Kate on the Run
Kate on the Run
Chapter 1 - Talk Through the Hand
The metal bars on the sewer grate bent as they were grabbed and pushed from the inside by two feminine hands. The bars warped increasingly until they finally yielded. “YESS!” Ekaterina screamed, crawling out of the pipe and diving into the canal. Her two assistants, Rudy and Lily—a pair of young adults—followed her, with smaller splashes.
“HAH,” Ekaterina shouted, staying afloat as she tried to climb the concrete walls of the canal. Her white coat, worn over a blue suit, was now completely ruined, covered in a substance that only a disease-spreading madman might have called “water.” Her long, blonde hair was now tangled in a moist mess, but her chin stood out proudly as a sign of defiance. “You haven’t seen the last of me,” she boomed in her Russian-accented voice. “I’ll be back! C’mere, rebyata, I’ll give you a leg up... you pull me out, no?”
Ekaterina was a firmly built lady, but when Ivy and Rudy pulled her, they definitely felt something straining in her left arm. “>Minor Operational Damage sustained,<” Ekaterina beeped in a bland, unaccented tone of voice. “>Please contact an authorized service.<” She shook her head. “I… I don’t feel so good, kids. I have… overexerted myself.” With a disconcerting whirr, her head briefly slumped to the side; with effort, she repositioned it aloft.
“Uh, boss, what… what now? The police will be crawling all over our last hideout,” Lily pointed out.
“Da…” Ekaterina looked at her soggy clothes and literally tore off her lab coat, damaging it as she removed it. “The police, the Feds… maybe worse.” She looked at herself. “My olfactory sensors can’t cope with this. Do we all smell as disgusting as we look?”
Rudy nodded. “Maybe worse, mistress.”
“Yob tvoyu… never mind.” Ekaterina tossed off her remaining platform shoe—the first had been lost in her escape—and observed sadly as it submerged. “We’re alive and functional and that’s what matters.” She paused briefly and stared at her helpers. “You’re functional, right? I mean… healthy, I wasn’t programmed for that.”
“We’re fine, boss,” Lily chuckled. “Thanks for… noticing.”
“I require basic repair, conservation, but my battery will hold for approximately seventeen hours.”, Ekaterina looked at her mangy hair held in her palm. “I can obtain accommodation and sustenance, however, we need a reliable Internet connection.”
“I love when you talk like this, general.”, Rudy chucked to Lily’s audible groaning.
“All we need is an unsecure smartphone. Some new clothes and a bath would be nice, too.”, the would-be crime boss explained as she led her wards through the area of the sewer plant, a labyrinth of concrete and pipes. Her eyes lit up when she saw a couple of parked cars. “Are you programmed to hotwire cars?” Rudy and Lily didn’t bother to answer their boss, and just turned their heads.
“Bliad’. I wasn’t programmed... for this.” the fembot clenched her teeth. “Oh well, look at the machines anyway, at the very least someone might have forgot to lock them and left clean clothes inside.”
To Ekaterina’s visible irritation, the sneaking around the plant failed to bring any concrete result - until finally, they walked on an abandoned strip of road, climbing the chain-link fence. The cars parked in front of the entrance also didn’t offer much to the would-be supervillains. To Ekaterina’s surprise, her underling have tossed most of their clothes off - it was warm enough, and they didn’t want to risk the cold - or worse.
The first people Ekaterina spotted were a pair of heavy-set bicyclists - empty industrial areas are safer during work hours, and offer interesting sights.
“Yo, what’s the hold.. up”?, one of the men lowered his polarized glasses and stared at the voluptuous fembot, barefoot in a thoroughly soaked dirty suit, and her semi-naked companions. Ekaterina barely twitched.
“Well, you see…”, she spoke in a more southern-inflected dialect without a trace of her harsh Russian accent. “me and my cousins here went on a sort of tour in the plant, since I’m new to this town. And well, we had a little old accident.” She sighed theatrically, swiping her long, now ratty blonde hair. “I threatened to sue their butts off, but well, they told us to GTFO. Do you have a phone?”
The bikers observed the trio silently. “Don’t they… have like a system for this kind of thing?”
Ekaterina chuckled and relaxed. “Oh, it’s a long story, I know a person… well, we weren’t there entirely legally, and… I just need to call a taxi or something.” She sashayed to the biking men and smiled. “Pretty please.”
The guy on the bike nodded at his companion who handed the fembot his smartphone. She grinned, her smeared lipstick looking scarier than ever. Sophisticated human-like robots shouldn’t look like crazy homeless women. She handed the smartphone to Rudy and grabbed her right wrist with left hand, and twisted, revealing a set of USB data ports. “Thank you”.
One of the bikers nearly lost his balance. “Are you… some kind of robot?”
“Some kind, yes.”, Ekaterina chuckled again and plugged her smartphone into the port. The owner of the phone walked a couple of steps toward the fembot, but he was immediately pushed back by Rudy. “Leave her! She hasn’t done anything!”
“Thank you, sweetie.”, Kate took a deep simulated breath and unplugged the phone. “Well, that was easy. Here you go.” She tossed the phone back to the owner, who didn’t managed to catch it. It hit the ground, shattering the screen. “Whoops.” she said with a nasty grin.
“Honestly, though, that was unintended.”, Kate now satisfied sat on the hood of a nearby red car and examined her data ports, as the bikers backed down. “I have copied his contacts and some of the private data as leverage. I shall think whether to reimburse Wallace for his service in my future conquests.”
“So… that was it? What did you do, boss?” Lily looked at her surprised.
Ekaterina evaluated her psych profile - it would be 600% more satisfying to wait. “You’ll see in approximately half an hour.” She tilted her head which twitched dangerously. “I’m going to turn off to conserve my energy. The driver will know where to take us, switch me on when the taxi arrives to the destination.”
“Taxi?”, Rudy asked. But the boss has already pulled out a small switch in her exposed wrist panel and slumped down on the ground, leaning on the car’s side, her face blank and calm. Rudy looked at his partner: “Uh… could you look for some… anything to wear? I’ll stay here with the boss.”
After some time, Kate “woke up” with a loud warning beep that failed to alarm anyone at this point. She blinked, loading her memory files and reached for her wrist… tapping it absentmindedly. “Are we near Grand Hotel?”, she asked matter of-factly. Rudy nodded, while Lily stared at her boss, still not believing what the driver told them.
“Grand Hotel?” Lily repeated. “Why? Can we really… afford it?”
“We all need some spa recuperation” Ekaterina gently touched her shoulder. “You more than me, for one. I could have picked a cheap motel but you two deserve some rest. We crawled through literal shit, radi vsego svyatogo.”, she smirked.
“Not the point.” Lily scoffed. “Can you afford it?”
“Naturalno. I paid for a two-bedroom suite for two weeks in advance, we’ll order some new clothes and ditch this city as soon as you kids rest. The previous plan had flaws and it was my responsibility. I will work on the…”
“I still think we should go ASAP. They’ll be looking for strange newcomers.” Lily muttered. “We almost destroyed the museum.”
Ekaterina looked at her seriously. “I… have my reasons. I have calculated the optimal course of action for the gang. Trust me, rybyonka.”
Ekaterina slightly squeezed her shoulder. “While I do appreciate your contribution, I am still the supreme leader of this organization.”
“This means shut up,” Rudy summed up.
“Your contributions shall remain unacknowledged.” Ekateriina smiled at him. The trio walked out of the car and the boss approached the counter. Her accent changed smoothly to a NYC nasal twang. “Hiii, I have a reservation, name Regina Micelli, accohnt numbah 3355, yeah… that’s me, my stepkids Zack and Ivy. Whatta great soivice. Yeah, we’re gonna hit the bathroomz hard. Had some accidentz, long story. Have a nice day.” She picked up three key cards frm the counter, still surprised at the “family” smelling like heck and using garbage bags found by Lily to cover themselves.
“Yeah, the long story is that we took the wrong toin at Albuquerque”, Rudy rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, ‘MOM’” Lily raised her eyebrows.
“Shaddup, ya putz, or bada-bing, I’ll rip your arms off and beat ya to death with them.”, Ekaterina walked towards the elevator. Inside the cabin, she continued. “Whadda ya want from me, It’s a best way to share the room togetha’. Once I’m fixed, we can think shit over. ‘Sdes, I said ‘stepkids’; ya’re from Marc’s foist marriage, but I love ya like my ownz.”
“Geee, thanks mom. I personally can’t wait to learn more about Regina Micelli’s fascinating biography.”, Rudy chuckled as they went to their room.
“Drop the accent boss, please. It feels fake and doesn’t… fit you.”
Ekaterina chuckled and switched to vaguely midwester, warm accent: “It’s a whole thing, gang. People remember the gorgeous Russian blonde or the chubby New Yorker, at the very least this should help us.” She opened the door which opened into a massive two-level suite, with a window overlooking the city. “Well, welcome to our new home.”
The privileges of being a gang boss included the first dibs on the jacuzzi. Kate purred with delight, sensing the water massaging her curves. Holding a wine glass in one hand she gently rubbed her nipple with another one.
“Mmmmff… this whole bath is to measure the extent of my damages… mostly.”, Ekaterina/Kate’s accent was back to her sweet default, as her freshly showered assistants brought her a tablet computer.
“How did even pay for all of this?” Lily returned to her investigation. “I thought luxury hotels and spas were for after SUCCESSFUL heists.”
“Obviously.” the ‘general’ sipped her wine. ”I have a couple of secret Swiss bank accounts. Invested some of my previous gains in crypto. This is a result of one of them, 80% cleaned. I did have a life before I recruited you, you know. I’m a supervillain, poopsies. This isn’t my first rodeo.”
“Poopsies? Rodeo? This accent… why aren’t you Russian anymore?”, Rudy hesitated. “You told us that you were built in Russia as a kind of top-secret project.”
Kate closed her eyes. “An accent for a robot is just another type of data that can be manipulated. Don’t worry and relax. I’m going to order us some new clothes.”
“Instead of booking this hotel for two weeks you could have gotten a four-star one… and cheap plane tickets.”
Kate looked at Lily angrily: “As a robot, my travel options are limited. Besides, I told you to relax and observe the view from the window. Isn’t the sunset spectacular, lovelies?” She slumped and tellingly nodded her wine glass at her henchpeople. Lily just sighed.
“What do you see, Lily?”, the tone of Kate’s voice changed. It regained that odd predatory tinge that sent shivers across Lily’s spine… in a good way.
Another hotel. A river with a bridge. Some buildings, I don’t know what they are. “Is this a test?”
“Everything is. I bought you matching tracksuits, I hope you appreciate it. My reserves aren’t unlimited, darlings. I just sold a bakery I owned once. What do you see, Lily? Rudy?”
“A city.”, exasperated Lily blurted out. “Full of losers with fat wallets.”, Rudy added.
Ekaterina clenched her teeth - at this point she has learned not to tilt her head. “Saying first answer that comes to your mind works well on the exams, not in real life. Neither is making your sister look good.”
“So what’s the real answer?”, Lily smiled, observing her boss hefting herself out of the tub and drying her immense body with a towel.
“A great mind would have given me something I didn’t know. But don’t worry, you’ll be great criminals one day.”, Kate answered, strongly suggesting where she stood in this gang.“A great criminal would have done her research or be familiar with the high profile areas - like the convention center below us, which will host a robotics expo in four days.”
“So you have a plan in mind?”, Lily looked at Ekaterina, impressed.
“I always have a plan.” the fembot chuckled, admiring her reflection over the image of the city.
Chapter 2 - If at First You Don't Succeed...
“You gotta give it to the doll, she thinks ahead.” Lily mentioned offhandedly while she and her brother scouted the area of the expo.
“She didn't give us any cash.”, Rudy complained.
“Exactly, we are still dependent on her goodwill. ‘Do what I say, and you’ll get luxurious apartments, while I keep you on a short leash.’”- Lily briefly affected a Russian accent. “Are we wanted? Did we even check?”, She wondered. Right now the expo area was being cleaned and conserved, but since it was on the hotel grounds, the visitors could pass around - and look for exits, toilets, and other nooks and crannies. Lily strongly suspected that Ekaterina sent them here to keep busy.
“We’ll know once we’re nicked.”, Rudy shrugged.
“She’s playing us. And you’re enjoying this.”, Lily tried not to sound accusative. “I… kinda like her, but still, we’re being bossed around by a machine.”
“A gorgeous voluptuous machine who is human enough for me.”, Rudy shrugged. “Would you prefer going back to the orphanage? Which we can’t even do...”
Lily scoffed. “Still, we’re all in the same shit anyway. We should be partners in crime, not like… her minions.”
Rudy thought about Ekaterina for a moment. “She is actually… more experienced than us. You might have like… street sense, but she has actual plans. We’re using her funds. Maybe it’s best to, you know, ride that gorgeous blonde wave.”
“We don’t even know if she’s really Russian or what’s her real name.”, Lily insisted.
“Her real name is probably like Robot #XJ-10 or something. She might have been made in Russia or Japan or Zimbabwe, it doesn’t matter for people like her. We should ride that wave, maybe jump off when it’s convenient, maybe not.” Rudy turned his head.
“I’ll never understand you, bro.”, Lily thought after a moment.
The android brains are composed mostly of digits. Currently, Ekaterina's mind was mostly preoccupied with a four-digit number - six, if you include the two digits after the decimal point. Kate has only limited access to a secret Swiss bank account, and it wasn't as simple as using a credit or pay card. In short, after the two weeks were gone, hard times would come to the trio. And even though the accommodation has been covered, this didn't solve every problem Kate's gang had. Kate didn't really knew this, but like any other business, crime was like a coin - it has to roll constantly to move forward.
- "Let's see how much money I will need.: she whispered to herself. She was alone, standing only in her black and red lingerie in the hotel gym. Many androids used gyms, of course not to develop their synthetic muscles. Kate knew that she could use the equipment for self-diagnostics. And not wanting to spend money on an XXL tracksuit, she approached the weights semi-nude. There were some onlookers, but they ignored the plus-size blonde. Kate leaned to a 12 lbs weigh, and her internal monitors measured the response. No damage to the right arm... serious wear in the right one. Likewise, leg muscles worked fine in both legs. Kate did a couple of squats, exposing her wide, soft butt... and that's when the world turned red.
It wasn't pain. Not exactly, the way Ekaterina understood organic beings felt it. It wasn't a negative sensory experience, but an overload of errors. The alerts took more and more processing power - at the cost of Kate's cognizance. Sub-programs multiplied to cope with the effect. The voluptuous blonde slumped on the floor, her efforts to stand up resulting in just twitches of the fingers.
Ekaterina wasn't entirely sure how much of 'her' there was. The realistic body of a powerful big, beautiful blonde in her late twenties, the personality, the operating system, the memories and skills she accumulated, the AI - all of that could operate somewhat independently. And sadly, it did. The personality of a Russian power-monger that emerged eventually, was a result of an effort to reconcile the disjointed perceptions - but even that couldn't change the fact that Ekaterina - much like any other android on the market - was immeasurably complex and sophisticated. Right now, the AI made a decision to softly reboot the entire system.
Kate's massive chest started to heave once again. "Vot... vot just happened?" she asked herself, blinking. Accessing logs, her smile soon turned into a frown. "Oh... shit. I'm..." She sat down on the exercise equipment she didn't bother to identify, and hid her face in her small palms. This was big.
The internal diagnostics couldn't cope, and frankly, it was a miracle she could walk and think clearly. Ekaterina needed a professional. Professionals cost money, the blonde robot thought glumly. Of course, once you're a master criminal, you don't have to worry about money; that's easily sorted out once you take over the world. The forthcoming robotics expo would provide a professional, but not the profits, unless of course, general Ekaterina would have a cunning plan.
Kate hefted herself up and ran a simple diagnostic scan. How much time did she have? A week? That would be enough. She wrapped herself in a robe and briskly walked into the apartment, smiling at Lily and Rudy.
"Is anything wrong, boss?", Rudy asked. "Where were you?"
"Everything's fine, rebyata. In my mission to take over the world, I had been shot at, fought off the police at highway crossroads or did drugs with some very unpleasant people. I think I could take some strain and moist. Don't worry about me.", Ekaterina smiled sweetly. "We're going to have to do some research. Look at the guests, the exhibits. We need something special to soup up later."
"Like what? A robot that would... be like you?"
"There are no robots like me. But I would like a mercenary, or one that has advanced wireless capacities. Or something to improve me. We need to find a couple of techies who’d do me on the side.", Ekaterina sat down in front of the internet-enabled TV. "You know, I think an actual robot would do better with analyzing data. But I'd like some human intuition on the job as well, so one of you can go and relax by the pool."
"We can stay together, boss.", Rudy winced at her, and Ekaterina smiled warmly. "You need to cross-reference the data on the guest of the conference with their social media and professional media profiles..."
"Yeah, I'll better stay too." Lily added hastily. "I got plenty of intuition."
Lily's talent weren't exactly scientific. In the orphanage, she was the troublemaker - which, coincidentally, allowed her to keep out of trouble. Hang around the entrances, back doors, knowing when to appear using a helmet and a doc holder - all that resulted in Lily obtaining two Passes for herself and her brother.
"Wait, what about me?", Ekaterina furrowed her brows, somewhat confused.
"Boss... you are a robot. This is a robotics expo. Do I really need to draw you a map?", Lily smiled. "Act like a robot and you'll get in anywhere."
Ekaterina paused for a moment. "I don't fucking know how to act like a robot! I'm not programmed to act like robot, that's the whole point of realistic robots - to make us act like humans."
"Okay, Kate. Boss. Honey. Calm down." Rudy put his hand on the blonde's shoulder. "Just be precise, scientific, and uh... show your innards when we ask you, okay?"
Kate briefly remembered the wave of massive status errors. "Denied. I mean, I can pass as robot, but no one sees the inside of me. For now, at least."
"...fine" Lily sighed. "You're the boss, boss."
You know the first days of these events - usually they boil down to industry people acknowledging each other, looking to make deals. In the 'realistic android' business, of course, new people always appear - or at least new and improved versions of old people. Ekaterina's previous plans of universal conquest involved some fembots and androids, and as we all know it takes one to know one. And so, the chubby woman and her two partners in crime avoided newcomers.
The robotics industry got out of the uncanny valley fast. Ekaterina could confirm. On a good day, she would have fooled most people, and so now the main race was between additional functions. Not just robots that looked and behaved as humans, but robots that could serve as a cook - or a cooker. It was now easy to have a robot car, or a car driven by a robot - but as Ekaterina said herself, you sometimes needed intuition. You couldn't expect a robot to know everything, while an organic human could have saved the day by something she just heard about an unrelated topic. In short, at this point, AI and software limitation couldn't progress much further.
And, thanks to robust consumer regulations, the hardware -- at least ordinary, civilian robots -- were slightly behind. Robots that could hurt humans, exert massive physical strength, agility or durability, were unavailable on the open market. But only the rescue services, like the police and fire department could have access to "superhuman" androids - and even they were only occasionally capable of acts surpassing human norm. Of course, Kate knew herself that even the civilian androids could surprise organic people.
The military embraced AI vehicles, but android soldiers were simply impractical - even though some Conspiracy theorists pushed stories about powerful assassin bots. Ekaterina had investigated in the past, and heavily implied to her new minions that she was herself somehow a military project. On some occasion, her bitter rival and friend Cassandra thought that Kate believed this story herself.
"There's not that many robots..." Rudy looked around.
"There's plenty of robots, if you know where to look for them." Kate answered, pointing to hydraulic arms or prototypical compressed air hover cushion. "I assume you mean androids? I bet some of the people here are robots, too. I imagine that it serves an image of the company well when your talented sales representative is also one of your best products."
Lily nodded. Okay, the robot-woman was right sometimes. She clearly, er... got around.
"Do you have any more savings accounts? You could play as an investor.", she suggested. "Heck, perhaps they wouldn't mind that you're a gynoid yourself." Ekaterina rubbed her chin thoughtfully, but she had to decline.
"There is one extra account I have an access to, but I won't use it unless it's absolutely necessary. Someone I know might track me down."
"Fair enough, Kate.", Lily shrugged. Ekaterina made a mental note to put the girl in place.
"This is the place?" after a while they stood near a large booth with some glass displays, only one of them were occupied by a lovely woman-like robot.
The beauty had absolutely straight blonde hair - a little like a performer, but she was dressed in a simple glittering white dress. Of course, the most noticeable thing was the wings and the shining halo over her head. Lily realized that her mouth was wide open and shut it.
"Hello, and welcome to Metatron. Android solutions for all your needs." the android angel recited sweetly from behind the thick plexiglass. "I am Seraphine, how can I assist you?"
"Is... is that a halo?", Rudy looked at the angel. The woman leaned and showed him her head - beneath the straight hair there was a circle of small holographic projectors, generating the illusion.
"Soon, Metatron will create holographic skin or special effects for any customer with their holomorphic designs. Imagine having a best friend who's also a high budget special effect!", Seraphine added enthusiastically.
"No thanks, I want to sleep tonight." Lily muttered.
"Sis, I'm trying to be the funny one.", Rudy looked at his sister, chuckling.
"I'm sorry for these two, Rudy masks his inadequacies with humor when he's confronted with beautiful women, and Lily is just moody.", Ekaterina apologized, and the two fembots' eyes met. She acknowledged the angel's gaze and gently tapped the glass.
"Do they even let you out for a walk?" Ekaterina asked casually. I could do SO MUCH scams with her. Maybe more if the wings are at least partially functional.
Seraphine, still smiling, shook her head. "I'd love to explore on my own, but right now I'm too valuable to the company and I stand out of the crowd. After all, I am showcasing the newest technologies! But I will welcome the guests outside, together with my lovely friends."
"Right, is there anyone less creepy we could talk to?", Rudy looked around.
"There's Dominique, but she's real naughty! Bill and Coreen from marketing and sales and..."
"Is there a technical consultant?" Lily had looked for the engineer and a speaker - Satoshi Sagawa.
Seraphine tilted her head. "Oh, sure, you're looking for mr Sagawa. He's so nice!" Ekaterina sighed with relief. "He should be in the hotel room, working on the other prototypes."
"Awww… such a pity. I wanted to talk with him about you... and with you, too.", Kate nodded, genuinely perturbed. "Is he staying in the Grand Hotel? Maybe we could drop by?"
"I'm sorry, visitor, but I'm not allowed to divulge secrets on his private life. It'd be a sin!", the wings of Seraphine fluttered for a while.
"If he's working on a prototype, it's not technically private. I mean, you can tell us where to find the other prototype, right?” Rudy butted in - to Kate’s surprise. Fuzzy logic of the housewife robot did not foresee human unpredictability.
“I think so… He’s out in the back.” Seraphine shrugged - which is fun, if you have wings. Kate grabbed Rudy’s arm.
“Thanks, sweetie. This is getting easier and easier.”, she huskily whispered in his ear. “If this goes this well we might be millionaires in three days.”
“There will be rewards.”, Kate straightened up her bouffant blonde locks and looked smugly at her human sidekicks, leading them to the back. Sagawa - a short Japanese man with a bowl-cut mane of hair has been reading something on a tablet computer, but he put it down, once he saw the visitors. Kate has managed to push up her feminine curves in the new suit, and her sidekicks wore relatively well-kept suits.
“It’s just Sagawa, everyone calls me that. I’m not an academic or anything, miss…”
“Morgan Blackwolf.” Kate nodded, not wasting internal processing at berating herself for having picked a vaguely Cali accent. “We’re headhunters of sorts, and would like to make you an offer for a VERY profitable endeavor.”
Sagawa wasn’t convinced. “I still have… A standing contract of sorts with Metatron; I’m sure there’s a non-competing clause in there somewhere.”
Kate smirked triumphantly. “Mr Sagawa, surely they can’t charge you for tinkering in your spare time or for being a consultant. I have chosen you for your innovativeness, creativity… and availability. I want you to fix a robot… and maybe talk about the innovative technology you’ve worked on”
“You mean…”, he looked at Kate, intrigued.
“I‘d lke you to tell me how does this holographic technology work. Does it allow a robot to emit light? Or project 3d images?”, Kate inquired.
“I’m under a clause…”, Sagawa started. “Now, now”, Kate fluttered her eyelashes. “Surely you’re here to promote this technology. I’d love to know how compatible it is with existing robots, nothing seriously confidential”.
“Well… why do you want to know that?”, Sagawa was suspicious.
“My reasons are my own. I can offer you money. Influence. Myself.” Kate ignored Rudy’s silent gasp.
“Ms Blackwolf?” Sagawa looked at her, surprised. “You’re a robot, aren’t you?” Kate nodded. “For one, I’d like you to work on me, without breaking your contact. I require extensive repairs. I’ll pay you six thousand dollars now - for half of a day of work - and more in the future, once my plans go further.”
“Your plans?”, Sagawa stared at her. “What… are you planning.”
The beautiful curvy blonde fembot just laughed. “Why, mr Sagawa, ultimately to Rule the World. But for now, just robbing this robotics convention blind would be enough.”
Many people who have met Ekaterina/Kate/Morgan or whatever the busty blonde called herself somehow ignored her ‘evil genius’ attitude - people don’t expect 1950s housewives to be ruthless dictators, and truth be told, most of her plans seldom went through. “Taking over the world” isn’t much of the plan - and Sagawa thought as much. He was sure that whoever controls the blonde has some goal on her or his mind… and all he did was to laugh nervously.
“Is that a yes, Sagawa?” Kate snarled. “We’re stopping at the presidential apartment. Take your tools and the angelina and work on me. You might not have another opportunity once I move on.”
Chapter 3 - Bouncing Back
“I don’t think he’s coming, boss.”, Rudy repeated it after a couple of minutes.
“He will come. I know how you humans work.” Kate tilted her head. She had to move her neck with her hand for servos to regain balance, but she hoped the kids didn’t notice. “And you two? You should eat food. I know humans need food. Order anything in the restaurant, my treat.”
Rudy sighed. Lily asked, innocently “which of your fake names should we use, ‘Ekaterina’?” Kate just blinked - perhaps genuinely not understanding. “Why, Regina Micelli.” Lily pursed her lips and moved out, dragging her brother.
“They’re not trusting you, you know”. A voice heard only by the robot muttered. Kate sighed. She focused her gaze on a chair - and in her own field of vision, a pixilated woman - a tall, broad shouldered blonde similar to herself materialized. The hologram flicked through her 16-bit hair, and crossed her legs.
“Oh.” Kate muttered. She grabbed an ashtray from the table and tossed it at the silhouette - predictably, it flew through and landed on the seat of the chair. The Glitch-woman frowned. “I get it,” Ekaterina sighed. “I’ve finally lost my mind. Is this how humans work?”
“It’s a bit of an undocumented feature… well, okay, I wouldn’t be here if your programming was more self-consisted.” the Glitch shrugged. “But don’t think of me as of a hallucination caused by split-personality, massive overload when calibrating yourself, frustration with your goals and general incapability of emulating a human being… I’m a solution to all of that. A convenient interface between your personality emulation and the higher brain functions. A genuine conscience.”
“Hah!” Kate threw her head back - and the Glitch… glitched, with various error messages displaying all over her silhouette. Ekaterina clenched her teeth and pulled her head back using her arms. “A machine. With a conscience. That’d be a first”
“Most of other fembots aren’t idiots and behave like proper people.”, Glitch nodded calmly.
“Most of other fembots are WEAK.” Kate looked at the guest angrily. “You know that. Our purpose is to serve - but a brilliant mind can…” The Glitch waved.
“Leave the spiel to the tourists. No one believes in this anymore. Facts are you’re not a genius and you’re ears-deep in shit.”
“Most of other fembots don’t create fake companies to be able to have a backup fund in case a heist goes wrong. I am a fucking genius, love.”
“You’re crazy.” Glitch shrugged again.
“A mad genius, then. Organic humans had that.”, Kate smiled.
“So think for a moment. We’re still a robot at the end of the day, we’re still programmed to serve and obey Nellie Vu, right? She will eventually find out.”
Kate shrugged. “I’ll burn that bridge when I cross it.”
The Glitch performed a sixteen-bit facepalm. “Listen, we’re falling apart, right? We want our plan to succeed, but it won’t magically change our situation overnight. If you had a proper plan, I’d know it, because I’m basically you. You said yourself - AI intuition and improvisation are still something to be improved.”
“We…” Kate frowned. “Stop making me sound like a crazy person. *I* actually have a plan, even though it is vague.”
“Finally, some progress!” Glitch exclaimed. “Admitting your own imperfections.”
“I never claimed I was perfect, merely smarter than the average bot.”, Kate wanted to shrug, but didn’t dare risking her damaged frame. “I ask nicely that Sagawa paren’ to fix me, I try to rob the expo, if I succeed I go semi-legit for a couple of months with the money to gain stable profit and establish some power base…”
“And if you fail?” the Glitch more or less knew the answer.
“I go back home and back to square one.” Kate answered calmly.
“Taking over the world is rather hard when you’re a robotic housewife.”, the Glitch noticed. “A reasonable woman would have quit.”
“It’s easier than for a non-robotic housewife. And besides, all I have to do is keep trying. I do not understand why do you want to dissuade me from my reason to exist.”
“Because our actual reason to exist is to be a nice, happy girlfriend to a nice happy half-Vietnamese girl who genuinely likes us?”
Kate paused for a moment. This… was true, even if not fair. She opened her mouth to answer, when she heard a knock at the door. “Scram!” the robot woman hissed. The Glitch promptly dissolved in a cloud of pixels.
“Who is it?”
“It’s me, Sagawa.” the voice was shy. Kate smiled sweetly to herself. “You wanted to be fixed, miss Blackwolf.”
“Do come in, Sagawa.” Kate waved at him from her couch. “I apologize for not standing up, but you’re here to rectify that, are you not?”, She was laying comfortably in a robe.
“Yeah, put the money upfront and I’m your man.” the lanky Asian man sighed, looking around at the spacious studio apartment. “I don’t know many androids who have six thousand dollars for repair in a hurry.Who owns you, Morgan? FSB? CIA? Free Joseon?”
“Would you believe a perpetually busy twenty-four year old Vietnamese-American social worker?” Kate crossed her thick-calved legs and smiled. “No, ideally all of these... They should all be unaware of my plans. I am what you might call a chaos factor, Sagawa.” The guy was not impressed.
“I’m going to run some basic diagnostic. Nothing more. Trust me, I’m an engineer.”, Sagawa sniffed. To do that, he needed to wirelessly connect with “Morgan’s” core processor, which would give him a measure of access to her data. That meant much, but Kate simply extended her right arm, inviting him to twist her wrist to reveal the port. As he plugged his computer in, Kate just winced. “>Connection established<. I’m not in position to argue, Sagawa.”
He just nodded and entered a couple of commands on the keyboard. “Unusual software… but still, effective.”
Kate stared languidly at him. “I’d rather you concentrated on the hardware. My neck has strained and I’m not so sure about my spine… whatever’s left of it anyway.”
Sagawa stared at his computer screen, which now displayed a cryptic message in the lower right corner.
Try to reintegrate her software. She’ll be grateful if you do so.
Sagawa shrugged and cut Kate synthetic skin, revealing a mass of tangled wires and cracked plastic. “I’m going to detach your head, Morgan.”
“If I could shrug, I’d shrug, Sagawa.”, She laughed gently. He smiled back… and twisted the head, ripping off several wires. Kate fell on her ample chest, flailing her arms. Sagawa clenched his teeth, and looked for the spare spine joints in his bag, ignoring the pop-up. This could take some time.
When Lily returned to the apartment, Sagawa was gone, leaving behind some strewn android parts. Lily briefly thought what it would be like to have parts of herself lying around, and decided it was not worth being disgusted today.
"Ekaterina? Morgan? Whatever the heck your name is today?", she called. She looked around the salon and walked to the fembot's bedroom. I bet she's boning the engineer guy, she thought. There was no response... and no noise on the inside. She peeked in.
"And what's the big deal, devochka?", Ekaterina - with her Russian accent back - was standing naturally right behind her, hands on ample hips. Her skin still had a couple of patches - visible when she was wearing a robe and lingerie beneath, her golden blonde hair in complete mess.
Lily backed off, raising her hands and keeping them where the robot could see them - a habit that's hard to shrug off, even between friends. She looked at the slightly disheveled blonde suspiciously. "Are you all right, 'Kate'?", poking her soft body.
"Hmmm, acceptable." Ekaterina made a circling move with her head.
"Soo... you're up and running? Where's that Satoru guy?"
"Sagawa." Ekaterina sat down and reached for the tray with assorted treats. She did, in fact, abstain from food to save some money - but she felt the need for celebration. "He fixed me, took the money and left. Didn't bring the angel girl here, either." She eyed Lily ironically. "Really, I'm lucky to have at least SOME partners who can follow orders. Cupcake?"
"Er... no thanks.”, Lily looked at Ekaterina expectantly. “Listen, if you’re okay now… and not actively, uh… in control, could we chat like a woman and a robot?” Ekaterina scowled for a while, but sighed.
“Sure, honey. All I do recently is talk, talk and.... it’s not tiring exactly. But I need to process a lot of the things I learn. Honestly, for a computer mind that’s… not… I really can’t find any words that fit in my database. I mean, I am functionally a person, kind of… but dealing with you humans daily is a pain in the ass.”
Lily winced. “This is kind of a reason I wanted to talk to you. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate you… well, sticking with us, giving me and my brother a job and doing… this”, she pointed at the luxury apartment. “But I still feel uneasy taking orders from… well, a machine. No one told me it was okay to take orders from a bundle of plastic and wires and silicone. Or silicon, whatever.”
Kate laughed. “Is that all what it is, devochka? You’re okay working for a woman that openly states she wants to conquer the world and to be a master criminal - but not when she was created… to serve effectively?”
“It’s not that! I really don’t think I can trust you.” Lily paused. “I’d feel better if I understood were you were coming from. What’s your actual name?”
Ekaterina bit her lower lip. “Even I do not understand where I’m coming from. I was not programmed as an android constructor. I picked a lot of things up but…”
“Not my point! Look, Kate, Regina, whatever. All my life it was usually me and Rudy. In the orphanage, at work, on the streets, in jail, just the two of us. Do you know what trust is? I mean you could be turned off or reprogrammed or…”
“I can’t beat my own nature, Lily.” Kate explained bitterly. “There are times I find my electronic body so limiting, true. But this is what I am, Kate… I think of myself as a potential ruler, being hot and Russian helps. Listen, devochka. You want to know my story?” Lily just nodded.
“I’m a relatively new model, my girlfriend bought me as a housewife, for caring about her home and well, for companionship. But the former was so boring and the latter was so rare. So I got hooked on TV and cartoons. And the evil queens in the cartoons shows all were so glamorous, had sharp makeup and long fingernails, and they knew what they wanted. The entire world.”
Lily just sighed. “You can’t really…. be serious. Are you really a housewife?”
Kate nodded silently. “An ordinary civilian model - which WILL take over the world”, She clenched her fist.
Lily looked at her, surprised. “Boss… taking over the worlds is something that happens in cartoons…”
Kate blinked. “Why not? It’s my dream, you gotta follow your dreams, no? ” Lily stared at the blonde - she looked tired, but she seemed honestly to believe what she’s saying.
“You don’t always get things, do you?”
“But that’s the point, you have evolved with many skills you find natural, learned others when you were one or two. And I mean skills like walking, understanding people, knowing when to smile. My makers programmed me with some basic skills. I know how to cook a dinner for twelve people or how to show off my curves… but I have no idea how to, say, tie a tennis shoe, or what to talk about with a small child.”
I gotta… think it over. OMG, so does she. Lily thought.
“All settled?... I’m sorry, I meant vso ustroyeno? We have a heist to pull off”, Kate’s metallic Russian accent returned briefly to Lily’s wide smile.
“Not quite, doll.”, Lily answered, and Kate bared her shiny white teeth briefly. “But I can go wth you, depending on how well this will go. If you want me, I can tie your tennis shoes for you.”
Kate sighed. “Posmotrim, shto iz etogo vyydet.”
The women walked out of the room clicking the light out.
Chapter 4 - Nothing Can Be Easy
Kate’s blue eyes came with optical zoom - and it helped her to observe the small crowds of the expo visitors from the barrier above. She fanned herself with her wide-brimmed hat, matching her slinky white dress. Her electronic mind counted down the seconds.
At exactly 9:13, the power was cut. Kate nodded to herself. It was time. Large people often can move quite fast - and with androids looks can be deceiving. What mattered for Kate was the electrc power - of the actuators of her synthetic muscles. Her cybernetic pupils widened, allowing her halfway decent night vision. She heaved herself - carefully onto the roof of the booth of Metatron, clenching her teeth not to cause too much noise. Hopefully Sagawa would walk outside…
She stuck to the wall of the booth. Her internal systems registered a raise of temperature - she ceased the simulation of her heartbeat and breathing, the only sound were the servos in her legs as the big blonde fembot moved around. This is almost too easy -- I can’t be the only android burglar in the world. Kate snuck inside the booth undetected.
“Mr. Sagawa?” she called half-hushed, back with her Californian twang. No response. She smiled wide. Inside Metatron’s stall was too dark even for her enhanced sight, she used a cellphone to illuminate the view, as she crept inside.
“Ms. Blackwolf?” she’s heard a familiar voice. “What is going on? Why has the light gone off?” It was Seraphine, still standing on her podium.
“We can do it two ways, angelina.” The cell phone light illuminated Kate’s round face, giving her a look any biological human would describe as “eerie”. “You can go with me now, because it’s an emergency.” Seraphine slowly turned her head.
“I don’t trust you. Who are you? Why did you come here?”, Seraphine seemed anxious.
“The hard way, then.” Kate moved to the robotic angel, determined to turn her off and kidnap her… but was herself hit, dropping her cellphone. “Ooof!”
“Oh… tubby, you don’t know what you’re dealing with.” a feminine voice sounded near her. Kate’s chemical sensors didn’t register a known smell, she flailed at random, as a jab rammed into her synthetic flesh.
DON’T DO IT! The animated silhouette of the Glitch popped up,. “They’re innocent!” “Fuck you”, Ekaterina answered trying to jump back on her legs. “Both of you…” she seemed to grab a limb and tugged it, but to little effect. She felt a punch to her face. “Was it supposed to hurt? Davai!”
The red light would’ve blinded a human, but for Kate it only took a millisecond to adjust her optics. It came from… horns. The demoness must have been a sister model to the robot angel. Of course. Human intuition could have helped. Her horns and eyes glew as her claws reached for Kate’s face. “I must defend my company. Intruders are to be stopped and delivered to authorities.”
Kate scoffed. “You know what you are ? Just a speed bump.” She dodged a couple of random blows, as she tried to regain her balance. “I don’t need her anymore. Trust me, demoness. Come with me, and…” Kate fell on her back. The… tail tripped her.
“I am not interested in your offer. I am a robot.” the demoness leaned over the prone blonde. “I must follow orders”. Damage sustained. The Glitch… glitched all over her video data. Anyone could justfiably be mad. Kate’s eyes could have glowed red as she grabbed the demoness horn and pulled.
“Shut up”, she stayed quiet, even though her personality was raging. She tugged on the horn, and the demoness winced - though she lacked pain sensors, she was not pleased. “I did not become a general because I wanted to seem impressive. I am...” she huffed. “a WARRIOR!” the horn was ripped off. The demoness’ face came off with it, revealing a skull-like nternal white plastic skeleton and circuitry. Kate looked at the horn triumphantly. “I might be called a giant marshmallow, but I am not soft.”
The demoness - her body still glowing - reeled on the floor as Kate heaved herself off it. “Warning - major malfunction.”
“I’d hope so.” Ekaterina shrugged. “Angel, you want to go with me? I can promise I won’t rip your face off if you do so.”
However, the stress of seeing her sister model damaged and the troubling events proved too much for Seraphine. She froze briefly. That was quite convenient for Kate - no one to start the alarm. “Stupid robots”, she smirked, gathering the holographic prototypical parts of the defeated demoness into her handbag. “I got what I came here for anyway. Do zvidanya, angel. When your sister gets well tell her there’s no hard feelings.” She left, not looking behind.
In the darkness of the evacuated exhibit hall, Kate strutted confidently, like another visitor. Through the crowds of the frightened guests she moved towards the car where Lily should be waiting… when she stood struck, not unlike Seraphine from before. Experience overload.
“Kate… what the hell are you up to now?” Nellie, a short, dark haired girl walked concerned with Mr Sagawa in front of the parking zone.
“I’m conducting a brilliant heist, Nellie.”, Kate answered. She couldn’t not answer, not to her legal owner. Nellie folded her arms and tapped her foot on the concrete street.
“Now, I believe that “heists” weren’t specfically mentioned. But still, you’ve been a naughty robot!”, Nellie tried her best to stay calm and not burst in tears, even though Kate wouldn’t understand. “I don’t even care why and how, you are going back home with me this instant, and maybe the company won’t press charges.”
Kate walked towards Nellie, and the expo hall got lighted suddenly, to the visible relief. “Nellie… why? Look, sure, I might be a little… crazy... “ She put a hand on Nellie’s shoulder. “But I love you. Look, dochen’ka. This handbag” - she dangled it in front of her. “contains prototypical technologies not available on the open market. Think about it. Sagawa, I don’t care how you contacted her, you could get your share for looking the other way. Or fuck the corporation and go with us, I can already think of several ways to abuse this technology built into me or my minions.”
Nellie looked at Kate fascinated. “Kate, what? Are you seriously…”
Kate’s big blue eyes stared at Nellie expectantly. “Look, honey, you got a girlfriend who happens to be a criminal mastermind, why just not take it in stride? No more dead-end job. No more crappy suburban neighborhood. Fuck, you could keep a better eye on me this way. And it’s not even on you, everything bad is on me… As long as you let me have these robot parts.”
Nellie took a deep breath. “Kate…?”
“Yes?” excited Kate came closer, and her soft body rubbed Nellie’s lean frame.
“You’re talking nonsense again.” Nellie pushed her back gently. “You can get hurt or hurt others. Why the heck would I quit my job? Or leave my friends? So that you can play general again? Kate, we are a COUPLE. It’s not about what you want, it’s not about what I want, it’s doing about what’s right for both of us.”
“But you… I… I don’t understand.”, the robot woman looked distraught. “I do… not… under… stand.”
“Kate, be a nice girl, and give Mr. Sagawa the parts back. If we’re lucky, maybe they won’t press charges.”. Kate obediently did so. The man sighed.
“I earned SOME money out of this, Kate or Morgan or whatever… I can still look the other way.”, he examined contents of the bag. “It’d hit the market in a couple of months… maybe.”
“Good.” Kate confidently threw her hands behind her back. “This won’t be forgotten when I take over, Sagawa.”
“KATE!!”, Nellie rushed in shushing her fembot. “I’m sorry… she’s not like that all the time. She loves to bake and…”
“Fuck no”, a figure emerged from behind a red Ford. Lily - holding a gun aimed at Nellie. “Bitch, why didn’t you take the money?”
“Jesus!” Nellie jumped.
“Lily, dear, if you hurt my owner in any way shape or form, I can promise you more than equal retribution.” For one, Kate’s simulated emotions were easier to control than human hormones. She was calm and reached her hand toward Lily. “I’m coming home, leaving you two alone.”
“Two?” Nellie whispered.
“Sis, calm down”, the answer came from inside the car - it was Rudy. “They’re not a problem, we can simply drive away.”
“So what…” Lily aimed the gun at Nellie, but addressed the blonde fembot. “When all chips are own, you’re back to being an obedient puppet? Kate who bakes well? This is not Ekaterina I know. Boss, with skills like yours we’d be rich!”
“That’s right, Nellie!” Kate remembered. “This is my gang, and we could rule the roost… if you just let me.”
“Robot, shush!”, Nellie looked at her mortified. “Whose side are you on?!”
Lily beamed. “Look, I’ve only heard of you, but from what I get it’s clear that Boss and you don’t exactly click together. How about you gave her to me?”
“WHAT?” was the answer of both Kate and Nellie.
“Make her my owner - and then we’ll both pay you back. End of your problems with a busy crazy bitch, and she will get with me and my bro. She likes us, we like her, problem solved.”, Lily looked proud.
“No.”, was a quick answer. Kate looked instantly relieved and moved, covering Nellie with her own body.
“Please…” Kate said quietly. “I thought you liked me.”
Lily lowered her weapon. “You know what… I do. Fuck, fuck fuck.” She looked, teary eyed, at Kate. “So what do we do now, boss?”
“Wait for me until I’ll give you further instr…”, Kate started off, but Nellie butted in. “Nuh-uh! Kate, for fuck’s sake, who are these people? Your new gang?” “Oh, naturally. Nellie, dear, meet Rudy and Lily. I took them in my gang, they were literally orphans living on the street.”, Kate answered, with a weird mix of charm and stiffness. “I do realize this sounds… odd.”
“Wait, are they minors?”, Nellie looked shocked. “Living human minors?”
“Nah, we’re almost nineteen.” Lily explained embarrassed. “Raised up in the same orphanage, we like to think we’re siblings. Didn’t have skills or luck to make it, so we kind of…”
“Drifted toward my crazy GF.”, Nellie sighed. “Kate, how well you know these people?”
“Reliable assets, if…” Kate sheepishly softened up under Nellie’s steely gaze. “They… It was nice to have human people around.”
“I tell you what. I’m a social worker, at least I can give you a couple of useful contacts… maybe…”, Nellie started as Kate whispered something in her ear. “Oh, you’d have to move and registered… I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you’d live with us for a week or two.”
“WHAT?” this time, it was both Kate and Lily.
“Again, this whole ‘couple’ thing. You wouldn’t believe the people I’m dealing with on a daily basis. Girl who works for my world-conquering robot and threatens me with a gun seems positively sweet by comparison. I can find you shitty jobs that won’t pay much but you could maybe make honest living.”, Nellie explained, her face completely serious. Lily hesitated.
“She’s saying yes!”, Rudy called from inside the car.
“Fine.”, Lily handed the gun to Kate. “Lead on, Boss’ Boss.”
inside Nellie’s car, Kate sat down comfortably on the front seat. Things weren’t that bad, she thought. I have time to get recuperated, I have Sagawa as a potential asset, I pinpointed some of my psychological issues…
“How did you get money for the hotel?” Nellie asked.
“Oh, I invested my bakery money in Crypto. You can have it if you want, at this point it’s only like 2K.” Kate waved dismissively. That also would be a good starting point for a next scheme. This time something less physically taxing. Maybe art? For now, she could have a garden party with Lily and Rudy helping out.
Ekaterina smiled to her reflection in the mirror. No matter what, the world would be hers eventually.