An Imperfect World (short fiction)

The Automatic Detective


It was safe bet I’d been to more galas and grand social events than your average private detective / killer robot. When you were dating the Princess of Empire, as the social pages liked to call Lucia, you had to adapt beyond expected mission protocols. It wasn’t something I was made for, but I got by.

Tonight wasn’t about Lucia for once. It was the annual policeman’s charity ball, and while the flatfoots and I didn’t always get along, it never hurt to get on their good side. So Lucia wrote them a check for some tickets, and I found myself sitting in a room with some of Empire City’s finest alongside the cream of high society.

I checked my bowtie again.

“Stop that, Mack,” said Lucia. “It’s fine.”

I could bend steel, but somehow, the tux I wore felt constrictive.

Detective Sanchez, along with his wife Rosa, shared the table. The furball was the only cop in this town who always had my back. He was also the only guy at the table who looked more uncomfortable than me.

“Our guys,” said Rosa to Lucia. “I think they’d rather be out there risking their necks than enjoying a nice dinner with us.”

Sanchez fiddled with his cuffs. “I’m here, aren’t I?” he said with a slight scowl. It was hard to pull off, what with his little pink nose and whiskers, but he managed.

I might’ve been frowning myself, but there were benefits to not having a mouth.

“Maybe we should find two more amenable gentlemen,” said Lucia with a smile.

“Ah, baby, you knew I was a cop when you married me,” said Sanchez.

He had a point, but so did they. Lucia and Rosa were special ladies. Not because they conformed to the arbitrary standards of physical beauty of the moment. Those were always changing anyway.

In a perfect world, everything would be put together with care and finding a match would be as simple as filling out a punch card. But this wasn’t a perfect world. It was a planet full of biologicals, of the worst, most inefficient form of R&D via the mixing and remixing of genetic material. It was statistically unlikely to produce anything worthwhile, but after millions of years of good effort and ignoble failures, it’d managed to end up with Lucia. I might not have endorsed the system, but I sure as hell couldn’t fault the results.

I’d told Lucia that once, and she’d said I’d had the literary synthesizer of a poetry-generating computer.

I put my arm around Lucia. Rosa tugged playfully at Sanchez’s whiskers, and he smiled, despite himself. We’d defied the law of averages, and we knew it.

I spent the next thirty-three minutes engaged in small talk with the rest of the table. I’d never envied biologicals, but I did sometimes wish I had to eat. It would’ve given me something to do. Instead, I sat there, scanning people eating overpriced food in very small portions and processed inane conversations about nothing important. Sometimes, I’d offer a comment, but I was a simple bot. I didn’t follow sports. I didn’t care about the weather. And the latest fashion news didn’t engage my interest.

Sanchez wasn’t much different. He wasn’t a bot, but he was a good cop and that occupied a lot of his time and processing power. Didn’t leave time for much else.

The band played a slow waltz, and Lucia took my hand. “C’mon, Mack. Time to cut a rug.”

I didn’t fight her. I wasn’t a good dancer, but Lucia didn’t care, so neither did I. Anything that made her smile was just fine by me.

A waiter approached Sanchez and handed him a phone. Rosa got a look on her face I’d scanned before. She didn’t need an anticipation protocol to know what was happening next.

“Yeah, okay. I’ll be right there.” He hung up. “Sorry, doll, but we’ve got a madwoman with an unlicensed industrial strength deathray threatening to wreak—and I quote—glorious vengeance upon her enemies.”

She sighed. “Sure, Alfredo, sure. I understand.” She kissed him. “Just come home in one piece.”

He tossed his napkin on the table and jogged toward the exit.

I loosened my tie.

“Where do you think you’re going, Mister?” asked Lucia.

“You heard him. Deathray. Glorious vengeance.”

“Oh no. Not this time.” She adjusted my tie. “Sanchez can save the city just fine without you. I paid way too much money to be here by myself.”


She reached up and put a finger on my faceplate. “No buts. You’re going to dance with your girlfriend, Pal, and you’re going to like it. Then maybe you’ll dance with Rosa if I’m not feeling too jealous about that.”

Rosa said, “You wouldn’t happen to know how to samba, would you?”

Lucia smiled at me, and I would’ve smiled too, if I’d been able. But she knew anyway. She always seemed to know.

“Whatever you say, Princess.”

“That’s my bot,” said Lucia as she led me to the dance floor.

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One Comment

  1. Jim
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Automatic Detective is my favorite novel ever, and this really brightened my day!

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