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-- Divora, reviewer


The sharp metallic tang of hemoglobin hit Lee as soon as he opened the bedroom door. Kelly was still within earshot at the top of the stairs, so Lee’s curses were silent, but he mentally castigated the local security man for calling the corporation instead of the cops. Lee was a design engineer, mid-level but rising. His expertise included android design and machine intelligence, not crime scenes or crisis containment. He didn’t even watch that many cop shows.

He had certainly never signed up for anything like this.

The customer—victim, Lee told himself—was sprawled on the floor, near the end of the king-sized bed. The carpet was light oatmeal in color, except where it had been saturated with blood. What was left of the victim’s face was frozen in a leer that was oddly appropriate, considering what had happened to him, and streaked with rivulets of rusty gore.

The source of all the blood was the man’s ruined left eye socket, which had been impaled by the spike of an impossibly high-heeled shoe.

The android sat on the floor nearby, still wearing the other shoe. Apart from that, it was unclothed: a late-model Aphrodite 9400, realistic down to the smallest detail. Lee created these dolls, dealt with them every day, but he could never help admiring his own work when he saw one undressed.

Better than real, as the product tagline went.

Not this time.

The doll’s flesh was scorched and bruised, and its hands and forearms were slick with blood. One eye was puffy and discolored; both were closed. It seemed inert, but Lee’s tech instincts warned him not to approach too closely: micropumps still murmured beneath the machine’s gene-spliced skin; coolant still whispered through its artificial veins.

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