Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 300

A very long day in London. I am now waiting for the train to leave Liverpool Street. Lots of meetings, all so interesting they went past planned time. Been up since 05:30, so allowed myself a second espresso of the day at 17:00 in between meetings. The speech without notes at the last meeting seemed to go well (no names, no pack drill – that would be against the rules that I do observe in my day job). Also met M, a guy who writes kids’ books with funny verses and serious educational messages. Very cool. I did tell him that stuff was more valuable than fiction, but in typical male fashion, he demurred. If you’re reading this, M, I’m right. I’m always right.


Very sweaty having rushed for the train, but very buzzy because I love to meet people, to hear their stories, to be able to get under the bonnet of causes we get involved in at work. Although we made the sensible decision, pre-pandemic, to cut down my visits because of very high workload, it’s great to have packed 4 meetings into one day, although I may be hardly intelligible when I do Radio Stradbroke in the morning. But, after having been so ill with covid, to feel I’m full octane again is a wonderful feeling – although I know I’m going to need to rest all weekend.


Yes, I’m very fortunate to be able to live my job heart and soul. It bears pointing out, though, that there are serious ups and downs, just like in a marriage, that being this emotionally involved can sometimes, often, be a bad thing for mental health (unlike in a marriage), and that there is heartbreak every single day. That’s why visits are never a priority, because need is a greater priority.


And, speaking for me, not my employer, need is only going to become greater as we move into the next, unwarranted, age of austerity.




‘You’re not even joking, are you?’ Aggie says.


‘Of course not.’


Her plan evolves. ‘Interesting,’ she says. ‘what makes you think I’d do that.’


‘Everyone has their price,’ Valentine’s robot says. ‘And there are no exceptions.’


‘Perhaps you should join me.’ She pats the vacant seat next to her.


‘Very kind.’


Aggie signals one of the cabin crew. ‘A bottle of champagne,’ she mouthes. ‘Please.’


The woman nods at her, a quizzical look on her face.


Aggie smiles, shakes her head.


‘What’s with the secret messages?’ Valentine says as he drops into the seat.


‘She doesn’t know I know you, does she? It’s obviously a concern for her if she thinks I’m being harassed or coerced.’


‘I hadn’t thought of that.’


‘You’re a man. You wouldn’t.’


‘Well, it’s not really on my radar.’


‘It wouldn’t be.’


The attendant brings across the bottle of champagne and two glasses.


‘Thanks ever so much,’ Aggie says.


Valentine blanks her, his eyes anywhere but her face.


‘Behave!’ Aggie snaps




‘Does your programming not allow for respect and decorum?’


Valentine looks confused. He furrows his brow. ‘I … I know what the words mean, but I can’t associate them with feelings.’


‘So you’ve been programmed to be a sociopath?’


He shrugs. ‘I’m as close to Valentine as anything. I feel and act as he does.’


Aggie nods at the attendant who comes back and pours two glasses. ‘Thanks so much.’


The woman smiles back at her and retreats as quickly as she can.


Aggie raises her glass. ‘Here’s to robots who enjoy champagne,’ she says quietly.


Valentine picks up the glass. ‘Oh yes,’ he sighs. ‘Oh yes.’ And downs the glass in one.


Aggie shakes her head. ‘That’s wasteful.’


‘There’s more, isn’t there?


‘Not an unending supply, I shouldn’t think. It’s a long flight.’


‘We’ll conclude our business and then we can sleep.’


‘Robots that sleep?’ Aggie says.


‘Everything needs to sleep.’


‘I suppose it does.’ She takes a careful sip, thinks of Lily, discards the thought as too dangerous, too distracting. ‘So what are you offering me?’


Valentine fills his glass, lifts it level with his eyes. ‘Wonderful colour.’ He looks at her through the glass. ‘A million pounds,’ he says. ‘For you to fight for us.’




‘More money than most people will see in a life time.’ He drains the glass. ‘You do realise the real me is listening, don’t you?’


‘And telling you what to say. Not sure I really trust your AI capabilities.’ She smiles at him. ‘Betrayal isn’t that cheap.’


Valantine leans back in his seat, pushes his head into the material. ‘I could just kill them myself.’


‘You could. But you won’t. You want to watch me do it, and then you want me to fight all your other battles, because I’m better than any robot you could ever build.’



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