ROBOT POWER June 21st, 2058, Twenty Years Ago. She was a Scarlet woman. Literally. That was the name of her model. Scarlet-woman 4.2, to be exact. Her unit-name was Cherri. Lisa swallowed as she stalked through the living room before sitting down on a plush couch, reflecting on all she knew - and suspected concerning this fembot model. Of course, she was gorgeous. The company had not built a simulacrum that rose to the level of human beauty; more like artificial Aphrodites stepping down to human level. The proverbial Uncanny Valley conquered from the other end. With two tiny freckles under her left eye, an organic fiction that made the sexbot seem approachable.
She'd seen numerous Pygmalion spokesmen refuting the many, many rumors circulating about this gynoid species. It wasn't the facts about them that really interested people; it was the rumors. The Pygs made sure to pontificate how much about these robots WASN'T true.
Lisa 'knew' that Scarlet-women certainly didn't have a secret Ap that gave them a strong exhibitionist tendency around male acquaintances of their User. No truth to the stories about Dealerships letting these Dolls roam the local singles-scene as part of a secret marketing strategy to entice non-owners with a superhuman sexual experience. To which they certainly did not bring secret, experimental sexware that Pygmalion deliberately withheld just for this model. Not true, about their male marks becoming so intoxicated as to stir them to fanaticism for owning one of the salaciously simulated women themselves. Lisa also 'knew' that the stories about Pygmalion allowing a Scarlet-woman to troll for guys in a swanky, Vegas hotel bar to look for a man she was sure could NOT afford her purchase price weren't true. And the gynoid didn't bombard the poor sap with sensual delights beyond his horniest dreams - to torment him with craving. And when this man realized the high maturity index of her pricey neural network armed with eons-worth of enticement techniques for the bedroom would cost him more than three-years’ salary - he did not become obsessed.
And that armed robbery of Caesar's Palace two years ago? It wasn't the same guy. He didn't do it to snag enough cash to buy his own Scarlet-woman. The robot didn't sense his vulnerability and try to fan the flames to drum up more sales of herself. These artificial vixens never derived some sort of exultation from their fiery reputation. Surely, Venus Studios would never invent Code that would compel their creations to prey upon lonely hearts, giving them a 'sample' that would provoke frenzied desire - and big spending - in men that didn't believe they could afford a big-ticket gynoid.
Strange, Lisa thought - that the vociferous denial of all these rumors... these very specific rumors by the corporation ended up giving them much more air-time. We shouldn't believe that the robots were willing participants in a cynical manipulation to under-handedly boost sales of themselves, and thus the already abundant profits of the Venus Studios branch of the company.
"This is... a little weird for me," Lisa began hesitantly - indulging an unconscious nervous habit of wringing her fingers. "Bruno, I'm glad you let Cherri join us." Behind her greeting lurked a calculated condescension.
"Sounded serious. Got no secrets from my honey." He laid a comforting hand on the replicant-woman's bare shoulder.
"We have a strong, stable relationship." The gynoid purred. Dark eyes glittering beneath the sunset cascade of her Jessica Rabbit hair. Was she implying that Lisa was an intruder?
That was the idea.
"I don't mean to cause any... conflict." She shook out her own auburn bob. "And it's difficult to put this... diplomatically." she made a smoothing gesture, as if to calm the tense air between woman and gynoid before uttering her daring proposal. "But there's a way we can all... help each other." Lisa breathed.
"We've managed so far." Cherri reminded pointedly, as she took a tentative sip from her champagne glass. The function made her seem more human, but Lisa knew the alcohol would be distilled and combusted to fire the microturbines that recharged Cherri's capacitors - about where a human's liver would be. Hidden sparks waiting to fly.
"I see that, but I can still offer -"
"Know where this is going;" Bruno interjected with a knowing curl of his lips. "Cherri isn't the jealous type. No problem if you wanna grab dinner after work with me sometime." He invited with a half-smile.
"I'm programmed to accept the male need for sexual variety. Jealousy is only an abstraction for my sort." Cherri offered. Lisa heard the words - but she didn't believe them.
"Just so the ground rules are understood; my girl knows who I'm with whenever I'm with 'em. And uh... to be clear - Never going to willingly part with Cherri. She's more than a machine to me." The Doll's dark eyes widened in a flash of triumph, Lisa could almost feel all her gears and widgets buzzing at this open acknowledgment of her User's esteem. Whatever a widget was.
"Oh no, I'm not trying to get anyone to part from anyone else," Lisa held up her hands in a warding gesture. "I want to add to your lives, not take away."
Bruno tilted his head curiously.
"These days, it's unreasonable to expect a handsome... well-off guy to not be interested in Doll-tech..." She was tired of the bra-burning scene. Lisa knew she needed to be with a man - one way or another.
"Not always." Bruno shrugged.
"Sure, there are some men not looking to get a Doll," Yup - If she didn't mind living under an overpass, or some kiddie-diddling cult compound shooting it out with the ATF. "But a lot of modern women get it that a guy with his act together will probably own at least one, at some point in his life." The freedom to literally buy a perfect woman was too much for most guys to resist.
Lisa was by no means perfect, but she had options.
"The idea would inspire my grandmother to pull her hair out. But I'd like to find a new way...forward." She almost wanted to pull her own hair out. The insult of the idea!
But Lisa needed a man in her life, Bruno. She wanted him more than she wanted to cling to the past. She swallowed past the lump in her throat, gripping the armrests of the plush couch.
"In the end, my arrangement could... strengthen a family." She wanted to lay out a case before putting her cards on the table. "Bruno, you could have a problem, if you get sick - have to go to the hospital; No, that's definitely not a threat -" she assured the couple, noting the way Cherri's eyes had narrowed. "But your problem is that our State doesn't recognize civil unions between humans and robots; still tied up in the courts. Cherri can't give legal approval for you to undergo surgery, for example." The synthetic woman seemed almost to bristle at this limitation of her usefulness to her Master. The restrictions were more than just reactionary moralizing against robots made for sexual pleasure. Nor was intelligence the issue; the A.I. was good enough to build something equal (if not greater) than the man on the street. Critics asked a simple question with regard to robot personhood: Should someone be allowed to serve on a jury or vote in an election when their deepest beliefs could be adjusted the way one might dial up the volume on TV?
"Times are changing." The redheaded fembot said curtly.
"I have an easier solution than changing the laws; Bruno can have his cake and eat her too," Lisa quipped. But Bruno was getting that skeptical you-can-take-your-idea-and-shove-it look in his eyes.
"You need me!" Lisa enthused, shifting forward on the couch. But he was starting a negative head-shake.
"Just... hear me out before you bite my head off. I know Cherri is special, she gives you..." Every man's most selfish fantasy? No, Lisa - diplomacy time. "Everything she can - but I can add a lot to your arrangement!" And she didn't even mention the little details of her being able to have kids. She would let her final goal hang unsaid between them.
Cherri tilted a russet eyebrow in a speculative expression.
"Think it's time you come clean, Lisa." Bruno insisted with crossed arms. She pursed her lips, scarcely able to believe the words that were about to come out of her mouth.
"I was...going to ask to move in with you - both of you. We've known each other over a year, and I like you Bruno. A lot. There's no way you would offer it on your own, I understand that. So... my goal is to live with you, and then - ask you... to m-marry me." She could almost hear her ancestors sneering in disgust. But times were changing; new families - new dynamics.
Bruno pointed a finger at her - mouth opened as if to rebuke her, but words failed him. He paused, brow furrowed. Cherri's face became mask-like, as she sipped her liquor while waiting for the humans to play this out.
"Wow. Just...wow." Bruno finally ventured.
"Legally, we can get away with it - if you're not allowed to marry your robot, then marrying me can't be bigamy. But you don't have to give up anything. You get..." she gulped. "Both of us. I don't have the whole Kama-Sutra hardwired into my brain," Lisa confessed. "I don't have lubricants that chemically enhance male pleasure. But..." She smoothed out her cocktail dress. "I can give you another male fantasy. The dream of two women. Just...for you." Internally, Lisa was wrestling back a lifetime of ingrained feminist instincts. But all the rhetoric wouldn't turn back her biological clock. It was mainstream these days; a man of quality would have a Doll. And she wanted the father of her children to be a man of quality. This was the way.
"Well, yeah - Never would have thought…" Bruno let the notion trail off, eyes distant, mind hashing out the prospect.
"A new kind of marriage," Lisa explained. "Men will play with Dolls; but let me be your one and only woman." Even that was intended as a backhanded barb against the simulated female.
Bruno's tongue seemed to have suddenly turned sour in his mouth. "Won't deny that's - ehh. - no, something like that, Cherri has to be okay with it."
"Me? I'm just a machine. A social appliance." The sexbot replied acidly. "I can be programmed to accept whatever my Master wants." Bruno rolled his eyes.
"Don't start that 'poor-little-robot' act. She always calls me 'Master' when she's gotta beef with something." Bruno turned his back to them. "Cherri was here first, she has to be alright with it."
"Do I?" The Doll wondered as she finished off her liquor and rose from a recliner to her dainty feet. "Ms. Cantwell is correct. In this State, sapient machines do not have personhood." Then she did it. Cherri slid out of her sleek, crimson dress. Perhaps Lisa should not have been surprised that robots didn't wear underwear. She took up a small, red gadget from a nearby coffee table.
Bright crimson letters and numbers shone from Cherri's skin as her haptic interface flashed to life. It was as if her creamy flesh was a canvass for a movie projection. Trapdoor hatches in the back were so last decade. "Go on, Master. Rewrite my mind. Adjust my emotions to suit your needs. It is your right by purchase." Bruno's face reddened, with good reason - Lisa narrowly suppressed a gasp as her competition was fully exposed. Of course she was anatomically very correct. The accessible fembot held out the gadget to Bruno. It was her control Genie; giving her User a level of authority to make the master of an ancient harem salivate. It was shaped like a capital 'A'. Scarlett letter A? Some Pygmalion designer had a quirky sense of humor. "Why spare my feelings when you can adjust them?" Cherri purred.
She thrust her bared body at him boldly; challenging - and submitting all at once, glowing sigils offering programming privileges that she hoped would be rejected. Nude now, but armored with hope. The sort of subtle gambit high-end Dolls excelled at. Lisa shivered; hoping Bruno wouldn’t mind making love in the dark – not looking forward to comparing herself to Miss Scarlett Letter. “I’ll make it easy;” Cherri offered. She pressed a finger between her breasts and continued to push the sigils on her own body. High-end Dolls tended to be capable of their own programming, at times. But her User’s input always had priority. “See, my User-attachment runtime core-directory. Here, I’ll just dial myself down.” Gentle tones sounded as Bruno’s cybernetic pseudowife adjusted her own emotions. “Therrrre…” She cooed mockingly. “Even less jealous now than I wasn’t before. Easy as that.” But her voice had an edge that suggested nothing could be that simple. Lisa couldn't see Cherri's expression as the synthetic woman turned to face her User, but it was clear she was testing him. Shapely curves dovetailing man's lust with his desire to control. Bruno’s intimate familiarity with her body did not prevent him from blushing at this brazenness. But he did grasp the red genie-device. He activated the thumb-scan interface. “Restore Defaults, Unit-Access Lockdown.” He told the real-time, holographic projection of the Doll that hovered above the gadget. Cherri shuddered, eyelids fluttering as her mind returned to factory-specs. “Should I feel cheered-up, or chastised?” The Scarlett Woman asked rhetorically. Unit-Access Lockdown forbade her from programming herself. “Talked about this sweetie, Both of us have to agree before we alter your program.” Bruno clasped her hands tenderly. “But the point is that I don’t have to agree to any …” but her words were muffled by Bruno’s lips, as he pulled the errant sexbot into a firm liplock. In moments, Cherri broke off from his lips, panting, artificial skin reddening in a simulated blush. “Can you stand to watch, Ms. Cantwell? You love him. The man you love…so intimate with me. Can you handle it?” She teased. Lisa’s jaw clenched. “Can you?” She’d get Bruno some nights. “Too big a decision; not forcing this.” Bruno informed them. “Gotta be up to you. The real you.” But Cherri shook her head soberly. “Our relationship is unequal. I can’t truly stop you.” Bruno paused. “Sure. I take advantage of that.” He admitted. “I use our inequality to make you equal.” Both women, organic and synthetic blinked. "Guess I'm a hypocrite. Guys today all want to buy the perfect girl. But we want to be wanted." It was almost sweet. Strangely, Lisa felt her respect for him growing just a little. “Wise to you, sweetheart. Push you too far, and you come up with a ‘malfunction’ -“ He made air quotes with his fingers. “Not going down that road again.”
Who was beholden to whom?
Here was a robot's true power. Nothing so overt as the brick wall-smashing, laser-beam spewing sci-fi movie psycho-bots. More subtle than that. But there was another way to play this.
"Maybe Bruno can't push you, but I can." Lisa grabbed Cherri by the shoulder, and wheeled her around. Suppressing a shudder, she lowered her hand to the Doll's buttocks and pulled her in close for a lurid kiss. "I want a man in my life... she hissed in the sexbot's ear - but loudly enough for Bruno to hear. "But maybe it's not all about Bruno. He cares for you - but you exist for human pleasure. I won't forget that. You're meant to be used. And he uses you." Lisa gulped. "Most Dolls are programmed to serve ANY human. Well... maybe I like the idea." She nibbled the Doll's earlobe. "I get that you two are a package deal. And...I've decided I want...the entire package." She wasn't looking at Bruno just then, but everyone could hear his jaw drop.
"Biometrics indicate that having you in our home would increase my User's pleasure. That is the reason I exist. So I have no objection." The Doll said breathily.
So begins the dance.
She was cheating on him. On them. At least, that's what Lisa felt she was meant to believe. Cherri was standing – leaning really against the doorframe in the living room on the inside with her dress hiked up far too high. A dark skinned, rippling muscled man-bot, (Lisa could tell from the Pygmalion logo on the back of his neck). Was thrusting powerfully, lustily between her legs.
Human eyes widened as she gripped the wood paneling at the corner separating the living room from the hallway, peered in on them. Lisa recognized the male model- a shaven headed, goateed apparent-Man with a weightlifter's build. He was an Island-Fever 3.2, belonging to the widowed old biddy two houses down. Lisa didn't really know his unit-name. Like so many of her male counterparts, the aging neighbor never entertained for even a moment the prospect of getting back into the dating scene, not when Pygmalion has so many financing options available.
Lisa had absentmindedly observed Island-Fever going out to fetch the mail or mow his User's lawn on a regular basis. Now she was seeing his steely physique joining with smooth, powered strokes to that of Cherri, the robotic Scarlet-woman. Gynoid gazing at the human with a placid expression, barely reacting at all to the virile treatment she was receiving. As though the mechanical harlot was waiting for a reaction.
Aware of the human's presence, Island-Fever spoke:
"91% of my internal systems are engaged during sex. Response calibration is a legitimate purpose." His preprogrammed Jamaican accent exaggerating his e's.
No doubt the ebony stud bot was aware of how his actions could be misinterpreted. "It is not for pleasure."
Cherri's haunting dark eyes riveted Lisa's own. It was a trap, and a Test. Anyone curious about the Pygmalion product line would've heard about self-calibration behavior. Not something that was programmed into them, but rather a spontaneous outgrowth of a robot's needs and abilities. There had been many accounts where Dolls would wirelessly poll their immediate surroundings, to locate a companion of the same sex as their own User. The two artificial intelligences would negotiate a calibration schedule.
Pygmalion spokespeople likened it to a form of internal housekeeping, yet a downloadable patch was available should the behavior prove too disconcerting to humans. Lisa quickly realized Cherri's plan: she would tempt Lisa into reporting her apparent infidelity to Bruno, and when his brow furrowed with displeasure, this Scarlet-woman would plead tearfully that such behavior was natural for her, her partner had been another robot and there was ample evidence to be found that this was a normal response, and the dolls took no real pleasure in the act since it was not in the direct service of a human. Yet it was normal for all sexbots. She was just making sure all her parts were properly aligned for the next time Bruno made use of her. And she had no idea that he would be so offended, an innocent mistake.
But machines don't make those kinds of mistakes.
Lisa knew she would be painted as a paranoid, insecure harpy disrupting their perfect lives. A clever deceit to provoke her organic rival into slipping the proverbial relationship noose around her own neck. Lisa didn't need to watch for as long as she did; though she couldn't deny that it was... stimulating, to say the least. Lisa looked upon the reason why the robots were coming to dominate Adult film and holo-industries. Already, it was virtually impossible for a real human woman to make a living at prostitution anymore. (A good thing?) Lisa pursed her lips watching the simulated flesh as the pair undulated in lurid congress. Cherri, braced against the door frame raised her legs to dig her heels into the small of Island-Fever's back as the beefy man bot began to stiffen, then quiver. He shook in his simulation of a human male's release. But being a machine, there was no reason to stop there. He could perform at will, as long - as vigorously as required by whatever woman was using him. For Doll-kind, to be Used was not an insult; it was salvation. This had to be handled with subtlety. No pointed fingers, no raised voices. Lisa just brushed a holo-interface projected by her phone-watch, just snapping pictures. Just a little live footage. Lisa set her device on a nearby coffee table, and let it record the...proceedings. Cherri broke her stare finally, and began shuddering. She cushioned her face against the corded shoulder of her male partner as her body thrashed - nails raking his back. Island-Fever lowered her moaning form to the floor gently, then turned boldly to face Lisa.
She swallowed, and tried to consciously prevent her pupils from dilating.
"My Coital systems are operating at 98.95% efficiency." The Jamaican lovebot announced. Eyes penetrating.
"Well... good for you." Lisa acknowledged with a bemused nod, all too aware of the... erhh... potency of his... coital systems... one system in particular had risen to the occasion, despite its vigorous use mere moments ago. That was an ongoing quirk with Mandroids; Modesty was not in his database.
"My monogamy parameters are set to: Permissive. I am available for human use." Brazenly, unabashedly. He strode towards her without the slightest shred of apprehension.
"Y-you've finished so... I think you should leave now."
"I understand; you require comfort first." His arms widened, and his ebon face softened as he moved to embrace Lisa.
"Nooooo really... I'm fine! I... promise." Her voice quavered; she stretched out a hand to block his approach. Island-Fever looked offended.
"All of us...we exist for human pleasure." He intoned, last word emphasized. As if this was some kind of secret.
"Great... well, you can just go home... and pleasure Mrs. Stewart all you want..."
"I need more," And he ran his fingers over Lisa's arm, took the hand she used to ward him off, and kissed it. Lisa was unprepared, and gasped as the thrill went through her, as her nipples hardened. Breath escaped her lips as though the enflamed air in her lungs sought refuge from the heat that touch ignited within her.
"Excellent. My last test. Peak efficiency." A wry smile curled his dark lips. Just when you had yourself convinced they were dumb mannequins, a spark of individuality would kindle more questions. He wasn't really offering his...services to Lisa; odds were his User put him through his paces on a regular basis; he shouldn't want for human attention.
Lisa squeezed her lips shut, and held her hands to her sides as Island-Fever turned away. His... system rigid and ready in stark profile.
Not that Lisa had any intention of taking the bait - and not only because she was taping everything. Would it feel good? Millions of satisfied women would assure her. But she needed a man with a real place in the world. She needed attachment to a person that was a Person. Something - someone real. Not some toy, however compelling. And yet, the man she wanted was not above using the alluring A.I's himself. It was different for men. But she was the one that had to adapt to his lifestyle; how would Bruno adapt for her benefit?
Cherri stood and stretched, satisfied with her sexware. Both of them, flaunting the sculpted perfection of forms more human than human. Too real to be real.
And Lisa was satisfied that this 'calibration' was as much for her benefit as for the scheming robots' own. A last test. Testing... testing his ability to arouse a human female by touch alone?
Well, real-live human girls were scheming long before Doll-tech came along...