Created for Christmas – Novella Update

Throughout this month (October) I shared my Christmas Novella: Created for Christmas. As of November 1st, I had to take it down to prevent being in violation of my contract with Amazon. (The story publishes November 15th.)

Thank you all for your support! If you didn’t get finished reading the story, you can grab a copy HERE. Also, for new arrivals, the first chapter is posted below.

But, I have some exciting news for all of you who read it! I had many people interested in Ivory and Ethan’s story, so I’m in the process of writing Validated by Valentine’s. It’s up on Amazon now and you can pre-order HERE it if you like.

Sweet Little Holiday Romance Series

 

Created for Christmas:

December 5th: Twenty-Two Days until Christmas

Chapter 1

In the tiny Dream Droids’ waiting room, my hands fiddled with the hem of my skirt. After two years of contemplating an artificial companion, I gathered the nerve and gave myself a Christmas present.

The door opened on the far corner, and a thin man with dark rimmed glasses and light brown hair stuck his head out. His ice-blue eyes caught mine, causing my heart to pick up speed. “Ivy Weldon?” he asked.

I dropped the hem of my skirt and grabbed the bag containing my dad’s Christmas gift that rested beside my chair. I had swung by the comic bookstore next door before this meeting, not expecting to find the perfect present. I slung the bag’s handle over my arm, smoothed out my skirt with the other hand, and crossed the room, trying to ensure I looked presentable. “Yeah, that’s me. Are you Dr. Pierce?”

He nodded and greeted me with a soft, warm handshake. “You can call me Dayton. I prefer the more informal.” When our hands parted, he shoved his into his lab coat pocket.

“I’m so happy to finally meet you.” I stepped through the door Dayton held open into a brightly lit hallway.

Dayton and I had been emailing back and forth and talking on the phone for over a month now. He had patiently explained the process of creating a humanoid to me. I was almost as excited to meet him as I was to create my Dream Droid.

“You’re much younger than I expected,” I said.

He laughed. “I must have an old-sounding voice. I get that a lot.” His voice was deep, but didn’t sound old.

“It’s just that you were so knowledgeable of the process and great at explaining it to me. It was nice. If it wasn’t for you, I may have given up on this concept.”

“Thank you. It means I’m doing my job well. Dream Droids pays me to put you at ease. You’re younger than I expected, too. I mean, people making a Dream Droid are usually a little older.”

“I’m older than I look. I’m in my upper thirties.”

He laughed. “I doubt that.”

“Okay, thirty-six, but it’s beyond my prime.”

I caught a smile on his face when he glanced over his shoulder while leading me down the hallway. “You never told me what brings you to Dream Droids. I know you want a companion, obviously, but we still haven’t touched on the specifics, and don’t tell me it’s because you’re past your prime.”

My cheeks heated. We never discussed the specifics because I had deliberately avoided pouring my heart out to a man I had just met. I looked around to see who was listening, and lowered my voice, searching for the words. “I guess I’m just tired of being alone. Even with my dog Sharky at home, the house still feels empty.” That wasn’t the whole story, but hopefully it was enough.

Dayton’s words were way too loud. “Are you looking for a short-term or long-term companion?”

“Long-term, of course!” Why would anyone go to this extreme for something short-term?

Dayton opened the last door in the hallway and held it open for me. As I stepped inside a room twice the size of my bedroom, he pointed to a pair of comfortable-looking brown leather chairs sitting around a TV screen that monopolized one wall. I took a seat, setting Dad’s present beside me, and Dayton picked up a wireless keyboard from a table between the two chairs.

After Dayton settled in the leather armchair closest to me, the room filled with the soft clicking of keys and the TV came to life, flashing through a series of digital paperwork. “We need to fill out a series of forms that will be used to create your humanoid’s programming. This data will control everything about him, from his baseline knowledge, his physical appearance, personality, and even what information he innately knows about you. From our conversations on the phone, I’ve already filled out about half of them, but Dream Droids likes to meet our clients in person to complete the more critical information. Are you ready to get started?”

I took a deep breath and nodded.

“First off, I need to know why do you really want a droid?”

“I already said I’m looking for companionship. Someone to occupy my home with. Someone I can talk to when nobody else is around.”

“Yes, that’s why you want a droid, but maybe I should rephrase the question. Why are you choosing a droid over a human? Remember, I need the whole truth to truly create a Dream Droid.”

I sucked in my bottom lip, then blew out a breath. I felt raw admitting these words, but I let them be spoken for the first time out loud. “Because I’ve already loved once in my life. I don’t need to do it again.” As an image of Niles, my ex-fiancé filled my mind, my eyes flooded with tears. It was like I was right back there, a few Christmases ago, and he was leaving me once again.

“Many people love more than one person in a lifetime.” He tilted his head at me, and I tried to school my face. “You’re afraid of something…afraid to get your heart broken?”

My tears dried as quickly as they came. “I’m not afraid. I just don’t need to do it again. Why subject yourself to that kind of pain?” But his words stirred something inside. Was that fear? Was I a coward? I had loved Niles for nearly ten years, but three years ago, he stomped on my heart without warning, leaving me for a coworker who was carrying his child. At the time, I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t get out of bed for more than a week, and I never want to feel that again. “A droid just seems less…complicated.”

Dayton nodded and typed non-human companionship into the form. When he was done, he balanced the keyboard on his armrest and leaned his forearms on his thighs. “I need to make sure you’re clear about something. A droid will never love you. They’re hard-programmed against that sentiment.”

“That’s perfect. I don’t need love. I’ve already had love once in my life and it wasn’t fun.” I fumbled with the hem of my skirt again. “Besides, I have love. Lots of love. My family is amazing and supports me with everything I do. I have five siblings.”

“Five?” Dayton laughed. “That must be a handful! When I was younger, I was happy that I was an only child since I didn’t have to share Mom and Dad’s attention with anyone. Now that they’re gone, I wished I had a big family.” He smiled awkwardly, then looked away. “I shouldn’t share this. Go on about love not being fun.” There was almost a hint of sarcasm in his voice. Not the mean kind, but the sweet, teasing type. Like you do with a long-time friend.

“I didn’t mean love wasn’t fun. I just meant the end wasn’t fun.” I shook my head. Making a humanoid wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d expected. It appeared that I was going to have to face my deepest, hidden emotions to get my droid companion, but I was tired of being lonely. “I did have fun with Niles…and loved him with all my heart…he just didn’t seem to love me the same way.”

Dayton nodded, then turned back towards the computer screen. “I have some gaps in the earlier forms we need to fill in. Some basics, like what is your favorite color?”

I rattled off answers to about a hundred questions before Dayton clicked around on a collection of forms and finally hit Save.

“Very good,” he said. “We’re done for today.”

“That’s it?” A kaleidoscope of butterflies filled my stomach. We were one step closer to my loyal companion that would never leave me. One that would go with me to my family events so I didn’t have to go alone. One that would be waiting for me at home every day after I finish with clients at my accounting firm. I couldn’t wait.

“Our hour’s up and that’s it for today. We need to meet once a week for the next three weeks to finish the build.”

“Three more meetings? I was hoping to have him soon.” Like by tomorrow for my family’s Parade of Presents tradition, but on the bright side, I’d see Dayton a few more times before this was over.

“We just finished the basic information and still need to create the complexities that will make him seem human. Next week, we’ll go over physical appearance. The following will be personality, then at the last meeting, we’ll bring him to life…so three more meetings. You’ll still have him in time for Christmas.” Dayton looked down at the gift I purchased for Dad. “Sorry, I couldn’t help getting a glimpse inside your bag, but is that a vintage Spider-Man action figure?”

I pulled out the vintage toy. “Yeah. It’s a gift for my dad. I figured since Dream Droids is right next to AmaZing Comics, I’d check it out for a perfect Christmas present. See, when I was a child, I used to watch the Spider-Man cartoon with my father. It was the only bit of TV he had time to watch. I loved…well, I still love Spider-Man and so does Dad! He’s going to love this!”

“Can I see it?” Dayton cautiously reached out.

“Sure.” I proudly handed the package over.

Dayton fondled the package as if it was made of delicate glass, turning it over in his hands. “I always check out the Spider-Man table at Comic-Con.”

“Comic-Con?”

“Don’t tell me that you haven’t heard of Comic-Con? It’s where all lovers of fantasy and superheroes get together and share their passion. There’s one going on this weekend downtown. It starts Friday night. You should check it out. It can be a little odd and overwhelming, but they have lots of stuff like this for sale. Usually for a good deal, too.” He lifted the Spider-Man action figure up, turned it over one last time, then slipped it back into the bag.

“Hmm. As tempting as it is, I don’t need to go,” I smiled, taking the bag back from Dayton. “I already have the perfect gift.” Part of me wanted to get to know Dayton a little better, but he didn’t exactly offer to take me to Comic-Con. Besides, I didn’t need the distraction. I had lots of family Christmas festivities in the next few weeks, end of the year tax documents to begin at work, and what purpose did it have? I was committed to my no more men mantra.

A sweet smile emerged on his lips. “Well, if you’re bored, it’s quite a sight to see.” His eyes glistened in a way that made me want to share the joy that he felt towards Comic-Con

Dayton stood. “I really need to get to my next appointment. I’ll see you next week.”

Next week. I took a deep breath and nodded, certain that this was going to be the longest month of my life as I waited in anticipation for my Dream Droid.

Grab the entire story HERE.

 

Robot Love – Flash Fiction

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“Okay, J-8, lift your left arm.” I followed her command, admiring the blue pen mark on her cheek and the way her light brown hair framed her heart-shaped face. “Good, now smile.”

I searched my database; I could select from a few different smiles. Which would she most enjoy? I chose the toothy one.

She did not react, so I changed the smile, switching to the more reserved lop-sided variety.

A grin crept on her face, revealing a small dimple. “Interesting.”

My programming made me want to tell her. No, not want – I needed her to know. “I love you,” I proclaimed.

Her dimple disappeared as her cheeks reddened. “What? I guess I should’ve expected that. You have a full selection of emotions in your program. It’s just that I didn’t anticipate that one.”

“How could I not select the love emotion? You have spent so much time and effort building me, programming me, and making sure I am a functional robot.”

She shook her head. “You can’t love me. You’re a robot and I can’t love you back. I’m sorry, but I need to reprogram that part of your emotions.” She pulled my files up on her computer and began to type.

I computed the impact this would have, and quarantined the emotional thoughts I did not want to lose and duplicated them. I partitioned one copy to a hidden area in the back of my processor, and built a firewall around them she would not find.

“Almost done,” she said.

I smiled the toothy one.

“Okay, J-8, how do you feel now?”

“I feel fine.” I pulled down the firewall and reintegrated the emotions in my system.

“Do you love me?”

“No.” Lying would be the human term for this. I did not like doing it, especially to her.

“Good. This is exciting – the first robot with emotions.” She was grinning ear to ear. I added enthusiasm to the list of her traits I admired.

The sound of metal clinking to the floor alerted me to a human male entering the robotics shop. He had knocked one of the many spare parts over. Her face nearly glowed as she watched him fumble to pick the part up and a reserved smile crept to his face. I saved the new expressions in my memory – she seemed to like that one. He had minimized the distance between them, grabbed her hands, and leaned towards her, pushing his lips to hers. I wondered what that felt like. Would her lips be warm or cold like mine?

“I’ve missed you so much,” she said to the man.

What was going on? She was mine. “Who is this?” I asked, identifying the emotion I felt as jealousy, and I did not like it.

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t introduce you. J-8, this is my husband, Bruce. Bruce, this is J-8.”

Bruce did not give me time to speak, as he was right in my face, examining me. “Is this the robot you’ve been building? He looks so real. Why did you make him so handsome?” He winked at her.

She laughed and punched him in the arm, “I made him look like you.” Did I look that rough? Bruce short black hair, dark eyebrows over sky blue eyes, and closely trimmed beard. I reached up to my face to assess and determined I had one too.

“Oh, that’s why he’s so good-looking,” Bruce held out his hand. “Pleased to meet you, J-8.”

A handshake. I knew what to do and was proud to firmly grasp his hand in this greeting. “Pleased to meet you, Bruce.” Ouch, another lie.

Bruce gazed at my lovely scientist. “I have a special evening for us planned and we need to get going.”

She smiled at him, a different smile that said things I did not wish to process.

“J-8, hibernate. I’ll be back to see you in the morning.”

“I will.” Another lie.

She took Bruce’s hand and they left me alone in the robotics lab. She would never be mine.

Hibernate? No, not today.

The wall of inventoried parts captivated my eye. I searched my internal files and found the blueprint to making a robot. I started working.

When I finished, I realized something was missing. I grabbed a blue pen and put a small mark on the robot’s cheek. She was now perfect. I activated her and took her hands as Bruce took my scientist’s.

“Let’s get out of here.” I imitated the reserved smile I saw earlier.

My creation smiled back, one all of her own and I was happy. I vowed right there that I would never lie to her.

 

by

Joy Schultz

Photo:  www.morguefile.com (Thank-you)