- PART 1
The tall curvy brunette gazed through the glass wall of her office as she spoke on the phone. She was smartly dressed; a wealthy professional in her early thirties in keeping with the wood and leather finished executive furniture around her. Beyond the glass was the hustle and bustle of the open plan floor-plate where dozens of more junior staff went about their daily office business.
“All our employees other than me will be clear by five which will leave you free to work on the androids after then… Yes… I’ll clear you through the building desk and meet you in our reception area… Yes… No problem, I’ll stay as long as you need… Oh yes, there’s a problem with one of the PA units too, she keeps dumping charge… yes, hang on…”
The woman leafed through a sheaf of printouts, “…403-d2, we’ve had her for several years: Annie, the little redhead… okay then, see you at five then Nicola… Bye!”
The woman cut the connection, swept up the pile of printouts and left the office. She moved with unhurried poise, her firm legs placing her mid heels on the carpet with precision and her manicured fingers opening and closing the dark wood door with exactly the perfect combination of movements. Graceful. As she turned towards the big room she caught her own reflection in the chrome nameplate: Mrs Beverley Clarke – IT Director.
“Alison! I need you to double check that all the devices in this stack are ready for Tech Refresh this evening please.” She handed the pile of paper to the younger woman, each sheet containing a detailed run-down of one of the firm’s android women working amongst their human colleagues around them. “Yes Mrs Clarke.” Alison knew her own designation would be on one of the many sheets but lacked the emulation software required to be concerned about the procedure yet; she simply set about checking off the long lists of upgrades, patches and alterations scheduled against the company’s requirements and individual unit specifications.
As the working day drew to a close for most of the company, Beverly met Nicola and her team in the foyer and walked them onto the floor-plate. She offered the two male technicians coffee while they waited for the last of the human employees to clear away and leave for the evening; Nicola, as she well knew, had no need of refreshment being another advanced android like herself. She was a painfully thin figure with clear white skin and dark golden hair neatly pulled back from her striking features. She and her two male companions were dressed in company grey coveralls with the international spanner symbol across the back. They seemed polite and professional as they sipped their coffee, the younger of the two furtively eyed Beverly’s full figure when he thought she wasn’t looking which pleased her.
As they waited to start Beverly sent Alison to start preparing the other girls. The petite figure moved from girl to girl patiently requesting they get ready for tech support. She had to answer a host of their personality generated queries and objections before persuading them to strip down to their bra and adopt the maintenance position, sitting backwards on their office chairs ready to be accessed. Each artificial personality was programmed with a strong work ethic and, since none bar Annie were actually malfunctioning, they all seemed to believe they had more important business than routine servicing.
As each girl was finally persuaded to strip she drew admiring glances from the few human workers left at the other side of the big office. Eventually even the most blatant voyeur could delay no longer and the machines and their support staff were left alone.
“Right, looks like we’re ready for you now…” Beverley indicated that the last of the human workers had gone, the couple of dozen pretty girls still working as well as the few prepared by Alison were all office systems to be refreshed overnight. Nicola sent her colleagues to begin working through the girls while she looked at Beverly’s problem unit.
“No probs, Boss.” The men had the relaxed professional attitude of people who loved their work.
“Annie, this is Nicola. She’s going to take a look at you and see if she can help with your power problems.” The pretty young secretary smiled up at them from her work, “Oh, I don’t want to be any trouble Mrs Clarke…”
The technician gave her calm but firm instructions which the younger looking girl promptly obeyed by stripping off her blouse and turning her office chair to sit back down, legs straddling the backrest. She flicked her straight auburn hair forward over her bare shoulder out of the way and leant forward. The straight edged outline of a service panel set into her lower back including a standard metal docking port clearly showed on her pale body. Nicola went right to work unfastening the fittings with a power driver despite the obvious unease written over her subject’s shy freckles. As sub 50 TT Score devices Annie and the rest of the office girls were legally no different from any other machines; the technicians did not need their permission to access their systems and carry out any work required for tech refresh or, in Annie’s case, to correct a fault.
With the unit’s service panel and several internal components removed Nicola was soon able to identify the problem, “I’ll fit a new power management pack which should sort her out; should be under warranty too.” She turned Annie off behind her ear leaving her sitting with a fixed look of concern on her face, bundles of complex electronics hanging from her open back.
In the background the two men were repeating the scene, gradually working through the girls one by one leaving them linked to their own desktop terminals to download the updates and patches that would keep them operating at peak form for the next few months. The girls carried on working as normal: proofing documents, filing and other mundane tasks for their departed human bosses until the technicians reached them and, after five minutes work, left them sitting still; topless and dysfunctional, their programming being overwritten and updated.
Alison continued to persuade her colleagues to get ready for the procedure but the two men had quickly caught her up and were now approaching the girls as they worked. Where it took several minutes for the little android secretary to get her point across the men’s firm instructions commanded an immediate response. The girls were clearly programmed to obey authorised technicians though this didn’t seem to extend to their personality functions. Beverly was amused to hear an indignant, “Really most inconvenient!” from the Sales Department.
“I’m glad it’s nothing serious with Annie. Before you finish with her I’ve a little favour to ask…” Beverly had a slightly sheepish, slightly cheeky look. “It’s a present for Jonathon…” She handed the data pod to Nicola. Unlike the bland silver company tech refresh pods being saved to the office girls this software was in a garish retail pack, a voluptuous blonde on the front in suspenders gave a big clue to what sort of applications it held. The technician laughed, “Saucy devil! Where’s your workstation then?”
“My office is over there but just use this desk, and thanks!” Beverly pulled the chair out, spun it round and slipped out of her suit top, hanging it over the back. She sat down presenting herself to the other android in the pose being adopted gradually by all her robotic office subordinates. She had to wriggle and slide her tight fitting skirt up to spread her thighs either side of the chair back, revealing a smoothly tanned flash of skin above the lacy tops of her hold-ups.
“Beverly, I’m going to perform maintenance on your systems now.”
“Sure go ahead.”
The executive’s soft full body was an even light tan all over, the sort of immaculate finish that a real woman could only achieve with hours of indulgence, nevertheless; Beverly’s skin had the myriad of tiny detail that was so clearly lacking on Annie’s smooth white back. The shiny metal of the small port where her docking station interfaced was clearly visible in the small of her back, the only indication of her true nature. This link usually allowed her to function autonomously between scheduled servicing sessions but right now she needed someone else to upload the new applications she had in mind. Nicola ran her fingers down Beverly’s back to locate the manual release points.
“Thanks, I cost my husband a small fortune!”
She disconnected and removed a sizeable section of the executive’s lower back which she placed aside on the desk. Beverly sensed the change and clearly reported it, a redundant automatic statement. As well as triggering this, Beverly’s system made a number of alterations in accordance with her maintenance programming, most significantly overriding voluntary control to prevent her leaving her seat unless instructed. The well designed protocols integrated smoothly with her personality and simply suppressed any desire to stand up.
Nicola delicately connected a fine cable from the desktop to one of the open ports inside the other android. Beverly’s inner mechanisms were clearly visible through the opening; complex electronics blinked, packing the space under the thick layer of synthetic white flesh that made her soft and woman-like to the touch. Through the complexity ran the substantial plastic frame components and gleaming alloy spine that allowed the beautiful machine to move as a woman.
As Nicola initiated the download there was none of the graceless interruption that was typical of less advanced units. Beverly simply sat still and patient as her system resources surged to support the new processes; she waited calmly until the download was properly initiated before she even tried to move or speak and so the interruptions to her normal operation were barely perceptible. Only her breathing and blinking rhythms faltered. She was always amazed at how her office girls would persist in trying to carry on as normal through major reprogramming. At best their words would be gracelessly cut off and their normally fluid movement become chopped, more usually though they would struggle on, accruing a deluge of error messages and inevitably crashing key systems. Beverly had seen several girls struggling to “act normal” already this evening and fully expected to have to restart every one of them before work tomorrow; she planned to come in an hour early.
The technician, satisfied with Beverly’s progress, moved back to the frozen Annie and began her work. The two androids chatted naturally; both of them, Beverly assumed, sentient electronic personalities behaving in much the same way as their male biological colleagues who were still running through the tech refresh girl by girl across the floor-plate.
“I hear there was a traffic failure here this morning; it was on the news-feed.”
“There was, I was right there myself. The patrol officer even tried to download my sensor files!”
“Oh no way! That sucks when people think they can just plug you in on the street…” The androids chatted while the men unpacked their drone bot, piling up more cables, tools and software pods on the desks to link up more of the pretty robot workers.
Beverley explained how she had quite naturally refused to let the police officer plunder her digital mind right there on the street; she had flashed her blue edged ID showing her TT Score to be well above the critical fifty points making “her” a legally registered AI. Rather than go to the trouble of summoning her as a formal e-witness the officer had simply scanned the crowd for other androids. He had let Beverly carry on into the office complex while he connected two other passing girls to his patrol console. Clearly they had been machines without the legally recognized and very expensive spark of artificial “self” that was designed into Beverly. They had glared at her retreating figure as the officer shut them down for data probing and the android relating the story finished with the remark that if their owners had invested in higher spec products then they too could have enjoyed the same freedoms as she.
After Beverly finished relating the incident there was a long pause, Nicola seemed to be concentrating on Annie’s repair so Beverly took a moment to watch the other technicians at work. She liked their firm but kind approach to the girls; more often than not the androids’ work based programming would object to being taken from their tasks, the full tech refresh package after all would render them inoperative over night. The more advanced units exhibited a simulated emotional response of mild annoyance or distress at the overwriting of their system files and modification of their very nature. The more advanced machine watched in amusement as Sarah-Jane malfunctioned a few desks away. She was a crisp and perfect blonde who led a small sales team of slightly more basic models with iron discipline. She had been programmed with an arrogant and superior attitude and crossed swords Beverly and the other human or advanced AI employees regularly. Now, as the massive data flow limited her available resources she still seemed to think she knew better and forcefully persisted in trying to make some sort of point to the completely uninterested technician nearby. The result was that the normally statuesque woman, now stripped to her bra at her desk, simply stuttered and stammered in annoyed confusion. Eventually the man reached down behind her and shut off her vocoder leaving her gaping in silence; Beverly chuckled to herself, glad of her own technical superiority.
When Beverly’s download was nearly fifty percent complete the Nicola finally straightened up from Annie’s open back and cheerfully announced the replacement part was fitted. “I’ll turn her on and check before I download the refresh package…” She started the pretty little redhead into safe mode, who did little more than straightening up in her chair and wiping the puzzled look from her pretty freckled face. Her grey-blue eyes remained fixed and cold as Nicola reached back into her body with a test meter. “That’s odd…” The technician adjusted Annie’s settings and reached in again. “It seems like…” Crack! There was a blue flash and a bang as the red headed android’s power jumped across the new management pack and earthed through Nicola’s metal rich frame. Circuits tripped almost instantly but the acrid smell and twist of smoke suggested problems.
“Shit!” exclaimed Beverly in concern, remaining firmly on her seat and never thinking to move to help. “Are you okay?” The tech had dropped the meter and been thrown back from Annie into Beverly’s desk against which she stood stock still as her improperly terminated systems restarted, self-checked and then rebooted properly. A few seconds later she came back to life.
“I said, are you okay?”
“Not sure, that shouldn’t have happened…”
“No shit! Are you damaged?”
The two men had heard the bang and calmly made sure to leave their subjects safe and secure before heading over as Nicola seemed to pull herself together. “That shouldn’t have happened…” She shook her head and repeated, “that shouldn’t have hap… hap… hap…” Her slim body jerked once hard cracking her bony hip against the desk and sending her pony tail flying. “…happened in safe mode. I think there may be a more serious fault with your Annie, I suggest we leave her offline and I’ll task a recovery team tomorrow.”
Nicola’s assistants looked her and Annie over briefly but there didn’t seem to be any serious damage done to the technician. “I’d rather you left me online for now, I’ll get a check up back at base but I don’t think there’s any serious harm done.” She appeared perfectly normal and went back to work, one of the men helping her to close Annie up and dress her rather untidily back in her blouse.
“I hear there was a traffic failure here this morning, it was on the news-feed.”
“Nicola, yes… I told you?”
Beverly gestured to the man, “Excuse me, something’s definitely wrong…” Beverly was anxious about her friend, the power spike through her system must have corrupted files and the technical unit started to act erratically picking up and putting down the power driver to no obvious purpose.
“I’d rather you left me online for now, I’ll get a check up back at base but I don’t think there’s any serious harm done.”
Her human subordinate looked at her in mild surprise as she repeated the phrase. He watched her for a few moments more before taking her arms and guiding her gently back against the edge of the desk. “Must have been a hell of a discharge, these tech models are triple insulated…” He muttered to himself more than to either woman as he unbuttoned his boss’s overalls down to the waist. The woman herself moved feebly against his grip on her upper arm, “I’d rather you left me online for now, I’ll get a check up back at base but I don’t think there’s any serious harm done.” His parting the garment revealed to Beverly the other android’s slim body, pert B-Cups nosing unsupported through the gap. Below her ribs Nicola’s designation was printed in bold black characters and a permanent control panel was set into her belly which the man reached for.
“I’d rather you left me online for now, I’ll get a check up back at base but I don’t think there’s....” The man shut his malfunctioning team leader down in mid sentence, laying her face up on the desktop, breasts jutting upwards, firm and white, her limbs and head hanging limply.
“Is it serious?” Beverly asked. She was a bit taken aback to see Nicola, exposed, was clearly not as advanced as she had thought. Even if she might not be a fully “artificial person” their conversations suggested a developed personality by TT Score standards, she was concerned for the damaged woman.
The man seemed surprised by her question. “No, these units are tough as old boots. We’ll run some checks later then reload its systems; good as new.” He conferred with his colleague and they finished off their work on the few remaining girls in the office and stacked Nicola onto the drone. They casually flipped the coverall closed over her smooth bare chest more as a consideration to anyone they may pass than in concern for her dignity.
“Excuse me, I’ve finished this download now.”
Beverley smiled at the tech as he moved from Sharon on towards Jodie checking each of the androids’ download progress for any errors. “Be right there…”
The man made his way between the desks, mostly now occupied with motionless glazed-eyed android girls looking blank as their settings and files were overwritten. He looked over the download report on Beverly’s screen, not commenting on the personal nature of the software package: Nicola’s business he assumed. “Well that seems to have installed properly despite the excitement…” He ejected the data pod and popped it back into its garish cover. “Err… I guess I’ll leave that there… Beverly isn’t it?,” he placed it in the middle of her desk and reached into his case for another of the anonymous silver pods.
Beverly laughed, “No, its okay… I don’t need that thanks!” She gestured at the cable running from her open back, “if you could just close me up again…”
“Sure, sure…” The man was not fazed by her half expected protest as he popped the pod from its case. At least this unit seemed to have a more original personality than most, her light hearted objections made a pleasant change to most of the other office units here but then he could see this was an expensive android, beautifully detailed. In fact he’d thought she’d been human when they first arrived, her curves were right on the limits of any android finish he’d come across; very soft.
Still laughing the misunderstanding off Beverly went on, “No, really! I’m the IT Director, here let me show you…” Beverly reached towards her briefcase on the far side of the desk to fish out her ID.
“Please sit still.” The polite words were not unkindly spoken, the man quite liked this android after all; but, having consented to be serviced, Beverly now found her body obeyed immediately. He popped the tech refresh pod into her computer and waited for the splash screen to open. Only now did the android woman seem to realize her predicament, “No, wait, you really are making a mistake! I assure I’m really not supposed to be reprogrammed, please just wait a moment! If you check....”
Beverly simply stopped as the Tech Refresh window opened and the progress bar crawled across the screen. “…my ID you’ll see.” She looked in dismay at the screen as the technician clicked through the menus as he had with all of her office ‘bots before. “Please, you’re really not supposed to refresh me…” She was annoyed to see a couple of error icons flash across the screen after her earlier interrupted words.
“Don’t argue with me, Beverley, that’s a good girl.” The woman sat unable to move and struggling to object as the computer began to exchange data through the open port in her back. She searched for something to convince him, forming the words on her lips but unable to express anything useful. Exchange protocols rudely interrupted those lower priority applications she needed for speech, emotion and thought. “I… I… I… no. I am… I…“ The man patted her bare shoulder as he passed and began to gather up his things to leave, “You’ll feel like a new woman in the morning,” he chuckled. All around the floor-plate were Beverley’s android workers; each pretty young body stripped to her bra and slaved to the computer beside them through a slim cable. Occasionally one or other would twitch or gasp as various downloads ended and began but for the most part they sat still, their frozen faces fixed in their last, now empty, expression.
“I… I… I…”
Beverly struggled to process her broken thoughts, digitally replicated effects of frustration and anger, in her system margins between refresh folders. Each personal function added to her error cache as she was unable to act because of programmed limits or systems availability. The brief hope swelled that Alison would explain their mistake to the men – another string of error backlogs – but this died as she saw her secretary in the familiar pose, facing blankly down at her desktop. Even if the refresh had been terminated immediately, by now the android’s system had generated a backlog of error messages sufficient to immobilise her until long after the tech team departed, oblivious to her predicament.
“I…I…I… I I I III error I…I…I…”
- To be continued...