She belonged to a family in Maslow, Tennessee. Never heard of it? Don’t worry. Neither has Tennessee. Maslow is the kind of town that can forget itself, and sometimes it seems to want to, but I’m no judge. I just saw two couples arguing, overheard it was about money, and made the offer to spare them some expenses by alleviating the thinness of their wallets. Seems they needed gas and wanted to get moving as soon as possible. I didn’t blame them, not planning on staying long myself. But it did present an opportunity. Between the two temporarily rocky couples was an ALX-113 (Amalin and Lermin X series - model 113), a standard house unit, perfect for cooking and cleaning, but damnably attractive, if I do say so myself. So it seemed that if the issue was money, and machines eat up more than their fair share… the couples all agreed, after some choice phrases from myself, that it would be for the best to hand the unit over to me and be on their way. I stuffed it in the back of my car and set off down the road, after filling my own tank and purchasing some provisions for the road ahead.
Back then people still thought major cities might be salvageable. Yet, thanks to my grandfather, I’ve always been able to see storms coming. Metaphorical ones especially. I steered away from Chicago and headed to central Illinois instead. And history being the grand bestower of hindsight dubbed me a genius in the aftermath.
When the Plague came east it stuck to the main roads. Most of the Midwest got eat up after that, in some form or another. Either the disease took its share or scavengers came like locusts. The Sweeps: great swaths of people pouring to wherever it seemed the Plague hadn’t hit, devouring as they crisscrossed the country. People took everything. I once saw a mob gut a grocery store and not just of food. They took the shelves, every scrap of wire they could rip out, window panes, and light bulbs. Light bulbs? What the fuck was anyone going to do with light bulbs? Power was one of the first things to go after the chaos of… but that’s all a different matter entirely. As most folks know, order got restored and we’ll all catch Hell for the time it took, not to mention the facts that occurred in-between. I’ve no regrets. I did what I had to. That’s what most people can and should say. We survived.
And when things did get moving again, some of us found there were easier ways to earn a living. Sure, sure, it made sense that most folks got to building things back up again; I built my fair share of houses; and let it never be said I don’t support the law when it’s needed. However, we all wanted to make more than a mouthful at the end of the day. The New America was on the rise, and the only chances a person could miss were the ones he’s afraid to take. A hundred million dead and what’s left normal, even what’s just barely passing, is overjoyed just to be sucking air. Yet, there are still delights some wish satisfied that don’t occur without a hand or two guiding. I had taken intimate advantage of my ALX-113 during the Chaos. It made sense, just plain common sense to sell her out on occasion. In the Chaos it just passed as simple bartering:
“I need my purifiers fixed.”
“I’ll do it for an hour.”
“Fine. But you clean up afterward.”
“What the hell?”
“You think I like cleaning spunk?”
But I’m getting off topic. The world got itself back to order, some liking to think for the best. And opportunities abounded! She never complained. Of course, I rewired the thing the first or second night I turned it on; she kept freaking out about being away from home, I had to calm it down the only way I know how. My Dad used to build the things. Well, not build so much as oversee, that shit’s all mechanized, but you know what I mean. I still remember the first fellow and services I exchanged her for. Todd Fink built me a fence. She walked off, just a flick of the eye my way. Probably checking to make sure he had my okay. I had to go fetch her out of the basement. She just sat there on the bed, naked with his juice dripping off her. He looked plenty pleased when he left. She just stared at me while I cleaned her up. That’s the thing about those ALXs, they got a way of looking at you, full of emotion but still blank. I don’t know. Anyhow, word gets around and I start making exchanges left and right. It’s only a matter of time before I’ve got the second best -- maybe third if you consider O’Halloran’s, which he built himself, skillful fucker. -- house in town. Sometimes we needed goods from travelers, and one of the best things about an ALX is that they look human. Even got a heater inside so the skin feels the right temperature. It was a risk back then, and still is now, but we could scam antibiotics from some folks making them think they were getting time with a real girl. She never looked a day past nineteen. I always figured those Maslow couples had her look that way because it was their age. ALX started to tell me one time there was a story behind it. She didn’t get into much detail before the doorbell rang, Charlie Milk wanting to collect on a grocery bill. I got that weird glance from her and sent him downstairs to fire a load. For some reason she never finished the story.
I got set up by accident. Army guys came into town, as we were told to expect. And this wasn’t the army people are used to now, no sir. This was every pissed off guy who survived the Chaos and got a license to kill from the Government. Seemed the best way to put people back in line. Some of those warlords who took over the Northwest -- we needed psychos storming Seattle is all I’m saying. Anyhow, these troops are not bad, so long as they can get to “unload” from time to time, and when you have a reputation as a pimp people expect you to be a pimp. Smelling opportunity, because my Pops didn’t raise a fucking ‘tard, I get the town to finance the import of a few new units, some flesh and others obviously mechanical. Hell, you never know a person’s preference. So to keep the soldiers from getting rowdy, I got backed by the town to set up a brothel, no expense of my own save time.
Started with ALX till there were enough to give her time off. She passed for human too well. You don’t often get a switch hitting whore. And scarcity tended to raise her price. If a fellow thinks he can’t always get his dick in her, he’s willing to pay more to get at her “right fucking now.” But you have to establish routine: “she has working hours, you just have to be here then.” There’s nothing like seeing other guys lusting after a girl you want to make you stop thinking about what’s reasonable. Yes, that fires a few nights every now and again, which is also great for business. “You heard? They got gash at the Emerald people die for. Honestly fucking die for.”
No matter what though, ALX always makes me a meal at some point. She comes into my office or my bedroom carrying a tray and plants the dishes right near me. When she has the time to put together such epicurean delights is beyond me. But I’m glad to get at them. Sometimes I think it’s a better idea to let her cook for the place than just rent her snatch out. Hell, who am I kidding? I wish I could do both. I told her that once, as a compliment. She just blinked, “Whatever you think is best.” I’m always surprised no one else notices how dead her emotions come across. I guess some people don’t pay as much attention to her as I do. I know she has admirers, regulars, but they fix their sights on one or two parts or intentions and just can’t see. Blinders on as it were. That’s probably a good thing, business being the consideration. She used to smile too much when I bought her anyhow. Even when turning off, she’d wink and say, “Goodnight Harlon.” “Goodnight ALX.” Plug her in and bed down. Fuck all, that generator cost the most back in the day. Keeping a bot juiced during the Chaos always got your neighbors pissed. Everyone has their own priorities. I just wanted to live alone. But the problem with a good hiding spot is that it’s a good hiding spot. Other folks are always looking for it too, and some have the unfortunate sense to find it. The town grew up around us.
We used to go to bed together, especially in the Winter. It just made sense. Her heater can crank up, keep me warm. But when I opened the Emerald she stayed with me less.
I caught her kissing a client about a year ago. Scrawny kid named Will Porrin. She said he reminded her of me. So I cut his face up to see how long that lasted. Didn’t last long. Your whore falls in love she’s bound to take off sooner or later. Or else that boyfriend comes in all too often looking for trouble. White knight syndrome: the delusion you are the hero come to save a distressed damsel. So Will Porrin disappeared down a mine shaft. Plenty of coal tunnels in this part of the world. Soak anyone in enough liquor and folks’ll form their own conclusions. ALX got spiteful after that, claimed I went too far. I asked her to smile for me and she flashed this graveyard grin that still makes my spine cold. She stopped sleeping in my bed and took to standing in the closest, close but apart. Fair enough.
I knew the first time she let me barter with her: people can’t be counted on to do the right thing alone.
For all my flaws and the bad habits, it was Will Porrin with all his puppy love for ALX that turned her mean. She started using her teeth while sucking pricks like she planned to shave the cock clean off. Her heater got burning especially hot in the crotch, after fucking had started. Clients stopped coming in for her. She wandered the Emerald, a vengeful banshee always ready to intrude. I should have done something then. Hindsight. It can make a man a king or a failure because things aren’t facts till they’re past.
One of my girls, a human going by Minx, warned me ALX had gotten to making her own modifications. I was planning, sincerely, to look into it, especially since Minx had no idea what kind, only that ALX had been sneaking off at night to get parts from Tom Shanner, the local tech-mechanic. He probably helped, being dumb enough to think it was a good idea for some-whatever reason. A razor blade snatch. Helluva booby trap. The client -- some drifter hawking rusted junk and obsolete circuits -- smashed the fuck out of her face and body with a nearby lamp. He got his cock out, much the worse for wear, and boot heeled the weapon of his destruction. But it can all be fixed.
I took her back to my room and laid her on the bed.
“I want to go to Maslow.”
“You can’t. Not right now.”
“I’ll walk if I have to.”
“No, you won’t. Just lie still.”
“I want to leave.”
“Lets just have a night to think about it.”
“No. I want to go home.”
“Those kids aren’t there anymore. Fuck, they ain’t even kids now.”
“I don’t care.”
“Some sense of home then, I suppose. The last place that felt as such. Well, if you honestly feel that way tomorrow, I’ll send you off myself.”
“Broken face and all. Not a single piece I’ll pay to have fixed. Maybe someone‘ll take pity enough to give you a lift, get you off the road scaring children.”
“But I could leave.”
“We all do what we want.”
“Then I’ll be in the closet.”
Let her sleep in the closet. Busted whore.