Gem sighed as she stared at it. She’d known this would happen. She’d wanted one of these gadgets as soon as she’d heard about it, but the problem was that she had to assemble it herself. She’d never been any good with anything remotely resembling DIY and usually she firmly believed in Getting A Man In, but this… this was different. This was something she was determined to do by herself.
Up until now, it had been going much better than expected. She’d spread the parts all over her living room floor and spent the whole day connecting Chip A to Component B, before inserting Wire C. In the process she’d managed to break a plug, and she now had two screwdrivers that would never be the same again, but finally she was triumphant. She’d done it.
Apart from that bloody piece.
It meant that she was too scared to switch her new toy on. What if, by not using that part, she caused something to explode? While she knew that this gadget would change her life, burning her flat down in an electrical explosion was not the sort of change she was looking for.
“Don’t worry about it,” said her friend Brooke, when Gem asked her for advice. “There’s always a part left over. It’s traditional.”
She had a point. So Gem threw the piece into her odd-and-ends drawer, where it disappeared into the unique type of black hole that can only be created by an odds-and-ends drawer, and switched on Gem II, her robot doppelganger.
Gem thought about that piece a lot, afterwards. After everything that happened. After everything went so terribly wrong.
Robot doppelgangers were the next big thing. Do you have a load of boring, time-consuming filing to do at work? Your robot will do that for you, leaving you free to concentrate on important projects. Does your heart sink at the prospect of going to the supermarket? Not any more – your robot can do that, giving you the time to write that novel you’ve always been meaning to write.
At first it was great. Gem suddenly had time to do the things she loved the most and actually did start writing a novel. She couldn’t pinpoint the moment when things started to go sour. Was it the day her mother called and wasn’t interested in speaking to her but wanted to speak to Gem II, who could calculate the best contents insurance deal for her within seconds? Or was it the day she was fired and her job given to Gem II? And she had no legal redress because the company had simply given the job to an optimal version of their original employee.
The robots weren’t supposed to be so much better than their owners. They were supposed to have a failsafe, a cap on their speed and their abilities. Was that what the spare part was for? And, come to think of it, why had Brooke been so keen for her to activate Gem II without installing it?
All Gem knew was that a robot was now living her life, leaving Gem… nowhere.
And it was all because of one leftover piece.