Sparx - Priority Service Call

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A steady downpour washed the highway south from Omaha as Rick squinted through the murky windshield, peering ahead into the gloomy night, looking for the right exit. He knew he was running very late, and these drives out to the fringe of his territory were never easy. Still, the company required him to make twenty calls a week--rain or shine--plus the occasional priority customer call. The outlet north of Beatrice may have been in the middle of nowhere, but that was par for the course in this part of the Midwest; very few locales were zoned for these franchises, so they usually ended up in isolated, unincorporated locations--out of sight, out of mind, unless you were the sort of person Sparx thrived on.

The exit was an anonymous viaduct; a lonely gas station's towering mercury lamp provided the only light as Rick pulled up to the stop sign. A mile west and this faint symbol of civilization disappeared from his rear-view mirror, but fortunately this wasn't the first time he'd driven this vacant stretch of asphalt, where the otherwise random cracks served as familiar milestones to his destination. Fifteen minutes through the black and there it was: The pink neon sign on the left, the prefab, industrial-style exterior, the worn and ruddy blacktop lot with a few dozen beat-up cars, pickups, even a couple of semis parked farther away down the access road to a fallow farm field.

The rain started to break as Rick turned into the lot, and he pulled his car up illegally along the painted curb a few yards from the entrance. He killed the engine and automatically fished a plastic card out from his glove box to hang around the mirror. He spent about a minute pulling his case out of the garbage-filled back seat of his Pontiac Horizon, then flipped the passenger seat down flat as a makeshift worktable. He opened the case, checking for the tools he'd need based on the report: Laptop, Tech 7 I-conn, navel key...it was all there, as expected, but he went through the checklist anyway, since it had been over a week since his last visit to this location.

Once he was satisfied, he sealed the case, snagged the ID from the dashboard, and clamored out of the vehicle. The lot was bathed in pink from the over-sized neon sign that reflected in the puddles that had collected where the asphalt had worn into ruts. A thin outline of a rhinestone cowgirl--the kind you saw on every other trucker's mudflaps--glowed over the script that announced the name of this isolated establishment: Sparx. Actually, this was one of the first Sparx franchises in Nebraska, built some nine years earlier when there was still an active attempt though the heart of the Midwest to block these clubs. Hefty tax revenue, a cultivated discretion, and a few of the girls put on permanent loan to local politicians soon scuttled these futile protests, to the point where Sparx had now become a Fortune 50 company, representing gross revenues somewhere north of $100 billion just last year.

Rick regretted his choice of footwear--canvas tennis shoes--as he scampered through the puddles and up the short concrete steps to the entrance, a flat steel door in need of a new coat of paint. That opened into a short carpeted hallway with drab wood-paneled walls and a dull beige carpet speckled with cigarette burns. A metal sign riveted to the wall was blunt:

WELCOME TO SPARX

BEAUTIFUL LADIES EAGER
TO FULFILL YOUR FANTASIES

$20 ADMISSION

NO SMOKING ON PREMISES
MANAGEMENT RESERVES THE RIGHT TO REFUSE SERVICES
UNCOOPERATIVE CUSTOMERS SUBJECT TO EJECTION WITHOUT REFUND

Rick lugged his case to the glazed glass door abutting the end of the hallway and pulled on the aluminum handle. Inside there was a round, slightly cramped room, dimly lit from above by cylinders of light recessed into a drop ceiling. Tacky, tromp l'oeil wallpaper, peeling in a couple high corners, depicted a typical western motif between faux-oak pillars shouldering against bare red padded benches. A red vinyl tile floor that had been recently waxed shimmered with the yellow lights overhead, and the light thumping of dance music from an adjoining room gave this atrium a subdued heartbeat. Directly across from the door there was a small alcove separated from the room by a laminated countertop and flanked by two red doors. A short brunette stood behind the countertop; she looked to be about 24, with a lightly tanned face framed by a cascade of brown curls and punctuated by two chestnut eyes. Her curvy figure was tightly wrapped in a knitted navy-blue turtleneck and light brown slacks, all perched on a pair of short black leather sling-backs. Rick had seen her several times before, in several different places, and he was wholly aware of what her first words to him would be.

"Hi, I'm Danielle." she piped enthusiastically. "Welcome to Sparx; what can we do for you this evening?"

Rick took a few steps forward as he casually raised his ID into Danielle's view. "I'm the tech rep for this franchise. I believe you have a trouble ticket open for me?"

Danielle scanned the ID, closed her eyes for a moment, then replied "Yes, Mr. Watkins; we were expecting you a little earlier. I can show you to the tech room as soon as I call for a replacement at this position."

Rick normally would refuse the offer, but Danielle was on the agenda for the evening. "Very good," he replied, as Danielle turned away from him to resume watching the main door. In less than the minute it took to survey the wallpaper pattern, a statuesque blonde in a white bikini emerged from a hidden door behind the alcove, and Danielle quickly disappeared throughthe same. In just a few seconds, she opened the left-hand red door from the other side and leaned into the alcove.

"This way please, Mister Watkins." Rick dropped his ID badge into his coat pocket and ambled into the club behind Danielle. He never spent a lot of time surveying the club floor on these visits; the usual crowd of men from all layers of society chatting with these gorgeous, perfect women, sipping $6 drinks as they chatted with the girls. Sparx had recently rolled out their 30th model on the Series 6 line, and most of these clubs--even in the wasteland of rural Nebraska--had a full complement. They were all controlled to a certain extent by the wireless system; the autonomous functionality of these androids was somewhat limited, and access to a central database is critical for real-time updates on patrons and activities in the club. The central server used this information as programming input to maximize business opportunities--an engineer at a system design meeting he attended called it the electronic pimp--and Rick knew that once he flashed his tech badge the server had sent commands to the droids that he be ignored. Paying customers, on the other hand, were always fair game, and it usually took only a quick interactive analysis with one of the girls to determine his payoff potential and the best method for extracting it.

The tech area was a small gray box of a room, not far from the atrium. Two long, stainless-steel tables inclined against the wall on the right, separated by a flat-screen monitor and keyboard mounted on a swivel attached chest-high to the wall. A variety of new and opened computers, oscilloscopes, and test equipment lined shelves along the left side behind the open door. A low wooden bench, partially covered with a rubberized mat and home to bits of solder and wire, plastic tweezers and probes, tiny broken electrical parts--the detritus of the information age--pushed up into the far left-hand corner. A gridded peg-hole board supported a series of hooks where various cables, clamps, and scarce tools hung up above the back lip of the pine bench. Drawers on a tool box resting on a dented rolling cart were haphazardly pulled open; a quick inspection in the top drawer found just a crescent wrench, three tiny hex keys, and a few broken pencils, another confirmation for Rick's usual habit of bringing his own tools.

On the inclined table closest to the door laid a motionless woman in a pink camisole, black mini-pants, and high suede heels, her glassy eyes staring sightlessly upward, her mouth slightly open in a pout. The side of her head looked slightly deformed under a matte of straight dirty-blond shoulder-length hair. This lovely android--Monica, a Series 5--was the main purpose of Rick's visit. A patron had apparently gotten a little rough with her, and although immediately ejected by the system bouncers, he'd done enough damage to send a diagnostic warning over the club wireless system. There was no remote diagnostic routine to run on this one; the tech visit qualified as an emergency call, since otherwise the robot would be out of service for the entire weekend, costing the owner thousands of dollars. The mechanical damage was bad enough, and Rick suspected a complete validation of her cortical network would be required to rule out any ancillary damage.

Danielle closed the door and waited inside the room as Rick set his case on the vinyl floor, threw his coat over one of the two metal stools in the middle of the room, and quickly surveyed the damage on Monica's skull. "Can I be of further assistance, Mr. Watkins?" asked Danielle.

"Oh, yes Danielle," replied Rick, breaking his concentration on the broken android's face. "My report shows you're due for a software upgrade; I can take care of that while I work on Monica here. Please step over by the bench corner." Danielle carefully stepped backwards to lean against the corner of the bench as Rick pulled the laptop from his case. "Remove your shirt so I can access your abdominal panel."

Danielle smiled and put her hands on her hips. "Oh now, let's take this a little slower big guy. Just what kind of girl do you think I am?" she teased. Engrossed in inspection of Monica, Rick had forgotten to unlock Danielle's security code; her programming assumed Rick was just another patron who needed to be coaxed out of a few dollars before she would expose her breasts, per Sparx policy.

"Danielle, accept supervisor code D1877-E5-37L." The smile on Danielle's face faded as soon as Rick read the last letter of the code; her head cocked slowly upright, and her arms fell to her sides. "Now, please remove your shirt."

Danielle obliged, mechanically pulling the top over her head, dropping it at her feet, and resuming her pose. He small but firm breasts moved slightly up and down as she continued to simulate breathing. "Danielle, discontinue autonomous functions." Danielle exhaled and remained perfectly motionless, staring directly forward as she maintained a perfect balance.

Rick removed a long, thin metal probe from his case and carefully inserted it into Danielle's navel, fumbling as if he were cracking a safe. Soon, with a click to the right, a slight hissing noise emanated from Danielle's stomach, and a small seam traced across her abdomen. Rick pulled on the tool and removed a three-inch square panel of flesh as Danielle intoned "abdominal panel removed". Setting the tool and faux-flesh panel on the corner of the bench, Rick could see inside the expected array of fiber optic lines leading into a circuit panel, interconnecting a myriad of small gallium-arsenide components mounted on the blue-green panel. Surrounding a tight group of these chips was a small circle of flashing LEDs surrounding a circular opening. Danielle continued to stand perfectly still, arms stiffly placed to her side, head fixed forward, breasts motionless.

Rick unspooled a thin gray cable out from the back of the computer as it booted. He inserted one end of the cable into the circular port in Danielle's stomach, while the other end plugged into a USB port on the thin laptop. It took him only a few moments to find the SW package archived to a secure file on his drive. Not too long ago these upgrades were done over wireless, but several hacking incidents convinced the office control board to discontinue wireless upgrades until the security package could be improved (one rumor making the rounds was that hackers in in Chicago club managed to get the robots to seduce each other, ignoring the male clientele entirely; the club apparently lost two weeks of business while the techs cleaned up the problem). Now all robot updates were done with tech visits, yet another burden on the overworked territorial techs.

Rick double-clicked on the appropriate icon. "Request for Danielle personality upgrade received on port 32," intoned Danielle. "Please confirm supervisor code."

"Supervisor code D1877-E5-37L."

"Confirmed. Disconnecting local wireless connection. Estimated time 35 minutes 34 seconds."

"Discontinue verbal updates. Resume when upload complete." Danielle was set for the next half hour or so, and Rick could turn his attention to Monica. He retrieved a small scalpel hung from the inner lid of his toolcase and moved toward the damaged droid lying on the incline. He ran his fingers through her coarse, perfumed hair down to the scalp, about an inch or so above the hairline; the coupling seam hidden here would allow him easy access to Monica's cortical system. He wedged the scalpel to loosen the plastiform skin at the seam to the point where, per the tech manual, he was able to carefully peel the plastiform down her face. This first exposed the clear, hardened polymer of her brow and allowed Rick to see the cortical matrix--a crystal grown in a clean room with laboratory-perfected properties perfectly suited to massive electronic data storage--through the translucent material. Monica's glassy eyeballs were next; made from a soft, rubberized and painted lucite, they were lightly lubricated by a false, 50-micron-wide tear duct mounted just below the bridge of the nose. A 5 megapixel charge-coupled opto-sensor was sealed in each orb--low by the Series 6 standards, but good enough for most club applications. Rick was more careful as he reached the mouth, since the plasticine was wrapped over styrofoam lips and deep inside the false orifice. Monica's teeth were a bleached amalgam tacked directly onto the plasticine and set firmly over metal indentations in the polymer jaw mount, while her tongue was little more than a rubber stub moved by an electric servo under the textured, red skin. Rick was very careful removing the inner mouth so as to avoid tearing the papillae of the tongue or the skin at the gumline below her teeth, a delicate repair that would likely keep him on site for at least another hour.

Carefully rolling the plasticine below the chin, rick immediately saw the problem. As suspected, the mandible had been snapped in two near her left servometric tendon and driven into the gap below the cheekbone. This was a well-known design flaw with the Series 5; the point where the mandible curved up into the mouth was cast too thin on these models, and was known to snap even on a simple fall. Still, it was unusual to see it out of joint enough that it ended up behind the cheek--no doubt the patron was very excited. It was a simple enough job to unscrew the two pieces at the jawline and install a Series 6 replacement mandible--Rick completed that job in less than five minutes--but he decided that the location of the broken shard was too close to the CorMat for comfort, so he'd run a firmware scan on the crystal to look for any ancillary damage.

Rick found the tiny debug port just behind the robot's fiberglass septem, then pulled his Tech-7 Iconn--a specially-built diagnostic tool about the size of a Blackberry--from his case. Plugging the fiber optic line into the droid's debug, it took only a few simple key presses to start a core-by-core scan of the droids matrix. This would take at least fifteen minutes, but given Danielle's upgrade, he figured he had the time. He rested the Tech-7 between Monica's ample breasts, barely concealed as they were by the thin, tiny camisole.

To pass the time, Rick used the computer console mounted on the wall to access club records. All patron transactions were meticulously recorded in the central server, so Rick checked on the altercation that led to Monica's damage. Full video from Monica's internal sensors and an overhead camera were indeed present; they clearly showed the scruffy, fat man in a torn tee-shirt who was responsible for the damage. Rick tagged the video files--they would no doubt be used in court should the club owner sue for damages--then spent some time surfing through some of the other video saved on the server core. These girls, of course, were designed to adapt to the many, special proclivities of the patrons, all carefully managed from the central server so that the girls could give the illusion to the oblivious patrons that their particular girl was always available just for them. In reality, these robots routinely spent time with up to 12 men (and a few women) a day, pulling in as much as $30,000 a week each for the club owners (more than that if the idiots tipped the droids; Rick always got a laugh out of that). For patrons who used credit cards, the droid would log transactions and immediately upload them to the server for credit verification and limit. The process was so easy (the droid only needed to pick up the card once and run her index finger over the magnetic strip) clients could run up charges much faster than they perhaps expected, but then again, there weren't many complaints with the service.

Monica's scan revealed no damage to the CorMat, so by the book the repair was complete. Rick carefully rolled the plastic skin back up over the beautiful android's face, carefully setting the plasticine in place for straight teeth, re-aligning the nostril and eye holes with a precision measurement tool, then tacking each into place with a handheld laser. Once the front hairline was rolled out, plasticine dope and the laser sealed the seam back to their original condition; Rick had spent close to four weeks in training to perfect the technique such that only a close-examination by an expert could find the line. He completed the task by spraying a light, ethanol sheen over the android's face, rubbing the chemical in with a cloth to give the plastic a bit of a natural, "lived in" look. He never did an android's makeup; he felt the robot's own programming could do a better job than he ever would, and after all his job was to make them look as realistic as possible; in his opinion, make-up was a pointless distraction from that reality.

Rick retrieved the navel key he had used on Danielle from the bench corner, taking a moment to check on Danielle's download progress (80%). Inserting the thin end into Monica's navel, he made a sharp 90 degree turn to the left. Monica's limbs twitched slightly, and her eyes fluttered for a brief moment. Removing the tool, he turned to the monitor and keyboard mounted on the swivel, accessed the club's wireless system and logged into the master control server. He entered a few commands to re-establish a wireless link to Monica, then opened a diagnostic telnet to the dormant android.

Since the repair had been to the mandible, Rick started with a few open-mouth speech checks. He keyed the test for speech into the terminal: "Out...over...eighty...ambulatory" Monica intoned with each carriage return; to Rick's trained eye, the mouth moved perfectly, but there was still one other, crucial test. He fired up Monica's personality threads and the autonomic response, but was first careful to isolate her wireless port from the main server; this allowed Monica to download the required software profile without going on-line for the club. The whole procedure took less than ten seconds, and the android--motionless up to the moment except for the rudimentary speech tests--began to twitch. Soon her eyelids blinked quickly, she moved her arms back and began to lean forward, resting on her elbows. After a brief pause, she turned her head to the right and scanned Rick.

"Hello, I'm Monica," the robot smiled as her eyes flitted across Ricks face and her breathing shallowed. A devilish half-smile crept into her lips. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

Rick tapped a few keys on the terminal while the robot watched, her smile never leaving her lips. Once he was satified Monica's software was up in run mode, he unbuckled his pants. "Yes, Monica. I'd like to test that new jaw I just put in. Would you please perform fellatio"--he pointed to his crotch--"on this?"

"Your wish is my command." she said; Rick knew just how literal those words were as Monica stood up off of the table and moved to stand just a foot or so in front of him. Tilting her head in a wide smile, she bent her knees forward and lowered he face toward Rick's crotch. She rolled her shoulders upward and placed her artificial hands on Ricks stomach, opened her mouth and wrapped her lips around Ricks hardening member. This was not the first Monica unit who had given him a blow job, and personally he preferred the slightly mechanical action over the "improved" software in the Series 6. Rick placed his hands firmly on the back of her head, ramming his penis deeper into Monica's synthetic mouth. She showed no sign of varying her rhythm, and after a few blissful minutes it was clear this Monica was functioning within specification.

It took all his will to get her to stop. "Monica, terminate sexual function," he stammered. Monica slowly slid her lips off his swollen penis, then returned to a standing position just a foot in front of Rick, awaiting further instructions. Rick pulled up his pants and rebooted Monica's server connection; within a minute, as she stood waiting for further instructions, she was again the property of the club server. "Resume club functions; you are fully operational."

"Acknowledged," she said as she turned and moved lightly toward the door. After exiting, she would return to a recharge/recycle booth, change clothes, apply makeup, and return to the club floor, looking for more customers.

"Data upload complete," said Danielle, as if on cue the moment Monica had left the room. "Rebooting..." Danielle closed her eyes for a moment as the lights in her exposed panel extinguished. "Diagnostics complete, no error found. New flex software found, loading...Danielle series 6, flex version A point seventeen. Personality threads started. All autonomic functions online. Wireless link disabled; this unit is off-line. Abdominal panel open; holding for supervisor instructions."

"Ah, Danielle," said Rick. "Let's get you back together." He tugged to remove the cable into her stomach as the topless robot stood quietly breathing, blinking her eyes and shifting from one foot to the next. She had a polite but bored look on her face, as if she were patiently waiting for a friend to arrive. Rick replaced the small square of plastic flesh, sealing the plate and spraying with ethanol to disguise the seam; since this one was more exposed than the line he cut on Monica, he spent some additional time polishing the plastic and mixing the sealing compound to match Danielle's faux-tanned midriff. This was meticulous work, and occasionally as he delicately applied the low-power laser with one hand, Rick would allow his other hand to drift upward and cup Danielle's breast.

As he expected, the tiny infrared sensors in Danielle's areola responded to the touch, activating Danielle's low-level sexual programming. "Mmmmm...," she hummed, allowing her head to roll slightly to one side as she closed her eyes. Her software immediately attempted to contact the club database, but with her wireless link turned off and the supervisor code in place, the normal state machine interlocks were disabled. AS Rick completed the last delicate touch-ups--even adding an artificial freckle to fill and hide a pinhole near her navel--Danielle was in full response mode.

"Oh please," she cooed as she looked down at Rick. Cupping his jaw in her delicate hand, she gently pulled his head up to meet hers and pressed her styrofoam lips against his mouth. This was one of the new software features Rick had read about in the latest Series 6 release notes; the engineers had finally been able to program some rudimentary initiative into the personality routine, a clever illusion that made these utterly subservience machines seem just a little more human, a quest for perfection Rick could appreciate.

Danielle's free hand glided onto Rick's crotch, and began an automatic motion that quickly reasserted his erection as he wrapped his arms around Danielle's naked torso. The robot's sexual response program was fully engaged; interrupts from lower priority tasks running on Danielle's argodyne processors were receiving less and less CPU time as her complete functional apparatus was directed at Rick's pleasure. The lack of support from the disconnected wireless server meant that Danielle's subroutines had no other purpose; to Rick, more than any of the more sophisticated droids walking the floor of the club, she was now the perfect pleasure device, purely designed for his own sexual gratification.

Danielle was now furiously groping at Rick's belt buckle, sliding his pants off in an intricate yet smooth movement. "Oh, please; tell me what you would like me to do," panted Danielle. The accelerated breathing was not only a careful simulation, but also a clevermethod for forcing cool air over the internal heat sinks wicking potentially damaging thermal spikes away from her overtaxed silicon.

"Yes, Danielle," said Rick as he pulled her slacks down past her hips. "set system-level diag triggers to on-state. Report using verbal updates."

"Acknowledged. Oh, god, I need you inside me," she moaned. Rick had no technical need for Danielle to read off software tuning data at this moment, but the thought of her as a machine, a carefully built machine designed to look like a seductive young woman, was a thought he found arousing whenever he screwed a Danielle unit. "Primary sexual systems active. Intercourse mode started. Please, will you fuck me now?"

Danielle fell back on the previously unused incline, dragging Rick on top of her. Her slacks slid quickly down her legs as she stroked his penis. Rick had no trouble spreading her legs; her lubricated vagina was an inviting target. "Vaginal sensors activated; starting full response. Oh, give it to me honey."

There was one final function Rick needed Danielle to activate. "Initiate controlled system shutdown; activate on coital trigger."

"Acknowledged. Oh, I've never done this before." piped Danielle as she pumped her body furiously atop Rick’s penis. Danielle had clearly had a recent recharge; despite the synthesized perspiration on her brow, she showed no signs of tiring. She closed her eyes and tightly bit her lip.

Rick watched her face intently, a perfect simulation, even if he could rattle off the subroutines that generated the servo tugs twitching her face. "Faster" he gasped, enjoying every moment of this overtime check-in at the Beatrice location, one of the few perks of a job that didn't really pay all that much.

"Reaching coital climax. Activating controlled shutdown systems." Her words drove Rick to the breaking point as Danielle's movements became more jerky. "Danielle series 6--give it to me, baby--flex A point...point..." her speech synthesis routines was slowly being deactivated. "Seventeen." Danielle's head snapped to the side as her eyes grew wide; this indicated her prefrontal routines had terminated.

"Android shutdown in progress," she intoned, head to one side, the rhythmic pumping of her body a mere mechanical residue of her now terminated programming. That was all Rick needed to come, watching this robot slowly grind to a halt like wound-down clockwork. "Diaaggggnnostic updaaaatiiiing coompleeete." were her final words as she loosened her grip on Rick's back. Her arms flopped lazily to the side and then dangled off the edge of the incline, her mouth agape, head banked to the right, eyes in a glassy stare.

It was the most beautiful think Rick had ever seen; he left her that way as he dressed, absolutely loving his job.


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