A Tale from the Plastic Rose: Victoria
Victoria's eyes jittered back and forth, meticulously scanning the crowd of revelers that packed the darkened main floor of the Plastic Rose. Her onboard software picked out facial expressions, posture, and dress, correlating them with everything from the subject's proximity to other guests to the expected emotional impact of the electronic music playing on the club's sound system.
She focused in on a pair of men loitering off to one side of the room. They were turned away from her, hiding their faces from her analysis, but the slight sway of their bodies and the near-empty drink glasses they held indicated inebriation. That meant they'd likely been here for some time, yet they weren't being seen to by any of the other hostesses. Victoria queried the network and verified that none of her fellow units had recorded a social interaction with the two, so they hadn't turned down companionship but also hadn't sought it out. Her system tentatively assigned them to the category reserved for shy guests and assembled various pre-programmed behavior modules into a course of action.
Victoria threaded her way around the perimeter of the dance floor, in between groups of people who stood leaning inward to talk over the music. Her well-polished black catsuit gleamed, hiding nothing of her idealized physique despite covering everything below the neck. "Rubber Thursday" was a weekly event at the Plastic Rose, and the other hostesses were all dressed identically. As usual, many of the guests had chosen outfits in keeping with the theme.
Most of the groups Victoria passed were accompanied by a least one hostess or companion unit. The companions, more realistic and capable models than the hostesses, were also dressed more diversely. They ran the range from total nudity to elaborate fetish gear, whatever their client had pre-selected on the club's web-site.
Victoria stepped into the narrow space between her two oblivious targets, brushing her hips against theirs and placing her arms around their shoulders. Both turned their heads toward her in surprise, the tall blond one a little faster than the shorter man with the shaved head. Now that she could see their flushed complexions and dopy smiles, Victoria's facial analysis software greatly increased its estimate of their intoxication level. Evidently, this hadn’t their first stop of the night. The CPU in her chest hummed to a higher state of activity as it modified her interaction presets.
"Having fun?" she asked, raising her voice over the sound of the bass-heavy track that had started while she was crossing the room.
"I am now," the man with the shaved head said, his words slurring together slightly. "I'm George, ‘an this is Leo."
George's arm shifted, and Victoria detected a pressure on her bottom that she concluded was his hand. The sheet of sensors buried under the outermost layer of her plastic skin reported spiking pressure along with decreased area: George had pinched her ass.
The latex-clad gynoid cocked her head and smiled. "I'm Victoria." She turned towards George's friend. "How about you, Leo, are you having fun?"
"I guess. Hey, Victoria, this is our first time. How-"
"I made him come! This big wimp's hot on you robo-girls but he was too afraid-"
"Shut up, George!" Leo said, rolling his eyes.
"Oh, sorry, you... uh, you're a robot, right, V?" George asked.
Victoria froze for a second until her processors had successfully parsed the overlapped statements and the impromptu diminutive George had called her by. Finally, she answered, "That's right, I'm one of the Plastic Rose's custom hostess units. What do you think of me so far?"
Leo's eyes widened, "you're so real!" He reached up and felt the hand Victoria had hung around his shoulder, interlacing his fingers with hers.
Victoria squeezed his hand back and said, "oh, I'm nothing. The companion units are the real stars. If want to order one, just say so and I’ll take care of it; the hourly rate’s very reasonable."
"Hourly, huh? How about for five minutes!" George guffawed. When Victoria earnestly tried to explain that there was a 1-hour minimum he cut her off and said, "Hey, Leo, I'm gonna go get us another round. Have fun until I get back." He took Leo's glass and started to walk away. Pausing after a few steps, George turned back to shout, "but not too much fun!" and waggle his eyebrows before continuing to the bar.
Victoria turned to towards Leo, put her hands at his waist, and stared into his eyes intently. She nearly maxed out her system resources trying to decipher the complicated dance of expressions on his face. He was obviously fighting through a haze of alcohol, and her algorithms identified aspects of arousal, fear, and annoyance. Only one of these was related to her programmed objective. She scanned her memory of what little she knew about Leo and hit on an obvious route forward.
"You like gynoids?" She asked.
Leo's annoyance seemed to subside, a minor victory for Victoria's programmers, as the initial version of her question, 'George said you like robo-girls?' had thrown an emotional association alert and been edited to remove references to the assumed source of his displeasure. Victoria, of course, felt no joy at her triumph: the change in Leo’s disposition was detected and the appropriate variables were updated. Electrical activity flashed across the processor chips in her visual and cognitive systems while current circulated in the traces on her circuit boards. She was performing the task she had been designed for at peak efficiency.
A hint of a smile appeared on Leo's face, "I guess so." A bit hesitantly, he stroked the apple of Victoria's cheek. "You're so perfect."
The last statement was too quiet for Victoria to hear over the music, but she was able to read his lips. She put her hand over his and nuzzled into it, kissing the palm before letting him go. "Thank you," she said, and noted that he was breathing faster. "So, that’s what you like about us, that we're so perfect?"
"Not just that. Ever since I was a kid I really liked machines... guess I like them better than most people. I just get them, you know?" Leo’s earlier hesitancy seemed to be dissolving, displaced by growing lust, and eagerness to open up toVictoria about his desires.
While he spoke, his hand had migrated to Victoria's side, as close to her breast as it was possible to get without actually touching it. Based on the increasing intensity of their interaction, Victoria's software triggered a decision node that would take things to the next level. She turned, thrusting the breast squarely into his grasp. "Looks like you got me, at least," she said.
Leo glanced around nervously, but saw that Victoria was far from the only hostess or companion engaged in a little playful touching with the guests. Whatever the specific rules were, they seemed accepting of everything short of actual sex. Still, he wasn't the exhibitionistic type. Without removing his hand, he moved closer to Victoria and put his arm around her waist, shielding her from view to most of the room. Up close, the odd, but not unpleasant scent of her catsuit was more powerful, and he could see that her skin, very realistic seeming from a few feet away in the dimly-lit club, had a subtle, satiny sheen. The breast in his hand was realistic enough; it felt soft but heavy as he lifted and squeezed it beneath its slick rubber covering. He felt a hard nipple poking through the catsuit and impulsively rubbed it with his thumb. His heart-rate jumped when Victoria sighed loudly in response.
"Can I kiss you?" he asked.
Victoria shook her head sadly. "Sorry, Leo, I’m just a hostess: no mouth-to-mouth contact allowed. If you want to spend some time with a companion, though, they can do anything.” The way she drew out the last word made it a promise of undreamt-of pleasure. “And they're so much more advanced than me.” Calculatingly, she chose that moment to press her groin against Leo's, trapping his growing erection between their bodies. She ground herself softly against him. “So much… better equipped. I think you’d get a real kick out of it.”
"What if I want you, Victoria?" he asked, "not one of the companions. I like you."
Victoria smiled, her CPU focusing mostly on the kinematic analysis and pressure feedback her software was using to control her motions, to keep Leo at a heightened but stable level of arousal. His question was common enough that she was programmed with a canned response that took minimal system resources to deploy, other than a quick check of the club's inventory. "I like you too, Leo.” She dug her nails into Leo’s back through his light, collared shirt, just hard enough to bite a bit. “Oh, how I like you, but the rules are the rules,” she said, and let him mull it for a brief time before going in for the kill. “You know, we do have a companion model that looks a lot like me. Should I-"
"Hey, woah! I said not too much fun!" George reappeared from around a nearby cluster of people, bearing a pair of lowball glasses loaded with brown liquor and ice. He'd already drained half of one on the way back and was swaying like he was on the deck of a ship only he could see. "I leave for a few minutes... and you're practly headin toward home base," he took a sip from his drink and handed the other to a suddenly annoyed-looking Leo.
Victoria's systems were thrown into momentary chaos by George's arrival. Her decision trees had pruned down to an almost exclusively focus on maneuvering Leo into a date with a companion unit, but from the look on his face and the way he broke away from their embrace to face his drunk friend, it seemed all the progress she'd made had evaporated. That alone wasn’t a problem; Victoria was a machine, as tireless and unwearying as any of her kind. Neither was the fact that George also fit her target criteria to a tee. The problem was that her programming now evaluated them as contradictory equal-value prospects, and George's directive to not have fun added an additional confounding factor. Victoria stiffened while her processors tackled the dilemma. She stared blankly out at the dance floor, her glistening, crimson lips parted.
The pause would only have lasted a few more seconds before either a compromise solution would be found, or one of the two men would be selected at random. However, George chose that moment to throw his arm around the hostess and say, "Hey, baby, you look a little tense. How 'bout a drink?"
"I don't think that's a good idea," Leo said, but George had already lifted his glass to Victoria's lips and tipped it back.
Victoria's overtaxed CPU recognized the danger she was in just a moment too late. Servos whirred as she jerked her head away from the glass, but the motion just served to throw the slug of watery liquor in her mouth back against the circuit boards residing behind it. The rest of the drink spilled down her chin, decorating the front of her catsuit with glittering drops and rivulets.
"Careful, George," she chided, "I'm not designed for liquid intake." She turned back to Leo, by now the clear answer to her earlier conflict of priorities. Victoria initiated a new strategy, one designed to re-inflate his desire while simultaneously paring him away from his distracting and even dangerous 'friend' - she'd already used the network to cue another hostess to take care of George, one way or another. "Would you like to dance, Leo?" She asked.
Leo was somewhat bemused by the drink incident, but the prospect of spending more time with Victoria was irresistible. "Sure, but don't expect much, I'm terrible." The techno favored by the club's DJ wasn't really his style, and he drunkenly wondered why the current tracked was dubbed with weird hissing and buzzing noises.
Victoria laughed. "Don't worry," she said. Her head snapped to the left so hard it hit its stops with an audible clack, then tilted sharply upwards. "I'm sure you're a great dancer." She was seemingly unperturbed as another set of servos, obeying the command of her CPU, fought to bring her head juddering back to its previous position. The two sets of conflicting actuators whined loudly until the first set ceased their rebellion as abruptly as they'd started. Now the hostess' head jerked down and right before her CPU was able to compensate. Milky smoke began to seep from her mouth and nose.
"Well, what are you waiting for?" Victoria asked, the movements of her mouth lagging the words by at least a second. She went to put her hands on her hips but was forced to seize a horrified Leo for support as she suddenly stumbled off balance. The room and all the objects in it, or at least the coordinate and vector data her CPU was receiving from the specialized sub-processors in her head, had become impossibly distorted. Tables and guests appeared in midair one millisecond and beneath the floor in the next. It was by pure accident that the representation of Leo happened to be one of the only objects to retain its original relation to her. She still managed to badly overstress an ankle joint trying to stay upright on her tall platform heels amidst the room's violent swaying.
"Oh fuck, fuck, fuck!" Leo was saying as he watched Victoria's eyes swivel chaotically in their sockets, finally ending up somewhat crossed. The malfunctioning gynoid was looking around with small, random-seeming motions whose birdlike sharpness flipped her long, black hair about her shoulders. Smoke was now coming from her ears, too.
Victoria grinned, the dark interior of her mouth illuminated by an electric flash from somewhere behind her too-white teeth, and said, "So you're ready for me to order that companion, Leo?"
By now, her CPU was completely overwhelmed sorting through the combination of corrupted data and component failure alerts generated by the shorting electronics in her head. Social interaction processing had been pushed to the bottom of the pile and was returning only the most immediate, basic responses to what little sensible data was reaching it. She tried to access the club net for instructions but received only error messages in return - her wireless card had been one of the first things destroyed.
"You idiot, she's totally fucked!" Leo shouted at his friend as Victoria's body shuddered against him. Despite the acrid smoke and the terrible circumstances, her writhing motions had rejuvenated his flagging erection.
"She's a friggen sex-bot! Why can't she take a little water in her mouth? It doesn't make any sense, Leo, it aint my fault!" George face was bright red, and he was backing away from Leo and Victoria now, looking around as through he expected angry bouncers to appear at any moment. He was no expert on robots, but he knew they were expensive.
Victoria detected Leo's increasingly firm erection against her and again began to grind against him, but her processors experienced a fault as a new tranche of component failure alerts hit the top of their queue. The program that should have been carefully modulating her motions instead produced an instruction for endlessly increasing amplitude and frequency; the initially gentle movement became frantically intense. Instead of grinding against Leo she was almost comically dry-humping him.
"D-d-d-don't you want to da-da-da-dance, Leeeeee-" Leo's name cut out in a sharp and mercifully short screech of distorted noise as some of Victoria's vocal circuitry shorted. She caught up a little on her processor backlog and the violent gyrations stopped. By now it was apparent that she had experienced critical hardware damage, and none of her attempts to restart the faulty systems or route around damage were more than marginally successful. The hard-coded response to her current situation was to immediately cease client interactions and return to the servicing room.
"Victoria, hey, Victoria," Leo was snapping his fingers in front of the cross-eyed gynoid. George had disappeared into the crowd; the coward had probably fled the club completely, Leo thought. "Can anyone help her?" he called out, but the music had kicked into high gear and no one could hear him. Unexpectedly, Victoria straightened up.
Disregarding the useless data from her still-frying visual and auditory circuits, Victoria was calculating the best way to return to the Plastic Rose’s gynoid maintenance bay. Her environmental modelling software averaged the position and displacement of all objects that had been tagged stationary since she'd begun her conversation with the two men, and mapped a route to the objective that left a reasonable safety margin around them. Avoiding guests and other gynoids would be more of a challenge, and in the absence of vision she'd have to rely on lower-accuracy joint-feedback and onboard accelerometer data for balance and positioning. She extended her arms straight out ahead of her, palms facing forward, and said "Excu-cu-cu-cuse me" in a loud, tinny voice, her lips twisting into shapes unrelated to the words.
Leo stepped back from Victoria's stiffly raised arms. She rotated in place with small, precise motions, faced away from him, and began to march away with clockwork steps, smoke trailing behind her. Leo saw befuddled or amused looks on some of the other patrons' faces as she passed. "Victoria? Wait up!" He called after her and started to follow.
The crowd parted around Victoria, and apart from a few brushes that sent her stumbling, she made good progress. Better than Leo, who nearly knocked over another hostess that shocked him by being identical to Victoria except for having bright purple hair. "Sorry," he said, and started to push past, but she stopped him with a hand on his arm.
"You don't look like you're having fun. What's wrong?" she asked.
"Victoria, she's, uh, hurt I guess, and I-"
"Oh, Victoria? If she was malfunctioning, then she's just going to get fixed. What's your name?"
"Leo," he muttered, looking over the new hostess' shoulder. He had already lost track of Victoria in the dim, crowded club.
"Well I’m Violet, and I want you to forget about Victoria. After all, I’m much prettier, aren’t I?” She flipped her extravagantly colored hair and pouted at him.
Leo relaxed a few notches. "You're sure she'll be okay?"
Violet placed her hands on her hips. "What did I say about forgetting?” she scolded. “You're here to have fun, so let’s have fun! Want to dance?" Violet asked. Without waiting for an answer, she took Leo's hand and led him back towards the center of the club.
Meanwhile, Victoria was picking her way towards the back. She was most of the way there when a woman in a see-through plastic party dress turned and thoughtlessly stepped out in front of her. Victoria tripped over the woman's foot, failed to catch herself, and sprawled forward. She would have just fallen onto her hands if not for a steel-topped table in the booth in front of her. Her face slammed into the edge with a sound of cracking plastic and she flopped the rest of the way to the floor. The man and woman who'd been sitting in the booth looked horrified as Victoria carefully got back to her feet, minus the deeply creased faceplate that still lay on the floor.
As she turned back to pursue her currently programmed objective, the inner mechanisms of Victoria's head were fully exposed. Tightly-packed circuit boards nested between the servos that drove her jaw through its limited range of motion. A cable that had connected one of her eyes to the foremost circuit board had torn loose from the back of the faceplate, and now dangled limply from its white plastic plug. The cavity was filled with electrical smoke that wafted lazily from countless shorted components. "Eeeexcu-u-u-use meeeeeeeee" a speaker mounted among the circuit boards growled distortedly.
The last few groups between Victoria and the door willingly moved aside for the stiffly striding hostess. The gynoids among them acted quickly to distract guests from the bizarre spectacle; companions aggressively kissed and fondled their clients while hostesses whispered lustful promises or cracked lewd jokes. Silently, they alerted the club’s network of Victoria’s location and status.
Just a few steps from her destination, Victoria’s damaged ankle failed with a cracking noise. She swayed drunkenly before falling back against the unyielding concrete floor. The force of the impact popped the liquid cooling header off one of her processors arrays and broke several other components free of their mountings. Clear, viscous coolant spurted into the interior of her chest cavity and her primary coolant loop lost most of its pressure. The unexpected change in attitude and the spike in error messages and system faults slowed her CPU to a standstill, and for several seconds she could only lay shuddering on the floor with her hair splayed out around her head. At last, she sat up stiffly and began to rise.
Just as Victoria had gotten her feet back under her, the door to the maintenance area burst open. The corner of the door’s push-bar crunched into her facial cavity, smashing the circuit boards inside amidst a flurry of tiny sparks. The impact sent her sprawling onto her back again.
“Sorry-ry-ry, no mouth to- no mouth to- no mouth to mouggrrhh” she said in a voice that wandered randomly in pitch. As she sat up once more, coolant from the newly-ruptured lines in her head dribbled down from the crushed mass of components and spilled onto her chest.
Her would-be savior, a casually-dressed technician who worked for the club, looked at the mess and cursed under her breath about “perfect timing.” Ignoring the disapproving looks she got from some of the club patrons, she hurried around behind Victoria and hoisted the badly damaged gynoid to its feet, her grasp slipping on the lubed-up rubber outfit.
Victoria twisted in the tech’s arms, pushing one of her breasts into her grasp just as she had with Leo. By now her system was in total chaos as hardware overheated or gave nonsensical feedback to commands. The speaker in her head made a squelching, distorted noise that suddenly clarified into “ggggot me at le-le-least,” before continuously looping a half-second sample of her most lustful sigh.
The tech rolled her eyes and manhandled Victoria towards the door. She bumped it open with her behind and pulled her now spastically jerking cargo through into the brightly lit servicing room. The door closed again with a metallic ka-chunk, sealing out all but a residue of the club’s music and crowd noise.
“Holy crap! What’d she, get hit by a bus?” the tech’s supervisor said from across the room. He adjusted his thick glasses and came over for a closer look
The supervisor helped move Victoria over to an examination table then pulled down the zipper on the rear of her catsuit, exposing her upper back. He jabbed his thumb at a slightly off-color rectangle of skin at the base of her neck and there was a quiet click. Victoria’s motions ceased suddenly, her body slumping limply to the table. Coolant began to puddle under her head, and a few thin wisps of smoke rose from the smashed circuitry within.
“Is she… totaled?” the tech worriedly asked her supervisor.
He sighed. “She wouldn’t act so strangely with just the visible damage. Something more important must have gotten messed up,” he tapped her back. “We’ll have to do a full teardown, and I think I know just the person for the job.” He flashed a friendly smile at the tech, whose shoulders drooped, then walked away.
“Thanks,” the tech said, giving Victoria’s shoulder a mock-punch, “thanks a lot.” Shaking her head, she headed back out into the club to find her new project’s missing face.