Part 6

Part 7

During the final hours of the Annual American Engineers Association Symposium, the grounds outside the convention center teemed with androids. Most were under four feet tall, with a harmless animal quality to them; fur, face and all. The symposium did not permit out-of-the-box factory androids on the convention floor for multiple reasons—though disappointingly, what they had to offer this year lacked any significant improvements.

The sky brooded, matching the mood that hung over the entire weekend. Mira wanted to return to work; it would be a welcoming distraction from an unproductive trip. Castletown was a veritable holy land of android engineering (at least for this hemisphere), but her grail was still missing.

Lily, her android, pulled the car up to the convention hall, when it began to rain. In technical design terms, Lily was an ani-droid, but the lazy tongue dropped the extra vowel. Ani-droids were too common to require the distinction.

Common was hardly even the right word. Comparatively, humans were few. The last census estimated there were now five androids for every human worldwide. Naturally, most of the world had fewer androids, but even poor countries had them nearly two to one. They were cheap, they were dependable, they were expendable—and did not cause an uproar in human rights violations.

Mira had designed Lily after an otter, her favorite animal. She didn't know much about design, so she essentially copied the physical elements from a stock model and made alterations with the help of a friend who was better at design. The resultant creature was a blend of a cartoon, a small human, and a real river otter. The nose was small, cute and lacked a true otter's size. Her eyes were large with thin seams and wispy artificial irises, and on her forehead was a light-sensitive port that glowed orange, the same color as her eyes.

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