They call it the world’s oldest profession, but Inspector Sidney has had enough of playing nice with the women he has to question.
Inspector Sidney walked into the interview room followed by the buzzing drone. He gave the woman sitting at the table a flat look and then took a seat opposite her. He looked her over as he directed the drone into the centre of the table with a tap of his finger. The little machine flapped into place obediently and then brought up its holo-projection unit. “I’m sure you’ve been in this situation before, madam,” Sidney said, “so I won’t bore you with the usual schpiel. If you could just look over the legal details on the screen there and place your thumb where indicated to acknowledge that I’ve read you your rights.”
She looked at him archly and then leant forward to do as he asked without bothering to read the text. When Sidney had first started working for this department, he’d been surprised at how different the women they dealt with were. You had an idea in your head about what they’d be like, how they’d look, but all kinds worked in their trade. It was an ancient profession after all. This one was a little older than he expected, dressed very normally, someone he wouldn’t even look twice at in the street. He supposed that, for some of her clients, that was part of the appeal. “Can we get a move on, inspector?” she asked.
“Certainly.” They both had the same world-weary way about them – they knew the routine back to front, but they had to go through the motions. “Sonia Bannister,” he read from the holo-screen that was projected towards him automatically, angled in such a way that she was unable to read it. “Quite the record you have here.”
“Thank you,” she said with a smile.
“Cautions, a little time inside. Some people never learn, I guess?”
“Some people don’t have the same moral compass as you coppers.”
“This isn’t about morals, Ms Bannister. It’s about the law.”
“Oh?” She leant back in her chair and crossed her legs. “And what law was I breaking tonight, exactly?”
Sidney shifted uncomfortably. Even without her record displayed in front of him, he’d be able to tell this wasn’t her first time talking to a police officer in a place like this. She knew the game inside out. “Lewd conduct.”
She barked a laugh. “What was lewd about it exactly?”
“Do I have to spell it out?”
“It might help.”
“Fine. It’s not natural. It’s antisocial. It’s wrong. Plenty of women doing what you were being paid to tonight have gone to prison for it. Including yourself. You should know better.”
Sonia shook her head. “It’s the most natural thing in the world, inspector. And how could you call it antisocial?” She held her hand out and examined her nails nonchalantly. “In fact, I’d call it very social…”
Sidney found it hard not to curl his lip in disgust. He’d started out in this job pretty open-minded, ready to believe the usual stories – girls who’d fallen on hard times, lost in a world of spiralling labour needs, desperate to make ends meet, willing to do whatever it took – but a few months of seeing women like this hauled in, middle-class professionals who knew exactly what they were doing and got paid a pretty penny to do it had disabused him of any lingering sympathy he had for their plight. “What would your neighbours say if they knew what you did, Ms Bannister?”
She shrugged. “What do I care?”
“You could find your face splashed all over the internet. Named and shamed. They’re talking about doing that, you know.”
“And what do I have to be ashamed of exactly?” She fixed him with a cold stare.
“Oh come on. I’ve seen the vid-caps of you snuggling up to that john…”
“I think he was an Adam actually. I didn’t get his serial number though.”
“The things you do…”
“Do you have a family, inspector?” she asked suddenly.
“A family. It’s a simple enough question.”
None of them had ever asked him that before. He wasn’t sure whether he should answer, but he had nothing to hide from this woman. “Yes, I have a family.”
“Nice home life growing up?”
“Well, then you don’t understand it, do you? You don’t understand what it is to crave that kind of human contact, to never know affection and the comforting touch of a woman. You take it for granted, but my clients are lonely. How could they not be? This is a harsh world, and they have it worse than anyone. They just want to be loved. Is that so bad?”
“Love,” Sidney scoffed. “You call it love? Going into their homes, doing whatever they ask, being degraded like that. It’s not love, Ms Bannister.”
“Isn’t it? They don’t know the difference. And yes, I do what they ask. If they want me to do it in the kitchen, I oblige. Anything they like: French, Greek, even Thai occasionally. I’m not proud. I’m a bit out of practice – it’s a long time since I did that stuff for my late husband – but it makes them happy. Sometimes they like me to be on the sofa with them, with a nice film. We can carry on for hours that way. But best of all is in the bedroom, inspector. They love it like that. Makes them feel like real men. I lead them up the stairs by the hand, settle them down nicely, make sure they’re comfortable, give them a drink to help them on their way sometimes, and then the fun begins…”
Sidney shook his head. “I don’t need to hear all the sordid details.”
“Sometimes it’s choo-choo trains…”
“Spare me the lingo, Ms Bannister…”
“Or farmyard animals,” she carried on, ignoring him. “They like to make the sounds. They get really excited by that, some of them. They grab hold so tight when I ask them to if they can see the little rabbit. But the important thing is, inspector, that with me, they always, always, get a happy ending.”
He stood up and deactivated the drone with a wave of his hand. “I’ve heard enough. It’s obvious you’re completely unrepentant. This should be an open and shut case. The judge’ll throw away the key.”
“I’m just making them happy, inspector, why does that make you so upset?”
“They’re not supposed to be happy. They’re supposed to be productive.” He wanted to shout at her, tell her how disgusted he was by her, tell her how wrong what she was doing was, what an affront to decent folk it was, but he knew if he did he’d just get angry and do something he might regret. He had to play by the rules, even with deviants like this. “Use the interface in the corner to contact your lawyer, Ms Bannister. You’re going to need him.”
She didn’t reply, just kept giving him that knowing little smile. Pushing down his fury, he stalked from the room. Every day it was another one, and they seemed more and more smug about it. The worrying thing was, public opinion was starting to turn their way. There’d been some highly publicised cases recently, and a lot of newsfeeds were voicing the opinions of their supporters.
Sidney knew how he felt about it though. Just because more and more cloned workers were hiring these surrogates to act like mothers for them for an evening, making them dinner, watching a movie with them, reading them a bedtime story, trying to replicate a familial bond they’d never experienced, it didn’t just magically make it right. Morality wasn’t decided democratically. They were grown in vats after all! Any clone that had a need for a mother was defective and should be recalled to the plant as far as he was concerned, and these disgusting women were only making things worse. The whole business made him sick to his stomach.