A Rebooted Life

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Kara lay on the surgical bed, terrified of the unknown that awaited her. Her wrists and ankles were strapped down, which seemed stupid, because she couldn't have moved them anyway. Stricken with a degenerative muscle illness, Kara had been unable to move her limbs for several months now, and she needed an oxygen supply because her breathing had gotten so weak. How had it come to this? she wondered to herself, gazing at the ceiling lights.

Everything had changed just two weeks ago.

"I want to make you an offer," said the tall doctor standing before Kara, "I want to give you another option." Sitting in her wheelchair, with her fiancé Tom standing behind her, Kara leaned forward inquisitively.

"I thought the disease was incurable," said Tom. Kara smiled, I'm so lucky to have him. Since Kara could barely speak anymore, Tom had been her voice when dealing with the myriad doctors, secretaries, pharmacists, and insurance agents that had now become a part of her everyday life. Tom was a quiet and perceptive guy who, Kara nearly thought, could read her mind. "Yes," the doctor replied coolly, "there is no cure." "Then what option is there?!" "Our hospital's primary sponsor has offered to give Kara a full-body prosthesis, at no cost to you whatsoever."

Tom's jaw hit the floor. Kara's would have too, if she could move it. Not five months ago, it had made news worldwide: the first human fitted to a full-body prosthesis. The brain is removed and placed into what is essentially a robotic body. The "skull" effectively serves as a life-support unit for the living brain while everything else is purely prosthetic: limbs, eyes, ears, the works. The first lucky recipient of this technology wasn't much to look at after the procedure; a mass of cables, metal, plastic and rubber who had to remain plugged into an electrical outlet for the rest of his life. Was it better than the alternative? The procedure had sparked an international wave of ethical discussions on what it means to be human, to what extent is it reasonable to keep someone alive, and whether some fates truly were worse than death. For his part, the horribly-wounded soldier who received the world's first full-body prosthesis was deeply grateful for his new lease on life.

A full-body prosthesis. This time Tom was as speechless as Kara. The doctor paused for a moment, but hearing no reply, continued: "The technology has made incredible advances over the last few months, even the last few weeks! Kara is the perfect candidate to get the latest, cutting-edge hardware and support." Tom still had nothing to say. Now he looked at Kara, would she agree to this madman's idea of a pitch? Kara opened her mouth and spoke for the first time in nearly a month: "Lesssss... g - go." Let's go.

The treatment regimen changed completely. What was there to treat? The long-term health of Kara's body would no longer be a factor after the surgery. Before long, Kara hoped, her dream would be her reality.

Boot complete. Negotiating with Host. Connection established. Transferring control to Host.

The last thing Kara remembered was the anesthesiologist putting a breath mask over her mouth and telling her to count down from ten. She had reached eight.

Kara's eyes opened and focused on her new surroundings. "Optic patterns normal. The audio/visual link looks good" said a voice from outside her range of vision. "Is the vocal synthesizer up?" Another voice Kara couldn't see, but this one was recognizable. It was the tall man, Doctor Brewer, who had taken her case and given her a second chance at life. That's right! I went in to surgery, I must be in my new body! Kara was not impressed. She couldn't move, she couldn't feel anything... could she speak? "Oh!" Kara said... but how? She could tell that she hadn't moved her mouth, yet she could hear her own voice clearly. "Kara!" exclaimed Doctor Brewer as he walked into her field of vision and stood right in front of her, looking into her eyes. "I feel funny" said Kara, bluntly. She still couldn't feel her mouth moving. "What's wrong with my mouth?" Dr. Brewer smiled. "Speech is a very complicated process. It's so complicated, in fact, that we are unable to properly reproduce it with a prosthetic throat. Instead, when the speech center of your brain is stimulated, the Assistant A.I. translates it to speech, and simply plays it out of a speaker located at the base of your neck." "Assistant A.I.?" "The human brain isn't meant to talk to electronics, at least not directly. Your new body has a sophisticated soft-A.I. program that translates your brain's chemical output signals into the complex electrical commands that your mechanical body needs." "I'm not sure I understand", said Kara, overwhelmed by what Dr. Brewer was telling her. "You will. We'll make sure you understand your new body and how it works. I promise." "Wha- where's Tom?", asked Kara abruptly, I want to see...

Kara froze mid-sentence.

"Okay, the tests are complete. The subject is showing normal power-up, speech, vision, hearing, recognition, memory, comprehension, and power-down", reported the engineer hunched over a console. "She has a name" Dr. Brewer glared at the engineer, a quiet-yet-absolute authority in his voice, "it's Kara. And you will address her as such." "Right", the engineer gulped, "sorry." Doctor Brewer looked again at the incomplete Kara. Kara's arms, legs, and abdomen had not yet been connected - she was just a head, neck, shoulders, and a pair of synthetic breasts strapped to a workbench. She had been elevated to an almost-90-degree angle, looking outward as if she was sitting, so that the experts could calibrate and test her vision, hearing, and brain functions. Kara remained motionless, hanging by straps, eyes open, staring at the spot Dr. Brewer had been standing in when her power had been cut. "I want this in the next patch: I want her eyes to close and her body to go limp if she loses power. She is a human, remember - not a droid" said Dr. Brewer. "Okay. Shouldn't be too difficult" grumbled the engineer, pouring every conceivable ounce of sarcasm into his voice.

Tom's patience had reached its limit. "I'm her fiancé, for God's sake! What do you mean I can't see her?" "I'm sorry, but only her spouse may visit her", hummed the droid receptionist, who looked more like a vacuum cleaner than a person. "Do you even understand what fiancé means?!" hissed Tom. "Irrelevant query. Please sit down, sir" hummed the droid. "God fucking dammit!" cursed Tom, then, noticing the stares of everyone else in the waiting room, he awkwardly found a seat. Is she okay? What the hell is going on in there?

Boot complete. Negotiating with Host. Connection established. Transferring control to Host.

Kara awoke. "Where is Tom?" she asked. She didn't wait for her eyes to refocus, or check to see if her sense of touch had returned, she wanted her fiancé here. Now. Dr. Brewer closed his eyes. He knew this was coming. "Tom is on his way", he lied, "by the time he gets here, I want to show him how well you are doing." As Dr. Brewer spoke, Kara's synthetic eyes regained their focus on her surroundings. She was reclining in an adjustable hospital bed, but the room looked more like a laboratory than a hospital. A large mirror was mounted on the wall in front of her, no doubt to help Kara familiarize herself with her new body.

Kara's body was complete. She was dressed in a simple hospital gown. Her proportions seemed normal, her face and hair looked mostly normal... but something was amiss. Wait. I've heard of this before. They call it the "uncanny valley". When something looks human, but doesn't quite look human enough, so instead it's just creepy. Kara looked more closely. Her skin texture was odd, clearly artificial from the way it refracted the room's fluorescent lighting. Despite these downsides, she looked a little more slim than she remembered. And were her breasts bigger? She made a mental note to measure herself later. Kara's sense of touch had returned too! She could feel the hospital gown against her synthetic skin, and the soft bed under her. Despite the cold-looking lab she was in, the air felt pleasantly warm. "We're going to let you start moving now, so we can see if everything's okay" said Dr. Brewer. "Take it slow." Kara had been so overwhelmed by checking out her new body's reflection that she had briefly forgotten that she was still completely immobile. "Okay. I'm ready."

Dr. Brewer's tone changed from his soothing bedside manner to a commanding superiority, "Six-two-niner A.I. command input: enable primary and secondary motor functions." Kara's body went stiff, her eyes widened. "Primary motor function set to ENABLED. Secondary motor function set to ENABLED". It was Kara's voice, coming from Kara's throat-speaker, but it wasn't Kara speaking. Her body relaxed again. "What was that?!" demanded Kara. "That was the Assistant A.I. I told you about before. It serves as an intermediary between your biological mind and your mechanical body. It also acts as an interface for us, to change your body's settings and keep track of your condition." Kara was spellbound. It really felt like I was a robot. That was awesome! She was surprised at herself for liking it so much. Dr. Brewer's expression softened. "Try moving your arms."

Kara slowly raised both arms in front of her. She bent her elbows and flexed her wrists, bringing her hands close to her face. Her palms had no lines or wrinkles, nor did her knuckles. Her artificial fingernails were short, which is how she preferred them anyway. Kara moved her hands away from her face and looked down at her feet. She moved her right foot, then her left foot, then she wiggled her toes. "This is amazing - Hey! My mouth is moving!" Although her voice was still coming out of a speaker, her mouth was still making the normal movements of speech. All the better really, it made her look much more natural. Kara lifted the top of her gown to check the rest of her body. Aside from her head, she was completely hairless. Her "skin" was all the same plastic/rubber/whatever material. She had very subtle "seams" all over the place: her chest, her abdomen, her arms. These seams were pretty much invisible unless you inspected the skin very closely. Kara hoped there weren't any on her face.

As Kara continued to move her arms, legs, fingers, and toes, Dr. Brewer made an observation that Kara did not: she was smiling. She was grinning from ear to ear from the moment she first moved her arms and her smile only got bigger as she examined herself more. "Do you feel like you can sit up?" Almost before Dr. Brewer could finish his sentence, Kara had planted her arms on the bed and pushed herself to an upright position. A normal bedridden patient would have become dizzy, but Kara was fine. From her new position, she looked around and saw a black cable that she hadn't noticed before. It was plugged into her lower back, just above the pelvis. She hadn't noticed it because it had been fed through a small hole in the bed, so she wasn't laying on it. "Ah, that's your power cord. Don't touch it, we haven't put a battery in you yet, and unplugging you would turn you off." said Dr. Brewer hastily. Kara thought for a moment. "What happens to my brain when I turn off?" "Your brain's life-support system has its own independent power supply. Unplugged, it can go a week without recharging, assuming your brain has nutrients. Speaking of which", he said while reaching into his pocket, "this is what you need to feed your brain." Dr. Brewer produced a little green cube, roughly half an inch in size. He continued, "This has all the nutrients your brain needs to function for roughly ten days. I suggest you eat one of these every week or so, otherwise you'll starve." "Can I... eat other stuff?" asked Kara, unimpressed by the nutrient cube the doctor was holding. Dr. Brewer shook his head. Your body was designed to metabolize these. Eating other foods, or drinking anything, could cause damage. Lame. Kara would have pouted, but she was so thrilled to be moving again that she couldn't stay unhappy. In her sitting-up position, she swung her legs out from the bed, hoisted herself onto her feet... and fell forward.

Dr. Brewer caught her before she hit the ground. "Woah, hang on there, we're not ready for that just yet!" Sitting Kara back on the bed, he caught his breath, then continued: "The balance mechanisms we've given you are pretty different from the biological systems humans normally use to balance. Even with the Assistant A.I.'s help, it will take a lot of practice. Fortunately, this hospital has a pretty good physical rehabilitation unit. Starting tomorrow, you will be undergoing exercises similar to people who have new prosthetic legs."

For the next several hours, Dr. Brewer and several technicians examined Kara in every way imaginable, including memory tests with flash cards, reaction tests, range-of-motion tests, and so forth. On several occasions, the technicians would change her settings using the Assistant A.I. Each time they did, her body stiffened up, the A.I. spoke through her, and Kara would lose control of herself for a few seconds. It was such a rush! Being manipulated and feeling robotic, almost like a puppet... I should see if Tom is allowed to make A.I. commands like that, she thought, nearly shivering with anticipation. "Where is Tom, anyway? I thought you said he was on his way? I want him to see the new me!"

Dr. Brewer sighed. He knew he couldn't keep them apart forever, but having Kara's fiancé around would slow down his testing and fine-tuning of Kara's body. "I'll go check. Just a moment, please." Dr. Brewer stepped outside the lab flipped open his phone, and called the receptionist. "Let patient 629's fiancé in. Tell him where we are."

"Tommmm," hummed the droid receptionist, whose speech had been slowly degrading over the afternoon, "Youuuuu may proceeeeeed to Lab Five in the Eeeeeeeeast Wing. Without a word, Tom was out of his seat and jogging down the hall.

Minutes later, Tom was leaning over Kara's bed, kissing her over and over. Dr. Brewer closed his eyes. Although he was genuinely curious about Kara's romantic response, he decided that it was their tender moment together, and he had no business interfering. As it was, he was feeling increasingly guilty about deceiving Kara. I have gone too far this time. I'm a doctor, not a mad scientist. Show some ethics! Show some goddamned professionalism! He swore to himself that honesty was the best policy from here on out.

Kara, Tom, and Dr. Brewer sat and talked at great length about what a prosthetic body needs, and what advantages and disadvantages there were. Kara would never feel physical exhaustion, pain, or hunger. She was immune to physical illness, with the exception of brain diseases (and since her brain was in a watertight casing, she couldn't catch anything contagious). Depending on her level of physical exertion, her battery (once it was installed) could last anywhere from 2 to 10 hours, with a 1-hour recharge time. Kara would still need sleep. Although she may not feel tired, a lack of sleep could lead to serious mental problems. Kara would also need to be examined at least once a week, since prosthetic body technology was really still in its infancy. Dr. Brewer even taught Tom some A.I. commands (much to Kara's delight), mostly along the lines of checking battery status, checking fluid levels, shutting her down and starting her up.

Sex was a big unknown, Dr. Brewer explained: "Up until this point, pretty much no prosthetic body has been able to experience anything resembling sexual arousal or pleasure. Sure, you can trigger a brain response like 'happiness' when we stimulate certain areas, but it was a poor substitute. We've made some incredible advances, even in the last few weeks, and Kara has been fitted with the first of the next generation of prosthetic genitalia." Tom blushed. Kara was excited. "Cool!" Dr. Brewer continued, too excited by the science to be modest about the subject matter: "I'm not legally allowed to tell you how much R&D went into it, but it's probably the most sophisticated piece of hardware on your body aside from the brain casing." He turned to Tom, "you'll be boldly going where no man has gone before." Tom somehow managed to turn even redder. The tough-guy persona he used when cursing at the receptionist was shattered. Now he was fidgeting like a schoolboy. Trying (and failing) to play it cool, Tom closed his eyes and shrugged. "If I must. For science, you know." His jest was met with a playful elbow from Kara.

Dr. Brewer disregarded the incredible sexual tension between his guests, and checked his watch. "I think it's time for some rest. Tomorrow will be a busy day. Tom, you may deactivate Kara for the night." "Promise you'll turn me on in the morning?" asked Kara, making a not-very-subtle double-entendre. "I promise", smiled Tom. "Good night, beautiful." "Good night." Tom, his tone still soft, spoke "Six-two-niner A.I. command input: disconnect and sleep." Kara's body tensed. "Disconnected from Host. Entering sleep mode." Her body went limp, but her eyes remained open. Dr. Brewer cursed under his breath. That damned engineer! Tom didn't skip a beat. He leaned over, closed Kara's eyes, and kissed her forehead. I promise.

Boot complete. Negotiating with host. Connection established. Transferring control to host.

Kara awoke. She hadn't consciously heard the spoken command to awake from sleep mode, but she knew it was Tom keeping his promise from yesterday. Before her eyes had focused on her surroundings, she recognized Tom's voice: "Good morning, beautiful."

Kara was seated, slightly reclined, on a sturdy chair that was bolted to the floor. Ahead of her were two parallel railings, three feet apart and extending twenty feet away from her. She knew immediately she was in the physical rehabilitation wing, where people can gradually learn to walk again after suffering from physical issues like amputation, mental motor-function issues like strokes, or a variety of other ailments. Tom was kneeling next to her, and Dr. Brewer was standing a short distance away, next to an unfamiliar man. This man was shortest person in the room, just under 5 feet tall, and wearing a labcoat like Dr. Brewer. Unlike Dr. Brewer, this man was clearly wearing a suit underneath, evidenced by the collar and the necktie visible over the top of the labcoat.

"How do you feel?" asked Tom and Dr. Brewer simultaneously, one analytically, the other compassionately. "I feel great!" replied Kara, somewhat surprised. She had been "asleep" seconds ago, but she felt no sleepiness, no need to stretch or yawn or rub her eyes. There was no need to 'regain her energy'... she was powered by electricity! Electricity and those little green brain-nutrient cubes. "Good," replied Dr. Brewer, "so here we are in one of the rehab rooms. We're going to start you off by having you work on standing. Our goal, by the end of this morning, is for you to be able to stand for a full minute without support. Are you up to the challenge?" Kara responded with a big smile, "You bet! Let's do this!" "Oh, and before we begin, I want to introduce you to Jack Whitmore," Dr. Brewer said, motioning to the unfamiliar man. "You can call me Jack," the man said, reaching out to shake Kara's hand. She hadn't shaken anybody's hand with her prosthesis yet. Will I crush his hand? Will it be awkward and robotic? Her mind spun a hundred different horrible scenarios from a simple handshake. Before she knew it, they had grasped hands and shook just fine. I'm over-thinking things wayy too much. "Have I heard your name before?" asked Kara, "it sounds familiar." Jack and Dr. Brewer looked at each-other and smiled. "You're in Ned Whitmore Memorial Hospital. That's my dad's name." Kara would have whistled if she could. "Then you're the the person... who..." she trailed off, looking down at her body. "I'm the head of Whitmore Innovations," said Jack, anticipating her line of inquiry, "and I'm proud to say I paid for the research and hardware that is your prosthetic body."

Kara wanted cry, laugh, jump up and hug Jack all at the same time, but she just buried her face in her hands, too overwhelmed with gratitude to know where to start. "Oh gosh, oh... thank you so much Mr. Whitmore..." she sputtered. Jack waved his hand. "Relax, please relax. I didn't come here for anybody's thanks, I came here to see your recovery." Tom agreed, and leaned into Kara and spoke softly, "Wanna try standing?" Kara moved her hands from her face, grasped Tom's offered arm, and leaned forward. Finding her footing, Kara straightened herself out, wobbled, and moved one foot forward to try to stabilize herself. Tom, meanwhile, strained at supporting Kara's weight. I should have asked how much her body weighed before trying this! For a moment, it looked like they would both fall, but Kara reached out and grabbed the railing with all her might. Now that she was stable, she got her feet under herself, and stood still. Tom slowly released her, and Kara was now standing (while clinging to a railing) for the first time in months.

Tom gasped for breath. Jack and Dr. Brewer applauded. Kara was all smiles.

The next few hours were spent working on balance, first holding on with both hands, then just using one hand for support while the other arm was used for various balance exercises, such as holding small weights. By mid-day, Kara was working on standing without support. She wobbled quite a bit, like a novice on a balance beam, but the time she could go without grabbing the railing was steadily improving. 0:11, 0:14, 0:16, 0:19, 0:25, 0:34...

Dr. Brewer breathed a sigh of relief. He had initially been worried that he had set the goal too high. As it was, Kara was recovering faster than almost any normal patient. A testament to her toughness and motivation, Dr. Brewer concluded to himself.

A testament to the quality of the hardware, Jack was reaching a different conclusion. His investment was going to pay off a dozen times over. Nay, a hundred times!

Kara was having a blast. With Tom's encouragement, she was becoming more sure of her footing every minute. She was ready to make another attempt at standing, when suddenly the world seemed to spin. "What's... happennn..." Kara trailed off. Her knees buckled and she released her grip on the railing. "Woah!" Tom shouted as he dove to catch her. Both fell to the floor with a crash. "What's wrong?!" Dr. Brewer rushed over. "I don't know! I think she's unconscious." Dr. Brewer's tone became stern. "Six-two-niner A.I. command input: status summary." The Assistant A.I. replied through Kara's throat speaker: "Host status: CONNECTED. A.I. status: CONTROL OVERRIDE. Power status: BATTERY, TWO PERCENT. Primary motor function DISABLED. Secondary motor function DISABLED." "What does that mean? Is she okay?" Tom demanded, not moving his eyes from Kara's emotionless face. "Kara's okay. The battery was running out of power, so the A.I. took control of Kara's body to disable her motor functions and conserve power. Also, it said the host is connected. Kara can see and hear us right now.

Dr. Brewer was right, Kara had been conscious the entire time, but unable to move or speak. She hated to see Tom so worried. Sure it's touching, but the poor guy was scared half to death. Kara, on the other hand, wasn't particularly scared at all, it was actually a cool experience. Just like when the Assistant A.I. would take control and speak through her, even this current state of immobility made her feel so robotic, so mechanical. Why do I like this so much? "Let's get her plugged in," said Dr. Brewer, helping Tom pick her up. Together, they pulled Kara's limp body to the chair. Kara was disappointed. I wish they took longer. I want to experience more of this! Dr. Brewer plugged Kara into the nearby power outlet, and spoke: "Six-two-niner A.I. command input: cancel A.I. override, enable primary and secondary motor functions." "Override cancelled. Primary motor function set to ENABLED. Secondary motor function set to ENABLED." Spoke the A.I., with Kara's voice, from the throat-speaker. Kara was back, and before she could even react, she was in Tom's warm embrace.

Dr. Brewer was deeply embarrassed. "I guess... there are still some bugs we need to work out. We're supposed to get a low-battery warning before the A.I. overrides control like that." Jack was not sympathetic. "You're goddamned right you still have some bugs to work out!" Jack's warm cheeriness was gone. His voice was raised and he had nothing but contempt on his face. "I want you in my office at three. Come with solutions, not excuses." He turned to Tom and Kara and lowered his voice. "I'll be seeing you again." he said, feigning a smile when it was obvious he was livid. With that, Jack turned briskly and stormed out the door.

Several hours later, Dr. Brewer was on his way to Jack Whitmore's office. He had wheeled Kara back to the lab, and he left her there with Tom. They needed more private time with each-other anyway. Dr. Brewer had been deliberately vague when he told them how long he would be gone. He hoped that Tom and Kara's uncertainty would discourage them from having too much "fun", for fear of Dr. Brewer barging in unexpectedly.

In Jack Whitmore's office: "Take a seat, Brewer." Jack had a chronic habit of never addressing doctors as "doctor", instead just calling them by their last names. "I... I want to apologize again for..." "Forget that," Jack interrupted, "I don't care about that anymore. I kinda lost my cool before. You're the best at what you do, Brewer, and I haven't forgotten that." "Thanks, sir." "The main reason I want to talk with you is I want to move to the next phase of product deployment." "Woah, woah, woah," Dr. Brewer stammered, "we just woke her up yesterday! How can we justify scaling up production when we don't even know the long term effects? We haven't even formalized the transfer procedure or the rehabilitation program, to say nothing of the A.I.'s glitches." "How long do you think we should wait?" Jack asked, raising an eyebrow. It was obvious that he cared very little for Dr. Brewer's actual opinion on the matter. "Eight months at least. Preferably more like eighteen months." "Eighteen months?! The market moves way too fast to sit on our hands for that long. Do you think Dyson is going to wait that long? USR? Hell no!" "We're not sitting on our hands," said Dr. Brewer defensively, "we're doing crucial research that needs to be done before we start performing this on new patients." "Patients?! No no no, you've got it all wrong. Let me show you something the marketing boys came up with." Jack turned his monitor around so Dr. Brewer could see. It was a poster design for an ad campaign: "Experience life in a perfect ageless body..." Dr. Brewer read aloud, quietly, and in complete shock. "Immune to disease, never feel pain... You want this to be an elective procedure?!" "Of course! Just look at plastic surgery. It used to be about correcting birth defects and reconstructing people's bodies after injuries, but now it's a billion-dollar industry because people will pay out the nose to look five years younger. Now you can look fifty years younger and live indefinitely!" "We don't know that! We have no idea how long someone can live in a prosthetic body, or even what the long-term side effects are!" "Then figure it out! Figure it out in the next few weeks. I'm giving you two months and then I'm pulling the trigger on product deployment. "I... you..." Dr. Brewer stammered, "these are people's lives we're talking about." "And those lives are going to get so much better, thanks to us. Ours as well. Get this done for me, Brewer, and two months from now I'm making you a VP." Dr. Brewer's jaw hit the floor. "I... need to go. I've got a lot... to do." The visibly stunned doctor slowly left the office.

Jack Whitmore was telling the truth when he said Dr. Brewer was the best at the work he does. That said, while the good doctor continued his work, Jack would be pursuing another avenue of product advancement. He breathed a sigh of relief, poured himself a bit of scotch from his desk's secret compartment, and smiled to himself. That girl will change everything. And I will sit on the throne she builds.

Home at last! A mere five days after Kara's operation, she and Tom were back in their first-floor apartment. Tom had been shocked when Dr. Brewer told them they could leave the hospital so soon. Kara was adjusting to her prosthetic body so fast that there was no need to keep her in the lab any longer. Already, she could walk around with a cane fairly confidently, if a bit slowly. "It's important to get you back into a natural rhythm," Dr. Brewer had said, "We want to make you more comfortable in your new body, as well as improve the technology for you and for other people. To do that, you should get out of the controlled environment of the lab, and try to live a little. Learn from the experience, and let us know how we can make it better."

The apartment was a mess. Tom had spent almost every waking hour with Kara for the last week, and he had really only returned to the apartment few times, casting aside his dirty laundry and leaving empty cups of instant noodles laying around. For the home of an engaged couple, it looked conspicuously like a bachelor pad. Tom hurriedly tried to clean the mess while Kara sat herself on the couch and plugged herself in to the nearby power outlet. "Tom, can you check my battery level?" "Don't you know how to do that yourself?" "Yeah, but I like it better when you do it." Tom cleared his throat, then spoke clearly: "Six-two-niner A.I. command input: power status." Kara's body stiffened, and her eyes blankly stared straight ahead. "Power status: CHARGING, TWENTY PERCENT." Kara resumed control of her body, regretting that the experience was so short. She loved that robotic feeling, as if she were a mechanical doll, programmed to serve.

Back in the lab, Dr. Brewer hunched over his computer. Kara's data was being transmitted to him in real-time. Vital statistics, brainwave patterns, A.I. activity, motion commands, sensor logs, all of it. What have I become? he thought to himself, Have I really stooped to spying on a patient? It must be done, he reassured himself, the data we gather here can help dozens, no, hundreds of patients. One person's privacy is a small price to pay. For all his rationalization, he could not completely convince himself. Dr. Brewer recognized that he was violating Kara's (and Tom's) privacy more intimately than anyone could have thought possible. No matter how many times he told himself he was a saint, Dr. Brewer considered himself a monster.

Dr. Brewer's musings came to a screeching halt when a peculiar blip appeared on his screen. In an instant, he want from conflicted philosophical introspection to pure scientific curiosity. "What's this?" he spoke out loud, with nobody else in the room, "A sudden arousal response? What is turning you on so strongly?" He looked at the A.I. command logs. "A battery status check... could this be...?!" Dr. Brewer had heard of this. It was a rumor in the industry, just a rumor. People with full-body prosthetics would develop an arousal response when they lost control of their mechanical bodies. There was no publicly available literature on the subject, nor were there any witness accounts. After all, full-body prosthetic technology was shrouded in corporate secrecy, the subjects had inviolable doctor-patient privacy, and there was the added factor of people keeping their sexual kinks a closely-guarded secret. It was a combination of factors that led to a perfect-storm of secrecy, which is why this was simply a rumor, nothing more. Dr. Brewer stared at his screen, agape, as if he had just captured the Loch Ness Monster on film. He had to be sure. He needed more data.

Kara was still turned-on from her latest all-too-brief robotic experience. She gazed longly at Tom, who had resumed his hasty cleanup of the apartment. "Tom," she said, making her synthesized voice as sensual as possible, "it's been a long time since we've been together." "What do you mean? We've been... oh." Tom caught her meaning one second too late, and turned bright red. He quickly turned it back toward her. "Are you feeling up to it?" "Let's try it out." Kara said, smiling deviously. She unplugged herself from the wall, and started making her way towards the bedroom. "You should probably be on top, though." Tom dropped what he was doing and started taking off his shirt. Where are the condoms? Oh wait. I don't think I'll need them. Ever. Kara sat on their bed and fumbled with her shirt. She hadn't gotten much practice taking off her shirt with her new arms, so the effort was time-consuming and goofy-looking. When that was done, she wiggled out of her pants and panties. Tom came into the room, already stripped to his boxers, when she started trying to reach her bra clasp. "I can't..." she muttered. "I got it." Tom was happy to volunteer, and reached behind her to unclasp her bra and remove it, revealing her superb artificial breasts. Kara flopped backward on the bed, ready to skip the foreplay and get it on right there.

Dr. Brewer gulped. The things I do for science, he thought as he struck the ENTER key.

Kara's body stiffened. "Primary motor function set to DISABLED", the A.I. said, and Kara lay there, frozen. "I... we... huh... what the fuck?!" Tom stuttered. Am I really getting cockblocked by a malfunction? REALLY?! "It's okay," said Kara through her throat-speaker, her body still motionless, "keep going. Please." Kara, far from experiencing Tom's sexual frustration, was being overcome with ecstasy. Yes! Fuck me like a sex-doll! Use me as your personal toy! "But you're not okay. You need to get checked out." said Tom, biting his lip, being honest in spite of his own urges. "We can go to the lab tomorrow. Please, Tom," she begged, "make love to me the way you used to." Tom's objections melted away at the sound of his fiancée's pleas. He dutifully jumped onto the bed, spread her legs, and went to work, whispering to her all the while.

Dr. Brewer turned off his monitor. Although Kara's data would still be recorded, decency kept him from watching their nocturnal proclivities. Besides, he had learned all he needed to know. It was true, at least in Kara's case, that losing bodily control was a huge turn-on. Was this a problem? Could this be used to his advantage? Should he tell Jack Whitmore? Knowledge is power, and nobody knows what I know.

Boot complete. Negotiating with host. Connection established. Transferring control to host.

Kara awoke, laying on the familiar bed in Dr. Brewer's prostheses lab. Laying naked, her maintenance had become so routine that she didn't even feel embarrassed by it anymore. She approached these intimate examinations as casually as a motorist takes a car in for an oil change. In fact, she thought with a smirk, this isn't far from it. Looking down, she saw her chest access panels were open. Set upon nearly-invisible hinges on the sides of her torso, her artificial breasts rested against her arms. This was unusual. Normally Dr. Brewer closed her panels before turning her body back on. Straining her neck for a better view, she saw a maze of tubes, wires, and rubber connectors. Packed in the middle of it all, a cylindrical object the size of a soda can was clamped in place. Green and yellow status lights blinked in a cluster near the top, and it was connected to black and red electrical leads. "Is that my heart?" she asked impulsively, immediately realizing that was a stupid question. "This is your battery." Dr. Brewer replied. "You technically haven't had a pulse for more than a week. Any other doctor would have called the morgue by now." "Promise you'll leave me flowers, Doctor" giggled Kara, still marveling at her mechanical parts. She felt the same rush of arousal that she felt whenever the A.I. controlled her body. It's like I'm a robot. As if I'm an object instead of a person. Her hand twitched as she fought the urge to move it toward her clit.

Dr. Brewer smiled. He would check the data logs later to confirm whether seeing her artificial organs also triggered the mysterious arousal response. "I want you to try something. I want you to close these panels using the Assistant A.I. instead of doing it manually. And here's the catch: you're not allowed to speak the command. Just think it." Kara imagined her panels closing, willing it with her mind, but nothing happened. "It's not working." "Don't think about the panels themselves, think of the command. Remember: you're not the one closing the panels, the A.I. is. You're issuing a command, but with your brain, not your voice. She closed her eyes and thought the words: Six-two-niner A.I. command input: close chest panels. Immediately, Kara felt the strange sensation of servos at work, swinging her breasts forward and closing her chest with a satisfying 'click'. "Cool!" "We've upgraded the A.I. Now in addition to helping you move, it can 'listen' your conscious thoughts so you can issue silent commands. Also, now that you're more familiar with the prosthesis, I've given you permission to open and close your own maintenance panels. Before, only authorized maintenance staff like me could get in, but we decided it's your body, so that's your right." "Cool!" Kara said again, this time she was opening her abdominal panel, revealing a tapestry of artificial muscle fibers that controlled the movement of her waist. "Now this is important," said Dr. Brewer, "these panels generally remain closed for a reason. It's to protect your delicate parts. And believe me, you have a LOT of delicate parts."

Dr. Brewer was trying to get Kara to pay attention when the doors opened, and in strode a woman wearing a labcoat. She was short, just 5'3" or so, and slim with wavy shoulder-length light-brown hair and freckles on her nose. Both of her arms were prosthetic limbs. Far from imitating human skin, they were both pearl-white hard plastic, with black rubber covering her joints. On her right arm, the colorful design of a Chinese dragon coiled up into her sleeve. "Ah, right on time. Kara, I want you to meet Erin Dean. She's starting today as my assistant. You'll be seeing her a lot." "Doctor Dean," said Kara, extending her hand to shake. "Oh, not doctor yet, I'm still a year from that. Call me Erin." she said, blushing as she approached the still-naked patient. While they shook, Dr. Brewer moved towards the door. "I'm sorry to run out on you, but I've been pulled into a meeting. Erin, could you please finish up Kara's maintenance? Check sensor cluster twelve and then inspect the knee joints, can you do that?" "Easy as pie, doc. This is Freshman-level robotics. Err... not that you're a robot" she hastily apologized to Kara. Kara certainly didn't mind, she liked being called a robot. "I've just got to shut you down again for the next few minutes. Do you want to do the honors?" "Sure," said Kara, laying back down and closing her eyes. She concentrated on the shutdown command, and her body went limp.

Erin stood there in silence. There she is. I'm in here all alone with her. My idol. My Goddess. She moved beside the bed and leaned over Kara's inert body. The traced a finger along the faint seam between Kara's breast panels. Perfect. She kissed Kara's neck. Perfect. She licked Kara's soft clitoris. Perfect. She pulled herself onto the bed beside Kara and began to pleasure herself, gasping when her cold plastic hand met her warm wet folds. Kara was everything she wanted to be, everything she could ever wish for. A perfect mechanical body. Erin wanted it all. She wanted Kara's perfect tits. She wanted her silica gel "blood". She wanted her glass eyes. She wanted her access panels. She wanted her ball bearings and her grease and her A.I., and most of all, Erin wanted to be battery-powered. She had even engineered the "accident" years ago that mangled her arms, necessitating the use of prostheses so she could feel more like a robot. She had naively thought that would satisfy her hunger, but robotic limbs only made the craving stronger. Now Erin was on the brink of paradise: working in a lab where miracles happen, where women can become fembots! Erin squirmed in orgasm.

After calming down, Erin climbed off the bed and looked back. Her pussy had gotten the bed wet, and her saliva was all over parts of Kara. Crap, I got carried away. Now I need to clean this up.

When Kara was turned back on, Erin was standing nearby with an embarrassed look. "Sorry that took so long, it was my first time opening you up!" "That's okay. I don't really feel the passage of time when I'm turned off anyway, and it's not like I had any plans." Kara dressed herself, and after scheduling her next checkup, she left the lab to see Jack Whitmore sitting in a nearby waiting room chair. "Jack! Nice to see you! Thanks again!" Jack waved his hand dismissively. "You don't need to thank me every time you see me. How are you? Is Doctor Brewer keeping you in tip-top shape?" "Better every day! I barely even need the cane now." "Incredible, simply incredible. This is beyond any physical rehabilitation program known to modern medicine." "And it's all thanks to you." Jack laughed. "For Pete's sake stop thanking me! It's bad for my reputation if the shareholders ever think I'm too generous with the company's money!" He resumed his jovial laughter. "Were you waiting for me?" "As a matter of fact I was. Tell me, now that you're back on your feet, when were you thinking of resuming your career?" The thought hadn't crossed Kara's mind yet. She had to quit her job when the disease crippled her months ago. Tom had heroically managed to cover both of their living expenses, in addition to her significant medical costs. But now there were no medical costs. In fact, Kara doesn't even need to eat anymore, except for that occasional nutrient-cube. Now Tom and Kara's finances are recovering almost as fast as Kara herself. Does she even need to work? "I hadn't really thought about it. Everything is happening so fast!" Kara said. "Well hear me out. I want to offer you a position here, working directly under me. You'll get senior-level pay and flexible hours, what do you say?" "Wha, why? Doing what? I'm not a doctor or anything, I was a clerk's assistant." "Marketing, my dear, marketing! You are an inspiration to everyone in this building. I want you to be the face of our amazing medical advances. I want people to believe in science again, in healing." "I, oh wow, I don't know what to say." "Just say yes. You don't have to agree to everything now. Go home, talk to Tom about it. Sleep on it. Sleep-mode on it." Kara giggled at Jack's lame attempt at a joke. "I will. Am I allowed to thank you for this, or not?" "Thank me tomorrow, when I give you the official offer. Gotta run it by the pencil-necks in Finance and HR and yada-yada." "Will I be working with Doctor Brewer?" "He wasn't part of the process. Listen: Brewer's a great guy and a world-class physician. But when he sees you, he sees a helpless patient who needs to be sheltered from the world. When I see you, I see the smart young professional who beat an incurable illness and isn't afraid of anything!" Kara smiled. "I'll see you tomorrow." "Nine AM! I don't abide people who are late!" As Kara walked off, Jack's thoughts moved to business strategy. Kara is the world's most valuable brain-in-a-jar. Much safer to keep her here with us during the day.

... Erin Dean walked into her bedroom and opened her closet. Standing against the wall, turned off and recharging, was her sex android. The body was obsolete, and the A.I. was dumber than a box of rocks. "Who needs a thinking dildo?" seemed to have been this model's design philosophy. It's designation was "Rocky", but she never called it that. Erin stripped down to her underwear and flipped the switch on the back of the android's head. "Good evening, Erin. Please select program." "Tell me what to do, master" said Erin, kneeling in front of it. A few moments of silence, then: "Unable to understand command. Please select program." Erin sighed. "Fellatio." The android started pulling down its pants. "No, master, let me get it" said Erin, intervening and undressing the android, revealing its already-erect silicone cock. Erin took it into her mouth and started pleasuring the android. Someday I'll be the droid, she thought. Someday I'll be the sex toy. Someday I'll be the one taking orders and running programs. Someday I'll be stored in a closet with a harem of other dolls, each one as worthless and as perfect as me. Exactly ten minutes later, the android ejaculated into her mouth, just like the night before, and the night before that. And just like every night prior, she dutifully swallowed the flavorless saline gel and continued twisting her tongue against the android's silicone member. "Program complete. Please select program." Erin didn't respond, continuing to go through the motions as if running a program of her own.

Someday soon.

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