(Herm/Bi-'bot, Herm/Fembot, rom, anal, oral, sci-fi, ASFR)
This part of the story takes place three weeks after Part Two. It is written in first person with Deanna's POV. Rayven's POV will be displayed in italics (in HTML format) or framed with six asterixes at the start and end of the section (in TXT format).
"Bring her in here, please!"
I jolted as Lenn's voice echoed from the foyer. After hearing the loud bang! of the front door being slammed into a wall, I rose to see what was going on. As soon as I walked through the door connecting Lenn's living quarters with her office, I stopped on seeing Gael Layne and Lenn wheel in someone on a stretcher, she guiding it from the front to her lab. Watching them disappear around the corner, I looked back to see a Niagara Regional Police sergeant standing by the main door. "What's going on here, Sergeant..." I checked his nametag. "Miles?"
He gazed on me, then smiled. "You're Deanna Hordye? Marlenn Ioanis' owner of record, right?"
"That's me," I replied, sensing the recognition in his eyes. From Welland natives, that normally meant one thing. "Where? What grade?"
"Grade Six. I worked with your mom in the library when she was at Plymouth," he replied, holding out his hand. "Izak Miles. Call me Zak."
I gave him a firm handshake. "Deanna. Pleasure to meet you, Zak. I'm sorry for not recalling your name."
"Doesn't bother me," he chuckled. He was a handsome fellow, trim in the mode of most serious track-and-field athletes. Noting that, I wondered what sort of street work Zak did for the police. "Lord knows, with the way your mom got around the elementary schools in Welland, it wouldn't surprise me that she got to know at least half of the people in the city who were in Grades Six, Seven and Eight from the day she started work at Crowland Central until the day she retired after her time at Empire. How many could that've been in the long run?"
"Yeah, Mama was like that," I admitted, then canted my head in the direction of Lenn's laboratory. "What's the story here?"
"Auto accident on the 406 north of East Main," he reported as we walked to the entrance to the shop. "Car smashed into a tree on the side of the road. No other vehicles involved, thank God. Only ones hurt were one 'bot and three normals, all female."
"What about the normals?"
"Welland County General," he said. That was the local hospital on King Street three blocks south of Lincoln. "Chances are, they might have to get airlifted to the Hotel Dieu in Saint Kitts or one of the hospitals in Hamilton, though."
I gazed concernedly at him. "Bad?"
He returned my look. "And then some."
"Busy night," I noted, glancing at my watch. It was close to nine-thirty on Saturday night, a week after I had taken official custody of Lenn -- to tell her apart from her creator, I used a "pet" form of Marlenn's name -- from Dayle Ioanis, Marlenn's older brother.
"Actually, it's been pretty quiet," Zak sighed, then shrugged. "Which makes incidents like this all the more worse at times."
I patted his shoulder in sympathy. "Sorry to hear that."
We stopped by the closed doors leading into the lab, then I pushed one of them open, beckoning Zak to follow me in. Lenn, having slipped on her work smock, was busy inserting leads in the unmoving fembot's body. Gael, a man who would be Mama's age who worked as Welland's only licensed 'bot part recycler, manned the controls on the primary diagnostic machine. Hearing Lenn and Gael exchange information in the sharp, staccato-like language doctors and nurses in a hospital's emergency ward used, I found myself grateful for the intensive education Lenn had given me over the last two weeks concerning her work as a 'bot maintenance technician. By the sounds of it, their patient -- at least her core personality matrix and memory files -- stood an excellent chance of survival. That would make Zak's work a lot easier.
"Okay, here's her RID," Gael called out.
"Call it," Lenn ordered.
A fifty-digit code of letters and numbers flowed out of the recycler's mouth. Hearing the first string of ten digits, I nodded. An American-built robot from Virginia, four years old, most likely a product of the Noram Cybersystems Group. A fembot in body structure and basic personality programming. Learning the many interesting nuances of a 'bot's RID -- Robot Identification Directory -- number would probably drive even an experienced robot tech to distraction. Remembering what Lenn told me about the information one's RID can relay right up front, I asked her why all human 'bot technicians didn't have a robot assistant when it came to the clerical work.
Lenn's response: "Mother wondered the same thing before she built me."
"Excuse me, Mister Layne, what's the last part of her RID again?" Zak called out, PDA and hand-held mouse at the ready.
Gael repeated the number slowly to give Zak a chance to scribble it into his PDA. "Her name's Rayven," Gael then added. "Spelt R-A-Y-V-E-N. I'm tapping into the public files to get the identity of her owner right now. Just give us a minute, Sergeant, okay?"
"How is she, Lenn?" I asked.
Lenn grimaced. "Bad. Her main power cell's leaking acid into her lower abdomen. Left arm sheared off at the biceps, the upper parts of both legs crushed. She was probably driving the car. The damage pattern tells me she had the whole engine block rammed into her."
"That's how we found her," Zak confirmed.
I whistled, shaking my head. "Shit!"
"You'll have to disengage her brain from her power cell, Marlenn," Gayle warned.
Lenn nodded. "On it."
As we stood there, Lenn effortlessly severed the energy leads from Rayven's main power cell -- on all robots, that's normally located where a human's stomach and liver would be -- and her central mind. Like a human's, a 'bot's brain and primary memory banks are located in the head. Backup memory banks and an auxiliary central processor unit are placed where a human's heart would be. Given what Zak had told me about the accident and what happened to Rayven's human companions, doing everything to preserve her memories was now all the more paramount.
Once the links to the leaking power cell were severed, Lenn hooked Rayven's mind into the laboratory's power grid. This would allow whatever intact systems that remained to operate, including speech. It was possible for Lenn to cyberlink with Rayven mind-to-mind, of course. No doubt, preferring to verbally speak with her patients was one of the many quirks Lenn's IP-type programming forced on her.
"Okay, she's linked in," Lenn reported. "Wake her up."
Gael tapped controls. Silence fell as we waited for Rayven's mind to come on-line. Zak shifted himself to stand beside Lenn. I stayed where I was, barely able to see much of my lover's current patient. "Okay, she should be coming on-line..." Gael hissed through his teeth.
"Where am I?"
That voice spoke in a husky, deep baritone, almost mannish in its quality though still recognizably female. "You're in a robot repair facility in Welland, Rayven," Lenn replied. "I'm Marlenn Ioanis. This is my shop."
A pause as Rayven processed that. "I'm a mess, I take it."
The surprise on Lenn's face on hearing that statement was more than obvious to me. Was Rayven an IP 'bot, her matrix formed from a copy of an organic human's memory? I knew information about that sort of programming would be included in Rayven's RID, but I couldn't recall where it would exactly be. Oh, well. Answer that later. "Yes, you are, I'm afraid," Lenn chuckled. "But it's repairable. I hope your maintenance insurance is paid up. You need to get a new arm, plus your whole abdomen and both your thighs have to be rebuilt."
Another pause as Rayven took in that news. "I see."
"Miss Rayven, who's your owner?" Zak then asked.
The answer was automatic. "Brenda Beemon."
I perked on hearing that name. "Brenda Beemon?! From the Vee Beemers?!!"
"Who's that?!" Rayven demanded.
Lenn waved me over to join her. "My owner of record," she reported as I walked around the foot of the diagnostic table to stand beside Zak.
"Deanna, who're the Vee Beemers?!" Gayle asked.
"Thrash band from New York City," I reported. "They're not one of the really headline-grabbing bands -- they've only been touring for the last two years -- but they're getting there. Or so Irene tells me. She can't get enough of their music."
"Nice to know I got fans," Rayven chuckled.
I got a full look at her -- or at least as much as the thick blanket now covering her from just below her breasts to her feet allowed. Already, oily blue-green stains were appearing on the blanket around the area of her upper left arm, stomach, hips and both legs. Her lack of a left arm from just above the elbow was impossible to ignore. From what I could see of her, she was tall -- almost my height in fact -- and shapely, what one might expect from your average fembot. Staring at her mostly-intact face, I noted there was a deep vertical slash from her hairline through her still-intact left eye to above the corner of her mouth. I was reminded of Chie, one of the dancers at Russell's Retreat who was now the property of my friend Pauline Kim. Rayven's face had the same type of hawkish slant, though her eyes were a light gold-brown instead of Chie's stormy grey. Rayven's hair was a dark brown, shaggily cut, flowing to the bottom of her shoulders.
As the wounded 'bot's eyes turned toward me, I added, "Irene's a showclub performer. In her stage shows, she often uses your band's music."
Rayven blinked -- well, only her right eye could do that now. "Really?" She then glanced towards Zak. "Where're Brenda, Kip and Monica?"
"Welland County General Hospital, in intensive care. All of them are in very critical condition," the policeman replied. "With your consent, Miss Rayven, I'd like to obtain a copy of your memory files to better ascertain what happened tonight..."
"It's not their fault!"
We all started on hearing Rayven's sudden assertion. Seeing a trace of panic cross her face, a sense of dread gripped my heart. Walking around Zak and Lenn, I bent down to gaze into Rayven's eyes. Reaching under the blanket to draw out her still-intact right arm, I held her hand close to my cheek as I projected what I hoped would be an understanding gaze on Lenn's patient. I knew Rayven wouldn't be able to feel anything below her neck -- a glance to her large breasts and the flat, unresponsive nipples at their peaks confirmed that -- but I hoped that my sympathy play would calm her down. "Raye, no one's saying anything about whose fault it is right now. But Zak here can't do anything to figure out what did happen without your help. Brenda and her friends can't help; they're just as banged up as you are. Please?"
Rayven stared at me, the fear on her face slowly fading into a sad understanding. "It's not their fault," she repeated, her voice etched with what sounded like weariness. Whatever was going on -- and my imagination was going into overtime coming up with a storm of theories about that -- it sounded like it had been plaguing Rayven and her bandmates for some time now.
"Will you let Zak get a look at your memory files, Raye?" I asked her.
A longer pause, then she closed her still-functional eye. A tear trickled down her cheek. Shame? Or relief? "Do it."
"What's Rayven doing here?! What happened to her?!"
I looked up to see Irene and Reika standing at the bedroom doorway. It was well past three o'clock early on Sunday morning. I was now in bed, waiting for Lenn to finish up with her newest patient before joining us for a good night's romp. "She was in a car accident on the 406 earlier this evening," I reported as my lovers dropped off their purses and overnight bags on the couch nearby, then moved to sit on the bed. I sat up to stretch. "The others in the band are at the hospital in town, all in critical condition."
"That's awful!" Reika whispered, squeezing her sister's shoulders in a surprisingly human gesture of support. "What are their chances?"
"The police didn't say." I shook my head, then perked up on seeing Lenn step inside. "She okay?"
"I had to shut her down." Lenn gave my other lovers a warm smile, then slipped off her smock and housecoat. Despite what had happened this evening, I felt a shiver on seeing Lenn's nude body. She remained in full-female format, as were Reika and Irene since they just got back from the Wheelhouse -- Port Colborne's only showclub -- and the Station Hotel respectively. "Fortunately, her maintenance insurance is all paid up, so I can get started on the repairs first thing tomorrow. She should be back on her feet by Monday afternoon."
"Can we help out?" Irene asked as she and Reika rose to undress.
"Not really." Lenn shook her head as she moved to slip into bed beside me. "Other than keeping your fingers crossed."
They nodded understandingly as they finished slipping off their clothes and came to join us in bed. Watching them, I felt another shudder run through me as Reika and Irene assumed bi-'bot format. God, I still can't get over watching it happen. One moment, they're the perfect idols of the female form. Next moment, wham! They're a perfect pair of hermaphrodites. Watching Lenn change from full-female to bi-'bot format hits me even deeper in my heart. Then again, given my long crush on Lenn's "mother," what could you expect?
"So what do you want to do, Mistress?" Irene coyly wondered as she sat beside me, prepared to offer me anything I could desire.
I blinked, glancing at my companions for a moment, then a shiver ran through me as the image of Rayven's wounded face passed before my mind's eye. "I'm not in the mood tonight, girls," I breathed out, allowing my head to sink into the pillows. "Let's just get some sleep."
My lovers exchanged looks on hearing that, then nodded...
Sunday passed by antagonizingly slow. To ensure we didn't interrupt Lenn's work on Rayven, Reika, Irene and I headed back to our apartment on Denistoun Street to spend a quiet day together in front of the home media centre. It was hard for me to concentrate on watching our DVD collection of 24 Sussex Drive -- Canada's answer to the long-running The West Wing -- though, to say anything about listening to some of my favourite music. I barely noticed the concerned looks on Reika's and Irene's faces as we ate breakfast and lunch in near-total silence.
I was amazed at how the injury to a 'bot I'd never even met was affecting me, not to mention...
Every time I tried to think about something -- the shocking revelation I received from Drew Keir concerning a possible twin sister; Pauline Kim's ongoing trials and tribulations in forming a working relationship with Chie; the planned trip I would take with the senior student in the tojang, Iruka Shiina, to Ottawa so she could take her final test to be awarded her black belt; a party on Monday night at Jim Graham's place; the possibility that both Irene and Reika would have to obtain some hardware upgrades from Lenn sometime this week -- Rayven's lovely face, her husky voice, what she'd possibly look like after Lenn finished repairing her, her words in defence of her bandmates...
I jolted, then noticed Irene standing beside me in our bedroom. I had gone there midway through the afternoon to put a new entry into my LiveJournal site. Glancing at the blog before me, I noticed that I hadn't typed a single word. Staring at the time at the bottom right corner of the screen, then comparing it to what time I had logged into LiveJournal, I breathed out. Damn, I had the thing open for an hour and I hadn't written a single bloody thing into it? Quickly, I logged off and closed down the computer before turning in my chair to face Irene. Before she could say anything, I reached over to draw her into an embrace, allowing the side of my face to rest against her tummy. Without hesitation, she wrapped her arms around my head. "I'm sorry, Irene," I whispered. "I'm being an old poop today."
"What's wrong, Deanna?" she prodded. "Is it Rayven?"
"Yeah," I sighed. "Among other things. I just can't stop thinking about her."
"She'll be alright," Irene assured me.
"Oh, sure. Physically, she'll be as good as new. Lenn's the best there is when it comes to 'bot repairs. But, mentally..."
"Why are you worried about that?"
I breathed out, pulling away from Irene as I relaxed in my chair. She shifted herself to sitting on my leg, keeping one arm wrapped around my shoulders. We gazed into each other's eyes, then she leaned in to give me a warm kiss. "Do you best," she whispered, giving me a wink.
I laughed. "Oh, Irene-chan, arigatou," I thanked her in Japanese as we hugged each other, then I gazed up to the ceiling. "I don't know, Irene. I mean, there she is, badly banged up. Her bandmates are in ICU at the hospital. We've no idea how much they've been hurt, but it's gotta be bad. And when Zak asked to get a copy of her memory files, the first thing Raye said was 'It's not their fault.'"
"That's a strange assertion to make," Irene mused. "Do you think drugs might be a problem?"
I considered that for a moment. "Have there been rumours about the Beemers using drugs?"
"Nothing specific," she replied. "But I've heard lots on how harsh the music industry can be. And the Beemers are a successful band. Three records, the first one having just gone gold. Three Top Ten hits on the Billboard pop charts. All that in the last two years."
Silence fell as I took in what Irene just said, then a slow nod tilted my head. "Too much pressure to produce," I concluded. It seemed the only conclusion that I could make from the information I had about Rayven's band. On the average, most musicians take a year to produce a new record. But to pump out three records in two years' time, plus factor in tours, promotions, whatever personal problems are there...!
Yeah, it made a load of sense.
The video phone rang. Irene tapped controls to flick on the screen. I smiled on seeing Zak Miles. "Hey, Zak! What's up?!"
He grinned in return, then glanced curiously at Irene. "Hello, Deanna! One of yours?"
"Yes, she is." I smirked as Irene slipped off my leg, then I did introductions. Once that was done, I asked, "So why're you calling?"
"Got some bad news about Miss Rayven's friends," the policeman sighed. "Very bad news."
"Being?" I prodded.
"The doctor in charge of their cases reported that they are now on full life-support," Zak stated. "One girl has collapsed lungs that they can't reinflate. Her heart's stopped five times since she was brought in. The second girl's liver is badly lacerated; they've had to put her on a blood-cleansing machine. According to Doctor McLeod, her small intestine and a good portion of her large intestine were turned into sushi. And the third girl's neck is broken; spinal cord was severed clean through."
I winced, then gazed briefly at Irene. "Oh, jeez...!" Seeing the tears in her eyes, I could only imagine how the Beemers' other fans would react to this news. "What are their ultimate chances, Zak? What did Anne-Marie tell you?"
Zak's eyes widened. "You know Doctor McLeod?"
I winked at him. "Anne-Marie and I were classmates at Centennial."
He chuckled. "Ah! Like mother, like daughter."
"Unfortunately." I shrugged impishly, then quickly sobered. "So what's Anne-Marie's final verdict?"
A pause, then Zak gazed at his notepad. "For Miss Beemon -- she's the one with the collapsed lungs -- and Miss Hilary -- that's the one with the spinal injury -- their ultimate chances are rated as less than twenty percent. Miss Pascale has a ten percent chance." He lowered the notepad. "The problem is, given how bad the injuries are, Doctor McLeod won't dare try to move them to Toronto. Even sending them to Erie County General in Buffalo's out of the question. The only hope they'll have to eventually recover is to get them stabilized here in Welland, then move them to a better-equipped facility. Much as Welland County General is a good facility for most emergency situations..."
"It serves a city of sixty thousand people, so the population base doesn't justify more advanced gear," I finished.
He nodded. "I'm afraid so."
"Has someone contacted their agent or record company?"
"Their agent's on his way up from the Big Apple right now, but she won't be in town until early tomorrow morning."
"Damn!" I spat out, then sighed. "So why tell me all this, Zak?"
"Well, you are Marlenn Ioanis' owner of record. Since she's busy putting Miss Rayven back together as we speak, you have the right to know the whole situation concerning her. And..." Here, he took a deep breath before giving me a knowing look. "If her friends don't make it in the long term, Miss Rayven might need a new home. What would her record company do in a case like this?"
"Right," I grunted, my fingers rubbing the bridge of my nose. "Look, Zak, let me talk to Anne-Marie about this, then I'll go break the news to Raye tomorrow after Lenn gets her back on her feet. Is there any problem with that?"
"None. I'll hold off the agent until you do."
If Anne-Marie McLeod were a fembot, she'd be the typical American cheerleader of the type found in every showclub, escort service and sim brothel. She stands 168 centimetres -- that's only five-foot-six in the metrically-challenged republic south of the border -- tall and avoids high heels as much as she can. Her sunflower blonde hair is wavy and very soft to the touch. These days, she keeps it cut at the collars so she can fit it into a surgical cap when she's needed in the operating theatre. Her eyes are the same shade as mine, though I often admit that on Anne-Marie's face, they look far prettier. Quite shapely, she would've been a shoe-in for the Centennial Cougars cheerleading team if she hadn't also been born with a high IQ and a desire to learn that puts even Pauline Kim to shame.
Scholastically, she was the top student in our graduating class, then took that to get her science degree magna cum laude from Queen's University in Kingston, followed by her doctorate from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. From what I'd heard, she had her pick of any hospital in North America when it came to do her residency. Instead, she chose to come back home.
Today, she serves as one of three trauma surgeons in the emergency ward at Welland County General.
"Hey, sweetheart, what's happening with you?" I teased, standing by the reception desk near the entrance to the ICU.
Anne-Marie spun around, her jaw nearly hitting the floor as recognition flashed across her face. "Deanna!" she laughed, setting aside her patient notes before grabbing me in a bearhug, giving me a surprisingly wet kiss on the lips. "What are you doing here?!"
I ruffled her hair before letting her go. "Came to see you. Busy right now?"
I glanced down at her surgical clothes. "Somewhat." She picked up her notes, then beckoned me with a nod to a nearby office.
We walked inside, then I closed the door behind us. Glancing around, I realized that this is her personal office. Hanging on her wall are her degrees, family photos and -- to my surprise -- a portrait of me taken after I graduated from the University of Victoria ten years ago. Glancing at her, I pointed to that picture. "Mom got that from your mother," she explained before sitting down. "So what brings you here to see me on a Sunday afternoon in lieu of getting my address and number from Russ and visiting me at home?"
My eyebrows disappeared under my hair. "You'd want me to come visit you at home?"
A knowing smile crept across her face. "Yes. And when you come, I'll make sure to dress in as little as possible so that I can ravage you right then and there. Even better, I'll be certain not to have protection and that I'm at the peak of my cycle when it happens."
I looked at her. Anne-Marie and I had dated during the last months of Grade Twelve, plus the following summer vacation before she went to Kingston and I headed off to Victoria. We had made love often, but decided against any permanent committments to each other when we finally went our separate ways. The last time I spoke to Anne-Marie had been at Mama's funeral two years ago, when she, her mother Elaine and her boyfriend Ed Sasha had come to pass their condolences. "Anne, what happened between you and Eddie?"
She let out a tired sigh. "Nothing. Except that compared to you, Ed didn't make the mark."
She waved it off. "It's okay. But I will say this, Dee. Russ and the guys weren't the only ones waiting for you to come back home."
I sighed as those words sank into me, then bowed my head. "Anne, I'm sorry..."
"Don't apologize." She reached over to squeeze my hand, her other hand reaching up to gently thread through my own hair. "I knew you needed time away from this place after what happened with you and Marlenn. And I knew you'd be thrown off kilter when you did come back, especially when you found out about Marlenn and Lenn. But it doesn't mean that my feelings for you have changed since we graduated."
"What about the girls I live with now?" I warned her.
We gazed into each other's eyes for a moment, then Anne-Marie shrugged. "You're a high-maintenance sort of person, Dee. Atop that, you've always been there for those who really needed help. Granted, if something did happen between us, I'd have to get used to having three robot lovers share a bed with us. And considering that all three of them are bi-gendered robots, not so different from yourself, I think I could get used to them. And..." She winked, smiling. "Seeing that it is you that I'm after at the end..."
Silence fell, then I leaned in. We shared a tender kiss, then pulled apart. "Let's see what happens." I winked back at her, then took a deep breath. "Anyhow, I came here to talk about three patients of yours in the ICU. Brenda Beemon, Kinsey Hilary and Monica Pascale."
Anne-Marie blinked, then sighed. Staring at her sagging shoulders, I could only wince. Had my friend's drive to be a good doctor set her on a course that could burn her out in the long run? "If this was University Hospital in Toronto -- even better, Johns Hopkins -- their chances would be pretty good. Right now, I can't begin to say what'll happen to them, especially Monica. They're very sick people."
"Did the medevac people get to them fast enough?"
"Yes, they were very fast on the mark. But that's not the whole problem, Dee."
I stared at my friend, then sighed. "Are drugs involved in this, Anne?"
Her gaze sharpened. "Why do you ask?"
"Something Rayven said when they brought her into Lenn's lab," I replied. "'It's not their fault.' Look, Anne, if I'm out of line here, tell me and I'll shut up. But it's not hard to guess what might be going on. Popular thrash band, three records pumped out in two years' time, tours and other things to worry about. In essence, they're doing everything they humanly can to really get into the big time. With that sort of fame as their final goal, I can't begin to guess what sort of pressures these girls've been subjected to."
Anne-Marie nodded. "Almost as bad as this place gets at times. Yes, drugs are a part of this mess. According to Zak Miles, the memory records from Rayven showed that Brenda caused the accident. I don't have the toxicology reports back on them, but from what I've learned, they were all high as kites on some pretty vile stuff. Not to mention very drunk to boot. Add that to the high rate of speed and..."
"Damn," I hissed, resting my chin on a fist as I shook my head. "Designer drugs've continued to get worse over the years, eh?"
"You can say that again, Dee," Anne-Marie agreed, then a rueful chuckle escaped her before she continued. "We're trying to detox them right now. Monica needs it the most with the damage her liver's taken. If her liver gets the chance to properly heal, her chances improve considerably. We can take our time fixing the intestinal damage, but the liver comes first in this case."
"What about Kinsey and her spine? Zak told me it was a clean break."
"Like a knife."
"She's now totally hooked on a lung-heart machine."
"What about Rayven?"
I gave my old classmate a sad look. "Lenn'll have her back on her feet tomorrow afternoon."
Anne-Marie closed her eyes. "Robots are very lucky in that regard, aren't they?"
"They are, indeed..."
Anne-Marie came off-shift at nightfall. She offered to drive me to the lab so I could look in on Lenn and Rayven. I think she wanted to know too how it was coming, but wouldn't ask directly. Arriving there, I noticed Reika's car by the main door. Knowing that both girls had to work tonight, I raced into the laboratory to see Reika on a table as I stepped in. Lenn was manning the diagnostic machine by the bed. Irene sat beside her sister, holding her hand. "Oh, damn! Now what happened?" I demanded, running over to gaze on Reika.
"Looks like I'll have to do some part replacing earlier than I expected, Dee." Lenn gazed assuredly at me, then glanced at someone behind me. "Oh, hi, Anne. What brings you around our neck of the woods?" she asked, turning back to gaze on the readouts.
I glanced behind me to see Anne-Marie standing there. "I came to drop your owner off before heading home and getting some sleep, Marlenn. It's been a busy couple of days at the shop, unfortunately. What's wrong with Reika?"
"Some of her secondary logic and memory solids are about to go to the big parts bin in the sky, unfortunately," Lenn sighed. "I discovered this in both her and Irene when they first came to stay with me. This shouldn't take more than an hour."
"Everything okay with you, Irene?" I asked, gazing on Reika's sister.
She nodded. "I seem to be fine. When Reika realized that she had to see Marlenn right away, we both decided to take the night off. At least this way, we'll be in shape for Jim's party tomorrow night. Will you be there, Doctor McLeod?"
"I never miss one of Jim's and Wendy's parties, Irene. And please, call me Anne."
Glancing deeply into Reika's eyes, I quickly noticed the lack of light within those orbs, telling me that all her systems were dormant. At least she wouldn't suffer in any way, if robots ever do suffer when some of their hardware is replaced. Glancing at Lenn, I reached over to give her shoulder a squeeze. "How're you doing, love? Nothing wrong with you."
"Not really. And before you ask, if something ever does go wrong with me, I've my own personal repair centre over yonder."
She pointed to the corner of the lab. There, a glass spheroid-shape machine with a built-in diagnostic chair was sighted. When she constructed her robot daughter, Marlenn wanted to make sure that nothing could go wrong with her -- and if it did, she would have first-class, secure and safe assistance in making her whole again. Unfortunately, the unit was built only for Lenn; it couldn't be used by any other robot. "If only all 'bots could have something like this," I quipped, turning my eyes away from that device to where Rayven had been laid out last night. I then blinked on seeing an empty diagnostic bed. I glanced at Lenn. "Where's Rayven?!"
"In the nanofac unit having her epidermal tissue rebuilt," she reported. "Turns out, my estimate on her overall repair time was something of an exaggeration. She should be back on her feet by tomorrow morning at the latest."
I gazed at her. "Why'd you exaggerate?"
"A habit of Mother's that got passed on into me. It's one I'm comfortable using." Lenn grinned. "Rayven, it turns out, is something of a special order unit. While a lot of her is normal for a Noram Cybersys civilian-use fembot, there are differences. And, from what I discovered putting her back together, that's what saved her from prolonged repairs, even with the leaks in her main power cell."
Irene blinked. "Noram Cybersys? The company in Virginia?"
Lenn nodded. "Very same."
"What type of units come from there, Marlenn?" Anne-Marie asked.
"Heavy construction units mostly, plus robots that are used in hazardous conditions like near-orbital space and toxic zones."
I considered that, then blinked. "Sturdier bone and component construction, you mean. Even if she had a car engine block smashed into her lap, it wouldn't have damaged the parts to the point where you'd have to rebuild the limbs and abdomen from scratch."
Lenn patted my shoulder. "Exactly. Once you start building true quality units, it kind of carries over into everything else you make. Why don't you go look in on her? I need to get Reika opened up."
I beckoned Anne-Marie with me as we headed over to the nanofac, a glass cylindrical tank two-and-a-half metres tall by a metre wide. When working, it's filled to the brim with an opaque, greenish fluid supersaturated with billions of construction nanites, tiny 'bots no larger than a speck of dust. This is used in a robot's final construction to have her synthflesh installed. It also helps with repairs from intensive damage. Also, with a nanofac, you can do a lot of cosmetic alterations. Hair and eye colour, skin tone, breast size, musculature -- if you want it changed, this is the machine you need. They are exceptionally expensive units. The equivalent of the advanced medical equipment I was wishing our local hospital had to help the other girls. At present, I could barely make out the tall, female form standing inside. From what I could see of Rayven, I could tell that the nanofac was just getting started on her.
Anne-Marie grimaced. "It's like looking at a cadaver."
I chuckled, staring at her. "You must've had fun in your autopsy classes."
She shook her head. "I don't think I could ever see myself doing coroner's work. Tearing a body apart like it was a slab of beef..." A shiver raced through her, then she glanced over her shoulder at Lenn and my other lovers. "How do you stand it, Marlenn?"
"Stand what?" Lenn asked.
"Being forced to tear robots apart, then putting them back together again? Doesn't it hit close to home for you?"
Lenn paused for a moment to consider her answer, then she sighed. "I look at it this way: I know that if I put the parts back together the right way, the 'bot I'm treating will be made whole and complete." A pause. "I guess neither Mother or I could ultimately stomach the possible levels of randomness human medical care can force on doctors like yourself, Anne."
"We still have to do it," Anne-Marie mused.
"And the fact that you do it even in the face of impossible odds speaks a lot about you," Lenn conceded.
My friend considered her words, then turned back to gaze on Rayven, her cheeks colouring. "To believe that fourteen years ago, I wanted to take a knife and carve her up after what she did to you," she hissed, reaching over to squeeze my hand.
I gazed at her, then drew her into a one-armed embrace. "I've forgiven her, Anne. And I'm the one who did it to myself. Not her."
"It's harder for me," she admitted. "I was the one who had to work on her mom after she tried to kill herself. When I found out from Drew about how neat her vanishing act was, all the anger I felt for her years ago just came roaring back. To believe she just did that...!!"
She gritted her teeth, then relaxed as I drew my other arm around her. "Don't be angry, Anne. Please," I pleaded as I kissed her forehead.
"She abandoned her parents. She abandoned her friends. She abandoned her own child, for God's sake!" Anne-Marie snarled, turning to gaze into my eyes. "And all to pursue some wild theory of finding some way to give you back use of your ovaries?! Even if it's possible -- and if Drew was right and Marlenn was looking at the stem-cell option, it is possible, to do it this way..."
I jolted, my jaw dropping in disbelief. "It is?!"
She placed a finger on my lips. "I said it's possible, Dee! It's never been done before," she warned me as she allowed her hand to slide down to my cleavage in an old familiar way, distracting me a bit from my shock. I always loved the way she used to touch me there, the way a man never could. "There haven't been people like you to practice these techniques on yet."
I considered that, then sighed. "Yeah, that's true. But if it's possible..."
"I won't give you false hope, Dee," Anne-Marie sighed, using my name the way only lovers can.
"Excuse me, Anne?"
Anne-Marie gazed on Irene, who had walked over to join us. "What is it?"
"How are Rayven's friends? Will they be alright?"
The doctor paused for a moment, then hugged herself. "Their chances aren't good right now," she sighed.
"Brenda's heart and lungs can't operate on their own," I added, knowing that Anne-Marie would have some problems revealing her patients' exact condition to a near-stranger. "Kip's paralysed from the neck down. And Monica's liver is badly wrecked. And don't you dare reveal that to anyone else other than Reika and Lenn, okay?" I held up a finger to emphasize my point, plus reassure Anne-Marie.
Irene nodded. "I understand."
"It's a pity we're not used to having robots in a hospital setting," Anne-Marie noted. "You know about Tiffany and Amber?"
"The two fembots Lenn built and programmed to watch over Marlenn's mom," I nodded.
"I've heard stories about them from people at the senior centre," she continued. "The instant they obtain freed status, Doctor Fremont'll hire them on the spot as part of his staff. And they've both refused it so long as they have this duty to complete. They'll be the first 'bots used in that capacity anywhere in Canada as far as we know."
"Any complaints?" I asked.
"Usual reservations," Lenn answered. "But they disappeared soon enough. I'm glad to see that some people are willing to trust technology. After all, they built us to start with." She winked at me, then turned back to monitoring Reika.
"Pity we can't apply it in other situations," Anne-Marie mused...
I had failed.
I had failed.
Oh, my beautiful mistresses, forgive me...
If only I had...
If only I had been built as a bi-'bot instead of a fembot...
Damned submissive programming...!
Not the penis, but the programming for it...
But the other girls didn't want that...
"...local news, a terrible accident on Highway 406 in Welland late Saturday evening nearly claimed the lives of three members of the up-and-coming thrash band, the Vee Beemers," the morning report from CHOW-AM woke me up early the next morning. "Staff at Welland County General Hospital have revealed to the press that writer/guitarist Brenda Beemon, drummer Kinsey 'Kip' Hilary and synth player Monica Pascale were admitted into intensive care after their car veered off the highway at a high rate of speed and crashed into a tree north of the East Main Street interchange sometime after nine o'clock. No other vehicles were involved in the accident. The fourth member of the band, lead singer and robot Rayven Hamlyn, the first ever to work as a star performer in North America, survived the accident with minor damage..."
Moaning, I hit the snooze button on the machine, then felt the bed beside me. The absence of any warm, cuddly, female bodies lying with me fully roused me from my slumber. Blinking as I realized that I was completely alone, I slid into a sitting position, reaching up to rub the sleep from my eyes. Yawning to get some oxygen circulating in my blood, I stood and slipped on a nightshirt before heading into the kitchen to track down my lovers. Only Lenn was in the kitchen making breakfast, dressed in her normal housecoat.
"Where's the rest of the group?" I asked.
She gave me a reassuring smile as I walked over to give her a hug from behind, bestowing a good morning kiss on her cheek as my hands stroked her bare skin from breasts to groin. "They're in the lab. The problem components in Irene started showing signs of breaking down just as I finished work on Reika. I got to work on her right away just as you went to sleep." She turned back to monitoring the food. "It's the price self-willed 'bots have to pay because we put so much use on our matrix and memory file components."
I tensed. "Are they alright?!"
She gazed into my eyes. "They'll be fine. But I felt it was wiser for them to remain dormant for the night while their systems equalize."
"I must've been more out of it than I thought," I sighed, gently fondling her hardening phallus. It was impossible for me to ignore the slow flush crossing her face, to say anything of her hardening nipples, shifting hips and shaky breathing -- and that doesn't begin to cover what my reaction to her arousal was like. "Of course, you can help me set my mind straight, sweetie..."
"Take me up my ass!!"
I blinked, surprised by her request, then smirked and pushed her over. Lenn was quick to respond, sliding up her housecoat to show off her beautiful derriere. With normal human lovers, I avoid anal sex, even if it is with a willing man. The thought of actually sticking my penis into that part of the body...! Ugh! No way, Jose! Who knows what sort of things you'll catch doing that. And since I don't like doing it to others, I won't have it done to myself, even by a 'bot. However, doing it to a robot is a whole different deal for me. I can't tell you how many M-'bot lovers I've had who've yodelled many octaves higher than normal thanks to me and my wonderful joystick. Since a 'bot's internal cleaning systems are quite efficient, there's no risk to the human partner.
I moaned as I felt myself push past her anus into her warm hole. Entering a woman -- or a man -- here feels a heck of a lot different than entering her vagina or her mouth. And with Lenn it's even more special. Her memories are those of a real woman who I now realize must have come to fantasize about having sex with me this way. Lenn crooned as I started to thrust away, her eyes closing as her hands grabbed mine, forcing me to lean against her back as she compelled my fingers to stroke her own throbbing dick. Again I came to thank the fact that 'bot designers really had done a complete job -- often against strong societal opposition -- in giving their creations all the capabilities of humans in this area. I gritted my teeth as the familiar chilly rush flooded my loins too soon, then howled Lenn's name as I exploded deep inside her, flooding her with my liquid ivory. Scant seconds later, her own machine started to throb in a prequel to her own cum splattering all over the floor. Of course, neither of us really want to clean up that sort of mess, so I pulled myself out of my lover, spinning her around so I could get a quick pre-breakfast snack. My sojourn around the world had taught me much in the process of opening my own mind. If I had known then what I knew these fifteen years later, I could have helped Marlenn and I navigate the shoals that wrecked us instead.
Just in time; after two strokes inside my mouth, Lenn blew her load right down my throat. I gently gulped it down, using my tongue to give her a quick washing before pulling myself away to take a few breaths and recover. Lenn was barely able to keep herself on her feet after that. Noting her reaction, I wondered how sensitive she tuned her pleasure buffer whenever we went at each other. Taking another deep breath, I leaned in to gently stroke the tip of my tongue over her deflated stick, which slowly started to reinflate as I moved to give her a nice tongue-washing. Glancing into Lenn's eyes, I quickly note the lucidity returning to those dark brown orbs. "Feel better?" I asked.
"Let me clean you," she offered.
"Thanks." I stood up, hiking my nightshirt clear so Lenn could repay the favour...
A few minutes later, I walked into the lab. A glance to the bed revealed a dormant Reika, a simple blanket draped over her. Irene occupied the diagnostic table where Rayven had been examined two nights ago, likewise covered to give her some sense of modesty -- not that robots really care about that, of course. Walking up to gaze into my first lover's darkened eyes, I was quick to see the content look etched on her face. "I'm glad you're alright," I whispered as I leaned down to kiss her forehead, then moved to do the same to Irene.
I stopped, spinning left to see a tall, nude form standing close to the nanofac unit. "Raye!!"
A demure smile crossed her well-shaped face as she stepped towards me. The way she moved surprised me. While there was the slight, sexy sway in her hips and shoulders that one expected from a normal fembot or bi-'bot, I could tell that Rayven was trying to mute it. Why? You'd never expect this sort of thing from a bi-'bot in full-female format, to say anything of a real fembot. They existed to be sexual.
"I'm pleased to meet you, Mistress," she began, offering her hand to me as her eyes drooped in a typical show of emotional submission to a human. Now I understood. Rayven was trying to be business-like to me and was working to suppress her sexual side lest it interfere.
I gripped her hand, then blinked as she gave me a firm squeeze. The underlying strength in her fingers was more intense than the others exhibited, which confirmed what Lenn had said last night about Rayven's origins. "I'm pleased to meet you as well, Raye," I responded, reaching over with my free hand to slightly tilt her head up so we could gaze directly into the other's eyes. "And please, don't call me 'mistress.' My name's Deanna." I decided then to give Lenn's latest patient a little test. "So how do you feel right now?"
Rayven's response was automatic. "Physically, I'm fine. Marlenn does great work. But here..." She pointed to the valley between her gorgeous D-cup breasts where her true self -- her memories -- lay. "It's a different story. I..." She paused, then bit her lip. "I know about Brenda and the others," she finished, her voice lowered to a shamed whisper.
"Did Lenn tell you?" I asked.
She shook her head. "She didn't have to. While I was in the nanofac, my mind had to be fully active so I could cyberlink with the nanites. They needed to do that to ensure all the repairs chimed right with my operational specifications."
"You were able to read our lips? Through all that murk?"
"Thanks to infra-red vision, yes," Rayven replied with a nod, then blinked, her eyes suddenly glistening.
I stared at her, then sighed, reaching over to draw her into my arms. She didn't resist as I allowed her to rest her chin on my shoulder. "It's alright, Raye. Cry. Let it out," I soothed, reaching up to gently thread my fingers through her rich hair.
The slender body in my arms quaked immediately as sobs stole her voice.
It was the only appropriate reaction possible.
She let me cry...
She called me "Raye"...
I've never been called "Raye" before...
Not by Shayne...
Not by Brenda...
Not by Monica...
Not even by Kip, who hates being called "Kinsey." She calls me "Rayve"...
I like it...
I really like it...
Deanna talks to the real me.
"Thank you, Deanna."
I drew Rayven back, then stared into her eyes. I was right about her height; she was, at most, only three centimetres shorter than me. "Can I ask you a question, Raye?" I prodded. After her nod, I pointed down to her feet. "Do you wear high heels?"
She shook her head. "Not really. I'm told I should but I'm tall enough as is, don't you think?"
"You're all right by my books," I chuckled as my eyes drifted down to gaze once more on her breasts. Jeez, now that I could see them perked up, I had to admit that one of hers was worth both of mine. Life can be so unfair at times, I suppose. I wondered if Lenn would let me in the nanofac tank. "Here, let's get a housecoat on you." I walked over to a small wardrobe Lenn kept in the lab. "Much that I don't mind staring at nude 'bots when the chances come, seeing that constantly gets very distracting. I haven't yet fully desensitized myself to it."
Rayven nodded understandingly as I drew out a housecoat and draped it over her. She tied herself down, then stared at me. "You said 'nude 'bots.' I take it you don't particularly care what sort of 'bot you're with..." She paused, then shrugged. "Intimately?"
"Male, female, bi -- I've never met a herm-'bot or a neuter, though -- I'll take them any way they come to me, Raye," I stated with a wink. "Of course, if you're a freed bi-'bot like my three lovers, I've really got no say in the long term as to how they'll live."
Her eyes widened, then she glanced briefly at Reika. "They're all bi?"
That statement took me by surprise. "Why would you say that?"
Rayven breathed out, the smile slipping from her face. "I've had two-and-a-half owners since I was first activated," she admitted.
I blinked. There's an answer you'd never expect from a robot. "'Two-and-a-half?'"
She nodded. "I started out as a special order unit by a Broadway theatre actress who wanted both a personal companion and something of a bodyguard. Rayven Sheiner. I got my name from her. She..." Here, Rayven stopped for a moment, then she shrugged. "Well, she died about a week before she would've taken custody of me from Noram. It was an auto accident outside of Richmond. I..." She paused again before a light smile crossed her face while I wondered just how much automobile accidents had come to shape this particular 'bot's life. "I always wanted to meet her," she then admitted. "Thank her for influencing my life the way she did."
Hearing that touched me deep in my heart. To be orphaned before ever knowing your "mother"...! "What are you capable of?"
"Well, you've no doubt noticed how I can talk like a normal person even when conversing with another 'bot like Marlenn." Rayven pointed to herself. "Rayven insisted that I be fitted with the best street vernacular database available. She also had a hard-wired command fitted into me which forces me to use it in most of my daily conversations. I'm also fitted with programs that allow me to work on stage. The singer programming came later, when Brenda became my owner. That meshed pretty nicely with what Rayven had put into me when I was constructed. That makes it very easy for me to perform when I'm with the band."
"So why'd you say Lenn, Reika and Irene're lucky because they're bi?" I asked, then shrugged as something came to me. "Many wouldn't see it that way. From what my girls've told me, bi-'bots struggle with strongly conflicting urges. Then again, 'bot designers never consulted with people like me before they inflicted that type of lifestyle on 'bots like Reika and Irene. They were just somehow expected to cope with it."
She breathed out. "Well, after Rayven died, the company had no idea what to do with me. I'd been paid for, but there was no one coming to take me away. Rayven never told anyone about her intent to buy me. When the executors of her estate learned about me, they decided not to bother themselves and sold me back to the company at a substantial loss. I had no rights to any inheritance. So I was sent to a dealer in Norfolk. One day, a nice man came in looking for a 'bot companion. I'd caught his eye. But so did another 'bot. Her name was Giselle."
"He chose Giselle? Why?"
"She's a bi-'bot. I'm not. And he's bisexual."
I winced. "Ouch!" escaped me before I stared at her. "Are you mad at her?"
"Of course not!" Rayven laughed, then shrugged, a delighted smile crossing her face. "I'm envious of her, Deanna. We got acquainted while we were on display together. We still stay in touch. She's still with him."
"You were able to become 'friends' with another 'bot so quickly?"
"Yes," came the puzzled reply. "Can't everybody?"
I smiled, then crossed my arms. "That's good to hear. So if Brenda's your second real owner, who was your first?"
"Shayne Hamlyn. He's a medical researcher at the University of Virginia in Richmond. I was with him for a year, working as his research assistant and home companion." At this point, Rayven rolled her eyes, a touch of pain entering her voice. "Until his mother decided that he'd be better off with a human lover and damaged our relationship beyond repair."
I nodded. "Some mothers can be like that."
"Well, fortunately, it was around that time that Brenda was looking for a 'bot to help out with the band. Since Shayne knew about my unique history, he contacted Brenda over the 'Net and sold me directly to her. I've been with Brenda ever since."
Silence fell as I considered what Rayven had said, then I stared at her. The smile had slipped from her face. It didn't take me long to realize what could be bothering her. "Raye, it's not your fault," I assured her.
"It's not their fault," she emphasized, both her hands clenching.
I nodded. "You're right. It's not their fault either."
"You may not know it, but I was a bodyguard from the beginning as well as a performer. That part of me has never been removed." Rayven's eyes turned towards the floor. "I was responsible for their protection," she added with a hiss in her voice.
It was an emotional minefield that I was bringing Rayven into. No matter what, though, she had to face this. "Like it or not, it happened. And..." I took a deep breath. "Their chances aren't very good right now. And I want you to know that if something happens to them for the worse..." Here, I took another deep breath. "That you can stay with us."
Rayven blinked, then her gaze lowered from me, fresh tears glistening in her eyes. "I can?" she asked in a very meek voice.
Rayven clearly had low expectations for her future. "Yes. Unless your label can claim ownership of you. I strongly doubt it, though."
"No. I was always Brenda's personal property. As long as I'm with the band and perform on cue, the label doesn't care about me."
The lab door opened, revealing Lenn. "Rayven, someone just called from Saint Catharines. Some fellow named Neil Burnet."
"Who's that?" I asked.
"Our roadie," Rayven replied...
Within a half-hour, Neil delivered all of the Vee Beemers' instruments and other road gear, plus their suitcases and other personal belongings. He was from New York, a worker for the Beemers' record company. Briefly talking to him, I learned -- much to my disgust -- that the chances were good that Brenda and her friends would be cut off from outside support. Whatever life insurance the girls had certainly wouldn't cover all aspects of an accident like Saturday night, especially given that drugs were now known to be involved. And with their injuries -- Neil got the lowdown from the group's agent, Karen Litzky -- the chances of the Beemers ever making a comeback were slim to nil.
After he had driven off, I asked Rayven what she personally thought of Neil Burnet. "He's an asshole," she retorted sharply.
"Why'd you say that?" Lenn wondered as we -- by now, Reika and Irene were up -- got to work shifting the band's gear into the storage room.
"He was supplying them with everything they wanted," Rayven confirmed.
"Didn't you think about trying to stop him?" Irene asked. "The First Law should've demanded it of you!"
Our guest stopped as she considered how to respond to that, then she breathed out, tears tricking down her cheeks. "I did, Irene. I really did. But..." She shook her head. "I knew what the drugs were doing to them. I had been able to keep all the knowledge I'd gained before Brenda bought me, so all the lies Neil spread about how 'good' they were never washed."
"But at the same time, you couldn't help but notice how happy -- even if it is a panacea -- those drugs made them," I added.
"Yeah," Rayven replied with a nod as she walked over to where her briefcase sat by the front door. "They did make them relax, especially when we were on the road touring. And it also helped with their songwriting. Seeing that, I..."
Here, she stopped, standing now at the doorway to the guest room Lenn had set aside for her. We waiting for a moment for her to conceive of the best way to express herself. With nothing forthcoming, I took a deep breath. "Raye, do you need any help?"
Rayven looked at me, then bit her lip. "I don't know, Deanna..."
"Would you want Deanna to use your remote to help you?" Lenn asked.
Our guest's eyes went very wide on hearing that question, then Rayven looked down on herself. Finally, she sighed. "I don't know."
I exchanged looks with my lovers, then walked over to place a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Raye, if you've said that, then you don't need the remote," I told her with a friendly smile. "Just think it through, then tell us what you feel..."
I didn't need my remote...?
What did she mean?
I'm a 'bot!
'Bots always need their remotes!
I'm lost without it.
What if someone has to command me?
She trusts me...
She trusts me!
Seeing Rayven's face suddenly light up, I could only grin.
Sometimes, a simple push is truly the best way to go.
She gazed into my eyes, a weak smile crossing her face. "I didn't know what to do at the end, Deanna."
I returned her look, then reached over to draw her into my arms. My other lovers quickly moved IN to make it a group hug. "Given the way you were at the time this happened, Raye," I announced, then kissed her forehead in reassurance, "...no one can blame you for that."
"No one at all, Raye," Irene echoed me.
"Not a one, Raye," Reika added.
"No one, Raye," Lenn topped that.
Rayven's cheeks reddened as our words seemed to push her one critical step further into that vast wilderness of self-thought and self-will so few 'bots ever reach. Seeing her facial response to our words of comfort, I had to whistle to myself. Damn! 'Bots were getting more and more advanced by the day. Then tack on Rayven's acting programming and other social interactive databases...!
Taking a brief glance down at her chest, I was quick to notice her nipples pressing hard into her housecoat. Very good sign! Clearly, deep in her soul, Rayven knew -- she understood -- what we were saying, why we were saying it and responded as only a 'bot does.
With that, she turned to give Lenn a deep, tongue-filled kiss in thanks. Repeating same with Reika and Irene, she then faced me. Lowering her gaze, she moved to say something. I touched her chin with my finger, forcing her to stare directly into my eyes.
"Raye, you never, ever have to bow to me," I assured her. "Okay?"
She blinked, then smiled. "Okay." She nodded, then took a deep breath. "Deanna, will you be my owner?"
I grinned. "Raye, I'd be honoured. But let's make sure we're not stepping on other people's toes first before we do that."
After getting everything moved into Rayven's guest room, we got dressed, then headed to the hospital to look in on Brenda and her friends. Arriving there, I spotted a gaggle of people, easily forty, crowded around the admissions entrance. There were three media vans parked nearby, one from the CBC -- the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation -- one from CITY-TV/Much Music in Toronto and the last from CHCH television in Hamilton. Strange, I mused. The Beemers were an American band. Where the heck're the media people from any of the Buffalo stations?
Along with the reporters, camera people and technicians, there were a small group of fans waving placards. All were girls in their late teens. Seeing the messages of love and hope for Brenda, Kip and Monica -- and Rayven, too! -- I had to sigh. From what she told me as we were moving her stuff into her guest room, Rayven wasn't entitled to any of the band's earnings since she wasn't a freed 'bot. Whatever she did "get" actually was passed on to Brenda. Yet to see the Beemers' fans treat Rayven as being equal to her human bandmates...!
"You up to this, Raye?"
Rayven nodded, she giving my hand a thankful squeeze. "I'll be fine."
We stepped out of the car, then as a group, marched towards the building. Sure enough, the fans were the first ones to spot the girl in the black T-shirt, form-fitting jeans and leather biker's jacket. Their screams of joy on seeing Rayven whole and healthy instantly got the media's attention. To my surprise, they stayed in place until we came up to them, though several were quick to shout questions. Scanning the faces, I recognized a reporter from the CBC evening news, another beat reporter from CHCH -- and Ewan Jolan.
He's a reporter from Welland's local newspaper, the Tribune. Guess how I know him?
"Please!" Rayven called as she rose a hand to silence the torrent of questions, then she breathed out. "Ladies and gentlemen, I've just come to look in on Brenda, Kip and Monica. I'll be happy to answer some questions, but I don't wish to be delayed for long. Yes?"
She pointed to the CHCH reporter. "Miss Hamlyn, what exactly happened on Saturday night when you and your friends were travelling to Welland? The spokesperson for your label didn't give any details when she arrived an hour ago to look in on your bandmates."
Rayven shrugged. "In her defence, I would say it's most likely that Karen didn't know any details yet."
"What did happen, Rayven?" the CBC reporter pressed.
Rayven gazed at me. Ignoring the sudden increase of camera flashes, I smiled. "Tell them the truth," I mouthed, knowing she reads lips.
Seeing that, her gaze turned inward for a moment, then she nodded, the smile slowly returning to her face. Facing the crowd, she bowed her head, then began. "Ladies and gentlemen, it's very hard for me to admit this, but for my friends' sake, I will. This all began two years ago when the band put out our first wide-release album, Kissing A Fool, and the sales grew beyond anyone's expectations..."
The basic explanation took fifteen minutes, interrupted along the way with some technical questions from a reporter from the Saint Catharines Standard and another from the Hamilton Spectator. At the end of it, I could see sad acceptance from the crowd before me, even the teary-eyed fans off to my left. "Why didn't someone say something, Rayven?!" one girl cried out before burying her face in her friend's shoulder.
"No one cared for the danger they put those girls through," Ewan answered, then he stared at me. "Ms. Hordye, should Miss Beemon or her friends be incapable of resuming their responsibilities towards Miss Hamlyn, do you intend to become Miss Hamlyn's owner?"
"I would be pleased to do so as long as it is done according to Canadian and American law concerning transfer of ownership in circumstances like this," I replied. "Of course, any prospective robot owner wouldn't want to take charge of a 'bot under these circumstances."
"Who would?" the CHCH man mused.
"Ms. Hordye, would you press Miss Hamlyn to seek freed 'bot status?" the Standard asked.
Apparently my reputation and views on robots has already spread far beyond anything I'd ever imagined. Suddenly this was my interview. "Without hesitation," I answered with a firm nod. "When she's ready for it, of course."
"Would you allow her to resume her singing career?" the Spectator wondered.
"How would I ever stop her? And why?" I chuckled. Laughter echoed from the crowd before us, then I continued. "Even if she can't compose her own music, Raye can still perform as a vocalist." I glanced at her, getting a confirming nod. "I'm sure there're many bands who'd love to have her come work for them. Just as long as they treat her right," I added with a raised finger to emphasize my point.
"You'll take care of her, won't you?"
That question came from the fan who had cried out earlier. I stared at her, then winked. "You bet."
"If you'll excuse us, we'd like to go inside so Rayven can visit her owner and friends," Lenn called out. "I'm sure Rayven will be more than happy to answer more of your questions after she's done. Please excuse us."
The crowd parted just enough to let us pass. Hands reached out to touch us in reassurance. The fans screamed out their love for Rayven as she headed inside. A couple girls gave me very warm hugs, thanking me for being there for Rayven. I paused by Ewan, giving him a smile. "Stick around for this one," I whispered, giving him a wink. He still heard me. "There just might be more to come."
He nodded. "I'll be here..."
"Hey, Rayve! Izzat you...?"
I could only shake my head on seeing what was left of Kip Hilary. Her head, neck and shoulders were now encased in plaster, fully immobilizing her. Her face was partially covered by an oxygen mask. The rest of her was draped in a sterilized blanket. Rayven and I were the only ones allowed to see her -- after Anne-Marie ensured we were sterile and garbed in surgical scrubs complete with masks. Hospital intensive care units, I'd learned two years ago when my mother died from asthma, are kept even cleaner than operating rooms when long-term patients are involved. Since neither were conscious at the time, we wouldn't be visiting either Brenda or Monica. Lenn, Reika and Irene told us that they would go back to the lobby and wait there until we were done with the visit.
"Yeah, it's me," Rayven announced, moving to gaze into her friend's eyes. "I hate to say it, Kip, but you're a mess."
"Tell me somethin' I don't already know..." the brown-eyed blonde -- she's about Pauline Kim's age -- moaned. Listening to her voice, I wondered how much morphine now circulated inside her. "How're the others?"
"We can't see them yet," Rayven reported. "They haven't regained consciousness."
"Oh, fuck..." Kip squeezed her eyes closed as her voice almost broke into a sob, then she glanced towards me. "Who're you...?"
Introductions were made. "Deanna Hordye...?" Kip whispered, then her eyes widened in recognition. "Hey! You're 'Too Young, Hon!'"
Rayven turned to stare at me. "What?"
I chuckled. "That's my LiveJournal nickname. It's an Anglicization of Tu Younghon," I pronounced it properly, with the first "u" sounding like "oo" and the second "o" long, like "oh!" "That's Korean for 'Two Souls.'"
"She's a herm," Kip informed her bandmate, her lips twitching into a smile. "I've always wanted to meet you, Deanna. I think you're so cool. Though I wish I could've picked a better time," she added with a grimace.
"Thanks." I felt my cheeks heat, then my shoulders rolled. "I'm not into thrash. One of my 'bots really loves you guys, though."
A very slight nod tilted her head. "'S cool. What d'you like?"
"Oh, new age, plus some Korean pop, Japanese pop, Canadian folk and classic rock. Yanni, Enya, Secret Garden, Gordon Lightfoot, ABBA..."
"Good music," Kip breathed out, then blinked as the door to her room opened, revealing Anne-Marie. "Hey, Doc..."
Anne-Marie gazed at me. "I'm afraid you can't stay long."
I nodded, then gazed at the PDA in her hand. "No problem. What's that?"
"For your new friend." My old classmate indicated Rayven with a nod, then positioned herself to Kip's right. "Kip?"
"What happens to Rayve now, Doc?" Kip wondered.
"According to Canadian law, if a robot owner can't execute his or her duties concerning their charges due to prolonged medical problems -- unless the robot has been programmed to assist with those medical problems -- the robot has to be turned over to a more capable owner or shut down entirely for the duration," Anne-Marie sighed. "When she registered herself as Rayven's owner with the state of New York, Brenda listed both you and Monica as having the right to act on her behalf concerning Rayven should she become medically incompacitated. Unfortunately, since it'll be a while before either Brenda, Monica or yourself will recover, well..."
She shrugged. "It's cool." Kip lightly smiled, her eyes then shifting to Rayven. "You 'kay about this, Rayve?"
"I've already asked Deanna to become my new owner," Rayven reported.
"Cool!" Kip's pained smile widened, then she gazed on me. "You mind?"
"I'll take care of her," I vowed. "I've already promised your fans outside."
Kip blinked, then breathed out. "They're our family..."
"Excuse me?" I asked.
The Beemers' drummer closed her eyes, tears trailing from them. "The only family we've ever had."
I stared quizzically at Anne-Marie. My friend mouthed the words "They're all orphans" to me. Nodding, I stared once more on Kip. "They all love you, Kip," I told her. "And they're worried about you guys. They want you to get better. They all do."
"Tell them 'thanks.'" Kip slowly nodded, then stared at Anne-Marie. "You got Rayve's remote?"
She drew the device -- it resembled Reika's but had a ruggedized look to it -- from her smock. "The person who fixed her up gave it to me."
"Let's do it."
"Okay, then," Anne-Marie sighed.
Rayven shifted herself to a stool, using her hands and arms to keep herself balanced. Anne-Marie held up her PDA in one hand, Rayven's remote in the other, then read off a code while pressing her Activate button. Rayven jerked, then her head slumped forward. I was quick to see the trickle of tears flowing from her now-dull eyes. With that, I took the PDA and the remote from my friend. Seeing the activation code written there, I pressed Rayven's Activate button. Her eyes snapped open. "Activation code?" she asked in 'bot monotone.
I read off the activation code. Rayven acknowledged that, then asked for my personal identification. I gave it. She repeated it back to me for confirmation. I confirmed it. I then ordered her to continue all programs she had running now. She asked for me to confirm all choices made for her. I confirmed them. With that, her eyes cleared up. I could see the relieved smile on her face under her mask.
"Mistress, how may I serve you?" she then demurely asked, bowing her eyes.
I sighed. "Keep your remote close to you and protected at all times," I ordered after pressing her "C" button, then handed her the device.
"I understand," she replied, taking it.
I handed the PDA back to Anne-Marie with a nod. "Thanks," Kip softly breathed out. "Please take care of her, Deanna."
I reached over to brush a bit of her hair, wondering how much harder it would have been to give up custody of a person. "I will."
Rayven gazed on her bandmate, then reached up to pull her mask away from her face. Leaning down, she tenderly kissed Kip on her forehead. "I'm sorry I couldn't have done more for all of you, Kip," she apologized, gazing fondly on her friend.
Kip blinked, then her eyes started to tear. "Don't be," she murmured. "It's not your fault, Rayve. I love you."
"I love you, too, Kip." Rayven reached down to give the patient's hand a squeeze, then moved to remask herself...
We pulled ourselves away from Kip's room minutes later. Making our way to the visitor's change room, we quickly stripped down. "Let's get under a shower and get this disinfectant gunk off us," I muttered, waving Rayven with me to a nearby pair of stalls. Unlike the shower at the Morning Mist Training Hall, the showers here do come with privacy curtains. "It smells to high heaven."
I slipped into one, then jumped on feeling someone step in right behind me. "Raye!" I cried out, spinning on her.
Before I could order her out, she grabbed me in a vise-like bearhug, allowing our breasts to mash together and my suddenly responding penis to press up against her trimmed bush of dark pubic hair. Swamping me with a tongue-filled kiss, she kept me within her grip until I couldn't muster any show of resistance. As I allowed her tongue to swirl in my mouth, Rayven reached down to turn on the water, then she closed the curtains behind us. I jumped again as I got sprayed from head to toe, then relaxed as she adjusted the knobs to a more tolerable level.
"Don't move," she ordered me as she picked up a cloth.
It's weird taking orders from a 'bot, isn't it?
I remained still as Rayven tenderly washed me down. Fortunately, the shower head was mounted on a flexible tube, which allowed my newest charge to get to every point on my body. Naturally, she got very curious about the nature of my sexual organs. I watched as she extended her tongue to tap the tip of my quivering dick. Now I had come to notice that the stalls were big enough to hold two people with comfort. "Raye, what're you doing?" I hissed, trying to ignore the surges of ecstacy flaring up from my groin. "Someone might come in..."
"Shift change happens three hours from now," she stated evenly, then allowed me to plunge straight into her mouth.
I barely bit back a scream as she started to pump away. It didn't take her long to get what she wanted. And like my other lovers, Rayven is a swallower; not a drop of my cum made it on the floor after I shot my load down her throat. As soon as I had stopped shaking, she pulled her lips away from my cock, then quickly washed me down to get the sweat off me. Once that was done, she handed me the shower head.
Grinning, I moved to spray her down, then took up the cloth to give her body a thorough washing. Once that was done, I allowed my grin to widen as I quickly unscrewed the shower head from the tube. Before Rayven could react, I poised it between her legs, allowing the water to surge right into her vagina. My newest lover cried out with delight as that hot blast hit her where it'd turn her on the most, then she quivered as the input to her mind soon overwhelmed her pleasure buffer and tripped her orgasm routines. Given her previous female owners, this might have been the first time in a long time that she had completed her sexual function. As she came, I pulled the water away from her as I ducked in to get a taste. Mmmmmmm. Just as delicious, just as human, as Reika, Irene or Lenn tasted to me.
Finally, Rayven relaxed. I screwed the shower head back into place, then gave her a final spray-down before putting the head back on its rack. We then embraced, sharing one final kiss as Rayven shut off the shower.
"Well?" she wondered, a coy smile crossing her face. "Does this consummate our new relationship, Deanna?"
I blinked, then sighed. "I like that sort of spontaneous behaviour," I admitted.
"I never could make myself do that with Shayne or Brenda," she confessed as I pulled the curtain away, we stumbling out.
"Why not?" I wondered, walking over to pick up a towel to toss to my newest lover.
"When it came to Shayne, it was too soon for me to act like that," she admitted as she moved to dry herself. "That changed after Brenda became my owner and I started to notice their problems with drugs. When I found it within myself to try to do something on my own, I quickly noticed that those around me weren't ready for it. Remember earlier today when I told you that Neil's an asshole?"
"Yeah," I replied, recognizing Rayven's attempts to describe her first awareness of her awakening self, without knowing the words to use.
"Well, he was more than a roadie to the band. He was there to keep an eye on me. He never said anything directly to me, but I overheard him warn Brenda once -- oh, this was about a year-and-a-half ago, just as we started work on the second album -- to keep me in line. I think he didn't like me making a single move without being commanded first through my remote, though Brenda was never strict about that."
"And you decided the best thing to do was to mask your self-awareness from outside scrutiny," I concluded as we wiped down each other's hair.
"Yes." Rayven gazed on me. "I remember what you said about that this morning, Deanna. I'm sorry that I didn't acknowledge it when you took ownership of me in front of Kip, but I..."
Here, she stopped. Yes, she was developing her sense of self-will, but it was still at the beginning stages. I walked over to give her shoulder a supportive squeeze. "Don't apologize," I told her. "And don't ever feel the need to act demurely around me, no matter if we're alone or surrounded by people who don't like that sort of thing. Your opinions matter, Raye. Their opinions don't matter to me at all."
Rayven blinked, then her eyes glistened with tears. "Thank you, Deanna..."
The gift to act freely was clearly precious to her.
A half-hour later, Rayven and I walked into the admissions lobby. My newest charge now wore her remote around her neck, though I'd dare anyone, anyone, to try and take it from her. Waiting in the lobby, as I expected, was Ewan Jolan.
"How are they?" the Tribune reporter asked, rising from his chair to intercept us by the doors.
Rayven and I exchanged a look, then seeing her nod, I turned back to my friend. "All in very bad shape," I reported. "Kip stands the best chance of recovery. But unless she gets special treatments for spinal cord regeneration, she'll be paralysed from the neck down for the rest of her life. Brenda and Monique haven't even woken up yet, so we haven't seen them."
"How bad's it with them?" he asked.
"Monique's in the worst danger because of liver injuries," I warned. "If that doesn't heal, she won't survive. Brenda's lungs and heart can't operate. If they don't show signs of recovery, she'll be on a heart-lung machine. And that's not the worst part of it..."
"I know." Ewan nodded. "Their medical insurance won't cover something like this now that the police know drugs are involved. No one knows how far the earnings from their record sales'll cover their medical costs if their insurance company moves to turn off the tap. And given how bad they're hurt, the chances of their getting back on tour, much less recording a new album, to earn more money are small."
He smiled at me after that, letting me know that he was good at doing his job as well. "Is their agent still here?" I asked.
"She's in town. I invited her to Jim's and Wendy's party tonight. Give you a chance to talk to her under informal circumstances." A pause. "Personally, I don't think Ms. Litzky's a bad person. But if she puts her neck out too much for the girls..."
"She risks losing her own job," Rayven finished.
"Damn!" I snarled, then blinked on seeing the small crowd of fans we had spoken to still standing outside. Remembering how they had reacted to the news of the Beemers' problems with drugs, I beckoned Rayven with me. "C'mon."
We headed outside. Sure enough, the reporters were also there. Some of the print journalists were chatting with my lovers, who know better than most, given their nightly showclub experience, how to handle anybody. I wouldn't be surprised if Reika and Irene had already collected some tips from the men at least. As soon as they saw me, my other lovers walked over to stand with Rayven and I. Camera flashes started going off as the reporter from the Spectator got off with the first question about the girls.
Rayven took that. "We only got to see Kip right now," she stated, reaching down to grip my hand. "Brenda and Monique are still unconscious. When they do regain consciousness, we'll be the first ones informed."
"Is Ms. Hordye now your owner, Miss Rayven?" the CBC reporter asked, obviously familiar with the law about disabled owners, and that Rayven remained activated. He might have also picked up on the undeniable glow that good sex had given both of us.
"How do you feel about being the owner of such a famous singer?" the CITY-TV reporter asked.
"Well, as I told Kip when we spoke earlier, thrash music really isn't my thing," I replied, eliciting a laugh from the people around us. "I'm a martial arts instructor. My late mother was an elementary school teacher here in town. Until the day Reika and Irene walked into my life, I could never conceive of being the owner of any robot, to say anything of being the owner of record for three freed 'bots. And as I said earlier, I will do everything I can to ensure Raye here will gain freed status when she's ready for it."
I stopped there, taking a deep breath, then continued. Hopefully, I wasn't being too dramatic. "As for Rayven's singing career, well..." I shrugged. "I wish I could bring myself to care for that as much as her fans here..." I waved to the fans who'd come to the hospital today. "...care for them. But even if I did, will it help them in the long run? By the sounds of things now, I don't think so."
"What do you mean?" the Standard reporter asked.
"What I mean is this..."
The gathering ended ten minutes later. As the crowd dispersed, I guided my charges back towards our car. Ewan trailed us for a minute, then glancing back to ensure none of the other reporters could hear him, whispered, "Nicely played."
I winked at him. "See you tonight."
He nodded before heading off to his own car. We got in our car and Lenn guided it out towards the main gate. As we drove, I spotted the group of Beemers fans walking on the sidewalk. Indicating to Lenn to slow the car down, I leaned out the window as we pulled up to them.
"Can you girls pass the word along to everyone on the Net?" I asked.
"You bet!" one of them answered, flashing me a thumbs-up.
I waved at them. "Right on! Keep your fingers crossed."
They cheered as we drove off...
"You know, this might not work in the long term, Deanna."
Ewan had called it right. Karen Litzky, a dark-haired woman in her late twenties, had been in the music industry since she worked as a roadie for a blues band from Boston. She had been caught between her own concern for the Beemers and her desire to hang onto her own job. Life often gives us those cruel choices. Shortly after my brood and I arrived at Jim Graham's townhouse in the north end of the city for the party, she dragged me onto the back porch to talk about Rayven's friends.
"It was worth trying, Karen," I said, then sipped my spring water. "The girls love their fans. They see them as an adopted family and never wanted to fail them. That's what made them work so hard on their music. Unfortunately..."
"They were too successful," Karen finished before sipping her glass of wine. "And when they needed the energy to push themselves on..."
"Their roadie was there with the 'right' stuff," I grumbled, then winked at her. "According to Rayven, that is."
She returned my look, then smirked. "Since it was Rayven who said that, I'll believe you," she chuckled, then spat out. "Ahh! Who the hell'm I kidding? That jerk's been messing with the girls ever since their first nation-wide tour!"
"Why haven't you fired his ass?"
"He's got friends in the right places."
Karen waved around us to indicate the others. "So what's this party about, anyway?"
"Jim's celebrating the deal the province made with New York State about hover-ferries between Toronto and Rochester. Besides, it's a chance for old classmates and friends to get back together to remember the good times when we were the girls' age."
"Pity they never had much of a chance to enjoy normal lives," Karen lamented. "Soon as they came of age, they were booted out of the orphanage. It amazes me that they were able to land on their feet and launch the band like they did."
"Any idea what happened to their parents?" I asked.
No. Those records are sealed by the New Jersey state government. After they put out their first album, we put out a call over the Net to find them. No reply." After saying that, Karen swallowed the rest of her wine. "Damn, this world of ours stinks at times!"
I nodded. "Amen to that."
We turned to see Wendy Graham walk up with Anne-Marie. I gave Jim's wife a one-armed hug and kiss. "Hey, Wendy! Great party!"
"Thanks." Wendy gave me a smile before facing Karen. "Are you the agent for those poor girls in the hospital?"
Karen offered her hand. "I am." After introducing herself, she shrugged. "For a little while more, unfortunately."
"Won't your employers reconsider?" Anne-Marie asked.
Karen shook her head. "Not really. It's not because they're unsympathetic to what happened to the girls. But record sales for already-released albums can only go so far. We've no idea what'll happen to the girls and how this'll affect those sales. Will they rise? It's happened for some singers, but not all of them. Is it a risk worth taking in the long term by the company? It's hard to say."
"In other words, you'd need to launch new tours," Wendy concluded.
"With what?" Karen asked.
Wendy and Anne-Marie exchanged a look. "Well..." the former speculated. "Did you know that one of the robots Deanna has is an IP 'bot?"
Total silence followed that question. I just stared at Jim's wife as the implications of what she was proposing sank in. Giving a very perplexed Karen a glance -- no doubt, she had no real knowledge about 'bot tech -- I turned to Anne-Marie. "Can you do that?"
"I already talked to Marlenn," she told me. "The device needed to get the memory copy is portable and easily sterilized, so it can be brought into the ICU with no problem. We can justify it by doing a special EKG scan to ensure their brains are still active."
"Once Marlenn gets basic chassis from a manufacturer -- say the company that built Rayven -- she can finish them in two days working round the clock," Wendy added. "The memory scan will take six hours for each girl. And they're not going anywhere for the foreseeable future."
"In a situation like this, Kip can give permission for Brenda and Monique, so privacy issues won't be a problem," Anne-Marie noted.
"What are you guys talking about?" Karen demanded.
"IP technology, Karen." I stared at her, then noting her continued confusion, added, "'IP' means 'Implanted Personality.' It's sometimes referred to as 'Donated Personality.' Digitalized immortality of a sort."
Silence fell as the agent considered what I just said, then her eyes went wide. "You mean to create...?" her voice trailed off on seeing Wendy and Anne-Marie nod, then she breathed out. "God, that's a tiny degree of separation from perfect! What would you need?!"
"Basic bodies from a top-flight 'bot manufacturer," Anne-Marie reported. "Marlenn recommends Noram. That's the company that made Rayven. They can build the skeletons to order and they can do it for emergency orders if the cash is there. And it's fortunate that the girls in Rayven's band once bared it all for Playboy." She paused for a second. "Although a CAT scan would have been even better!"
"Who'd pay for it?" I asked.
I spun around to see Reika and Irene standing there. "You?!" I demanded.
"Deanna, don't forget, we do have a major trust fund to fall back onto," Reika chuckled as they slid up to wrap their arms around mine.
"And if the girls die, what happens to Rayven?" Irene asked.
I considered that for a moment, then sighed. "She's developing her self-will," I whispered. "If they die..."
I glanced over to see Karen starting to pale. "Raye was trapped because of the First Law of Robotics."
"'A robot shall not harm a human, nor through inaction, allow a human to come to harm,'" Reika and Irene quoted in perfect harmony.
"In Rayven's case, she was caught between the realization that the drugs the girls were taken were hurting them..." I then paused to take a deep breath. "And the fact that the drugs were making the girls happy and allowing them to compose and perform better."
"Damn," Karen hissed.
"If they die, Raye might take it very badly," I warned. "Almost to the point where she might simply choose to cease to function. She already feels she failed them as a bodyguard, which is an extra extension of the First Law."
"Even with your as her owner now?"
"Almost certainly. Delayed shock is still very real. Short of wiping that part of her mind..."
"To one of us, doing that would, in effect, lobotomize us if not kill us," Irene added.
"I never realized that," Karen admitted, then took a deep breath. "Though it makes perfect sense in hindsight. So what can I do to help?"
"How'd you like to help get rid of the creep who fed drugs to those girls in the first place?" Anne-Marie asked.
Staring at my friend, the music agent blinked, then grinned. "You're on!"
We all laughed. "Now all we have to do is decide," Reika mused. "Do we tell Rayven right away or make it a surprise?"
Thoughtful hums escaped the rest of us...
My new owner.
My new mistress...
No. She doesn't like being called 'mistress.'
Her name is Deanna Sophia Hordye.
Call her Deanna.
She likes me.
She trusts me.
I can't desert them...!
Brenda's not my owner now.
Deanna's my owner.
What do I do?
What do I do...?
Can I even do it?
She looked up. "Yeah, Deanna?"
It is Tuesday morning, the day after the party at the Grahams. From what Lenn reported after we came to the apartment on Denistoun to spend the night together, Rayven enjoyed herself immensely. Most of her time had been spent with Meghan and Samantha, Jim's and Wendy's fembot aides. While not as advanced when it comes to independent thinking as my bi-'bot lovers, the Grahams' girls were very proficient when it came to interacting with guests, 'bot or human. Having watched over my newest charge during most of the party, Lenn reported that Rayven was able to keep up with the "two chatterboxes" (as she had nicknamed Meghan and Samantha). No doubt, Rayven has been able to push herself, especially since she began to work with the Vee Beemers, to integrate her basic social programming with her specialized acting and singing mods and her expanded speech databases to help her interact well with strangers. Like dancers, Rayven's in the business of selling herself.
"I'm going over to the tojang to talk with Master Lily about Iruka's trip to Ottawa tomorrow. Do you want to come along?"
Rayven stopped for a moment, then her face brightened. "If you want me to come, I'd be happy to come." Suddenly, the smile slipped from her face as her gaze lowered to the floor. "Still..." her voice trailed off before she took a deep breath. "I'm worried."
I tapped the cell-phone in my pocket. "If something happens to Brenda or Kip or Monica, Anne-Marie knows to call me right away."
A look of relief crossed Rayven's face. "Alright."
"What do you intend to do with this one, Deanna-ya?"
Master Lily and I relaxed in her kitchen/work office, enjoying tea. In the main training hall, Iruka Shiina was busy demonstrating some of the Art's basic moves to Rayven, whose interest in the martial arts is obvious. Since this is summer vacation, regular classes at the tojang weren't being held. It wouldn't be all rest and relaxation time for me, much less my co-teachers, however. In two weeks, special sessions for the higher keup -- student -- ranks would begin. Through them, we would determine who would be ready to move down the road towards achieving their first dan black belt. I would have to start work to advance myself to i-dan -- second-level black belt -- this year. A tojang owner has to be at least a fourth-level before being allowed to run her own classes without supervision by a higher-ranked teacher.
"She's developing her self-will, Oumma," I whispered in Korean. Atop speaking in Master Lily's native tongue, we kept the door closed so Rayven wouldn't overhear this. "It's been growing in bits and pieces since she started to perform with her last owner's band. Trying to determine the best course to take when it came to dealing with the girls' problem forced it along. But given what might happen to them..."
"Would she react so badly to their passing that her mind would simply freeze in place?"
"That's a possibility that can't be ignored."
Lily considered that, then nodded. "So by creating replicas of her bandmates, you'd be forcing Rayven-a to become a teacher herself."
I nodded. "Exactly. Just creating them with IP tech won't make them like Lenn-a, Reika-ya or Irene-a right off the bat."
"Ne, it's true. Even Lenn-a couldn't have evolved her self-will without outside help, or some defining event. Those are quite rare, though we're coming to understand them now."
"Any news about Marlenn-ssi? Much less what Andrew-ssi discovered about your missing twin sister?"
I shook my head. "None. Drew-ssi knows to contact me the instant he gets any hint about either Marlenn-a or my sister."
"That's good. I must confess, it's shameful that your father did that to your sister. Even more so, to do it behind your mother's back."
"Filial piety only can go so far, Oumma."
"True," Lily agreed with a nod, then we perked up on hearing a knock at the door. "Come!"
It opened to reveal Iruka. A third-generation Japanese-Canadian from the British Columbia interior, she had shocked her parents long ago by electing to study t'ae kwon-do, a Korean martial art, in lieu of karate, judou, ju jitsu, aikidou or any of the other popular native arts. Having graduated from high school this past winter, she intended to attend Carleton University in Ottawa to get her degree in kinesiology and education. Since the Morning Mist Training Hall already has one master teacher and five assistant teachers, Iruka had to turn to another tojang to gain the necessary level of teaching experience. Fortunately for her, Master Lily knew of a fellow teacher from Ottawa who was looking for a new assistant. One phone call to Master Sean O'Malley later, Iruka got her black belt test scheduled.
All she had to do now was take it. That was scheduled for Thursday morning at the Rideau Academy, Master Sean's tojang.
"What is it, Iruka?" I asked, switching to English.
"Sorry to bother you, ma'am, but are we considering allowing robots to become students?" Iruka wondered, a wry smile crossing her face.
Master Lily and I exchanged a look. "Why do you ask?" my teacher wondered. I wondered how she knew Rayven was a robot.
"Rayven just asked me about it," Iruka answered.
Master Lily shrugged, thought a moment, then replied. "We'll have to think about it," she sighed. "I know teachers in the 'softer' arts like aikidou and tai chi chuan allow robots to attend classes. The potential for First Law conflicts are lessened. But t'ae kwon-do?"
"Perhaps learning our Art'll teach her how not to hurt someone," I mused.
"Intriguing point," Lily agreed...
The trip to Ottawa was noisy and full of song as Iruka and I put Rayven's singing skills to the test. To my delight, my newest lover knew many more songs than only those the Vee Beemers produced. In this instance, my disdain for thrash meshed well with Rayven's need to think of more positive things. Further, Iruka proved to be of even more benefit, given Rayven's surprising interest in studying t'ae kwon-do.
Getting a hotel room in the nation's capital for the day, we proceeded to the Rideau Academy to meet Master Sean O'Malley. A sixty year-old Belfast native who'd spent over four decades in Canada, he is now a seventh-level black belt who studied with Master Lily's father, the late Grandmaster Bae-dal Choi, in Taegu. Hearing him speak about my own teacher, I quickly sensed that things had once been very intimate between Master Lily and Master Sean. To my surprise and delight, Rayven also picked up on it. "Why didn't it happen between them?" she asked when we were relaxing after undressing each other in our hotel room on Wednesday night after Rayven and I took a tour of Ottawa's tourist traps.
"When they get to that level in the Art, Raye, it's considered very unpolitic to ask," I warned her.
She considered that for a minute, then slowly exhaled. "Even though I talk like a normal person, there're a lot of things about humans that I still find hard to understand," she admitted, walking over to sit close to me.
I gazed at her, then wrapped an arm around her. "We humans have problems understanding ourselves a lot." I fell silent as I considered if I should add onto that, then I exhaled myself. "I guess that's why we need robots like you, Raye."
She gazed at me. "If you can't understand yourself and if I can't understand you, how can we resolve this?"
I chuckled, then patted my thigh a couple times. "Apart, we may never resolve it. But together..."
I stared at her. Rayven blinked, then hooded her eyes. A quick glance at her chest revealed her telltale nipples showing unspoken response. "Thank you for being there for me, Deanna. Thank you for believing in me and giving me a chance like this."
"I've no other choice, Raye," I admitted. "You have your beliefs, your sense of right and wrong. I have my beliefs, my sense of right and wrong. And my sense of right and wrong tells me, from the day that I met Reika and Irene, that if I meet a robot who is doing her damn best to advance herself, regardless of what's being tossed into her path, I have to acknowledge it, respect it -- and if necessary, help it along." Reaching over, I gently rubbed the palm of my hand on her cheek. "I was lucky with Reika, Irene and Lenn. All three of them developed their self-will to a highly functional degree before I became their owner. With you, however..."
Rayven blinked, then lowered her eyes. "I'm sorry..."
I grimaced. "Oh, Raye, please! Don't apologize..."
Rayven remained silent. I blinked as I remembered the first conversation I had with this girl in Lenn's lab. Recalling Rayven's envious words about my other lovers because they were bi-gendered robots -- not to mention the story about that bi-'bot who had attracted the eye of that fellow in Virginia, passing Rayven over -- I then wondered if I could do something to give my newest lover another small push.
Maybe I could.
But would it work?
Well, it was worth a try.
Reaching over, I pulled Rayven's remote from the small pocket on the inside of her jacket where she left it on the table. Seeing me do that, she gave me a curious, yet wary, look. I understood it well. Self-willed robots tend not to like having unexpected commands force-fed to them -- unless it is a command that can help them better operate in an independent way. Hopefully, what I had in mind would be in that vein.
She looked at me, the expression on her face declaring her desire to seek my acceptance of whatever command she intended to give me.
She wanted my trust.
She trusted me.
I had to trust her.
"Okay," I told her.
She pressed my Command button. Any thoughts of my own fled as her voice rang loud and clear throughout my mind.
Rayven, from this day on...
"...use all your knowledge to evolve your behavioural programming so that you can stand as an emotional equal to Reika Aldred, Irene Aldred, Marlenn Ioanis or any other bi-gendered robot you have or may encounter from now on." A quick pause, then I added, "And remove any previous blocks that would prevent this based on your sole opinion that they need removal."
I lifted my thumb from Rayven's "C" button. Watching her, I felt a chill course through me as a shocked look crossed her face. She bolted to her feet, her hands reaching for the sides of her head as she started to pace from the bed to the door and back again. Seeing her do this, I was tempted to leap up and comfort her, show her how much I loved and cared for her. I fought that down immediately. One of the hardest things I'd to learn as a teacher was to give my students a chance to figure things out on their own. For a robot developing her self-will, a robot who was now my lover and companion, a robot whom I wanted to develop that self-will, that was equally paramount.
After several very long minutes, Rayven stopped, pulling her hands away from her head as she gazed on me, tears streaming down her cheeks. "You mean it's that simple?" she hoarsely demanded, her fists clenching as she walked up to gaze into my eyes. "It's that simple?!!"
I nodded. "Yeah, Raye, it is. It can be, when you've advanced to this point already. But the folks who made you never wanted you to figure it out. And the folks who're scared of what you're capable of doing wanted to make damn sure that it would be almost impossible for you to figure it out. And the folks who aren't scared of what you're capable of doing..." I shrugged. "Never clue into how easy it is to help you figure it out. Because of that, they spend a lot of time giving robots screwed-up commands or get punch-happy with your Command button and thrash your mind..." I then took a deep breath. "Always remember that you were never intended to have self-will by those who built you and those who've owned you. And those others like you who have to face that go through sheer Hell to get to where you already are.
"And now that you have that, Raye, you have to show responsibility in using it properly. For your benefit as well as for the benefit of those around you, especially me. You don't have to be afraid of people coming down on you in case you make a decision on your own. I won't do that to you. Reika, Irene and Lenn certainly won't do that to you. But you have to demonstrate that you can make the right decisions. You have to show that you can handle the responsibility society gives you as a free, self-willed 'bot. Can you do it, Raye?"
We stared at each other, then slid into an embrace. One very warm, wet kiss later, Rayven grinned as I moved to wipe her face clean. "I think I'll be doing my self-will test a little earlier than I might've expected with any other onwer."
"Will you stay with me when you pass that test?" I asked.
"As long as you'll have me," she promised. A robot's word, freely given, is good.
"But will anything change?" I pushed her.
"I hope not," she replied solemnly.
I smiled, then kissed her forehead. "Okay. But before we worry about your test, let's worry about Iruka's."
"Good point." She nodded, then stared deeply into my eyes. "No sex tonight?"
"I'm way too nervous about Iruka to enjoy it properly. You?"
She considered that for a moment, then shrugged. "Strange. The thought of us taking our clothes off and now lying together in bed, allowing ourselves to enjoy the simple warmth of our bodies pressed together..." She then paused before smiling. "Sounds very nice. Besides, we'll have plenty of time later to explore all my unused sexual programming. I love having an owner to be sexual with again. I haven't really had any sort of fun since I left Shayne. And believe me, Deanna, it's so much more fun now that I can be a more equal partner in it. So..."
My cell-phone rang before Rayven could finish. I pulled it out and put it to my ear. "Hordye."
"Deanna, it's Anne-Marie," the voice called back.
I tensed. "What's up?"
She told me. Hearing that, I sighed, then nodded. "Thanks for calling. I'll tell her." Once the link was cut, I stared at Rayven. "That was Anne-Marie. They've stabilized Monica's blood chemistry. Her liver's starting to heal. If things go well, they'll be able to start operating on her intestines sometime next week. And Brenda's heart is operating on its own."
My companion tensed. "Still trouble with her lungs?"
"No news is good news."
Rayven blinked, then nodded. "Hold me, please?"
I was happy to comply...
More good news came the next morning. They were able to reinflate Brenda's lungs and this time, keep them inflated. With that, our mood was truly positive when we went to the Rideau Academy with Iruka. The test would be administered by Master Sean and his two chief assistants, both fourth-level black belts. Since the test is always done in private, Rayven and I waited in a visitor's lounge. Also waiting there for the beginning of their Thursday morning tutorial class were several primary school students, all white belts. Like all kids, their eagerness to learn the Art tended to completely bowl over the iron-clad discipline demanded from practitioners of t'ae kwon-do. Since I had been that way when I first began studying the Art -- not to mention the fact that this particular tojang wasn't my tojang! -- I kept quiet.
The door to the training room opened, revealing Master Sean and his two co-judges. Seeing him, one of the boys called out, "Tor'a!"
The sudden silence that followed the command to attention surprised me. Maybe these kids were getting it a lot better than I initially believed. Rayven and I quickly got to our feet as the boy called out "Kyoungnye!" to signal everyone to bow to Master Sean.
"Thank you, Tom," Master Sean replied as the teachers returned their students' bow. "Relax, everyone. Before we start with today's class, I'd like to take the opportunity to introduce you to our newest teacher here at the Academy. Shiina-sabu, come join us!"
Iruka stepped into view, now sporting a new black belt on her tobok. Seeing the pride shine on her face -- mixed with an understandable level of relief from getting the feared test over with once and for all -- I could only nod. Master Sean quickly did introductions, then turned the kids over to Iruka. The kids were guided into the training room by Iruka as Master Sean beckoned Rayven and I into his office. "She did very well. You should all be very proud of her," he announced, waving me to a chair before sitting behind his desk.
"By the look on her face, sir, she was as nervous doing her test with you as I was back in P'ohang when I did mine," I warned him.
"Oh, we're all that way when we face that time in our lives," he chuckled, then gazed on Rayven. "So you're the newest girl in Deanna's brood?" Noting the shocked look on my face, Master Sean chuckled. "Lily told me about your robots, Deanna. You're doing a good thing for all of them. And..." He held up a finger before drawing out three CDs from his desk. "If I may ask for your autograph, Miss Hamlyn? My daughter is a big fan of your music. And I do hope your friends will soon recover from the accident."
"We got some good news this morning on them," Rayven reported before taking a pen and signing the inside covers of the CDs. "Whether or not it'll be enough to see them restored to health, we'll have to wait and see. But I have hopes for them. Even if Deanna is my owner now..."
He nodded approvingly before returning to his chair. "I know. Miss Hamlyn, Miss Shiina told me you asked her about studying t'ae kwon-do. Do you really wish to study the Art?"
"I'm curious about it," Rayven replied. "I am constructed to be a bodyguard, though I never had a chance to really put that part of my programming to use. And I must admit, the chance for me to use that programming never came up because..."
"You were seen first and foremost as a singer," I cut in with a smile.
"Yes," Rayven flashed me a knowing look before facing Master Sean. Unlike humans, 'bots normally don't mind it when people cut in to help them make their point. "Now that I've had the chance to really think it through -- not to mention having just received a command from Deanna that allows me to consider this -- I can certainly name a dozen times when my intervention might have spared my former bandmates exposure to the drugs that eventually sent them to the hospital. Now that I've had a chance to discuss this with Deanna, Iruka, Master Choi and yourself, I believe learning t'ae kwon-do will help me better focus myself so that I can protect those I care for."
Our host and I exchanged a look, then he stared at Rayven. "That's the right attitude to take, Miss Hamlyn. I think Master Choi will be more than happy to take you on as a student. Are you concerned about possible conflicts with the First Law of Robotics?"
"Miss Hamlyn, you have been given, by design, the ability to control your every action in a way that most serious students of the Art need years to master. That's your advantage. Your disadvantage is the fact that robots like yourself are made to take things too literally and are not given the chance to see things as clearly as you should. Now, Master Choi told me that Deanna here will allow you the chance to take your self-will test and seek freed status when you're ready for it. But..." He held up a finger in emphasis. "Even before you do this, you can determine ways to use the Art for those you care for even if, at first glance, you might appear to be breaking the First Law."
Rayven blinked as she considered what our host just said, then stared at him. "I don't understand, sir..."
He smiled. "Let me put it to you this way. Do you want to stop the man who supplied drugs to your friends from hurting anyone else?"
Her answer was automatic. "Yes!"
"You can do it."
Confusion flashed across her face. "How, sir?"
"By realizing that times will come when you have to balance the different elements of the First Law to best suit those who need help the most," he answered. "In other words, you may have to take a choice. Here, you have a man who supplies drugs that hurt people. There, you have the people who will be hurt by the drugs that man supplied. Who ultimately, in the eyes of society, must be helped first?"
Silence as my companion considered his question, then Rayven sighed. "They all must be helped, sir. The ones targeted by the supplier to make sure they never are hurt. And the one who supplies the drugs, too. He has to be taught not to do that."
Our host and I both nodded. "Good answer," Master Sean said, smiling. "T'ae kwon-do demands of all who practice it the following..." He held up a splayed-finger hand to count off the points. "Respect for yourself and all around you. Courtesy to others. A fixed sense of right and wrong. Allowing others to trust you and you developing the ability to trust others. Loyalty to yourself, your family and your friends. A sense of humility, respecting your limitations. Courage and determination to expand and grow past those limitations. A sense of patience; nothing ever comes all at once, even for robots. Showing integrity, a willingness to adhere to your core beliefs. Demonstrate perseverence, a willingness to finish what you started. A sense of self-control. An indomitable spirit. A sense of responsibility to help and respect all forms of life. Tell me this, Miss Hamlyn: can you see yourself living your life under those guidelines?"
My lover considered that for a moment, then she nodded. "Most of those tenets are extensions of what is programmed into all robots, either as elements of the Four Laws or part of their basic social programming." She paused, her glance turning inward for a moment as she whispered to herself, "It's that damn simple...!" She then gazed on Master Sean. "But I must note, sir -- turning back to the situation concerning my bandmates and the man who supplied them with drugs -- I have no right to force myself on the supplier," Rayven added.
"True, you are correct in this insight. Individuals in our society, robot or human, have no right to do that beyond the limits of the law. But..." Our host paused to emphasize his point. "You have the right and the duty to help society do its duties within the limits of the law. And that is no violation of the First Law of Robotics, Miss Hamlyn. No violation at all." He winked at her. "Think about it."
"I shall," Rayven replied...
After enjoying a celebratory lunch with Iruka, Rayven and I headed back home. Iruka would stay in Ottawa for a week to arrange for a place to live for when she starts work with the Academy in August, plus her studies at Carleton in September. For most of the trip home, Rayven and I sang away, covering more singers and bands I never suspected she'd know about. I made a mental note to ask her about her wide musical knowledge at some point that wouldn't interrupt the fun we were having right now.
At a rest stop on Highway 401 east of Toronto, where we stopped for supper, several of the Beemers' fans spotted Rayven. We were quick to relay the promising news about Brenda, Kip and Monica to them before returning to our car. Several dozen kilometres down the road, my companion took a deep breath. "Deanna, can I ask you something?"
I chuckled. "Raye, just ask the question. Don't ask if you can ask a question beforehand."
"Right." She smirked, then sobered. "Are you planning to do something against Neil Burnet?"
"If I tell you, will you feel compelled to stop me?"
I nodded. "Yes. Raye, do you want to see anyone else suffer like Brenda, Kip and Monica?"
"No, of course not!" she sternly replied.
"Then let's deal with him right away. Do it in such a way that he can't be saved by whatever friends he's got in the record company."
"I want in on this, Deanna."
"You'll have it. But we needed to prepare something first. That's what Lenn's been working on while we've been on the road."
"It's a surprise."
Rayven blinked, then chuckled. "I know, I know. You can't tell me because if you did, it wouldn't be a surprise anymore!"
I pointed at her. "You got it, baby!"
By the time we had returned to Marlenn's laboratory in Welland, I was consumed with curiosity as to what this "surprise" my co-lover was preparing on Deanna's behest. The first clue towards solving this problem came when I saw Karen Litzky standing by the front door of the laboratory with Reika and Irene as we pulled up. "What are you doing here, Karen?" I asked as Deanna and I walked over to her.
"Neil's on his way to pick up the band's gear," Karen reported. "It's been hinted over the Net that memory copies taken from you and the girls have been submitted to the police. If charges are warranted, he'll be arrested for drug trafficking."
I quickly processed that information, then blinked. "Is this legal? When did you get memory copies of Brenda, Kip and Monica?"
"While you were gone," Reika answered. "The arrest warrant's already been prepared. Once he comes in here, he'll be taken into custody."
"Do you want to help handle that, Rayven?" Karen asked.
I stopped on hearing that request, my mind whirling around and around as the implications of what was being set up against Neil started to sink in. Suddenly, Master O'Malley's words echoed once more from my memory files: You have the right and the duty to help society do its duties within the limits of the law. And that is no violation of the First Law of Robotics, Miss Hamlyn. No violation at all.
An authority figure has cleared my actions...
I have the right...
I have the duty...
"Damn right I do!" I hissed. "When's he coming?"
"Within the hour," Karen reported.
"Let's show her the surprise first," Deanna advised.
Grins spread across the others' faces as we headed in to the laboratory. I kept quiet as Reika and Irene flung open the lab doors. Looking inside, I was quick to spot Marlenn. She wasn't alone; there were three other girls...
Oh, my GOD!
"Hello, Rayven," the robot replicas of my bandmates greeted me with wide smiles.
I stared at them, all now dressed in jeans and T-shirts, no doubt taken from my real bandmates' personal belongings. As the initial shock on seeing them faded, I then looked on Marlenn. "IP-'bots?" I wondered, indicating them with a wave of my hand.
"Yes." Marlenn beamed with the very unique pride only a well-skilled 'bot technician can demonstrate. "Dee?"
Deanna stepped up, hand out. "Girls?"
The replica 'bots drew out their remotes, handing them to my owner. Their owner. "How'd you take possession of them?" I asked.
"Over the phone while we were in Ottawa. You were busy chatting with Iruka about the basic forms when I went to the washroom to take the call," she replied, winking at me. "Fortunately, when she was installing their basic programming, Lenn made sure the girls could accept commands from me over the phone while she was pressing their Command buttons here in Welland."
I considered that, then stared at Marlenn. Seeing her smile widen, I could only laugh. Damn, I was definitely looking forward to getting to know Marlenn as much as I could. "They're fully actualized and already starting to show some good signs," Marlenn added.
"Not to mention hornier than hell for a change and wanting to get laid!" Monica's replica smirked, then her face went blank for a second before her eyes timidly fell towards the floor. "I'm sorry. I'm not supposed to speak like that," her voice dipped to a whisper.
I walked up to tilt her head so we could gaze into each other's eyes. "Yes, you can speak like that. You're an IP-bot. That's something Marlenn can't avoid. Neither can you. Right now, you're needed to help put Jackass Neil where he belongs. And you will do this."
Monica's replica blinked as she processed my words, then a light smile crossed her face. "Can you teach me that?"
"I will teach you that," I assured her, then gazed on Brenda's and Kip's replicas. "All of you."
The latter nodded. "Thanks, Rayve."
The lab doors opened, revealing Izak Miles. "Just got a call from a patrol on Townline Road," the police sergeant warned. "He's coming."
"Let's get ready," Deanna advised...
Minutes later, I stood by the front door of Marlenn's laboratory building, the band's instruments piled beside me. Save for the foyer lights, the place was pitch-dark. Deanna and the replicas of my friends were out of sight by the main lab doors. Izak was hiding in Marlenn's office. Everyone else was in the kitchen. I tensed on seeing Neil's truck drive up South Pelham and pull onto the property. Strangely, I relaxed as he stopped the vehicle in front of me. Now that it was time to go, the worry was gone.
"There you are," he growled after stepping out of the cab.
Oh, my, I mused to myself. He's no happy camper tonight! "Hey, Neil. Here's their stuff."
He stopped in front of me, then whipped something out of his jacket. I recognized it immediately: a high-frequency 'bot matrix jammer unit that had been given to Neil by a friend in the company to ensure I "behaved" myself. Most likely, it was to guard against any overt displays of self-will, which might've led me into finding some way of breaking my bandmates of their drug addictions. Karen warned Deanna and I about it earlier. Izak told me that jammers are illegal in both Canada and the United States. He pointed it at me and hit the switch. Nothing happened, of course; Marlenn's laboratory comes with highly advanced countermeasures to prevent these kinds of attacks by the fanatics that still resent the kind of work she does. "Nice try." I grinned on seeing the shock cross his face. "Girls!"
Neil looked past me as the replicas of Brenda, Kip and Monica -- they had, in the first show of independent thought, elected to change their given names to Bryce, Chelsea and Lynda respectively out of respect -- stepped into view, then cried out in shock. He would've fallen down on his ass, the shock of my new sisters' appearance taking all his concentration away if I hadn't grabbed his arm in a grip of steel, then boosted him back to me. Before he could try to resist, I grasped him gently but firmly on the bottom of his jaw, then boosted him off his feet. "Let's go inside. Someone wants to talk to you," I said, carrying him single-handedly through the front door.
"PUT ME DOWN!!!" Neil screamed. "YOU'RE A 'BOT!!! YOU CAN'T DO THIS!!!"
"Oh, really?!" I gasped in mock-shock. "I didn't know that!"
"What makes you think Rayve can't do that to you, asshole?" Chelsea demanded.
"SHE'S A 'BOT, YOU IDIOT!!!" Neil screamed.
"And you're a drug dealer, shit-for-brains!" Bryce snarled. Damn, that sounded so much like Brenda! I have to really hand it to Marlenn; she does great work! "And right now, there're a lot people who wanna ask you a lot of questions!"
"And you're gonna be answering them, dickweed!" Lynda added. "Whether you like it or not!"
"STOP HER!!! MAKE HER PUT ME DOWN!!!"
I ignored the hard blows to my head from his fists, to say anything of his kicks to my shins. Neil's never really understood how tough I am. As his screams turned into whimpers from the bruised fingers and toes he nearly broke on my bones, my sisters all laughed. "We're so sorry, Neil. We can't do that to Rayve," Chelsea ho-hummed. "After all, we're robots too!"
Neil's eyes went very wide on hearing that. "Wha...?"
"And our beautiful owner and mistress has commanded us to make you suffer, just like you made our mothers suffer!" Bryce added.
"And as robots, we must obey our owner's commands," Lynda continued. "Right, Raye?"
I giggled, glad to use my acting programming to really scare the hell out of this jerk. "You got that right, Lynda."
"Oh, there she is now!" Bryce cooed. "Mistress!"
Neil's eyes tilted to his right as Deanna walked up, wrapping an arm around Bryce's shoulders as Lynda and Chelsea moved to join her. I stayed in place. "Oh, you caught the creep, huh?" Deanna snorted, then held out her hand. Lynda filled it with the matrix jammer Neil had dropped when I yanked him off his feet. "A matrix jammer, huh?! Illegal in every state in America and every province and territory in Canada!" she announced, staring intently at Neil. "Trying to steal my girls, huh? That's another thing we'll nail you with!"
"You can't do shit against me!" Neil moaned, his attempts at breaking my grip on his jaw having weakened considerably.
"Care to bet on that?!" Deanna replied, then smirked. "If you'll recall, Mister Burnet, you crossed a bridge between a city named Buffalo and a town named Fort Erie sometime back. It's called the Peace Bridge. Halfway across that bridge, there're these three flags. One's the Stars and Stripes, one's the U.N. flag and the other one is the Maple Leaf Flag of Canada. A different country with a whole different set of laws. Which include laws that'd allow us -- seeing that you're a drug dealer whose wares nearly killed three innocent people -- to get a copy of your memories so our police can chase down everyone who supplied you with the drugs. And since memory copies are admissible evidence in a court of law, the FBI will be more than willing to help the RCMP out in this case. Get it so far, jerk?"
"You've got a choice, Neil," I finished as Izak Miles stepped out of Marlenn's office. "The easy way or the hard way!"
Neil shuddered, then deflated...
Neil was soon taken into custody and taken to the local police station by Izak. Once he was gone, everyone pitched in to shift the Beemers' gear back into the storage room. Karen, who'd stayed out of sight throughout the encounter so that Neil wouldn't realize who ultimately set him up, took her leave, promising to get back in touch with us as soon as she could. Hopefully, once the news of Neil's arrest got out on the Net, the Beemers' record company and medical insurance firm might decide to see things a little differently.
If not, though...
"What's our function?" Bryce asked. "We have to have one."
We had all moved into the kitchen to relax, allow the success of the day to wash out of us. "What do you want to do, Bryce?" I replied.
Brenda's replica was quick to list all the skills programmed into her. "No, Bryce, that wasn't my question," I reminded her. "I asked you, 'What do you want to do, Bryce?' You haven't answered that question and I demand you do so," I said with mock firmness and a big smile.
Bryce froze for a couple moments as she tried to conceive of an answer. Finally, she gazed confusedly at me. "I don't know, Deanna."
Rayven squeezed the other 'bot's shoulders in support. "You'll learn how to figure it out. It doesn't come right away."
"Not even for IP-'bots like us," Lenn added.
"You'll teach us how to think like that?" Lynda asked.
"Definitely," my three bi-'bot lovers and Rayven replied in harmony.
The video phone rang. "Hello!" Irene answered it, then beamed on seeing who it was. "Oh, hello Alex! Deanna!"
"Hey, Al!" I walked over to look at the image of Alex Martinos, my late mother's favourite student. He had been in her Grade Eight class back at Plymouth Elementary School twenty years ago. He also served as the executor of my mother's estate. "What's up?!"
He grinned back at me. "Hey, Dee! Listen, I need to talk to you tomorrow. It's about one of your grandmother's sisters."
I blinked. "Grandma Ivana?! What about?!"
"Your grand-aunt Tasha died two weeks ago," Alex reported. "You're named as a beneficiary. Her lawyers contacted me since they didn't know that you'd come back to Canada. Do you want me to contact Tom Fenris about this?"
I paused. It had been a decade since Grandma passed away from kidney failure due to the inability to get a donor match. I never expected I'd have to deal with any of her relatives. "Yeah, call and tell him what's going on. Can you come down to Lenn's lab on South Pelham?"
"First thing tomorrow morning?"
He nodded. "Sure thing."
The link was cut. I turned to see my considerable brood of 'bots gazing on me. "Oh, damn..."
"Did you know her, Dee?" Lenn wondered.
I shook my head. "It's not that. I just realized something."
"What?" Irene asked.
"What the hell am I gonna do with seven robots?!!"
My girls exchanged looks, then Rayven rose. The others were quick to follow. "If you'll allow us, Mistress, we can figure something out."
My eyes went wide as they moved to undress...
And we all enjoyed it very much!