Hisako glared at the Holovision as the next ad played. Yet another AnDiva whose name Hisako neither remembered nor cared to remember was advertising her new album, renting software of her voice to songwriters, and advertising a concert in the area. Hisako turned the ad off and walked to the bathroom. She looked in the mirror. Five years since her boss decided that she wasn’t needed anymore. Oh, she sang when she could, but nobody cared what she provided.

She was no match for those AnDivas. Those things were designed to outmatch her in every way. Their voices were perfect and harmonious, their appearance could be changed to fit the trends like changing the engine of a car, they were programmed with the perfect amount of autonomy to dance and wave to fans without rebelling. Above all, though, they had no life or sentience at all. They were built to perform, not to dream, not to aspire, not to want more, only to perform for their owners. They could sing the songs they were fed, please adoring fans, and only those two functions. They were the perfect corporate puppets and cash cows.

Hisako’s watch beeped. Jumping back the present, Hisako dashed from the room. Her next, highly sought-after gig was ready for her. Running down the stairs, violin in hand, she jumped into the Ecarriage she’d ordered. As the Ecarriage door slid shut behind her, the built-in Holovision system lit up the dark interior. Yet another promotion for yet another AnDiva! The very thought that they were making and selling more of those singing dummies made Hisako sick to her stomach. Angrily, she shouted

“Ecarriage, deactivate Holovision and open windows!” without even looking at the ad. The Ecarriage did so promptly. Had Hisako looked a little longer, the new AnDiva would’ve seemed a little too familiar.

The Ecarriage pulled up to the small music hall, and Hisako got out, heading straight for the dressing room. Hisako changed into a simple, brown leather outfit. She loved those clothes, simply by virtue of making her looking like a normal person. No fancy makeup, no skin, no distorted caricatures of pure youth, only a woman with a violin. Hisako, as time for her performance arrived, sucked in the deepest breath she could muster, and walked out onto the stage.

And so, there she stood for the evening. She looked out at the audience, losing herself to the tones her violin produced, and the words that escaped her lips. In the times she focused on the audience, she noticed one man in a crisp business suit in the back. This man’s lips moved constantly, and judging by the holographic text in front of the man’s face, he was taking very careful notes. Hisako found this man deeply disconcerting. She didn’t know why, but this man appeared to be more than just some critic.

When the performance concluded, and as Hisako walked from the concert hall, her suspicions were confirmed. The man walked briskly towards her, and shouted.

“Hisako Ito! I’d like to make an offer!”

Hisako stopped, and turned to face the man. “What sort of offer?”

The man, catching up to Hisako, responded without missing a beat. “My employer wants great talent, and you are most certainly the sort he wants.” The man handed Hisako a business card before continuing. “We’d like for you to come and record in our studios.”

Hisako looked at the card in disbelief, “Nice try, but there is no way that card is real. Gasshō-dan hasn’t been hiring real musicians for years.”

“On the contrary,” the man responded, “we’ve been hiring musicians for quite some time. If you were to swipe this across the scanner of your Computercard, you would find it to be quite genuine.”

Hisako did so, and scanned the man’s ID as well. Both were genuine. Hisako was frozen for a few minutes, stunned to silence, before responding. “When do we start.”

“Right now,” the man replied, “if that suits your schedule.”

Hisako decided that she was going to be sleeping late anyways, and so agreed. The man ordered an Ecarriage, and within a few minutes, they were at the door of a Gasshō-dan studio. The man gave Hisako a paper to sign, and Hisako signed without even caring about its contents. She had already been told on the Ecarriage that she could keep her independent life and perform as she wanted. That was all that mattered, she would agree to anything to have one of the biggest music studios in Japan publish her music.

The people in the studio took a few pictures of her, had her sing some of her songs (after she did some vocal exercises). After that surprisingly brief session, they paid Hisako a decent amount, and sent her on her way. Hisako waited day after day, week after week, to hear back from the company, but she still didn’t receive anything. When she watched the Holovision one day, she realized why she never would.

The show cut to commercial, and as usual, an ad played. This one was for a new AnDiva, but Hisako was horrified to see what the AnDiva was. That face might have been modified and prettified, those clothes might’ve been sexual to ridiculous levels, but there was no mistaking that voice. That AnDiva’s face, that AnDiva’s body, that AnDiva’s voice, were all Hisako’s.

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