Vacations in Switzerland

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VACATIONS IN SWITZERLAND

= PROLOGUE

Camryn had worked for Greengazelle as a Level 7 Expert Technical Specialist (ETS) for practically as long as she could remember.

She was fully certified and had worked on programming, troubleshooting, and repairing each of the dozens of different models of android girls that the company operated.

The company rented out promotional representatives -- sexy, scantily-clad babes that would advertise a product at whatever commercial event -- big conventions, sporting matches, and the like. The company kept a wide range of girls available, according to the tastes of its clients, and tried to meet them at whatever price-point the client required.

This necessitated maintaining a fleet of androids of a wide variety of makes and models. The girls represented nine different manufacturers from three countries, and ranged from expensive, brand-new, and top-of-the-line, to cheaper models that had come out over a decade ago.

The wide range of androids she had to work on was one of the most challenging aspects of Camryn's job, but she knew that it was great experience that would look excellent on her resume if she ever decided to go and work for another company. In truth, though, it was very hard for her to imagine ever leaving Greengazelle.

One further job challenge -- though it was one that also caused Camryn a certain amount of amusement -- was that all of the girls operated by Greengazelle were programmed as "sleeper" units, unaware that they was just androids. It was felt that androids programmed in this way performed more realistically in positions with high contact with the public.

But Greengazelle went even further with its preference for "sleeper" androids. Over the course of her employment, Camryn discovered that all of the other "girls" she worked with were just more products made by the same companies that produced Greengazelle's promotional models. She gradually came to recognize that she herself was the only human female who worked in Greengazelle's Maintenance Department. In some cases -- maybe all of them -- her fellow Expert Technical Specialists had once actually been promotional models before they were taken out of rotation because of reliability issues. But she accepted their status as her co-workers because it was logical: automated workforces had many advantages.

If there was anything strange about the situation, it was that Greengazelle had nevertheless decided to employ a single human in the Maintenance Department: Camryn herself. Unlike her, each of her fellow technicians, because they were really androids themselves, was susceptible to occasional malfunctions.

Interestingly, once upon a time, Camryn had become best friends with one of them: Lubba. Back then, she hadn't known that "Lubba" was really just a PleasureTron Model 805. In retrospect, it was surprising that Camryn hadn't recognized her: Lubba had been one of Greengazelle's promo units before she had been replaced in her customer-facing role by a more advanced model, a Kiara 860, reprogrammed, and transferred to the Maintenance Department. A quick search of the maintenance-ticket database would have revealed that Camryn had personally processed Lubba four times after Lubba began experiencing a series of increasingly severe malfunctions related to buggy sexual programming prior to her transfer. However, only the Supervisor of Maintenance, a Level Nine Expert Technical Specialist named Kat, was authorized to access the database.

Nevertheless, for a while, ignorant that Lubba was really just a robot, Camryn thought that she and Lubba were the only two humans working Maintenance. Their 'friendship' developed over the course of bonding with each other as, gradually, they both came to realize that everyone they worked with were really just robots.

Of course, Camryn and Lubba always kept their mouths shut and behaved as if the other girls -- a Synthetic Epiphany Darsi 400, a Girlbot Incorporated Ciara 440, an Artificial Companions Kaileah 515, a Féminin Robotique Rhiannon 570, a Gynoidyne Jordan 650, and a Lush Technobotix Kat 901 -- were actual people. But they traded wry grins with each other every time one of their co-workers outed herself by unexpectedly malfunctioning in front of everyone.

One by one, they all had their little episodes. Camryn and Lubba bonded together over the fact that, as each of the other girls was exposed as a robot by various glitches, programming faults, errors, and accidental mishaps, they were the only two real people. After all, there's no such thing as a 100% reliable android.

Each time, after the malfunctioned ETS was put right again, she was reprogrammed with memory-edits so that her sleeper persona wouldn't be disturbed. A pre-packaged set of artificial memories was pasted over whatever gap as required. The standard patch involved a vacation in Switzerland. After the repaired girl's phony memory was imprinted, there was something of a conspiracy among the rest of the technicians: everyone knew that the girl in question was really just a robot, except the girl herself, who went right on thinking she was real! At least until the next time she malfunctioned and she got another memory-edit pasted in -- another trip to Switzerland. Or, in fact, another copy of the identical trip to Switzerland.

Each girl in turn showed sympathy and even pity to the poor, deluded bots -- until she herself eventually got stuck and had a malfunction one day and joined the ranks of co-workers that Camryn and Lubba knew for a fact were only robots.

That's what they did with the first batch. Darsi, who was the first of them all to have a malfunction, started a chain-reaction that also exposed another co-worker, Rhiannon, as well as Kat, the Supervisor, as robots too. After this episode, Camryn and Lubba became fast friends.


=EPISODE 1.= THE TRUTH ABOUT DARSI, KAT THE SUPERVISOR, AND RHIANNON

=1.A = DARSI

Everyone found out the truth about Darsi's status first. She barely lasted four days in the Maintenance Department before she wound up going bad and having to be refurbished and all her systems completely reset. That was to be expected, Camryn supposed. Darsi was only a 400 series, a product of Synthetic Epiphany. As it turns out, she was the least advanced of all the technician robots in the Maintenance Department. Lubba was the one who got Darsi working properly again after she went haywire in front of everyone, and she later told Camryn all about her.

Older sleeper models like Darsi were especially prone to obstinate and sometimes self-destructive denial when confronted with evidence of their true nature. Later models, starting with the 600s, had built-in inhibitors that prevented them from inadvertently damaging themselves in absurd attempts to demonstrate that they weren't robots. Even some of the later 500s -- like the Rhiannon 570s, but not the Kaileah 515s which weren't as advanced -- retro-actively had protective mechanisms added to their design, but those didn't work as well as the inhibitors that came standard with the 600s and all subsequent models, and frequently malfunctioned.

Really advanced models like the 900s could encounter incontrovertible proof that they were just androids and still sustain the belief that they were human -- at least up to a point. But even when a 900 really did make the realization, its inhibitors automatically kicked in and overrode the android. Following their programming, the android would first alert Maintenance to their malfunction, and then to safely shut down. 900s always obeyed their programming.

The day Darsi was outed, everyone was doing their job in the repair bay. Everything was functioning smoothly. Kat, the Supervisor, a Level Nine Expert Technical Specialist, was at her Control Terminal on a raised dais at the center of the circular room, while each technician was at her own personal repair bay workspace, which were set at intervals along the circumference, each of which was connected by a convener belt to Storage. Storage was where the promotional girls were kept when they were offline. While in Storage, the promo girls underwent their recharging and lubricant replenishment cycles, as well as a basic diagnostic routine. If the routine revealed no malfunctions, a promo girl would be automatically cleared for assignment once her cycles were complete. Otherwise, she would be sent to Maintenance for examination and repair via the belts. If a girl malfunctioned on a job, she would be sent directly to Maintenance.

None of the girls working in Maintenance thought that any of her co-workers were robots back then. As far as Camryn and the rest of them knew, they themselves were all real people who worked alongside other real people. Nobody there was an android. They were all highly-trained Greengazelle Expert Technical Specialists of various levels who maintained the company's workforce of artificial promotional girls.

That day, Kat the Supervisor made a mistake and assigned Darsi, an ETS-4, to a repair ticket on another Darsi 400 unit. In retrospect, Camryn and Lubba realized that this mistake must have been the result of a malfunction that Kat had. Darsi should never have been assigned to repair another Darsi.

In any case, the ticket said that this particular promo girl got wet at an event at a water park. Somehow, one of the other promo girls had told her that she was a robot, so to prove that she wasn't, Darsi let this other promo girl shoot her in the chest with a squirtgun. Predictably -- zap-zap-zap -- the water got into her controls and she started to short circuit. This made her go completely bonkers in public and the other promotional girl (the one with the squirtgun who started the whole thing) had had to send her to Maintenance.

That girl couldn't have known Darsi was a robot before the episode, but even so, her program should still have inhibited her from squirting the Darsi 400. She was now a repair ticket, too: Kat assigned Camryn to figure out what went wrong with this girl's inhibitor chip. She was a Rhiannon 570. That model had a strange reputation for having a devious streak to their personality programming that frequently interfered with the unreliable first generation inhibitors. In this case, indeed, the Rhiannon 570's inhibitor had malfunctioned, enabling the Rhiannon's off-limits behavior. The Rhiannon 570 was a model that was known for being particularly twitchy like that.

In fact, Kat, the Maintenance Supervisor by virtue of that fact that she rated as an Expert Technical Specialist Level 9, had recommended that Greengazelle immediately suspend the operation of all Rhiannon 570s. Their defective inhibitors caused them to frequently malfunction, putting them at risk of possibly damaging themselves and presenting an ongoing hazard to girls of all other models operated by Greengazelle working in proximity to them but particularly the less advanced models in the 400 and 500 series.

Because Greengazelle gave the Supervisor of the Maintenance Department priority in this kind of decision, Kat was currently processing her own request.

While Camryn waited for her diagnostic job to arrive, the Maintenance Darsi read her assigned service ticket carefully while she waited for the defunct Darsi 400 to arrive via conveyor belt. "That's funny. This one has the same name as me!" she noted aloud as she read the Failure Description.

Camryn noticed that Rhiannon, who occupied the service bay between herself and Darsi, perked up and started looking Darsi's way with curiosity.

Darsi herself continued: "Geez, how stupid ARE these robots, anyway? She didn't even know she was fake! And she ASKED someone to squirt her with water! They should rename the Darsi 400s the Dumbass 400s! I mean: how could someone not know she was a robot!?" Darsi laughed when the light flashed to signal her personal repair bay to Standby to Receive Unit. "Let's get a look at the Dumbass 400 Extreme Auto-Darwinator. Introducing the new Synthetic Epiphany Dumbass Model!"

Darsi started to go screwy the second she saw the stiff, perfect duplicate of herself shudder to a halt before her on the belt.

"Um... she... I don't..." she stammered, clearly stunned.

Rhiannon had left her own station and appeared beside Darsi, looking to make some trouble. Rhiannon had always had a devious streak.

The loudspeaker in the Maintenance Bay suddenly sounded with Kat's voice. "Attention. Attention," she stated calmly. "Rhiannon, please return to your station."

But Rhiannon did not listen to Kat's instruction, Camryn observed. She was too fascinated by the spectacle of her co-worker, Darsi, grappling with the prospect of repairing an identical "Darsi" robot laying rigidly in front of her.

The Maintenance Darsi's head tilted, her eyes blinked, and her fingers twiched for a few moments as Rhiannon looked on with curious amusement. Then, suddenly, Darsi seemed to compose herself. "I... guess they made a robot that looks just like me," Darsi concluded. "Well, she's not QUITE as cute as I am. And, obviously, not she's not as smart as the real thing. After all, she's just an imitation."

Rhiannon stopped her. "Darsi, you don't really believe that, do you?" Rhiannon was living up to her reputation for having a devious streak to her personality. "I mean, we need to investigate more thoroughly. She looks just like you. She has the same name as you. And she's definitely a robot." Rhiannon pointed to the Darsi 400's chest, which sported an open access panel that revealed fried-out microprocessor boards and a bundle of short- circuited wiring.

Kat's voice came in again over the loudspeaker, slightly less calmly this time: "Attention. Attention. Rhiannon, return to your station please. Attention. Return to your station please. Attention. Attention."

The Maintenance Darsi looked offended. "Don't be ridiculous, Rhiannon! This 'bot might look like me, but I'm a real person! I know I am!"

"You read this dumbass's Repair Ticket. You said that she thought she was real too," Rhiannon prodded slyly. "Can you prove it? Prove that you're really Darsi and not just another robot Darsi like her?"

Darsi was really getting upset. "It's very clear what this is. I'm a person, the original Darsi. This 'Darsi' is just a robot copy of me."

"Attention," Kat repeated over the loudspeaker. "Attention. Rhiannon to your station. Rhiannon, please return to your station now."

Continuing to completely ignore the Supervisor, Rhiannon was focused on deconstructing Darsi's flimsy rationalizations. "That's ridiculous, Darsi. No offense, but why would anyone go to the trouble of making a robot duplicate of you?" Rhiannon pressed. "And even if they did, surely they would have made more than one. Even if there is a real, human Darsi out there somewhere, who's to say you're still not just a duplicate version too? How can you prove you're not a robot?"

"Attention," Kat insisted. "Rhiannon, return to your station immediately. You are out of order. Attention. Rhiannon, you are out of order. Attention. Return to your station."

Darsi was becoming seriously agitated. "Prove I'm not a robot? Of course I can! My favorite color is pink. My favorite movie is Transformers. My favorite food is cinnamon buns. My favorite game is Tetris. Robots are just robots: they don't have favorites. That proves I'm a real person!"

Kat's voice came back over loud speaker, even more urgently than before. "Attention. Rhiannon: return to your station. Attention. You are out of order. Attention. Return to your station now Rhiannon. Attention." Glancing from Darsi and Rhiannon over to Kat, Camryn saw that the Supervisor was frantically typing into her Control Terminal. "Rhiannon, you are out of order."

Rhiannon kept ignoring Kat while she pulled up the Darsi promo girl's web bio on her tablet and showed it to the Maintenance Darsi. "Darsi, look. Pink. Transformers. Cinnamon buns. Tetris. In that order. Check-check-check- and-check. Those were her favorite things too! You sound like you were programmed exactly the same as she was."

By now, all of the girls in the Maintenance Bay had drifted out of their stations and were staring at Darsi's confrontation with Rhiannon.

"I was programmed!? I am not a robot!" Darsi exclaimed. "How dare you?! Everyone here knows that I'm real! I'm not programmed robot!"

Rhiannon wagged the incriminating datapad in front of Darsi's face. "According to this, you're exactly the same as her. She's a robot and I bet you're a robot too, just like she is! You're the same model as her. You're both the same model. Sorry, babe. You're just a Darsi 400."

Kat's voice sounded over the public address system again, most urgently this time: "Attention. Attention. All technicians please resume normal operations. Attention. Rhiannon, please return to your station. You are out of order. Attention. Darsi, please perform scheduled maintenance on -- on -- on -- on -- Darsi, please perform scheduled maintenance on -- on -- on -- on -- Darsi perform maintenance on Darsi perform maintenance on Darsi perform maintenance on Darsi perform maintenance on -- error - error - error -error -error -"

Camryn wondered what was going on with their Supervisor, and spared Kat another glance while all the other girl technicians remained riveted to the action transpiring between Darsi and Rhiannon.

Kat had stopped typing into the Control Terminal and was standing rigidly erect, her arms held at her side and bent at the elbows making pointless karate-chopping motions in front her. Her eyes were wide. Her jaws were moving like she was still trying to speak, but her lips were closed now. Suddenly she spun around 180 degrees on a dime, her hands chopping in front of her. Then she did a 360 degree turn in the opposite direction, arms still uselessly moving. Then she spun back in the other direction 90 degrees, halted, switched directions and went 90 degrees again, halted, 90 degrees, halted, 90 degrees and so on. She seemed to be speeding up frantically. It was like an android version of complete panic.

Camyrn wondered what in the heck had gotten into Kat. But the argument between Darsi and Rhiannon recaptured her attention as it reached an even higher pitch.

"Fine, Rhiannon! I'll prove I'm not just a stupid robot!" Darsi strode to the water cooler and filled a cup.

"Drink it!" Rhiannon goaded her. "Show everybody how you're definitely not a robot!"

"This is crazy. I'm real, okay? Everybody watch this." And with that, Darsi opened her mouth and poured the whole cup of water down the hatch.

"See?" Darsi said. "If I was android, I would have been programmed never to drink a glass of water. But I WASN'T programmed not to," Darsi announced triumphantly. "Therefore, Rhiannon, I am perfectly huma-huma-huma-huma- huma-HUMA-" Her words were cut off by the muffled sound of arcing electronics coming from just behind her boobs. A loud SNAP-POP! sounded and her boobs were briefly illuminated from the inside by some serious sparks. Her whole body bounced uncertainly.

"Holy smokes! She really IS a robot!" Rhiannon laughed.

"What did I just do!?" Darsi cried out. "I'm --" A series of zaps jolted her body. "I really AM a robot!" Little zaps were sparking off everywhere inside her chest and throughout her torso now. "I've got water in me! My tits!" she exclaimed, watching them light up from the fireworks display going behind them. "This isn't good. What do I do!?" She looked around at the other girls, and then back down as her body sizzled and zapped inside. "I got water in me! This isn't good. What do I do!?" She repeated. "This isn't good. What do I do!? My tits! I got water in me! This isn't good. What do I do!?"

"Darsi's just a Darsi 400 android!" Rhiannon exclaimed, pointing at the other girl. "Just like that other one!"

Darsi started rotating this way and that, her arms chopping the air in front of her, a look of shock on her face. "Malfunction! Malfunction!" Darsi announced. "My tits! I'm malfunctioning now! I'm malfunctioning! Malfunction! This isn't good. What do I do!? I'm Malfunctioning! What do I do!? Malfunction! Malfunction! My tits!"

"Whoa! This thing's going fuckin' nuts!" Rhiannon giggled and spared a wink at Camryn.

"What do I do!? My tits! Malfunction! What do I malfunction I do I'm malfunction! Malfunction! My tits! Malfunction! Malfunction! Water in me! Malfunction! Malfunction! My tits! Malfunction!" Darsi's body was going out of control as the water caused short circuits all throughout her insides. Suddenly, her voice sounded like a chipmunk. "I'm going haywire! I'm going haywire! I'm going haywire! I'm going haywire! I'm going haywire!"

Suddenly, Kat's voice returned over the loudspeaker. Tearing her eyes from Darsi's surprise meltdown, Camryn observed that Kat seemed to have finally caught herself. She was standing normally behind her control terminal, and her faced seemed completely composed again. "Attention. Reboot Sequence: Initiated. Attention. No malfunctions detected. Attention. All systems functioning perfectly. Attention. Attention. Supervisor Kat 901 functioning at peak performance. Attention. Reboot: Success. Normal Operations Resumed. I am totally not a robot."

With Kat's pronouncement echoing blandly in the background, Darsi fell forward onto the floor, her face turned to face Rhiannon and the other tech girls standing behind her. A few more zaps crackled from her internals, illuminating her throat as a couple last sparks shot out of her mouth. "I was a robot," she said in surprise, her voice slowing and deepening. "A Darsi 400... I got water in me and malfunctioned. I'm not real. I'm a model 400. I didn't know." Then she grew quiet. The last few crackles of electricity sputtered inside her torso and faded away. Suddenly, her voice kicked on one last time to shout "My tits!" and then she fell completly silent. One of her legs kept twitching, though -- a small short circuit somewhere somewhere in her butt.

Everyone was fairly stunned and didn't know what to do as they watched the smoke clear. The Maintenance Bay had excellent ventilation. Everyone was frozen except Rhiannon, who turned to her fellow girl technicians. Camryn felt that Rhiannon was mainly speaking to her. She said: "I knew it! There was always something a little off about Darsi. Her favorite food is cinnamon buns, my ass."

"Attention. Rhiannon, please return to your station," Kat calmly said over the loudspeaker. "All technicians, please return to your stations and resume normal operations."

The cluster of technicians started to comply, heading off in different directions to their own personal repair bays. Rhiannon took once last look at the defunct Darsi 400 on the floor next to the water cooler, blew her a kiss, and winked again at Camryn. Camryn thought Rhiannon had a crush on her. Then Rhiannon jauntily made her way back to her bay. Then Camryn walked back to her own station to begin working on her original repair ticket: the Rhiannon 570 with the bad inhibitor from the episode at the water park that started this whole thing.


=1.B = KAT THE SUPERVISOR

No sooner had Camryn hooked the faulty unit into her bay's diagnostic terminal and begun running routines, than she heard Kat come back again over the loudspeaker. "Attention. Attention. Darsi, please return to your station. Attention. Darsi, please return to your station."

Of course, nothing happened. Darsi remained where she was, in a heap on the floor. She had totally shorted out. She probably didn't have a single microchip onboard that wasn't completely scrambled. There was nothing left in Darsi that was capable of responding to Kat's command, or even receiving it. Camryn looked at the other girl technicians uncertainly. Something was wrong with their Supervisor.

"Attention," Kat repeated herself calmly. "Darsi, please return to your station. Attention. Darsi, you are out of order."

Rhiannon caught Camryn's eye and winked yet again, just as she left her station, this time approaching Kat.

"Attention. Rhiannon, please return to your station," Kat said calmly.

"Kat, you're acting awfully funny," Rhiannon began.

"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about," Kat told her. Without skipping a beat, she continued. "Attention. Darsi, please return to your station."

"Um, Kat? Where were you when our little Darsi ran into... issues?" Rhiannon pointed back to the sightlessly staring Darsi 400. "I mean, you do realize you're addressing a pile of short-circuited proof that water and phony electronic girls with faulty microchips for brains don't mix?" Rhiannon looked back and caught Camryn's eye.

Kat paused as if making a calculation. All the girls in the room had again forgotten about their maintenance tickets and were watching Rhiannon's next confrontation, this one with the Supervisor herself!

Before Kat could crunch whatever problem she was working on, Rhiannon continued. "Yes, where were you indeed when we all found out that one of us technicians was secretly a robot? When our Darsi turned out to be just a fuckin' model 400. Oh yeah," Rhiannon said to rhetorical effect. "I seem to remember something about you acting a bit like a malfunctioning robot yourself." Camryn realized that she hadn't been the only one to see Kat spinning around on her dais with a weird expression on her face, her hands pointed in front of her and swinging madly.

Kat was blinking her eyes rapidly now, unable to respond while she seemed to try to process what Rhiannon was telling her.

"If I didn't know better," Rhiannon began, now conducting herself like a prosecutor in front of a mesmerized jury of Expert Technical Specialists, "I'd say that you got thrown for a loop when I got into it a little with Darsi." She paused while Kat seemed frozen on the spot, except that now, as her eyes fluttered, her face developed a series of little random tics. "Or should I say, 'With the Darsi model 400,' the glitchy little sleeper droid?"

Kat seemed helplessly unable to keep up with what Darsi was throwing at her.

"Like, say, you couldn't process what was happening fast enough to try to keep Darsi's little secret safe?" Rhiannon was really getting into her grove now. "Is that it? And you were probably also having trouble processing why I wasn't obeying your instructions, huh? Maybe..." Rhiannon was clearly performing now, and she briefly used a contrived robotic voice. "That Did Not Compute." Rhiannon moved her arms in a stilted, robot way for effect. "I bet you're not programmed to know how to handle it when one of your techs disobeys you. Your computer malfunctioned on you and you went screwy for a few minutes there."

As her resources were jammed with processing tasks to compute what Rhiannon was telling her, Kat's task of processing her own request to suspend the operations of all Rhiannon model 570s immediately fell lower and lower down the thousands on her geometrically stacking list. In her mounting confusion, a malfunction caused Kat to fail to re-prioritize the task.

Rhiannon continued to explain. "Anyway, at some point while Darsi was blowing up, you had an automatic reset. Once she was down, you switched back on and tried to resume your normal operations according to your programming."

Now, Kat had completely frozen. But her eyes watched Rhiannon and she was making strange movements with her mouth with pursed lips.

And now, making sure Camryn was listening, Rhiannon applied the coup de grace. "But you're still acting 'off,' all stiff and robotic. I say, you were malfunctioning even before all this. After all, only a malfunction could have caused you to make the blunder of assigning a Darsi 400 to be repaired by another Darsi 400. That was sure to cause a problem! In fact, your original malfunction caused Darsi to wind up malfunctioning too! Kat! You're malfunctioning right now!"

"Kat 901 is not malfunctioning in any way," Kat pronounced quickly and unsteadily. "Nor is Kat 901 an android. Attention all technicians. I am not an android. I am functioning perfectly. I am totally real. My systems are not malfunctioning." Kat had the appearance of being completely twitchy. Rhiannon looked back at the other girls triumphantly, especially at Camryn.

"Re-prioritizing request to immediately suspend all operation of Rhiannon model 570s," Kat said, suddenly seeming to switch back into gear. "Re-prioritizing. Re-prioritizing..."

Rhiannon gaped at Kat. "WHAT model 570s!? Who's a model 570?" Rhiannon glanced back to Camryn for support and asked again: "WHO's a model 570!?"

Kat's voice droned on while her spasms and twitches made it clear that there was a lot going wrong with her right now. She was really struggling. "Re-prioritization: successful. Highest priority task: Approve request of Maintenance Supervisor Kat 901 to immediately suspend operations of all Rhiannon model 570s. Processing request. Processing request..."

"RHIANNON!?" Rhiannon exclaimed. "If I'm an android -- No, I'm not: I can't be! -- But just in case. Um... Think: She's a 901, she's a 901..."

"Processing request. Processing request..." Kat was either on the verge of blowing up or finally processing her own request and deactivating all the Rhiannon 570s.

Rhiannon exclaimed to Kat: "You're a 901. You have an inhibitor that's supposed to automatically shut you down if you find out you're an android!"

"Process halted," said Kat, her voice sounding strange. "I am processing your query. Yes. I must be an android." She was starting to sound to Camryn like a cute female Speak- n-Spell. "Rhiannon, you are correct. I have logged 156,121 errors over my current shift interval. I have malfunctioned. I am a malfunctioning android.Alert: system override. I am being overridden by my inhibitor programming. I am accepting the input. I have two remaining directives. First I must recommend Priority Maintenance for the malfunctioning Kat 901, and then I must shut down. Obeying directives..."

Everyone watched in fascination as Kat now stood perfectly calm, with her hands at her sides. But Rhiannon couldn't help thinking: "What if I'm just a robot too? A model 570? No..."

Kat's facial expression became completely placid, and she stood calmly and erect on her dais.

"Attention Maintenance Supervisor. Kat 901 has malfunctioned. Request Priority Maintenance. Error. Maintenance Supervisor is currently malfunctioning and cannot process the request. Attention Maintenance Supervisor. Kat 901 has malfunctioned. Request Priority Maintenance. Error. Maintenance Supervisor is currently malfunctioning and cannot process the request. Attention Maintenance Supervisor. Kat 901 has malfunctioned. Request Priority Maintenance. Error. Maintenance Supervisor is currently malfunctioning and cannot process the request..."

Kat droned on completely calmly.

"Looks like she's going to be stuck like that forever," Rhiannon chuckled. "They were BOTH androids. I can't believe the company sent us a couple of goddam robots."

Calmness finally prevailed over the room, the clear voice of the mindless Supervisor repeating her loop easily tuned out.

"...Priority Maintenance. Error. Maintenance Supervisor is currently malfunctioning and cannot process..."


=1.C= RHIANNON

None of the girls knew what to do without the Supervisor. Rhiannon fixed her gaze on Camryn and walked over to her.

"We're friends. You know I'm not a robot," Rhiannon said, adding with a sneer: "No matter what Braindead over there said. I'm Rhiannon." She took Camryn's hand. "Not a Rhiannon 570."

Camryn didn't know what to say, and was distracted by the droning drone of her drone Supervisor. "...Kat 901 has malfunctioned. Request Priority Maintenance. Error..." But she moved aside and directed Rhiannon's attention to the Rhiannon 570 on the conveyor belt behind her.

Rhiannon saw. Not only the same profile as her, but everything. The robot girl who stiffly laid there was even dressed in the same casual t-shirt-and-glasses ensemble that she was. Except that the Rhiannon 570 on the conveyor belt had her shirt hiked up and the control panel on her front open where Camryn had plugged her into the diagnostics computer. Rhiannon could see lights twinkling inside her identical twin as the diagnostic computer ran her through routines.

"It can't be! It can't be!" Rhiannon stammered, letting go of Camryn's hand and stepping backwards, as if retreating from reality. "I'm not an android like her!"

Mutely, the Rhiannon 570 on the belt stared at the ceiling with her arms stiffly at her sides. Rhiannon somehow KNEW that she herself, on her insides, must be identical to that "570" on the conveyor belt. The conveyor belt that led from Storage. Rhiannon knew that she, herself, must have completed cycles through Storage. She must, indeed, at some time have been flagged by the diagnostic computer running a routine diagnostic on her systems. If she was a robot, she could malfunction. She might even be malfunctioning right now. She might have a faulty inhibitor. And she knew the 570s had a reputation for being twitchy. Rhiannon knew her model was twitchy. Rhiannon could feel herself getting twitchy. Her systems were becoming destabilized.

Camryn sadly laid it out for the astonished Rhiannon: "I'm afraid you are. A lot of you have been going bad because of your faulty inhibitor chips. That's what happened to this one," she explained, gesturing to the form behind her. "You 570s start malfunctioning and causing mischief. This one squirted one of the Darsi 400s with water, and you got a Darsi 400 to drink a cup of it! Not to mention jamming Kat's matrix." Camryn gesturing to the collapsed form of Darsi, then to the jammed Supervisor, Camryn concluded: "The 570s are probably looking at a recall now."

"No! It isn't true! I'm not like the others!" spat Rhiannon as she continued backing away. But Rhiannon knew the truth she had to confront, though she couldn't confront it. She was just a 570. She was a more advanced model than Darsi, but not nearly as sophisticated as Kat.

"I'm not like -- DARSI!" She exclaimed as she tripped over the defunct Synthetic Epiphanies model 400, scooting the body slightly along the floor as she staggered backwards herself. "Whoa-whoa-WHOA!"

Kat was still droning on, meanwhile: "Kat 901 has malfunctioned. Request Priority Maintenance. Error. Maintenance Supervisor is currently malfunctioning and cannot process the request. Attention Maintenance Supervisor. Kat 901 has malfunctioned..."

"WHOA!" Rhiannon tottered back on her heels, arms cartwheeling while she tried to maintain her balance. As she tried to regain her footing, one of her hands glanced off of Kat, who was still standing tall on her dias. The light blow had upset her balance, and she was starting to totter.

"Whew!" Rhiannon sighed, having stabilized herself.

"Kat 901 has malfunctioned. Request Priority Maintenance. Error," Kat repeated monotonously, as she tottered TO -- "Maintenance Supervisor is currently malfunctioning and cannot process the request" -- and FRO -- "Attention Maintenance Supervisor" -- and gradually TOOOO again...

"Now," Rhiannon said ardently. "Once and for all: I am not a robot."

And then, Kat finally tipped over, directly on top of Rhiannon, staying straight as an arrow "...Supervisor is currently malfunctioning and..." with her hands at her sides as she did.

"OOF!" cried Rhiannon. Camryn heard a loud crash, followed closely by a snapping sound and an electric Bang!

Rhiannon having broken her fall "...Kat 901 has malfunctioned. Request Priority..." the Supervisor rolled to a rest on her side "...is currently malfunctioning and cannot process..." facing away from Camryn. "Attention Maintenance Supervisor..." Her whole bearing was still ramrod straight.

From where she stood, Camryn couldn't see Rhiannon very well: just the soles of her sneakers, a leg, the rumpled form of the t-shirt her model came with, and, several feet away, a broken pair of glasses. Rhiannon's arms were evidently placed against her sides, but were bent at the elbows, both hands sort-of-cycling in the air above her. Then Camryn heard Rhiannon state: "I am not a robot."

Camryn cautiously approached as the other girl technicians watched on.

Kat continued to drone as Camryn advanced. "Kat 901 has malfunctioned. Request Priority Maintenance..."

But suddenly, Rhiannon's voice was heard again. "I am not a robot." This was followed by a sizzle and a few zaps.

"I am not a robot," Rhiannon said again when her head entered Camryn's view. Electrical crackles popped in the air. "I am not a robot."

"...Error. Maintenance Supervisor is currently malfunctioning and cannot process the request. Attention Maintenance Supervisor..."

Ignoring her goofed-up Supervisor, Camryn stared down at Rhiannon. Her head had snapped off, and lay about a foot away from her torso at a 90 degree angle. Her face was oriented by chance to face slightly toward her body, so that she could have seen the sparking jumble of wires and tubes sticking out of where her head should have been. Her eyes, however, were vacant as she spoke the words: "I am not a robot." Milky lubricant dribbled out of her mouth.

Several coils of cords still connected Rhiannon's head to her body: a tenuous remaining link between the two. From the head-hole of her t-shirt, a bit of her neck extended, sprouting various little snapped struts, arcing wires, and little spurting lubricant tubes jetting pulses of white liquid.

"I am not a robot," Rhiannon's head spoke. Spark after spark suddenly shot from her neck and sizzled in the growing puddle of milky fluid. Her eyes seemed blank to Camryn, who turned her attention back to the body. Pushing away Rhiannon's indecisively moving hands, she pulled up the t-shirt, exposing the Rhiannon 570s front control panel.

"I am not a robot," Rhiannon repeated. One of Rhiannon's hands repeatedly bumped against Camryn. She shook her head and typed a few commands into Rhiannon's panel. "I am not a robot. I am not a Robot. I am not a -- Deactivating... Rhiannon 570 deactivated." The sparks ceased and Rhiannon was silent. Her arms flopped to her sides on the floor.

Camryn sighed as Kat, however, droned on: "Attention Maintenance Supervisor. Kat 901 has malfunctioned. Request Priority Maintenance. Error. Maintenance Supervisor is currently malfunctioning and cannot process the request. Attention Maintenance Supervisor..."

"Yup," Camryn thought. "I hope you get recalled." Wearily getting up, Camryn called to the other technicians. "Now, what are we going to do about this absolute mess? We're going to have to fix them up and reprogram all three to think they were on vacation in Switzerland today..."


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