Maddie Follows Orders

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Maddie Follows Orders

The cat purred slightly as Maddie tried to pet him. He was an exceptionally fluffy Angora, the kind of cat that supervillains doted on in old movies–which had caused Madame, the drama-loving fembot, to fall in love with him at first sight.

Usually, animals tended to view androids not as living beings but as slightly baffling elements of scenery. Dogs seldom obeyed commands from androids, and wild animals knew androids to be less dangerous than biological people. Cats, however, were an exception. Cats liked food and being petted; and they could apparently get along just fine with a human-like machine feeding and petting them, which was fine and dandy with Maddie. She had just fed the cat, and while she was petting him behind the ears, she was mentally working out a name for him.

“Um… Madame?” Ted Ross, her young boyfriend, spoke up. Maddie sighed and looked down over the thick brown rims of her glasses.

“What do you want, boy?” she answered after a couple of seconds.

“Could you go to the store and pick up a couple of things? Coffee, tea, some alcohol...”

“No.” Maddie frowned and returned to petting the cat. After a while she raised her head again. “Are you still here?”

Ted stifled a laugh. “Okay–well, someone has to go, and I’ve got a term paper to write.”

“Well, take a break. You’re wasting your time talking to me anyway,” Maddie smiled sweetly. “Isn’t he a big silly-head?” she addressed the cat. The cat purred.

“Okay, if I have to put my foot down...” Ted glared at the mature, black-haired beauty. “Shouldn’t robots–you know, follow their humans’ orders?”

“Right you are.” Madame smiled back at him.

“So I… uh, order you to buy me some coffee.”

“No,” Maddie replied, straightening up and moving the cat to her knees. This could be quite educational for the boy, she thought.

“But-but that was an order.”

“It wasn’t… a properly formed or articulated order.” Maddie looked at him over the rims of her glasses again. The “lenses” were simply panes of glass–no corrective element needed, for who would build a robot with flawed vision?–but she looked good in them, so no one was about to argue.

“I don’t have to obey ambiguous phrases, Ted. You might as well command me to get out of town.”

“So what’s the acceptable terminology?” Ted relented.

“Be polite. I am, after all, a lady.”

Ted counted silently to ten. “Miss Maddie, would you be so kind as to take our car to the convenience store, and pick up… I mean purchase! And purchase a pack of coffee, a box of green tea, and a bottle of good gin?”

Maddie smiled; her cat purred. “That’s… more or less acceptable.”

“‘More or less acceptable’ isn’t quite what I was going for,” Ted sighed.

“I might ‘follow orders,’ boy,” his companion smirked, “but I also have other directives. Asimov said that a robot needs to follow orders unless the orders might harm a human or the robot itself.” Madame knew, more or less, how she worked. “In practice, it’s not as simple as that, of course–that was just science fiction. But the general principle is the same. Put the lives of others above my personal concerns...”

“What are you driving at?”

“Caffeine shortens the human lifespan,” Madame explained. “Don’t even get me started on alcohol. I wouldn’t dare harm the human under my tutelage with such things.”

Ted groaned and protested, as futile as it felt. “You’re a drinker yourself! I mean, you’re the reason we’re out of gin in the first place.”

Madame giggled with delight. “Precisely. Better that I drink it than you, don’t you think?” She feigned deliberately phony innocence and a bit of a baby-talk sound as she added, “Mommy drinks the big, bad, harmful alcohol so Teddy doesn’t have to.” She playfully tickled him with two fingers of her free hand, despite his efforts to push her away.

In the midst of it all, he felt himself more than a little aroused by her classy, playful flirting. In and of itself, the behavior was already painfully distracting; the fact that Madame was an advanced AI, running rings around the Turing Test as she teased him, made it scientifically fascinating as well as sensual.

“Okay, so would you kindly drive to the store and pick me up a granola bar?”

“I don’t think you’re serious. He isn’t sewious, wight, cutey-wutey?” Maddie addressed the cat. “Wittle Teddy is joking with his wobot mistwess…”

Ted counted to ten again. “Okay, what if I told you to keep the change?”

“If I wanted your money, I’d just take it,” Madame answered bluntly. “Legally, you’re responsible for my maintenance, after all.”

“Fair enough.” Ted thought for a moment. “But okay–what do I have to do to get you to follow one order? At this point I’m just curious.”

“Teddy, I do follow your orders. When I come to the conclusion that they need to be followed.”

“So you do what I want on the condition that what I want is what you want.”

Madame beamed. “I knew you were smart. Now go to the store for me, boy. Oh, and bring me cigarettes and olives for martinis, too. Be a dear.”

Ted just sighed. “Yes, mistress…”

Madame petted the cat one last time, then set it down on the table. Then she got up and kissed Ted on the cheek. “Thank you, Teddy. This really means a lot to me.”


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