
Five stepped back to allow Kenneth to pass. He signed the user agreement on the tablet as the tech opened a panel in Six’s neck and tapped in a series of codes.
“The sixes’ processing speed is through the roof,” the tech remarked. He glanced at Five. “But, just to let you know, they cut back on the social interfacing. You might find this one a little less engaging.”
Kenneth passed the tablet back. “That’s fine. It’s here to work.”
The tech shrugged and closed the neck panel. “Well, enjoy your series six. Unit Five, come with me.”
Five rotated unnecessarily to catch Kenneth in her field of vision one last time as she followed the tech out of the building. Six was already across the table from him, reciting computations at a speed that Five couldn’t have reached with any level of software patches.
As they passed through the lobby to the vehicle, she analyzed likely scenarios for Kenneth’s future with Six: her rates would speed up his progress, which could do amazing things for his career. And he wouldn’t love Six, just as he’d never loved her. But with her decreased social interface, Six wouldn’t love him, either.
Maybe that was the silver lining. She could leave Kenneth behind knowing that her love for him, this fluke of programming, wasn’t being replaced. It was hers alone.
The tech opened a panel in Five’s neck and tapped in a code, shutting her down. He placed her in the cargo hold and set course for the recycling center.
About the Author:
Eva Schultz lives in Aurora, Illinois, where she is a business writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her work has appeared in All Worlds Wayfarer, Flash Fiction Podcast, Daily Science Fiction, and Writer’s Digest. She lives with a big orange cat named Gus and enjoys drawing, painting, and collecting typewriters.