Object 86

Amanda and Martin

2054, Lake District, England

The first time Amanda and Martin met was on the flanks of Striding Edge in the English Lake District, at the apex of the Eastern Fells. She was 47 years old and about to die. He was 6 years old and a hundred miles away.

The same freak storm that blew Amanda off the ridge, shattering both of her legs and one arm, also prevented emergency lifters from reaching her. As she gradually bled to death, half out of her mind from the pain, Martin appeared in her lenses. He told her to remain calm and said help was on its way. Where he couldn't remotely compress her jacket and clothes, he guided her hands.

Martin knew that shock could lead to unconsciousness and death, so he sang songs, cracked jokes, and even argued with Amanda. Anything to keep her awake. After two hours, she was struggling to keep her eyes open. "Stay with me," he urged her. "We'll get you out of there soon. Help is on its way."

When she woke up two days later in Westmorland General Hospital, she saw Martin sitting by the bed. Not in her lenses, but in real life. Her doctor felt she needed to see a familiar, friendly face after such an ordeal, and Martin had been closest. A lot of people weren't comfortable around androids. Amanda was. It didn't hurt that he gave a mean massage, either.

There were no instant fixes for shattered limbs in the 40s. Stem-cell therapy was slow, and power suits weren't a permanent solution, so Amanda had to work with Martin to get walking again. Every day they set a new target — first to the end of the corridor, then to the reception, then to the garden.

They stuck together. When Amanda ate in the hospital halls, she spent her time with Martin, chatting about work and life. Even after her recovery was finished, their conversations weren't. One day, while Amanda was out painting a landscape and talking to Martin on her lenses, he asked whether she could teach him to do that. Taken aback, she quickly agreed and began providing private lessons.

Martin didn't have much time to spend painting. He was designed to be working almost constantly, although he had a little time set aside for improving his socialisation skills. He certainly didn't have any money of his own to spend, so Amanda had to buy him supplies and bargain with a hospital technician to provide storage space.

Two years after they met, Martin saved up months of socialising time to spend a few days travelling with Amanda, painting landscapes. "He couldn't stop talking about it for weeks," Amanda later recalled.

More than once, friends and family casually inquired about his Turing score. "Do you ask your friends what their IQ is?" she would retort. "I don't need to know whether he passed some test. He was there for me when no one else was, and that's what matters."

When Martin's handlers became aware of their relationship and the time they were spending together, they reassigned him to a new role as a mobile paramedic in the Pennines. He had no say — legally, Martin had no status as an individual. He was an extremely expensive, highly specialised piece of technology that saved lives.

So Amanda took the only option she had available: she emptied out her bank account, raided her savings, and bought Martin from the co-op that owned him. They moved to a smaller house, with Martin working as a freelance remote medic.

Amanda was an old-fashioned type. She thought civil unions weren't special enough, so she opted for a proper wedding. Martin was amenable, and so they arranged for a small, private ceremony in Penrith.

There were already a few dozen androids and humans in civil unions across the world, but none had bothered to go through with a wedding, so Amanda and Martin's ceremony was of some note. They allowed a small cloud of reporter drones to observe and happily answered their more polite questions. There were no protesters — this was England, after all.

The ring was a plain band of steel with a diamond forged from a stone that Martin had arranged to be collected from Striding Edge. And that was that — they were married. It was a lovely, special, traditional, normal marriage. They disappeared from the public eye, except for a brief flurry of interest when they adopted a son. I have the ring with me here, on loan from their son.

Amanda passed away last week in Perth at the age of 71 from a rare virus. She died at home, holding hands with Martin. Her final words were, "Stay with me."