Heather's Battery Failure

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Six months after the fact, Heather was still ambivalent about her robotic conversion (though it beat the more debilitating alternative she'd be dealing with otherwise). At the moment though, she had to admit she'd never had a more relaxing time making a long drive on a busy highway. She didn't know why people complained about these free driving-software apps. So what if it flashed some dumb ads across her HUD periodically? They didn't block the quadrant of her field of view that was actually displaying the camera feed from her eyes. The software was doing all the actual work. She was even able to keep a web browser open to kill time. Her OS flashed a warning at launch about all the hardware the app needed permission to access, but that happened with so many apps it didn't phase her at this point, even regarding her remaining organic components, (she'd heard most software, aside from her personality construct and any associated higher level ware, only used those brain-cells as backup processors anyway). It was like the car drove itself and she could just chill in the meantime. Definitely less stressful than dealing with this stretch of road was with her old body and unmodified brain.

The Windows low battery warning popped up in the bottom right corner of Heather's vision. [Bullshit], she thought, [I made sure I was fully charged before I left the dorm]. Heather switched her driving software to one-hand mode. Most of her body remained locked in its previous driving position, driving software still reacting to her video feed and tactile sense of the car, while she reached for her purse with her right hand. Some meters on her HUD, which she vaguely knew were related to CPU usage and whatnot, started moving toward their peak as she multi-tasked, but this didn't worry her. She plucked her charger from the purse, then the car adapter as well, attaching them to each other. She connected one end of the charger into the 9V port in her car's dash, briefly remarking internally at the odd coincidence of connecting a car and a body that were both made by the same company. She pulled the end of the charger behind her back, lifting sliding her tank top up a bit, then pushing against the small plastic panel just above her waste to slide it open. As she was plugging the cable into her freshly exposed charging port, another car recklessly merged in front of her. Her driving app responded with an evasive swerve.

After the crisis had passed, Heather noticed the low battery warning still lingered. The nearby battery level indicator also didn't indicate a charging state. She felt the connection with her free hand, noticing it seemed less than flush and just wouldn't seat right. She then held the end of the cable in front of her face, noticing a fresh crookedness.

[Shit.]

Heather pulled up a maps app, searching for nearby electronics stores. There was a Best Buy at the next exit. She pulled into the parking lot. After parking and killing the engine, she entered a mental command to exit her driving app. A pop up appeared asking her to answer a survey about her experience using the app, with a 10 second countdown until skipping was an option. The pop up took up her whole field of vision and her motor functions were suspended.

[NOT NOW, YOU STUPID APP, MY BATTERY IS DYING!]

As soon as the app let her skip the the survey, Heather closed it out, grabbed her purse, and ran for the front entrance as fast as she could, servos whining all the way. She scanned the aisle signs looking for the robot section and bee-lined for it. She froze for a moment when she noticed an inactive Toyota Aria posed as a display unit behind a glass case; the same model of robot as Heather. The face was one of the generic templates available with prefab Arias (her own had been modeled after her pre-accident self; as a sapient conversion she received a custom head module), but by coincidence, the motionless display bot in the elegant dress had her same sun-kissed skin-tone and sandy-blonde pixie cut. A male voice distracted refocused her attention.

“Hey, are you looking for your operator?” a polo-garbed employee wearing a “Joey” name-tag asked.

“NoIneedachargerforoneofthose!” Heather replied frantically, pointing at the display Aria, “Iwasdrivinghometoseemyparentsfortheweekendandminedoesn'tworkandmybattery'srunningoutandIdon'tknowwhyPLEASEIneedonerightaaaaaaaa-”

Heather's own awareness was suddenly completely suspended, all senses blank, all processwa inactive, as her last syllable sustained for a few seconds before her vocal synthesizer harshly clicked off. With her main battery completely drained, the only system left running was the life support for her brain cells (which had a critical backup for these situations). She stood frozen in place, still pointing, mouth still open, eyes staring in fright.

“What?” Joey mouthed. He waved his hand in front of Heather's face, snapped his fingers, then looked around to see if any of his co-workers were around to offer any advice. He saw Tim, who had worked there a bit longer then him, and waved him over.

“Dude, this robot just started like, rambling at me and then froze up. You seen it around here before? We sell these right?”

Tim noticed the logos displayed like tattoos on the synthetic skin of Heather's limbs, took a closer look at the “Aria” designation under the logo on her right shoulder. “Yeah. Isn't Astrid one of these?”

“I dunno, why? This doesn't look like Astrid. That one in the dress doesn't either”

“Astrid's a sapient, she probably got tweaked to look like her old body”

“Old body?”

“Yeah, her human body.”

“Astrid was human?”

“Are you freakin' high? Why else would she get a paycheck?”

“I thought she belonged to the store or something.”

Tim pushed the heel of his hand between his eyes. “No, she doesn't 'belong to the store.' Just... um... look just keep an eye on this one and I'll go find Astrid. She'll probably know what to do.”

“Alright.”

Tim searched around until he found Astrid in the video game area. A keen observer would have noticed that her body was identical to Heather's, aside from the much paler synthskin tone. Like Heather, she had a custom head that mimicked her human incarnation, her long black hair in a bob cut with straight bangs.

“Hey, Astrid, you're um, an Aria, right?”

“Yeah, technically.”

“So, Joey apparently found one in the robot section and it just froze up or something.”

“Just the bot, no one else?”

“Yeah.”

Astrid's servos became audible over the background noise as she broke into a brisk walk toward the robot area. Tim followed, wondering at this sudden escalation of urgency. Astrid arrived to find Joey idly poking Heather at random.

“What are you doing?” She asked sharply.

“I dunno, I thought maybe I could find the on button or something.”

“Just... stop before you knock her over. Somebody spot me.”

Astrid put her arms around Heather and gently lowered her to lay on the ground, though her joints still awkwardly held position without power to activate their associated motors.

“She say anything before freezing?” Astrid asked.

“Uhhh... talkin' real fast. Something about a battery dying, charger, parents-”

“Parents? Jesus, Joey, she's probably a sapient. If you'd knocked her over and she hit her head she could have gotten hurt.”

“Sorry...”

Astrid triggered the small latches near Heather's hairline and pulled off the top head covering, revealing the metal casing of the (mostly electronic) brain installed inside. Her eyes scanned the bar code and serial number printed on the case and ran it through an online database her web browser, turning up a Heather LaRocque, marked as a sapient constructed roughly six months prior.

“Get me a cart so I can wheel the poor girl to the back and figure out what happened. Hopefully I can fix her.”

“Ok. Oh hey, so Tim told me you have a human brain or something?”

“Go get the cart now, meatbag.” Astrid side-eyed Joey fiercely to get her point across and he complied. Meanwhile, Astrid starting uncoupling Heather's detachable-by-design limbs (seams conveniently exposed by her shorts and sleeveless top) to prepare her for easy transport to a more peaceful workspace.


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