Welcome to The Echo’s annual feature — Summer Soap. Now in its sixth year, Summer Soap is a daily fictional serial run over 12 parts, which started yesterday and runs till Saturday week. Called Droid, this story is about a boy who designs a robot, and was written by Margaret Gillies, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. Catch up with previous episodes at echolive.ie, where you can also hear a podcast of the story. In the second episode, Lucca shows his girlfriend his invention...
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“Maureen,” says Professor Colin Cassidy gravely. His wife walks into the room. She half-expects him to tell her he’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness or that one of his close friends has died.
“This is the fecker I was telling you about,” says Cassidy, gesturing wildly at the television.
Maureen looks at the screen. She’s a slim woman in her late fifties. She has degrees in Sociology and Women’s Studies from UCC and has attended numerous Repeal the 8th rallies.
A tall, burly man in a grey suit sits across from a reporter in a showreel on RTÉ News Now. The ribbon at the bottom of the screen reads “Prof. TRACY EPPINGER — Head of Advanced Robotics at Trinity College.”
“Tracy?” says Maureen.
“D’you hear him?” says Cassidy, stepping up and brushing down his coat. “Taking credit for everything. If a UCC student gets lucky after that Masters, he’ll be sticking his head onto RTÉ News saying it was all because of him. Dirty c**t.”
“Is that his real name?” says Maureen. She glances at her husband, who shifts from side to side, glowering at the screen.
Colin Cassidy was born in Aberdeen in Scotland. He moved to Cork after meeting Maureen. He has pale orange hair with white streaks and a failed attempt at a moustache. He pad-pads angrily out of the room over the delicate hairy carpet.
“Is Tracy not a woman’s name?” presses Maureen.
“Of course, it is.” says Cassidy, storming down the hall. “Suits him down to the ground.”
He slams the door.
Lucca and Eden are in the basement of his mam’s house.
“I want to show you something,” says Lucca.
Eden has long brown hair and hazel eyes. She has been with Lucca for seven months. She made a conscious decision not to join the UCC Feminism Society, but even she wonders what Lucca could be after with this.
The basement is dingy and packed with pool tables, ancient desktop computers, and piles of cardboard boxes. Everything is preserved in a fine shower of dust. The air is noticeably thinner down here.
Lucca and Eden weave their way through the towering, narrow jungle of stuff before they reach a small clearing where an ominous-looking figure stands draped in a red tablecloth. There is a smell of oil strong enough to feel dangerous. Eden winces. The figure is taller than her. The tablecloth hangs limply just above its stiff knees. It’s wearing loose back joggers and old brown boots.
“Jesus, Luc,” says Eden, “Have you stuffed a dead body or what?”
Lucca whisks off the tablecloth. Standing before them is the robot he’s been building for the past two years. It looks freakishly human. From a distance, it would look like a real person. Up close, it looks uncanny. Wrong.
Eden reaches out and touches the robot’s shoulder. It feels hard, like she’s touching a pipe.
“What’s this?” says Eden quietly.
“Grim,” says Lucca, “Short for Grimes McNally. He can do pretty much anything a human being can.”
He turns to Eden. “CC has already had a look at it.”
Eden looks lost. “Who’s CC again?”
“Colin Cassidy. My professor.”
Lucca walks behind Grim and fidgets with some controls on his back. The robot is an inch taller than him. It has stringy brown hair, pale spongy skin and marble-like eyeballs.
Eden swings her hips, looking thoughtful. “Does he talk?”
“Yeah.” Lucca snaps a switch and Grim instantly looks more alert. “Give him time though. It takes a while for him to gather his thoughts. CC loves him. He’s fair freaked out by him, but he loves him.”
Eden grins manically at Lucca. “So, if Grim is so special, could he, like... change the world?”
“Grim will change Hollyhill,” says Lucca. “Then he’ll change the world.”
TOMORROW: “Hunter produces a copy of The Echo. Trinny stares at the headline and accompanying pictures. “Amazing isn’t it?” says Hunter.