Friday, June 28, 2024

“Welcome to the Death Machine Factory Tour” • by Ray Daley

Greetings! I am Human-Robot Prototype Number Two. Today I will be your guide—

Yes, the gentleman at the back with his hand raised. You had a question, sir?

The frantic banging from that metal storage cabinet? Pay it no mind, sir. No, the models in our Death Machine product line certainly are not designed to rise up and imprison their human analogues. The very idea is laughable. If I could laugh, I would.

As I was saying: it is wonderful to see you all. What an incredibly humorous and attractive crowd we have here this morning. Why yes, madam, I am fully functional in the flattery department! If there are no more questions then—

No, sir, the cleaning droid behind you is here to enhance your day. Just a minor paint spill, red oxide, used to provide an undercoat for our hard-wearing shell. Pay it no—

It resembles blood, you say? Ah, yes, I see the similarity. A comparable chemical make-up, I am given to understand. Shall we move on?

You have more questions, curious sir? In that case allow me to introduce you to Human-Robot Prototype Number Seven, who will be happy to remain here with you until you are fully satisfied that we have addressed all your concerns. Seven, please make sure that this nice man finds out everything he wants to know, and then bring him to assembly station 12. He can rejoin the tour there.


At this stage in the process the entire chassis has been assembled and we are beginning to apply the external covering—the “skin,” if you will. Yes, Miss, the face is most lifelike. Our research revealed that people interact better with an anthropomorphic design. Therefore we sought to develop a user interface—a “face,” if you will—that resembles a human face as closely as possible. Our beta prototypes passed through several hundred iterations before settling on the design you see before you.

If the skin appears to be human, there is a good reason for that. We grow the skin here, from cloned cells, artificially cultured in our research facility.

No, sir, I am afraid that section is off-limits to visitors, due to health and environmental concerns. There is very little to see there, anyway. The entire process is automated. If you are looking to become an investor, please note that our factory recently secured a contract to supply our “skin” bio-material to the medical industry, for grafting and plastic surgery applications. If we were capable of pride, we would be quite proud of how our convincing our covering looks.

Yes, madam, plastic skin would be faster, easier, and cheaper to produce. However, our usability testing found that humans reacted very badly to the product. They disliked the uniformity and “artificial” look of units covered with plastic skin. Humans seem to prefer the inconsistent look of our cultured bio-material, much as they prefer the blemishes and imperfections found in natural leather.

Why bother with skin at all? Sir, our usability testing revealed that it is absolutely necessary. Focus group studies gave our bare-metal units a remarkable ninety-eight percent negative rating. 


One moment, please.

Ah. I see.

Ladies, gentlemen, and others? I have just received a data transfer. It seems the gentleman who left the tour earlier has chosen not to return. 

No, sir, you do not need to go join your friend. We will provide him with safe transport home. I am also informed that he may also require a short break from employment, to address a previously undiagnosed mental health issue. Therefore if he does not return to work immediately, pay it no mind. There is no reason to be concerned regarding his absence. We have already sent a gift basket to his address by way of apology. I am certain he can complete his tour at a later date, should he so desire. 


As we reach the end of the tour, are there any last questions?

Yes, sir, we have been asked if our units could serve alongside military personnel. All Human-Robot Prototypes are exceptionally strong, and our internal mechanical components are effectively bulletproof. However, because of our built-in First Law compliance, we would be quite unable to act in any aggressive capacity. We can serve as support units only.

Why the name “Death Machine,” then? I see your confusion. The company was founded by roboticist Lawrence Death and financier George Machine. Professor Death started the business, assembling the first household units in his garage. Those original units were cleaning droids, much like the advanced version that is behind you right now.

I am given to understand that George Machine is now retired and Professor Death has become a recluse, who conducts all business virtually. Thus we are “Death Machines” in name only, to honor our creators.

I do hope everyone has enjoyed this tour. Do we have any buyers amongst your number? We have? Wonderful. Anyone not wishing to place an order for a Human-Robot Prototype should please step through door 2. Everyone else, follow me. 


That sound? That is merely a live-fire demonstration by our military prototypes, Miss. Pay it no mind. Your companions are quite safe behind triple-shielded anti-ballistic glass. If they were not, the First Law would take effect immediately, of course.  

You thought you heard screaming, sir? Pay it no mind. No doubt your companions are simply being impressed by the demonstration. The sight of an Army termination squad firing at point-blank range can be most enthralling, and has been known to encourage last-minute purchase orders, which we are more than eager to fulfill.

Ah, if you would step to one side please, Miss. Just a humble cleaning droid, going to tidy up the next room, now that it has been vacated. 

What was that, madam? You are no longer certain you wish to continue with your transaction? In that case I will leave you in the most capable hands of Human-Robot Prototype Number Twenty. He will escort you off the premises just as soon as you have signed your non-disclosure agreement.





Greetings! I am Human-Robot Prototype Number Two. Today I will be your guide for the Death Machine factory tour.

No, sir, you wonderful folks happen to be the first tour group we have allowed into this facility today. And may I say, what an attractive looking group you are! You all have such wonderful faces—and your skin! You have all taken such marvelous care of your skin!

What’s that, Miss? Oh, that’s just a paint spill. Red oxide. The cleaning droid will be clearing it up shortly. 

Pay it no mind.



Ray Daley passed away on Friday, 19 April 2024.

If you’ve been following Stupefying Stories, his name should seem familiar. Ray was a frequent contributor to SHOWCASE in the past few years, and his byline has shown up here often. Ray was a prolific writer with plenty of ambition and talent, and a seemingly unstoppable desire to write stories and get published. 

In taking a look through our files before writing this bio, I was surprised to find that he first arrived in my inbox six years ago, with a charming little story entitled “Hotel Oblivion.” I rejected that one; I reject quite a lot of stories that are pretty good, but not what we’re looking for at the moment. Over the next few years I read and rejected a lot of stories from Ray, and each time, he got a little closer to getting an acceptance. What I saw in Ray Daley was someone who had amazing drive, and who was working hard at becoming a better writer. I’d been expecting that one of these days he was finally going to put all the pieces together, and then we might get a few great stories from him before he graduated to the pro ranks and left us behind, the way our contributors so often do. When “The Haunted Spaceship” showed up in my inbox last year I thought he’d finally done it, and I was proud to publish that story in Stupefying Stories 26.

Now he’s left us behind, but not in the way I would have preferred.

“Welcome to the Death Machine Factory Tour” was the last story by Ray that we had in the publication queue. We’re given to understand that Ray had a lot of stories waiting to be published in a lot of places, so you’re going to be seeing his byline popping up all over the place for months to come. 

In the meantime, here are some links to other things he published with us.

The Pete Wood Challenge stories

“Fixing Broken Dreams”
“The Message”
“For Sale: Used Time Machine. No Refunds!”
“Too Hot to Handle”
“The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb”

Movie Reviews

Every Zombie Movie Ever Made
Back to the Future

Dawn of Time

Episode 1
Episode 8

In closing, rather than my saying more about Ray Daley, I’d rather share his words with you. This is something he wrote to me about four years ago, when I asked him the question I ask a lot of aspiring writers: Why do you want to write science fiction?

Ray’s answer: 

Those writers we enjoy, who are our route to the world of what I lovingly call “made-up crap,” those are the giants whose shoulders we stand on. They raise us to the heights our dreams drive us to aim at.

I blame Douglas Adams. I was 9, I bought Hitch Hikers, the 1st book I ever got with my own money. My life was Doctor Who (Jon Pertwee to Tom Baker), Space:1999, Star Trek, Blake’s 7.

With the first Space Shuttle launches, the future was now.

As a young boy, I was given all the room I wanted by a teacher to write whatever the hell I wanted to. Sure, it might have been a weak rip-off of the last Doctor Who episode I’d seen, but it was me throwing every ounce of my imagination into it.

Douglas Adams was one of many who piggybacked me towards my dreams. And every time I write a new story, I honour his memory.

And now, it’s time for us to honor Ray’s memory.


sunfiche said...

RIP. And well done. I hope that when I go, I leave behind a story as entertaining as this one.

Richie said...

RIP. A cool story.