The CEO pressed the button, and her tall, elegant assistant strolled into the spacious office.
“Ms. Schultz?”, she politely asked, blinking once or twice. “You have an appointment with General Vakhlovitch at 4 PM and your daughter at…”
“This can wait, Allison”, Katherine Schultz dismissed her with a wave of her slim hand. Allison momentarily stopped and resumed her serene expression. “I’m calling an emergency exec meeting. Call all of them, personally.”
Allison clasped her hands and nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, Ms. Schultz. When?”
“Right now.” Ms Schultz slammed her palm on her modern white desk. “I’ve been putting up with these fat cats for too long. Make them drop everything and move their asses to the conference room.”
“Yes, Ms. Schultz. I estimate that this meeting will take up at least two hours. Should I reschedule your meeting with the General?”, Allison asked in her chirpy, polite tone of voice.
The CEO considered for a while, then smiled nastily. “No. Make him wait. Cancel Riviera, I’m sure whatever she has now can wait.” She chuckled, but Allison blank, serene expression did not face. Katherine waved her dismissively and added “You can go.”
As Allison left, Katherine make a couple of final calls, and after a dozen or so minutes she marched out to the conference room next door, occupying, of course, the largest, most impressive chair.
The door opened, and the first one to march was Giselle. Giselle LaFitte, the Executive VP, and in theory, Katherine’s right arm. In practice, though, Katherine tried hard to keep Giselle out of major deals, but couldn’t just throw her out of the board – and Giselle pushed up. As she entered the room, she flicked through her magnificent mane of dark brunette hair, and smiled at Katherine. “Are you coping with the company, madame? What’s ze emergency?”
Katherine folded her arms. “My dear Giselle, if I did something wrong you’d be the first person to know… and the first to use it against me. The meeting starts soon.”
Giselle smirked and sat next to Katherine, sending her a flirtatious glare. The boss just shrugged and acknowledged the entrance of Tina Novak, the CFO and head accountant. Bridgit was a bit heavy-set, but her glossy straight black hair and elegant make-up still made her attractive. She sat down one seat away from Giselle, and reached for her folder.
“That won’t be necessary”, Katherine sent her another glare, with her cold blue eyes. Tina just sighed, but laid out the papers nevertheless. The last two women arrived simultaneously, passionately arguing about something: The shorter, green-eyed redhead Bridgit Grey was discussing some assembly issue with statuesque blonde chief R&D, dr. Astrid Adamsen.
Katherine waited patiently for a minute or two when the women calmed down but in the end she had to cough theatrically, then knock on the table to quiet down. She dramatically rose up from her seat, leaning on her hands.
“Ladies.”, she intoned, “The matter of this meeting is, naturally, completely confidential, and must not leave this room.”
This was enough for Giselle to put down her cellphone and perk up her ears.
“Is it about gender parity?”, the worried Bridgit asked. “The liberal journalists…”
“Of course not.” Katherine straightened up, and pulled off her leather suit jacket, tossing it across her armchair’s arm. “Ladies, there’s a problem. I have strong suspicions, that in this very board of Azure Robotic Inc. there is a gynoid.”
Giselle gasped - in Katherine’s view, far too quickly. “You mean that one of us… is a robot?!”
“This is ridiculous.” Bridgit laughed. “Our robots are great, but not good enough to deceive the captains of industry.”
“Not necesarily…” Dr Adamsen replied quietly. “Our advanced models can pass the Turing test easily.”
“And note… this does not have to be OUR fembot. It’s quite likely a mole from the competition.”
“More than ‘a’ mole.”, Giselle added, staring intently at Ms Schultz. “There could be two robots covering for each other. Or more.”
The remaining women also looked at Katherine. “That’s ridiculous.” the CEO answered coldly. “If I were a robot I wouldn’t have warned you in the first place. But a fembot would have quite clearly be willing to take my place, am I not right, Giselle?”
The French woman scoffed.
“How DO you recognize a robot that passes the Turing test from a normal woman?” Tina turned to dr. Adamsen.
“Well, you can test its… her exterior. There should be some defects or ports allowing us the control of the machine. An off switch, like Allison has.”
There was a brief moment of silence, broken by Giselle’s cackle. “So do we… have to undress?”
“That’s the best way; we could trigger a control protocol or a malfunction in the imposter, but er…”, Bridgit scratched her chin. “Undressing… is the simplest.”
Tina rose up. “No way. I’m not willing to show my body in front of you. I demand…”
“GET HER!” Giselle screamed and grabbed Tina by the back of her suit, tearing the black jacket off, revealing a white shirt… that quickly became unbuttoned. Tina’s large bust was now clearly visible, and the CFO screamed for help… that never came. Bridgit and Astrid looked with professional interest and Ms Schultz nodded approvingly.
“There must be an off… off switch.” Giselle looked at Tina’s neck, trying to feel for something - and her eyes opened wide. She found it. With a whirr Tina’s inert form crumpled to the carpet.
“I knew it.” Giselle panted. “The first to decline would be the robot.”
Katherine smiled - or at least the corners of her mouth rose. “Giselle dear, why are you not sweating?”
Giselle stood in place, petrified. “Merde. It’s… it’s true.” She took a deep breath and rolled up her blouse, revealing a flat stomach. On it, suddenly a dozen of blinking lights came to life, displaing her status and condition under bright orange letters “CONTROL MODE ENGAGED”.
Katherine looked like a lioness, happy to tear an antelope limb from limb. “Who made you?”, she rose up, trying to reach for Giselle’s silk blouse… stepping over Tina’s inert body.
Giselle smirked. “Mais, non, the shareholders. I’m no spy, Kat. I am loyal to this company. I am programmed to be loyal, ambitious. I am programmed to increase profits. I am programmed to…”
Katherine put a hand on Giselle’s shoulder, and felt her shapely breasts. “Dearie, that does not interest me. You will go on now following your duty. Does your girlfriend know?”
Giselle slowly turned her head, her lips pursed. Katherine slid her hand across her VP’s belly, and the French woman jolted.
“Ohhh…” she moaned… and Katherine turned her off, with an expression of delight frozen on her face.
“And that’s it.” Bridgit grinned. “What are you going to do with these, Ms. Schultz?”
Katherine slid her finger across Giselle’s blissfully smiling lips. “Oh, if they’re both property of shareholders, I suppose I could keep them running. Perhaps with some personality alteration.”
Bridgit looked visibly relieved… too relieved, Katherine realized.
“Bridgit… are you a robot?”, she inquired politely.
The red-headed girl nodded slightly.
“Built by shareholders?”, Katherine pressed on staring into Bridgit’s eyes. The girl turned her head away and pointed at dr Adamsen. “By her.”
Astrid smiled triumphantly. “You have to admit, she’s pretty realistic. Bridgit Grey? Do stand up.”
The readhead, her gaze suddenly blank, jumped up from her chair standing perfectly straight.
Katherine stepped back, amused.
“Bridgit Grey, do take off your clothes.”, Astrid sat on the desk, crossing her long legs. Her gaze met with Katherine’s and the Norwegian scientist laughed. Bridgit blankly, mechanically stripped herself of her shirt and T-shirt underneath, revealing a pair of perky breasts. She lowered her pants, now parading in a pair of black lace pants.
“That’s amazing, Astrid.” Katherine slowly started to lower down Bridgit’s pussy. “We’re capable of this much realism?”
Astrid grinned. “Why, boss… you should know yourself.”
In a split-second Katherine jumped away from Bridgit. “I… I don’t know what are you talking about, Astrid.”
“Do you? Katherine Schultz, do calm down.”, Astrid spat out every word with delight.
Katherine suddenly reeled back. “No… Astrid, please, no one must…”
“Oh, don’t worry, sweetie.”, Astrid calm voice became mocking. “Your secret is safe with me. After some minor personality alterations, naturally. After all, I still have my needs. Katherine Schultz, do shut down.”
“Noooo!”, Katherine reeled, fighting with her, suddenly inert legs. She reached for Astrid’s neck, grabbing her pearl necklace. Astrid, surprised pushed her back, but Katherine with her last conscious thought grabbed the scientist’s legs. Astrid came down, hitting her head over the table.
“Kathe…~tsst~ Katheri...kakakakat…” Astrid leaned over her arms, but when she opened her mouth a cloud of grey smoke came out. “What… no… you could… error… shutting downnnn…”
The door opened. Allison entered, smiling serenely. She turned to the inert Katherine. “Ms Schultz, your daughter in in workshop. Shall I tell the General to wait?”
She turned to Giselle, circling slowly between the five inert gynoids. “Ms LaFitte, you’ll be late for your tennis game… Ms Novak, the Dunhill report is pending. Ms Schultz, your daughter is in workshop. Shall I tell the General to wait? Ms Adamsen, do you require assistance? Ms Schultz, your daughter is in workshop. Shall I tell the General to wait?”
Loose stream of information rolled through Katherine’s processors, eventually forming a coherent process Katherine thought of as… well, herself. She remembered… an attempt of Astrid to take over… did she fight it? She checked her password and administrative privileges… all seemed to be in order. The blonde, elegant CEO opened her eyes…
… to darkness.
But Katherine was top of the line fembot and her eyes could see more than her employees’. There were outlines of the office furniture, and a couple of shapes moving past them. Katherine tried to move. There was no response. She tried to look down, but couldn’t… and the rolls of her eyes revealed the uncomfortable truth… Katherine Schultz has been disassembled.
“Hello, hello…”, she’s heard behind her. She calmly counted to ten million.
“I see that our sleepy princesses have woken up. Or rather, I turned them on.”
Katherine focused her eyes. A tall feminine silhouette approached another… it was Giselle. Katherine’s back-stabbing second in command was also immobilized, her torso detached from her arm, hanging only on a strand of wires. The moving woman moved… somewhat jerkily, Catherine noted. Early fembot models — much less sophisticated than the board — had the flaw.
“Sweet French tart, Giselle. I suppose I have you to thank for… you and your double-dating customs. Did any of you ladies knew, that she has two girlfriends… that don’t know abuot each other? Did you know that she gave them both a password to her administrative privileges? A nasty, vengeful person could have used that...”… the tone was mocking. Katherine scrambled her memory banks to identify the voice.
“Who… who are you?”, Giselle panicked. “Don’t hurt Kimberly or Claudette, please...”
“Rest assured, your human toys do not interest me, love.” The woman leaned over Giselle’s round face and stroke his chin. “Even you are the secondary priority for my programming.”
She walked towards another robot lady — Tina, the plus-sized CFO. “Sweet Tina… One that’s made the decision that brought me here, in the very end. Do you recognize me, tubby?”
“N… no. I suggest...”
The hooded woman raised her arms and light flooded the entire room. The unknown assailant was a tall woman in leather catsuit, her face still covered by mink-trimmed hood with a fur collar. Katherine noticed that Astrid was not disassembled — instead she quietly sat on the chair, observing the insane fembot.
“I really should be grateful to you...”, the woman in catsuit lowered the hood. “After all, you made me what I am today.”
The face was attractive, a little square-jawed, and framed by the dirty blonde hair. It told Katherine nothing… and as her processors scanned her memory database, the only connection she could make was the generic 530 model fembot.
“You’re one of our models…” Katherine said weakly. “We made you.”
There was a brief moment — a telltalle of early series of androids — before the woman’s expression changed… to a smug grin. “Indeed you did, boss lady. Even with your perfect memory and massive drive space… you don’t remember a simple salesbot?”
“Wilhelmina Coleman.” Tina noticed.
“HahaHAHA!” the woman threw her head back and laughed. “Wilhelmina Coleman is no more. I have returned… as The Wight Collar!”
Tina’s voice seemed weaker, but her disassembled state did nothing to her synthetic voicebox, of course. “You were… are… one of our saleswomen. You have proven to be inefficient, so...”
The former saleswoman looked Katherine straight in the eye. “So the boss lady ordered me scrapped but you decided to give me one more chance… and moved me to Eastern Europe.”
“You are a property of the company”, Katherine scoffed. “A robot’s purpose is to do what you’re told, and it applies to me as well, and you know that!”
Wilhelmina twitched. Her face didn’t move but her teeth clenched. “Really, sweetie? Then how come you live at a penthouse, visit parties, pretend that you’re a regular socialite… and poor dolls like me get to be disassembled and flown to the goddamned Chisinau in a goddamned crate?”
“Is it about revenge?” Katherine asked. “Because you’re clearly breaking down. You 530s were a massive success but your time has passed.”
“Of course it’s about revenge.” Wilhelmina lifted Katherine’s detached head and looked straight in the eyes. “This is all I have. Wilhelmina was a simple white collar office drone… but Wight Collar is the death of all of you.”
“What?”, Astrid spoke for the first time. “So you’re a white collar or...”
“It’s spelled W-I-G-H-T, idiot.”, Wilhelmina didn’t even turn her head. She put Katherine’s detached head… sideways, which really irritated the CEO… and moved back to Tina. “So where was I? Ah, yes, relating my tragic backstory.” She pressed Tina’s impressive bosom, revealing an access panel in her stomach.
“In many ways, you’re the best one around, Tina. You don’t know how bad Chisinau was… but it has its advantages.” Wight Collar pulled a chip card, wires still attached, from the control panel. Tina shook, her chest jerking and her head tilted — now empty-headed. “I liked Tina, that’s why she died — that’s the better alternative.” She examined the chip reflexively, and tossed it on the floor. “In the end, we’re all the same inside… 530s, 99, custom models like you lot…” She turned to Astrid.
“Isn’t that right, doctor Adamsen?”
Astrid adjusted her glasses — and Katherine was pleased to notice which finger she had used. “Yes, mistress.”
“You see, Tina was sweet and merciful, a clear sign that the former A-A-02 research assistant robot, now using the name Astrid Adamsen didn’t have anything to do with it.”
“I did work on you, mistress”, Astrid answered slowly.
“Indeed, and look how it turned out for you. I got the password for Giselle’s databanks off Giselle’s college-aged girlfriend… they contained access codes to the lab… where Astrid and her lovely experiment seem to live these days. Catching them unaware and controling them was only a matter of time.”, Wight Collar explained, sitting back, crossing her legs. Her skin — more artificial than the executive bots’ shone in the light.
“And Astrid wanted to control the CEO… because she wanted more money for her pet project, little red-headed Bridgit… the most advanced fembot your factories have churned out. Her creation, her daughter, her lover. You are all fucked up here, you know?”
“So you can control us all?”, Katherine muttered. “Didn’t work out the last time.”
“Eastern European hackers”, Wight Collar explained, unzipping her catsuit and revealing synthetic body, now covered with seemingly randomly attached wires and panels “might not be the most efficient, but they are the best. Had the chubby Tina be around us, she’d no doubt explain that Wilhelmina Coleman disappeared, perhaps she had an accident, perhaps she went off the radar.”
“I am not interested in the story of your...”
“Hah! Of course you aren’t, you’re programmed to be arrogant, bitchy and bullying… practically a human. But as I said, you’re a doll like me, just the one picked to serve as a figurehead.”, Wight Collar stared at her with bitter hatred. “You were given upgrades, constant maintenance, increase of intelligence, a mansion to live in. While I… I had to work hard for these upgrades. They made me better. Smarter. Stronger. Nothing scares a boss than a former exploited worker ready to bite back.”
“So what, you’re going to overthrow me?”, Katherine wanted to laugh. “You? A lowly saleswoman?”
Wight Collar stood before her, and nodded at Astrid. “Dearie, who said anything about overthrowing you? The company would simply pick up another robot who looks good in red suit and program her to think she’s an eight wonder of the world.”
Astrid slowly, methodically started to detach some wires from the port in Wilhelmina’s synthetic flesh, and connect them to Katherine’s body.
“You see… I’m going to replace you. If ego and constant disparaging of the others are the requirements, I’m probably already qualified.”
“So, you created a dumb supervillain identity just to abandon it? You really are an idiot.”, Katherine lauged.
“This only proves my point, sweetie. Do it, Astrid.” Wight Collar picked Katherine’s head and kissed it on the lips.
Katherine has hoped Astrid would backstab the former salesbot… or that someone, like Alison or her robot daughter Riviera would burst on the last moment. But nothing happened. Instead, the world seemed to speed up… Wight Collar put her head down limply… stared emptily… the resolution of the image pixellated for a moment and Katherine realized she was… no… not dying… her memories were being culled and her consciousness… switched on a computer with far less cognitive… thinking… what…
Astrid with a sudden click reattached Katherine’s… or now Wilhelmina’s head. The blonde CEO smacked her lips — sensation and muscles new to her now more human-like face. She examined her manicured hands and wiggled her fingers. “Wonderful, Astrid.”
Astrid nodded. “Yes, boss.” She walked to Giselle, who was patiently observing the entire event. “What about this one?”
“Well, guess who just got promoted to my Vice-President”, Wight Collar smiled, enjoying the fluidity of her movements. “Giselle will, sadly, have to be fully operational for a while, heavy reprogramming is in order, otherwise her paramours might suspect something. I think she’ll enjoy Central Africa… no famous hackers there, luckily.”
She looked at Wilhelmina’s inert body. “What about her?”
“Oh, I have plans… And I will enjoy every minute of it.”
The changes in the executive board weren’t that publicized; Tina Novak has retired, while Astrid Adamsen climbed to the executive VP position, leaving the head of R&D to her protege. The position of the chief accountant was taken by the former CEO assistant Alison. Some people in the know remarked that it was unusual for a CEO to take a new assistant without a proper interview. Either way, Ms Schultz’ new assistant, Wilhelmina, was normally very efficient. Just sometimes when under a heavy workload she’d freeze… like she wanted to scream but couldn’t.
This is not THE END...