The girl approached Malcolm and taking his hand in hers intoned in a soft musical voice “Darkling I listen; and for many a time I have been half in love with easeful death, called him soft names in many a mused rhyme, to take into the air my quiet breath; now more than ever seems it rich to die, to cease upon the midnight with no pain, while thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad in such an ecstasy! Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain – to thy high requiem become a sod”.
The audience, hard bitten venture capitalists all, gaped with wonder at this beautiful girl with her long blonde hair falling in cascades down her back, at her deep blue eyes and her slender figure.
“OK Professor, the jokes over. Who is this young lady? What is her name?” asked the chairman of the board, Sir Steven Carter.
Professor Steel smiled indulgently and speaking in a manner which he usually reserved for his more obtuse students said “As I explained at the start of this demonstration the lady you see before you is Becky the first ever truly intelligent robot. Becky is designed for the discerning gentleman, for the man who wants to be around a beautiful and intelligent lady but who, for whatever reason is not in (or does not wish to be in) a relationship with a flesh and blood female. Imagine the potential of this invention gentlemen. No more need for the man of means to wine and dine a girl, buy her expensive presents and (god forbid actually marry her)! If you gentlemen can come up with the finance then your company will be world famous. Imagine being known as the firm who launched the first ever artificial woman of culture!”
A hand was raised “Yes, the gentleman at the back of the room with the red tie and white shirt”. “Can she er … I mean can Becky do other things”. The Professor smiled (he smiled a lot but the smile never reached his eyes), “Indeed she can. Becky has a very convincing set of female organs all of which are in perfect working order. Even gentlemen of culture have their needs and Becky is designed to cater to your, sorry I mean their every whim”.
“I want one” said the chairman. “I’ve often wished to switch off my wife and now this robot has come along it is, at long last possible for me to do just that”! Miss Mortimer the only female board member looked daggers at the chairman who vissibly shrank in his seat and coloured deeply, “I was only joking, no offence meant” he mumbled turning as red as the curtains which flanked the stage on which the Professor stood.
Another hand was raised. It was that of Malcolm Fisher the journalist who had been the recipient of Becky’s attentions. “Yes Sir, the gentleman with the press pass sitting in the front row”. “Isn’t there something sacrilegious about Becky?” “Sacrilegious, what do you mean?” Malcolm thought of Jane, of how they’d walk for hours in the countryside. One day, as dusk was falling the song of a nightingale had reach their ears. Jane’s eyes had become moist and turning to Malcolm she said “It’s to beautiful, I want to cry and she quoted those self-same words that that “thing” had just intoned. He’d taken Jane in his arms and softly kissed away the tears from her gentle brown eyes. With a jolt Malcolm pulled himself back to the present, the Professor was staring expectantly at him. “I don’t know how to put it accept to say that this invention seems to have crossed some line. Once we have crossed the Rubicon who knows what will happen”. The Professor suppressed a sigh, “My dear sir man is but a machine. He takes in food to fuel his body and his very mind is but a highly intricate mechanism for processing thoughts and emotions. Becky is a machine, why should not two machines come together. This invention will enhance the sum of human happiness by enabling those who can not find (or do not want for whatever reason to find) a human companion and from the perspective of you gentlemen it will to borrow a phrase mean “loads of money”!
“Well Professor we are certainly very interested in your invention. I’ll discuss it with the board but I’m sure that you will be hearing from us in the very near future. Many thanks for your informative presentation” said the Chairman.
As he left the building those words of Keat’s popped into Malcolm’s head “As though of hemlock I had drunk”. “I need a drink” he thought turning his steps in the direction of the nearest pub but perhaps not hemlock.
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