At The Body Shop
Jackie let out a bored sigh. Why does he bother lecturing? It’s four-thirty on a Friday, for crying out loud! Does he actually expect us to listen? Still, Jackie’s hand was taking down notes, copying down the (few and far between) important points in her neat, elegant shorthand.
Finally, Jackie’s American National Government course let out, and the young brunette heaved a sigh of relief as she packed up her notebook and filed out along with the rest of her classmates. There were a few quick greetings, a few quick goodbyes, and by then Jackie had reached the student parking lot, where her shiny new moped was waiting for her. She paused for a moment; she had been hoping to run into her friend Pam today, but it seemed Pam had skipped class. Not that she really missed much today, she thought with a wry smile. No matter how long-winded their professor got, all he was really doing was taking material from the textbook and regurgitating it at them.
With that thought, Jackie pulled out and headed into town. Her usual Friday routine was to head home or go with Pam to her place, but today was her monthly checkup, so instead, Jackie made her way to The Body Shop.
The Shop was built to look like an old-fashioned tattoo parlor, its exterior coated in old wood paneling, with a thatched-looking roof on top. Artfully painted dragons, scenery and mythic figures decorated the opaque windows. Parking her little moped beside the building, Jackie locked it up, then stepped inside. The Shop’s lobby was furnished much the way you’d expect a Hawaiian beach house to be, with a big blue-and-yellow longboard on one wall, paintings of waves and photos of bikini-clad beachgoers, all over the same kind of tropical wood paneling as the exterior. Three long, comfy leather couches provided sitting room, and a table in one corner of the room provided magazines. Those glossy covers were the only thing that really undermined the illusion of the beach house; with titles like Popular Andronics, TechNow, MECHA and The Mod Shopper, they hinted at the Shop’s real business.
A pretty blonde receptionist offered Jackie a smile. “Hi, Jackie!” she said cheerfully, with a barely discernible lag after the “Hi” as she matched Jackie’s face to her file in the Shop’s client database. “Here for your checkup?”
“Yeah, thanks. Is there anyone available?”
“Yes; Dan is just finishing up with another client. If you don’t mind waiting a few minutes, he should be right out.” Although there was no keyboard in front of her, Jackie knew that her presence had been registered, and that Dan had already been paged.
Jackie wondered just how the receptionist was connected to the building’s mainframe. Wireless? Fiber-optic cable? Technically, since all she did was sit there and smile at the customers, Jackie could imagine her as just a head, torso and arms, bolted or clamped onto a pedestal below her, wires and connectors snaking out from inside her waist. The image intrigued Jackie, but the young girl decided it would be rude to ask or try taking a peek behind the desk.
Taking a seat on one of the leather couches, Jackie idly thumbed through a magazine. It showed the usual articles: new motors and muscle-emulators that promised increased strength and durability; new software from Apple, Microsoft and a bunch of smaller companies, promising to enhance your performance at work, at home and (in tastefully innocuous, non-illustrated corners of the software section) in the bedroom; and all kinds of fun add-ons like night-vision eyes, OLED-impregnated skin, and even a kit with articulated cat ears and a tail in various fur colors and patterns; Jackie decided to remember that little item for Halloween.
At last, a pink-haired girl came dashing through the door. The receptionist turned toward her, smiling at the petite young woman. “All done?”
“Yeah. Thanks for squeezing me in today! It really was an emergency.”
The blonde shrugged. “Oh, it was no problem. I know how scary it can be when a malfunction happens and your system can’t fix it automatically. We give priority to cases like that.”
“Well, anyway, thanks a lot!” The girl handed her credit card across the desk, and the receptionist looked carefully at it before handing it back to her. A receipt was printed out, and the pink-haired young woman walked out of the Shop, smiling brightly.
Moments later, a tall boy with spiky red hair came in through the same door. Jackie couldn’t help but let her gaze linger on the broad-shouldered, well-toned body just beneath his black T-shirt, bodybuilder muscles moving in time to the swinging of his powerful-looking silver arms.
“Hey Jackie,” Dan said. “How’ve you been?”
Jackie knew she wasn’t the only client here with a crush on Dan; despite his hunk-like mechanical physique, he wasn’t one of those macho-mechs who strutted around showing off their expensive mods. Dan was just a nice, mild-mannered guy with a love of technology. They both attended the same college, although Dan was a sophomore aiming for an Engineering degree and Jackie was majoring in Education, so they had never actually been in the same classroom together. Even though their only real contact consisted of occasional run-ins in the halls or the library – and, these last four months, at Jackie’s regular checkups – it was all Jackie could do to suppress her blushing and keep her knees from turning to jelly right now. “I’ve been doing okay, thanks,” she managed to say.
“All right. Why don’t you come on back, and we’ll get your monthly checkup out of the way.”
Jackie followed Dan back into the real working area of the Body Shop. This part of the building had no fancy wood paneling, and only a few framed pictures; because of the delicate work that went on back here, the place was practically a clean room, static and humidity-free, with reclining padded chairs like what you’d find in a dentist’s office.
In those chairs lay people in various states of repose, undress and disassembly. Ever since personality transfer technology had first been developed, the Body Shop had established itself as the place to go, not just for your initial conversion and maintenance, but also to get all kinds of optional modifications, kept in stock here and professionally installed.
As she made her way to an empty chair, she noticed one woman lying down, her poly-latex skin completely removed, a technician carefully fitting a shining silver faceplate onto the front of her head. Metalmodding was one of the more popular aesthetics, replacing the standard human-looking skin with metal plates and flexible metallic sheathing. Jackie had considered a partial metalmod herself, but given that her parents were still a bit uneasy with her becoming a gynoid to begin with, she had decided not to go too far just yet.
“Jackie! Hey, over here!”
As she settled down in her chair, Jackie turned to discover who had called her. “Pam! Wow, what happened to you?”
Pam gave her a kind of facial shrug – lacking anything below her neck, it was about all she could do. At the moment, Pam’s lovely face and dirty-blonde hair were mounted above a small work table, various wires providing power and connecting her to diagnostic machinery. “I caught a virus this week. I’d thought my antivirus software had taken care of it on Monday, but last night, guess what? ‘ERROR! ERROR! Your CPU has more bugs than a bait store!’”
Jackie couldn’t help but giggle at her best friend’s robot impression, especially while all the gadgetry connected to her head showed just what a complicated computing device she was actually running on. “Sorry, Pam. I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you.”
“Ah, don’t worry about it. It is kind of funny; my poor boyfriend thought I was going to, like, self-destruct or something. You should have seen the look on Kyle’s face: total shock! Of course, the shop was closed by that time of the night, so he had to shut me down manually and wait to bring me in until this morning.”
Jackie shivered, imagining what it would be like to have a total system crash like Pam’s. Although her mind was still human, a complex neural network scanned and transferred from her old flesh-and-blood brain, that neural network ran on a standard OS and a solid-state processor, which could be infected and altered by malware just like any other computer system. It was a scary possibility, although given that electronic damage could usually be reversed or repaired, it wasn’t really any worse than the possibility of catching the flu would have been in her old body.
While Pam and Jackie were catching up, Dan sat down in a swivel chair next to her, checking over his tools. Nodding, he turned back to the brunette. “I hope I’m not interrupting, but would you mind rolling up your shirt, Jackie?”
“Oh. Sure,” she replied. Reaching down, she tugged up the bottom of her tight gray shirt, making sure to give Dan a glimpse of her white lace C-cup bra – hey, a girl can always hope, right? Dan, all business, just picked up a small probe and slipped it into Jackie’s navel, twisting it like a key. There was a quiet click, and the technician lifted a six-inch-square section of skin off, placing it on the work table as he turned back to Jackie, her open belly panel now displaying an array of wires, circuit boards and connection ports. Unspooling a slender red wire, he inserted it into one of Jackie’s connectors. Moments later, her system data began scrolling across his monitor screen.
Jacqueline Alison Meyer (DHC License 8402227861) Carson Andronics A4L-972-360B Processor Type : CA 550Q Transfer Date: 24 March 2145 Apparent Age: 18-19 yr Total Operating Time Logged: 0 yr 4 mo 2 d 3 hr 43 min 25 s Beginning Diagnostic …
Jackie’s eyes began blinking rapidly as data flowed back and forth between the diagnostic computer and her own systems. It wasn’t exactly an unpleasant feeling. It was a little strange to be reminded that her human consciousness was like a raft, floating on a sea of operating code, data and applications, but there was no pain or discomfort. A small icon at the upper right corner of her visual field indicated that she was currently connected, filenames flashing by as the program scanned them. Occasionally, she would feel the diagnostic program affecting a part of her processor that was already in use, making certain thought processes momentarily sluggish before moving on to another part of her CPU that Jackie was less aware of.
About five minutes into the scan, a small red icon popped up on Dan’s computer screen. Jackie turned to look, her movements slightly jerky and mechanical-looking as she was still running both her own personality and the diagnostic application. “W-w-what’s that?” she asked.
Dan frowned at the screen. “Uh-oh. It looks like that damn love bug again. I’m gonna try and isolate it ….”
Suddenly, Jackie felt her entire body jerk, her back arching up as a sensation of intense … something traveled up through her body. “Oh! I … I feel … kind of nice, actually.”
Dan winced as he looked at her. “Aw, crap. It knows I’ve found it, so now it’s running the crash protocol. Just hold still, and I’ll have it out of you in a minute.”
Jackie gazed at Dan: his handsome, chiseled features; his flawless masculine form; those gleaming silver arms, sculpted in all the right places to suggest powerful muscles. “Ohh,” she moaned, sitting up in her chair. “Dan …”
“Just a minute, Jackie. I’ve almost got it.”
Suddenly, Jackie reached out and pulled Dan toward her, pressing her lithe young body firmly against his. “Dan, I … I feel … I want you, Dan.”
“Crap! Jackie, get off of me! I’ve got to quarantine the virus before you--”
Before the tech could finish his sentence, Jackie had drawn him into a deep, passionate kiss, her slender tongue sliding between his startled lips. “Mmm,” she purred, “you taste goooood …”
Dan struggled against her embrace for a moment, but like any heterosexual male - human or otherwise - the feel of warm, soft female flesh pressed against his body was affecting him. Without fully realizing what he was doing, the tech felt himself returning Jackie’s kiss, holding her tight. For a moment, he snapped out of it enough to pull away. “Jackie, look, you really need to let me go. I know this feels really good, but you’re only acting like this because the virus is turning up your sexual receptivity.”
“No! Dan, I … I … I’ve always loved you!” Jackie blurted out. Whatever was going on, it was as though all of her usual inhibitions were suddenly gone, like a switched-off firewall, and four months’ worth of repressed desire came pouring out. Never mind that every conscious person in the room was staring at them – this was her chance to confess her love, and she wasn’t about to blow it! “You’re so nice – you always take such good care of me, and you’ve never once tried to take advantage. Oh, God, sometimes I wish you would. You’re so ho-ho-hot!” Almost frantically, Jackie grabbed Dan in a bear hug, pulling him down onto the reclining chair with her.
“Jackie … stop …” Dan panted, trying to suppress his own arousal functions and get his priorities straight. “We can’t … not like this … not here …”
Jackie’s only response was to press her crotch firmly into Dan’s. God, he’s huge! she realized, feeling the enormous rock-hard bulge through the denim of her jeans and the breathable stretch-fabric of his pants. Metal or plastic? she wondered, then giggled as she kissed him again. “Mmmm, looks like I’m not the only one who’s enjoying this … enjoying this … enjoying this …”
A red-bordered window appeared, nearly filling her field of view. WARNING: CPU USAGE AT 100%. THERMAL EVENT IN PROGRESS. EMERGENCY SHUTDOWN IN THREE SECONDS.
“No! Just a few … a few … a few morrrrrree…” Jackie moaned, clutching her beloved technician to her.
ERROR: UNABLE TO PERFORM EMERGENCY SHUTDOWN. CORE TEMP AT 120 C
Jackie’s beautiful gynoid body spasmed as some vital component finally overheated, letting go with a sharp snap! “Ohhh! Dan! I’m so hothothot forrrrr youuuuuuu.”
By now, Jackie’s malfunction was serious enough for Dan to rouse himself from his simulated-hormone stupor and realize that the girl was in serious trouble. Pushing off from her, he let Jackie fall back onto the chair, her limbs still moving jerkily, as he raced back to the diagnostic console and worked frantically to get rid of the virus.
Behind him, Jackie began babbling. “D-d-Dan I love you. Love you. Nice, you fi-fi-fixxx meeeee. Hi, Pam! Missed you at class today. Class today. Hi, my name is Jack-Jack-Jackieeeeeeeeeee….”
The next thing Jackie knew, she was sitting on a work table. As her clock function came back online, she realized that it was nearly eight o’clock; about two-thirds of the fluorescent lights were off, and the Body Shop looked deserted.
“Helloooo! Earth to Jackie! Hey, can you hear me?”
Jackie tried to turn her head, but only heard a soft mechanical whir as her head remained immobile. Come to think of it, she couldn’t feel anything below her neck. What …? “Pam? Is that you?”
A body moved in front of her, and Jackie realized that she was now only at waist height. Pam kneeled down, letting them talk face-to-face. “Yeah, it’s me. Kind of funny how things work out, huh?”
“Yeah, real funny,” Jackie said with a sigh. Just three hours ago, it had been Pam with her head off and Jackie standing whole and mobile in front of her. Now, Jackie was the disembodied head, and Pam had obviously been put back together while she was offline. “Where is everyone?”
“They all left. Dan didn’t want to leave until he was sure your consciousness was okay, and … well, I was kind of worried for you.”
Jackie felt herself smile. “Thanks, Pam. So, do I get my body back now?”
Pam gave a shrug. “When I came in this morning, they said this virus doesn’t just affect your CPU; it copies itself into your subprocessors, too, so you can get reinfected even if your head is cleaned out. Dan says it took them almost five hours to get all the copies out of my body, so they’ll probably have to finish up with yours in the morning.”
“Great. So, I’m stuck here for the night?”
“Sorry, but yeah. You know, you really gave everybody a show when you crashed.”
Jackie felt a hot blush on her cheeks. “Oh! Right. Um …”
Pam just shook her head, chuckling as she patted Jackie. “Don’t worry about it. Everyone knows it was just some perverted hacker’s virus making you say all that stuff.”
Jackie tried to nod, but couldn’t quite manage it. Actually, she had meant what she’d told Dan – though if she’d been in her right mind, she doubted that she would have made her confession in the middle of the Body Shop, with techs and clients looking on.
Pam gave her friend one more pat on her disembodied head, then turned to leave. “Bye, Jackie. See you tomorrow, I guess.”
A few minutes after Pam had left Jackie’s field of vision, another body moved in front of her, then squatted down until she was face-to-face with the red-haired technician. Dan looked a little nervous, an apologetic smile on his face. “Um, hi. Jackie. Listen, about this afternoon ….”
“Yeah, about that. I’m really sorry for putting you in that position. I was just kind of … well, you know … and I wanted to say what I’ve been feeling lately, before I lost my nerve.”
Dan just stared at her, alarmed. “Wait a minute … Jackie, you don’t still have that virus, do you?”
The teen rolled her eyes. “What, you think I can’t feel attracted to a cute guy unless I’m infected by malware? I may have been a little over-eager earlier, but I really did mean what I said.”
The big redheaded tech looked stunned. “You’re … I mean, you’re really serious?”
Jackie smiled at him, putting all the warmth into the expression that she could. “Yeah, I’m serious. You’re a nice guy, you know? That, plus you’re totally hot.”
Dan leaned back, his emerald-green eyes blinking rapidly as he tried to wrap his CPU around the idea that she was really, non-virally attracted to him. For a moment, it was as if Jackie could literally see the skinny, awkward boy Dan must have been in his original body, picked on by jocks, ignored by girls. Even with his new body, he doesn’t know how attractive he is! she realized with a start.
Then he smiled, a shy little thing coupled with a very human-looking blush. “I … uh … thanks.”
Jackie tried to shrug, then realized that her shoulders were probably lying on a diagnostic table in a back room, along with the rest of her body. “Hey, I’m just telling you the truth. I mean … um …” Oh, crap! Now I wish I did still have that virus! Jackie thought, as her own shyness threatened to tongue-tie her. “If you’ve got time this week, maybe we could …you know … get together? Hang out for a while?”
“You mean, like, a date?”
Once again, Jackie tried to nod her head, then settled for replying. “Yeah. That is, um, if you don’t mind.”
“No! Ah, I mean, of course I don’t mind! That would be great!” Dan exclaimed, a huge grin spreading across his face. “Um, I’ve got to work until two o’clock tomorrow. Once you’re back together, maybe we could leave together and go find something to do?”
Now it was Jackie’s turn to feel her face splitting into an ecstatic smile. “Sure! That would be perfect.”
Still grinning, Dan stood up, checking some of the readouts attached to Jackie’s head. “Say, um, do you mind if I shut you down for the night?”
“No problem. I mean, what would I do all night? Just sit here and look around?” She opened her hazel eyes wide and rolled them around the room.
Dan laughed – a warm, honestly entertained sound – as they both decided that there really wasn’t much in the workroom to look at. “Okay, then. See you in the morning!”
Jackie heard a soft beep from somewhere beside her, and a window appeared in her visual field. “Saving your settings … logging off …”
As her system closed down, Jackie thought of her old human body; how it had always been overweight no matter what diet she was on, how her freckles and wide nose had always embarrassed her. Sure, her new one had its drawbacks, but she knew she was way more attractive, and even the occasional glitches could be fixed, just like today. And tomorrow, I’ve got a date with one of the hottest guys on campus! she thought. The only thing that prevented her from squealing with glee was the fact that her vocal functions had already been shut down.
Still, Jackie could smile, and as her higher functions closed down one-by-one, Jackie closed her eyes. Her blissfully contented expression stayed fixed on her flawless young face, where it would remain until Dan switched her back on in the morning.