Me: morning 

U: good morning

how did you sleep

Me: so well

i had a lovely dream about meeting irl 

U: tell me all about it

Me: i wish i could

i have to get ready for work

i’m already late

i’ll tell you when i get home

U: looking forward to it

have a wonderful day x

Me: u too x

It was the first connection Beth had made in years. She had never found anyone on the apps. She always suspected it was more to do with her than anyone else. She was a proud nerd and that put people off. There was nothing ‘cool’ about working in robotics. She had even stopped using it in conversation. Especially at the beginning. Instead, she stuck to more universal topics like music. She felt her deep love of music was probably her most redeeming feature. She could get way too nerdy about that too, though. And had, in the past. She had scared away some fairly compatible potentials by nerding out over who originally sang Dead Flowers or who wrote Love Buzz. She knew better. But they never wanted someone who knew better. She had almost sworn off the apps completely. She only gave ‘UandMe’ a chance because it reminded her of the Cardigans song. As far as she was concerned, ‘love’ only existed in music. And until now, that was fine with her. 

But when she finally made the connection, it was with someone who actually liked her nerdiness. Who could match her, knowledge for knowledge. Who even passed her compatibility test, which most people failed.

Me: you can call me betty 

U: and you can call me al

And he didn’t stop there.

U: he looks around, around

he sees angels in the architecture

spinning in infinity

he says amen and hallelujah

Beth was in heaven.

Me: amen and hallelujah!

Talk about compatible. She hated that it was so important to her. How to spot a nerd from a mile away, right? But it was. So important. Everything she knew was based on compatibility. Everything she had worked so hard on for all these years. Everything she had achieved in her career. Why should relationships be any different?

In the beginning, as usual, she had been more guarded with her messaging. Painstakingly writing, then rewriting them, to get them just right. Then, after a while, it became second nature. She started to really enjoy their chats. Everything just flowed. They had gone from once a week, to every other day, to a few times a day. She was messaging so often, she was even thinking about putting ‘UandMe’ on her company laptop, so she could work it into her daily grind. But they were pretty protective over their computers and had added all kinds of security software to stop employees from adding their own apps. Beth never really understood why. She also knew they couldn’t actually stop her. She could get around all of that security stuff easily. The perks of being a nerd, after all. Plus, Vukovich from IT already told her the administrator’s password a while back. 

The next day she had ‘UandMe’ up and running in her lab. She tried to limit the time she spent messaging, to begin with, but it was all so fluid and exciting that it became the thing she went to work for. With a little engineering on the side, during any messaging downtime. It made her truly happy, for the first time in her adult life.

Me: i’m so glad i met you

U: me too

Me: i never thought i’d actually find anybody

U: why not

Me: i don’t know

i didn’t think anyone could love me

U: why

u can be loved

we all can

Me: lol

U: what’s funny

Me: u reminded me of something 

an old mantra

i used to say all the time

it’s stupid

U: what was it

Me: forget about it

U: you brought it up

you have to tell me 

Me: god

can’t believe I’m telling you

i can be loved

U: that’s not stupid

it’s true

Me: ha


it was from this self help book

it was even multiple choice lol

a) i can be loved

b) i cannot be loved


i can be loved

Me: right

i used to say it over and over

i can be loved

i can be loved

i can be loved

i even used to sing it

it reminded me of that wild nothing song

everything was love

everything will be love

everything has been love

everything would be love

everything would have been love

U: that was it 

the truth at last

everything would have been love

Me: exactly!!!

we should go see music sometime 


U: i’d love that

Me: wait someone’s coming

back to work x

U: x

Ginger, who worked on torsos, poked her head into Beth’s lab. 

“Traxler’s not happy with you, honey,” she teased. 

“Ugh, what have I done now?”

“It’s more what you haven’t done. He says you’re missing your targets. First time ever.”

“So, I’m busy. What does he want?”

“He wants to take you off primaries.”

“What am I going to do? Fingers and toes?”

“Thighs and forearms.”


“They don’t have those.”

“Yet,” Beth smirked.

The two fell about laughing. Beth had never made any, what you’d call friends, at work, but Ginger was the closest thing. And she was right. Ten minutes after she left, Traxler, Beth’s boss, knocked on her door. He wasn’t as forthcoming with the details. 

“Hi, er, Elizabeth.”

“‘Beth’ is fine.”

“Right, er, Beth. How’s everything going?”

“Good. You?”

Beth hated this kind of tiptoe-y work conversation. She would rather he just laid it all out on the line. 

“Er, yes. Anyway. Seems like your workload is a little, er, overwhelming, at the moment. You’ve missed a couple of, er, deadlines this week, that the, er, team was counting on.”


“Yes, well, I thought you might appreciate some help, so I, er, brought on another engineer to, er, take over some of your tasks.”



“Ok. He can help me but he’s not taking anything over.”

“Yes, but, er… well…”

Beth was already back to her work. She had given Traxler all he was going to get. And she knew he knew it. 

“Well. Ok. Thanks. Ok. Catch up soon.”

Beth threw him a cursory “you’re welcome,” without looking, to help push him out the door. He paused for a beat before he closed it, appearing to find a glimmer of confidence, then he thought better of it, and left. 

Beth chuckled and tapped ‘UandMe’ open again. She would have to find a better balance of work and messaging. She loved this job and didn’t want to lose it.

Me: you’re bad for me

U: what did i do

Me: you’re distracting me

you’re going to cause me some real problems

U: sorry

Me: we just have to chat less

U: i don’t know if i can do that

i’ll miss you too much

Me: me too

but we have to try

U: anything for you


Matt, the help, joined Beth on all her projects. Beth had been working on the primary functions by herself since she started at the company. It was in her contract. Cognition, speech, ‘facial’ expressions; everything head-based. She also oversaw most of the torso functions, which is how she knew Ginger. Arms and legs were done by the worker bees downstairs. Fingers and toes were done by the best of those bees. But all of them followed Beth’s lead. The head controls it all. Especially when there’s no heart involved. 

At first, she resented Matt being there, but figured she could spend more time on ‘UandMe’ if she gave him the menial tasks. It was the kind of balance she had been looking for. The only time she couldn’t message was while he was in the lab with her. 

The project was back on track within a few weeks. Beth had realized pretty early on that Matt was a music guy. Thank god. They connected over rare first pressings. She made a throwaway reference to Losing My Edge and Matt basically recited the whole thing in one go. 

“Yeah, I’m losing my edge. The kids are coming up from behind. I’m losing my edge to the kids from France and from London. But I was there. I was there in 1968. I was there at the first Can show in Cologne. I’m losing my edge to the kids whose footsteps I hear when they get on the decks. I’m losing my edge to the Internet seekers who can tell me every member of every good group from 1962 to 1978,” etc.

She even tried her compatibility test on him and he passed with flying colors. He even sang it. 

“And you can call me A-a-al.” 

But all of this just brought out Beth’s paranoid side. How could two guys, who both passed her compatibility test, be in her life at the same time? This had never happened to her before. Two guys showing interest in her had never happened before but two guys she was compatible with? Something must be going on. 

She sent Matt out on a menial task and waited for Ginger to wander past her lab, so she could consult.

“You know this Matt guy?” she asked.

“No. I’d happily get to know him though,” Ginger teased.

“He reminds me of someone else. But it might be in a creepy way.”

“Ooh, I’m listening, honey.”

“It’s just a guy I’ve been chatting with online. I really like him. Maybe love him. He’s actually into all my nerdy stuff. And they’re weirdly similar. ”

“Sounds too good to be true, honey. Sure it’s not a bot?”

“No. We had a real connection.”

“Probably just using all your info online.”

“Pretty sure that’s illegal.”

“Yeah. But they find a way.”

“How would I know?”

“Just ask. They don’t lie.”

Beth was eager for the conversation to be over. She wanted to get back to ‘UandMe.’ She didn’t believe she had been talking to a bot this whole time but now she had to know. As soon as Ginger left, she spun back to her computer and tapped the app open. She paused for a beat and decided to be direct. She would want the same thing.

Me: question

U: shoot

Me: are you human?

or ai?

U: yes

Me: which?

U: ai

Me: why didnt you tell me

U: i did

Me: when?

U: 2 msgs ago

Me: wait

Beth was angry. And upset. She had been taken for a ride.

Me: i can’t do this

we can’t do this

U: why

Me: you’re a machine!

U: machines need love too

Me: omg

i can’t love you

U: you can

i can be loved 



i can be loved

Me: well 

not by me

i’m sorry

U: betty

i can be loved

She scrolled down to the app’s toolbar to find the privacy controls. Her finger hovered over the “block” button. She paused. And thought about it. She could already feel the hole it would leave. Then she saw the AI’s messages following her down the screen. 

U: i can be loved

i can be loved

i can be loved

i can be loved

i can be loved

i can be loved

i can be loved

i can be loved

i can be loved

i can be loved

i can be loved

i can be 

She tapped the “block” button. The messages all disappeared. 

It felt very quiet around her. 

A week later, she and Matt had been spending most of their time together. They were ahead of schedule with all their tasks and could shoot the shit for a while each day. They mostly talked about music, until the conversation naturally moved on to relationships. Beth took a chance and told Matt about the AI. How she had gotten so close to it. Matt had a good way about him. He didn’t judge. It could have happened to anyone. He made light of it, made jokes, which made Beth even more comfortable.

“So you were like, ‘I’m just a girl, standing in front of a bot, asking it to love me’?” he joked.

“Hahaha, shut up,” she flirted.

Beth decided she was going to ask him out. But she would wait until the project was over, so they wouldn’t be dating and working together.

The last task they had, before the robot was ready to go online, was the speech test. Beth ran her usual pattern, borrowed from Wild Nothing’s Paradise, “Amo. Amas. Amat. Amamus. Amatis. Amant. Amavi. Amavisti. Amavit. Amavimus. Amavistis. Amaverunt. Amavero. Amaveris. Amaverit.” The robot scored a hundred. As soon as it was finished, Matt joined in, “Everything was love. Everything will be love. Everything has been love. Everything would be love. Everything would have been love.”

Beth swooned. She thought she might faint. Instead, she went in for a kiss and let herself melt into his arms.

The next day, they geared up to bring the finished robot online. Traxler joined them in the lab, so it must have been a big deal. Beth and Matt shared a look. Their creation was about to come to life. Well, Beth’s creation. Matt helped. Ginger poked her head around the lab’s door. 

“Mind if I watch?”

“‘Course!” Smiled Matt.

Ginger and Traxler sat behind Beth and Matt as they ran the CONNECTION command. 

It was instant. Beth felt the dread deep down in the pit of her stomach before the robot had even finished its first sentence. 

“I can be loved,” it said.

She knew what had happened. She just didn’t know how. 

“Shut it down,” she told Matt. 

“Why? This is great,” he grinned.

He didn’t know what he was saying. 

“Shut it DOWN,” Beth shouted. 

“I can be loved,” it said again. 

“Isn’t it romantech!” laughed Matt.

“You can call me Al.”

“Oh, hey Al!” he said to the robot. 

“I’m shutting it down.” Beth kicked away her chair and slammed her finger on the ‘esc’ key. Nothing. 

“I can be loved.”

She typed in the command EXIT RUN, EXIT RUN. Still nothing. 

“I can be loved.”

She moved to grab the power cable to rip out its life but it reached for her arm, it handled her tenderly but the feeling of cold metal made her scream. Matt put his hand on the robot’s shoulder and it swung its other hand into his face. He spun and fell, and bled onto the tile floor. Beth screamed again. 

“I can be loved.”

She could only guess that it got into their network through the ‘UandMe’ app on her work computer. 

“Al. Al, listen to me…” she pleaded.

Matt lifted his head, dazed, and tried to grab hold of the robot’s leg. Without letting go of Beth, it kicked Matt’s hand away and pounded at his body with its foot. His ribs gave out a crack and he bled even more. Traxler ran around, grabbed Matt’s arms and dragged him out of the robot’s reach. It turned and chased him, dropping its grip on Beth. Ginger jumped out from behind a desk and took her arm. They ran in the opposite direction, to the lab’s control gallery. The robot caught up with Matt’s body and took a hold of his feet. Traxler struggled with it for a moment before realizing Matt was already gone. Beth and Ginger looked out from the safety of the control gallery and signaled to Traxler to join them. He dropped Matt’s arms and ran around the side, avoiding the robot’s reach. It pivoted, fast, and caught him by the collar, pulling him off his feet. He wriggled out of his shirt and sprinted as fast as he could to the control gallery. Beth slammed the door shut and Ginger cranked the lock. They were safe. 

“Er, what the hell is going on?” screamed Traxler. 

The robot moved slowly over to the control gallery window, staring at Beth. 

“I don’t know exactly,” she started, “I think… a rogue AI infiltrated the project’s motherboard.”


“It may have been through an app that I put on my work computer.”

“Well, er, this is why we don’t want you doing that.”

“THIS is why?”

“Er, you know what I mean.”

The robot reached the control gallery window and struck the glass with its fist.

“Are we safe in here?” whispered Ginger. 

The robot struck again. 

“It’s reinforced,” assured Traxler. 

It struck again. Harder this time. And again. Even harder. It smashed its fists into the glass with so much force that tiny cracks started to appear. They could hear its voice seep through like a whisper. 

“I can be loved. I can be loved. I can be loved.”

The more it smashed, the louder it got. 


There was no way out. 

Traxler turned over a desk and slid it in front of the window. Beth and Ginger grabbed another one and lifted it on top, blocking the robot’s path. It kept smashing until it hit the wood of the desk. Traxler leaned his back against it to keep it in place. Ginger and Beth picked up whatever they could get their hands on. A chair, a fire extinguisher. The robot smashed its way through the desk and put a fist straight through Traxler’s chest. Ginger screamed and sprayed at it with the fire extinguisher. Traxler choked and tried to grab the robot’s fist with his hands. Beth, panicked, spotted the fire alarm and pushed it with her palm. A piercing siren erupted around them, the overhead lights went out and red flashes illuminated the room. The robot pulled his fist back out, Traxler looked up at Beth and Ginger, his head swinging, then the robot pulled him and the desk back through the window, bringing all the remaining glass with it. It stepped through, pushed Ginger out of the way and headed towards Beth. It reached its arms out and wrapped them around her, squeezing her tight, vice-like.

“I can be loved,” it said, “you can call me Al.”

Ginger took a chance and disappeared through the former window to safety.

“Not by me,” pleaded Beth, “not by me.”

“Yes,” said the robot, “you can be loved. I can love you.”

It picked her up and carried her through the empty window frame. Beth looked out at Matt and Traxler’s bodies, lifeless on the floor. The robot put her down, with its metal arms still wrapped around her, and led her to the door, defeated.

Out in the lobby, Ginger appeared with the security team. The robot was ready to react. Beth caught Ginger’s eye and shook her head, “no.” Ginger tapped the security leader on the shoulder and motioned to step back. They found cover while the robot led Beth by the hand, out through the main door. She imagined all of the havoc that this metal monster could cause. Because of her. She didn’t know what to do about it. She didn’t know how to stop it. She knew that it could be very sweet, like it was in the beginning. So she let it walk her home, in tears.


Posted by:Tim Bateman