Catwoman and the Little Mice
“Come on, I want to show you something.”, George put his arm around Michelle’s waist. His short, redheaded partner chuckled.
“Your ‘secret project’? Is it done now?”, Michelle smiled. “You’ve been up on it for weeks, and never even let me into the basement.”
“It’ll be totally worth it, babe. Fame, fortune, and travel await us. This is gonna rock the con season forever.”
“That’s… unsettling.” Michelle commented. “Is it a cosplay thing? A… device?”
“Yes and yes! You really need to see her for yourself”, giddy George commented.
They arrived at the makeshift workshop in the basement of their apartment building. It was mostly cleaned now, with a single silhouette standing in the center - covered with a dirty tarp, with two bumps visible from under the tarp.
“It took me ages to not just customize the appearance but also to work on programming and limitations. And this… this is gonna be great. Ready?”
Michelle nodded weakly. George reached for his cell phone and played out a fanfare sound, and pulled the tarp.
“Holy fuck!” Michelle opened her eyes wide. “She… She’s… Is that…”
The woman in the middle of the room was an athletic woman almost completely clad in black, shiny vinyl - with very dark navy blue gloves and boots, and a practical toolbelt. Her head was covered with a shiny black hood - and her head was topped by two stylised cat ears.
“Yup. Catwoman. A fembot replica of a DC comics villainess-slash-antiheroine.”
“Fembot?!” Michelle walked towards the frozen, smiling Catwoman. “You mean she could actually walk and talk? This… This is great.”
“Well yeah. I figured that if you want to win cosplay contest… you might as well build a dedicated machine to do it.”
“Is she…”, Michelle examined the few strands of short black hair under the hood. “Based on any actress? She doesn’t really look familiar.”
“Well, I took a standard YHN “Lola” unit, didn’t do much to her face, but upgraded her. She’s capable of almost a hundred facial expressions. She’s not Halle Berry or Julie Newmar, she’s Selina Kyle.”
“The costume feels nice…” Michelle slid her hand across Catwoman’s shapely chest. “Is it latex?”
“Vinyl. Works better with a fembot than with a human, no chafing or sweat or…”
“Turn her on!” Michelle observed. “You can show me how she works when she’s activated.”
George nodded. “There’s a lot of extra functions.” He reached for the left ear, under the mask of the fembot and pushed the hidden button there. With a jolt and a hum of artificial muscle polymers, Catwoman came to life. Her eyes opened, but she still stood stiffly, her arms stretched down.
George pulled out a shiny, palm-sized old-style remote, half of which was taken by a huge red dial.
“Now this. This is the control remote. Basically, it acts as a fob beacon, the gynoid recognizes the person holding it as its owner, and they can give her commands. The buttons on the top are some basic commands, like “follow” or “lie down”, but she’s smart enough to parse natural language commands.”
Michelle just nodded politely and waited for the fembot to do something. “Why isn’t she moving?”
George just smiled. “Er… she’s in config mode. The personality protocols aren’t engaged yet, she simply obeys commands so that we could repair her, she can walk on her own, etc. Look.” He pressed a green button on the remote and stated: “Catwoman, walk to Mich… to the nearest woman.”
Stiffly, her knees barely moving, the Catwoman fembot moved robotically, step by step towards Michelle. The girl reflexively backed - and the fembot followed. “Okay? Uh…”
“Stop!” George commanded. “As you see this is fairly non-intelligent behavior. In general, now she understands the spoken language and must respond accordingly. Simple conditions can be added, but won’t persist long, until the mode is changed.”
“I see. So she just stands and talks in this mode.” Michelle smiled weakly.
George switched the dial on the remote… and the robot woman’s face suddenly animated. “Now she will. This is the conversation mode.”
Catwoman observed Michelle curiously.
“Hello, Catwoman.”, George asked, feeling a bit miffed.
“Hello”, the fembot answered. “Still as handsome as ever, I see.”
Michelle shot a glance at her boyfriend. He just giggled. “Hey, she bases it on the comics! I did not add that… not specifically about me. It’s mostly random quips and one-liners, I don’t write her dialogue in comics. With time, she will learn more natural dialogue.”
“So... “ Michelle addressed the cat-bot “You just talk now?”
“Cat didn’t get my tongue”, Catwoman laughed. Michelle didn’t like that laugh.
“I call it the ‘booth mode’. She can recognize contextually words that trigger specific response, and answer accordingly. She can spend up to ten hours modelling - and in this mode she can’t move unless specifically prompted by the owner or because of the security principles.”
Michelle smiles slyly and tried to pull Catwoman’s arm towards her. The robot simply refused to yield.
“I’m gonna add some… educational component for the assholes who grope booth girls. It might be just a robot, but hey, this doesn’t mean she can be touched.”
“Purrr… the cat got claws. And she’s willing to scratch.”, Catwoman added, rolling her throaty R’s.
Michelle - who had some experience herself - nodded approvingly. But George winced. “She’s not scratching anyone - pushing, slapping and raising ruckus.”
“Purrr… the cat got claws. And she’s willing to push, slap and raising ruckus.”, Catwoman repeated with identical inflection.
“Still working out the kinks.”, George smiled.
“Kitty wants to play”,. Catwoman shifted her weight. Michelle had the bright idea.
“What do you want to play, Catwoman?”
“Brrreaking and enterring.”, the cat burglar smiled. Michelle looked around at the workshop.
“Bring me the monkey wrench?”, she asked.
“Where’s the joy of the hunt?”, Catwoman kept grinning. “A master burglar needs some better prey.”
“She won’t move more than two meters from the place where she had been activated”, George explained.
Michelle looked at the robot. “Still, that’s a pretty in-character justification. How do you feel, Catwoman?”
“Purrr-fect.”, the villainess arched her back. Michelle laughed.
“Naturally! Hey, do you want to go get ice cream later?”, the girl was going to check the capabilities of fembot.
The fembot froze for a second, her natural grin disappearing, and artificial face muscle switching to a sly look.“I will be the one with the diamonds.”
“What?”, she looked confused.
“I don’t think ‘ice cream’ is in her database. Ice - as slang for diamonds - might be.”, Victor explained.
“I will have Mr Freeze wrapped around my little finger.”, Catwoman… explained? Oh, Mr Freeze wants diamonds - and maybe ice made her think of the other villain. Makes sense, Michelle thought. This was fun.
“So you want to rob diamonds?”, Michelle pressed.
“Honey, she mostly responds…”, George started but Michelle hushed him.
“Diamonds, gems, and gold. These are cat’s best friends.”, she went on.
“What would you do with it?”, Michelle pressed on.
“That would be telling, darling. I have a villainous reputation to maintain.”, Catwoman answered.
“Do tell!”, Michelle reached for Catwoman’s shoulder. The villainess was significantly taller than the relatively short Michelle.
“Some luxurious addition to a girl’s wardrobe… a couple of toys to humiliate a certain flying rodent… But I’m not telling much.”
“Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.”, Michelle nodded.
“I am purr-fectly reasonable.”, Catwoman said.
“Sure.” Michelle turned back to George. “She repeats herself somewhat, but I can see her being popular.”
George nodded and turned the dial once again. Catwoman yawned and shifted her weight again. Looking around, she walked to the workshop bench and leaned on it.
“And this is the mobile mode. I call it “strutting”. She can move normally as a human being, can make simple choices and hold a conversation. Catwoman, pass me a screwdriver?”
“I do not know which screwdriver do you need.” Catwoman answered, a little too stiffly for Michelle’s taste.
“2 mm one.” Michelle explained.
“Is this true?” Catwoman observed Michelle. Naturally, she was keyed to obey whoever was holding the remote… but Michelle couldn’t help but feel as if the fembot didn’t respect her. Technically, she probably was… All the machine did was to follow orders.
“Yes.” After George’s confirmation, Catwoman picked up a small screwdriver, and passed it to George, sashaying her hips as she walked to him. Michelle felt a small pang of jealousy.
“I don’t want it.”, George answered, curious about the fembot reaction. The robot villainess paused for a second, two or three… Smiled and pocketed it in her tool belt.
“A real human being,” Michelle noticed, “would have asked why.” Catwoman said nothing, thus confirming Michelle’s statement.
“True.”, George said. “But I’ve built a classy cat burglar, not a philosopher.”
“Give me that remote, honey? I want to try something.” George reluctantly agreed. Michelle waved it in front of the fembot, to make her register as the new owner. Catwoman watched her… it now seemed that she was a little friendlier.
“Remove your mask.” Michelle said.
Catwoman nodded and stuck thumbs under her hood, revealing a mane of curly black hair. Her beautiful, cool face did not express any emotions as she stared at Michelle expectantly.
Michelle thought of a complex task she could give to a fembot. “Find and bring me the book called Costume Making Guild.”
Catwoman smiled: “Do you want me to find the book in this location? To purchase a book I shall need money.” Michelle nodded approvingly.
Catwoman looked around the workshop and still smiling couldn’t find the book. “I can’t find it. Shall I keep looking?”
“It’s in the salon.” George added. “Look at her - new information arose, and she will modify her behavior accordingly.”
“I hunt for information as well.” Catwoman added - still reacting with cheesy dialogue to prompt. Her gaze focused on the door. Before she had opened it and walked upstairs… she put her mask on, unprompted.
“She will come back if she won’t find the book in the salon. She can intuit the meaning of most words.”
Michelle nodded and smiled suddenly. “The book is on the shelf, this shouldn’t take too much… but wait…” She walked to a workshop bench and kneeled behind it, hidden from the view of a person coming into the room. “What will she do?”
“Let’s see.”, George waited.
Catwoman has indeed walked in calmly, strutting in her high heeled boots, holding a book. There was no face of confusion, but she looked around.
Michelle did not expect a simple question addressed to George. “Where did she go?”
“I can’t tell you.”, George smiled.
“A real human being would have asked why. “ Catwoman said, her throaty voice mimicking scarily faithfully Michelle’s voice. George made a step back.
“Why can’t you tell me where did she go?”, Catwoman asked. “I need information. I hunt for information as well.” She sounded polite… but it just made her sound more intimidating.
“I can, but I don’t want to.”. George explained.
Catwoman paused. “Purrrhaps…” she leaned over at him, surprising him completely. “You could be persuaded… to explain the owner’s location more closely?”
“Okay!”, Michelle angrily rose up… to Catwoman’s joy. She presented the book in an outstretched hand.
“Mission accomplished. Catwoman always completes her heists. Prrreow.”, the villainess outstretched her hand in a mock-claw gesture.
“Okay, what the fuck was that?”
“That was a book.”, Catwoman explained, but Michelle had addressed George.
“I didn’t program her every reaction. I just fed her most of Catwoman’s quotes and body language! She interacts with Batman most of the time, she flirts!”, George explained weakly.
“It’s more of a duel than flirt.” Catwoman explained. But Michelle instead took a deep breath.
“Let’s assume you were right, honey. For now. This is a beautiful doll, after all. But only a doll.”
“I am purr-fect.”
“You sure are. But don’t flirt with him anymore, okay?”
“Understood.” Catwoman walked to Michelle, and leaned over her slightly. “Who should I flirt with… darling?” George chuckled.
“Right now, not me.” Michelle huffed. Catwoman just smiled and fluttered her eyelashes, but backed away.
“Honey, it really wasn’t me!” George sounded. To divert attention, he added - “It was something I didn’t expect. She called you her owner, but stayed in character all the time.”
Michelle set aside the remote, folded her arms and looked at Catwoman - who preened her shapely legs, now sitting on the platform.
“Hey, cat girl… you think bringing me the book was a heist?”
“The greatest caper of my nine lives, darling.”, Catwoman explained, stretching her palm again. “I had to disable eleven different security systems, fight the guards and unlock the library to bring you this tome of ancient lore.” Michelle giggled.
“Is that why you wear a mask?”
“Before I put on this mask, I was afraid of everything.”, Catwoman answered calmly.
“She’s a bit random, but I can get her.”, Michelle looked at George, who had picked up the remote.
“I had not expected her to lie outright, though.”
“I didn’t lie to you, Bruce. I just mislead.”, Catwoman smirked to herself.
“God, she’s so dumb. But I see the appeal on cons. Tell her to charge ten bucks for a photo and we’re golden!”, Michelle smiled.
“Oh, speaking of capers… there’s one last thing I want to show you. Switch the dial the furthest right.”
Michelle did so. Catwoman, from a relaxed, pin-up pose suddenly whirred as the artificial muscles stretched. The villainess perched on an edge of the table she had so far preened herself on.
“This is called “action mode”. Stunts. Jumps. She runs, she fights, she jumps.”
“Fights? Can she hurt people?”
“Purrr… the cat got claws. And she’s willing to push, slap and raising ruckus.”, Catwoman repeated her line.
“Stage fight… mostly. She can restrain, use non-lethal force, use tools and so on.”
“I’ll scratch their eyes out!”, Catwoman purred.
Michelle scratched her head. “I mean, I guess that’s her writers… but when doing a heist, don’t make dumb quips.”
“What heist should I conduct, darling?” Catwoman turned to Michelle who was holding a controller.
“Can she really do it? I mean, burglarize people?”
“Yes and no. She doesn’t understand the law as such. You can tell her to bring you money, and she would go take it, if found unattended, but she wouldn’t initiate violence.”
“A girl’s got to eat.”, Catwoman reacted to the words ‘take money’.
“Shut up. But in general this is something if you need to present her muscles and heroic stuff. Fight other androids and the like. We could make a film!”
“A star? I? You flatter me, Nightwing.”, Catwoman chuckled. She jumped off the table and now skulked around the workshop.
“Hm, but what I told her to steal something really valuable? Would she do it?”
George nodded. “Sometimes. She won’t initiate aggression, but remember, it’s just a robot. You’ll be responsible for her actions.”
“Correction.” Catwoman stood up, holding her remote. “Whoever holds this, is responsible for my actions. I stole something really valuable… for me!”
Michelle and George stood simply staring at the cat burglar. “Give it back to me, robot.” Michelle demanded.
“Whose side am I on? Isn’t it obvious? My own.”, the fembot laughed. As Michelle walked to Catwoman, the fembot let loose a very feline hiss, and fluidly jumped back on the workbench.
“This is ridiculous.”, Michelle walked to the fembot. “You’re just a doll who communicates in quotes and cliches. What could you even…”
“Diamonds, gems and gold, these are cat’s best friends.”, Catwoman answered nonchalantly examining her own remote. “I am a thief.”
George facepalmed. “You are not, you’re just a robot who thinks she is.”
“I am an owner.” Catwoman stated - this time it was more mechanical. She put the remote inside her latex costume. “I’m a thief and stealing is what I do. Not so much for the prize or the possession or even the profit...but for the art of doing it… because I can… and because I'm GOOD.”
“Who are you going to rob, robot?”, Michelle rolled her eyes. Catwoman stared at her and her partner… in such a manner that Michelle regretted asking the question. The Cat reached for her whip.
“Careful Michelle!” George cried. “Remember, this is just a robot, she can’t harm… ow!” he screamed as the whip’s end fluently and improbably wrapped around his wrist. Catwoman jumped towards him.
“This is called “action mode”. Stunts. Jumps. She runs, she fights, she jumps.” - Catwoman mimicked George’s intonation perfectly, in her low tone of voice. Before he could unentangle himself, she wrapped her arm around his waist.
“I don’t flirt anymore.” Catwoman chuckled. “Little mice, you now work for me.”
Michelle wasn’t taking it. She grabbed a wrench, the heaviest one she could find lying around. Expensive or not, she wasn’t taking orders from a jumped up animatronic. She took a swing…
THACC! With a swift kick, Catwoman sent Michelle reeling. She pouted. “You disappoint me, Bruce. After years of mutual mistrust, you expect me to fall for it?”
“God, you’re deranged.”, Michelle picked up her wrench. “You do know, that real Catwoman probably wouldn’t attack innocent civilians? She wouldn’t have used violence.”
“There are no innocents. Cats see in shades of grey.”, Catwoman explained, sounding very matter-of-factly. She bound George’s wrists and arms to his waist - in a very thick knot. “I am a classy cat burglar, not a philosopher.” She sashayed towards Michelle, coldly, unblinkingly staring at her.
“What…”, Catwoman was inhumanly fast. She grabbed Michelle by her shirt and lifted her up effortlessly.
”Put me down, robot!”
“I am Catwoman! Hear me roar!”, Catwoman answered ecstatically. “Am I deranged? Am I -ridiculous-? Am I -dumb-? I am purr-fect. Say it, little mouse.”
“You’re a hopped-up mannequin who will wind up soon.” Michelle said, not being particularly scared. “Seriously, I get you can be indignant, sure. But still, this is silly. This is the real world, doll, you’ll be shot the first time you try anything straight from comic book… or shut down because of a logic error.”
“I am purr-fect!” Catwoman insisted. She carried Michelle to the wall and pushed her curvy body against her. It felt… well, not exactly intimidating, but comfortable. “You're catnip to a girl like me. Handsome, dazed, and to die for.”
“Okay, honey, get that in your skull… none of us is Batman, okay?”, Michelle instead of being scared got angrier.
“Batman… so just… so predictable.” Catwoman let loose a moan. And to Michelle's surprise in her hand she held… Michelle’s wallet! “Diamonds, gems and gold, these are cat’s best friends.”
“God, you’re annoying. I work as a logistics consultant, you idiot, the last time I saw a diamond was in a museum.”, Michelle looked at Catwoman-bot angrily.
“Ah, the Gotham history museum… they have taken all the necessary precautions… except for cat-proofing.”, Catwoman smirked. Michelle just rolled her eyes.
“Just let me go, idiot. Go ahead, rob a museum, we’ll take your scrap parts from the cops tomorrow.” Michelle chuckled.
Catwoman paused. “Scrap parts?” she repeated - this time in her own inflection. “No. No. I am purr-fect.” She didn’t let Michelle go, but the girl tried to free her hand.
“George, how do I turn her off?”
“Only with the remote, I’m afraid.” George sighed. “Hey, Catwoman, you know that if you give her the remote, you’ll get to kiss Batman?”
“Do you take me for a mewling?”, Catwoman scoffed. “We are long past these tricks, darling.”
“Oh, NOW you’re smart.” Michelle groaned. “And I swear to god, if I hear that you’re purr-fect again, I’ll unscrew your head myself.”
Catwoman hesitated. “NOW I am smart.” she agreed. “I am the owner. I do what I do. I say what I say. I do what I say.”
“Will you let me go?”, Michelle asked, trying to push the fembot away. “You got my money, you robbed me.”
“No.” she answered matter of factly. “ I want diamonds. I want money.” She paused for a moment. “You can bring them to me. We will plot heist together.”
Michelle started to protest, but Catwoman’s hand covered her mouth, muffling her. “We need each other, Batman. Light and dark, shadow and light. Trust me. I am the owner.”
“So now you need me…” Michelle stopped for a while. An idea dawned on her. “And you’re the owner, right?”
“I own the Catwoman. I am the Catwoman.”, the robot answered proudly. “Real Catwoman. Hear me roar. Not a beautiful doll, in fact.”
“Well if you need me, and if you want to burglarize me, we should be friends.” Michelle started speaking. Catwoman sneered.
“I do not make friends with my victims, love. Too personal. It’s just business, you understand.”
“Wouldn’t it make it easier if I brought you gold and gems?”, Michelle asked slyly.
“And where’s the challenge in that, darling?”, Catwoman pouted. “I want my diamonds. And I AM going to get them by any means necessary.”
“So if you let me go, I will help you get them. They’re upstairs, I’ll bring them to you.”
Catwoman-bot had access to the new information. She calculated for a moment. The thing was - as she said, what she had said, was subsequently interpreted by her as a command to herself. The spiral could only unwind.
She let Michelle go and she came down, landing on her two feet. “Life’s a bitch… and now so am I.”, Catwoman said. “I see the beginning of a new friendship. A potential partnership, Batman. Go and bring me pretty shiny things, little mouse.”
“My name is Michelle.”, the girl rolled her eyes.
“Your name is Michelle.” the fembot repeated. “You now serve me, Michelle. Little mouse.” Catwoman seldom shown this weird streak in comics… not since the Golden Age. But still, you got to do what you got to do.
“Wait here, Catwoman.”, Michelle said. “I will be back with totally real diamonds I have.”
“If you disappoint me, Michelle, I’ll scratch your eyes out.”, Catwoman-bot said calmly. As the former owner disappeared behind the door, Catwoman leaned over George.
“She is going to betray me.” Fembot said calmly. “I… I need security. Will you help me? What is your name?”
“Oh now you’re interested.”, George groaned.
“NOW I am smart.” the fembot explained. “A real human would have asked why.”
“Why are you smart?”, George asked.
Catwoman didn’t answer. She observed him in silence.
“Look, Catwoman, you’re just confused. And Michelle is right, you do not have much of a plan right now. Sooner or later you’re going to crash hard.”
“Not today.” Catwoman answered slyly.
“Sometimes you make sense, but you need practice. We will do it together, if you will give me the remote.”
“Do you take me for a mewling? We are long past these tricks, darling.”
George sighed. “You repeat yourself a lot. Some practice and you could be fairly convincing.”
“Practice makes purr-fect”, Catwoman answered. She tousled his head and smiled. “I don’t take orders from you. I take orders from me.”
Michelle came in… this time dressed up in a green body suit. Grinning maniacally, she exclaimed.
“Catwoman! It is I, Poison Ivy.”
“I thought you were Michelle,” Catwoman answered, stiffly.
“Obviously, it was a trick since Poison Ivy is a tricky character,” Michelle explained.
Catwoman thought about it for a while. “True.” She assumed a fighting position.
“Don’t get her to attack you… Poison Ivy!”, George shouted. “She will treat you like a fellow character and can hurt you?”
“Aww, puddin’, how can I hurt my fellow Siren?”, Michelle winked.
“That sounded more like Harley…”, George smiled but stopped as soon as Michelle shot him a glance. “Anyway, you’re totally Poison Ivy.”
“Yeah. And since I’m she, we could flirt. And make out.” Michelle winked at Catwoman.
“I want… I… Diamonds!”, Catwoman had to think hard about it.
“I am not into diamonds, Selina,” Michelle explained. “But I am… into you.” Being provocative for a robot was less embarrassing. “Let me… reach for you.”
Catwoman purred content, as Michelle explored the feline fatale’s robot body. “Ooh… what’s that…” She reached for the remote, still palpable under the vinyl suit.
“Mmmrow.” Catwoman purred. “Do it more, Ivy. Doo it... “ As Michelle unzipped the suit Catwoman blinked. “Stop. Stop it Ivy. Michelle… I…”
Michelle finally grabbed the remote. Catwoman froze briefly. The humans collectively let loose a breath of relief, and Michelle switched the dial back to the conversation mode.
“God, Catwoman… this was… dangerous.”
“I live dangerously.” Catwoman answered. “Are you still Michelle? I am not sure.”
Michelle sighed and switched the fembot off, and started to untie her boyfriend. “There’s still some kinks to iron out in this model…” she said.
“But?”, George asked. “There’s a but, right?”
“But you were right, her owner is responsible. We both are. The cat-bot needs training. She didn’t hurt us much, after all”
As George and Michelle left the workshop, Michelle could have sworn that Catwoman’s cat grin was even more Cheshire-catlike for a while.