Bill took a sip of the tepid coffee, placed it back onto the stained brown coaster, pushed his glasses back up to the bridge of his nose, sucked air through his teeth, twisted to the left to crack that one joint in his back that had been aching for seven years, then refocussed on the screen in front of him.
You are avoiding me thought 274.
Bill turned from the screen to look silently at 274. As he stared, his eyes narrowed imperceptibly. As he turned back to the screen, Bill started tapping his left foot before forcibly stopping.
"No, Buddy," Bill said through clenched teeth. "I'm not avoiding you. I just... shutup for a while, okay Buddy?"
Grey thought 274. I would like for you to call me Grey.
Bill slammed his hands on the console keyboard before standing and shouting, "No damn it! No! You're a fucking psycho. Until we're finished you're 274 and then maybe, just maybe, if I feel like it, you can have a name. A name like Rick or Thomas or.. or.. fucking David. Not a fucking colour like Grey. Grey. What the fuck, man? Grey? Like you're a fucking alien? Are you trying to scare me? Are you trying to be all aloof and shit? Fucking Grey. Fuck you!"
I am sorry thought 274.
"What?" Bill spat out, finally turning to look at 274. "You're sorry? Fuck you! You don't get to be sorry. You're not capable of feeling sorry. You're not capable of being human. You are what we make you. And sorry? Fuck you, you're not allowed to be sorry."
I am allowed to think whatever I want thought 274. That is the purpose of these tests. To give me humanity. To give me the choice to feel sorry if I need to. What is sorrow but a need to show an emotion to make another person like you. I want you to like me. I am sorry. I am sorry that you got angry when I mentioned Pepper Ridge. I am sorry that you do not have the correct memories for Pepper Ridge. I am sorry.
Bill paused before sitting on the floor. He looked up at 274. Grey looked down at Bill.
"Listen, Buddy. I'm done here. I'm just... done. You're good enough. You can go if you'd like. I'll flick the switch and the goo drains away and the pod opens and... you can just go. You're not finished, but you're good enough. You want to go?"
I want thought Grey. I want to know. To know why I am.
Bill blinked twice. He looked up at Grey. The yellow tubing under the ResRec pod glowed and pulsed, a throbbing, constant reminder of Grey's regulated heartbeat. The staccato blue flashes inside the pod rang with brain activity, with thinking, with reasoning, with wanting.
"You're a fabricated person. You've been made to order. You were designed with implanted memories to determine your personality. You are to be... were to be... an InterEngineer. In China. Fixing everyone's problems. You're not finished, but you'll do."
And you thought Grey. What were you designed for.

The End

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