In the year 2525, Samekh Taw designation #65572—aka “Sam”—is a Companion. A cloned human—a lab creation made specifically to order to serve any and all of the needs of Max Absolom III.
Max is the one man who never wanted a Companion in the first place, only agreeing to the whole uncomfortable situation because his social standing demanded it.When it becomes clear that Sam is flawed and he seeks to end his existence before he is erased, it is up to Max to convince Sam to hold his secrets close and that love isn’t just for one day.
Originally a story in the anthology Never Say Never, published 14 February 2011 this is re-edited and amended.
A short story of 9,100 words
“There is no point in going back and looking at all this old information, Max.”Maximillian Absolom the Third, of the Berris System Absoloms, raised his gaze from the papers that were crumbled and torn, sitting in the archive fluid for regeneration.
“There is always a point in a record of history, Senator.”
“For goodness sake, will you just call me Dad?”
Max wrinkled his nose and glanced around his laboratory absently, blinking at the false daylight that poured in from the floor-to-ceiling holograms, wondering when Aston, the station computer, had decided to switch from night to day.
“It’s morning?” Max was a space rat. He’d been born aboard a freighter on its way from Berris Major to New Earth. His daily life was dictated by the onboard computer’s idea of time. To Max, it seemed there was no rhyme or reason behind the ship computer’s version of time. It certainly didn’t seem to follow a typical day on Berris Major. “It wasn’t morning when I started work,” he muttered, raking his fingers through the chestnut hair that curled about his ears and forehead, long enough to settle on the collar of his shirt.
Senator Maximillian Absolom the Second sighed and shook his head.
“Son, it’s been morning, and now it has passed to afternoon.”
“I was in the middle of a translation,” Max said, defending his lack of time awareness, and then frowned. Why has Dad come to the lab again? Oh yes. Telling me there’s no point in history, but that’s not why he’s really here.
“We learn from history,” Max finally blurted out, trying to pull the conversation back to his passion and away from whatever the Senator really wanted. All his dad did was wave away the comment. It was no more than Max expected. The Senator was firmly entrenched with both feet in the present and looking to the future. He wasn’t exactly dismissive about Max and his research; after all, he relied on what history had taught him to make reasoned decisions for the future. No, the Senator had a history that he knew, and he didn’t want to hear what he classified as “the fairy tales of a prewar world”.
“You’re twenty-five now and it’s getting close to the Day of Choosing, son. Your mother says I need to address an issue with you.”
Max winced inwardly. He knew exactly what issue his dad was talking about: the thorny matter of his Companion—or rather, the lack of one. Many a heated debate had been had on the subject. To Max’s mind Companions existed solely for the purpose of heterosexual breeding. Since he wasn’t interested in either females or breeding, there didn’t seem a point in breaking in an escort. He braced himself for another reasoned discussion, his defense firmly established in his mind.
Instead of talking, his father, with a concerned look on his face, simply handed him a chip labeled with the Companion Program insignia.
“I was hoping to avoid the Day of Choosing,” he offered carefully, but his father just shook his head.
“Your mother worries about you being on your own. Just choose one. You can always exchange it for another if you don’t like the first one.”
“I don’t want—”
“I got you dispensation for a male.” Silence. Max blinked and stared at his dad. Dispensations for human same-gender matching were rarer than the missing moons that used to circle Berris Minor. Procreation would always be the dominant theme in all Companion matching.
He reached for the card, flicking it over in his palm as the words hovered above it, suspended in midair. Companion Choice from Absolom Labs. He should have known.
“I didn’t know our Labs had invested in the Companion Program.” His suspicious nature immediately questioned the sudden presence of Absolom Labs’ hand in that particular pie.
“We didn’t. We do now. Hence the dispensation.” Max stared down at it for a short while, then looked up to tell his father that he really didn’t need a Companion. To his consternation, the Senator had left, and once again, Max sat alone in his section of the laboratory complex. He flicked at one side of the card, and a soft modulated voice enquired after his day. He ignored the voice and instead spoke his key code, then waited until his saved search was retrieved. He had visited the Companion Lab once before, a visit his mom and dad had guilted him into, and he had entered his dreams onto the tiny chip that would remember it for all time. A soft, decidedly feminine voice repeated back his preselected requests.
“Male. Twenty-seven New Earth years of age. Hair black, eyes blue. Characteristics: compassion and an interest in prewar Origin Earth history. Sexual orientation: homosexual (status male).” The voice stopped. A warning—a blue holographic triangle—flashed before him, and the voice issued an addendum. “I regret to inform that chosen module, prewar Earth history, is not available at this time. As alternatives, Absolom Labs is pleased to offer you the Advanced Plutonic Physics Module or the Medical Assistance Module.” The voice paused, clearly waiting for a response, and Max considered the two options available to him. Plutonic freaking physics or medical assistance? Who the hell wanted either of those? He required someone who would sit and talk Earth history with him, not bore him to death or bandage a paper cut.
“Other alternatives?” he questioned, listening as one by one the options scrolled by in the same calm voice. “Wait, that last one, I’ll take that. Sentient Science.” It really was the only arm of science that he was remotely interested in, the part of early-Earth science that had led to the genetics war in 2213.
“Your choice has been logged. Please ensure you forward the authorization code to arrange collection of your companion.”
And that was that. The single string of characters and a few numbers was the stamp of his Companion.
Samekh Taw #65572.