"Am I programmed for love?": A Salon After Dark read

He’s no longer an experiment to be tested and put through its paces. He’s Ian, and he’s mine

By Alyssa Cole
Published June 29, 2019 7:29PM (EDT)
 (Getty/Salon)
(Getty/Salon)

From “Essential Qualities” by Alyssa Cole. Excerpted from "Best Women's Erotica of the Year (Vol. 4)," edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel and published by Cleis Press. Reprinted with permission from Cleis Press.

I sense when Ian walks into the study, in spite of the darkness and his quiet tread, and my body reacts with a brief flash of fear despite the fact that I know it’s him. It’s the same fear that jolts you when you think you’ve seen a ghost, only to realize it was your own reflection in a darkened mirror.

I switch on my desk lamp and swivel in my seat.

“Yes?” My voice is curt. Looking at him makes me want to cry, but maybe not because I’m sad. I find it hard to believe that I once lectured the International Robotics Alliance on how to prevent emotional surges in artificial int...

He reaches up and brushes his fingertips along my jawline. I didn’t teach him that—how touch could be comforting. I certainly never thought it was something he’d need to know. Ian’s creation had been both intensely personal, what I’d worked toward since I’d built my first drone as a child, and completely dispassionate. It had been my job, for fuck’s sake. I was helping to usher in the next great leap in robotics for mankind, not making a toy, let alone a partner. Ian was my greatest success. The pinnacle of artificial intelligence merged with the most up-to-date humanoid robotics. They’d wanted “something almost indistinguishable” and I had delivered, unaware of the consequences.

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