Forever Friends

What if you could meet your best friend, soulmate and lifetime partner in a single person by the time you're one years old? It may seem like an impossible dream, but with the creation of Forever Friends, it's finally become a reality. These perfectly realistic androids are so human, that it's impossible to differentiate them from normal humans. The best part is that because these Forever Friends are linked to you in infancy, they will learn and grow with you every step of the way and become your perfect friend with the same hobbies, interests and desires. Add the fact that the government gives equal rights to every citizen, your life will be perfectly happy and free from selfish desires. Designed by two young girls with a dream of peaceful lives for all and an end to all world conflicts, Project Harmony was instated universally. However, is this the future Tessa and Lena wanted or will they find that they've only encouraged blissful ignorance and enslavement by our darkest desires?


5. Guessing Games

***Present Day***

“Sorry Sir, but you’re in the wrong line.” The ticket attendant speaks plainly as Victor stares at her in confusion. “Your line is to the left, with the other VIP ticket holders.”

Victor looks to the left and sees that the line she’s referring to is twice the length the current one was. He turns back to her with a frown and says, “no Miss, you’re mistaken. That must be the general line. My ticket however is for VIP access. You can see that clearly on this badge here.” He holds up his badge. “I’m press, so I naturally have more exclusive access.”

The woman rolls her eyes. “No Sir, I’m not mistaken. Your pass says VIP Press, which if you look again to your left, you will see a sign saying VIP Passholders on the other line. However, if you look to your right at this sign here, you will see it says Gold VIP Passholders, which is not the same as your basic VIP pass. Gold is the key word here Sir, and your pass is missing it, therefore you must switch to that line. I apologize for the confusion, but I caution you to read the signs more carefully next time. Now, please allow those behind you to pass. Next!”

The person behind him in line pushes his way past Victor to show his pass to the attendant and as Victor is shoved aside, he manages a glance at the badge which does indeed say Gold VIP. “Damn.” He curses under his breath, wishing he’d known there were different grades of VIP passes. He wonders why Chief Donahue didn’t get him a gold pass? “Did he not know?”

“No, he knew it very well Vic, but basic columnists don’t get such exclusive access.”

Without having to even look, he knows just who it is that said that. He turns with a scowl and says, “Percy, you know, for someone who says they’re over me, you keep approaching me.”

“Ha! Don’t be an idiot Victor, I’m not here for you. I’m just waiting in my line for entry. Unlike you, I actually belong here. Have you forgotten so soon? You’re not an official investigative journalist anymore, but a simple columnist. All you get is a one page story each month in the journal and a weekly blurb in the paper. You lost your right to anything more. Honestly you should be grateful that Joe was a kind enough guy to keep you on, as most Chief Editor’s would have fired you. Anyway, you should probably get along on to your own line, before you can’t get in at all. Though I can’t imagine you’d be missing much since your group only gets to have a tour and see the demonstration. It’s only one feature higher than the general passholders who only get a generic tour of the facility. Neither have anything on us Gold VIP, who get to not only do all of that, but our tour is personally led by Tessa and Lena Carmike themselves and it ends with a Q & A session. As a bonus for my personal connection with them, I also get to have an inclusive first interview with them AND Simon, their first success. I’m about to make an even bigger name for myself Victor. I’m going to have everything you want.”

Victor grits his teeth, annoyed at his gloating. “Wow, haven’t you become the spiteful one? I never believed you to be the one to belittle the dreams of others. Is this the real you?”

“You know very well that it was you who made me this way!” Realizing his voice was getting loud, Percy lowers it again. “You caused me to become this way when you broke my heart, so don’t you dare try to make me seem in the wrong. You destroyed me, you destroyed us and you’re slowly destroying yourself even more than you already have with your insistence on exploiting these girls for something they’re not doing. You’re so convinced there is a scandal behind their efforts, but there isn’t. These girls are good and genuine and I intend to make it clear to the world when I interview them. So, make sure you watch it Victor, and discover the girls behind the story. Learn how they are going to change this world for the better and let go.”

“Excuse me Mr. Platt, you may enter now.” The ticket attendant speaks gently to Percy.

“Yes, of course. Thank you.” He turns to Victor one more time and with a grin says, “well, my exclusives await. I hope you’ll enjoy yourself today Victor. Try not to get yourself arrested this time.” He laughs and steps through the gate, leaving Victor fuming out his ears.


“I did it Lena, I actually did it!” Tessa is excited at the success of her speech. Lena simply smiles as she stares at her love, pleased to see her so happy, especially since they just made it out of a rough patch. “I think they really loved our pitch too. I was worried that people would find it unrealistic, but the audience seemed to really believe in the practicality of Project Harmony and catching a glimpse of the lines just now, everyone seems really eager to see the lab and more on the Forever Friends. I feel like it’s finally starting to sink in that this is happening.”

“Well, believe it babe, because it’s happening and quickly too. In just a month’s time, Forever Friends are going to start being matched to their companions and a new era is going to begin. An era where people will no longer have to wonder if they’ll find their soulmates, because they will be right by their side from the start of their childhood. In 100 years, the concept of seeking a partner will probably not exist, as everyone will be on board with our plan.”

“You make it sound like we’re going to force the humans to submit to this program or something. I want the people to know that although we believe this will lead the greatest level of happiness, they are not obligated to register. I’ve always designed this to be a voluntary program, so that people can decide for themselves if this is the kind of future they want. The day we lose our free will, is the day that we will no longer be considered human. You agree, right darling?”

Lena is silent for a moment, but then smiles and says, “of course babe, of course.”

They embrace and begin to kiss. Just then, there is a knock at the office door, followed by a rich voice. “It’s Simon, may I enter?” He waits patiently for a response.

Lena responds first. “Yes of course, you may enter Simon.” They straighten up.

The automatic door slides open and Simon enters. He looks apologetic as he says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt your private time, but I felt I had to inform you that it’s about time for the tours to begin. The general group and VIP groups have already begun, so that leaves on the Gold VIP group, who are waiting for you as we speak. If you would prefer it, shall I lead the group in your place? You both have done so much already today, you deserve to rest.”

“Thanks Simon. You’re so sweet, but no, we should be the ones to do it. It’s what they paid the Gold price for. Besides, we need you to prepare the subjects for the demonstration.”

“Yes, exactly as Tessa said. Also, we don’t need you causing a stir out there. You have to be mindful that you have just been officially introduced to the world and you are extraordinary. Those people will be eager to poke and prod at you to test your functions and see for themselves just how human you are. It could prove dangerous to you and risk our debut, so it’s best if you stay behind the scenes for now Simon. That’s an order, not a suggestion, understand?”

Simon remains calm and respectful as he replies, “yes Master, I understand. I shall now go and begin my duties. Please excuse me.” He turns to leave, but Tessa calls him back.

“Simon, just a moment please. Could you stay behind and talk with me for a minute?” She rubs Lena’s arm as she says, “I’ll meet up with you in a few, is that ok?”

Lena is curious as to why she wants to talk to Simon alone, but she doesn’t question it. “Sure, that’s fine. I need to grab a few things first anyway. I’ll see you soon.” She leaves.

“What is it Tessa? Have I done anything wrong? I did not disrespect Master, did I?”

“Simon, why are you so proper today? No, you haven’t done anything wrong and you certainly didn’t disrespect Lena. I just wanted to speak to you for a moment because I can tell something is wrong. I can also tell you’ve been crying recently, so I want to understand why.”

“It’s nothing Tessa. Really, I was just being emotional over the slideshow. That’s all.”

“I don’t think that’s it. I get the feeling you want to say something, but are worried that you might overstep if you do. But you already know Simon, you are free to speak your mind with us. Especially me, as I don’t expect you to follow my orders blindly. I want to hear your opinions and thoughts and have a real discussion about them. So, will you please tell me?”

Simon’s expression finally drops. “Tessa, I…I’m just worried.”

“Worried? What exactly are you worried about? Project Harmony? If you’re concerned about if it will do well or not, you shouldn’t. Its success is for us to worry about.”

“No, that’s not what I’m worried about. I have no doubt you and Master will succeed in your goal, but it’s the aftermath that concerns me. Project Harmony in itself is a wonderful idea and I do believe it’ll make a difference, but it’s success opens up a lot more possibilities. Some of these possibilities however, may not be a good thing. I’m worried that someone will find a way to exploit your pure intentions and corrupt them into their own agendas. I don’t want to see that happen to you Tessa. I also don’t want to see my fellow humanoids suffer. Living as a human for the last five years has awakened me to so many things my initial data stores couldn’t account for initially. I’ve experienced the various human emotions unavailable to droids like me before and it’s been beautiful, but when I think about how I could potentially lose my right to be human at any time, I get sad. My fellow droids face the same risk.”

“What exactly is the risk you are referring to Simon? Being denied human rights?”

“No, not human rights exactly, as we do not legally have those to begin with, no matter how human we may appear. I just mean human experiences and identity. Having now experienced the various emotions and biological processes of a human, if I were to ever be denied the chance to feel those things again, I’d be devastated because although I know I’m not really human, I have come to identify as a human. I walk around town, take public transportation, go to the coffee shop and so on, just like any human does and no one was the wiser as to who or what I was. But at any time, you and Master could decide to put me and all the other active droids out of commission for whatever reason or bind us to a life limited to this lab and that is terrifying. It’s one thing if we never get to experience what it’s like to be human, because we wont know what we’re missing and could commit to a life of servitude. It’s another thing to experience life as a human and then have it taken away. Or to suddenly be outcasted because people discover you are not a human like them. It’s as though we’ve been given the right to play human, but in the end, I don’t think we’ll ever be accepted as such, no matter how perfect you and Master make us. Even Master herself, makes the distinction clear to us all the time.”

Tessa puts on a sad expression. “Oh, Simon…I didn’t realize you felt this way. I’m sorry. I never wanted you to feel like an outsider, but I obviously didn’t do a well enough job. I know Lena has a strong insistence on droids never being allowed to be considered humans or identify as such, but as you can see with you, she’s loosening her stance. She considers you human now and I’m sure she will see that there’s no harm in the others feeling that way too in time. She’s just worried that if she doesn’t keep that strict condition, the droids will not respect us as their creators and rebel. That’s why she’s been so insistent on me to make the other droids as human as possible, without the flawed sense of superiority. I keep telling her to stop worrying though.”

“Why? Have you succeeded in this?” Simon has a confused expression.

“No, but there’s nothing to succeed in. It’s impossible for my droids to feel that sense, simply because it’s a natural instinct, just the same as breathing or crying. Human babies are born with those instincts, but my droids are not. They have to learn to cry and avoid dangers and breath. Those are things I can program like I did for you, so they are like your natural instincts, but they are also not the same. I can’t code personality into you, as that’s an exclusive trait of natural organisms, especially humans. I can give you knowledge on everything and program you to mimic human biology, but I cannot give you a personality. Getting out into the world and exploring it and experiencing things as you have, that’s how you get a personality. Those interactions and experience shape who you are. That’s why you are just you Simon. You’re not just a droid anymore, but Simon, with preferences, dreams and personal values as any other human. I know how wonderful it is to feel like an individual and so I would not take that away from you or any of my droids. Even if this program flops, I will continue to love and care for all the droids because in my eyes you are more than simply robots. You are like my children.”

“Tessa….” Simon’s eyes water as he hugs her and she returns his embrace. “Thank you.”

“Of course, I never want you to feel like you can’t come to me Simon. I’m always going to be here for you because you are my precious family and I love you. Never forget that, ok?”

He nods and they embrace a while longer, until finally Tessa pulls away. “Ok, you’d better check that everything is set for the demonstration and I need to get going before Lena unleashes her rage on me. I’ll see you later Simon.” She squeezes his shoulder and leaves.

Simon smiles, feeling relief. He’s happy he decided to share his concerns with Tessa and has total faith that she will keep her promise. He can finally be unapologetically human.


Victor follows the group as they are shown around by a tour guide. He can’t say he’s very excited or remotely interested in what he sees, but he bides his time quietly, as he waits for the demonstration. After an hour, the moment finally comes as they enter an observation room. It is high up, with several chairs and a thick glass observation window. Looking down, he can see a large room, split off into sections. There’s a living area, a kitchen, and a playroom. On the other side of the room, he can see an identical observation room and inside is none other than the Gold group. He makes brief eye contact with Percy, who waves with a smug expression. He also sees the two women behind this entire thing, speaking to the group before finally exiting. It makes his blood boil, but he doesn’t feed into it. Instead Victor looks back down below, as two pairs of children enter the living biome.

“Hello everyone. Welcome and thank you for joining us today for this incredible experience. As you can all see below you, four kids are playing and interacting together in our model home. As you probably expect, two of those children are humans, some are humanoids, but I wonder can you figure out who is who?” The voice has a mysterious tone to it and although it’s over a loudspeaker, Victor feels as though he’s heard it before, though he’s forgetting where.

Victor ignores that feeling however, and turns his attention to the four children below. There are two girls and two boys, so it seems pretty obvious that one girl and one boy would be a droid, but it still isn’t easy to figure out which boy and girl it is as they are all very animated. There’s a girl with pigtails and peach skin who sticks to the dollhouse, a boy with ear-length hair and pale skin who stays close beside her, but doesn’t touch a doll even once, a boy with crew-cut hair and brown skin who plays a video game and another girl with long, wavy hair and olive skin, who seems to be the most timid of the four, watching silently as he plays.

“Anyone have any guesses? Feel free to shout them out,” says the voice.

The various guests scream out their guesses, unanimously saying the boy playing the game is human, the girl watching him is a droid, the girl playing with dolls is a human and the boy watching her play is a droid. However, Victor doesn’t agree. He knows that most people are choosing that way because they are assuming the droids will be the ones least active and more reserved, as the previous models of droids would typically be, but he’s willing to bet they purposely are trying to trick them with that thinking. So, he loudly says, “the girl playing with the dolls and the boy playing the video games are the droids and the quiet ones are humans.”

Everyone goes silent and looks at him weirdly, as though he just said something ridiculous. The voice on the speaker says, “wow, that was a great guess and I can see you were thinking outside the box, but unfortunately that is still wrong.” Everyone is confused. “Allow me to add two more children and then you all should revaluate.” Another boy with spikey hair and light skin and a girl with a long ponytail and white skin enter the room. The timid girl immediately perks up as the spikey haired boy approaches her and the crew-cut boy glances at them, but doesn’t stop playing his game. The spikey boy points to the tv and takes the girl’s hand to lead her there, but she then turns to the crew-cut boy and offers her hand, inviting him to join, which he does after a moment of hesitation. Meanwhile, the ponytail girl goes to talk to the ear-length boy, but he ignores her, continuing to give his attention to the pigtail girl. They play for a while and then the voice again says, “so, what do you all think now? Make your guesses.”

They again throw a volley of guesses out, but none are quite right. Victor tries his hand again and says, “ok, the boy watching the pigtail girl, the timid girl and the spikey boy are the droids.” Again, the room goes silent as the wait for the voice to comment. However, as he waits, Victor notices something he didn’t see before. “Actually, I take that back.”

“Ok, interesting. Then, what’s your new guess Sir?” The voice sounds curious.

“I realize you never elaborated on if my first guess was completely wrong or partially, so I’m going to say again that I think the gamer boy is a droid. I also say that the ponytail girl is a droid. I think this because although they are both involved, they still seem subdued and obedient. The remaining four are all human. You tried to trick us into thinking there was one droid for every human, didn’t you? There are only two droids though. That’s my final guess.”

“We have a winner! He guessed it perfectly right. Give it up for him. Good eye Sir.” Everyone claps politely, but frown at his showiness. Victors turns to give a smug look to Percy, but he’s not looking at him, but below at the kids. “I’ll give you a special prize if you can tell me who their companions are. This is pretty tricky though, so think carefully.”

Victor looks at the kids again and isn’t even sure where to begin. He doesn’t mean to, but he finds himself look at Percy again and this time he’s looking straight at him, fluttering his shirt at the collar. He first thinks he’s mocking him, but then he looks again at the kids and notice they all have different colored shirts, except for two pairs. It was a small detail, but it suddenly makes the most sense. “Well, the two droids are both wearing blue, so if we had picked up on your color pattern sooner, we’d probably have thought they were a pair, but they are not. Two human kids are wearing red. Assuming we’re matching boys to girls, I say that the gamer is matched to the timid girl and the ponytail is matched to the spiky boy. How’s that?”

There’s silence and then the voice says, “you are right! Great job. As a reward, you get the upgrade to Gold VIP and may join us for the Q&A immediately following this. To everyone else, I’m afraid this concludes the events you are eligible for. Thank you for coming. Goodbye.” Victor’s group shuffles out in disappointment. Victor looks back to Percy, but he’s already gone.

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