They sat, side by side, in the dark, on the loveseat. They were dressed identically; black sweatpants, white shirts, black fleecies, all medium-small, though each of the figures was decidedly a large. They were well rounded, both of them, taking up the whole seat at bottom, so that even a slimmer figure would have had to squeeze in tightly to sit next to them, though one would not think, quickly glancing at them from the waist up, that they were taking up that much room. One also would not notice, without looking closely, that they were not leaning back, but sitting up straight, without support, maintaining perfect posture.
The one on the left (not their left, of course, but the observer’s left), the black one, had a full round mouth, and a full round nose, and large round eyes, that complimented the roundness of its body. The one on the right, with its long Semitic nose, its thin pursed lips, and thin flowing black hair, looked thinner as a result, but their dimensions were basically the same.
Sitting there, notwithstanding the difference in appearance, they could not help but look a bit like sisters. Younger, perhaps, on the left, less thoughtful, the lips serenely closed, the eyes half-lidded. On right, the eyes more open, the tension in the mouth betraying a shade of concern. Their hands rested softly on their thighs, with the right figure’s right hand laid gently over that of its partner, the fingers curled slightly under the palm.
The lights came up.
In the corridor next to the kitchen, bright colours appeared, and snapped into the form of a woman, a red-haired and freckle-faced woman, her hair done up in two thickly knotted braids, wearing a colourful scarf, a black sweater, and a black skirt. Her whole body shimmered, and she straightened up and exhaled, smoothing out the image of her clothes, as the front door was unlocked.
The door swung open, and in stepped the same woman. Her hair was undone, flowing freely, and she was wearing blue jeans, but she also wore that same scarf. She took it off, along with her coat, and hung them up on the rack.
The hologram smiled, and raised her hand, and the door swung shut automatically. “Hello, Mira, how was your day?” it asked.
Mira managed a weak smile. “Good, Mira, how was yours?”
“Good, good,” answered the hologram, still smiling.
“Did anyone call for me?”
The hologram was a computer program simulating Mira herself, in her entirety, run off of the home computer system. It was a very good program, as they went; Mira (the real Mira) had actually come to regret going crazy for it, because it was really too good for her purposes. She was a day trader in the necessities market, and at peak hours, between noon and two o’clock, her system was too busy analysing data to run the simulation, so nobody was home.
“Uuuumm, no, nobody. You should write back Mom though.”
“Oh, for Heaven’s... I thought I told you to do that!”
The HoloMira raised its hands and opened its mouth as if to protest.
“But nothing! She’s just complaining about the home again, she wants sympathy! I have you to handle nonsense like that! What’s for dinner?”
Ideally, to keep the simulation running properly, the program would simulate real food and drink, and the hologram would actually sit down for a proper meal. There was almost never enough processing power available to do that, so an artificial model of homeostasis was maintained instead, generating programs for nutrients, oxygenation, etc., and this degraded the quality of the simulation. Deactivating it was even worse. Ironically, a lower quality program that used less memory would produce longer lasting holograms, because it could run all day. Mira had also dished out for a fancy new scanner, so she could always just delete the old copy of herself and create a new one, but she found herself having to do that more and more often. This hologram had been running for less than two days.
“Uuuh, I don’t know,” it said, sheepishly.
“I thought I’d ask you!”
Mira stared at herself angrily.
“...What do you feel, like, Mira?” she asked
The hologram stopped and pretended to think. “I’m all messed up from the program, Mira.”
“That’s fine. It’s the weekend, we can go crazy.”
“Really?” A gleam of hope flickered on behind the hologram’s eyes.
“Really,” said Mira, mellowing a bit. “Take up more space, as much as you need.”
“Okay!” said fake Mira, and (h)er body shimmered as (h)er program expanded.
“And turn on Natalya,” added Mira, taking off her shoes.
“O-o-o-kay,” said fake Mira, its program still expanding, and (s)he snapped her fingers.
Immediately, the seated figure on the right came to life. The eyes blinked, and the hands came up from its lap. As Natalya’s right hand let go of the other robot’s left, it fell to the side. Natalya looked down at the motion, and delicately picked up the hand and replaced it, stroking it touchingly with (h)er fingers. (S)he reached back and delicately unplugged (h)erself. Then (s)he stood up. The other robot remained perfectly still, staring dully ahead.
Natalya turned around to face Mira. Upon seeing (h)er master, (h)er completely blank expression lit up into a wildly exagerrated smile. “Hel?lo, Mi?ra!” it said in a honey-sweet voice.
“Slave protocol,” said Mira, not even bothering to look up.
Unperturbed, the robot repeated “Hel?lo, Mas?ter!”
“Natalya, prepare an appetizer,” barked fake Mira, automatically transmitting algorithms of the expected meal plan.
“Yes, Mi?ra,” answered the robot, and walked into the kitchen, a big toothy smile still on its face. Placing the gynoids in slave mode automatically plastered outrageous grins on their faces, no matter what was being done to them.
Mira poked Natalya’s butt as (s)he passed by, oblivious, and smirked. Natalya’s face was based on Zia Rajstheumma, an inexplicably popular, immensely stuck-up bitch, whose clique of friends had made Mira’s life miserable before The Fall, in high school and college. In The Fall, Mira had cut off Zia’s head with a pair of scissors. It was not a memory she liked to revisit. But now, afterward, seeing that same likeness slaving over a stove in her own kitchen, she could feel nothing but pleasure.
She walked up behind Natalya, who was bent slightly over the stove, starting to prepare a white sauce, and slipped a hand down the small of (h)er back, and into (h)er pants. “Oh, Natalya,” she asked wistfully, soft and sarcastic, leaning her head against the android’s cheek, “How was your week, Natalya? Hmm? Was it okay?”
Natalya, still smiling: “It Was Ex?cel?lent, Mas?ter.”
“Yeah?” She giggled a bit, loosening up. Her fingers stroked above and beneath Natalya’s underpants. “And how did Mira here treat you?” she asked. Fake Mira had come over and joined in, running (h)er holographic fingers around Natalya’s neck, massaging it. Natalya’s skin sensors were linked in to the computer system, so it could feel the affected touch, but in slave mode it made no response.
“She Was Ver?y Dil?ig?ent And Ef?fi?cient, Mas?ter.”
“Yeah?” answered Mira, her brow crossing a bit. Of course, it had been a different simulated Mira two days ago.
“Have you been drinking?” asked fake Mira.
Mira frowned and lifted her head. “I grabbed a martini with the guys, at Pau’s.” She looked back at Natalya. “Natalya, loosen up. Naturalistic.”
Immediately, Natalya closed (h)er eyes and shuddered, inhaling deeply. It arched back as Mira rubbed her hand down its spine, and lifted (h)er right hand, weakly, to brush away the holographic fingers around its neck, while its left frantically stirred the pot. HoloMira giggled. Mira smiled and ran a hand across Natalya’s breasts.
“Should we let you work, Natalya?”
“As You Wish, Mas?ter,” answered Natalya, its eyes blinking rapidly.
“Mistress,” said Mira, softly. She cupped Natalya’s left breast in her hand. “Call me Mistress Mira.”
Mira giggled, clapped her hands, and gave the android a peck on the cheek. “O-okay,” she said, “Let’s leave you alone to work. Let’s take your sweater off, here, so you don’t get sauce on it.” She reached around and took the sweater by the shoulders, and Natalya offered one arm, then the other, as she gingerly undressed the robot. Natalya’s shirt was tight against the body, revealing just a bit of cleavage; (h)er plump breasts jiggled slightly as (s)he stirred the sauce. “Let’s have some drinks,” shouted Mira, as the sweater slipped off Natalya’s right wrist.
Instantly, a virtual martini appeared in HoloMira’s right hand. It lifted it to its mouth, and took a sip, and as (s)he did, lifted (h)er other hand, and snapped (h)er fingers.
Without blinking, Cherry came to life, took its hands off its lap, and carefully unplugged itself. (S)he stood up without turning around.
Cherry’s physical appearance was based on a government employee Mira had once had to deal with, and who, over the course of their mercifully brief association, had quite convinced Mira that she was otherwise unemployable. Mira didn’t know what had happened to her during The Fall, but it was a safe bet that she was dead. Much less custom work had been done on the face, compared to Natalya, but the standard heavyset gynoid body had been modified to add larger buttocks. It stood still, looking at the wall. Mira walked up behind it.
She put her hands on her hips, and tilted her head, frowning a bit. “Cherry!” she shouted.
Cherry turned around slowly. It did not smile upon seeing Mira, having already been addressed in a negative tone of voice. It tilted its head to make direct eye contact. “Hel?lo Mas?ter.”
Mira straightened up. “What did you do today?”
Cherry’s head remained tilted to the side as it answered. “This u?nit Pre?pared The Liv?ing Room. This unit Pre?pared The Kit?chen. This u?nit-”
“How long were you down for?” asked Mira. Cherry’s settings were slightly different from Natalya’s. HoloMira stood nearby, sipping its virtual martini.
“This u?nit Was On Stand?by for Two Hours and Fif?ty ?Three Min?utes and For?ty ?Eight Sec?onds, at Nine Fif?ty ?Four A?M. This u?nit Was On Stand?by for Three Hours and Twen?ty ?Two Min?utes and Twelve Sec?onds at Two Fif?ty ?Five P?M.”
“When was the Natalya unit on standby?” Mira wondered if some vestigial racism was at work here, contrasting her practical interrogation of Cherry with her playful attitude towards Natalya. She usually kept Cherry in a completely subordinate mode, without any semblance of spontaneity or initiative. Not that it really mattered, she supposed, given the aftermath of The Fall.
“My Na?tal?ya Sis?ter U?nit was Off ?Line For One Hour and Twen?ty ?Two Min?utes and Two Sec?onds at Nine Fif?ty A?M. My Na?tal?ya Sis?ter U?nit-”
“Whoah, whoah!” interrupted Mira. “What was she offline for?”
“My Na?tal?ya Sis?ter U?nit-”
“And don’t call her that,” Mira interrupted again. She vaguely remembered offering that as a standard designation. “Call her...The Natalya Unit.”
“The Na?tal?ya U?nit was-”
“No, no.” Too impersonal. “Ummm...my partner unit.”
Cherry’s eyes stared forward. Its expression remained exactly the same, almost a mild look of shock, and its head was still cocked to the side, as if (s)he were lost in thought, when of course (s)he was incapable of thought. “My Part?ner U?nit-”
“My Natalya co-unit. Repeat that one.”
“My Na?tal?ya Co?U?nit. My Na?tal?ya Co?U?nit. My Na?tal?ya Co?U?nit. My Na?tal?ya Co?U?nit.” Cherry repeated it over and over again. Mira stared at the rounded lips mouthing the words, as their motions lost all meaning.
HoloMira stepped over, now with a simulated Tom Collins glass in hand, tilted (h)er head to match Cherry’s, and pressed (h)er fingers to the android’s temples to straightened it out, as it continued to repeat “My Na?tal?ya Co?U?nit.” Then (s)he brushed (h)er fingers against the still moving lips, dabbed them to (h)er own, and stuck (h)er index finger inside the mouth. “Ay Na?dal?ya Go?U?it. Nay A?tal?ya Go?U?dit.” Mira stared at her tipsy, giggling virtual self. It was freaky to watch Cherry’s dark lips deform perfectly around a finger that wasn’t even real.
“Gee, obsessive compulsive much?” said a giddy HoloMira, before draining the last of (h)er virtual drink. The virtual girl threw (h)er simulated glass to the floor, where it broke into a hundred pieces before being deleted.
“Break!” snapped Mira, and made a motion with her hands. HoloMira shimmered and blinked out, snapping back into existence in the kitchen. The computer system shot (h)er program forward three hours in a the space of a few milliseconds, and left (h)er with a wildly exagerrated hangover. “Oooh,” it moaned, grabbing its own temples.
“Cherry,” Mira continued, and Cherry suddenly stopped repeating the words, firmed (h)er empty gaze, and looked right at (h)er master. “Why was Natalya offline?”
“The Na?tal?ya Co?U?nit Was Placed Off?line For Vi?rus Se?cur?it?y Main?ten?ance.”
“Was there a virus?”
“No. Vi?rus Se?cur?it?y Main?ten?ance Nec?ess?it?at?ed By Fire?wall De?ac?tiv?at?ion.”
The firewall on her day trading programs had been turned off!? “How did that happen!?” She asked.
“The Mi?ra Pro?gram De?ac?tiv?at?ed Fire?wall.”
Mira whirled around to face her virtual self, which now had a look of terror on its face. “No, wait, I can explain!” said HoloMira. “It was just for a few minutes!”
“Mas?ter, this u?nit Re?ceived An In?com?ing Tel?e?phone Mes?sage Time One Thir?teen P?M Pri?or?it?y N?A.” Cherry’s eyes widened, and (s)he opened (h)er mouth wide and leaned (h)er head back slightly as another woman’s recorded voice began playing from inside of (h)er.
“Hello, Mira, it’s Cathy, just phoning back about tonight. That thing I told you about is going to go on longer than I thought, but I can drop in later, maybe around eleven? I’m about to turn off my zee, but leave me a message if you need to. I’ll bring Samus! Anyway, catch you later. Ciao!”
Mira was speechless. HoloMira was desperate. “I didn’t have any idea about that.”
“I asked you if anyone had phoned.”
“That was my downtime! I was turned off, you know that!”
Mira shook her head. “I don’t care,” she said, and raised her hands.
HoloMira reached out, panicked. “NO, DON’T!” (s)he cried, but it was too late.
Mira snapped her fingers.
“Computer, Delete Self-Simulation!” shouted Mira.
HoloMira began screaming, but (h)er program automatically converted it into a bizarre synthetic noise incapable of evoking any kind of emotional response, other than mild, sadistic amusement. (S)he began to glow, and (s)he lifted up off the ground and began twirling in place as (s)he flailed (h)er arms and kicked (h)er feet. Mira could see up its skirt; it looked like someone had lit a fire under it.
Behind (h)er, suddenly, Natalya turned around from the stove. HoloMira managed to grab the robot by the shoulders with its shimmering hands, and look it in the face. “HELP ME HELP ME OOOOOOOOOOOOO!!” (s)he screamed.
Natalya looked at the fake Mira impassively, a serene smile on (h)er face. “Good?bye, Mi?ra,” it said.
And then, with a yelp, HoloMira stiffened up. (H)er feet fell back to the ground, and began to disappear into a green line that moved up (h)er body. (H)er eyes were wide like saucers, and (h)er lips in an “O” shape. “Ouuuuuuuuu-” (s)he repeated, breathlessly, as the line swallowed (h)er thighs, totally filled with pain and, perversely, pleasure, as (h)er whole being was consumed. It moved up and erased (h)er breasts, then, when it reached (h)er neck, curved around to the back of the head, leaving the face for last. As it moved in, HoloMira uttered a last, breathless gasp: then the line swirled in and obliterated (h)er entirely, finishing at the tip of the nose. (S)he had been deleted.
Natalya, unperturbed, wearing the same serene smile, stepped forward where HoloMira had been, brandishing a single serving of prawns in white sauce. “Mist?ress Mi?ra,” (s)he said. (H)er sepia breasts bounced as (s)he walked; Mira could see a spot of sauce on the right. She stepped forward to take the appetizer.
“Thank you very, very much, Natalya,” she said, sweetly.
“You Are Ver?y Wel?come, Mis?tress Mi?ra,” said Natalya, beaming.
Mira set down the dish. “Oh, look though, you’ve got a spot there,” she said. There was a spatter of sauce on the white shirt as well. “Stay still,” she said softly, “let me get that,” and she quickly dabbed her finger on her tongue, and pressed it against the shirt, dragging it up, through the stain, and over the nipple. She brought it to her mouth. “Mmm,” she said, smiling.
Natalya smiled back.
Mira swirled her finger around the nipple, through the sauce, and tasted it again. “Mm, that’s very good Natalya.”
“Thank-You, Mis?tress Mi?ra!”
“Hold on, though,” she said, and leaned down toward the breast, pulling the shirt away slightly towards her face, and quickly lapping up the rest of the sauce with a swipe of the tongue. She placed her left hand on Natalya's chest, as though for support, and leaned up again. “Oh, and,” and her wet finger dabbed across the coffee-coloured plastic skin to get the last spot, “there! Perfect,” she said, smiling, brushing and straightening Natalya’s shirt lightly with her hands.
“Thank-You, Mis?tress Mi?ra!”
“You’re welcome,” said Mira, in a babyish voice, and she kissed the robot lightly on the lips. “Now, let’s get some drinks.”
Cherry, mouth agape, waited motionlessly.
While Cherry mixed drinks and Natalya fixed dinner, Mira ate her shrimp, then walked over to the scanner. Two days, that last one had lasted! Pathetic. She checked herself. She was still wearing blue jeans, and a tight black sweater without a shirt. She supposed that would be acceptable. If this new copy did as well as the last one, she would have a chance to change the look again soon!
She fired it up, posed, and scanned herself. A 3D model appeared on the console, rotating in relief, along with an enormous list of arcane physical and emotional statistics.
She got ready to boot herself up, when a thought occurred to her. She tossed it back and forth in her mind. Finally, “Fuck it.” She tied her hair back in a quick ponytail and scanned herself again. Then she turned off all her financial and office software for the weekend, and created a virtual drive on which to run a second copy of the simulation program. Then, she booted herself up, twice.
In the kitchen, an ice cube dropped to the floor as Cherry froze in place. Natalya, too, froze up, knife in mid-air, hunched up over (h)er cutting board. Running two simulations at once was extremely taxing on the computer system, especially during start-up, but it soon normalized, and the robots came back to life, returning to their tasks.
Two HoloMiras now appeared in front of the real thing, one with loose hair, the other with a ponytail. “You know the score,” said Mira. They both nodded. One of them would have to be deleted before the end of the weekend; whoever performed the best would avoid that fate.
Both robots in the kitchen noticed the ice cube on the floor at the same time, and bent down to get it. Their heads collided softly with one another. Each straightened up, and, upon achieving eye contact with the other, shifted instantly from a totally blank expression to a sugary smile.
“Oh, I?m So Sor?ry Cher?ry!”
“I?m So Sor?ry, Na?tal?ya, I Did?n?t See You!”
“I Did?n?t See You, I Feel So Sil?ly!”
“How Sil?ly Of Me, Let Me Get It!”
“Just Let Me Get That!”
The smiles were instantly wiped from their faces, replaced again by dead, empty stares, and they each bent over. Their heads collided again. They straightened up, established eye contact, and put on their over-the-top grins.
“Oh, I?m So Sor?ry Na?tal?ya!”
“I?m So Sor?ry Cher?ry!”
“How Care?less Of Me!”
“I Did?n?t See You, I Feel So Sil?ly!”
“Just Let Me Get That!”
“Just Let Me Get That!”
Again, the friendly masks came off, and the machines repeated the same mindless action.
“I?m So Sor?ry Cher?ry, I Did?n?t See You!”
“I’m So Sor?ry Na?tal?ya, I Did?n?t See You!”
“How Care?less Of Me, I Feel So Silly!”
“Let Me Get It!”
“I?ll Just Get That For You!”
As their heads collided for the fourth time, HoloMira 1 stepped into the kitchen and made a hand gesture.
“Oh, I’m So Sor?ry Na?tal?ya, I-” But Natalya was not smiling this time, and had already moved toward Cherry, the same cold expression on (h)er face. (S)he pressed (h)er left hand against Cherry’s breast for support, and grabbed Cherry’s left ear, pressing the reset button behind it. Cherry’s beaming smile slumped into a grotesque expression, then blanked out as (s)he powered back up. Natalya rotated on (h)er servos, back toward the stove, and resumed cooking. Cherry stood completely still for half a minute, then, expressionlessly, bent down, picked up the melting ice cube, threw it in the sink, and went back to mixing drinks.
HoloMira 1 stoob beaming, hands on hips. “Score one,” said Mira, while her other double sculked.
Mira sat down at the table. Natalya set a dish of shish kebab and couscous in front of her, and went back to the kitchen for a lighter. Cherry put down her white wine spritzer, leaned back up, and stood stiffly at attention.
“Sit, Cherry,” said Mira, gesturing toward the seat.
The meaningless, idiotic smile returned to the robot’s face. “Yes Mas?ter,” it said, and set its bottom gently on the chair.
“Call me mistress,” said Mira.
“Yes Mist?ress,” said Cherry.
“Good, good. Standby.” And Cherry’s head slumped over and stiffened.
Natalya bent over and lit the candle in the centre of the table, staring with a dumb intensity at the flame. The warm glow toned out (h)er face, and the space between (h)er breasts; Mira could see the robot’s hard nipples poking through the shirt. Having lit the candle, it leaned back, its arms extended up at the elbows, its wrists limp, and gave a toothy, satisfied grin, its head automatically swiveling back and forth as if in search of recognition.
“Natalya, sit down,” said Mira, softly.
“Thank You, Mis?tress Mi?ra.”
Mira took a bite of her couscous, and reached over to rub Natalya on the shoulder. “Mmmm, that’s very good Natalya, very good.”
“Thank You, Mis?tress Mi?ra, I Am Hap?py Be?cause It Gives You Plea?sure.”
“Oh, yeessss,” said Mira, raising her eyebrows a bit at her doubles, who were now seated at the far end of the table. HoloMira 2 rolled its eyes. “Do you know what else would give me pleasure, Natalya? It would give me pleasure to hear about your day. Emulation Zia 14.”
With a start, Natalya suddenly became much more animated. “Oh, Well, It Was Really Exciting! Cherry And I Did The Kitchen After You Left, And Then We Went On Standby For A Bit, And Then Mira Had To Take Me Offline, Can You Believe That? I Always Get So Nervous When I Have To Go Offline! Brrr, I Hate It! But Then Mira Turned Me Back On Again, And I Was O ?K, Which Is Super! Poor Mi?ra, Oh Well! And Then We Did The Bathroom And Cherry Got All Wet, Can You Believe That! Silly Cherry,” said the robot, and giggled at the deactivated machine across from (h)er, breathless.
“Mmmhmm,” said Mira, mildly amused, as she chewed on her kebab. “Emulation Zia 32.”
Suddenly, the giddiness was gone. Natalya’s stare hardened, but its eyelids came down, shading the glare. (H)er lips softly settled into a pout. “Well, So, I Changed Her Clothes, And Cleaned Her Up.”
“Mmm, she’s always getting herself into messes like that, isn’t she.”
A tiny smile. “Yeah, Yeah.” The tongue making its brief debut, running across (h)er lips, teasing out the words. “The Situations We Get Into While You’re Away.”
“Mmmmhmm,” answered Mira, as she swallowed her food. She raised her napkin to her mouth and dabbed delicately at the corners. “That reminds me, Natalya, we should get that shirt into the wash. Why don’t you take it off?”
Natalya’s pouty come-hither expression didn’t change. (S)he leaned back in her chair, reached down, and pulled up (h)er shirt, peeling it from (h)er breasts and love handles. It stuck for a moment in (h)er hair, prompting a laugh from both of them, and then came off. Natalya held it out like a peace offering.
“Shall I Wash It, Mis?tress Mi?ra?”
Mira took the shirt from the robot, and smelled it, and smiled. Natalya smiled back. Mira threw it over Cherry’s head, covering (h)er face, and reached out to put her arms around Natalya. “Not just yet,” she said, and they kissed.