The work crew of fembots in the radiation zone were doing work too dangerous to assign to humans. Since it was a big budget operation the bots were regarded as quite expendable.
To save money they were standard models off the dealer floors with custom programming uploaded so they could perform the task at hand.
They wore work boots and padded jumpsuits to cushion any falls they would have. They also carried large shields, like Old Europe’s armored knights. Each bot’s jumpsuit had a different color pattern. (In case of error that made it easier to review the footage, identify the flawed bot and correct the problem.)
The factory manufactured small robots called “Torks.” Radiated torks glowed green and were a little bigger than a man’s longest finger. They were the outer space equivalent of killer bees, defending Earth’s atmosphere and satellites from raids by the nomadic space Greys. To do the job they were given programming that made them very “Ornery” once they received their activating mix of radiation. Some went rogue in the factory. (No programming fix had been found that didn’t leave them less effective as space defenders.)
Outside the force field Chet watched Fascinated. A young man of 23 and a new technician, the job was still fresh and exciting to him.
He began to focus his attention on Regina 472. The curly brown hair and cute smile that were wasted in her current function. The yellow jumpsuit with dark blue stripes that he found so eye catching.
A group of torks began quivering. Knowing the signs the fembots approached whistling commands. A few torks obeyed, returning to their places in the packaging. Seven of the torks lifted themselves in the air and activated their attack mode, flinging themselves forward.
The fembots were prepared for this attack and held up their electrified absorber shields.
As the attack commenced Chet thought the fembots were like Matadors in a Spanish bull ring. Regina 472 was targeted by two torks. At the last second she pulled her shield and herself to the left, letting one tork impale itself on the shield. As the other overshot on her right and curved back to her she spun the shield around nailing that one. The torks burned rapidly on her shield, dropping parts, some of which were salvageable.
Not all of Regina 472’s comrades were as luck as her. Nancy 181 had stopped a tork by having it impale itself in her right leg. The leg would have to be replaced.
Wilma 393 had taken one to the bellybutton area. She fell down, still twitching but she wouldn’t twitch for long. Many of her parts would be salvaged. (In fact her right leg would be attached to Nancy 181.)
The work crew was nicknamed “Tork Cowgirls” for the way they ran herd on the torks (shortened, of course, to just “Cowgirls.”)
When the day’s production had been finished and the torks were being sent to orbit, the fembots went through a de-radiating screen and then came out of the force field. They made sure to evacuate their damaged comrades with them, both the repairable and the unrepairable. (Five of the former and two of the latter.) They marched out naked. The boots and padded jumpsuits were decontaminated and sent to laundry on a conveyer belt.
Complex robo-psychological algorithms had been tested to decide how to prepare the fembots for the next work shift. Going into overdrive to deal with rogue torks put a strain on their systems. Since general purpose fembots had been designed with sexual functioning in mind, the answer had been simple-sexual activity.
Since their storage cells were quite small, those coupled by compatibility tests went hand in hand to the pair rooms. (Not being given time to date or even do much socializing, the compatibility tests were all that was used to make matchups.) The uncoupled singles went right to their storage cells.
Regina 472 walked right next to Chet and made an adjustment on the board canceling her reservation for a pair room. He asked an obvious, newbie question. “You’re canceling?”
She responded “Lulu 114’s personality core was destroyed today.”
His response was automatic. “I’m sorry about your loss.” His tone had the appropriate sorrow and sincerity-for talking to a human in that situation.
Her words, in the flat robot tone she responded in, would resonate in his mind forever. “It was what she was for. It was what all of us are for.”
Chet went to storage cells of fembots and began checking readings outside the cell that they were within the maintenance protocol. Many were, but often there was one or more slight adjustment he needed to make to the fembots.
Since many personality traits of general purpose fembots are assigned at random (unless custom programmed/reprogrammed) there were slight behavior differences. Some had privacy sheets drawn in front of their cells, some didn’t. None denied him entrance after he announced “Maintenance.” Some paused their solo sexual activities, some continued. Some flirted with him, some were merely friendly, and some expressed irritation at his interruption (though in a moderate almost polite fashion.) But he went through anyway, getting all the maintenance done.
Chet’s job assignment that day included maintenance protocols of fembots in storage cells 16-30. Cell’s 1-15 were Clara P’s assignment. But she was on her phone, dealing with some crisis her kids had.
So Chet, acting like an “Eager Beaver” made it to cell 13 and Regina 472. She was masturbating openly, with no privacy sheet on the entrance. He went in and added oil to the slot in her neck while she kept pumping her dildo with her left hand and massaged her clit with her right hand while she emitted a set of loud moans. He checked her maintenance readings and saw he did understand her moans correctly. Major orgasm, last one she needed to reach optimum.
Suddenly she looked up at him and pulled the cord to close the privacy sheet. He looked down at her questioningly. She said, in a slightly inviting but largely mechanical voice “You seem more aroused then normal for a technician at this stage of the cycle. Do you require sexual release? My range of orgasms allows more without moving me much past for optimum.” Her mouth partially closed, forming a perfect circle. Her hips rose displaying her other sexual targets.
He stammered out a “No, you’d be past optimum, I’m OK.” And slid out.
So she plugged herself into the recharge outlet and shut down.
The coupled fembots had been achieving their mutual optimum orgasm range and returned. So he began checking their maintenance readings before they shut down.
Frederica 092 was way too discerning. She said “You look smitten. I hope it’s not a Cowgirl.”
He lied as smoothly as he could. “No, I’m just thinking of a gal in the city.”
Suddenly her voice was motherly mixed with the mechanical. “Good. Because NOTHING good can come from any human getting smitten with a Tork Cowgirl. Nada. ZILCH.” Then she raised her arms, pointing her bosom at him as she also angled her hips. “Would it help if I offered?” She left the obvious ending unsaid.
He recovered his poise, politely gestured no, and finished her maintenince by opening her chest right below the bosom and adding a small amount of battery acid.
Soon all the Cowgirls were deactivated.
Note-Chet had resisted temptation, not because he was a particularly celibate individual (he wasn’t) but because he needed to sort out some feelings first.
Five days later another batch of fresh torks was needed. The cowgirls were activated and sent in. Chet spent the session watching Regina 472 closely, marveling at her graceful moves. He understood why malebots were not bought for this work. Fembots were built with a tiny bit more gracefulness where malebots were just built for power.
Frederica 092 took one to the head and was salvaged for parts. Irrationally he felt guilty that that made him feel relieved.
He never had another opportunity to watch the Cowgirls in action. A few days later a new automated system was installed. After it was tested the Cowgirls were activated. But only to hear a brief speech. “Tork Cowgirls! We thank you for our marvelous service. However improvements in the automation mean you are no longer needed. Please line up by the black door for the salvage company to arrange your repurposing. Thanks again for your service and good luck in your future.”
Chet wondered why upper management included any thanks, much less two. Or the good luck wishes. Management certainly didn’t care about the fembots. He decided it was in case any of the technicians had developed empathy for the fembots. They certainly deserved better. He saw Regina 472 walk past him with no sign of recognition and line up for whatever would come.
The next week in his apartment he got a delivery from an online auction service. It was a Fembot storage unit. Inside was a fembot in brown coveralls.
He opened the case and pulled the fembot activating lever.
“Hello. I am Regina 472. I have recently been repurposed for domestic duty.” She said.
“Welcome to your new home. I am Chet we have met before.” He replied.
“I recognize you. Apologies I thought maybe you were grafted into my memory.” He looked puzzled as to why she’d thought that. So she continued “Perhaps it was silly to think that. I have never been repurposed from tork manufacturing before and do not know what all is involved.”
“Did you get new programming?”
“Yes. I am now capable of the domestic work at a B7 standard and capable of being a companion to C4 standard socially and A8 standard sexually.”
“What would you like me to do first?”
“Well, all you have is basic underwear, sandals and brown coveralls. Let’s get you more clothes.”
He took her to a robot friendly clothing store. Darla 514, a fembot sales assistant measured her. Chet asked Regina what she thought she would look good in. She expected they’d buy one set of lingerie for a night of passion/sexual compatibility test. Instead they picked out an entire wardrobe. Two pairs shoes, two skirts, three pairs pants, two shorts, seven shirts (compatible with the various bottoms) two dresses, five pairs socks, six bra/panties matched sets one bikini…
Somewhere in the middle she asked “Would it be better to wait until you see if I please you?”
He looked puzzled. “I know you. I’m familiar with the quality of work you do. We’ll be great together.”
Before he’d bought her they’d talked exactly twice. And never for very long. She realized that it could be a bad set-up if he had developed feelings for some idealized version of her while having little to do with the actual her. However the law did not allow for robot purchases to be voided if made by stalkers so there was nothing to do but make the best of it.
That night he tenderly and passionately made love to her. She reciprocated. In the morning he went to work and she began doing all domestic duties without him having to ask.
They spent hours together every week. After thinking he may be a stalker she was relieved that he accepted her as herself and never pressured her to be what he thought “the real her” was.
She met many of his friends and family. Starting with his sister Jackie and her companion Biff 919. Regina congratulated her “Biff looks like a mixed race Gary Cooper.”
Jackie had smiled back and said “That’s the look I was going for when I custom ordered him.”
All in all, in her new station she had no complaints (admittedly she wasn’t programed to complain much.) He seemed to enjoy treating her like she was someone special. So she accepted that treatment.
One night during a shutdown and recharge her robo-subconscious came online and she began to dream robo-dreams.
In several of them she was back in her yellow and blue jumpsuit. Torks were quivering. She and her colleagues whistled at them to stand down. Some launched themselves. She spun her body behind her absorber shield, feeling the impact as they expended themselves.
In one of the dreams multiple three torks jumped her. She got one while dodging the other two. When they turned back and attacked again she got the second while the third made an impact in her neck rendering both her and the tork broken. Yet the dreamer had no regrets. (Probably because she wasn’t programmed to regret such things.)
In the next dream she and Chet were on vacation. They visited Mount Rushmore and tourist shops then went to a hotel room and took a shower together and… [She stopped dreaming, lapsing into a deeper level of shutdown.]
Six weeks later Chet said “Instead of staying home today I need you to come to work with me.”
Regina nodded “As you wish.”
“At the factory I’m working on a model for predicting torks going rogue. I’ve made some progress, but the rest is lost in a mass of variables. I’d like your help.”
“You want my opinion?” Despite her sophisticated programming she was always surprised when someone wanted her for her brain. (Well, technically her CPU)
“You have a different experience on the problem and might be able to shed some light. Here, put this on. It might help cue the right mental relays.” He handed her a familiar looking outfit.
“You bought my old jumpsuit?”
“No, it was donated to charity. I had the manufacturer make another one.”
Soon she donned the boots and jumpsuit. He drove to the site and got her past security by simply saying “She’s my personal bot.”
When they got in he said “Back to the old salt mine.” She was programmed to smile and understand the reference, although her old work site was not literally a salt mine.
They watched the assembly line working with unhuman like automatons doing all the tasks. One of the torks quivered and went rogue. It zinged around for a while damaging cheap automated assembly line parts then eventually hit an absorber shield and was finished. She asked “They let the rogue torks do damage like that?”
“Yes, but it’s cheaper because without the fembots there’s less of value to damage.”
“Are those the same absorber shields we used to use?”
“Yes we already had them in stock, so a system was designed to use them.”
Later her expertise began to pay off. “Do you see how that case opened? They’re almost certainly going to go rogue.”
“Yeah but a lot of cases open and they don’t go rogue.”
“No, look at how it shook open. When it pops open they rarely go rogue but when it shakes open…”
“You never reported this in the old days.”
He wondered how much puzzlement her flat tone hid. “They never asked for debriefings. We thought they knew. Anyway we weren’t programmed to volunteer inform…”
As some torks rose out of their case and began to quiver her voice trailed off. She took two steps to the force field entrance. Suddenly she stopped and her head turned and looked to Chet. He looked back but said nothing and kept his hands at his side signaling nothing. Her head faced forward and she ran to the entrance.
She grabbed an absorber shield as she began whistling commands. Two torks returned to the case. Five torks launched themselves at her. She got one impaled on her shield and dodged the other four. They circled back. She got a second impaled on her shield. A third smashed into her left leg. A fourth impaled itself on her shield but a fifth smashed into her just below her neck.
She crawled through decontamination and then crawled out. Then she reached for Chet’s hand. He took it. He heard her self-repair apparatus sucking air as it tried to overcome the impossible. “You could have ordered me to stay out and I would have.” Her voice was flat not accusatory. Her social programming left her with a need to explain. “But without a direct order the old programming had too strong a hold on me.”
He smiled sadly and proudly. “You were magnificent in there.”
“I loved you as I was programmed to. But they say retired fire horses became unmanageable when they heard the bells.” Rather than hold onto him in a death grip like a human could, her grip went soft as all her noises ceased and she went inert. He wondered at her knowing that analogy. Virtually all horse drawn fire apparatus had been motorized back in the 1920s at the latest.
He remembered being told that feelings between a human and a Tork Cowgirl were never good. But he was a man who followed the sports teams he liked through victory and defeat, riding out the emotions either way.
Days later he almost bought a replacement fembot of the same size, to save money by having her use Regina’s clothes, but at the last minute he went with one a size bigger.
Soon after he wrote a letter on paper, although paper was little used in the days of computerized information.
To Regina 472 (C/O Robot Valhalla.)
A cynic would say my mistake was to see you as more than the sum of your parts. Heck, if I’d told ANYONE I knew the full story they would tell me that. But since that day you gave me the “It’s what we’re for” speech in such a matter of fact tone, I saw you as an Amazon Warrior. And I want to live in the world where beautiful Amazon Warriors have destinies. It’s more colorful and romantic. If I’d let you be bought by someone else never to see you again, knowing you were serving some mundane purpose, I would have been sad.
Having you as my domestic fembot was a nice interval. But once I used the dream equipment I’d rented to induce a certain dream in your CPU and see how you responded I knew our time was limited. To deny you a death in battle was like denying an eagle a chance to soar.
Still the choice was yours. Programmed in maybe. But yours. I did not push or order you into the force field. I just set up the opportunity and let you do what you chose.
I miss you deeply and will continue to. But I will always be glad I was the man who did what I did. Who let you become who you were meant to be.
He burned the letter on the theory that she’d get it or she wouldn’t. Besides he didn’t want anyone to see it.