VAL v1.4

bynowunuknow©

Copyright ©, 2006: All characters, events, and text in this story are purely fictional, and are created by and the sole property of the author. All rights reserved. Content contains adult material.

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The best mentoring advice I ever received in my professional career was "do what you really like to do; the money will take care of itself." Five years ago I took that advice, and I quit my full-time job to start up a business with a close college friend, Hank Wolcott. After some years of struggle, the adage is finally coming true. My name is Jack Abrams. I'm thirty-six, have graduate degrees in electrical and aeronautical engineering, and live in a suburb of a major Midwest city. Hank is a software maven, whom someone once described as "a programmer who can shit better code than most others can write." We call our company 'Ramscott Robotics, LLC', from the last syllables of our two names, and it specializes in developing computer-driven robotics for automated industrial systems.

Hank and I deliberately keep the business small, thereby avoiding the problems that come with employing full-time personnel, or needing to obtain financing from venture capitalists, who can be real sharks. Our clients have ranged from a meat packer in Minnesota, who wanted an automated fat trimmer for butchering cattle halves, to the Nuclear Energy Commission, which needed a robotic room cleaner for hazardous laboratory spills. A huge money maker for us last year was working with a California movie producer who wanted mechanized two- and four-legged creatures for a series of sci-fi films. Our last project was the development of a set of computer-controlled robotic mannekins for training medical students and EMT's in trauma diagnostics and treatment. Our 'victims' can simulate traumas like cardiac arrest, concussive shock and diabetic coma. We licensed the design, and about fifty orders have been placed for VictimMv2.2 and VictimFv2.2 .

We owe a great deal of our success to our wives, Melissa and Patti, whom we met in college. They have supported us in our venture, and were the primary breadwinners during the early years, when it was not unusual for Hank and me to put in 60 – 80 hours per week with little or no compensation. Curiously, when Hank and I were in graduate school together, he first dated Melissa, now my wife, and I was off and on with Patti. On one double date, the two women astonished us by announcing that they would like to swap dates. Melissa, the more outspoken and bolder of the two, claimed that she and Patti had realized that they each had stronger attractions to the other man, and there were certain character and personality traits between them and us that would make for stronger relationships if we exchanged partners.

Melissa was correct. She and I hit it off immediately, and, while it took Hank some time to adjust to the switch, he and Patti are now devoted spouses. Eight years later, none of us has any regrets nor do we speculate on 'what might have been.' There is no doubt in my mind that the Ramscott partnership, like our marriages, would never have come to pass without Melissa and Patti. They made a lot of personal and financial sacrifices as well as giving much emotional and psychological support to Hank and me. Now, however, the company has turned the corner, and the four of us are prospering quite well, happily ensconced in the good life in the 'burbs.' The only problem last spring was the lack of work orders for Ramscott.

It had been almost three months since the completion of our last project, and, like all good engineers, Hank and I were restless to find yet another challenge to tackle. That was the major reason why I welcomed the telephone call in my work office one morning last April from a possible client. The voice was female, and sounded kind of sexy - a little lower-pitched, like an alto, and she emphasized the 's' at the end of words, almost like a soft hiss.

"Am I speaking with Mr. Jack Abrams, president of Ramscott Robotics?" she asked.

"Yes, you are," I replied. "How may I help you?"

"My name is Dr. Celeste Dobson Carr, Mr. Abrams. I supervise a clinic that specializes in psychological counseling here in the city, and I am exploring new treatment techniques so that my clinic can better serve our patients. Last week, my associates and I had the opportunity to see your artificial trauma robots in action, and we believe that your company could possibly help us achieve one of our goals."

Her statement puzzled me. What was the connection between industrial robotics and clinical psychology? I felt obliged to point out my reservations.

"Forgive me, Dr. Carr, but I can't see how robotics technology dovetails with psychological counseling. Granted, we employ computer software and artificial intelligence, but our robots are still purely mechanical. They are like the scarecrow in the 'Wizard of Oz.' They do not have a brain."

I heard Dr. Carr chuckle over the telephone.

"No, Mr. Abrams, we are not expecting you to build us a robot with a brain. Not everything in counseling is done at the intellectual level. Our experience has shown that in many circumstances, resolution of problems, especially therapy for dysfunctional conditions, frequently are better dealt with solely via physical stimulus."

I said, "In other words, your counseling advice would be, 'Don't think; just feel it and do it.' That sounds like a line some guy would feed to a woman uncertain about having sex."

Dr. Carr replied, "How very perceptive you are, Mr. Abrams. No wonder some of your previous clients with whom I discussed your company spoke so highly about you. Would your company have any reservations about applying your technical talents to the development of a robotic system geared toward enhancement of female sexuality?"

I was taken off guard by her casual reference to female sexuality, as if she were talking about clothes or food. My gut reaction was to hang up on this obvious hoax. But then my rational mind cautioned me not to jump to conclusions.

"That definitely is not a field in which we have much previous experience, Dr. Carr, but the concept is intriguing. Why don't we schedule a face-to-face meeting with you here at our shop? That way, my partner and I can show you some of our robotic systems, and we can then discuss what you are seeking in more detail than is appropriate over the telephone, especially considering the kind of system application you have in mind."

"I think that's an excellent idea, Mr. Abrams. Let me look at my appointment book for a time. Would this coming Thursday morning at 10:00 be convenient?"

It was, and Hank and I met with Dr. Carr at our place of business. A year before, using the profits from the sci-fi movie robots deal, we purchased the building and office equipment of a bankrupt fitness center. We tailored the site for our kind of work, and now we have a honey of a facility. There are three offices and a conference room up front, with our workshop taking up most of the space in the rear. We kept the previous tenants' locker rooms and showers, primarily because it was too expensive to remove, but we sometimes indulge ourselves with a shower and a hot tub soak before calling it a day.

Before we got down to discussing Dr. Carr's particular robotic needs, Hank and I showed her some of our work. She was particularly impressed with our latest version of a robotic arm and hand. We were complimented on the lifelike look and feel of the hand, which used custom molded cyber-skin over a titanium and aluminum skeletal structure. Hank demonstrated how it could locate and pick up a raw egg without cracking it. He then commanded the robot arm to place the egg on a golf tee, to show how precise and gentle it could be. For the finale, we had it crush a soft drink can to demonstrate its strength. Once more seated around the conference table, I asked Dr. Carr to describe her system concept to Hank and me, and then we could determine if it were feasible.

"In my practice," she began, "We have a number of women seeking counseling about their sex life, or, more correctly, their disappointment in it. Prior unsatisfactory relationships, family upbringing, and possibly painful experiences have left them dysfunctional in one or more ways. Conventional verbal dialog sessions between patient and counselor on this matter can do just so much. After that, the patient must experience the physical and emotional stimulation of actual sexual performance to develop self-confidence."

Hank, my partner, likes to try to simplify things down to their basics, claiming that when he does, a reasonable solution to a problem often becomes evident. I can't quarrel with that; his track record of great ideas speaks for itself. But sometimes, the client does not appreciate the distillation of what he or she said, feeling that Hank has somehow belittled them. His reply to Dr. Carr's lead-in made me feel that he was treading on her toes.

He said, "What I understand you to say, Dr. Carr, is that dry land swimming lessons can go only so far. It is necessary to sometime jump into the old swimming hole, so to speak. Why don't you simply provide your patients with some live action?"

Dr. Carr chuckled at Hank's metaphor, and then replied.

"That is exactly what we do, Mr. Wolcott, in the case of our male clients. For them, I happen to use a trained woman as a sex surrogate. There are currently two surrogates working with our clinic, and we partner one of them with a male client when I or one of my associates decide that actual sexual activity is the appropriate therapy."

"Sex surrogates for men is a common practice among sexuality counselors," she continued. "And it has proven to be a highly successful therapy procedure. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for our female clients. Trained and qualified male sex surrogates are extremely rare, principally because the male, during sexual activity, cannot remain intellectually detached from the physical activity, which is what is demanded of a surrogate. Also, the majority of female clients have to scale too many psychological and cultural barriers before they are able to benefit from one. That just happens to be the double standard into which our human physiology has evolved."

I said, "I think I'm beginning to understand what you're driving at, Dr. Carr. Because it is so difficult to obtain competent male sex surrogates, you're hoping to find an alternative. Like a robot."

"Precisely, Mr. Abrams. We are hoping that your talents with artificial intelligence and human-like robotic mechanisms might be able to develop an android male sex surrogate."

I looked at her, and she appeared to be sincere in her idea. It still sounded preposterous to me, however.

I said, "I'll admit to surfing the Internet in some of my idle moments for some prurient satisfactions, and I have looked at on-line catalogs of sex toys on various websites. There already is an abundance of things designed specifically for women to use on themselves or other women for such a purpose. I even saw some so-called fucking machines, for pretty serious dollars. Why not simply exploit what is already out there, Dr. Carr?"

"Excellent question, Mr. Abrams. All those so-called marital aids and sex toys that are marketed for women's use are simply one form or another of masturbation. The possible exception would be strap-on dildos, but even they require that the woman who is receiving the stimulation is comfortable with having intercourse with another woman. Let me ask you, Mr. Abrams: if you needed assistance to help you overcome some sexual inhibition, would you think that a solo hand job or using a plastic vagina would be adequate therapy; or would you permit another male to give you a blow job as part of therapy?"

I had to blush at her bluntness, but admitted that I would not. I looked at Hank, and he smiled and shook his head as well.

He said, "You made your point, Dr Carr. But what would be so different in your concept of a robotic system? I, too, have looked at some of the fucking machines on websites. They're basically only motor-driven dildo actuators, but they do have operator-controlled variations, like speed, motion, and stroke length. What would you expect that Jack and I could add?"

Dr. Carr's eyes brightened, and I saw that she was eager to answer Hank's question. It's always a good sign in a business deal when the potential client gets that kind of look. And I had to admit that I was more than a little interested in hearing her answer.

She said, "All those machines have uni-lateral, pre-selected stimulation. By that, I mean that the person using the machine must make all the intellectual decisions for the stimulation prior to actual usage: vibrator intensity; dildo size and penetration depth; application points; and so on. I presume that you men both lie in the normal range of sexual tastes and level of experience, so you probably know that so much of the pleasure garnered from sex is the unexpected sensation, and the feeling that you are under the spell of someone else, who is trying to communicate his or her own sexual feelings back to you."

"That is what makes sex so great for a woman," she continued. "That unspoken, but eloquent communication of her body as it responds to her partner's efforts in turning her on. And then he - or she, if the woman is so inclined - gives the woman more of that particular stimulus, or shifts to something else, depending upon what was interpreted from her body's reactions. From my own experience, the lovers who are great in the sack are those who can hear the voice in their partner's body, and then play it like a musical instrument."

I stared at her, stunned by her articulate description of what made up truly great sex. I thought about it for a moment, and then had to acknowledge how right on she was.

I said, "Now I think I understand what would make the difference between a one-way fucking machine, and an android lover, which is what you are seeking. We would have to add sensory feedback from the woman, for control and adjustment of the system's kinetics, to stimulate particular areas of her body with just the right kinds of turn-on actions. Hank, when you think about it, it wouldn't be that much different a computer program than what we used in the trauma victim mannekins, where we have them react to physical probings by the EMT."

Dr. Carr looked at her watch and said, "I'm afraid that this is all the time that I can spend here today. I must get back to my clinic for my appointments. However, I feel that there is mutual agreement to pursue this idea further. When would be a good time to meet again?"

Hank looked at me to speak for the two of us. I saw his hands on the table – our code that he was agreeing to going further. If he had crossed his arms, I would have said that we were not interested. My hands, by the way, were already on the table as well.

I said, "Yes, Dr. Carr. We would be interested in working with you on this project. The way Hank and I work is that, after we have had the initial meeting with our client, he and I do one or two brainstorming sessions, and then we present a set of concepts to the client, to see if we're on the right track, and or to select a particular approach from the set. We will also provide some order-of-magnitude cost estimates for such a project. Could you give us a week, and then come back here? At that second meeting, we will show you some concept layouts, and perhaps even some kluged up feasibility models, to better demonstrate what might be possible. And, finally, both Hank and I would be much more comfortable if we could begin to work on a first name basis. Considering the kind of system this is, Dr. and Mr. hardly seem appropriate."

Dr. Carr stood up and extended her hand, which I grasped after arising myself.

"I agree. First names would be better. Please call me Celeste. I'll see you here again next Thursday. Goodbye, Hank and Jack. I'm very pleased to be working with you both."

The next morning, Hank and I began the process of transforming the concept into possible engineering ideas. After five years of working together, we have discovered some tools which seem to work well for us in brainstorming sessions: extra large cups of coffee and a box of donuts. In between large bites of donut and swallows of the hot, strong coffee, one of us asks a problematical question, and the other tries to come up with a reasonable and rational reply. I can tell when Hank sort of accepts my reply as reasonable: he slows down eating his donut and rolls the bite around in his mouth before washing it down with some coffee. If he's not satisfied, he asks the same question, but with a different perspective. That morning, our session went something like this:

Hank (biting off a large chunk of a raised donut with maple icing, and talking with his mouth full): "So, Jack. Now you want to get us into the sex therapy business. Do you really think that we are qualified for something like Dr. Carr wants?"

I (after swallowing a bite of chocolate donut and sipping coffee): "Why not? We didn't know squat about meat butchering or sci-fi movie robots, but we satisfied those clients. It's just a matter of applying what we know about robotics to another field. And I believe that we do know quite a bit about sex."

Hank: "Maybe, but only from the male point of view. But there's certainly enough information on the Internet and in bookstores to understand the process from a woman's perspective." (Rolls his mouthful around – he agrees) "Let's move on to some fundamental system design issues. What do you see as the overall packaging look? It's got to have some visual appeal. It can't be a turnoff and look like something in a hospital lab or an exercise machine."

I: "Good point." (I take another bite for time to think) "How about this? We usually associate sex with a bed. What if we used a sofa bed as the basic platform? Folded up, it looks like an ordinary couch in an office; unfolded, we have our comfortable mattress plus."

Hank: (Licks his finger clean of maple icing; takes a lemon-filled donut with powdered sugar that falls onto his shirt) "Perfect. There would be plenty of room in the back and underneath the pullout section for our servos, sensors, and controls. But there are dozens of different positions that a woman can lie on the mattress, and they do come in all sizes, Jack. We'll have to come up with some scheme to determine where the female subject is, and just where the important parts of her body are, while still allowing her freedom of movement. None of this bondage shit, or strapping her down like she's having an MRI."

I: (Reaching for another glazed donut – they're my favorite.) "When you think about it, it's actually the same problem we had with the beef side butchering system, where we adapted the traveling arm and laser indicator scheme that car washes use. We can incorporate the size and position analysis motions into a form of foreplay; like using lambs wool or velvet fingers to lightly stroke the woman's body all over, while capturing the necessary positional data for the servos. I know that kind of stimulation can really get Melissa going."

Hank: (Grinning while rolling his donut bite around) "Oh, yeah, I know what you mean. Patti is especially fond of me lightly dragging a strip of chamois leather all over her body. She goes apeshit when I get to the insides of her thighs and drag it across her pussy. Oh, pardon me. If we're going scientific here, with our good doctor Carr as our client, we'll have to use the proper terminology. My sexual partner becomes sensuously aroused from light to moderate tactile stimulation of her general pubic region, with particular focus on the inner and outer labia."

I: (Chuckling at Hank's parody of techno-babble) "Feeling up her pussy will do just fine, Hank. But I have a question: how do we mask out all the motor and servo noise? That would be a definite turn-off, along with the visual offense of so much apparatus around the woman. And don't forget that we need to get some subject feedback for stimulation technique and strength."

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