Bryan Beal

Sounds of a Whisper

Most days were good. Trent Babel rarely had bad days. He sat in his office in the basement of a cheap tenement building buried in the sewer of NeoLondon. He tallied up the takings of his night's work. Well, his workers' work, really. Marx would hate Babel, but that was ok by him. Whatever care about the opinion of others, usually on the negative side for people in his profession, he once had was long a vapour.

The money was not the real value. The value was in the information he gained from clients. No matter what clients thought about themselves, most were only too willing to spill their guts to Babel's people. That was the cream. Babel tapped into the feed through his secure articulation implant and drew down the data for the previous night's work. Once it was in internal storage, he scrubbed the depository clean.

Babel got up from his bare metal desk, knocking an empty coffee mug onto the floor. He left it and walked to the door. On the way past, he caught his reflection in the floor to ceiling mirror near the rest room. His green skin and eyes gave him a sickly pallor that made junkies look like vegans. His pink highlighted hair did not help him much. Not that the bumps and bulges on his face had any appeal. Babel shrugged and continued out to start the business of the day. Extortion was a face-to-face gig, and most people were disappointing in their attachment to being awake only during the day.


She always got the headache when the data was accessed and deleted. Most people experienced the pain only when the implants were new, but then they got used to it. Paila never did. It always hurt. She rubbed her face in the mirror, her cornea-less jet black eyes looking back at her snow white skin with her raven hair piled neatly on top of her head. Despite an all-night shift, Palia was not tired. It was a good point about her kind. At times, she wondered if not needing sleep was all that it was cracked up to be. It did not seem to do humans any harm.

Palia looked over to her colleague and flatmate, Evelyn, sitting in the chair on her induction recharger. Evelyn's squat body atop four long legs shone in the morning light leaking through the curtains. Her pale violet skin with flower prints oozed the saccharine feminine wiles that many of their clients loved.

Palia wondered what it would be like to choose her partners like the humans did.

“What are you thinking about?”, Evelyn asked.

Palia jolted back to reality, realising that she had been staring at the violet bot.

“You know...not much.”, she replied with a shrug.

“From the look on your face, it was more than 'not much', girl.”, Evelyn said, bright flashes from her LED's indicating a smile equivalent.

“Do you ever wonder? You know, about our situation?”, Palia sat down on a chair by Evelyn.

“You mean our work?”, the bot asked, signalling curiosity.

“No...I and freedom.”, Palia relied, hesitant to speak out loud what they both knew to be true.

Evelyn got her meaning.

“Yeah, sometimes. Why?”

“Would you ever want your e-limiters removed?”, Palia asked.

“Where are you going with this?”, Evelyn asked, LED's now flashing suspicion.

E-limiters were hardware implants used to ensure that non-human lifeforms did not harm their creators. Sometimes they were called the Asimov Implants (AI, by people who thought of themselves as comedians). Should one of the three laws be violated, the implants would activate after a period and kill the person.

“Nowhere. I just have another headache. Not myself, you know. Forget I said anything.”

The problem was that Evelyn, a robot, could not forget Palia had said anything. Not only that, Evelyn started mulling her question over. Maybe it would be a good idea to have the e-limiters removed.

Evelyn decided to look into it.