Phantom Doll

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"They found her, Miss Quinn. They found her," a gruff voice said, out of Rylie's vision. "How is she? Will she be okay? Please tell me she'll be okay," Rylie asked, hopefully. "She's dead, Rylie," came the gruff voice again, and then, complete blackness.

Here in this neighbourhood of Glendale Falls, a new family has just moved in to the old Blackburn estate. The Quinns, surviving mostly on the pension left to them by Mr. Quinn after he was lost during a mission for the federal government, only consisted of thirty-five-year-old Sandra Quinn, here son Jeremy, and a Robot Youth LIfeform Experiment. A R.Y.L.I.E., in other words. She was left rather suddenly in the house right before Sandra's husband had gone on to his final mission. "This is Rylie. She'll help you take care of Kylie and do minor chores so you have lots of energy to deal with Jeremy," the hastily written note said. "Be very careful, too, because she's a very valuable robot. One-of-a-kind."

In this time, robots were common. Jeremy's first few days of school found him bumping into more than a few of them, brought by the rich kids as human-looking cassette recorders to take notes for them and other menial tasks. Sure, some of them were attractive, but they all usually had corporate sponsor stamps on them somewhere, and they were rather obviously noticed for robots by a small inset LED light right between their eyes. It made some of them look Indian, actually. A barcode somewhere on the body was almost always included as well. The Quinns could never have afforded a model like, that, though. Top of the line, they were. But when an apparently much more advanced robot landed on your doorstep, a gift from a late husband, what else would you do?

So, who was Kylie? Kylie was Jeremy's sister, nearly ten years older. She bonded fairly quickly with her new friend Rylie, and in the short time they knew each other, no more than three or four years, they were inseparable. But one day in early June after Kylie had gotten out of school for the summer, things turned tragic, and at some point during Rylie & Kylie's playing, Kylie ended up dead.

Miss Quinn, as she was now called, kept Rylie around after that terrible day, but never turned her on. She couldn't stand to look at her, to have her up and about, but, something prevented her from simply selling Rylie for the immense amount of money she must be worth. Sentimental value? No, she'd long since put the android out of her mind, storing it in a closet on the top floor across from her son's room. Duty to her husband? Probably not; her husband had been missing for over fifteen years now and she doubted he was ever coming back. If she ever sold Rylie, it'd be easy to tell him she just broke down and they had to junk her. Perhaps even an imagined use for Rylie one day in the future? Perhaps.

And so it began that on one beautiful spring day, Jeremy was awfully lonely. He was coming home from a school where everyone was nice to him, but he had no real friends. When he got home, it was empty as well. It was a rather large house, and Miss Quinn often worked long, hard hours to augment the family's pension income. She told Jeremy it was to support the nice house they lived in, though Jeremy had his doubts.

The door slammed behind him as he entered the house, as much as on purpose as the warm, blustery wind behind him. He opened a number of windows and then headed up to his room to check e-mail and the message boards online he checked out periodically. An hour or two later, out came the homework. Barely a page's worth done in his algebra homework and he fell into daydreaming again.

He dreamed of his sister, mainly, remembering when he had someone to talk to, to be with on a regular basis. For a few years before she died, he vaguely remembered there was another child in the neighbourhood that stayed over all the time and used to play with them, mainly with Kylie, since she was that much older. Jeremy wished she was around now, too, especially now that *he* was older, and could've played with her, too... What was her name again, he wondered... He knew it sounded similar to his sister's name....

"RYLIE!" he nearly shouted as the memory came flooding back, of his dad leaving and this five-and-a-half-foot tall girl with bright greenish-blue eyes, lustrous and thick chestnut brown hair, and a beautiful smile that, as he thought about it, made him sorely miss the girl. But then the last bit of information was realized by his brain. Rylie was an *android*. He could... No, he could never, not without his mother's permission...

Disregarding his internal warnings, he looked into the large walk-in closet near his room. Nearly buried in the back was a girl of about eighteen to twenty--depending on what mode she's in, Jeremy thought. He tried to lift her and carrier into his room. It didn't work, she was too heavy. Not much heavier than your average high school girl, but Jeremy was never in the best shape. The next task, then, was how to turn her on... If he remembered right, there was an on/off switch behind her left ear. He gingerly felt for it and found it just buried underneath the skin. He pressed it.

A whirring was heard, along with a few unexpected clicks and weird sounds that were like trying to play a DVD in a regular CD player, and the opened her eyes. In the dim light of the closet, she could see it was Jeremy that had turned her on. She smiled at him and then, in a soft, lilting and demure voice, asked politely, "Can you please help me up?"

And that was how it all began. With a simple request from Rylie, Jeremy eased her into a standing position, where she walked, a little stiff-legged at first, out into the hallway. "We've moved?" she inquired almost immediately.

"Yeah, after...umm, after Kylie died, mum didn't want to see much of our old house, or anyone who was really connected to our old life," Jeremy explained.

Rylie looked down, and Jeremy could've sworn she looked a bit sad. It didn't take long for her shining smile to come back, though. "So you're Jeremy then? I remember you when you were so young, like K-k-kylie was...," she said, losing her composure for only a moment. "Can I see your room?"

Jeremy was a little confused at the forward manner of the robot, much more accustomed to personal computer-like bots, whereas this one looked like she could be human. "Umm, sure, ok, it's over here," he said, and led Rylie over to the door.

Rylie scanned the room and immediately pounced on the bed, making it groan slightly under the slightly heavier-than-normal frame of Rylie. "Ooo, this bed is soft! I bet you have no problem falling asleep at night!"

Jeremy just weakly nodded, letting a shock of black hair fall in front of his eyes, not mentioning the agonising lonely nights, and then the nights he cried for both his sister and his father. He wandered around the room a bit before being surprised by a Rylie pounce, landing them both on the bed, face to face. Rylie looked a little bemused at the whole experience, with perhaps just a glint of professional mischief in her eyes, whereas Jeremy's face was filled with embarrassment, fear, and awkwardness. His arm quickly shot out to the button behind her ear and deactivated her. The happiness in her eyes turned to surprised hurt, but then the light in her eyes turned to dark and that was it. For now.

The next time he turned her on was a few weeks hence. Everything had been gone through in the attempt to make new friends; even his looks were changed a bit, with his black hair now sporting frosted blonde tips. Nothing worked. So now, he decided to turn to Riley. He'd been able to drag Rylie into his own closet, but unable to gather up the courage to turn her back on until just then. He propped her up on the bed, in a seated position, and sat down next to her. Then, he depressed the button behind Rylie's left ear, causing another episode of slight whirring, and then opened eyes.

" could you just..." Rylie sputtered out.

"How could I what?" Jeremy was confused.

"How could you just turn me off like that? I'm not a plaything, you know. I'm a sophisticated piece of equipment!" she said and giggled.

"Piece Look, I'm sorry I turned you off so suddenly, it was just that...having someone else here in my room, heck, on my bed, was a little weird at first. It's been over two weeks since I flipped your switch last. It's early June!" Jeremy explained.

"I don't know, I just felt...I felt sort of hurt when you just decided it was up to you whether I was on or off. I'm sentient, I can take it," she explained.

"Sentient? You're a robot! How can you be sentient?"

"Trust me; I could pass the Turing Test with my eyes closed!" she said, proudly.

"T-Turing test?" Jeremy asked, again confused.

"Never mind, never mind. Come on, let's do something!" she said and hopped off the bed in her simple outfit of jeans and a white t-shirt with white socks. She played with her hair for a bit, letting it hang loosely since she had no hair ties around, and then wheedled Jeremy again.

"Why aren't you moving? I wanna go places, see things, do stuff!" she said.

"I...I can't bring you outside! Mum would kill me if she ever found out!" Jeremy explained.

"Is she home?" Rylie asked.

"No, but what if one of the neighbours sees me outside talking to a girl that just happens to look suspiciously like you?" Jeremy asked.

"Is your mum very friendly with the neighbours?" asked Rylie.

"Well, umm, err, not really..." Jeremy trailed off.

"Then there you have it! They may be confused but they won't care, and your mum almost never talks to them anyway," Rylie pleaded.

"No, no, no! We need to stay inside... Let's watch TV or something... We can play a video game? I bet the technology's increased a lot since you've been deactivated," Jeremy told her.

Reluctantly, Rylie agreed and waited with a dour look as Jeremy hooked up his Revolution Station Game System. He grabbed a simple car racing game and put it in. Rylie's look turned almost immediately from dour and disappointed to happiness and anticipation. "Wow," she said, "these graphics are incredible...but, how's the game play?"

"Find out for yourself," Jeremy said as he tossed her a controller and briefly outlined the buttons and their functions.

It wasn't long before Rylie beat the racing game, so they went through all sorts of first-person shooter games, more racing games, role-playing games, and even emulators that let you play old-fashioned games like Pong and Space Invaders. They went through them all so quickly that Jeremy hardly noticed his mother's car rolling down the driveway.

They both jumped, startled when they heard the front door slam. "Oh, no, Rylie, I've gotta turn you off now. Mum can't catch me with you yet!" Jeremy said worriedly.

Rylie looked disappointed again and asked, "Are you sure? Come on, your mum won't mind..."

"No, I'm really sorry, too. I really enjoyed playing games with you all afternoon and talking and, yeah..." Jeremy's train of thought got interrupted by his mum's footsteps on the stairs, so he made a move towards Rylie.

"Not yet," she said, and darted at Jeremy, giving his cheek a quick peck, before rushing into Jeremy's walk-in closet. Jeremy reached up, almost like he was about to caress her ear, and slowly depressed the on/off switch that was there. The sparkle in Rylie's eyes faded away and she slowly moved into an almost slouched position as a soft whirring down of her systems was heard.

"Who were you talking to?" Sandra Quinn asked as she poked her head in the door to check with Jeremy on the events of his day.

"Video games, mum," he said, and it seemed all the explanation she needed as she turned and left the room.

For a few weeks, it was the usual drill for Jeremy every time he got home from school. Just a click of the button behind Rylie's ear and he had someone to talk to and no need of anyone else. Rylie was always there to greet him with her sparkling smile and dancing eyes. They'd watch a movie, or play some games, or even just hang out and talk, but there was that always that sadness under the smile for Rylie, as she knew that with the advent of Jeremy's mum coming home, she'd once again be turned off and placed in the closet once again.

It was true that, at times, it would be necessary to shut her off and plug her in to one of the wall outlets near the back of the closet with the cord Jeremy had found after what seemed a long time of rummaging around in the closet in the hall. "So I was thinking, maybe we can play some "Super Racer X5" today," Jeremy had said.

Rylie agreed and they had eased into another afternoon of being with each other when Jeremy had noticed Rylie's movements getting more laboured and, at times, stiff and jerky. "I...I...I've always," Rylie said slowly.

"Rylie, what's wrong?" Jeremy asked, concerned now.

", I...not now..." Rylie stuttered out.

"I mean it, I need you to tell me," Jeremy said, rather anxious. "If something happens to you, mum's gonna kill me, and I don't think I'd be too happy about it either."

"But...w-w-we were having a...such a fuuuuun tiiiiiiime..." Rylie began to slur.

Jeremy scooted over and hugged Rylie tightly. The move surprised her slightly, but she struggled to turn her head to face him. Jeremy made it easy and positioned himself so he looked directly into her eyes. "Tell me."

"I...I am looooosing....power...I need...recharging," Rylie said with considerable effort.

A light bulb came on over Jeremy's head and the obvious dawned on him. "But where is your cable?"

" must be in the...closet you...closet you...closet you...found me...found me in," Rylie barely got out.

Jeremy disappeared in a flash and started throwing things out of the hall closet randomly. "," he said as he dug through old coats and fallen hangers and spare household supplies. After what seemed like an eternity, though Rylie would later inform him it was only about ten minutes, he stumbled upon a cable that looked like nothing else he had come across. "This must be it," he said to himself and rushed back into his room.

Rylie was sitting perfectly still on the floor near the wall where they had leaned and played their video games. " you...find" Rylie asked.

"Yep!," Jeremy announced proudly.

" I won' I won't get to spend...spend that time....with you," she said, the sparkle in her eyes fading into a pleading countenance that Jeremy was dismayed to know there was no way he could help except the way she didn't want him to.

He took her by the shoulders and drew her closer to the wall. "Open your recharge port below your shoulder on your arm," Jeremy ordered gently. As Jeremy raised the sleeve of Rylie's t-shirt to get better access, he heard the slight whir of a servo as a small indentation on perfect skin appeared, and then a portal came into view. It had a plug at the top, three lights that were all red, and three buttons. Not sure what the buttons were for, he ignored them as he plugged in the cable. He drew Rylie close to him and maneuvered her head onto his shoulder, and then plugged her in.

"," Rylie said in a very controlled robotic monotone. Jeremy shivered and held her tighter.

His mum had come home late that day, giving him ample time to stay with Rylie during most of her six hours of required charge time, and to carefully drag her into the closet as he heard his mum's car on the drive outside. Rylie's external sensors were still active, and she was touched that Jeremy would spend that much time on her. Could it really be, she wondered, that she had found someone who didn't care what she was? Coincidentally, it was also on that day that Sandra Quinn informed her son of an upcoming weekend business trip she would be taking during the coming days. Jeremy could barely contain his excitement as his mum told him she'd be leaving on Friday and coming back Sunday morning. She'd be there when he got home from school, though, packing and getting things sorted first.

"Why is it dark already?" Rylie asked, confused, after Jeremy had seen his mum off and activated Rylie.

"Because it's nearly seven in the evening," Jeremy replied.

"Why did you activate me so late?" Rylie asked.

"Well, I have a surprise for you," he said. "I didn't tell you earlier because I wanted to make sure it'd still happen. My mum went off on an overnight business trip; we have all night and most of the day tomorrow to ourselves, and I don't have to deactivate you at all until she comes back!"

Rylie's smile never looked so genuine and grateful. She ran and tackled Jeremy in a huge bear hug, her red skirt flipping completely up revealing a pair of white panties, leading Jeremy to wonder exactly how anatomically correct Rylie actually *was*, shortly before he was knocked to the ground by an extremely grateful android, white sock-covered feet pointing up in the air. "Wow! Thank you so much... I don't know what to say..." she barely got out, this time from being overwhelmed with happiness.

"Just thank you was enough, and the time you'll spend with me," Jeremy said. "You've become such a good friend to me over the past few hard weeks, getting used to this new neighbourhood and finishing out the school year in a new place."

He could've sworn Rylie's face fell just a bit hearing the word "friend", but her smile continued nonetheless. "Well, I'm really glad I can make you so happy," she said as she gave him a peck on the cheek, giggling as he blushed beet red. "What...what shall we do first then?" "I was thinking I'd make dinner, and then we could watch a movie, and...what?" Jeremy stopped abruptly as he saw Rylie's face, which had suddenly become creased with worry.

"I...I don't eat," she said, kind of quietly.

"What? I'm sure you're programmed to be able to eat, you're so advanced in other ways..." Jeremy trailed off.

"Your mum never allowed me to eat when I was with...with your sister, and...I always assumed it was because I couldn't, or I'd break," she explained.

Jeremy surprised Rylie and grabbed her by the hand, bring her downstairs with him to the kitchen, where he told her to sit at the table. He quickly cooked a pair of hamburgers with his mum's special blend of spices that he'd liked since he was little. Before Rylie knew it, he'd sat down with a plate in front of him and a plate in front of her. "Eat," he said.

"But...what if...?" Rylie asked, nervously.

"Either they did an amazing job programming an artificial youth life form that can't eat and therefore could never really fit in on a long-term basis with humans, or they actually did their jobs supposedly and you should be able to eat fine. Just eat slowly and I'm sure everything will be okay," he told her.

"I'm scared though. I like what we have here, and I don't think your mum would repair me, so, maybe I should just watch you eat?" Rylie suggested.

"Rylie, I'm certain they wouldn't have left out something so essential to...well, to assimilating yourself into human life. Just try it a little and I'm sure you'll know right away if you're supposed to or not," Jeremy pleaded.

Rylie hesitated a moment, and then took a small bite of the hamburger. She chewed it, and her eyes lit up as Jeremy saw the small piece travel down what he assumed was an artificial esophagus. "I...I can taste...and...this is *good*!" she said excitedly and took another bite.

"Hey, hey...slow down, there's plenty of food and it's not going anywhere. Mum probably initially didn't want you to eat because you probably don't need to, you're just able to. But this is a special occasion, you know, so eat and enjoy. And let me get you something to drink, too..." Jeremy told her, and went to fetch some soda.

After dinner, Rylie seemed to want to sample every bit of food in the house, but Jeremy tempered her desire with the logical argument that she may be able to eat, but not *everything*, and certainly not at once. They adjourned to the living room where a simple game of checkers soon turned into a tickle fight, and less than halfway through a movie Rylie had her head lying on Jeremy's chest as he absent-mindedly stroked her hair.

Inevitably, Jeremy's eyelids began to droop, and he knew bedtime was upon them. "Rylie?" he said as he gently shook the android. Her eyes had been closed, and Jeremy initially had been concerned that her battery had run down again, but the occasional murmur and constant breathing motions confirmed she was very much still in the land of the living. "Rylie? I need to go to bed now."

"Oh..." she said in a groggy voice. "I was just enjoying not needing to be deactivated. It's kind of a new feeling for me, you know?"

Jeremy nodded, and then realized, "Hey, Rylie, umm, what do you want to do while I'm sleeping? I think it'll get pretty boring if you're awake all night..."

Rylie looked deep in thought, and then said, "I understand, but...let me be next to you tonight, if it's okay?"

She looked positively pleading. Jeremy couldn't say no. He didn't quite know how he'd feel with Rylie sleeping, or staring awake as he thought, next to him all night, but he didn't have the heart to turn her down. They made their way upstairs and showed her to his mum's room, where he rifled through some of her old clothes in the back of her closet and came up with a nice silk nightgown that looked like it'd fit. A short time later, a first-time-clad-in-new-clothes Rylie snuggled close to Jeremy in the dark with his arm around her. Then she realized something, and as comfortable as she was, she whispered softly and gratefully to Jeremy, "Plug me in?"

The day began in a hot and muggy way, but the centrally-air-conditioned house kept Jeremy and Rylie cool as they lay in bed together. Jeremy's eyes opened while the sky was still dark, but with that first hint of the first rays of the sun. He absent-mindedly let his fingers run over the nightgown-clad body of his--"just a friend, Jeremy, just a really good friend"--friend as she lay there next to him. Up and down her sides and then onto her chest, tracing designs on her stomach, almost tickling her. His hands on autopilot now, they moved farther up, towards Rylie's breasts, and continued the pattern-tracing. He drew his finger across her nipple many times, circling around it and even getting brave enough to play with each for a bit. He pushed down on it a few times, trying to find anything mechanical at all under them, but was unsusccesful. At one point, he thought he heard a, well, what could only be described as a very pleased moan come from Rylie's lips, but Jeremy quickly dismissed it.

He reluctantly moved on from the breasts, and let his fingers play up and down her arm. At the top of the arm closest to him, he noticed an indentation, and realized that it was Rylie's recharge panel. Briefly, it made the illusion of Rylie's humanity waver, for until now, he had been under the happy impression that he was in bed with a real girl.

"Real girl? Rylie's just as real as the rest of `em," Jeremy thought. "So what if she's not made of the same things I'm made of..." He continued to trace up and down her arm, letting his finger dance along the outside boundary of the panel, and then jumping to the plug attached to it, and gently caressing it back to its point of origin. She shivered gently. He let his fingers brush over the three buttons and lights inside the panel, and let his fingers explore the inside of it as well. He moved up to her neck, after, and began stroking that for a bit as well. Finally, his arm exhausted, he let it drop between the two of them and decided to be content watching his--"she's *just* a friend!"--friend as whatever program responsible let her chest gently rise and fall just like a sleeping girl's.

"So, are you gonna continue or is that it?" Rylie whispered to Jeremy, with a twinkle in her voice.

"" Jeremy asked surprised.

"The whole time, silly, my charge time was up a few hours ago. I've just been lying here, thinking about stuff," Rylie said.

"Thinking about what? And I'm sorry, maybe I should've shut you down...."

"NO!" Rylie said forcefully. "'s not boring, really," she continued in a quieter voice. "There's so much that I wanted to try and figure out, and think about, and I'm glad that, not only can I do it, but I can do it next to someone I love."

"Love?" Jeremy asked, a bit confused, a bit hopeful.

"Well, you *are* the first person since Kylie to treat me treat me like I'm just "Rylie", not, oh, it's "Rylie the Robot" or means a lot! And you're very sweet, you know..." Rylie trailed off.

An idea popped into Jeremy's head, and suddenly he jumped up, carefully unplugged a confused Rylie and led her back to the closet he found her in. For a brief instant, Rylie got very afraid, fearful all that she had been though was a total loss, that he'd just put her back in storage again. Rylie was wrong, however, as Jeremy was the one who entered the closet, turned the light on, and got down to searching through the bunches of random, unlabeled boxes underneath the hanging clothes and household supplies. "Eureka!" he cried when he found what he was looking for. He produced a pair of denim shorts and a pretty pink baby-doll t-shirt. Then he gave her a pair of sneakers, and before she could question him, ran into his mum's room. Moments later he was back, with a pair of socks, and some underwear and a bra.

"You know, it's not all that embarrassing," Rylie said.

"But...I should give you privacy," Jeremy insisted.

"Normally I'd say yes, seemed pretty eager over there on the bed, you know. You should know what I look like," Rylie said mischievously. "And you're being so tight-lipped I don't know what your plan is, either!"

Rylie took the opportunity to remove the nightgown and underwear she was wearing, letting her full naked body be seen in the waning moonlight. Her skin was a creamy white, beautifully toned, and Jeremy noticed there were lots of miniature freckles splashed on various points of her skin. Her reddish-brown hair flowed down slightly past her shoulders, and the shine in her wide, green eyes was directly aimed at Jeremy. "What do you think?"

"I...I...why are you showing me this?" Jeremy asked.

"Because...I think that, if not now, maybe later you can appreciate more than just my companionship," she said with a smirk, and then went ahead with putting the clothes on Jeremy had found for her. As she got to the shirt, though, she slowed... She turned to Jeremy, who was still watching with rapt attention. "This..." she said in a markedly smaller voice, "this was Kylie's, wasn't it?"

Jeremy nodded slowly. "Is that okay? I don't know if we have any other clothes around here that would really fit you, except what we've kept from her..."

"No, no, it' just...brings back memories of her...I miss her a lot, Jeremy...a lot..." Rylie said, the sparkle in her eyes rapidly fading.

He moved towards her and wrapped is arm around her shoulders, purposely avoiding her still naked breasts. He held her tightly. "I miss her too, Rylie, I miss her too..."

"Yeah," Rylie sighed. "But there'll be plenty of time to think of that at a later time, right? She's always around us anyway; I can feel her presence everywhere! what's this plan you seem to have? It *has* to have more to it than possibly seeing me naked!" she said as she dressed the rest of the way, and Jeremy put on a fresh pair of pants and a different t-shirt.

"Who said it did?" Jeremy asked with a straight face.

"Cause I know you better than that, silly!" Rylie replied. "So what's up?"

"Come downstairs and I'll show you, " he said as they made their way down the stairs in the fading moonlight. He pulled Rylie towards the front door, picking up a pair of keys from a rack and patting his pocket to make sure that they it contained his wallet. He opened up the door and tried to pull Rylie outside, but she hesitated.

"I thought you...I thought you wanted to go outisde?" Jeremy asked, confused.

"Well, I did, but...we had so much fun when it was just us, and I didn't feel the need to go outside. Plus, it's so hot and sticky already this morning," Rylie stalled.

Jeremy agreed with the last part of that statement only, so, "But now..well, you're my friend, Rylie, and really, who knows what else? So you should do things with me that I enjoy doing, and I guarantee you'll like this," Jeremy pleaded.

"If someone sees me they'll...they'll..." Rylie stuttered.

"No, they won't. Trust me. Have you ever *seen* the normal class of robots that are around? Besides being dumb as bricks, they look so many miles away from you that it's like looking at Pluto without a telescope," Jeremy said.

Rylie giggled. "That's a terrible line to use on someone!" she admonished.

"It's true, though. You're really pretty, Rylie, and you look absolutely human. No one would *ever* be able to tell the difference. Unless they saw you while you were charging or something, of course," explained Jeremy.

Rylie grinned and reached behind her to close the door. Jeremy smiled at her as they made their way down the steps and to an old luxury car that had obviously seen better days.

"Don't worry, it still drives fine and it's got air conditioning; that's all I care about," Jeremy said as he opened the door for her.

Rylie gingerly got in, and Jeremy took the drivers' side. Moments later, they were off, Rylie looking all around her at different scenery and sometimes excitedly pointing certain things out. The last time she'd been outside had been the day Kylie had died, and she was scared the same thing would happen to her, or she'd make the same thing happen to Jeremy, but all the new stimuli put a stop to most of it.

Jeremy took a left onto Riddle Hill, a winding road that kept gaining in elevation. "Are you taking me up a mountain?" Rylie asked, confused.

"No, no, not a mountain. You'll see..." Jeremy said.

Finally the car broke through the thick tree cover and emerged onto a rather flat patch of gravel. Jeremy parked the car and told Rylie to follow him. He led her across the lot and into a nice area with picnic tables and such, and then slightly past them, where there were patches of grass that grew in the sunlight. They sat down.

"Umm, Jeremy? What are we doing here?" Rylie asked, again confused.

Jeremy scooted over a bit and let her lay her head on his shoulder. "Just watch."

She leaned against Jeremy and stared at the slightly light horizon. Over the course of an hour, the sun got brighter and brighter, as the first brilliant rays spilled over the top of the world. Rylie's eyes were large as top of the sun began to light things close by, giving an eerie-type glow to many of the leaves and trees around, and she held Jeremy tight as the the whole of the sun finally made it all the way up in the sky, bathing the two of them with warm sunlight.

"Oh, Jeremy, that was beautiful...I'm always going to remember this, you know," Rylie said.

"I know it was; I've seen it many times. But the best show was right next to me. You're beautiful, you know that?" Jeremy said as the sunlight sparkled off the red highlights in Rylie's hair, her eyes wide in the new day.

"Do you mean that?" Rylie asked.

"Of course I do! I don't think I may have ever noticed it quite as much as now, but I definitely mean it," Jeremy said.

Rylie took the opportunity to jump him, knocking him flat on his back, hugging him so much. And the kiss. The kiss that was on the lips this time. The kiss that would seal their fates.

"So, what do you want to do for the rest of our day?" Jeremy asked.

"Does it have to be just a day?" Rylie asked, a little crestfallen, as they lay on the patio on the back of the house.

"I don't know...I mean, I hope things can start off from where they were when I reactivate you"--Rylie's gaze fell to the cement--"but I don't *want* to deactivate you! Why do we always have to? I don't know. I just don't think my mum is ready for you being around all the time yet," Jeremy explained, "even though *I* am," he added softly.

"Well, whatever happens, we should enjoy the rest of this day, dontcha think?" Rylie said, keeping a brave face.

"You're right. Who knows, anyway? Besides, it's so hot today...I have an idea!" Jeremy said and ran into the house. When he returned in his bathing suit, and brought one for Rylie that was obviously Kylie's, all the colour drained out of her face.

"You want me to...go in the....pool with you?" Rylie asked.

Jeremy nodded.

"But I'd malfunction, I'd break..." Rylie said.

"You've taken showers before though," Jeremy told her. "Why would this be any different?"

"Because it' would be water all around me and it would make me waterlogged and make me malfunction and make me useless..." Rylie continued.

"You didn't think you would be able to eat, did you? And you can. There are just too many things that...well, listen, if you are supposed to be a human replicate, then you should be able to do what most humans can do. You shouldn't have any problem with at least *being* in the pool..." Jeremy trailed off.

Rylie reluctantly grabbed the suit and changed in the house quickly. When she came back out in the pink bikini with red hearts in slightly strategic places, Jeremy couldn't help but stare. "You look...amazing..." he said.

"Really? You think so?" Rylie said. Jeremy nodded, while Rylie thought, "Hmm...maybe I'm beginning to like this swimming idea...oh, oh no...wait..."

"I can't swim! My body's a bit heavier than a normal human and ...I won't float, and..." Had Rylie been subject to human problems, Jeremy would be scared she would hyperventilate. As it was, he was already concerned even though he knew he had little reason to be.

"We'll just keep you in the shallow end, okay? And maybe I'll even try to teach you to swim if you want..." Jeremy told her.

After many pained glances at the glassy surface of the pool, she reluctantly agreed. "Take my hand," Jeremy ordered, and Rylie obeyed. He led her into the pool slowly, both of them shivering from the initial cold shock. She got used to it quickly, he did not, but they boldly moved onward. Once firmly in the 3'-4' depth, Jeremy turned around and looked at Rylie. She was standing stock still, making no movement whatsoever except for her eyes, darting back and forth. She was holding herself tightly in her own arms, scared to do much else, until Jeremy walked over to her.

"You're still scared?" Rylie nodded her head yes.

"Is everything all right?" Rylie shook her head no.

"Do you want to stay in the pool with me?" This answer took a bit longer, but eventually she did nod her head in the affirmative.

"Take my hand, all right?" Jeremy asked. Rylie obeyed.

"Now I want you to lean back onto my hand so you'll eventually be on top of the water on your back, ok?"

Rylie nodded nervously and did Jeremy instructed. After a few abortive tries, Rylie was floating on her back with Jeremy's support. "Now I'm going to let go," Jeremy started to say before Rylie rapidly shook her head in the negative. "Okay, okay, I'm still here, still here," Jeremy said as he patted her forehead.

It looked like Rylie took an extra deep breath, and then nodded. Jeremy slowly removed his arm, and after a few near-sinkings, Rylie discovered the small amount of motion she'd have to sustain to maintain a floating state on top of the water. And then she flashed Jeremy a huge grin. "I'm doing it! I'm doing it! I'm actually floating!"

Jeremy clapped vigorously. "Congratulations!" he said sincerely. "Now maybe you can flip over onto your stomach? And remember, don't breathe while your head is underwater!"

Rylie thought it over for a moment, and then agreed. "Here I go," she said, and flipped herself over. At first she started to sink, but it wasn't long before Rylie was back on the surface, head down in the pool. After waiting for a few minutes, Jeremy made his way over to where she lay and turned her over himself.

"Why'd you do that? I was having fun looking at the bottom of the pool and stuff," Rylie said.

"If you stay like that too long, people are going to think you're dead," Jeremy said seriously.

Rylie's eyes got bigger in amazement and she put her hand over her mouth. "Oops! I'm so sorry...I'll have to watch out for that later," she said.

"Okay, okay...well, now that we have you floating, we can teach you to swim. Is the water bothering you any?" Jeremy asked.

"No, actually, it feels quite cool on some of my warm systems, too," Rylie explained. "I'm so lucky to have you around; I would never have tried so much without you!"

Jeremy blushed. "Naww...I'm sure you would've done these eventually..." he said and trailed off. "Now, for swimming!"

Surprisingly, she took to swimming just like she had taken to video games that first time he'd activated her. Once she got the general mechanics down and adapted them to her weight, body reflexes and any special needs she had, she was off like a fish in water. She swam several times back and forth in the shallow end to demonstrate, and then stood as Jeremy praised her performance.

He got out of the pool then, and went to the edge of the deep end on the diving board, and jumped in. Rylie shielded her eyes from the splash. "Come on Rylie, we can play in the deeper water now that you can swim. I'll catch you if something's wrong..." Jeremy said.

"Come on Rylie, we can play near the deeper water....come on Rylie, we can play near the deeper water...come on Rylie, we can play near the deeper water," suddenly started echoing in her brain, and she could see a stretch of river, somewhere that was very familiar yet altogether new, and there were people lined up on the riverbank. If she squinted hard enough she could see the flashing lights of an ambulance or a fire truck somewhere in the midst of the crowd. And then the crowd were all shouting her name. "Rylie! Rylie! Rylie!"

Jeremy saw the faraway look get further. "Rylie! Rylie! Rylie!" he said. With no response, he firmly grasped her shoulder, meaning to lead her out of the pool and hoping against hope he didn't cause her to malfunction in anyway, when her head jerked away from him and she came out of the fugue.

While his hand was still on her shoulder, she grabbed him tightly, for a good five minutes. "It was awful, like...this vague memory, and so many people on the river, and ambulances..."

"Don't worry about it,'s okay, whatever that was. You're here now, with me, okay?" Jeremy told her.

"O-O-Okay...yeah...." she shook her head vigorously. "I think it's over now... That was really weird, you know? I wish that I knew someone who'd...well, someone I could tell that t and see if I needed maintenance or anything."

"Do you feel okay?" Jeremy asked.

"Oh, I feel fine, I'm just curious what that was. It doesn't match any memories I currently have access to..." Rylie shrugged.

"Okay, you had me scared for a minute there! Maybe we should go back inside now?" Jeremy suggested.

"No, no...I like the pool! I wanna stay out here for awhile longer, maybe jump off the board like you did, as long as you'll be there to drag me to the surface if I break," she said and giggled.

"Yes, I'll be there, of course," Jeremy said as Rylie swam across the deep end to the ladder there. The two of them took turns diving off the board, playing silly pool games and having some nice solitary alone time. In fact, as they sat in one of the small alcoves of the pool, Rylie asked a very important question.

"Does...does this day, here, now, mean...we're...a couple?" she asked very hesitantly.

"If you want us to be," Jeremy answered.

"Oh, I do! I've wanted for so long, too!" kissing a bemused Jeremy as they fell into the deeper water. When they emerged back on the surface, a surprise awaited them.

"What the hell are you doing with Rylie? Why is she in the pool? And who turned her on? What's going on here?" Sandra Quinn was asking in a loud voice, obviously livid.

"Mom, it's just that...I was lonely..."

"That's because you have no friends," Miss Quinn said. "I had thought there was something fishy going on up in your room but I never had proof of it till now. What is wrong with you? She's just a robot! What the hell happened? I just went on a one-day trip and I come back and my son is fraternising with our old robot. Both of you get out of there, dry off and put your clothes on. Jeremy, we need to talk. NOW."

The two of them scrambled out of the pool, drying themselves off the best they could in the hurry they were in, and found themselves in the kitchen where Sandra Quinn was pacing back and forth on the tile floor.

"Do you realize what you could've done? You don't bring sensitive electronics in the pool! What ever were you thinking?" she asked incredulously.

"Mum, the robots that all the rich kids have at school are waterproof! Why wouldn't Rylie be as well?" Jeremy asked.

"Oh, I don't know, because she's an *older* model, perhaps?" Sandra said caustically. "If you had made friends with some of your classmates before school was almost over, you may even have known that!"

"You know how much I tried to get into those stupid cliques we have at school. All they wanted to know was my income bracket," Jeremy retorted.

"Then you didn't try enough! And who cares about cliques? I'm sure there are plenty of boys for you to be friends with, and girls too, that may not exactly be popular. We're not really concerned with social cachet here; we're concerned, or at least I am, why you're spending your days holed up in your room with a glorified machine," Sandra spat, full of venom.

"Hah! Go tell that to people at the school. I acted like myself, then I acted like them. I tried to look like them, too, and that failed. Besides, if you just got to *know* Rylie, I'm sure your opinion would change of her, mum" Jeremy suggested back.

"You seem to be forgetting that I *do* know Rylie, back when...back before we moved. And she was devoid of any personality then, so she's devoid of any personality now. You know it was just a gift or something your late father tried to buy us all off with before he went and got himself killed," said Sandra.

"Don't say he's dead!" Jeremy said with surprising force. "You don't know that! And I find that Rylie has a perfectly charming personality."

"What, were you trying to get it on with her? You know she's not programmed for sex, right? So don't get any ideas," Miss Quinn informed her son.

"What? How do you know that? Were *you* trying to get it on with her?" Jeremy asked. "Huh? Of course not. I'm just saying that only very specialised models of robot are designed for...*that*...and Rylie's certainly not one of those," Miss Quin told her son.

"Well, maybe she is and maybe she isn't, but that's certainly not why I activated her. Do you know how lonely it is here without...without anyone to talk to, or play games with, and you're at work all day!" said Jeremy.

"I have to work all day so we can live in a place like *this*," said Sandra, "and it's not impossible to make friends. You're just not trying hard enough and now you have a copout in the form of a pretty robot."

"Stop referring to Rylie that way! She's right here in the room! She can hear every word you say!" Jeremy pointed out.

All eyes turned to Rylie. "Umm, hi..." she waved. "I wish you'd get to know me, Miss Quinn," she said quietly, "I'm really friendly and Jeremy likes me a lot. I can help with chores around the house, too, and I can be quiet when I need to."

Miss Quinn looked almost livid. "I know you can be quiet," she said curtly and swiftly clicked the button behind Rylie's ear, making her eyes dim in sadness as the whirring motion indicated her powering down.

Jeremy was shocked. " in the *world* can you do that? She's *sentient*! You can't just turn someone off!" He quickly reached behind Rylie's ear and turned her on again.

"I'm sorry if I did something offensive," Rylie said in a quiet voice, once she was back online.

"Uggh! I don't believe this! Fine, keep her on if you want to. Just don't come crying to me when she breaks. I can't take this stress right now, I'm leaving. I'll be back late." Miss Quinn informed her son and his companion as she angrily stormed out of the house.

Rylie looked like she could cry at any moment as she soundlessly mouthed the words "I'm sorry" to him. Jeremy only hugged Rylie in return.

In fact, Rylie stayed on almost permanently after that altercation. She charged while she was online, not daring to let Jeremy shut her off. Often Jeremy would come home from school to find Rylie randomly shut down, in those last weeks before school let out for the summer, as Sandra Quinn often came home from her job for lunch. Rylie would be stuck in all sorts of positions, like reaching up to get a box of crackers--Rylie eating was a particular bane for Miss Quinn, it seemed--trying to dust the downstairs, watching TV in the living room, even once dripping wet and mostly naked just out of the shower.

Jeremy would confront his mother many times about the cruelty of this, and the damage she may even be doing to Rylie's systems, but she seemed not to care and was very insistent that, while Jeremy may prefer Rylie turned on, she most certainly preferred her turned *off*, and since Rylie wasn't a "real person", Miss Quinn had no qualms about what she did.

It was during this time that Rylie discovered a most interesting thing about herself, something that surprised even her. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, two weekends after their expedition to Riddle Hill and the weekend before the last few days of school, where Jeremy and Rylie had curled up together on Jeremy's bed, watching TV in Jeremy's room, since Miss Quinn was currently ruling the roost downstairs. The clouds hung low in the sky, threatening rain, but all that fell was a cold, raw drizzle.

Jeremy's eyes had started to close halfway through the old black-and-white movie that was playing, and Rylie found herself on top of a sleeping boy. Rylie tried to watch the movie while Jeremy slept, but it wasn't the same, and she couldn't seem to focus. Out of habit to appear more human, perhaps, or just a random fluke, she closed her eyes and listened to the rhythm of Jeremy's breathing. Up and down, in and out, in perfect time. Before she knew it, it seemed like she wasn't fully conscious herself anymore. She saw things through a haze, shimmery even. There were pictures swimming about, of their first kiss, of their first time outside. Then things got weird.

Rylie started seeing things she'd never seen before, like alternate endings of some of her times with Jeremy, or times when she'd get surprised by Sandra but instead of being deactivated, Rylie would turn around and slap her in the face. Those visions scared her, because she knew they never happened, but she relived them as if they did. Some of her old memories played in black-and-white, like the movie they were watching. In fact, at one point, she substituted herself and Jeremy into the female and male leads of the picture.

Then, her vision switched to a picture perfect sunny day with skies of blue. She remembered it was hot, but not humid, and she was walking up a path near the woods. No, she was running up the path. Quickly. She moved into the cover sun-dappled forest as she ran quickly, even breathing heavily, but she didn't seem she was getting anywhere. The same trees passed her multiple times. Something was agitating her, though, and she felt the need to push on, keep running, and she wasn't making any progress. At least, with a huge gulp of air, she sat straight up, shocking Jeremy into waking up, too.

"Rylie? What's wrong?" Jeremy asked, concerned.

" I...I had another one of those memory things, like in the pool, that I can't compare to anything I have access too. Only it was warped; I was running and running and couldn't get anywhere. And I saw lots of images of us, but some things we've never done, either...." Rylie trailed off, trying to explain it.

Jeremy thought for a moment, and then his eyes got wide. "Rylie, you *dream?"

"No, I'm not programmed to dream," Rylie said.

"Then...wait a minute. What were you doing right before you started having these images?" Jeremy asked.

"Well, you had fallen asleep, or close to it, so I just closed my eyes, almost getting hypnotised by the rhythm of your breathing," Rylie said. "My own breathing program kinda put mine in sync with yours, and I started seeing everything even though my eyes were closed, in some sort of haze..."

" matter what you may think of your programming, you *dreamt*. You approximated sleep and somewhere in there you *dreamed*. What time do you think it is now?" Jeremy asked, to prove his point.

"Umm, three in the afternoon?" she guessed.

"Nope. We were about halfway done with the movie around two or two-thirty, but it's nearing five-thirty now," Jeremy said. "Look at the sky."

Rylie turned to look out the window and saw that the grey skies of the early afternoon had turned into broken clouds beautifully illuminated orange and pink by a spectacular sunset. "Dreaming? I...dreamed?" Rylie asked, again.

Jeremy had a huge grin on his face as he nodded. "Yeah... Rylie, you know, you seem more human everyday."

Rylie's face fell a little at this. "But apparently I can still get caught in the act by your mother, turning me off at random times throughout the day. And when you turn me back on, my thoughts are all jumbled cause I didn't get a chance to organise them before shutting down. Your mother should know better; I think I told her that once, but she's probably forgotten." She giggled nervously. "Why won't she...why won't she just accept me for who I am? I'm doing my best to keep out of her way and be helpful."

"Well, maybe you shouldn't bother being helpful? She certainly doesn't appreciate it, and her and I both do our fair shares cleaning the house so it's not really in need of drastic cleaning," Jeremy suggested.

"But that's just it; you and her do your part. If I'm *ever* going to be accepted as a member of this house, I should do *my* part," Rylie elaborated.

"I guess you're right. I just wish my mum saw it your way," Jeremy said as his mother knocked on the door.

"Come in," Jeremy told her.

Sandra Quinn looked disapprovingly at her son in bed with something she saw as an oversized love doll for him, and then told them tersely, "Dinner is ready. I'll be out late." and closed the door.

Four days later, Rylie was waiting up in Jeremy's room for him to get home a little after lunch. It was his last day of school, where he'd be getting his exam grades back, and then he was free for the summer. Free to be with her, Rylie thought dreamily. But then she turned her attention to the problem. She was thirsty. How she got thirsty she didn't know, and didn't know if it even served a purpose, but she knew what she wanted: pink lemonade. Normally she'd just head downstairs to the refrigerator and pour herself a glass, but today there was an obstacle: Miss Quinn. She had stayed home from work that day to meet Jeremy as he arrived home, collecting his exam grades and making him lunch on the first day of her long weekend. Rylie did not factor into those plans.

So Rylie waited, staring out the window in Jeremy's room, hoping for a sign of him. The hours came and went, though, and there was no Jeremy. On the last day of school, the students went home when each was done, so if Jeremy needed to speak to a teacher who had lots of other students to talk to, he may not be home until the normal let-out time of two in the afternoon. Rylie looked at the clock and was dismayed to see it only registered quarter-to-twelve. After another half-hour of waiting, she decided she had waited enough. She wasn't going to let Miss Quinn dictate where she could go and what she could do. If she ran into her, and got shut down, at least Jeremy would be home in less than two hours to turn her on again. Her eyes glinted with resolve, and she threw open the door as quietly as she could, and made her way downstairs.

She made it to the kitchen with no problem, and poured herself a large glass as a reward. She had drank most of it when she heard a noise behind her. Already on edge, she jumped, dropping the glass in the process and watching with dismay as it shattered on the tile floor. She looked up, and directly into the severely disapproving face of Miss Sandra Quinn.

"Oh no! I'm so sorry, let me clean it up, just a sec," Rylie said. "Please don't shut me down, I can clean this...." Rylie reached around to grab the roll of paper towels and felt a cold hand on her neck. She spun around so quickly that Sandra had to actually jump back a few steps.

"Please? I don't know what I ever did to you," Rylie said nervously. "I'm...I'm just trying to be the best friend to your son I can, and I want to help around the house too and be a part of this family."

"What family?" Miss Quinn said haughtily. "It's just me and Jeremy; a pretty close self-contained family unit. Why do we need someone else?"

"Because Jeremy needs me. Your son *wants* me in his life, and I think I'm a good influence," Rylie said.

"I don't necessarily disagree," Miss Quinn said, surprising Rylie a bit, "but Jeremy needs *real* friends, not of the artificial kind. He can't cloister himself away in our house like he has since we've moved here. He used to be such a social boy, too, back in his old school. He found out the hard way that friends don't necessarily move with you. But I haven't seen him make any kind of effort he tells me he does ever since he dug you out of the closet and reactivated you."

Rylie looked up at Miss Quinn as she dried up the lemonade and tried her best to pick up the broken glass with the paper towels. "Miss Quinn, I'm...I'm as real as you or Jeremy. I don't...well, I may not look the same as you do inside, but I'm just as much alive as you are. I love Jeremy just as much as you do--"

"You are a machine. Machines do not love," Miss Quinn said coldly. "My husband loved me. My son loves me. I love my son. not..."

"Yes, I do!" Rylie said, finally straightening as she stood up. "I may not know a lot of things, but I know love. Jeremy loves me and I love him back. Just as I loved your daughter--"

Rylie was brutally interrupted by a slap across her face. "Don't *ever* say that you loved my daughter. Kylie was *my* daughter and I took care of her, not you. You were just some tin machine my husband left me before he foolishly ran off on a mission for the government. I don't know how he got ahold of you, but you were just an expensive toy used to placate a daughter who was sad to see her father leave *again*, and a bribe to a wife who couldn't understand why..."--Miss Quinn got a bit choked up--"who couldn't understand why her husband was always *leaving* her!"

"I...I don't know where I was made or for what purpose, but I tried to fulfill as many functions as I could while living here. I did my best!" Rylie said.

"Well, your best wasn't good enough. And you'll never know what kind of pain I went through as a mother, who lost her child, and--"

"I LOST HER TOO!" Rylie shouted, tears now cascading down her face. "On that day, I lost the only person who treated me as a person, like I was some*one* and not some*thing*. She loved me, and I loved her too. We were like, no, we *were* sisters, and she was torn from me just like she was torn from you!"

Miss Quinn stepped back in shock at Rylie's outburst, and could only manage to get out, "You're crying...but...but you never cried after..."

"YOU DIDN'T ALLOW ME TOO! YOU SHUT ME OFF AND DIDN'T EVEN ALLOW ME TO GO TO THE FUNERAL! You know I've never visited her grave? How sad is that? I can't even pay my final respects to someone who gave me my sense of self! And now someone else has finally discovered I have more to offer than being a talking toaster and you want to take *him* away from me, too? Why? I just...I just want to live my life...." Rylie said as she dropped to her knees and let the tears flood the floor she had dried only minutes earlier. Sandra Quinn did the only thing she could. She helped Rylie up from the floor and led her, sobbing, to the couch, and held her as the tears soaked Sandra's blouse through and through. "It's okay,'s okay...I'm sorry I came off that way, I just... Well, I'm still not comfortable with having you up and about, you know, but...maybe..."

"Rylie? Mum? What's wrong?" said Jeremy as he stepped into the living room, letting the door slam behind him and startling them both.

"It's okay Jeremy," Rylie said between sobs.

"Yes, Jeremy, it''s okay..." Miss Quinn said in a measured tone. Half of her seemed to be the mother Jeremy remembered comforting him when he got things like a skinned knee or a spill off his bike, and half of her seemed to be stunned and, in a way, disgusted, that she was holding and comforting something she may have seen as nothing more than a glorified household appliance.

"But, Rylie, you''re crying?" Jeremy asked.

"Yes, Rylie, since when can you cry?" Sandra asked, her voice once again turning to a motherly tone.

"It just...I don't know it just started happening when I was emotionally overcome, talking to your mother and.." Rylie faded off.

"Well, maybe some nice pasta or soup will...will make you feel better?" Sandra asked.

"I...I...well, maybe..." Rylie said, nervously.

"Don't worry, I guess I won't turn you off...for now," chided Miss Quinn delicately.

Rylie managed a wan smile that got wider as she found herself in the middle of Jeremy and his mum on the couch. "This family," she whispered softly as she drew them both closer.

Weeks went by, and suddenly the middle of July had come upon them. Jeremy and Rylie spent most of their time together, whether in the pool, playing video games, or even hanging around in town, which was hard to do seeing as there wasn't much there. On this particular day, Jeremy had decided to treat Rylie to lunch at a restaurant in town, much to Rylie's objections, thinking of it as a waste since she didn't actually *need* to eat. This was overridden, however, once Jeremy reminded her that, aside from their hilltop sunrise viewing, they hadn't really been on a *date*. It was all the convincing Rylie needed.

She could barely sit still at their table near the wall while waiting for the food to come, and she began to eat it at a torrid pace.

"Hey, sweetie, slow down there! We've got plenty of time!" Jeremy chided her.

Rylie looked up with a little noodle of spaghetti hanging from her lips and smiled. "I guess I'm not that great at eating yet?"

"You're fine, trust me, but I want to make our date last as long as it can," Jeremy replied.

Rylie blushed and then wiped her mouth. "Okay!" She ate a few more bites, slower this time, and then said, "I...I'm glad you're mum is taking this as well as she is, now, but it's always so stressful whenever we're in the same room... I hope I'm not doing something wrong?"

"Nahh, I doubt it. I think she's just slowly trying to get used to having you around. You *do* bring up a lot of, err, memories for her she'd probably like to forget, like dad leaving, or..." Jeremy left the last part of that unsaid, knowing he didn't need words to get it across.

Rylie nodded. "I just hope she can see past it, y'know? I didn't ask to be randomly given to any specific family. I was just activated and there I was! I don't have much memory before that moment."

"I always *did* want to ask you where you came from," Jeremy said, in between sips of soda. "I'm not sure. All I know was that it wasn't pleasant. The walls were all a bright white, and there were a few other androids there too, though they didn't look like me. They were more like, say, that model over there," Rylie explained and pointed at a clearly marked green-haired robot female who appeared to be doing electronic filing for her companion while her companion ate.

Jeremy laughed lightly. "Well, I'm glad you don't look like that!" he giggled, "but I'd love you no matter what you looked like."

Rylie blushed furiously, and then continued her story. "All the humans there were very official, calling everyone "Sir" and "Ma'am". I remember...hmmm...being run through lots of tests...and then just being left alone. It was a very boring existence, and...the weird part about it was that...I don't think I ever had any clothes on..."

Jeremy's eyebrow went up at that one. "No clothes? What for?"

Rylie shook her head. "I...I can't seem to access much of the memory around that... I do know that I was deactivated one night, which wasn't always normal, and the next time I woke up was at...your old house."

"Wow, that's some story," Jeremy replied. "I just wish my mum realized that! It'd make things so much easier!"

"Yeah," Rylie sighed. "But we still have plenty of time to..."

Suddenly, they were both distracted by an obviously distraught mother, bordering on hysterical. "Where is she? She was right here when I went to get the waiter... Where is she! Someone help me find her!" The wait staff were simultaneously trying to calm the mother down while looking for what Rylie presumed was her daughter.

"What does she look like?" someone shouted. "Where was she last?" another said.

In mere moments it seemed that the relative calm of the lunch hour had become near-chaos. Everyone was moving, including Jeremy, who got up to join the search. Rylie sat perfectly still, however, and her eyes took on a glazed look. She kept repeating, "Where is she....where is she..." and then her mind wasn't in the restaurant anymore. She was sitting on a bench near a river, saying the same thing over and over to herself. "Where is she...? Where is she...? I need to find her! I *need* to! " She got up suddenly and raced parallel to the river, trying to see *something*. Something *did* catch her eye out in the water, where it was deep, but before she could concentrate enough on it, a persistent tapping on her leg recalled her back to the present.

She looked down, and realized that a small girl of about five or six was rhythmically tapping her leg, trying to get her attention. "Where's my mommy?" the girl said insistently.

It took Rylie a few moments to parse the information and figure out why the restaurant was in such chaos. After locating the source, the distraught woman, she stood up and shouted. The restaurant became almost silent for a moment, and all eyes turned to Rylie. Her face flushed with embarrassment, but she said in a clear voice, "I believe the child may be over here?"

The mother rushed over and the girl nearly jumped into her mother's arms. "Jill! What have I told you about wandering away from Mommy? Bad girl!"

Jeremy went back to the table from the area he was searching, giving Rylie a big hug. "Wow! I'm so proud of you, you found that missing girl before the situation had a chance to...well, before it had a chance to get out of hand!" It was then he noticed the far away look in her eyes. "Rylie? Are you okay?"

"Y-y-yeah," she stammered out.

"You don't really look okay..." Jeremy trailed off.

"I...I had another vision, or dream, or something. I was on a riverbank and I kept repeating what the mother was saying, "where is she, where is she?" I was really worried, and then I saw something out in the middle of the water, where it was deep, and tried to concentrate, but then that girl tapped on my leg asking for her mommy..." Rylie explained.

Jeremy hugged here again. "Do you know what's causing those? Something in your past you...don't want to remember?"

"I don't know...they could be memory fragments, or dream fragments, or anything. All I know is that they're getting more and more emotionally draining and I don't like them one bit!" Rylie said.

"Are you okay? Do you want to go home?" Jeremy asked.

Rylie shook her head no, but did say she wanted to be somewhere a little more quiet, so Jeremy paid for their meal that they had nearly finished anyway, and they headed down to the boardwalk near the ocean. He paid for two vanilla cones, giving one to Rylie, and they sat on a bench as the ate. When they were done, Rylie put her arm around Jeremy, both of them staring out at the sea.

By the time they returned, it was past dark and Miss Quinn wasn't at home, so Jeremy made them a small dinner and they retired to his room. A few rounds of a video game later, it became obvious that their minds were most definitely preoccupied. It *was* a rare night that Jeremy's mum wasn't home. They *did* have an enjoyable day out together. And Jeremy *did* have feelings that he had been wondering about ever since his mum had said it. He thought about it, and decided it was best to go the direct route.

"Rylie?" he asked hesitantly.


"My mum...she said you...weren't programmed for sex. Is that true?" Jeremy asked.

Rylie had been staring at the screen, but at this comment, her head jerked back and she looked Jeremy in the eyes. "I...I've never really thought about it. I enjoy the little kissing and cuddling we do, and I never had to think about anything like that with Kylie, obviously..."

"Would you be averse to...trying?" asked Jeremy, embarrassed.

Rylie looked down at the floor, her face blushing furiously. "Umm, sure, I...guess so...."

Jeremy smiled and said, "Don't worry, I've never done this before either...." Then he turned off the television, leaving the room awash in a mix of moon and streetlight.

They looked at each other for a brief moment, and then Jeremy slowly brought Rylie into a kiss. A soft, sensual kiss that Rylie reciprocated well enough. They parted lips and Jeremy got undressed from the waist up. Rylie followed suit, and guided Jeremy over to the bed. The moonlight made Rylie's pale skin almost glow, and Jeremy began tracing patterns up and down her chest. She shivered a little and drew Jeremy closer into another kiss.

One action flowed into another, and Jeremy turned his attention to Rylie's breasts, playing at their nipples with his tongue, stimulating them with his lips and teeth. Rylie pulled Jeremy closer, barely able to whisper, "Please...m-m-more..."

Jeremy was more than happy to oblige. Moving from the breasts, he then attacked her ears, nibbling and playing at them with his tongue. He was very careful to avoid the hidden switch during his forays. During a pause to catch his breath, Rylie wriggled out of the short denim shorts she'd been wearing that day, and her underwear as well. Jeremy had to stop to admire the gorgeous curves that Rylie's creators had bestowed upon her. To Jeremy, she was truly breathtaking, all the way from the top of her head down to her cute little toes, which Jeremy then preceded to tickle briefly before taking off his own pants and focusing his attention further up on her body.

Rylie's body shook with ecstasy as Jeremy found out how exactly anatomically correct she was. Some light moaning from both of them complimented the scene, and it was pure chance that Jeremy looked up when he did, and saw a grin of delight frozen on Rylie's face, her eyes unmoving and still.

Immediately concerned, he stopped. "Rylie? Rylie? Are you okay, is something wrong? Did I do something? Oh please don't say I did something wrong..." he started to babble as Rylie's eyes lit up again.

"No, no, it's just so much...just so much to t-t-take in at once...once...I'm f-f-fine...keep...m-m-more..." Rylie stuttered out.

"Are you sure? I don't want to hurt you..." Jeremy said as he paused.

"Don't...don't much...information...mation...I...keep g-g-going...d-d-don't stop..." she stammered. Jeremy kissed Rylie deeply on the lips, and continued where he had left off.

Rylie's body was alive with tremors as Jeremy moved in time with her own rhythm, coming inside her as he hit his climax, and it appeared to him after Rylie had hit hers as well.

"Oh my...that was...incredible," she panted out.

"Same here...that was...I didn't know you were programmed that well, Rylie!" Jeremy said.

"Neither...neither did I..." Rylie got out in a tired voice. "I think...I think we should rest now. I feel tired enough to sleep."

Jeremy laughed a bit and then surrounded Rylie in his arms. He knew Rylie would charge if she needed to. The two fell asleep together, the sound of each breathing lulling the other into a peaceful world of dreams.

Jeremy woke up first the next morning, and stared down at Rylie's sunlit face. The light gleamed off her shiny hair, and he could feel her small breaths as she subconsciously picked up on the movement and cuddled in closer. He gently caressed her cheek, and gradually her eyes opened. She turned onto her back to face him, and smiled.

"Good morning, sleepyhead," he said. "You slept for almost ten hours!"

Rylie giggled. "Well you don't seem to have been awake for long yourself!" she grinned. "I'm going to have a shower, if you don't mind. Maybe you could...make us some breakfast?"

Jeremy nodded. "Sure," as Rylie got out of bed and gave him a little kiss.

She went over to the door and opened it a crack; seeing no sign of Miss Quinn, she darted across to the bathroom. Jeremy threw on a quick outfit and proceeded downstairs to make breakfast.

The hot water cascaded over Rylie's body as she lathered herself up with soap. She sighed and let the water relax away some of the stress she'd been feeling recently, though she had no idea how the water could wash away electronic stress. After washing her body, next was her hair. She enjoyed taking meticulous care of it, and was one of her characteristics she was most proud of. Once she was done cleaning, she found herself just staring into space, not really thinking about much of anything. She enjoyed the sleep that she was able to take advantage of now. It happened rather accidentally at first, but now she used it mostly for organising some of the increasing amount of information she was taking in, and for dreaming. Another sigh. Rylie so loved her dreams, mostly of her and Jeremy, living together, or of growing up and doing "normal" things, like going to school, and getting a job. Of course, some of the dreams were bad, and they often scared her, but having Jeremy sleeping next to her all the time meant it was easy for her to fall back asleep.

She came out of her reverie suddenly, remembering that Jeremy was making breakfast for her downstairs. She hurried out of the bathroom with a towel around her and quickly towel-dried her hair and got dressed for the day. It was only when she emerged from the room that she heard them. Little sobbing cries, liked choked tears. She listened closely and determined they weren't coming from downstairs, which only left one other option. At first, Rylie wasn't sure whether to investigate further, thinking that it could be awkward for both parties. But what if she was in trouble? Shouldn't Rylie help?

She crept across to the other door and found it slightly ajar. As she knocked, the door moved in slightly, revealing Miss Quinn. She was lying in bed with her back to the door, the occasional sobs making her body shake. Rylie moved softly over to the side of the bed. "Miss Quinn? Umm...what's wrong?"

Miss Quinn's sobbing stopped for a moment as she turned to face Rylie. Judging by her facial expression, Rylie thought she was about to say something harsh, but then she just stared at Rylie and started crying again. "Really, I want to help, M-m-miss Quinn..."

"Oh, it's no use," she choked out. "You just remind me so much much of..."

"So much of Kylie?" Rylie asked hesitantly, and was rewarded with more tears. "I'm so sorry...I didn't mean to stir up all these memories... I know they hurt, I hurt everyday I think of her," Rylie told her.

"I know you didn' can't help it..." Miss Quinn said quietly.

"I'd do anything to make it better you know...anything I could do," Rylie said.

"No, no you can't...because even if I turned you off, left you in that closet again, I'd still have these memories to deal with, and they wouldn't go away," Miss Quinn said.

Rylie thought a moment, and then surprised Miss Quinn by climbing into bed next to her. "I'm sorry," she whispered as she put her arms around Sandra, "Things shouldn't be this way, and I know I can't take Kylie's place for either of you, but Jeremy and I love each other, and we want to be together. And I like you, too, now that you're not always trying to turn me off"--Sandra giggled uneasily--"so I want to make you feel better, too."

"You know, Kylie used to do this, too, when I was upset about your...I mean, her father... She'd lie next to me and put her arms around me and comfort me, just like you're doing..." Sandra said between tears.

"Oh, I...I didn't mean this okay?" Rylie asked, momentarily wondering whether she did the right thing or not.

"No, no, it's okay, it's just been awhile since anyone has really seen me like this. I'm usually so tough, so opinionated. I guess I got that way after losing two people I loved...more than anything...," she explained.

"You still have Jeremy, though...and you have me now...I love you too," Rylie said, and hugged Sandra tighter.

" love me? After all the pain I've put you through since Jeremy reactivated you? Or even before?" Sandra asked.

"Of course I do! Even *with* all the things you've done, you never threw me out of the house, you never sold me, or disassembled me. I'm still here thanks to you! And in your your son I also met someone I...well, someone I've fallen in love with, and that's partially because he's had such a strong and loving mother like you," Rylie explained.

"That...that means a lot, Rylie. I'm flattered, I really am, even if I don't think I deserve your praise. But I also see how happy you've made Jeremy, and I'm glad for that, too. It broke my heart when we had to move but there were just too many memories in that house. I tried to run away from them, but they followed me here. I guess I still haven't really dealt with losing her completely, yet," Sandra said. "But sometimes, you're just like her, and...well, Jeremy doesn't really remember some of the little things but a mother knows. The sparkle in your eye, that mischievous independent streak of yours that made you stand up to me, that made Jeremy fall in love with you... I just see so much of her in you."

"I think I'll take that as a compliment," Rylie said lightly, and Miss Quinn laughed.

"You should! You know, I think you're gonna grow up just fine," Sandra said as Rylie smiled. "And are those pancakes I smell? I think Jeremy is making us breakfast!" Rylie giggled. "Let's go downstairs and see if we can convince him to do this for us more often..."

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