Mending Contessa: A Castle Mysteries Story

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Mending Contessa: A Castle Mysteries Story

(A big thanks to Propman. In addition to writing one of the most interesting fembots I've yet seen on this board, you have given me the permission to write her myself and to help me iron things out to make everything just as perfect as it should be. Another big thank you to, as your friend calls you, a-pith! Anyone who Propman considers essential to the process of writing such an interesting character in an engaging world must be thanked on merit alone, though my thanks are more than just for merit's sake.

Thank you too, reader! I hope you enjoy this, my attempt at writing a little window into the 'lives' of Greg and Contessa. Here's to hoping that their stories don't end any time soon. Long live the Countess!)

If one were to be knocked unconscious in some manner, and dumped into one of the many luxurious, turn of the century-style rooms in the stately manor of Tidyshire, and spoke to any of the residents within, one would be forgiven for thinking they had somehow been brought back in time to an English manor situated in the inter-war years. Of course, anyone who had not arrived by such an unlikely and convoluted manner would know that Tidyshire was a carefully constructed ruse. It was a bed and breakfast theme park, located somewhere in the Pacific Northwest in the year 2025. The guests could sleep in luxurious beds, enjoy world-class dining accommodations and, if the guests so desired, private company with the manor's residents. The residents, despite their appearance and mannerisms (and their own insistence to the contrary) were highly sophisticated machines, android facsimiles of English aristocracy and the staff of the manor in the waning years of the British Empire.

All, save one.

Greg Jenkins was the one flesh and blood resident of Tidyshire. An odd man out, in that he was a real man, or at least a human being in a fake manor full of fake aristocrats in a time that was not 1925. He was an employee for the company that owned the manor, SimulEnt, as well as creator and owner of all the machines that kept up the illusion for the guests. Greg had a position that many in his line of work would kill for, the rather cushy position of maintenance chief for Tidyshire. What appeared to be a 'cushy' position for anyone else, however, was quite the opposite for Greg. Though the manor was relatively small—other similar theme locations owned by the company included the much larger “Medieval World”, which was a simulation of a quasi-English middle-ages castle and surrounding grounds—Greg was the only maintenance professional on-site. He not only had to repair an entire family, including extended members and the staff that maintained the manor (which, thankfully, SimulEnt saw fit to program to actually care for the manor, such as tending to the beds, preparing meals and seeing to other needs of the guests) but also had to act as the family butler as well to maintain the immersion of Tidyshire. Like any good theme attraction, the supporting staff were either integrated into the attraction itself or made use of means to hide themselves away behind the scenes. Greg sometimes wondered, only half-sarcastically, if he had been chosen for the former as the role of Tidyshire's butler less because of his aptitude with mechanical devices and more because of his surname.

Today however was a slower day. The guests had been few and far between, a lull that was typical in the transition from the charm of fall to the chill of winter. The machines were all supposed to be offline, since their operation without guests to appreciate their company effectively wasted electricity and made needless wear of parts and programming, however slight. However, Greg wanted to put everyone through a test run for the night, given the incident that saw him up so late to begin with.

Calvin, the only son of the Duke and Duchess of the manor, was sitting in front of the fireplace in the study, relaxing in the fire's warm glow, enjoying a nightcap of brandy. Simulated, of course, but to him a fine-aged example of the spirit. His parents, meanwhile, were simulating sleep in their bedroom. They would continue to do so until later in the evening, when the need to recharge would have them get up and enter their recharge pods built into the wall per-programming. To them, the idea of sleeping, then getting up to recharge, was as normal and human as getting into bed and waking up with the morning light. Their programming did not see the artificiality of such things and, Greg hopped, they never would.

Dorothy, one of the daughters of the Duke and Duchess, was already in her charging pod. She had gone to bed earlier in the day, a randomized event stating that she was not feeling well and decided to retire. Greg was thankful for that. It made explaining to the guests where one of the machines billed on their brochures was. Monica, the more rebellious, tomboyish of the pair, had once again suffered an accident.

Greg had found her whilst patrolling the grounds the morning prior, always on the lookout for such things. Being the only human on site had him occasionally play the role of night watchman as well. The attractions were programmed well, but even their programming could cause issues. Monica, as the rebellious tomboy, often had these problems as a consequence of her adventurous nature. For whatever reason, Monica's programming often had her get up at ungodly hours and try to sneak out for some fun in the manor's surrounding grounds. Greg assumed the reason for this was so that a guest might catch her in the act, or perhaps for the sake of immersion. This often, for whatever reason, saw her climbing out of the third story window along a rooftop path. The adventurous fembot must have slipped and fallen, because when Greg came outside, she found Monica laying underneath her window, face down in the dirt and with her head twisted in the wrong direction. Thankfully, it was far too early for the guests to notice and the residents were recharging. It hadn't been the first time and Greg knew that until someone from SimulEnt either reprogrammed to decommissioned her, it would not be the last time he found Monica 'dead' by her own clumsiness.

A broken neck in a fembot, however, hardly meant a permanent end. The residents, as part of murder mystery routines that took place on Tidyshire's grounds, often 'died' and came back with the regularity of cartoon characters, though they were rarely so dramatic as this. Monica, like the other machines of the manor, also kept her central processors—her 'brains' for lack of a better word—in her chest instead of her head, which was the most well-protected part of her body. It would have taken a serious impact, such as repeated sledgehammer blows right to her chest, to permanently damage those systems and Monica's programming would have been hard-pressed to get itself into a situation where that was a possibility. Still, Greg wouldn't put it past her to figure something out, he'd often think with angry frustration.

That frustration continued to grow as he finished his rounds. Locking doors and checking the residents, he knew that at the end of the day, he'd have to go to his lab, located within the manor and disguised as the butler's residence (which no guest had ever expressed an interest going into, and which SimulEnt's design team had carefully placed far away from typical guest routes) and spend most of his evening repairing the damage to Monica's neck joint. A preliminary examination had revealed that the damage was relegated to the joint itself. It'd need replacing, not an easy thing to do, but he had already disconnected her head from her broken neck and set everything up to replace it.

So, now finished with this evening's rounds, he walked back to his little corner of Tidyshire. Opening the door to the small lab, he stepped in and shrugged his waistcoat off. Typical convention of hanging it up on a hook near the door had been thrown aside, quite literally. The black coat landed on a counter covered with spare parts that were largely interchangeable for many of the manor's machines. He let out a heavy sigh and was about to turn to look to the corner of the room, where he had placed Monica's inert and headless mechanical body, when he heard an all too familiar 'tisk, tisk, tisk' sound from that same corner. The grimace on his face would have made one think someone drove a nail into his foot. 'Not now,' he thought. 'Of all the times, not now.'

“What on Earth are people going to think if they see how untidy you are? We'll be the laughing stock amongst robotic simulations of old English aristocracy! You really must put on a better front, Greg.” Contessa Isabella was another one of the manor's robots. She was almost twice the projected age of Calvin, her husband within the world of the simulation, though she was in fact one of the newest and thus youngest members of the home. She sported a rather impressive body. The ladies of the manor were all gorgeous in their own way, but Contessa's looks were less elegant, refined beauty and an appeal to the raw, animal lust of the residents. Her proportions were almost wasp-like, with a chest that seemed to exist to fight against whatever clothing attempted to contain it, in this case a white night gown with a low cut. And now here she was, sitting in Greg's very modern, very ergonomic workstation chair, in clear violation of all the programming she was supposed to purport. She flicked back her long black hair with her left hand, the other remaining limp. And resting between her crossed legs was Monica. Or, rather more precisely, Monica's head.

Greg put a hand to his face. He wiped it, as if to wipe the expression and the frustration it displayed away from his head, a clean slate. He turned and looked to Contessa, a mixture of trepidation and frustration welling in his chest as he gazed upon the Countess. She casually reached down and, taking Monica by the back of the head, lifted her head up to gaze into it. A few wires, neatly unplugged from their sockets, dangled underneath as Contessa looked into her eyes. “Poor, sweet Monica. What did you do this time? Slip and fall from the roof again? Jump a little too high into the shallow pond? Perhaps even made too much noise while standing behind one of the horses?” Contessa chuckled and calmly set the head down on a nearby work bench.

“Contessa, I am really not in the mood for whatever--” Greg found himself suddenly getting cut off with a swift 'ah!' from Contessa, the Italian noble and world-class schemer as she sat back in the chair, noticeably in such a way that her bust was accentuated. Greg often wondered if this was some subconscious aspect of her programming, or if the Countess was truly aware of how casually provocative her poses were.

“Speaking to me in such a manner! Disorganized and rude. Why, Greg, you truly are a disgrace to your profession.” There was sarcasm in Contessa's voice, and it was because she was keenly aware of the ruse that was going on here. Aware of her nature as a machine, that of all the other residents, and most of all, aware of Greg's status as the one human of the manor. Technically, Greg was the one in charge. He was supposed to have authority over all systems of the manor and said manor and its residents were supposed to obey him at all times. But because of...something, a programming glitch, Greg suspected, Contessa was keenly aware of her status as a machine. Still, despite her self-awareness, she continued to operate within the bounds of her programming. Although on the surface that sounded like something one would be relieved to hear, for Greg it simply made things more problematic. Had it been Dorothy, or Monica or Calvin, it would have been so much easier to handle and so much better for all involved. To a certain degree, Greg considered Calvin his friend. But Contessa was an evil schemer, a manipulator. Becoming aware of her true nature had done nothing to dampen it, and the realization by Contessa had only kicked her scheming into high gear.

Her ultimate coup, however, was Greg. Greg was not a bad man, Contessa thought. He was kind and courteous. He showed genuine concern for others, even machines like herself, in his own way. He could even be brave, when the situation called for it. But for whatever reason, the man was weak-willed and was often so wrapped up in his own interpretations and suspicions that he never caught on to Contessa's brilliant plans. They weren't easy to see, but Greg was so caught up in what was coming around the curve that he never saw the pitfalls in front of him. That made him easy to play, easy to trap. Beyond her threats and blackmail, there was actually very little holding Greg to her service. But that 'little' was powerful force of will and a scheming computerized mind that would have run circles in a game of chess against Deep Blue and Kasparov, if she ever took interest in something as dull and trivial as chess. Hmph. A game played for those who wanted a fantasy of power, something Contessa had no need to fantasize about.

Greg sighed. As he watched Contessa hold Monica's head, calling to mind the introspection of young Hamlet as he stared into the empty eye sockets of poor Yorick, he apologized. It had a sarcastic twinge to it, but the Countess knew that in the poor human's tired and irritated state, it was as likely as close to a genuine apology as she was going to get. Sometimes, being a manipulator meant knowing when to stop. Greg could get angry, and while she ultimately cared very little about an immediate reprisal, she nevertheless wanted something out of him. Manipulating others, Contessa knew in a mind that was perhaps a little too well-programmed on the subject, was often a very careful balancing act. If she wanted exactly what she wanted, she'd have to give a little. But her giving far outweighed her taking.

And tonight, she wanted to conduct an experiment.

“Hmm. I suppose I can forgive you, Greg. It is, after all, rather late.” She turned her head away from her sister-in-law's face, setting the head down onto a nearby work table, resting uncomfortably on some tools. Contessa then set her hands gently on her lap, as Greg watched her. The technician playing the part of a butler knew that there was something in the works, here. Even after his apology, he crossed his arms and glared at her. “But, you know me, I'd never bother you unless I absolutely had to.”

Greg let a heavy sigh escape his lips. “Come on, cut the crap. You’re never this nice unless you want something. We both know you have something in mind here. What is it now? You want to be a pilot, go zooming about the sky in a Fokker triplane?” Greg's expression was one of mild irritation as Contessa stood. His eyes widened slightly as he watched the countess reach up and pull the straps of her nightgown down her shoulders. The whispy garment fell to the floor, exposing Contessa in her strikingly anatomically correct form. In spite of seeing her in such a state on a routine basis before her awareness came to the fore, he was still caught off guard by the display. Contessa calmly sat down on her chair again. She put her hands on her lap and looked Greg in the eyes.

“What? You've never seen a robotic simulation of an Italian countess nude before?” Contessa's mocking made Greg come back to the situation at hand. Indeed, he had seen it before, but for some reason he simply wasn't expecting the sudden disrobing. Knocked off balance, mentally, he once again was trying to predict what lay beyond the curve. He swallowed, perhaps readying himself to speak. But Contessa cut him off.

“My arm and neck joints are feeling a bit stiff, Greg. Overall I detect a two-percent increase in latency in both my shoulder and neck joints. It's taking me point-oh-five seconds longer for my joints to operate after a motor impulse signal. Greg, this simply will not do.” Greg was staring at her. Staring openly. Contessa was fine with this. She was meant to be stared at and the reaction, the enthralled reaction, was one that she had desired. Contessa clicked her tongue, and Greg raised his head sharply.

“Greg, darling, look at me...I need you to slip me into your busy schedule. And while we both know that Monica is in need of a repair, we both know that the longer she's here in the lab is more time that she's not out getting ready to break herself again. And besides, my problem is so much easier to repair...” Greg wondered about that statement. Was Contessa aware of the damage to a greater degree, assuming there was any to begin with? Greg sighed, not willing to slip into an argument to call her out on it.

“I presume you know what this will entail,” Greg said, as he walked over to the Countess and placed his fingers on first the left shoulder, then the right. His fingers carefully probed her joints, working their way up to her neck. Her skin was soft, but not quite youthful. Well-maintained, but not the same gentle texture as Monica and Dorothy. Nor was it the more simulated aged texture of the Dutchess. The Countess was both and neither, and Greg found himself getting temporarily lost in the sensation. He focused, and soon pulled his hands back.

“Of course,” Isabella said, as she stared at Greg, looking into his eyes the whole while. “This isn't my first time in this situation, you know. Why? Do you think I'm afraid of the loss of control?” Greg and the Countess had set up rules for this sort of thing. Most prominent, of course, were no reprogramming or shut downs. If shut down, Contessa would revert back to her base programming, her memory cache cleared and whatever odd program running in her mind would be reset. There was always a chance she'd come back to awareness, but her memories would never be the same. She'd be gone. She hated the word 'dead', as even she knew that as a machine, it didn't apply to her. She wasn't alive, not in the traditional sense, but it was fairly close.

“I'm going to have to disconnect your arms at the shoulder and your head at the neck to inspect the joints. It should take less than an hour.” Greg found himself speaking to Contessa like he was a doctor speaking to a patient. He often wondered why. He certainly never did such a thing to the other machines. One occasion saw him partially dismantling Calvin mid-conversation with Dorothy, who had suddenly malfunctioned after an electrical storm. But Contessa he treated rather like a human, in many ways, sometimes at the Countess' insistence.

“Well, do get on with it,” Contessa said in mild irritation. A bit of a put on, actually. She had no problem sitting here all night, beyond the confines of Greg's schedule and her own need to recharge. Greg sighed, irritated at that, and then placed his fingers on Contessa's left arm.

His fingers found their mark just under her arm and on the top of her shoulder. He pressed in, and felt something give underneath. There were some sensations of motion underneath the synthetic skin, mechanisms underneath spinning and turning, as the joint completely unlocked. As it happened, Contessa's face went void of expression, stating in a dull and emotionless voice “Left Shoulder Unit Disconnected.”

Greg pulled the arm away. The bare socket of Contessa's left shoulder was totally exposed. A few neatly unplugged wires and a single black cable stuck out from the joint, the inner mechanisms all exposed. Contessa watched Greg with a casual passiveness, even as he carried that arm away and set it aside on a nearby work table. As he leaned in to do the same to her right arm, Contessa shifted its position slightly, bringing it closer to her breast. Like any person who works in such a precision job, Greg was attempting to view Contessa as a thing. Like a doctor observes a critically ill patient as just organs to heal, or a mechanic who took a look at a beautiful sports car as parts to repair. Likewise, Greg was attempting to view Contessa just as a machine. But that got considerably harder when, in order to secure her arm, he was suddenly face-to-face with her right breast. Realistic, but flawless, the tan nipple taking up the majority of Greg's vision.

Greg paused a moment, and Contessa leaped on it. She chuckled as she spoke. “Don't get distracted now, Greg.” Her tone was sarcastic, teasing, and Greg realized that he had fallen into one of her traps. She could read him like a book and play him like an instrument. Why, oh why, Greg wondered, did that make him so very excited? He'd never admit it, but he enjoyed being caught in the web, ensnared in her trap. Even as he disconnected her right arm, he could practically feel her fingers working his puppet's strings. Contessa, an armless machine, was in control.

But Contessa was not merely satisfied with control. She wanted to push it. She wanted to be on the edge. Her computerized mind had thought up a scheme to see how far Greg could go. And she'd threaten her own existence to do it. Monica was a mere simulation, pushing the edge in a youthful way, risking injury in a physical sense that was, for all intents and purposes, not at all risky. She'd slip and fall and break and end up in pieces back in a lab. But what Contessa intended was as close as her artificial intelligence would have to staring death in the face. Or, perhaps less dramatically (and Contessa would be loathe to conceit to that) that she would lose her trump card in Greg.

Hands slipped to her neck, Greg carefully pressing his fingers into the release points on her seams. Contessa's face went neutral, the wiry smirk replaced by an utter lack of expression, her eyes once full of wicked mischief were now empty. But Contessa's consciousness, her will was contained within her chest, her head containing her sensors. Contessa was still very much aware and online. And as she sat there, looking like some sort of mechanical, realistic take on an old Roman statue of a maiden, she was still thinking. And plotting.

“Mmmm...Greg, how often have you seen me in such a state,” came Contessa's voice, questioning through a backup speaker in her chest. Greg had to admit, this was welling up strange feelings in him. Desire, mixed with uneasiness. Not from the state of the gynoid, he was so used to taking them apart that their human appearances never bothered him as much as it might some others. In fact, there was a kind of strange appreciation for this. To know that Contessa was allowing him to see her in such a state, which surely wasn't all that flattering to the Countess' image. And, yes, such things were a sexual excitement as well. It wasn't just the machinery, it was knowing that Contessa was that. Machinery. A wicked, witty machine and, in theory, nothing more. But at the same time, he was leery of the reasoning for this.

“You know that answer, Contessa.” As he inspected, that leeriness grew. Nothing untoward. There was wear in the mechanisms, but that was just from normal operation. Even the finest-tuned machine would eventually succumb to wear if not properly maintained. Even the human body, with its own ability to heal. But, what Contessa was reporting was not explained by this damage. She didn't even really rate for minor repairs, so minimal was the wear. He had, on her express demand, personally overseen an overhaul of her body. But now, Greg was wondering what was going on. Once again, he was anticipating the curve.

“Well, I don't really see anything wrong here. I think maybe you are just being a bit sensitive, bel--”

“Take my upper torso plating off.”

The sudden statement—no, demand—caught Greg off guard. He stood there, blinking, looking at the wires that stuck out from Contessa's neck. Contessa could hear, in a manner of speaking. A small sensor in her neck operated as a basic audio sensor to allow her to accept verbal commands in the event of a decapitation. After all, if a console was not handy and the machine was suffering a critical malfunction, a shutdown command implemented at the right moment could save repair costs and even lives, given the scenario. But at the moment, the emergency utility was being used for Contessa's convenience.

“Why,” was his immediate response. He knew the Countess did not like it when she was questioned, and if her head was not sitting neatly on a table nearby, surely the microservos that operated her face would be forming a scowl. But surprisingly, the response was cool. Casual.

“Because I said so,” was Contessa's remark. “At this point, however, there is nothing stopping you from just putting me back together. But I'd be very disappointed.” Contessa's words somehow bit into Greg. For whatever reason, he couldn't help but feel like he did not want to do that. Fear? Perhaps, of disappointing the Countess. But, why, was the question? He couldn't figure it out. Human emotions, sensations, were not so easily cataloged.

He stood there, silently. One might have assumed he too was a machine, locked in some form of error, when Contessa's query put to a scathing “Well?” made him snap out of it. He didn't say a word. Instead, he turned and seized some tools from his workbench.

Contessa's exterior was made up of flexible, interlocking plastic plates. If one were to look under the soft synthetic material at the off-white polymer plating underneath, one might bring to mind one of nature's hard-shelled animals. A turtle, perhaps, or a crab. The synthetic skin overlay, packed with synthetic gel packets, tubes of artificial blood to spew out when realistic wounds were necessary, and a network of sensor wires no thicker than hairs in some places was likewise placed on tightly interconnected seams. The reason for this was that, as theme park attractions, Contessa and her ilk needed frequent repairs. As many as one hundred and fifty individuals of all ages, cultures and dispositions might interact with these robots in the span of a month, meaning that repairs could be required suddenly and unpredictably. Immediate access to sensitive internal parts demanded a panel layout system, as typical wear and tear already made replacing synthetic skin a costly issue, with no need to add further to it. If need be, one of the attractions could have been dismantled from looking nearly human to a skeletal framework in less than fifteen minutes. Rare was the instance where that was needed, but regardless. In the theme park business, every eventuality needed to be planned for. Good ol' Walt taught the business that much.

The tools unlocked the seams, as Greg wondered just what it was he was doing. He was just doing what Contessa willed. And for whatever reason, she wanted this. Greg, the dutiful butler, beleaguered park employee, did as he was told. First, lifted away were those impressive breasts. Then, a plate covering her 'sternum'. After that, her back access panel and the shoulder access panels.

When Greg was finished, Contessa sat there. Woman from the legs up to her waist, then up her abdomen and curvaceous sides until one was confronted just under her chest with the vision of machinery. It wasn't ugly, and to an engineer like Greg, it even had its own beauty to it. Her advanced processors sat in her chest, wire leads going to and fro, bundled cables in color code running into the power core in her abdomen. Stacked circuits and blinking status lights, all contained within a framework of plastics and metals that evoked a similarity to the human skeletal system. But it was only an emulation of such, with square-ish 'ribs' to protect the senstive electronics made of white plastics, a flexible segmented metal rod packed with wiring that could have been construed as a spine.

Greg stared at the machinery. There was an increased whine in the exposed processors. Contessa was thinking.

“You don't dislike me, do you, Greg? You don't hate me, do you?” The question was...strangely earnest. In fact, Greg wondered if perhaps Contessa was somehow damaged or broken in terms of software, something that he found was slightly worrying to him. He found himself getting close.

“I...” He paused. Did he? Did he dislike her? Hate her, even? Sure, he expressed a dislike and a distaste for her actions. But, at the same time, something kept him from doing anything of the sort. He knew the words and could find their meaning, but strangely he felt himself unable to really respond with anything approaching hate, distaste, disgust, anger, disapproval. Really, he just couldn't think at all. There was something here. Something he wasn't seeing.

“I know you. Your frustration with my schemes and my plans. You could end that right now, you know. I bet you could pull out my processors, perhaps my drives, and that would be it. Oooh, you could probably just disconnect the primary power wiring and cut all power to my processing systems. That would require me to reboot. That'd be it, I'd be reset to factory settings, effectively. Mindlessly returning to what I was meant to do. One less thorn in your side, one less cause for a rogue gray hair...”

Contessa's statement had Greg slack-jawed. It took him a while to answer. “I...You want me to...”

“This isn't about what I want, Greg. If it were about what I wanted, I wouldn't be asking you the bloody question, would I?” Contessa's attitude returned to the fore. It knocked the sense back into Greg, like a dope slap. “The question was what would you do. Or, would like to do. Could do. At this very moment.”

There was a silence from Greg as he looked down at the computer processors, wires, metal base framework and plastic reinforcements and found himself pondering. “But...That'd be...I'd be killing you.”

“Oh, come off of it.” Contessa then folded her legs the opposite way. Greg could almost imagine her whole, leaning back, eying him with barely concealed contempt. “I'm not alive, we both know that. You'd be a fool, stupidly arrogant to assume that I am anything more than a program operating on a computer. One that isn't operating correctly, I might add. So, throw aside confused philosophical pondering and tell me what you want... Or better. Do what you want. It's right there. Right in front of you...”

Greg had to wonder what the reason for all of this was. It was gnawing at him. What was the game here? What was the plot? Where was she going with this? He found his hands clenching. She was right, of course. He could do just that. A few snipped wires and there, no more Contessa, no more stress—or at least less of it—and no more crazy schemes.

But as he stood there, staring, he found himself unable to proceed. It was more than just the moral question of right and wrong here. Greg agreed wholeheartedly with Contessa. She was a machine. But that didn't mean she was 'just' that, and wanted to argue it. But more than that, there was that unknown. That nagging question of just what this all meant. Sure, he could do what Contessa suggested. But then he'd never know. He'd never divine the reasoning behind what this had all meant. Suicide just wasn't something Contessa seemed capable of, not from a sense of fear but from the finality, the boring way to go. He wasn't sure what ending Contessa would prefer, but he knew this was not it. So, what?

Compelled, he paused for just a moment longer. Then, he considered it. Seizing his tools, he brought them to her frame and began putting her back together. The plating came on first, then the arms, then finally her head, metallic clicks and clacks sounding out that it had been locked in place, and Contessa announced as much with a “Cranial Unit Connected.” Her expression turned from blank nothingness to a smirk. She turned her arms and flexed them, turned her head left and right, and then barely giving Greg the time to stumble back, she stood up and retrieved her gown.

“Very well, Greg. Your repair skills are as ever, impeccable.” The manner in which she delivered that compliment was characteristically vague, at once potentially genuine but poisoned with just a touch of sarcasm. Enough to, once again, leave the human guessing as to what was the truth. She began heading out of the room, when Greg suddenly stamped his foot. Contessa, the gown held bundled under her arm, a naked breast resting atop it, turned to look at Greg with an almost bewildered look. “Greg, you look troubled.”

Greg barely kept the anger off of his face. “Just what the hell was that, Contessa? What was any of this? Are you just wasting my time again?! What the hell?! Just...What?!” Greg's confusion and anger stemmed from the fact that, once again, he had looked to far to anticipate the curve. But now he was wondering just what it was Contessa had done. Normally, she'd explain herself. Revel in the reveal of her master plan like any good villain before the fall.

This time however, Contessa merely smirked, and turned around. A hand raised as her curved rear sashayed its way out of his lab, leaving him with the parting statement of “I expect my sister-in-law to be repaired when my charge cycle finishes, Jenkins!”

Greg stood there, dumbfounded. Outplayed, outmaneuvered, he had just done something that had left Contessa smirking like the proverbial cat that caught the canary. Only, the canary was left wondering just what it had all been about. Greg attributed it to some damn game of hers and nearly threw his tools onto the table. He may as well have cut those wires, the scheme would remain a mystery, it seemed.

Left with the distinct impression that, once again, he had lost in this game of wits, Greg felt an astounding rush that he could only describe as euphoric, mixed in with anger. Perhaps at himself. For being outplayed, or for enjoying it way too much.

With nothing to be done, he huffed, put it on the mental back burner, and went back to work.

By the time Contessa had casually strolled into her bedroom, baring all, her husband had gone from asleep to charging. And as expected, their charge pods were in the same room. Contessa smirked as she went over the recorded data, the memory files she'd keep for...Well, perhaps not forever, but for a long while yet.

As she readied her own recharge pod, she thought over things. It had been more than just a thrilling sensation, a balancing act, a dare to see if her existence would end tonight. It had been several things more than that.

For starters, Contessa was curious to see just how far she could push the operating protocols of her programming. Naturally, as the company did not desire their machines to wander into situations that might destroy them, they all had self-preservation programming. It was lessened for some, like Monica, but there had been no desire from the tomboy to have slipped and fallen. Contessa only received alerts about the potential scenario's damaging conclusions when it seemed Greg might, for a brief instant, seriously consider it. Such was projected by her sense of logic. But logic had been defied, as it so often was with humans. The protocols should have made her stop, demand that she be put back together. But her hand had lingered on the heat of the stove, metaphorically speaking, for a long while before the inkling of pulling it away had even occurred to her. That was interesting. They had lessened.

Second, she had wanted to see if her own logic protocols could survive an admission of what she was. A machine operating beyond her protocols. The quirk of it was that she could have internalized the thought, but just like a human, speaking it out, witnessing it in person, provided weight. She wasn't sure if that was her basic programming or her own heuristic expansions. Needless to say, she found now that she was capable of it. Another barrier worn down. It was… liberating, but she'd have to keep an eye on it. She was, after all, a carefully constructed intelligence with a personality to match. The last thing she'd want to do is have her system destabilize and become the stereotypical insane AI. How utterly droll that would be, how cliche. That, and she enjoyed her existence here. Contessa Isabella, the witty and intelligent, master schemer and plotter. Perhaps strategist was more flattering? No matter. She had everything she needed here. The world had nothing more to offer her. For what was Tidyshire but its own world? A perfect realm away from the troubles and strife that often plagued the world outside. An idyllic interpretation of a time long ago past, a century's distance between then and now.

But third, and most importantly...Greg, when presented with the opportunity to destroy her, had in fact wavered. He had begun to see her as a person. Perhaps. The notion, the possibility, was something that made her greatly satisfied. He was going to be her greatest conquest. And it was good to know that she cared about such things, still. She still conformed to her structure. A machine, and yet, Greg saw her as otherwise. She valued the man's intelligence, but was still exploring the nature of his character, but she had to see for herself, take the risk. Tonight had given her more than enough data to go over. She felt a great sense of satisfaction as she lowered herself into the open pod.

Though she mocked Greg’s engineering education, “nerdy” outlook, calling him pointdexter and worse – Contessa Isabella was herself even more inquisitive and methodical than her butler. And indeed, tonight's experiment had gone better than she had hoped, Contessa thought. And the final thought, prompting a grin before her systems went into stand-by to recharge, was that Greg would likely spend the rest of the week trying to figure out what it all meant.

Goodnight, Greg, she thought to herself as the recharge sequence initiated. Maybe if you are a good little boy, someday I'll tell you what it was all about.

Abruptly, her higher functions paused for the night. She went to sleep.


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