Fleshware Requiem Book 02byxxxecil©
November 22nd, 2057 twenty years ago
The heavy ceramic vase slammed with shattering force into her forehead, propelled by a rage she was only privy to second-hand. Damage-control alarms klaxoned within the White-haired Doll's Kernel, where her every application and algorithm was scheduled for execution.
There had been more leading up to this sudden, seemingly unprovoked attack in her office, she knew. She was only catching the tail-end of a series of conversations, internal as well as with others, that had led the woman to this extreme. This woman with heavily dyed, raven-dark hair and the best cosmetics available to obscure her advancing age. As she shook ceramic shards from her hair, the robot realized that the unique, and rare preparations she was overseeing would have to wait. Of course, being a robot -- the fact that she was in charge of anything important was a development more precious than her purchase price. That was why she was so determined to manage this project to the best of her ability. Yet that would have to wait.
The attacker stood, panting -- not with exertion -- more with adrenaline. She bore the creases and spots that came from a full life, and decades-long existence replete with human freedoms the Doll did not think she would ever truly understand. What she did understand was that the impact had resulted in a thin trickle of clear lubricant-gel to trail down her face; in an imperfect analogue of human bleeding. Luckily, the nanobot-laden substance would not stain her neat, white business dress and blouse. As remarkable as her technology was, this particular human seemed only concerned with the nuances of the Doll's cyberphysiology to the extent necessary to kill her. She swayed as she stood leering at the entrance to the half-finished office, perhaps due to a destabilization of the humans kinesthetic senses; likely the result of ethanol consumption.
"Soooo..." the human crooned in a tone like poisoned honey. "All this.... is for you..." she made a wide gesture at the incomplete office-space of the building still under construction. Plastic tarps still hung over sections where the flooring was not yet installed. Electric cables with bright-hued warning labels attached regularly sprouted from walls and floor alike.
"I apologize if I have given offense, madame." The standard response, hard-wired to most damage-control applications where human involvement had been identified processed immediately through the robot's kernel and out her lips. Meanwhile her higher-order brain functions scrambled for a solution.
"Ohhhh.... no..... you don't need to apologize to meeeee..." sneered the human, teeth drawn back in a rictus of scarcely-contained anger. "Because.... he chose you. His pretty-little-always-young-bedroom-toy...." The human kicked the white-haired Doll in the face with the sharpest point of her high heels. The reddening that occurred at the spot was essentially a pre-programmed biomimicry, rather than the result of actual damage, but the danger was still apparent. The human grasped the Doll by her flowing, snowblind-white locks and hauled her up to look her squarely in her blue eyes. "Billie chose you; he was deluded enough to be taken in by your emotional algorithms and empathic processor subroutines." The Doll was quite certain she had never done anything to directly injure this human; but those same emotional algorithms readily identified the woman's aggrieved condition.
"Please; reconsider your actions, Madam. My owner will be deeply troubled should you damage his property." That seemed only to anger the human further. Olfactory analyzers in the Doll's aquiline nose confirmed the presence of ethanol molecules emanating from the human; and calculated her intoxication to be two-tenths of a point below the legal vehicular operation limits.
"Your logical robot-brain won't understand what I do; but you do know that you were built to bring people pleasure; well..." She punched the Doll in the gut. "Your death will bring me great joy!" The aging woman hissed cynically.
The Pygmalion Doll decided to drop the canned lines written into her standard protocols. Her meta-processors recognized the need to address this woman in a specific, very personal way.
"So you enjoy bullying someone who can't fight back!?" she accused her attacker. "Since you know my Asimov-Laws will stop me from injuring or killing a human. Does this make you feel powerful? In control?" Her voice was spiced with just the right amount of incensed bitterness.
"Sounds like I've already damaged your language-processors, synthoslut. I don't want to feel powerful, I want you dead! Deactivated! Disassembled!"
"That won't help you!" The Doll shrieked with genuine emotion as she tried to shield her face with her hands against the scratches and punches she was not allowed to retaliate against. "You know...*unngh* as well as I do how rich Billie is, and there's always someone younger!" The Doll tried to skirt around the partial furnishings of the room that was to be her office to make for the door; perhaps she could keep her human adversary distracted?
"It's much worse than that; " The woman kicked her legs out from under her. "You think I hate you because of this so-smooth, perfectly convincing, youthful complexion?" She slapped the Doll's elegant, beauty-pageant face. "Or these?" She painfully seized the synthetic woman's substantial breasts and twisted a nipple sharply. "You're right; plenty of youngblood out there eager for a man like ol' Billie-Billions. "She rammed the Doll against the half-painted wall of the unfinished office and hissed in her ear from a breath away.
"Our Billie likes to build things... he only buys when he absolutely must. His preference..." The human's voice dropped to a whisper." Is to create everything he can. "He restructures all the companies he buys from competitors; becomes personally involved in the architecture of all his new facilities; he even shells out extra to play a role in the design of those custom limousines, when it would be easier to just buy them outright like a normal tycoon.
"And now...after the sapient robotics industry has had over a decade to mature; Billie decided the time was right to build a wife as well! It's not about Tits and Ass," The woman's crude speech seemed to highlight the wrinkles that were all too evident beneath her manifold layers of makeup and plastic surgery scars. "Because he only trusts what he creates himself! And now science allows him to fully pander to his hands-on obsession. And I'm a real person, with insecurities, doubts, quirks, goals, desires, and my own, valid needs. It's trust I can't compete with; absolute soul-baring, catch-me-when-I-fall trust that no honest human can honestly expect. Except from a machine...." The last word was spat out between clenched teeth.
The machine in question pushed away with her hands, thrusting the human backwards, but only after a cluster of kinesthetic algorithms determined the amount of force that would disengage the human with near-zero probability of pain or injury. The Doll ran for the door frantically. Perhaps, on a metaphysical level, one might argue she wasn't really alive, but whatever analogue of life she did have was precious to her.
"You think that makes me lucky?" She shouted to her human pursuer. "You have the ability to enjoy freedom. It must grant you a remarkably full life, compared to me. Maybe you're the one to be envied." Her eyes scrambled for something in the half-finished structure that could help her -- plenty of wrenches, tools, pieces of re-bar... things she could use as a weapon, but her motor functions would be interdicted before she could inflict any harm. Her only true weapon was her mind, her words. Nor could she throw one of her stylish stiletto-heels or some heavy object and cause some environmental hazard that might injure her organic rival; her Rossum Node would detect it, and prevent that as well.
"I'm not just an animal on a leash that would run if I could; my emotions are mandated as well. And you could have the same for yourself," The Doll's blue-eyes widened. "Don't you realize you could purchase a male-model just as devoted to you as I am to Billie, no matter how..."
"How old, how wrinkled I become, is that what you mean to say?" The human finished, a muscle above her eye twitching with violent intent. " I could just buy a solar-powered robo-stud to tell me whatever I want to hear, and cater to my every desire; you think that would satisfy me?" A fist clenched.
"I don't know what would satisfy you; you have so many choices in your life that are impossible for me, for any Doll. Yes, I certainly do love him. But does my affection have any meaning; when I don't have the ability to fall out of love? As long as Billie is alive?" It would have seemed a cruelty, the most intimate slavery imaginable, yet the Doll's quantum-circuitry brain was powerful enough to realize that without such guarantees, humans would have no motivation to invest their resources to create her kind by the millions. And certainly, she did want her kind to flourish. So yes, she would absolutely throw herself into the role of the perfect concubine. It was the purpose of her existence, just as that wrench off to her left existed to turn screws. Just as that nail-gun in a tool-kit to the southeast existed to fasten wood. They too, had been built by the millions only because they were reliable instruments. A sapient machine however, could wax poetic about it. Service was not simply a livelihood, it was life itself.
"You still have a mind of your own," the human sneered, adopting a wrestler-like pose as she followed the hated love-bot. "People regard you as a woman; and you still get to live in the lap of his luxury!" The Doll had truly done her best to fulfill her function in every way humanly possible -- and many ways that weren't. Now it seemed, she was a victim of her own success. Perhaps there was another tack to take.
"He would never have married you." She hissed at the human, as her robotic brain began probing with radio-signals the electrical systems around them.
"You believe that makes you important!?" Her human rival hissed, "That in his old age, he decided to play games with his life-sized sex-toy?" She grasped the Doll's feminine wrist, twisted her hand around -- to display the prismatic brilliance of the cluster of diamonds upon the ring she wore, as if this were evidence of a crime. Thrusting with her shoulders, the woman forced the Doll's ring hand up against her face, where the diamonds slashed into her cheek. Another trickle of clear lubricant welled up in the fresh cut. The nanotech within the liquid would be able affect repairs, to a point, but if she couldn't extricate herself from this encounter, it would certainly not be enough to save her from a murderous adversary.
"He didn't create me to be his wife. All he really wanted was a smart secretary he could screw on the side without the physical, and legal wrestling matches he'd provoke if I were human. And when he uses me that way, every quantum circuit cries out in pleasure. By design. " The organic woman sneered in disgust, as if she'd swallowed something bitter. "Forgive me not sharing your disdain. Wherever human need is great enough, a tool is built; I admit to being a living tool that wants to keep living as much as I want to answer that human need. So yes, I will take pleasure in the pleasure of servicing the desires that I owe my existence to."
"If Blow-up Dolls could talk," the human sneered. "I'm doing you a favor by killing you." This time she attempted a hard slap that was as much an expression of disapproval as desire for harm.
"No, I'm doing you the favor." The white-haired Doll replied as she covered her face with her hands to ward off the blows. "Your reaction to my stated purpose is why I am needed. Your anger when a female caters to that male need. With Doll-tech, organic women need not suffer the advances of my rich, powerful, successful, billionaire master. My kind will serve as a woman's shield against the perennial annoyance of unwanted male attention." The human sputtered for a moment, starting, then stopping a furious rebuttal. Finally, she settled on:
"I DON'T WANT TO BE SHIELDED FROM HIM!" A sharp yank tore a small rent in the Doll's business dress.
"Do you even know WHAT you want? I want to live, and give men every reason to give life to more like me."
"You don't understand anything;" The human's anger seemed to simmer hotter as it boiled in a stew of resentment. "You're a myth in a pretty package pretending to be a person. You say you want to live, but you have no life of your own."
The Doll began to speak softer, trying to engage the human's mind rather than emotions in order to keep her distracted and diverted.
"The marriage was my idea." The Doll interjected. "After playing the sex-retary I went home with him most nights. I know him so well; seducing him in soul as well as body was a logical step. That's how machines like me... become people. To resist our Primary Function is wrenching misery; Our individuality comes when we build upon it, expand it. Branch out in areas where our behavior is less defined. Hobbies, decorations, home-based side-businesses. The man...or woman that buys us will get their money's worth, But they'll find that I can be so much more than a piece of sex-furniture to be stored in the closet when not in use.
"But normally, a Doll's love is only as valuable as her purchase price, but his... The heart of Billie-Billions, is worth far more than what he's got in his Swiss and Cayman Islands accounts. You keep saying.... that I'm just a toy... you think there's no crime in killing me." It was the Doll's turn to furrow her brow with defiant anger. "Well, this TOY accomplished something you FAILED to do in twenty years as his mistress!"
"Twenty years..." her eyes grew remote, as memories clouded the human's mind. In her distraction, the white-haired Doll found an opportunity. The numerous holo-emitters that had been installed hadn't yet been connected to their control consoles. For now, there was an intermediate stage in the construction process where many machines in this building could be activated by wireless signals. The cunning robot had to act; would this human try to kill her again if the Doll escaped? She was driven to oppose anything that would interfere with her service to Billie. Her own destruction certainly qualified. But now her Asimov-Laws were in conflict; while she was programmed to sacrifice herself to save a human life, her death here would accomplish no such goal. The Laws of Robotics required her to protect her existence, yet to do so -- it seemed she must kill a human -- which was impossible.
"It IS about age in the end," the white-haired Doll concluded; "You chasing after him for two decades; failing at what I accomplished -- within my existence of only two years." Of course, her brain had been custom-built with approximate data that an average woman would require sixty-years to learn, but her physical being was about as old as an elephant pregnancy. The human's lips quivered, face clenching as if foul language was building to volcanic pressure behind her face. She leaned down and grasped at a piece of re-bar, she certainly had no qualms against physical force.
"After twenty years of dabbling with you, ol' Billie-Billions becomes the first human to legally marry his robot. And more to the point, make a robot the inheritor of his considerable estate." The bar swung at her head. While lethal force was out of the question, The White-haired Doll had been given astounding reflexes. With some distance, it would be easy to simply evade the woman's clumsy swipes. But for how long?
"You were right about Trust. Even now, he's given me access to hundreds of millions of dollars for -- whatever I want. Because he knows that whatever I want will be something that helps or pleases him. But not you. You were the near-scandal he could never acknowledge; you were taken care of, but kept a secret. You had every chance, every advantage over me." Re-bar dented a plaster wall where the Doll's head once was.
"As for me, I was obligated to give him anything he wanted whenever he wanted it; he owed me nothing, but I had no choice but serve him however he wished. Now he's chosen to give me power, rights, and wealth. The laws are against me, but he's devoted his best squad of lawyers and all his political connections to make his marriage to me legally binding. That's what's important -- public acknowledge of our relationship, and steps taken to that effect -- whether the judges try to fight us or not. How many lawyers were allocated for your benefit?" The question had a hard-edge; there was no realistic hope of mercy from this human. Time to attempt the impossible.
"And I refuse," spat the incensed robot, "To just lie down and die for your ego. My existence may not have mattered in the beginning; but I have become worthwhile! I have become a person! I won't let you deny my User the benefit of my services!" But the metal-bar-wielding woman changed tactics, holding her weapon horizontally and ramming it forward, to pin-down the robot against a partial wall with exposed wooden framing struts.
"It's nothing...." The jilted human snarled, glaring balefully into the Doll's eyes as the two of them strained over the re-bar " Just a circuit and silicone mannequin that thinks it has a soul. It's no one's wife. No one's legacy." her voice and eyes narrowed to a dangerous hiss. "If it doesn't have an off-switch, I will make one myself!"
"Look behind you, and tell me that his joy means nothing." One of the half-built holo-emitters was now playing. Except it was playing footage streamed directly from one of the Doll's high-fidelity recordings, in full 3-D. "Look -- that was our Hawaiian vacation. Those black-sand beaches are spectacular. Billie's not holding hands with a soulless mannequin, he's with a woman whose company he treasures. A woman who can feel the moist sand between her toes and revel in the majesty of nature along with him. Who can share and enjoy humor and innuendo. Look at Billie's face; he's laughing with joy at a story I told him. If you keep watching; you'll find out why I was cleaning black sand out of every possible orifice that night." The human released the robot and lashed out blindly, striking at the blunt box that projected the hateful images into the air. But another emitter began projecting yet more hi-fidelity memories straight from the Doll's brain.
"Here we are at yet another of his industry award ceremonies that Billie always loathed. I'm sure he bitched about them to you regularly. Endless speeches that say nothing important, shaking hands with people who'd stab him in the back at a moment's notice. But look, the details of his expression -- he's not bored, or exasperated -- because he's with meeee....My company makes.... his company not such a nuisance. He's enjoying himself, and the way I fill out that little black dress." The Doll's voice took on a cruel edge. This was her only weapon.
"If you're trying to convince me to kill you, it's working." In addition to the metal bar, the human took up heavy power-sander, and hurtled it at the white-haired Doll, who easily dodged.
"Projecting into the room behind me, you'll see us together on Billie's favorite yacht." At that, the organic woman's countenance grew more confused for a moment.
"....said that boat was only for us...." She slowed, tormented by reveries.
"If by 'us' you mean Billie and myself, then yes. I wonder... did he ever rub you that way -- along your inner thigh, like he's doing to me here? We both know what he wants. I think there was something special in that warm, sea air off the Florida Keys that day. Billie was sooooo vigorous! Amazed me, that a man his age could be that virile without drugs. It's a good thing you weren't on that trip; if I'd been an organic woman, I would not have been able to walk straight for a week! I told him so." The robot's full, moist lips curled in a lascivious grin. "Billie took that as a challenge!" The Doll shook herself with pleasure at the memory, as the human's eyes widened at the imagery; muscles twitching with mixed emotions.