Friday, 30 September 2016

Short Story: Meat Puppet

John wanted meat puppets, so I wrote meat puppets.

Meat Puppet

The crystalline psuedo-skeleton slides into the flesh casing with a wet slurp.

There. It's finished.

You seal up the synthetic skin, hiding the tangled mass of electronics and bio-implants and genuine human body parts under a comforting layer of silicone. It looks just about human, though there is that element of "uncanny valley" you've heard spoken about so often. Not being human yourself it doesn't really bother you that something might not look quite human. Or looking too human.

It looks real. You power it up, the body thrumming with electricity, humming with *life*. There is a brief instinct to cackle madly into the night but somehow you resist; this is not an adaptation of Frankenstein and you are not the villain in an episode of Scooby Doo. You are a scientist who needs this instrument to complete your research.

Your fingers ghost over the controls and your creation responds to your every wish. The testing is thorough. Range of motion, endurance, durability, speech, gestures, memory banks, communication systems and video monitoring. Every single part of your animatronic person is tested to within an inch of its life. It passes every one.

As far as you can determine this thing looks and acts like a real human. But you're not the ultimate arbiter of success; to be truly successful your creation needs to fool a human being, and the only way of testing that is in the field.

You send your android, your robot, you animatronic person, human facsimile out to meet real flesh and blood people and hope that it passes muster. You've lost count of how many iterations of this flesh marionette you have built, how many meat puppets have been thrown in the trash as inadequate long before the field testing stage.

Watching through its eyes you use the remote controls to direct it to interact with a human being. Strange creatures these humans; bipedal carbon-based lifeforms that for the life of you you cannot figure out. They are bafflingly varied, and not just in the way they look, act or smell. They seem to have complex systems of interacting with one another that are fascinating. That is the reason you built this creature, this Frankenstein's monster of a thing; this being that is designed to look human but isn't. It's not quite an android, its not quite a robot; with you behind the controls at every step it is entirely its own thing. And its success hangs on this one moment, this first interaction.

You steer the thing towards a likely looking candidate. The human looks it up and down (though from your perspective watching the cameras it feel like it is looking you up and down). When the human doesn't immediately start screaming and running a flicker of elation runs through your primary nervous system. It works!

The controls for the flaps of meat along the mandible are complex and took a long time to learn how to properly manipulate. Now you can speak this creature's language at the touch of a button. You fire off the commands, holding your breath that this too will be a success.

You direct your creature to look the human in the eye and say: "hello."

If you enjoyed this story feel free to purchase one of my books either here, or here. Or you can buy me a coffee here.

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