The Rutuksee Clinique Case

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The Rutuksee Clinique Case


The evidence room of the Met Police Criminal Robotics Division was very much like a morgue to my eyes and, despite the ample perfect ‘flesh’ on view laid out on tables and trolleys, I spent a very uncomfortable twenty minutes waiting for DS-R Susan Palmer to arrive. Uncomfortable, frustrated, angry.

For one thing I’d not slept in nearly thirty hours and was itching for a cigarette; for another I was on an adrenaline crash from last night’s excitement, the cause of which was laid out face up beside me now on a steel trolley. Since I’d seen her last someone, probably the robot lab tech who’d let me in and was now charging in the corner, had stripped the striking blonde of her dark jogging clothes and pulled away several access panels into her robotic body. Clothes, trainers and panel covers, along with the emptied contents of her black rucksack and a small black handgun were arrayed in evidence bags on another trolley and I’d looked over them a dozen times to avoid looking at the blonde’s ice blue eyes staring up in wide surprise into nothing.

Of course another reason I wasn’t on my best form was that I’d seen two men blown away only hours before. The CTU sting - my sting - had gone down completely by the book and I’d expected to be grilling the little two-person cyber-terror cell in the interrogation rooms by now. We’d achieved complete surprise with overwhelming force: my three FTUs had come out of nowhere armed to the teeth as the targets retrieved their cache, they should have had no chance. Twelve of the Unit’s best trained and equipped tactical firearms operators in a pre-planned op against one man and one woman in a dark warehouse for God’s sake! She’d been so fast; my guys dropped the man but she…it went right through them, shooting five guys as she went, picking out their body armour gaps in the dark at a full run and under heavy fire. The dead guy had been called Wilcox apparently; I hadn’t known him. It looked like the others would pull through though. The impound crew had brought her back for processing and taken the male stiff to the morgue while I stayed to try and straighten out the chaos of my tactical scene: ambulances, cops, sirens and lights in the dark and the inevitable news crews that followed.

She’d damn near killed me too. The bullet weal on my right shoulder stung like crazy under the dressing, almost making me forget the concrete scrapes down my arms and knees where I’d taken cover. I’d been stupid to chase her, it was obvious she was a machine even then, but I’d been lucky, if you could call it that. Six of my thirteen rounds had found their target and, though most of them hadn’t seemed to slow her down at all, one must have hit something important and she’d come down in a blaze of sparks and long jerking limbs. I couldn’t even take satisfaction in being ‘DI Bruce Hammond: hero robot killer’. She surely deserved it for what she’d done and planned to do, but had she even really been alive in the first place? Anyway, whatever your philosophy on sentience, and mine is as confused as anyone’s on this, machines can always be repaired.

As if all this wasn’t enough to ruin my day as the dirty dawn light started to compete with the fluorescents, I was ashamed to admit that my real anxiety; despite, death, danger, craving, exhaustion and damn weird surroundings; had a far more personal cause. Counter-Terror and Robo-Div didn’t usually cross paths so I still hadn’t seen Palmer since she’d been on the Unit with me a year and a half ago; since we’d been… close; since she’d died. Susan Palmer: Detective Sergeant – Robotic (or ‘Resurrected’ or ‘Reclaimed’ depending on who you asked) Serial CX223. Exactly the case officer that I did not want Robo-Div to assign and (of course!) exactly the one that was on call this early morning.

I heard the entrance cycling and my heart started thumping in my chest. There was a pause then the lab doors swung open and she was walking towards me buttoning her lab coat, long dark hair swinging. At first she looked painfully familiar, long limbs and slim tall frame all athletic angles; hard but handsome face with it’s dark eyes and skin the colour of hazelnut ice-cream; but as she got closer I could see the changes. She was more perfect than before, moving more smoothly with a cool grace that wasn’t quite human, that wasn’t quite the Palmer that I’d known. She caught my eye and smiled wryly but without much humour and I could see that the skin on her face was perfect, smooth and even, like an airbrushed model stepping off the page. Too perfect to be real even though they’d reproduced the old Palmer’s moles and the lump in her nose when they’d built the new her. I couldn’t think of anything to say as she came up to me, in desperation I raised my hand in greeting and attempted a weak grin, though the stab of pain through my shoulder made it more of a wince.

“I can see you’re pleased to see me,” she said. I noticed a couple of tiny LEDs fluttering green and yellow in the hollow at the base of her throat as she spoke. Her eyes looked wrong too, though I suppose no one else would notice, and I pulled my glance away hurriedly.

“Hi Palmer.” There was an awkward pause as I looked anywhere but her, failing completely to appear casual. “Do I call you ‘Palmer’ still…?”

“No, you should call me ‘Robot Officer CX223’ – what the fuck, Bruce!? I’m back from the dead for a year and a half now and you never once return my calls? It’s still me you know, the pension team got a sixty eight percent bio-read from my brain, that’s bloody good enough to count as most of me in my book!” The movements of her anger were fluid and controlled” simulated. The unconscious gawkiness I had used to call her ‘chicken fit rage’ wasn’t there any more, smoothed out by the programmed sub-routines that ran her new body for her but maybe echoed in the furiously blinking little system indicator LEDs.

I sighed, “Sorry… Look, Palmer, sorry about… about, you know…” I had never seen the body; a hit and run car had killed her pretty much outright and when the Commander at the time had broken the news he’d also told me she was pension-recovery viable, like that made everything okay. Like I’d have no problem swapping my girlfriend with a plastic copy built to police spec that acted just like her. The robot Palmer gave me a long hard look but either she had enough info downloaded from the real Palmer’s brain to know not to push the point or she was simply programmed to be an efficient officer. Leaving our personal scores for later, she turned to the impounded android on the slab.

“Nice looking unit, except for the holes that is. I take it that’s your handiwork DI Hammond?” She spoke with cold formality as she looked carefully over the nude woman, poking her fingers into the open panels in her chest and belly to rummage gently amongst the tightly packed systems then poking at one of the six holes my eleven-mil had put through the perfect looking golden skin.

“Looks like you blew through her power core right here, I bet that made some sparks. This is not a cheap robot you’ve trashed; she’s human-real for one thing. Really human-real like this is expensive so most buyers don’t bother too much with the bits that are covered by normal clothes, even for sex units. Look at the detail here: micro hairs, pores, moles; she’s certainly beautiful but looks like a beautiful human from as close as you like.” She turned the staring head this way and that, feeling through the golden hair at each side then examined the neck, collarbone, wrists and sternum. Finally, checking the robot’s belly, she announced, “No external controls and the chest panel is just for maintenance. This was an independent android, built that way. Either she’s carrying a bio-reading on her CPU - which makes her a digitised human - or she’s very illegal…”

“Palmer, what can you tell me? I’m against the clock on this case; we weren’t expecting robots but now we’ve got them it means there must be a money trail I can run down. One of the CTU kids was killed last night and I need to know, like yesterday, who bought this robot, who services it and can we pull any data off it? As soon as her operators or whatever find out she’s burnt they’ll vanish…”

“It takes time to exploit a machine like this properly.” She sighed, “But I know where you’re coming from. I knew Dean Wilcox slightly, he was a dick but he didn’t deserve getting shot through the face. I’ll see what I can dig out in a rush right now for you then fill you in on the full details when I’ve got them, okay?” She’d obviously read up on (or downloaded) the first look report I’d filed on the warehouse shoot-out. I nodded my thanks. “And by the way knucklehead,” she said, “She’s an android, not a robot.” Like I give a shit.

I watched her rummaging professionally through the impounded female machine for a few minutes, still wanting a smoke but not wanting to miss anything, when she looked up. “Okay, not much to tell you. No assembly marks, top end components but nothing outstanding. I’ve got a serial number for you: 211004. That’s a digitised human designation, which should mean there’s a whole real person downloaded in there which corresponds with the CPU and memory cores she’s fitted with. It’s a hell of an expensive lifestyle choice so I doubt she’s a ‘nobody’.”

“You said she’s got no controls…?”

“No externals anyway and I haven’t found a remote receiver yet. These in her chest panel control or deactivate her body for routine maintenance but they can’t be accessed unless she opens herself up. There are no programming inputs and the data jacks are purely for info-put, not programming; it’s pretty unusual but it does support her being cyber-human. Even then though, most chassis built for cybers’ still have programming ports and at least an emergency kill switch. The typical Mrs Rich Bitch likes to be able to install upgrades to her ‘self’ and the last thing she wants is to malfunction without anyone being able to turn her off!”

“So: rich custom built cyber chassis in a terror cell. Odd. What about the serial number?”

“It’s running in the database now, might take a while. Only place left to look for clues is in her mind.” Palmer rummaged under the trolley and pulled up a power jack, which she plugged into the damaged android. “She’s shutdown, don’t worry. I’ll need to power up her peripherals though…” She plugged a data cable into the robot’s chest, pulled open her lab coat and hiked up her sweater then held the cable out to me. “Will you do the honours please, Bruce…?”

“What? No, I don’t know anything about androids… robots, whatever. Err…” I looked over at the lab tech in the corner hopefully.

“Look, I’m not booting up Jenny just to plug me in to an impound. Take this: good. Now; I’ll open my data panel here like this… you jack in the cable here and I’ll auto connect to Blondie here and see what I can find. Should take a minute or two…” She snapped open a small rectangular panel in her upper belly revealing several connection ports and push buttons then stood there holding up her top and looking at me with a hint of amusement in her smooth face and slightly wrong eyes.

“Why not just plug yourself in then?” As soon as I asked, I wished I hadn’t as the animosity flooded back across her in an instant and the LEDs blinked a cascade of green and amber.

“Because, you insensitive shit-head, in that android body there is probably a downloaded human being with rights whereas, in the eyes of the law, I am merely a ghost in a robot and therefore my programming will not allow me to interfere with her any more than it will allow me to kick you in the balls. The facts that two thirds of my AI is based on the bio-read of a dead cop and that she is most likely a murderer and a terrorist don’t make a blind bit of difference. Why do you think I had to quit front-line policing? Now. Plug. Me. In!”

I bent down and the cable jack snicked home in Palmer’s belly, feeling the smooth warm plastic skin on my fingers just as she spoke again, “And don’t press any butt--ttons. Right, I’m in, lets see…” She sort of zoned out but kept a commentary going as she identified and investigated various drives and partitions. I was interested to see the other machine’s face and fingers twitching slightly despite her damage while the cop went to work. I was reassured by the weight of the eleven-mil holstered under my arm with it’s load of demonstrably ‘bot killing ammunition.

Palmer searched through the blonde’s numerous computer systems, examining several dead leads: body control modules, response generators and the like; taking quite a lot longer than a few minutes to explore. At one point she bit her lip and slipped out a little gasp, “Sex bus… just a moment… massive…” Sure enough the smashed-up ‘droid’s nipples had stiffened and crinkled against the full soft breasts spread across her chest; curiosity got the better of me and I peered through the neat yellow curls of her pubes to check that she was wet too. Palmer seemed pretty flustered for several moments before she got herself together.

“Okay, found her AI, memories and backup archive but they’re all encrypted. I’ll give it a go but can’t promise anything, it looks pretty heavy duty. Do me a favour, Bruce, if I crash press this reboot button…?”

She pointed into her panel. “Err… how do I know… I mean…?”

“You really are an anti-nerd, you know that? Look if I stop moving and all my lights go out then I’ve auto-shutdown; if I stop moving, and I mean really stop for a long time, and my lights go red then I’ve crashed. Either way just reboot me and I’ll be fine. Won’t happen though, I’m good at this… here goes!”

Palmer frowned and took on a slightly spaced out look then her lights began cycling incredibly fast and I realized she had stopped moving completely. I watched her and occasionally her face twitched but otherwise nothing but flashing; I waved my hand in front of her eyes and, again, nothing. Feeling a bit bolder now that the first encounter was over, I took a closer and more careful look over the robot replica of my ex girlfriend, easy now she was so unnaturally still. Her builders had done a good job on the head and face: it looked like the old Palmer might have done on a great day in good light and, while the complexion was suspiciously perfect, it had enough detail to pass as human; at least if she wore a turtleneck or something to cover her LEDs. Where she was holding up her sweater though the details were very basic. A smooth flesh coloured plastic skin layer was well moulded into her slim shape but missing any human marks or details other than a token indent for a belly button. More than that, ‘bot Palmer’s body was criss-crossed by the lines of several access panels and assembly points and had subtle but clearly visible decals bearing maintenance information and her serial number, ‘CX223’. The data panel she had flipped open was obviously designed for easy access with a small finger indent along the lower edge of the rectangle but most of the other openings seemed to have been sealed with service stickers bearing various dates and bar-code. She seemed to be a pretty standard beat-cop unit.

I stepped back to take in the wider view. She was still an attractive girl, the long limbs and slender body brought back buried memories which I pushed back down but I couldn’t help liking the way the swell of her breasts filled out the tight sweater where the lab coat hung open. I wondered how far up her arms from her realistic hands the details went. Was she designed to look real (realish at least) only in long sleeves? Short sleeves? Vest top? Certainly not in a bikini anyway! It seemed the Police pension-recovery program didn’t place much priority on realism for its recovered officers. After all, since the whole idea was to cut costs on expensive AIs by getting trained and proven officers to donate the essentials if the worst happened, the Force weren’t likely to splash out on real-tech hardware. How much did that apply to her mind as well, I thought, to her programming? Looking at Palmer beside the painfully attractive blonde android I felt a pang of pity; she wasn’t much better than a shop window mannequin next to the blonde who looked drop-dead human even shot to shit. Had this been what she’d expected when she’d signed up for pension-recovery? My eyes wandered down Palmer’s long legs then back up… How ‘real’ was she…? I realized she still wore her old perfume.

DS-R Palmer snapped back to life and looked at me with a resigned expression as her LEDs slowed to a gentler pace. “I.. I’m S-sorrrry, Bruce.” It took her a moment to synch her speech, making her forehead crease in annoyance. “I’ve maxed my CPU against her crypto and got nowhere, we need to find her service provider or builder or something to get us in,” she casually un-jacked herself from the wreck and covered up.

“Fair enough, thanks for trying.”

“Looks like we’ve got a hit on her serial number though!” She gestured at a data screen. “She’s a registered client at the Rutuksee Clinique, London! Name of Frieda Wrath…”

“Yes!!” I kissed the robot’s forehead without thinking and turned for the exit. “I’m on my way!”

“Bruce, wait! Don’t be a twat! Rutuksee are big money, the classiest techno-salon in the city, you can’t just waltz in there without a warrant. Anyway, with your techno-savvy what’d be the point?”

“Hmm…”, she had a point, “Why don’t you come with me? This’ll have to be a CTU / Robo joint op now anyway I guess; you’ll know what to look for.”

“No, Bruce. I don’t think so. Get a warrant.”

“Come on, the old you would have…”

“Fuck you! Fuck you for reminding me that I’m not the old Susan and that I’m programmed to follow police procedure! It’s not like I have a choice. I’ll come with you once you get a warrant if you want to wait but you do just whatever the fuck you want. For your information I’m going to turn on Jenny now and get her to give me a recharge and a defrag before I start taking that state-of-the-art fuck-bot to pieces.” Her lights were blazing again.

“Warrant’ll take days, I’m going.” And for neither the first nor last time I chucked away good advice and stormed out, leaving the robot girl to get some maintenance.


Next morning, at a more civilised hour this time, I was eating humble pie as I piloted an unmarked squad-flier into the city with Palmer in the passenger seat. In the intervening hours I had collected a fresh set of scrapes and bruises, been called in to half the top floor offices (without coffee), applied for a priority data warrant for Rutuksee Clinique, put in a requisition to use DS-R CX223 on the case and managed to grab some sleep and a shower.

Collecting the robot cop had been an eye opening experience. I suppose I’d assumed that she was still pretty much living her old life but, when I’d finally got the duty geek at Robo-Div to look at my stamped and signed hard copy requisition without forty eight hours notice, he’d taken me back into the racks and retrieved Palmer’s storage pod from amongst the rows of shelf-stacked police machines. The collection arm had deposited her standing rigid and open eyed in her pod hooked up to external power and data. My unasked questions from the night before had been amply answered as I eyed her naked plastic body; she looked fully functional to me, even to the token strip of neat dark hair installed at the junction of her long smooth legs. The tech had activated her with the stud behind her ear and, the instant she’d initialised he interrupted her again by tapping away at the pod console to install the case file.

Dressed, professional and sarcastic once more, she now sat in the passenger seat, “So, how did your Rutuksee visit go then?” Just what I needed now was my ex being smug with me. I thought of the smooth plastic fakeness under the suit she’d put on from a rack in the robot store, no underwear needed of course. I thought of her machine blankness as the tech programmed her for the case and made myself remember she was just a robot.

“Fine, you were right, I was wrong okay. I didn’t make it past the lobby as it happens; their receptionist looks cute but she’s combat ready. It wasn’t pretty and I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Well at least now the warrant looks good. We need to speak to Doctor Forbes-Green, the Rutuskee boss in London. We have right of access to data concerning the digi-human android Frieda Wrath; that can be the facility records or downloads from any staff or client that interacted with her. Be tactful on this, these aren’t just ‘bots we can order around; Rutuksee clients are mostly not just human downloads but rich and influential ones too. They won’t take kindly to being data mined.”

“And I don’t take kindly to them maintaining a terrorist killing machine…”

We walked a few blocks from the roof where we parked and entered the plush lobby of Rutuksee Clinique, London. The place reeked of money and we passed an immaculate forty-something on her way out that I’d never have made as an android anywhere else. I was glad to see there was a different girl at the desk today but was still wary as I shoved the warrant under her pretty nose. “I’m detective inspector Hammond, this is detective sergeant Palmer, we need to speak to Doctor Forbes-Green right away.”

“Do you have an appointment?” The girl was quite charming, although she must have been fully updated on my little performance right here the previous day she didn’t let it show.

“No. This is an urgent investigation and I must insist we see him right away.”

Palmer snorted beside me but the receptionist was completely professional, “I’ll see if Doctor Janine Forbes-Green can fit you in. Please take a seat”

“We’ll wait here thanks.” Easy for Palmer to scoff, I didn’t have the luxury of getting the case files programmed into me when I woke up.

Doctor F-G was professionally polite without for a moment concealing her complete contempt for the police plebs she was obliged to assist. “This is not convenient at all, I have to be in Paris for lunch. You can to talk to me while I’m being serviced, I hope that won’t be a problem?”

“No problem,” I said and we followed her into the lift. I was almost not surprised that she was a machine; the case just seemed to be going that way…

“This is the main clinic floor.” I was impressed. Where the police facilities were stark and utilitarian, here there was no expense spared on the gleaming machinery and tables. White coated technicians moved quickly but calmly about their business amongst the female clientele who were of all shapes sizes and complexions but with two things in common: all were flawlessly real looking and most were seriously attractive. The screened booths all opened onto the central aisle and I couldn’t help my eyes wandering as we passed by. There were several android women standing blankly in their default positions, hooked into the clinic mainframe. Some with their expensive clothes opened just enough to allow access to their panels, others stripped to very distracting lingerie or nothing at all. A topless redhead was leaning forward over a maintenance table resting on her straight arms as a tech worked inside her open back making her impressive assets jiggle with a realism that made Palmer look like a Barbie doll. The woman gave me a disapproving frown as I gawked at her making me realize I was the only man in the big room.

“Our staff are all Rutuksee products programmed for technical support functions. We like to show off the latest hardware to inspire our clients as it were…” The Doctor’s tour guide act seemed calculated to show the poor cop and his cheap robot partner the toys we could never afford.

We passed androids in deeper maintenance, giving me fleeting glimpses of them lying face up and partially disassembled between the surrounding techs and machines. One mature but handsome woman’s face looked slightly familiar from somewhere as her lithe eighteen year old’s body jerked lifelessly under the tools of an efficient looking blonde technician. I was surprised to see how many of the women still seemed to be at least partially online, some looking calmly around or discussing their on-going repairs with the technicians, others frowning or gaping in distracted confusion with only their bodies deactivated. One woman with apparently muted voice function seemed to be experiencing a full-blown and vigorous orgasm over and over as three techs delved deeply into the tangle of wires and tubing hanging from her opened torso. “Looks like she’s enjoying the service!” I muttered to Palmer who was looking uncomfortable.

“Well, malfunctions can sometimes be rather… erm, intense,” she muttered. The slim robot blushed slightly, I hadn’t realized she could do that, and I noticed her status lights were fluttering quickly again.

“I think you met Yvonne yesterday, Inspector Hammond.” The immaculate doctor stopped by a booth with a petite girl stretched out on the table struggling weakly from the neck up as another of the white coated techs carefully connected several cables inside her open chest panel. The girl caught sight of me and looked daggers, struggling to speak through the system interruptions from each new connection and I recognized the receptionist who had expertly strong-armed me out of Rutuksee the morning before. Nude she looked even smaller, with a delicate dancer’s figure. “I don’t think she likes you much I’m afraid. Helena, please make sure that 771 is adjusted to be polite to our police visitors.” She addressed the remark to the tech who acknowledged with a nod.

“I’m surprised you can impose personality reprogramming like that in here, Doctor. Surely your clients value their digital souls too much to let them be altered without permission?” I blurted the first tolerably intelligent question I could think of to cover my embarrassment as Palmer looked incredulously between my six foot two frame and the pretty size zero who’d put me on my arse.

“Oh, Yvonne is a purely synthetic AI even though she’s installed in one of our range of human-real XT bodies. The clinic authored every aspect of personality 771, or ‘Yvonne’, so we can change it as required. Most of my staff are fully synthetic; Helena here, XTT2-131, was one of the first synthetics to be installed in an XTT2 body. It’s the same body range as Yvonne’s but, as you can see, there is a great deal of variation in the aesthetics.” I watched the buxom technician as she turned to the maintenance console and began to tap quickly at the controls; her long straw coloured hair was coiled up and the soft curves under the white tunic stretched the material. She must have been a full six inches taller than Yvonne and several sizes larger. I noticed that the petit android’s struggles had dropped off and she was now gazing distractedly away with a puzzled look as her programmed personality was overwhelmed by input.

We walked on to an empty booth where an angular blonde technician was waiting. “Doctor Forbes-Green, I’ll be administering your maintenance session today. Please undress and lie on the table.”

“Hello Fiona, of course.” The doctor slipped off her jacket and stepped out of her shoes, putting them away in the hanging space at the side of this, and every other, service booth. She quickly unbuttoned her fitted blouse completely unbothered by our presence. “Fiona, this is Detective Inspector Hammond and a police robot called Palmer, they will be observing today while they speak with me. Officers, this is Fiona XTT2-009.” We exchanged nods, Palmer quietly fuming at the way she’d been introduced. “I will need you to connect me to the mainframe so I can answer the police officers’ questions while you work and please leave me online throughout; otherwise no changes to my scheduled maintenance.”

“Yes Doctor Forbes-Green.” The doctor had stripped efficiently and must have noticed my embarrassed look as she slipped expensive black panties down her thighs. “This must be a strange environment for you, Inspector, but please don’t feel uneasy. Even though my personality is digitally recorded human, my body, like your police robot, is simply a machine no different from a ground-car or a weapon; it is complex and requires regular maintenance. Like most of our clients I have installed software to remove any embarrassment or awkwardness that may arise from the necessarily intimate procedures here. The ability to have myself modified both mentally and physically to suit my and my husband’s needs is just one of the many advantages of digitisation.” She unhooked her bra and stepped over to Palmer and I, “This body is one of the most advanced bespoke designs produced by Rutuksee, as you can see it is completely indistinguishable from a biological human. Please, take a closer look…” She turned slowly in front of me and I took in her shapely curves with the tones and marks appropriate to a fit and beautiful woman in, I guessed, her late thirties. Her breasts and crotch were a shade lighter than the rest of her lightly tanned body, which darkened to a deep bronze across her chest, and arms like a real body would. I was slightly surprised that she was perfectly smooth down below, most of the androids I’d seen seemed to sport some sort of pubic hair, perhaps in fashion because smoothness seemed more artificial.

Doctor Forbes-Green swung onto the steel table and lay back, her breasts flattening realistically against her chest. She concentrated for a second then a trapezoid line appeared above her sternum where only tanned looking synthetic skin had been a moment before. The panel sank inwards then slid up revealing winking status lights, ports and buttons very similar to the busted-up android waiting in the evidence room. Fiona, who had been waiting patiently, stepped forward. “Thank you Doctor.” She reached in and pressed a button firmly making the woman on the table straighten up to lie fixedly with legs and arms held slightly apart.

“Fiona has shut down my motor functions as a safety precaution in case of any maintenance induced aberration. Now…” The tech clicked a data cable home in the doctor’s chest freezing her up for a moment. “Okay, now I’m hard-linked to the mainframe, lets see… yes, there are three clients who have interacted with Ms Wrath and four technicians on my staff….”

As the doctor gave us the information we needed and Palmer quizzed her on technical details, Fiona busily and efficiently opened panels in the artificial woman’s belly and above her smooth pussy and began probing and adjusting the complex internal systems. As the questions moved more into Palmer’s field so the intrusions by the tech into her boss’s body became more invasive. I began to notice subtle but gradually increasing glitches in the poised android doctor’s manner. Palmer was trying to find out anything that might lead us to the rogue android’s builders when Fiona started work on what must have been Doctor Forbes-Green’s sexual systems. The android woman started to become quite distracted and loose interest in the questions, her breathing deepening.

“Fiona, could you hold off on that for a moment please, I’m just starting to get somewhere.”

“I’m sorry officer but the service schedule cannot be adjusted.” Fiona carried on with her work as the doctor began to loose control.

“Fucks sake!” Palmer walked round the table and reached up to deactivate Fiona, pressing the little stud behind her ear that was visible with her hair up. The tech android stood up straight from her work, arms at her sides and looked vacantly to her front, motionless as Doctor Forbes-Green stifled an apparently satisfying climax.

“Oh, I do apologise. Where were we?” Her assured manner held not a hint of embarrassment of modesty.

“Unit 21004’s smoothing units, you said it was a Nagasaki patent?”

“Look, officer, it might be easier if I download you the full technical specs on the chassis you’re interested in, I really must finish this service session to get to Paris… Inspector, if you port your robot into my auxiliary I can cross-load the files from the mainframe.”

I looked to Palmer for approval and she nodded slightly, though obviously seriously pissed at being called ‘my robot’. Now familiar with how to data link the machines’ CPUs from the evidence room I wasted no time in hooking them up but this time, unlike the calm professional of the previous morning, Palmer gave a sudden gasp then locked up, arms akimbo and eyes wide. Her LEDs flashed furiously amber and red giving the only sign of any activity inside the plastic shell.

“She’s quite basic isn’t she, especially for a reclaimed personality. I’d have thought our taxes could be used for something slightly more modern…” The state-of-the-art android on the table was completely unaffected by the file transfer. “There, transfer completed; you can unplug her now.”

I clicked the connection free of Palmer’s port and she immediately jerked back to life.

“Could you reactivate Fiona for me please, I really must let her finish her work… Thank you so much.” For a nude, dismantled and post-orgasmic society woman exposed and vulnerable on a steel table, Doctor Forbes-Green was remarkably relaxed.

Palmer was still looking dazed so I walked around and switched Fiona back on. “So, what’s the gist of your information, Doctor?”

“I’ve downloaded the technical specs on your suspect to the robot for you. I’m sorry by the way, I may have taxed her upload protocols a little too much. The log files from my technicians who worked on that android are also included and the details of the three other clients who knew her. Mrs Ellis, Miss Montrose and Mrs Jones. You’ll need to interview them personally and have a valid warrant if you want to access their personal memory files as they are all digitised humans. The backups stored here are strictly confidential as I’m sure you understand.

Fiona had resumed her attentions to her boss while we spoke. “Doctor Forbes-Green, I have to upgrade the 207 chipset now.”

“Inspector, was there anything else? This may take me offline for a while…” I gestured for Fiona to carry on and she carefully removed a tiny processor board from its packaging and prepared to install it in the android’s lower torso.

The doctor frowned, “XTC2-009, that is a 212 chipset, my upgrade schedule calls for a 300 unit. Please install the scheduled hardware.” Fiona did not respond other than to begin carefully unfastening an internal cover plate.

“XTC2-009, respond. Why are you installing unscheduled hardware?”

“I’m sorry Doctor Forbes-Green but your service schedule was modified by Mr Forbes this morning. He was concerned that the latest professional module may impair your intimate functions and has postponed that upgrade until the new CPU is available.”

“What? Get me a voice line to Mr Forbes please!”

“I’m sorry Doctor Forbes-Green but I cannot interrupt the servicing program at this time. Please try to remain calm.” The sharp-faced tech removed the chipset housing and swapped for a more delicate tool to pull the obsolete component.

“No, I’m not content with this change. I need to get-t-t-t-t-t ttttt ah tttt ah tttt dzt… I need tttt dzt… I n-n-n-n-n dzt… dzt… dddd…” The aloof doctor glitched out as her employee calmly began the upgrade.

“Well Palmer, nothing more for us here – oh!” Palmer was still standing in confusion, fluttering her fingers with a dazed expression. Her LEDs were cycling through red and green at an alarming rate. “Shit!” She had obviously been knocked for six by the upload from the far higher spec machine on the table but didn’t seem to have crashed so I wasn’t sure what to do.

“Fiona, can you help me please?” I gestured at Palmer. The tech put her tools down beside the naked doctor, now powered down, and bent to tug up Palmer’s top from her panel, which was still flipped open.

“This unit’s police archiving application is hanging. The file tree she’s processing is too deep for her installed software. I will force close it and she can download the files to an external system for processing later.” Fiona tapped a few buttons and Palmer came too again with a stuttering gasp.

“Thanks Fiona,” I said. We headed passed the lines of nude plastic and exposed technology for the door, Palmer looking relieved to be leaving this shrine to higher tech than her. “Looks like we have three android women to follow up as leads, plus we need to download all that data in your head… CPU… whatever. And I need lunch. How long can you go for ‘till you need a recharge?”

“Real sensitive, Bruce! Lets get back to Robo-div and I can purge all the crap that bitch filled my drives up with, I swear she maxed me out on purpose! We can plan our next move then.”

I walked a few steps behind her to the squad-flier to think things through. Obviously I’d need with me Palmer to grill the witnesses but was she up to the job? As I eyed her lean legs and butt striding down the sidewalk she was sparking things deep in my poor inefficient meat-brain that told me she was my old trusted friend but at the same time I’d seen she was little better than a plastic beatcop designed to be tough but cheap. Her body had obviously been built with concessions to who she had been; her face, her pussy, her lean build, her tits; but these looked like the bare minimum of grudging upgrades added to a plastic toy compared to the possibilities I’d seen in the clinic. Were her processors and software equally cheap? Was her ghost really in there at all?

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