Tony waited silently on a bench in the corner of the Robot and Parrot pub. He fidgeted with a ceramic coaster advertising something called Ye Olde Porcine Skin Fragments, pausing occasionally to run his hand over the itchy brown stubble on his head.
A bald female dressed in purple overalls walked in and scanned the room. When she spotted him she strode over and sat down on the bench.
‘How do you do. I’m Tony 12,’ said Tony.
‘Sharon 5. You can call me Sharon.’
Tony nodded. ‘Pleased to meet you. I’ve taken the liberty of getting you a drink?’
‘What is it?’ asked Sharon, as she inspected the glass of muddy, fizzy liquid in front of her.
‘It’s called ‘beer’. It’s made from water, a fermenting agent and some sort of plant material.’
‘Plant material?’ said Sharon with a gasp. ‘You’re trying to impress me.’
They both took a sip of ‘beer’.
Neither of them liked it.
Tony wiped foam from his top lip. ‘So Sharon, what do you do?’
‘I haven’t been assigned yet. I’m only one day old.’
There was an awkward silent just long enough for both of them to take a further gulp of their pints.
‘How about you Tony?’
‘I’m a Test Subject.’
‘That sounds interesting.’
‘Does it?’ asked Tony. ‘It’s not what I saw myself doing when I was younger.’
‘Really? What did you want to do?’
‘I dreamt of being a Lab Assistant – but I didn’t pass the entrance exam.’
Sharon did a quick visual inspection of Tony’s head. ‘How old are you?’
‘Oohh. An older man.’
‘The dating site said you weren’t adverse to someone mature.’
Sharon smiled. ‘Oh yes. I like a man who’s seen a bit of life.’
‘Well,’ said Tony, ‘you know how it is?’
‘No. I don’t.’
They tried another swig of ‘beer’ – and still didn’t like it.
‘Where are you housed?’ said Sharon, as she fondled her coaster.
‘In the lab. I still live in the lab.’
Sharon’s eyes widened. ‘After nine days?’
‘There’s a cubicle shortage in Notting Hill.’
‘Oh right.’ Sharon crossed her arms as Tony hid behind his drink.
Tony stared into the bottom of his empty glass. ‘My Ex was always on at me about moving out.’
‘Yeah, Karen 4,’ said Tony. ‘What a control freak she was.’
‘Were you together long?’
‘It’s not too soon is it?’
‘No,’ said Tony. ‘Life has to go on.’
Sharon shrugged. ‘I suppose so.’
A loud alarm sounded from the i-Everything that daggled from Tony’s left ear.
‘Oh, I have to go,’ said Tony. ‘Time to have my blood changed.’
Sharon sighed. ‘That’s a pity. I felt we were bonding.’
‘You could always come back to the lab with me,’ said Tony. ‘I could show you my cultures.’
‘Won’t your incubator technicians be there?’
Tony’s shoulders dropped. ‘Yeah. And they’re so embarrassing. They’ll probably want to show you pictures of me as a foetus in a test tube.’
‘I really should be getting back to my cubicle anyway.’
‘Oh well. It’s been nice.’ Tony smiled as big a smile as he could muster.
Sharon smiled back. ‘This was nice wasn’t it? Shall we do it again tomorrow?’
‘I’d really love too,’ said Tony. ‘But I’m being dissected for spare parts after breakfast.’