I finally managed to get the ever-suspicious Katerina Lazovskaya onto the elevator and up to my 24th story suite in the Moscow Radisson Slavyanskaya Hotel. Our business dinner in the lobby had gone poorly. She didn’t order a thing to eat, and all she would talk about was business. As a seasoned corporate spy, I realized I wasn’t going to get any information from her down there. However, if I got her a little tipsy in my room, I reasoned, I could get her to tell me something of value. That technique had certainly worked in the past. To get her up to the suite, I had to lie. I told her that there were some important documents I accidentally had left in my room. Even then however, she said she could absolutely stay no longer than fifteen minutes. I wasn’t concerned. Come hell or high-water, I was going to get the information my company needed.
“So, what CAN you tell me about the FIX-99 Super-Processor?” I asked, feigning a layman’s curiosity and desperately hoping I’d get lucky. So far, this woman hadn’t let slip even one tiny piece of new information which would be of use to me, and I’d been working at it for almost two hours. She hadn’t tripped herself up even once. Some people say that the key to getting valuable information is asking the right questions. I humbly disagree. Instead, in my experience, you just have to keep on tirelessly chipping away. The way I have it figured, if you ask the same question enough times, a person is bound to eventually reveal SOMETHING of interest, out of sheer exhaustion if nothing else. Nevertheless, Katerina was indefatigable.
“I’m sorry. I’m not permitted to disclose any information on that subject,” said Katerina, with a stern look on her face. My methods really seemed to be failing me. For once, I just kept striking out. There’s a first time for everything, I suppose. “The purpose of this meet is to ascertain which divisions of your company are useful to CircuitTron Consolidated, and which will have to be liquidated. So far, the answers you’ve provided to these questions remain inadequate, and my time here is running short.”
I paused for a moment to look Katerina up and down. For about five seconds I let go of all my hard-boiled professionalism. Damn. Here I am in a hotel suite, alone with this hot Russian woman. Sucks that all I get to do is talk about business. As she stood by the desk, looking out the window, I studied her figure. She was wearing a tight, one-piece dress that zipped-up in the back. It came down to just above her knees. She also wore spit-polished black, knee-high shit-kickers like she was in the Russian Army or something. Her arms were bare, and her lustrous black hair hung around her shoulders. Her back was completely covered, but the front of the dress was pleasantly low-cut.
“How about a drink?” I asked, artfully changing my tack. Loose Lips Sink Ships has always been my motto. I know it sounds a little old-fashioned. Dates back to American propaganda from one of the World Wars. I forget which one. “I hear you Russians like vodka,” I suggested as I made my way to the mini-bar. Alcohol: the first, and in my book, the BEST lip-loosener ever devised by man. If I could get a couple drinks in this chick, she might just spill the beans. I know Russians are reputed to be hard drinkers, but I too was no stranger to Grandpa’s Old Cough Medicine. And if I could steal enough information, it might just bring my company back to life. Right now, it was on the auction block. CircuitTron Consolidated had practically been controlling the computer industry for the last ten years, and with the anticipated release of its updated FIX-99 Super-Processor, CircuitTron looked poised to control the market for another ten.
“I never drink when I’m on duty,” was Katerina’s curt reply.
“Not even a glass of water?” Man, what a tight-ass!
“I said I never drink when I’m on duty. Now, please show me those documents you were referring to so that I may review them and be on my way.”
Why didn’t anybody warn me I’d be dealing with the Ice-Bitch from Hell?! The simple answer was: no records existed for Katerina Lozovskaya. Normally, my company keeps detailed records of all high-ranking personnel employed by our competitors. But no such files existed for this Lozovskaya character. It was like she had been born fully-grown and had worked for CircuitTron Consolidated ever since she took her first breath. So nobody at the office could tell me what to expect.
“Is it getting warm in here, or is it just me?” asked Lozovskaya, most uncharacteristically. In fact, the heat in the hotel room was cranked all the way to the top, but you have to remember that we were in Moscow in February. We could have detonated a canister of napalm in that room and probably still would have failed to get the temperature in there over 70 degrees. Nevertheless, I sensed that this, her only admission of frailty all evening was my cue to resume my cunning hunt for sensitive data. I dismissed her question as a rhetorical one.
“I must leave now,” stated Katerina abruptly.
“Well, what about the documents?”
“I must leave now,” repeated Katerina, not to be distracted, as she made right past me for the door. Holy shit! I was not about to let her out that door, because that would mean a total failure for me. I was the company’s last hope.
“Before you go, could you at least tell me, unofficially, what you think about your company’s new product?” I asked, trying not to sound too horrified that she seemed to be slipping through my fingers. Clearly, Lozovskaya was getting desperate to leave, with or without the promised documents. She stopped about a yard short of the door. I didn’t know WHY she wanted to go, but I sensed that she was preoccupied with something else. She seemed to have a lot on her mind. But I could smell that my opportunity to get a little information was arriving.
“Unofficially?” she asked.
“Of course,” I said, smiling to myself. I could taste success. I had finally broken through.
“Unnofficially?” Katerina asked again.
“Absolutely! You have my word!” Ask anyone who knows; my word doesn’t count for diddly-squat.
“Unofficially?” asked Katerina yet again.
“Yes. Katerina, is something wrong?” She just stood there, staring directly into the hotel-room door that was two feet in front of her.
What was going on? A trick? I waved my hand in front of her face, perplexed. What was wrong with her? Her inflexion and intonation of the word remained identical each time she said it. And she seemed to be speaking in precisely timed intervals. My suspicions grew.
“Miss Lozovskaya, what’s wrong with you?” I tapped her on the shoulder. That seemed to finally bring her back to her senses. Her whole body gave a quick jerk, like I had startled her. She turned around to face me. Then she paused, as if she had forgotten where she was. She took a moment to quizzically survey the smallish room she had just spent the last fifteen minutes in. Then she looked at me.
“I’m sorry? Did I say something wrong?” asked Katerina, looking a tad miffed at me. She put her right hand behind her back, and it looked to me like she was fiddling with the zipper on the back of her dress.
“Well, kinda, yeah. Actually, you scared me. What did you do? Just kinda zone-out or something?” Then I distinctly heard the sound of a zipper. Judging by the movement of her arm, it looked like she had probably pulled the zipper on the back of her dress all the way down, practically to her ass. She was sick or something. I put my hand to her forehead, more as a gesture than a serious attempt to diagnose a fever. But I yanked my hand back in burning pain. The backs of my fingers were bright red where they had touched her forehead. Her forehead was as hot as a stovetop.
“Nonsense. I did nothing of the sort. You’re imagining things perhaps, because I feel absolutely fine.” Was she trying to seduce me? If she was, she had a funny way of going about it. She continued. “There is nothing wrong with me at all. Maybe there is something wrong with you. Everything is going according to plan. Going according to plan. To plan.”
“Pardon me?” This was getting very peculiar. Then I heard a distinct CLICK sound like someone opening an old cassette-tape deck. The sound practically deafened me in the otherwise silent room. I knew I wasn’t just hearing things. Then I caught a whiff of smoke.
“I am completely in control of the situation. I am achieving my mission objectives.” She brought her right hand back down to her side. Now it was holding a flesh-colored square of plastic about the size of a gasoline-cap for a car. The smell of smoke was getting a little stronger. But she couldn’t be a robot. No processor powerful enough to handle such tremendous computing needs is small enough to be able to fit inside a robot the size of a human being. The one thing that had stumped the would-be creators of synthetic humanoids the world over was the size problem. There simply were no processors simultaneously both powerful enough AND small enough. And yet…
“In fact, I have never felt better. But thank you for asking. I’ll send you a Get-Well-Soon card.” She seemed to be getting really mixed up. What had thrown her off-kilter?
Suddenly, her body flinched violently. Next thing I know, I hear what sounds like a hair-dryer, except that it CAN’T be, because the sound is coming from INSIDE her CHEST. It sounded like one of those tiny fans that are built into computers to dissipate heat. Except it sounded like THIS one was hooked up to 225 horse-power Corvette engine! Black smoke started billowing up behind her, saturating the whole suite with the stench of burnt plastic.
“Whoops! Looks like I got a little hot under the collar! Nonsense. There’s nothing wrong with me. If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. My systems are functioning flawlessly. I think I overstayed my welcome. I’m doing very well, thank-you. Maybe a drink wasn’t such a bad idea after all. I need to cool off.”
With that, she turned on her heel and tried to leave the room. Agape, there was nothing I could do but watch, and examine the cavity on her back which she had exposed. It was not dark inside of her, as I somehow assumed it would be. Instead, there was an ominous orange glow, like the tip of a lit cigarette. And yep, I could make out a small fan too, evidently working overtime to rid the robot businesswoman of her excess heat. I couldn’t make out any details through the smoke. She took a step in the direction of the door, as if to leave. She would have done it too, if it hadn’t been for one simple fact which she failed to take into account: the door was still closed. Full speed, she crashed right into the door. Shuddering, she took a step backwards. Her every movement became stiff and jerky as she tried repeatedly to leave the room. It said a lot about the ruined state of her systems that it still hadn’t occurred to her to go for the door handle.
“Please let me leave. It is important that I go now. I’m not authorized to tell you why. What’s the matter with this door? I’m sorry, is there a problem? No thank-you, I’m not hungry. Please let me past, sir. I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Then I realized with a sudden panic that she was going to set off a smoke detector! I glanced anxiously around the room for anything that could help, and my eyes came to rest on the fire-extinguisher hanging on the wall.
“Please, sir. I require assistance. No thanks, I don’t smoke. Do you think it looks good on me? Wait in line like everybody else. I lost my lipstick. I think I may have a fever.” Clearly ‘miss’ Katerina Lozovskaya was going bananas right before my eyes.
“Sorry Katerina, but better you then me,” I said, shoving the nozzle of the fire-extinguisher right inside of her opened body cavity. Suddenly, I heard the blades of her cooling-fan frantically skipping across the plastic lip of the nozzle at about a thousand RPMs. My finger tightened on the trigger as I prepared myself to let her have it. I didn’t know what to expect to happen.
“What are you doing?” cried Katerina, apparently coming back to reality. She stopped her frenzied attempts to walk through the door and appeared to realize that she was in serious trouble. “You must stop. You are not authorized to have knowledge of my status. Do not tamper with me or shall be forced to restrain you. Your activities have activated my emergency protocols. I am authorized to use physical violence to protect-“
“Can it Katerina! Your game is up!” I squeezed the trigger, instantly flooding her body with a deluge of flame-retarding, watery foam. I was immediately gratified by hundreds of little popping and fizzling sounds as the foam came into contact with her super-heated components. Parts of her innards were actually glowing with heat, and the sudden temperature change instantly caused dozens of her delicate pieces to fracture. Steamed hissed and billowed out of the failing android.
Abruptly, I was showered with white-hot sparks exploding from the area of her removed panel. Simultaneously blinded and seared, I cut off the fire-extinguisher and jumped backwards. She was obviously in big trouble, and I didn’t want to be too close to her in case she exploded or something.
Sparking and crackling, Katerina turned around to face me. Her eyes seemed to be pleading with me. “What have you done to me? I’m – I’m RUINED.” Those were fated to be her last words. With that said, a loud POP that sounded like a light-bulb exploding issued from within the malfunctioning Russian woman. Abruptly, she tumbled forward and landed face down on the carpet. Her arms remained at her side throughout the fall. Now, a few lazy orange flames licked up from the exposed portion of her back.
Her eyes were still open, and there was a shocked expression (no pun intended) on her face. Silent and motionless, Miss Lozovskaya had definitely been put out of commission. It somehow looked to me as though she was stunned at how quickly the situation had deteriorated for her. She seemed surprised that she had so easily been destroyed. As soon as she hit the floor, I dashed back over to her and completely hosed her down with the fire-extinguisher, covering her artificial body with a layer of froth and bubbles. The sounds of a few tardy circuits shorting-out were drowned out by the loud WHOOSHING sound of the cool jet of foam.
That’s when it hit me that the FIX-99 Super-Processor was an integral part of Katerina Lozovskaya. CircuitTron Consolidated’s newest hardware was a mystery to me no longer. She was a robot, and the new Super-Processor was what made her possible. Then everything became clear. The dinner was only supposed to last for an hour and a half. But dinner itself took more like two hours, and then we spent at least another fifteen minutes in room before her disguise started to slip. The heat buildup from that fantastic processor must have proved to be too much for her cooling systems to handle for more than a couple hours. She must have realized that she was overheating even before we got up to the suite, because she kept insisting that she couldn’t stay long. Then, just seconds away from escape, her systems finally couldn’t hack it anymore. What at first seemed like a woman who was just very confused was actually an android in the final stages of a slow meltdown. Evidently, the panel she had removed from the center of her back after she had unzipped her dress was some type of emergency cooling system. Looking down on her still-smoking body lying face-down in front of me, it was obvious that her effort had been too little, too late.
Not only did Miss Katerina Lozovskaya KNOW something about the FIX-99 Super-Processor; she WAS one. I shook my head in disbelief as I walked over to the window for a cigarette. I chuckled at the thought when I realized that the non-smoking rules for this suite were pretty much moot after Katerina’s little problem. That droid just flamed-out in my hotel room and I was worried about a little cigarette smoke! Besides: it was freezing outside! As precaution, I hopped up on the bed and disabled the smoke detector on the ceiling by removing its batteries. It struck me as more than a little weird that I could probably have done the same with the woman I had eaten dinner with earlier that evening.
Hard to believe. I had been talking to a prototype version of the FIX-99 Super-Processor all along. But, I’ve got to tell you, I wasn’t very impressed. Somehow, I don’t think my corporation has all that much to fear from the “breath-taking innovation” whose smoking remains lay strew at my feet. Nevertheless. Not only did I get the valuable information I was looking for about the Super-Processor, I also got some booty to take back to the company labs (no pun intended!).