Mrs. Claw Strikes!

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The android receptionist of the Robocorp regional headquarters were kind of obstructive. “Please state your name and the reason for entering the premises”, she said. “Sam Ford, P. I. I’m here to see Mister Drosselmayer about the job.” After a while, she answered in that annoingly chirpy tone, ”I’m sorry, but Mr. Drosselmayer does not work in Human Resources. You must be confused…”. “In fact”, she added almost immediately, “your CV does not appear to have been submitted in the last 30 days. Please restate your purpose or make room for the next visitor.” “What next visitor? I’m here all alone!” “Please restate your purpose, sir.” Okay, I could do this. A bit of Fuzzy Logic. “hm, I was wrong, then. Goodbye.” “Goodbye, sir.” I went out, walked around in snow, and after fifteen minutes, I approached the door again. “Good afternoon. My name is Sam Ford, and I’m here to see Mister Drosselmayer.” “Wait, weren’t you here before?” “I was, but my purpose has changed. I want to see Mr Drosselmayer about the case.” She blinked. “Case not found.” I produced an ID. “In order to solve the case I’m on today, I need to see Mr. Drosselmeyer.”. Technically, it wasn’t a lie, and for most androids it was enough. The receptionist was kind of stumped, and then I added “If you don’t know what to do, you can call him.” She did.

“Was that some kind of test?” I asked Drosellmeyer. “What test?” “Miss Bubblehead downstairs. I mean, you make robots, and why would you make a stupid one face of your company?” He stopped. We were watching round the testing compound. “Nice, Mister Ford. Yes. That was some kind of a test. You’re perceptive, smart, and good with ‘android mentality’. A good man for the job.” “So, I take that I’ll have to deal with androids again? Okay, I used to work for Robocorp, if you remember. That’s why you remember me?” “No. Though I’ve checked your dossier, of course. You were good, Mister Ford. Why did you leave?” “Personal issues”, I cut the talk shortly. “What’s the case?” “It’s a special one. Here, your deductive abilities will matter far less than usually… Anyway, why don’t you talk to the…” he smiled “victim himself?

I opened the door he pointed at, and there he was. The man I stopped believed in twenty three years ago. He smiled and said: “Ho, ho, ho, friend. Merry Christmas.”

I turned back to Drosselmeyer. He smiled. Santa looked… well, actually worried. He smiled at me, too. “It’s not Christmastime yet…” “Turns out that it’d never come”, Santa answered. “At least for me.” “Wait!”, I turned to Drosselmeyer. “That Alaska thing. He’s from there. You have this compound there, this Santa’s town.” “Yes, a Holiday Resort. Robot Santa, Robot Elves…” “And robot Mrs. Claus.” Santa added, nodding. “What about Mrs. Claus?” “Well, mister…” “Ford. Sam Ford.” “She kicked me out. She said that I should keep out of Santa’s Town, forever. She said she had plans, and that I’m not good enough for her.”

“Wait, wait what. Was that in program?” “No”. Surprisingly, it was Santa who answered. Drosselmeyer hesitated. “Allow me to explain.” The part of the wall turned into projection screen. On it, a schematic of an android Santa was displayed.

“Claus here is a very good, AI model, used for general tourist, museum or park display. Models like these are very good with interaction, learn quickly, and tend to not deviate from the program.” He pointed at the wall again.

It displayed a matronly looking, chubby lady wearing glasses and a modest red dress. “This was Mary Christmas, the original Mrs. Claus. She, however was damaged after three years of operations. The facilities at the Elf Factory attempted the repairs, but they failed. I’ve decided to substitute with another model.”

Then, the screen switched again. This new Mrs. Claus was much more… Sleek. Cougarish. She smiled sweetly, but something was strange with her. Less of a matron, more of hot mamma. She still had grey hair, but she looked far younger than the previous one. Forty? Fifty? Wait, I’ve seen her somewhere.

“I’ve decided, in order to maintain the level of services, to replace Mrs. Santa with a model that had previous experience in a park or a museum. It… uh… My assistant failed to check what did this model previously.”

Some clips from a TV show appeared on screen. “It appears that Mrs. Claus was also known as Claudia Vasciani. Mob boss and murderer on the soap opera All My Neighbors.”

“They use androids to make soaps now?” “Kind of, the star actors are always human, and the lesser parts are played by androids set to specific personalities. Some characters are liked by the audience so much that the character and the robot stay in the show. But that’s not all. Vasciani was her role for four years and she‘d been operational for a year and a half before.” I looked at the screen again. She was wearing a seventeenth century period dress and waving a fan regally. “Is that a crown?” “Tsar Catherine the Great. An autocrat, architect of the Russia’s power, and a nymphomaniac. I believe that her memory was only partially cleaned. Some elements of this personality found some place in the memory of Vasciani, and I believe that now in Mary Claus’.” “This is ridiculous. There should be safeguards, there should be an engineer overseeing all this.” “there is. We still don’t know about his whereabouts.”

The screen presented now six people… wait, they had pointy ears. Three well build men, and three gorgeous women. “Elfs?” “Yes. SRME. Self-replicating machine elfs, as we call them now. Self-replicating, because, well…” “She told them to mine. She told them to work in the factory”, Santa explained. “She’s making more elfs?”

“What’s more, she’s got hostages. Seven people, four of which are children.”

“So, let’s sum up. You want me, a Private Dick with some skill with programming, to go to the Polar circle and fight an elf army led by a combination of Scarface, Catherine the Great and Mary Christmas?”

Santa looked at me, “Will you do it Sam? Will you do it for the children?”

I hesitated. “You’d just ask the Intelligence. Why me?” “You’re a private man. You’d just take the money and ask no questions. It’s a mistake that by now can be corrected, right? And we’ll make everything okay.”

“But what odds do I have of defeating at least seven androids? I mean, they are led by one of the finest minds of the seventeenth century.” “ You’ll have a secret weapon. Come, follow me. It’s time you met KIM.”

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