The Newest Profession

Anya Josephs

Story image for The Newest Profession by Anya Josephs

107 days to program launch

I t’s the most ordinary night in the world when the call comes. Yendra is sitting in front of the wallscreen at her parents’ place, eating her second-favorite flavor of chips (she’s already polished off all the best ones in this month’s snack delivery) and watching season eight of Fashion Fights. Then an alert flashes across the screen: Confidential to Yendra Burke, from G3O Central Office.

She figures it’s an all-call from HR about the Company’s 200th anniversary or something, and tries to dismiss it with a flick of her fingertip across the screen. Stubbornly, the letters dance across the screen again, flashing red now. So she taps on them, prompting the message to open up.

The format of the message makes it obvious at once what it is: a job offer. Yendra grits her teeth and gets ready for the blow.

She’s known for a long time that she isn’t cut out for one of the good jobs. Her grades in math and coding were always shaky. She didn’t even get placed in Mech or Electrical E in 6th grade, and college (or better yet, interning) was out of the question. For a while, she’d hoped maybe she could get something in the Graphics department—she loved to draw, and she wasn’t bad at it—but there were few of those slots, and she’d known before high school started that she just wasn’t good enough. She hadn’t tested high enough in empathy and conflict resolution to follow her mom’s footsteps into the Human Resources department. And that’s just a few of the best that she isn’t good enough for: she could, if she wanted to make herself miserable, run straight down the list of all 273 individual departments at G3O and explain exactly why she didn’t have what it took for any of them.

On her 18th birthday, as she received her diploma, she also got a letter from the Company. It contained pre-written words of congratulation, no doubt authored by someone who had scored much higher on both writing and creativity than Yendra had, and a list of suggested jobs for her to apply to. In order: front desk greeter, direct sales marketer, and “out of Company.” Meaning the only thing they thought she was qualified to do was smile and look pretty, and they weren’t even sure she could do that right. She might have to end up working at one of the handful of restaurants or shops in the city that were still privately owned and had to hire washouts like her to do backbreaking work at pathetic wages because they couldn’t even save up enough for a bot.

Of course, she applied for every open position she could find anyway. But the Company got her scores alongside her application, and at a glance could compare her with every other recent grad searching and know exactly where she ranks.

Worse, she does.

She’s lucky to have any offer, she knows. Even if it means a lifetime sitting behind the front desk, smiling and waving at people as they walk in. It still means being a part of G3O, and that means access to the shining tower that spreads all the way down six full city blocks of 14th Street. It guarantees a decent wage (if not a generous one, at least in the kind of job that Yendra might get), and the possibility of moving out of her parents’ place. Probably to a company-owned sleep pod at first, sure, but maybe to a real apartment like this one, eventually. Maybe she’ll meet someone at work and start a family. She could be happy, even if her job bores her senseless. Even if it reminds her, every day, of each and every way in which she isn’t good enough.

She scans the offer as quickly as her reading speed (only 21st percentile for her age cohort) allows, but doesn’t see the name of the position. She doesn’t see anything that makes any sense, so she carefully reads the letter, in full.

Dear Yendra,

Congratulations on your recent graduation from all of us here at G3O, and thanks so much for wanting to be a part of our superstar team! We noticed you applied to a couple of open positions here, and we love your team spirit.

We actually think we might have the perfect opportunity for you. It’s a brand-new project that hasn’t been posted yet, but we think you have what it takes. If you’re interested, ping us back—we would love to go ahead and set up an interview.

Danelle, and the rest of the G3O Research Team

Never in her life has Yendra, solidly-bottom quartile Yendra, average-at-best-in-everything Yendra, thought she would get a personal message from the Research Department. Of all the departments that would laugh Yendra’s application out of their inboxes, the Research Department is the most elite, the most competitive, and the most prestigious.

She doesn’t even stop to think about what this mysterious message could mean, why they might want her or why there’s so little detail involved. She doesn’t let herself think about how little she deserves this. She just types out a reply.

Hi Danelle!

So great to hear from you—and I couldn’t be more excited! When can I come in?

Before she’s finished her episode of Fashion Fights, she has an answer.


106 days to program launch

Yendra’s mother made her eat before she left the apartment for the interview. Now she’s wishing she hadn’t been talked into it, because she seriously feels like she might be sick all over the perfectly white tile floor of the waiting room.

She’s been in G3O offices almost every day of her life. One of her parents would take her to work and leave her in the Play Area when she was a baby, and she’s only ever attended company schools. That included regular, requisite tours of every corner of the public halls. So it shouldn’t be so scary, just sitting here.

Yeah, she’s probably going to be sick.


A tall, perfectly polished white woman in her mid-thirties steps into the waiting room, her red-soled heels clacking across the floor. Yendra looks up and sees her smile.

“I’m Danelle. Come on in.”

Well, Yendra follows. There’s not much else to do. It’s a short walk down a perfectly spotless corridor, and then into what she assumes is Danelle’s office, from the mess of papers strewn everywhere. You have to be pretty far up in the company to even get your own desk, let alone one behind a door that closes, and Yendra mentally revises her sense of what’s going on here. She’s at least speaking to someone of enormous importance. Which, again, is sort of outside the realm of things she ever expected to do.

“Take a seat. Do you want tea, coffee, sparkling water?”

“No. Thank you.” She sits on the chair Danelle points to, one of the cushy ergonomic numbers that molds to her thighs as she settles into it.

Danelle runs her through some standard interview protocol. There’s a barrage of simple IQ and EQ tests, all of which Yendra probably bombs because she’s so nervous, all of which are pointless because Danelle already has a digital file of every test Yendra ever took in twelve years of school.

But to her surprise, Danelle is smiling when Yendra puts down the handscreen. It’s maybe an hour later, and Yendra is a little out of it, the way she always is when she’s been staring at screens for too long.

“As I suspected,” Danelle says. “I think you’ll be a perfect fit.”

“Really?” Yendra blurts, though she regrets it immediately. She’s trying to seem confident and poised, not… whatever she actually is.

“Yendra, how much do you know about our program?”

“Um. Nothing. Not even the name.” Yendra feels the heat rising to her cheeks. “It’s not that I didn’t want to prepare, I just, there was nothing to go on in the message, and—“

“You have nothing to apologize for. It’s a brand-new program, not even launched yet, and we worry it may be… controversial, at first. Our marketing team is hard at work finding the right way to educate the public about our work, but in the meantime, we don’t want wild rumors to start flying before we’re ready to launch. So for that reason, we have to ask you to sign this NDA, before we can go into any detail about the role. Would that be all right?”

Yendra signs the agreement. She doesn’t even think about it. She barely reads it.

“Thank you. Now.” Danelle gestures, and the huge wallscreen behind her desk lights up. It’s pre-programmed with a presentation, in the classic legible, almost-cartoonish style that every G3O presentation shares, from the annual internationally-watched product launch to middle school algebra lectures.

The title, splashed in bold font across the page, is: Personal Partnerships: A Premiere Perks Program

Danelle sighs. “I keep trying to convince them to change the name, but they insist that alliteration tests well. I don’t know with whom. I’m only in charge of market research for the program itself, not the marketing.”

The presentation continues. It informs Yendra about all the perks that are provided to all company employees: the catered lunches, the unlimited snacks and drinks, the nap pods, the free tech, the hovercars that speed you home if you work overtime. Like Yendra didn’t already know everything she was missing out on.

“We have these things for two reasons,” Danelle explains. “One is because we want to be good to our team, to attract and keep the best of the best working here. The other—and I’ll be frank, because this is a confidential conversation—the other is so that our team doesn’t need anything we can’t provide. Hungry? Snacks are right there, or order delivery from any restaurant you want and we’ll pay. Tired? Close your eyes in a nap pod, or head upstairs to one of our dorms for a proper night’s sleep. Need a break? We’ve got fitness centers, in-office massages, ping-pong tables, beautiful outdoor spaces. Anything you need, we can give you, quicker and better than you could get it on your own, and all for free.”

So that you never have to step away from your desk. You never have to stop working. Yendra isn’t the brightest—she’s seen her numbers too many times to think otherwise—but like everyone else, she’s figured that out. The company doesn’t ever want you to have to leave. It’s how they’ve come to essentially rule the world. They find the best and the brightest and give them everything. That way, they are, if not actually bound to the company, effectively so. If the company gives you everything you ever need, or even want, why would you ever leave?

“Our perks program has been extremely effective in aiding in staff recruitment and retention. The company is regularly ranked the world’s most-desirable employer, and as many as 90% of our employees remain with us for their entire careers. The perks program is frequently cited as a top draw for some of the most promising talent, and for the most part our staff has been extremely satisfied with its comprehensiveness and reach. Except for one… fairly major area of human need.”

Danelle goes onto the next slide. “In a recent study of our 2,000 most-productive coders, 91.7% of them ranked sex as one of the things they think about most often. By using biometric indicators, we also found that an additional 4.2% were lying. In short, other than the relatively small number of team members who are asexual, or able to maintain a relationship despite the demands of their jobs, our entire team is being distracted by sex.”

The next slide has another chart, more highlighted figures.

“47.8% stated that they would use a company-provided personal intimacy service often or very often, with a further 23.6% found to be interested but unwilling to admit it, based on biometric scans that indicate their initial answers were dishonest. I could bore you with the margins of error, but I think you get the idea.”

“You’re basically pitching… Company-provided prostitution?” Yendra asks.

Danelle snaps her fingers, and the wallscreen goes dim. She looks up, meeting Yendra’s eyes. “We’re not pitching it, Yendra. We’re years into a program launch that could help create some of the most important advances in the history of the Company. And I think you may be the right person to take us to the next step in this revolutionary project.”

Yendra nods, slowly. She takes a deep breath, and swallows hard. And she says, “Where do I sign up?”


102 days to program launch

It’s kind of annoying that Yendra isn’t allowed to tell anyone about the biggest career move she’s ever likely to make.

She’s been hired under a special contract and gets a nice round hundred bitcoin a year, a small fortune, for as long as she’s in the role. Plus, in case of failed launch or whatever, they’ve promised her an additional fifty for life, from signing onward. She need never work again, and still be able to live a decent life. A good life.

Besides, Danelle assured, “It might not sound like much, and I know some people won’t approve of the nature of the position, but some will. Throw in your lot with us, and people will see what even our best tests can’t show—your adventurous spirit, your willingness to take a chance, your ability to work hard, all for the benefit of the company.”

So it sucks that she can’t even tell her parents anything but that she’s been recruited for a new project, and that it’s top secret. Her dad glows with pride, telling her he always knew that she’d find a way to show everyone how special she is. Her mom quietly congratulates her. She doesn’t know how they would feel if they knew the truth, and doesn’t really care.

Okay, so she wishes she could make her way to the top without having to sleep her way there. Or even get through the front door off something other than her pretty face. She can’t pretend otherwise. But she won’t forget she’s been given an opportunity she never expected. She won’t make anything less than the best of it.

She dresses carefully for her first day at G3O headquarters. She chooses a charcoal-grey suit that used to be her mother’s, with a red silk blouse underneath. Serious, professional, but still looking the part just enough. She reminds herself that this isn’t shameful. It’s special. Revolutionary, Danelle said, and she’s a department head at the most powerful company in the world. And she’s chosen Yendra to help her change the world.

She puts her hair back in a neat chignon, and adds a light touch of makeup.

The crowning glory hangs around her neck: her G3O employee badge, delivered by drone just the night before. It contains all her biometric data: retinal scan, thumbprint, heartbeat rhythm, so that G3O security can match her to her profile easily. With this badge, shimmering with holographic anti-copying designs, Yendra gets access not just to the public floors but to the highest and most secret parts of the Company. She can walk right into the research areas where trillion-dollar projects are tossed around like confetti. She can access all the top-notch perks herself—brand-new top-of-the-line handscreens and wallscreens, free catered meals three times a day or whatever she wants prepared by the in-house chefs, unlimited care from Company doctors, weekly trips to the masseur or acupuncturist.

In short, this badge is proof that she’s successful. Proof that everyone who ever said she would never make anything of herself was wrong. Proof that low test scores and mediocre evaluations don’t define her. Proof that she is, and that she always has been, more.

If she’s got that, she doesn’t care what she has to do to keep it. She just has to keep reminding herself of that. She has what she’s always wanted. A chance.


87 days to program launch

So, Yendra’s fancy new job is mostly pretty boring.

She spends some time at her desk, doing straightforward tasks. Data entry, things like that. Stuff an intern could do, not so different from the projects she barely passed back in high school. She knows that’s just to keep her busy, though, between times that the real researchers need her. It does take the sting out of it somewhat to know that she gets paid exactly as much as they do. She may be an object to their subject, but she’s also a Company employee, and she’s been assured that she’s also a real member of the team. Minimal though her contribution may be.

When they need her, she tries to zone out. She’s not afraid to admit, in the privacy of her own mind, that it’s pretty unpleasant, being treated like an experimental subject. Which, of course, she is.

She’s told that this is phase one: initial testing. What it largely entails is her being presented to various panels of Company employees, who are asked to rank her on a number of measures that will determine her suitability for the project.

She chokes down her initial objection to being treated like an object on display and asks, trying not to let the lump in her throat leak into her voice, if she had misunderstood. “I thought I was already selected for the project.”

“Of course, dear,” responds Vina, the motherly older woman who works as HR consultant for the project, and as Yendra’s direct supervisor. “We’re just gathering data to see how many partners we might end up needing. Personalization and universalization, that’s how G3O has made their mark, but no one expects you to do both!”

That alleviates her most significant fear, but there’s nothing in the whole world that can make it pleasant to stand behind a reinforced glass panel while a committee of data engineers rank her attractiveness on a 215-question survey. Obviously, the Company provides top-notch counseling and therapy, but Vina gently hinted during her onboarding that it would be better if she didn’t discuss certain things with anyone. Like the nature of the job she was hired to do, for example.

She tries to remind herself that they don’t even know why they’re here: the project’s cover story is that they’re working to improve facial recognition. Yendra is the one with the power here, the one who has been allowed into the inner circle.

That doesn’t make her feel any better when it’s time to remove her clothes for the next round of surveys. The air on her side of the glass is heated to a pleasantly balmy temperature, and the glass is one-way so she can’t see them looking at her. Every consideration has been taken, but she can’t stop imagining what’s on the other side.

Sometimes she pictures dozens of pairs of hungry eyes on her, consuming her intangibly. Other times, they’re all staring down at their handscreens, focused on their assignment, ignoring her completely. She isn’t sure which would be worse.

It doesn’t really matter. She’s here to do a job. The survey panels only meet once a day, anyways. She doesn’t have to do anything, has been specifically told not to try to look alluring or attractive, so she just tries to keep the anxiety off her face and focus on the future that she’s earning for herself with every second she stands there. After that, she gets to go back to her desk and her data sheets, and not too long after that, home again.

It’s better than anything she could have hoped for.


71 days to program launch

The initial survey results are very promising, they tell her. It seems like she’ll be an excellent model for the program. Pretty, but not so much that she intimidates the shyest of the first-rank employees. Attractive, but not enough that they’ll be distracted from their work while they wait for their turn.

In short, she is perfectly average. They don’t put it like that, but she can read between the lines.

Well, at least her lifelong mediocrity is finally good for something.

The survey panels continue, mostly scheduled for the mid-afternoon when productivity for employees tend to dip, and where her services would likely be needed in helping everyone get back on track. But there’s a new task added to her calendar, a new phase of the study in preparation for program launch.


No one explains to her exactly why this is necessary, or even why they are doing what they’re doing. But for some reason, before she leaves every day, she spends the last two hours submitting to a panel of measurements. At first, it’s surprisingly old-fashioned—a couple of tailors with a literal measuring tape, taking the dimensions of her arms, her waist, her breasts. But as the days go forward, they get more precise, culminating in micro-bots crawling along her skin to determine its exact topographical layout.

She tries to hint Vina into sharing what’s going on, and receives a distant smile in response. She supposes they’re just getting more data. If she’s been found suitable for the project, why? How many centimeters of hip circumference, how many cubic centimeters of breast tissue, how many flowing hairs on her head?

Lately, she’s been feeling more and more disconnected from her body. She spends so much of her time being examined by analytical eyes that she’s started to feel like it’s not really her there, under her clothes or beneath her bare skin. She’s somewhere else, distant and watching and considering whether or not any of this was worth it.

She scares herself, thinking like that. After all, the proper work hasn’t even started yet. Pretty soon, she’s going to have to start actually “working”, actually having sex with people on the company’s behalf. If she’s already starting to feel this way, will she be able to handle that?

She reminds herself that they chose her for a reason. They could’ve picked anyone—it’s not like they don’t have their choice of every resumé in the world for any open position. But they didn’t pick any of those other people. They picked her. She has to live up to that.

There are some consolations. All those other perks, the nap rooms and the game centers and the unlimited snacks? She helps herself to them with regularity. Now she can have her favorite kind of chip whenever she wants, without waiting for the shipment to arrive, and she’ll have saved up for her very own off-site apartment by the time the project launches. Her bank account is steadily growing into the triple digits, and she has her upcoming one year high-school reunion to look forward to.

The thought of everyone’s disbelieving faces as she tells them all that she’s been hired for a top-secret project by the Research Department is enough to get her through some of the least pleasant moments, like when calipers pinch her painfully tight or some fumble-fingered engineering intern is trying to get a more precise measurement of the depth of her vagina.

Besides, she probably won’t have to do the actual work for very long. Danelle had assured her of that more than a few times. She just wishes there were someone for her to talk to about it all, she supposes. But her NDA had been exhaustive. There were no exceptions to the silence she had agreed to.

She wants everyone to see that she’s on top of her work, but more than that, that she’s the right kind of person to work at the company. The kind of person who can keep a secret. The kind of person who’s willing to take whatever it gets. The kind of person who will one day be sitting in her very own private office, with the future at her feet.


42 days to program launch

Another message from Danelle floating across her handscreen. This time, the words that will change her life read: We’re moving to trial this week. Everything is ready. Do you want to be the first to see? You’ve earned it. -D

She had no idea it would be so soon. No idea that she only had a small handful of days before the end of this long period of strange waiting, before it was time to do what she’d been chosen for.

She replies: Of course.

Her handscreen alerts her to a new meeting appointment at the Far Rockaway Lab, in five minutes’ time—all the rooms in the building are named after city landmarks, which is exactly as annoyingly precious as it sounds. Off Yendra trots, obedient to the electronic summons, and admittedly burning with some curiosity.

She finds Danelle standing outside the locked door, her normally professional face betraying a hint of excitement, or even nerves. “They just finished production on number ten. You’ll be the very first to see, other than the production team. I haven’t even been in myself.”

“Oh,” Yendra says, searching for more appropriate words. It’s difficult, since she has no idea what’s going on.

“I’m sure it’ll be strange at first, but, just remember, this is a real advance. We’re doing more than just preparing to improve G3O’s hiring and retention rates. We’re moving science forward, a real leap, and I want to thank you for your part in it.”

Danelle waves her badge in front of the door, the lock clicks, and it slides open.

On the other side, Yendra sees herself. A crowd of herself. Identical, lifeless copies, standing naked, closed-eyed, unmoving, unbreathing. She sees ten freckles on the side of ten noses, ten of her left breast a little fuller than the right, ten soft curves of her lower stomach, ten tiny scars at the base of ten clavicles.

“They’re not activated yet, of course, but testing assures me they’re fully functional. Our first field test will be in three days. We’ll turn them on then, save power in the meantime.”

It’s a long time before she can stammer out the question. “What are they?”

Now Danelle is smiling, staring at the other Yendras, apparently unaware of the Yendra next to her as she struggles against the sudden pounding of her heart. “Gorgeous, aren’t they? We’ve been working on the associated technology for some time. Lab-grown human skin over an artificial skeleton, conversational AI, the eyes—you have no idea how hard it was to get the eyes right! But this is the first real prototype. The Hiring and Retention team has a massive budget, and we were able to do something really revolutionary with it. Something that will help us all make our mark.”

“They’re robots.” Yendra realizes out loud, with some combination of disgust and relief.

“Well, of course. How did you think we were going to make the copies?” Danelle finally takes her eyes from her sleeping creations and looks at the real, living Yendra beside her. “You can’t have thought you were actually going to be performing sexual services on the company’s behalf. That would raise a number of the most significant ethical concerns. Not to mention quality control problems. And how would we scale the program across different sites if we’re depending on human providers? No, we discarded the idea years ago. Besides, this is the perfect testing ground for our HuBots.” She frowns. “Really don’t like that name.”

Yendra can hear her heart beating like it’s in her head. “What happens to me?”

“Well, obviously, we’ll need your help training them up. They’re not supposed to have your personality or anything, we’ve combined that from a variety of different models, but gestures, physical quirks, things like that.”

“And then?”

“You’ll continue receiving a very generous stipend, for life. And you’ll know that you’ve made an irreplaceable contribution to a truly remarkable sociological breakthrough.”

“But.” It’s a real effort to hold back tears, which is humiliating. She’s already made herself look stupid, not having realized the basics of a project she’s been working on for months. She doesn’t want to seem pathetic as well. “I thought you said, that maybe, that I could stay with the project. In another role. That this was my chance to show what I could do.”

“And you have.” Danelle smiles at her. “Yendra, we tested a dozen candidates before you. None had anything like your scores for physical attractiveness and approachability, across an incredibly diverse pool of potential subjects. You were the perfect person for this project, and we’re so grateful to you.”

“So that’s all I’m good for?” Yendra doesn’t quite gesture over at the robot-clone-things, but it’s hard not to.

Danelle gives her arm a sympathetic touch. “Of course not. But I just don’t think you can hope to lead a project team when every one of them knows what you look like naked, when they’re regularly making use of sexual services from a non-sentient entity that resembles you exactly. I think it’s best for the project if pre-launch is where your contribution ends.”

Yendra stares at the copies of herself. But instead, maybe for the first time in her life, she’s seeing a future clearly. Her future.

She will take her payout and buy herself an apartment. She’ll spend her days watching reality TV and eating chips, and wondering how many of the people who see her face have seen it before. These things will remain here, in the heart of the company, pulling the world’s best and brightest into nap pods for quick trysts between long hours at their work stations. No doubt the technology will be all over the world in a few years, with HuBots—it really is a stupid name—first being sold to the private market as the ultimate sex toys, then taking over as things like waitresses, maybe even working as front desk greeters for the company.

She wonders if she, she, will even be a footnote in the history of this new development. She wonders how she could have sold her face, her body, her self without even realizing what she had done.

“Well,” she says, swallowing, her throat so dry. “Thank you anyway. For the opportunity.”

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Anya Josephs

Author image of Anya Josephs Anya Josephs was raised in North Carolina and now lives and works in New York City, where she teaches foster youth pursuing college degrees. When not working or writing, she can be found seeing a lot of plays, reading doorstopper fantasy novels, or worshipping her cat, Sycorax. Her writing can be found in Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, The Green Briar Review, the Necronomicon Anthology, SPARK, UnLaced, Proud2BeMe, The Huffington Post, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Poets Reading the News. Her debut novel, Queen of All, a fantasy for young adults, is forthcoming from Zenith Press. You can find her at her website, and she tweets as @anya_writes.

© Anya Josephs 2020 All Rights Reserved

The title picture was created using Creative Commons images - many thanks to the following creators: JacksonDavid (several times over), and Pexels.

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